Non-Practicing

You know how when you meet a lapsed Catholic and religion comes up in conversation? Eventually it comes up as, “Oh, you’re Catholic, what are your thoughts?!?”

The response? Well, obviously, it’s varied. They’ve left the cult and can now exercise free thought and expression. But it usually starts with a clarifying variant of “Non-practicing Catholic” before any deeper response is given.

It’s like “Let me be perfectly clear, here…”

Well, that’s me and my sexuality.

People usually want to know if I know their gay friend when they are introduced to me by a mutual acquaintance. “Oh, Chris-Chris?”, they ask. our mutual friend like my eyes and ears aren’t connected to my brain.

Mentally I add, “Non-practicing” before they even finish their sentence. But I have managed to perfect the mental eye-roll. A few of those made it awkwardly out into the wild. I wasn’t the first to realize it, either. Not even always the second. I had to ask myself a few times whether the person-I’d-been-introduced-to’s eyes widened before or after my friend’s overly dramatic coughing fit began to figure out the appropriate level of chagrin or combativeness to display.

I say all this by way of introducing my topic tonight: I deleted the sole dating app on my phone a couple weeks back.

Sidebar: This is dating not mating app I’m talking about. I rarely act on the opportunities that prostrate present themselves on the mating app, but I enjoy opening it to “see who’s around”. It used to be fun to surreptitiously open up Grindr while shopping or at a show with plenty guy candy present just to see if there were other gays around. Now, though, it’s so much easier to profile gays in a crowd. Well, queers in a crowd. What with the rise in visibility of gender fluidity over the past 5-10 years, I’m no longer wondering if that hot guy is gay so much as I’m curious if that guy wearing nail polish isn’t gay. This is what I lived through the AIDS crisis for? Seems like a lot of trouble in retrospect.

So, yeah. I deleted OKStupid a few weeks back.

Not like I was actively using it. But at least I could tell myself I had a line in the water, right?

Sports analogy!

Don’t get me wrong, I was completely fine letting them app linger, tucked away in the social media folder on my Home Screen. But a while back, they sent me this bullshit:

Yeah, GoPuff knows a lot more about marketing than the folks at OKStoopid. If I wanted manipulative behaviors like that, I’d date. So I ignore it thinking, “Save me the trouble, will ya? But, just like dating, they kept coming back like they hadn’t thrown down a failed ultimatum.

“No, they don’t.” It’s just the same Lost Boys I encounter in the bars or on the truly asocial media apps trying to assuage their shame by having an actual dating app on their phone. Poor stupid, stupid dears.

Or, channeling my inner Groucho Marx, riffing on not wanting to meet anyone who would want to meet me. In case you missed this the last 100-ish times I’ve used it…

The thing I didn’t like about this app experience wasn’t the caliber of the offerings – I’m sure it would surprise no one to hear that my expectations were set appropriately low and we’re still unmet. It was that the app was just a gaslighting shit show.

I’d keep seeing the same guys. My mental conversations would be something like, “I know I’ve swiped left on that train wreck before.”

Being <ahem> situationally charitable, I’d assume the best. About the app, not the person. When it came to the people, my thoughts would range somewhere near the “Who is this hard luck case (from me) trying to fool with a new profile?”

Turns out, it wasn’t the people trying to juice interest with a fresh profile, it was the app recycling people I had no interest in by presenting them as potential matches again. Like “It’s been 3 months and you haven’t met anyone, are you sure you can afford to be so choosy…at this point?”

Yes, I can. 1000%.

I finally gave them a hand and deleted the app myself after getting another “Your Profile Will Be Deactivated” email from them.

Yes, please.

I’m not kidding, the next day I got two emails from them. The first was another “Your Profile Will Be Deactivated” email that briefly made Gilbert Godfried my dominant personality.

The second email almost earned Apple a repeat sale on my phone. Check it out…

Two hours after a “WTF, I deleted my profile, why are you still sending me emails?!?” email, they’re trying to lure me back with my epically useless Super Like.

Hey, OKStoopid, I kinda super like myself – at least compared to any of the people you actively call Users. I think I’ll be ok.

That’s not a declaration I make capriciously, as I admit I am wont to do. Nono, this comes years after the 50th-birthday-party-turned-dating-intervention. That led to a year of focused dating effort – also where the loathsome OKStoopid app earned its place on my Home Screen.

That led to this –

Still active on Amazon…<hint, hint>

And it’s all been diminishing returns since then. Turns out, if I want oddly unsatisfying entertainment, I can binge watch a quirky series on one of my many streaming services. Cheaper than dating, less frustrating and much less potential for follow-up therapy! Plus, unless the internet goes out, binge watching always shows up.

Non-Practicing

Lucky Me?

Not to overthink the classics, but you’ve heard the old chestnut, “You make your own luck” or the not dissimilar “Luck is what you make it”.

Ok, well…could someone please explain what they fuck I’m doing?!?

Is it bad that I’m crowdsourcing that information? Check it out, though, and weigh in…because I can’t decide if the universe is flirty with me, sending me warning signs or possibly both.

It started with this:

Yes, I have an unread email from 2019…

Ok. Sure. Let’s make a Will. For all of you conspiracy theorists out there, this could be my own fault. I’d literally said “I guess I’d better make a Will” after I opened my parents’ gift from grandpa’s estate.

Not that I’ve got anyone to bequeath my plant collection to – but that’s another blog. Let the government have it. That’ll piss off plenty of folks…just letting the state have my shit. Not my family, of course. There’s perks to being the brokest bitch in my family. Well, outside Black Sheep Bro, that is. But anyone that knows me will tell you that self-referencing “bitch” comment was not figurative and that I’m sure as Hell not rewarding that history.

So, there’s that. I wrote it off to a not-incorrect coincidence and went on with my life.

Then things leveled up a bit.

I came downstairs last Saturday afternoon – thank you, good night sleep herb – and from well inside my lobby, could see bikes whizzing by on the street outside.

Racing bikes.

Racing the wrong way on my one-way street.

The street I was parked on the night before.

Fuuuuuuuuck.

All I’m thinking is that my car got towed. Then I’m incensed because shit goes on in my neighborhood all. the. time. So I know what to expect when something is happening..

This is out of the blue, though. Literally. I’d walked home from my around-the-corner bar the prior evening around 930 pm. Usually, when something of this magnitude is happening, I have – at worst – last ditch reminders…like they’re setting up booths and tents and johnnies-on-the-spot in the park the night before.

Nothing.

And this is the last ditch visual reminders. Before that, there’s No Parking signs posted on the trees lining the streets for weeks ahead of time. Plus flyers taped to the building doors so you can’t miss them.

This? This is gotten a flyer about a half dozen trips to the recycler ago. Ok, fine…it was a good month and a half back.

So, what was it?

They’re riding the wrong way on this street, too.

The Portland Criterion.

I don’t remember this happening in the six years I’ve lived in this building. Apparently, though, it used to happen all the time. Local legend has it that ol’ uniball (Lance Armstrong) used to ride it before he started winning Tours de France.

If you believe that kind of scuttlebutt.

Anyway, it’s a nine block course – if my mental mapping math is correct. A three block straightaway, up a block, back a block, up a block, over a block and down two to the start.

But did I mention that my car got towed?!?

(Un)Luckily, I’d run into the chattiest mailman ever on my way out. He was telling me that the parking situation was a real shitshow. He’d had to park a half dozen blocks away instead of right in front, as is his norm.

“Oh, all the bridge and tunnel folk?”, I asked, knowing full well he is one.

“Yeah! Well, that and all the cars they had to move off the route!” My ears perked up.

“Say what now?”

“Oh, yeah. They call it a ‘Courtesy Tow’, but it’s not doing me any courtesies!”

Ok, maybe my luck is on an upward swing. All I had to do was scour the neighborhood clicking my alarm remote until my lights flash.

Knowing my neighborhood, some crazy would flash me before my Angela did.

My car was right around the corner.

Luck: fully functioning.

I did whatever I’d needed to do that afternoon and then realized there was the neighborhood dysfunction to deal if I went home, and decided to kill some time.

Hello, app of Lost Boys.

It’s an indictment of my decaying subculture that a man my age, in my wavering physical condition can get laid with only a modest amount of effort on these loathsome asocial media apps. But there I was, finding a safe harbor to park my lil tug in to ride out the Criterion storm in my home port.

Fun!

I’m still offended.

It’s like I’m the gay equivalent of Groucho Marx.

Autocorrect changed “gay” to “fat” in the prior paragraph. Oy.

Nevertheless, I am heading home from my afternoon delight and my drinking buddy neighbor from the Silver Fox’s building asks if I wanna meet at the neighborhood joint for dinner.

Dinner. Tomato. Potato. VODKA.

This is also promising because somehow I conflated this with the Criterion being complete.

Good.

“WHOA!!!”

The car in the lane to my right’s bumper literally peeled off the car and flew right at me.

Interesting life choice for a car. Upon closer inspection, though, the car looked like it should have the theme from Sanford & Son emanating from it. Checking my bitchiness in an attitude of that-bumper-missed-me gratitude, I checked myself and admitted that this car was likely someone’s residence.

Oh, yeah, the bumper missed me. Mostly thanks to me not being where I was heading toward being once I saw it depart its logical location.

I pull past this “How is this street legal” moving violation and glance in the window.

Let me tell you, I’d just gotten laid in the first time in too long and my sunny disposition had nothing on this driver.

“So, great, she’s under the influence, too.”

I swear, this shit could only happen to me. A bumper leaves home a few feet ahead of me in a once-in-lifetime occurrence? Yeah, just me.

Nevertheless, I make it home without further whatthefuckness. Until I have to park, and then I realize the Criterion is not finished.

Go figure, my original towed-to parking spot on my “Street Closed” street is taken. Turning around, I pull across the intersection and part in a Loading Zone with 7 am – 7 pm restrictions Monday-Saturday.

It’s 650 pm on Saturday night.

“Fucking ticket me”, I say as I walk away.

Minutes later, when recounting the afternoon’s events to my buddy, I recall that this is exactly what had happened last time I gambled on that. But that was a pandemic ago…so who’s winning now!!?

The next morning, my tire was flat.

Here’s why there will never be a musical about my life: days like last Saturday. You couldn’t write a song about that day. There’s no rhythm to it. My fortunes that day were nothing if not psychotic.

By comparison, a couple Saturdays prior, I’d had breakfast with my parents, they’d cavalierly tossed out a check I with more zeroes than my dating history and they’d bought. Then I went home and watched movies and snoozed the rest of the day.

That’s plenty of Saturday for me.

Criterion Saturday? Do not need.

In other random “luck” housekeeping…

Yesterday – Payroll Monday, as I like to call it – turned out to be just Monday. No payroll. Too much other shit going on, so I decided to punt and process payroll today.

Payroll Monday? Nah, surprise, bitch…just MONDAY.

On the other hand, I got it done in 2.5 hours. This is something that appeared to be taking 16+ hours when I came on board, so there’s that.

Additionally, I arranged to have the local tire joint – who I have unpleasant history with – look at Angela’s tire today. I was betting it would be $100. The Silver Fox was telling me they did it for free whether you bought tires there or not. I just didn’t want to risk putting a can of Fix-a-Flat into the equation and then getting in the freeway to the Costco for the free repair I was entitled to after my tire purchase there.

Right?

Yes, ok!

So, here I am…still living haphazardly but thinking critically!

I’d called ahead and was told a patch was $20. Fine. Get it done.

I drop it off three minutes before they open this morning and hoof it home – cajoling Jessla into a coffee along the way…barely missing my “late” start time of 945.

At 1030, the call me – but I’m on a Teams call and can’t talk. Voicemail. When I get a chance to listen, it’s some guy you know is hot but totally selfish in bed and barely functional in life telling me they couldn’t find a problem.

I hold the phone away from my face and wonder aloud if they were looking at the wrong tire. I watched my onboard count down four pounds of lost pressure on my nine blocks up, eight blocks over trip to drop Angela off. So I call back and tell them to take another swing at it.

It took a few hours, but eventually I got a callback that said they were able to find the screw and patch the hole.

Huzzah.

At 415 I feed Myrtle her 15 minute overdue dinner. Well, half of it because I can tell she’s gonna eat like she’s never had a meal. I figure, I can manage that and feed her the rest after she’s had time to digest a bit.

We’re talking 1.5 ounces of wet food here…and she still threw it up before 430.

I tell my coworker over Teams that I’m fucking off to clean up cat puke and then go get my car. I know I’ll come in tomorrow to an arms length of cat rearing tips – none of which will be “Don’t adopt a cat three other people returned”, but still well-intentioned.

I hike up to the tire place and am told it’s complimentary. Just remember them when I need new tires.

Goddamnit, the Silver Fox was right!

For free…unlike the person they paid to tell me the wrong answer.

Mind you, writing this out, I know it’s all nonsense. I got towed, I got laid, I got a flat.

Whatever, right? Free range bumpers notwithstanding.

But here’s what I didn’t tell ya: I’m between waking up on Saturday and getting laid on Saturday? A lot more happened.

I wouldn’t have been leaving my house at all that day if I hadn’t woken up to this random text message “from my bank”.

“Here’s the one-time verification code you requested”…only, I hadn’t? But, also…I had.

Days before. It was an aborted attempt to link my main account to my car loan – since my car loan had revamped their app (for the better) but had t imported any sensitive data. Basically, I had to set it all up again – because what benefits them, fucks me. Natch.

Sadly, that all ended in tears for the poor bastard I made help me after three failed attempts to link my main account to their new and improved shit.

But did I get three verification codes or just two? Was this random text something their new-but-still-having-a-stroke system buried out after a few days of rest or a legit scam?

I call the bank. It’s noon on Saturday.

By 1215, I’m being told that my account has been closed – for my protection.

“So, basically, you’re telling me I have 45 minutes to get out of bed, shower, shampoo and shine and make it over to my branch to re-open an account before they close at 1 or I can be penniless til Monday?”

“We’re super sorry (inferred, they didn’t say that) but our grocery store branches are open until 3! You can try this one in Portland’s version of Alabama.”

I Google “my fucking credit union’s branches in grocery stores” and counter that asinine attempt of theirs at help with, “How about I just go to this store a mile from my house?”

So I do all of this and end up leaving the branch with a new account and new debit card. It’s 245. I’m dreading all the new debit card ordeals ahead of me.

DoorDash.

GoPuff.

Assorted bill pays I have set up to my debit card.

This is gonna be Billy Hell.

But they’ve assured me that my direct deposit is flagged to transfer. Me, being an adult, resist telling them that that is literally my job so I’m not worried or asking what they do with my money that has them giddy that the flow will be uninterrupted.

Fine. Maybe I’m a little bit of that conspiracy theorist I maligned earlier. But only for my own entertainment!

On my way out, I ask if my pending bank to bank transfers will flow through, since I suspect they are still incomplete. My “transfer to” bank shows the deposits are funded, my “transfer from” bank closed my account without bothering to ask.

“I don’t see anything pending, so everything is good!”

So chipper.

“You’re telling me you could see transfers initiated outside the credit union?”

“Yup. Everything looks good.”

It wasn’t.

I woke up today to an email saying my $3000 transfer (the max allowed) had been rejected because of insufficient funds.

“Or a closed account and idiot banker” I mumble to my phone. Whatever. It only cost me time – since my investment account doesn’t charge for returned transfers and my credit union seemed to at least know not to trifle with that after my Saturday ordeal.

And that’s why I wanted to fuck someone after leaving the bank on Saturday…I knew my own fucking was coming. At least it was gentle?

I swear, if I find out Pam Ewing dreamed this whole thing…well, that might actually explain a few things.

Lucky Me?

Crappy Pride, Y’all!

I could probably just end this post at the title without leaving any mystery as to how I feel about how little my subculture deserves a fucking parade. Far be it from me to be succinct, though. But I also don’t want to bore you with my feelings about standing outside at a parade some stupid American would happily make a massacre of with a bunch of people who pretend both that I’m visible and that they’re decent people for one day a year.

Also, far be it from me to show restraint, so let the fact that I’ve been kicking this post idea around for about a month be known. Give that a damn parade. Rest assured, that’s not proChristination, either. I have literally been trying to decide whether posting a Pride month entry needed to happen. It didn’t last year, thank you for noticing.

Plus, being the volunteer voice of treason for my subculture has gotten me nothing but disavowed by said subculture. Not that I was expecting anything other than a culture I could feel pride in from those jokers. Me and my unreasonable expectations.

But that’s all I have to say about that. I’m Gay Kulture’s voice of treason, not their Don damn Quixote.

So I’ll just leave you with a little story. The Silver Fox has already kind of heard this – and I hate to bore my number one reader – although he may have unremembered it, as he likes to say.

Someone recently asked me if I had big plans for Pride month. Not sure how deep they imagined my pockets or clear my calendar might be when they asked, but it sounded like in their imagination, I’d be off traipsing around the globe, careening from circuit party to circuit party in some sort of cum-drunk stupor all month.

Ok, that grossed me out. Me.

Happy to burst their bubble – but with the style and panache a straight ally expects of their GBF – I set her, um…straight.

Here’s what I said, basically. She was rightfully near death when I finished.

“I dunno. I’ve been thinking about getting a haircut.”

I could see her translating my sentence from straight to gay and imagining me with rainbow colors died into my ‘do.

She needs a lot of setting straight. Straight setting? I don’t know what the proper Queen’s English would deem proper English syntax there…

“But then, I dunno. I’m kind of invested in the length at this point.”

“It’s never been this long before, has it?”

“Nah. Could’ve never pulled it off when I was working professionally. But that’s not the point.”

I see her confusion and debate dragging her along a little longer or moving in for the big finish. Knowing how tragically short American attention spans are these days – especially when the topic is not themselves – I decide not to risk losing my momentum to the “Squirrel! Phenomenon”.

“Yeah, at this point the rejection I get from trying to date The Gays just isn’t as fulfilling as it used to be.”

She’s starting to slow down during our walk, like a 70s-era robot being defeated by an illogic loop.

“So I’m thinking maybe – I dunno – maybe I’ll just grow it out to Locks of Love length and then try to donate it, because I’m sure they’d look at it and tell me in no uncertain terms that cancer patients would rather be bald than sport this stringy nest I call a mane. That seems like a man imminently satisfying level of rejection.”

Dead. She died right there on the sidewalk, dutifully swearing to me that my admittedly neglected hair was gorgeous. These are the types of transparent lies people who love me trot out…and that’s why I love them. That and their last gasp is apparently supposed to be an ego-boost to their favorite (only) homo.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go check the weather app to make sure it’s still gonna pour rain on Sunday’s parade. I will culturally fucking appropriate a dance if I have to…

Crappy Pride, Y’all!

K-GAY TV

Channel 1:

I had an unexpected palate cleanser of a TV experience last night. I watched – at the enthusiastic recommendation of a co-worker with dubious taste – Senior Year on Netflix. Since I don’t really know this person that well, I had to leverage her enthusiasm about the show with the unknowns of her viewing tastes.

I’m an Olympic caliber mathlete when it comes to rationalizing.

Plus, it was the Silver Fox’s last night in town, and he surprised me by taking his guts out for a tentatively exploratory drink with me. I hadn’t expected to see him since he had an afternoon wine date with some neighbors. But after jealously teasing him about what he planned to drink at this wine:30

…he followed up a couple hours later with “I’m saving my alcohol consumption for you!”

How could I refuse?

I had asked if he wanted to go out or stay in with wine and a movie. I think I might have mentioned – his imminent departure aside – that I wasn’t up for starting another series at the moment because, A) I can tell he’s itching to indulge one of his binge passions: subtitles. I can’t blame him. Regrettably, I’m already watching a 50/50 subtitled show and that’s giving me all the fix I need there, luckily it’s one based off of his recommendations so I’m in the clear as far as watching it without him. Back to that list, though; B) I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to invest in another series right meow. And it is an emotional investment. There’s the cost of simply committing to a series, for one thing, but then there’s subject matter to deal with.

We’d just come off of tearing through It’s A Sin on HBOMax and it was heavy! It’s the coming out/coming of age story of six friends who find themselves and each other in 1980s London.

Unlike Sex and the City, the city of London isn’t the unintended co-star. AIDS is. Hence the heavy.

I was glad to watch it, because: important. Even though I lived through that era in America, I needed it as a touchstone to the days when Gay Culture actually contained a culture versus <gestures vaguely> whatever these Lost Boys are trying to pass off as a community or culture today.

But lots of tears, speaking only for myself. So consider yourself warned.

But last night’s drink with The Fox ended up being an out of the house affair, sidestepping my fragility. At least initially. The topic of a movie eventually crept back in, but was ultimately rejected because of the time commitment. Today being a travel day, the Silver Fox didn’t really need to be up past his normal bedtime just to watch a movie. Me, having nothing else going, though…well, I was free to stay up and watch what I pegged as a little Brain Candy.

By and large, it was.

Cheerleader.

20 year coma.

Coma ends.

Cheerleader returns to finish high school at 37.

Brain Candy about brain trauma? Sure!

But the unexpected component was the wokeness of the project. The cast was diverse and the characters representative. I’m quite sure the male actors portraying gender fluid teens and dressing thusly will be quite the trigger for the vocal religious minority in the states.

It might actually account for the low rating on IMDb.

Might? Surely. It’s not a great movie, but the inclusivity that the movie portrays as today’s high school culture squares off nicely against the less-than-stellar experience high school was in reality for most any Millennial or older generational outsiders.

And I needed that optimistic thread in this story to offset the heaviness of It’s A Sin, which I’d say should be required viewing for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community before they’re allowed to take a pic of their junk or download Grindr.

It reset me to where I’d been when the Silver Fox rolled into town two weeks ago. Hopeful that the crop of gay dipshits I encounter every week might somehow collectively find their way out of the moniker Lost Boys.

Channel 2:

Before the Silver Fox made his return to town, I took another of his recommendations and watched Heartstopper.

Oh, my hell. <injects insulin> What a deliciously sweet story.

Goofy, gay art scene high schooler meets straight-but-secretly-questioning jock and they fall in love?

<sigh>

I am so jealous of the environment younger generations are living in. I mean, sure, I know it’s not all rainbows and unicorns…plus, they’re inheriting the planet we’ve all but destroyed, so they deserve a more idyllic youth. But this is exactly what my and the generations before me have been living toward these past decades: the ability to live life out of the closet and experience your true self in the open.

All those protests and pride parades and lobbying of politicians for equality under the law?

It was for this. So a couple of queer or questioning kids could fall in love.

Representation matters 100% – which is why people were so mad about Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law. Even more so about Disney’s initial silence over such a law going into effect in its backyard. You think your gonna make billions and billions on the back of our collective talent and get away with a shrug when we come under attack?

Au contraire.

TV, movies, theater and music…all of that art both imitates life and portrays the sometimes ugly truth of it. It’s cyclical. Sometimes art is a story or reflection of how something is. Others, it can be a representation of how it should or could be. In those instances, exposing non-allied individuals to something they are uncomfortable with through art can be a non-threatening way to introduce a topic and demystify or de-vilify it for them.

Again, representation matters…and with it, before long – a mere 50 years and counting in America – you’ll have boiled that taboo frog.

It was nice to watch a show – before I knew I needed it – that produced big, happy tears. I was so enthralled by the story and execution that I burned through all eight episodes in one night.

Again, it’s not like I’ve got anything else going on that would require me to be up and at it at a reasonable hour on a weekend.

The Fox’s return was pretty much hot on the heels of that viewing, so when he asked if I wanted to watch Young Royals, my answer was a heartfelt

Despite the fact that I suspected it was subtitled. Turns out, only dubbed. See? The Silver Fox challenges me to be a better me and me is rewarded with less work than me thought a better me would require. Of me.

Another high school coming of age/coming out story? Sure, why not?

And the trope isn’t totally monochromatic.

The boys in Heartstopper were both middle class Brits. This one was about a poor, working class Swede and a literal (well, in the show, not real life) Swedish Prince.

Totally different.

Ok, well different enough that it’s more of a fairy tail tale premise could be digestible for someone who couldn’t connect with a depiction of an uncomfortable topic in the shadow of their own class.

I know I’m aiming high to even think the representation these shows provide is on a straight line trajectory to the people that can’t/won’t/don’t accept the LGBTQ+ population.

I know.

But those who aren’t resistant, just underexposed can see this and be better armed against the hateful rhetoric that seems to be the default of that further out group. That we’re deviants or abominations or – even worse – have designs on their own perceived imperiled and precious little pooters.

No, thank you.

Even better, the representation these shows provide may equip the kids who are questioning their sexuality and where they belong on the spectrum of this intensely important part of the human experience. It might equip them to be able to start the conversation with someone who couldn’t nurture and enable their coming out as their true selves…especially if that someone is themself.

If the weather is t as glorious where you live as it is in Portland this weekend, treat yourself to one of these – maybe not It’s A Sin if you’re new to gay culture. I can’t promise you that you won’t tear up, but I can promise you some feel-good entertainment…and that it won’t make you gay.

K-GAY TV

Influencers Behaving Badly

I know, what a shocker, right? Pretty people being petty or selfish?

You can probably guess my feelings on the influencer phenomenon simply from the title. In case you need more, I actually think they have a potential function in society. Sadly, we seem to lack creative independence in this capitalist country, so when influencers worked in a few niche marketing outings, every corner of industry tried to cram itself into that niche concept.

And it was all downhill from that bastardization. Some, I don’t mind – like ginfluencers, who are generally pretty fun to be around and are simply looking more to monetize fun for all. But then there are the ones I call sinfluencers. These are the folks who have gone the completely opposite direction and are basically monetizing erections.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fairly certain a barker isn’t getting off the ground in the influencer industry…being pretty is a prerequisite.

Fine.

But the folks who think being hot translates to perquisite wealth…hold on, I’m looking around for an innocent bystander I can slap therapeutically. Yeah, those people are the sinfluencers.

And it’s just getting more and more democratized. Our culture has gone from the blithely sexist “Anyone can be President” to a close call with that not being the implicitly sexist case anymore to a swerving into a tree example of just how tragically fucking literal that saying was.

But who wants to wait five, six or seven decades to gain that kind of attention influence? Let alone work for it.

Let’s tilt that trope a bit and look at a similar phrase…“In America, you can be anything you want to be”.

Did anyone see the answer to that careening from Doctor, Lawyer or Fireman to porn star?

I sure as hell didn’t – and, like I said…it’s just getting easier and easier to do. In the old days, you had to run into the wrong guy or get caught up with the wrong crowd. Nowadays, you just need a vague tether to a guy named Bezos.

That’s right, anything you need to shoot decent selfie-porn is available on good old Amazon. Camera mount, ring light, maybe some sexy undies or toys.

Oh, and a trash can for your dignity.

Why am I stuck on this?

Well, a couple of reasons.

First, I spared you any of these thoughts during Pride month – because I find this phenomenon to be particularly rampant in the gay community. Or what passes for community these days. Too many people I follow on Social Media have updated their profiles to include links to their OnlyFans or JustForFans – because, of course this is now a competitive industry – and sought to monetize their hookups and masturbatory habits. And when that doesn’t happen…

(Un)Fortunately, these ventures don’t always fail. I think that’s bad for everyone – the sinfluencers, their “fans” and even the public in general, since this changes what people consider appropriate behavior.

Behavioral changes that I’ve witnessed on Social Media range from starting an OnlyFans to raise money for “moving expenses” after a GoFundMe for the same reason fails. The GoFundMe was aiming to raise $6000…to move from one apartment to another in the same damn city!

Then there’s the more toxic behaviors that occur as an after-effect of these endeavors. These Social Media accounts tend to become less about what used to be a cute or entertaining person and more and more a billboard for their sinfluencer persona. They’ll start using their Instagram stories like a Reddit Ask Me Anything, and when someone asks them a racy question, they tell them to subscribe to their OnlyFans.

Well, that’s just frustrating on multiple levels for me, as a former retailer and as a consumer.

Didn’t expect that, did ya?

But, seriously, those are the fronts on which I’m offended. If someone is trying to sell something and a potential customer asks a question, “Buy it and find out” is not the proper answer. Someone who wants you to pay for something you might not like is merely a charlatan who is counting on you being a rube.

This has all been on my mind lately because one of the few sinfluencers that I still follow on Social Media had a pretty sad comeuppance. I like this kid. By all appearances, he’s a sweet kid – turning 30 next week, so not a kid-kid – that I automatically credit as being smarter than me since he’s Polish and speaks his native tongue, English and several other European languages. He seems to be rather accomplished outside his OnlyFans, too. He owns a photography studio in Poland and is apparently quite the photographer in addition to his work in front of the camera. He also publishes a calendar annually that he sells for…I dunno, $20 that you can pay extra to have signed. That, I find industrious. Not so industrious that I buy one, mind you – where would I put a calendar…by my landline? Hehe.

I started following him a few years back when I was writing under my Fitfy theme because he drinks beer and has abs. Plus, he’s charming.

He also fed my withering wanderlust, since he travels rather extensively. I’d put the estimate at 4-6 trips per year. Some, just around Europe, but others are overseas.

You can do that when you have a thousand and change subscribers at $9.99/month!

Well, last week he and his traveling companions came home to their Spanish vacation villa to find all of their possessions stolen.

Nice humblebrag at the end, there. I don’t think I own $50k worth of possessions in total, let alone enough that would fit into suitcases to move from Poland to Spain for a couple weeks.

The real tragedy to me is that this kid literally hasn’t become an adult. Not only has he not had to deal with adversity in life that would afford him the emotional base to handle this type of left field tragedy

He’s also been released into the world without being shown how to budget or manage money. This guy makes over $10k per month off his OnlyFans, not to mention rent income from his photography studio. Who failed him? Parents? School? Gay Kulture?

I’d be a little embarrassed to pull in over $100k a year and have to beg for money to replace stolen property. Then again, maybe that’s just me falling for his charm and assuming he can’t when the reality could be more that he doesn’t want to pay out of his own pocket to have it replaced.

What’s a 29 years and 51 weeks old guy to do in a case like this?

Obviously. And, I guess you better start plugging that calendar…although if all your photos and computers were stolen, it’s gonna be tough to pull that together in the next eight weeks.

And, finally…

Of course! You can’t even afford a new toothbrush…better leave Spain and head to Germany!

Can you tell his charm has started to fade?

Sadly, I think this is becoming an all too dominant trend. Making others accountable for your actions and problems. And they take cash in a variety of forms, just don’t offer advice or ask questions. They don’t need that kind of negativity.

Influencers Behaving Badly

The Red Shirt Diaries #26: LyftLife Edition

Long story, short:

I still love driving for Lyft. It’s currently my favorite form of prochristination and cure for boredom.

Now…

Short story, long:

Last night was the second time I’ve thought, “Sheesh, that could have been it for you, son” after a ride.

Yes, I talk to myself like that inside my head. Well, mostly inside my head. I also have a “Mom Voice” and a “Dirty Harry” persona that make occasional appearances.

But out of ~3500 rides, two that could have gone from dicey to deadly ain’t bad, right? Also, check out that 5-star rating! I feel a Rain Man voice coming on, because…

Clearly.

Anyway, I never wrote about the craziest drive I ever gave because it:

A) was just about everything anyone who’s ever said, “I bet you could write a book about your experiences driving” would think it would be; and,

B) my actual mom would use her actual mom voice on me and make me get a real job again.

Also, maybe I’ll write a book about it.

So…

The Runner Up Ride:

First off, last night started out as a shit show. I picked up a guy on my first ride who tells me he was just leaving a friend’s place after a hang out. Assuming correctly that “hang out” was exactly the euphemism I thought it to be, partnered with the reality that this is a heavyset fella, I was immediately equal parts envious and Nancy Kerrigan.

I mean, really…whyyyy?!?

Then it got weird, when he asked if he could ask me an off topic and admittedly weird question. I’m pretty game for weirdness, so I chuckled and told him to get at it. Well, it turns out this guy and I worked together briefly at a local healthy grocery from which we were both fired – because that’s what this joint is like. In a fit of C.R.S…I have absolutely zero recollection of him.

His question could have been weirder, but my C.R.S. added just the right layer of awkwardness to the conversation.

We trashed The Gays for a while, since he’d mentioned his friend was a dude and 1 + 1 = a sword fight. Then, as he was exiting the car at the bar I was dropping him off at (a coping mechanism I completely understand) he says, “For what it’s worth, being a gay guy in his 20s is totally different than being a gay guy in his…” and waves his hand at my general state of being. Then he shows me a quarter slot as he hefts his way out of the back that could hold every damn quarter ever. That overly cheeky fat fuck…the nerve.

First person to throw up in my car? Me. Almost. Well, I did, mentally.

Optimistically, I thought, “Well, things can only go up from here” in my Dirty Harry voice.

Then I picked up a young woman who answered “Better…” when I asked how she was doing. She followed it up with “I’ve been throwing up all day, but now it’s mostly dry heaving. But I brought a plastic bag, just in case.”

So…that was a quick arc, from virtual to actual (potential) vehicle based vomit.

It turns out she’d drank an entire bottle of something that was lost behind and effort to stifle something else on Friday night – on an empty stomach, no less – and yesterday was a Bob’s your uncle type day for her. Fortunately, we made it to her destination without incident, Portland’s pot-holey roads notwithstanding. Her ride ended close to my home – and, in a completely unnecessary side bar, right across the street from a place I lived back in ’96-97 – and I though that maybe I should just give up and call it a night.

Clearly, the universe was trying to tell me to fuck all the way off something.

But the (recreational) O.C.D. is strong in me and I like to give blocks of 10 rides when I go out. My feeling was that even if I was going to short-day it, I needed to hit five rides so I could sleep. Hell, at least four, so I could true-up my total ride balance to a mentally comfortable multiple of 5 or 10.

Full disclosure: when I get into what I call “overtime”, that 10 rides block goes out the window. If I’m in the far reaches of Portland on my 10th ride – as is often the case, given the level of fuckery I endure from the universe – I’ll put my app in Home or Lux Mode and take rides that come my way, but not hold myself to ending on a multiple of 5 or 10…

Surely, I could manage two or three more rides. Right?

Again, optimistically, I thought in my Mom Voice “You never know, the next ride could turn everything around for the better”.

That was just plain, old foolhardiness, though.

Enter, my third rider.

A phrase that is as potentially foreshadowing as a depraved mind could imagine. Seriously, you wanna know how this turns out? Remove the comma.

Let’s call this guy Donnie Drunko.

I clocked his blood alcohol level as elevated as he wobbled toward the car. I also clocked his sexual proclivities as he gave a long hug to a male friend before heel-toeing it my way.

He seemed amused when I told him I came out to drive after giving my wine rack the side eye too early in the evening, unnecessarily admitting he’d had a few drinks. “Yeah”, I replied, “but knowing my night owly tendencies, I knew that if I opened a bottle at 6:30, I’d be opening a second before 11.”

I went on to mentally muse that there was also a $15 streak bonus at 9:00 for giving three rides between 9-10 PM and I wanted to start a second streak in that hour to add a $30 bonus to my night’s effort. That bottle of wine could wait until 11.

Well, that’s what my thought process had been. I was already second-guessing that moderation decision and by the end of this ride, I was going to regret not boarding the bus to Hammertown.

Let’s just go straight from his surprise that it was only 7:40 and he was firmly wrapped up in a booze blanket, bypass the fairly enjoyable conversation about owning a house as a single person and skip onto me pulling up to his curb, eh?

He seemed to have trouble getting his shit together before deplaning getting out of the car. Not an unfamiliar phenomenon – especially with relaxed folk. People want to make sure they have everything, and that’s just more of a production from inside a bottle.

I’ve learnt to display a detached patience when this happens, like I don’t notice.

Instead of struggling to get out of the car, I realized he’d been struggling to close the diagonal distance between us. From the back, he grabs my arm to pull himself toward me so that his chest is against the back of my driver’s seat.

Assuming best intentions – like a moron – I ask if everything is ok, like maybe I parked in front of the wrong house. Nope…right house, wrong ballpark, as I soon found out.

“Do you, uh…want a hand job?” he slurs at me, his masked face surprisingly close to my own when I turned to face him.

“Boy, did you read that wrong”, I replied, enjoying the chance to use one of my favorite West Wing quotes in the same manner – albeit far more X-rated – that Leo McGarry had used it when Josh had tried to hug the curmudgeonly Chief of Staff on the show.

Shrugging off my rejection like it was my character flaw versus the complete cultural abdication of class on the part of The Gays that it is, he gets out of the car. Eschewing my usual “wait until they get to their door safely” M.O. I drive off immediately, debating when I should 1-star this clown and lamenting the pathetic state of Gay Kulture.

Internally, I’m trying to talk myself into waiting until morning. Then I hit the Block Hammer wall that I encounter so frequently on asocial media. When I don’t align with someone’s self-indulgent world view behaviors and they block me for – and I’m paraphrasing here – telling them that they are basically an affront to anyone with actual retarded developmental issues.

I know…you’re just dying to know that if that was the paraphrased version of my online response, what is the actual content. Trust me, it’s usually full on Julia Sugarbaker-esque indignation.

Low grade concerned that this guy could effectively pull that same cancel culture bullshit on me that faceless gays do online when they block me, simply by lodging a complaint about me with Lyft, I pull over and pull out my 1-star rating for this Lost Boy.

I hate giving someone a low rating/review and think Lyft is a little overly cautious in its pairing paradigm. Out of five possible stars, the app will never pair you with anyone you rate 3-stars or less. I think that’s a bit harsh, but I understand that they are trying to make the community the happiest possible place for passengers and drivers by pairing you with seeming favorites. It’s cool with that perspective. Wanting to be a busy boy, though, I tend to rate riders thusly:

5: good/great ride with a tip

4: good/great ride

3: lacking behavior, self-aware enough to tip to compensate

2: lacking behavior

1: WTactualF

This guy got a 1…even though I woke up to a chubby tip. I’d have still not felt bad had he given me a fat or even morbidly obese tip…and here’s why: it wasn’t until I pulled back onto the road to fetch my fourth ride that I realized this guy pulling himself so close to me could have easily ended with him pulling a knife across my throat – remember, I live in Stabtown, USA – as it did with a clumsy offer of a handy. Needless to say, I was a little trembly when I pulled up to my next pick up.

Happily, and in a fit of Mom Voice vindication, ride four was a 25 minute Lux ride from the swanky West Hills to far less swanky Felony Flats on the east side of town. As if the $50 ride itself wasn’t enough to tilt things back into cosmic balance for grumpy old Xtopher, the guy was a great conversationalist…which is fucking priceless.

The post-credits scene:

Since you obviously want to know…having stayed this long; no, I did not manage to double up on the streak bonus. Ride number four in my streak efforts barely fell into the 9-10 o’clock hour, but by the time he ran out his five-minute pickup time, it was 10:03 so I couldn’t start a second streak.

Still, I’ll gladly take:

A) a $50 ride

B) restored faith in my riders’ behavior; and,

C) getting to my 10 ride goal after a really rocky start to the night as offsets to a second $15 bonus.

The Red Shirt Diaries #26: LyftLife Edition

I’m Not Dead

…just very badly burned…out.

I guess that’s what you could call it.

I hear people referring to COVID-Fatigue or Lockdown Fatigue. Maybe this is a little bit of that?

Maybe I should do what the cool kids all seem to do and self-diagnose with Anxiety? Nah, I’m sure it’s not that…the 20-teens version of Epstein-Barr Syndrome. Which I guess is no longer a syndrome but a virus from the herpes family, believe it or not. Who knew that would end up being a real thing? Suddenly, though, I see how that could have spread as widely as it allegedly did among self-diagnosticians.

No.

Not dead.

Not anxious.

Just…quiet.

I hope you enjoyed the respite from my bullshit.

Self-effacing, but make it poetry.

Anyway, in my self-imposed solitude, I’ve been getting out of bed for several hours each day. Which is good. Most days for a few hours of driving, that affords me some easy, no muss-no fuss socializing during the week.

But I’ve also been sneaking out – under cover of darkness, for the most part…for blobvious reasons – to run a few times a week. This will be week three of that endeavor, and while it’s certainly humbling, it feels good.

Ish.

Notice, if you will, that no one *liked* my activities. I can tell you that I pretty much felt the same.

Because this is me, I have some observations after my inaugural return:

First, ow. I need new shoes. I meant to run yesterday to kick off the week – even though my brain told me that it was probably a bad idea: running consecutive days – but I got stuck in an eight hour drive hole after heading out to catch a ride in a bonus zone that just happened to land on me like a house on a wicked witch.

Starting off innocently enough with what turned out to be a $50 24-minute ride…poof…eight hours went by like nothing. My ass didn’t even really complain, which is something it usually starts doing at around three hours normally. I blame it on my gluteus minimus getting a lil swole from running.

Second, in a fit of what I know now to have been prescience, I woke up with a complaining ACL on my left side. You may or may not recall something which I certainly try to forget, which is my doctor retiring me from running a few – seven is “a few”, right? – years back after I fractured my tibia while training you run a marathon. Well, it took two more fractures – but c’mon, they were just micro fractures, who takes those seriously? – before I believed him. Now, seven years and about 30 pounds later, I’m revisiting the advice. Tempering my activity with a return to shorter distances, a cushiony track versus asphalt roadways and a shockingly low level of endurance that puts me in a run a half lap/walk a half lap cadence…hence the double-digit pace. So if a bit of whining from an ACL is the damage, I’m willing to pop an ibuprofen and push on…tomorrow.

And, third and especially because it’s me, during one of my late night wheezes runs, there was a photo shoot going on in the field inside the track.

Picture it: a perfectly dark night and a 10×10 square of the field exploding with lights set up in what I initially thought was a trap that caught a shirtless, well-oiled musclebound specimen of male pulchritude. You might wonder what kind of idiot would wander into such an obvious trap. Clearly, a muscle head, but to his credit, they did obscure the trap with several smoke machines.

The aesthetic perils of running on the UnderArmor track. Another reason for my choice to run at night. Seriously, though, this being 2020, I shouldn’t assume he was doing a marketing shoot for UnderArmor – it could have been for his Instagram page for all I know!

So, yeah…running. Standby on how that goes. My current goal is 2x/week until I can comfortably run a full lap consistently. This far, I’ve managed that twice, both laps resulted in an internal argument about whether my struggle was because I was that out of shape, had COVID or if this was a post-COVID long-term side effect.

My psyche is a psychotic place. Still, I’m betting it’s option three…

The last year or so, I’ve been commenting that I only really have three activity pillars in my daily life – aside from my number one pastime, socializing. That may sound like I’m either not living a very full existence or that I’m pretty low-functioning, since I usually follow that up with “I can really only succeed at two of the three pillars each day”.

Work – which nowadays consists solely of my Lyft driving. It’s a definitely struggle to make ends meet, more fail than win. But I’m really not sure that a return to 50+ hour professional workweeks is in my future. It’s something I need to work out in therapy, I know. I’m not able to objectively determine if I e left my last posts for legitimate reasons. My friends and family will tell me that I had valid grounds, but I don’t know if that makes us all smart or them loyal. Neither is bad, but I need an outside diagnosis opinion.

Exercise – which has been the first of the three to be sacrificed, obviously.

Writing – and if you think I’ve been eschewing my blog for working on a book, allow me to dis you from that illusion. I mean, I’m kind of joking, but the reality is…no.

So, on that note, let me wrap up with an update on my creative endeavors.

I’ve got a first draft of a WIP sitting on my laptop waiting for edits that I’d wanted complete by April. Alas. I’ve also decided to pull my second novel off of Amazon to rework it. At 550 pages, my initial impulse was to split it in two. The feedback I got from a beta reader and a couple of folks that bought it early on was that it was fine at that length. However, the costs of self-publishing a book that size puts a hefty $17.95 price on the book just to make me a buck on the back end. I’ve decided that I’d rather be able to price my books at $9.95 to make them more easily marketable.

Sidebar: I recently bought a copy of a friend’s book – called Gay and Tired – in a show of support for a fellow writer. Like my goal, his was priced at $10, so I figured it was an easy show of support. It’s sixty pages. It better be the missing chapter of either the Kama Sutra or How to Make People and Influence Friends (wait, that doesn’t sound right) for that price. But suddenly, my 300-ish page books for that same price seem pretty much like a steal. My initial surprise at the shortness made me a little…conflicted, so I’ve yet to read it.

At $9.95, my royalty is about a buck – which is why my initial novel was priced at $12.95, I hoped it would be read and a potential income stream. However, I would prefer to have my story read more than build an actual income stream, which is why I decided to split book two into books two and three. There’s a super logical cliffhanger to end up book two and then start book three. And I think it will be an easier purchase impulse to enable at $9.95.

Now, if I could just cut it down by a couple hundred pages, I could probably apparently make a 600% increase on my royalty.

Anyway, one of the other things I decided to do for book one was to buy a few author copies to drop into neighborhood lending libraries around town.

What? Your city doesn’t have neighborhood lending libraries?

I love this about our lil burg. Of course, since mine has a few racy chapters, I’d probably focus my contribution to libraries in front of houses with gay pride flags hanging on them – there are plenty, trust me – versus those with toddlers standing in the front yard, like in the first picture.

I don’t expect anything in return for this contribution, it’s just something I wanted to do when I first published the book last year – I just never had the discretionary scratch to do it before. Frankly, I don’t really have it now, but given the social climate of 2020 I felt like it was more important than ever to do it. You see, the impetus for writing this was to show an imperfect slice of life between a group of diverse gay men and the bond of friendship that allows them to lift one another up in life. Given the widening chasm between people today, it seems we may never successfully manage to “meet in the middle” on anything again.

This decision was brought front and center again for me yesterday as I observed – and then engaged, which I probably shouldn’t do if I’m going to publish under my real name – on a Facebook thread between a local owner of a queer bar and…I dunno, the public. The issue stems from his decision to shutter the bar in the early days of the pandemic. It was a decision that preceded the governor’s own by a few days, but apparently that was a catalyst for a disenchanted group of workers to air their grievances. Without going into the specific drama, this post was his apology and affirmation of support for the queer community.

The issue I had was how many fringe members of the community decided to shove a spit – not that kind, Diezel – up his ass a absolutely roast him in the comments. One person is a trans individual who took issue with this owners decision to call trans people brave. In a fit of biting the hand that feeds you, this person decided to speak for their entire population by saying they aren’t brave, they’re tired. Tired of fighting for equality and the right to live their lives as their true selves.

Ok, I get that. I remember when attending gay bars was something I felt was dangerous. My favorite bars didn’t have normal windows – they were either painted over or obscured by shutters to conceal the bar-goers. Even participating in AIDS marches and Pride parades made me feel like I was putting a bullseye on myself. But I knew it was important to have that visibility to usher my community into the mainstream.

And I felt it was brave.

Flash forward to the Pulse Massacre and you can imagine how I feel the need for bravery in my community is still important.

But, no…this trans person needed to provide us with an example of the entitlement of their generation by disagreeing with the praise that was levied upon them. They aren’t brave, they’re tired.

Ok, maybe they wouldn’t be so tired if they confined their battles to actual enemies instead of making enemies within their own community.

Just write a fucking book and shut up. Well, not shut up so much as get the impulse to attack your own out of your system. Here’s a title suggestion: Trans and Tired. Imagine how much faster rhinos would have gone extinct if they attacked their own versus just letting poachers take them out. <exasperated eye roll>

I mean, how immature must the queer community be ~50 years after Stonewall? We don’t exactly ooze maturity based on the most visible components of or ranks. I have been referring to The Gays as Lost Boys for decades.

Anyway, I feel like that’s veering off into a different post. Suffice to say, if I’m going to write under my own name and speak my Voice of Treason truths on social media, maybe success isn’t something I should hope for. But it did make me glad I had arranged for these author copies to spread around. Maybe someone will read my imperfect story and take note. Given the Facebook post from yesterday, that seems more unlikely than one of The Gays finding it and actually reading it, but it clearly needs to happen.

Now, to come up with an inscription for the inside flap…

I’m Not Dead

Well, That Was A Surprise

You know, when I tapped out my quick observational post yesterday about misspellings and malapropisms, I really didn’t expect much to come of it.

~150 words

~400 followers

It just didn’t seem like anything more than therapeutic whining into the web on my part. And it’s not like I’ve ever expected AtLeastIHaveAFrigginGlass to have a viral moment. My readers read me for what I assume is either entertainment or cautionary tale on their part.

Plus, I’m not a millennial. In my day, having a viral moment could have killed me. Still might, thanks to anti-vaxxers.

True to the norm of my form, I got a few likes, some comments here on WordPress and a few of the same over on my blog’s lil Facebook page. I guess it was the range of the comments that struck me; topical and emotional range.

Frustration.

Location.

I mean, this was just a couple careless and unguarded moments of intelligence fail.

But then I also got texts.

Friends telling me they know they need to proof their texts now before sending them – one called out specifically before sending them to me – or reminding me that I know that they know that they don’t proofread their texts. Hell, my best friend and I have that conversation in some way, shape or form weekly – it’s not like it’s a deal breaker for our friendship, it’s more a source of amusement.

FYI, for his part, the Silver Fox tried to guess who the “ethnically” challenged person was.

But I felt like some comments were a reminder of where I was way back when my friends first started calling me out for my grumpiness. I hashtagged my post with #StupidAmericans because that’s the theme it fit. I remember how…angry I used to get about the embarrassingly stupid things I would observe people doing in their daily lives. Maybe not so much angry as just so surprised that I had a physical as well as emotional reaction to the situation.

It would almost always fade to a sad, shocked amusement at the state of intellect in America. Now I think my observational reaction is more resigned.

Yup. Still dumb.

Without investing too much effort into quantifying whether our trajectory is toward more or less dumb or maybe even holding a steady level of stupid.

C’mon, though…more stupid is clearly the correct assumption here.

Take it from Antoine.

I think – other than defensiveness, and you know who you are! – that the responses that were loudest involved overcompensated people in the workplace. Hell, there was enough material about workplace nincompoops to take the qualifier out of that and just call them People Who Are Shockingly Holding Down A Job.

What do we expect, though?

I saw a text this morning that was something to the effect of:

People today will never know the terror of printing out directions from MapQuest and then making a wrong turn, “Too bad, now you’re lost forever!”

It’s true, too. When we miss a turn in our Nav apps, it reroutes us without even telling us we missed it.

I joke with The Fox often that I don’t need a brain, I have a phone.

Occasionally, I’m surprised to find myself in a situation where I’m discussing something with a group of friends and realize that we are collectively trying to reason something out or recall a fact. More surprising than collaborating on the answer is that none of us reaches for our phones to get the answer.

I actually enjoy those moments. There aren’t enough of them – they also give me hope.

Aside from technology dumbing us down, there’s the foundational effect of our country’s family erosion.

Kids aren’t raised by a parent anymore, well…not actively raised. Let alone raised by a co-habitating (I know, not a word!) set of parents. I think most parents get through the day with a silent prayer that their kid remained self-guided for the duration of their workday. When they interact, it’s more as friends or equals – a parenting flaw of convenience for the parent.

I mention that because I used to watch my sister and brother-in-law parent their son and talk to him like an adult to elevate his thought process and social skills. Now, I think parents talk to their kids like friends or peers in order to be the cool mom or reach backward for relevance so their kids can help keep them remain cool.

I remember seeing an Albert Finney movie once, just a story about growing up. One of his daughters is talking to him about their relationship and he says something like, “I never really thought of you kids as children”.

She asks what he considered them and he replied matter of factly, “Pets”.

I was amused by that situation, but never thought of a future where that would be the high water mark for quality parenting.

At least the master/pet relationship has a hierarchy. Sure, in my own, Myrtle is the Alpha…but there’s still rules and consequences. And when she does something wrong, she knows it was wrong. It’s written all over her smug little cat mug.

School is government funded daycare.

Teachers don’t teach anymore. They are still way under compensated for what they endure, managing to somehow come out of the worst professional situations still sane after playing relationship counselor between parents and kids at best and defense against a united parent/child front at worst.

United in denial, by the way.

Because more often than not in school, we aren’t learning English and grammar or math and science…and most certainly not cursive.

We’re learning how to get away with things and what to do when we fail to get away with something.

That what to do part? Form an alliance with our parent – by manipulating them – against the teacher. Getting busted is as much an indictment of ones parent as it is an inconvenience to the student. It seems parents respond emotionally to that inconvenience with anger toward the teacher for interrupting their day versus disappointment in their offspring.

How can that system manufacture humans who are prepared to face the world armed with a baseline knowledge of the proper use of there/their/they’re let alone be productive members of a world culture.

Have you ever asked yourself whether the apps we use make life better or easier?

I think there is an absolute difference.

Take mating apps disguised as dating apps – because they are such an easy target, sure – as a perfect example. Getting sex has become easier, because it’s now a la carte.

Some people go into the app looking for sex exclusively.

Shooting fish in the proverbial barrel.

Others go into the app with hope and then abandon hope and take sex as their consolation prize when dates don’t materialize. Let’s not kid ourselves, though…they don’t abandon hope so much as they do their values. Every time they give it up for a stranger, you know in the back of their heart is a timid voice singing Maybe This Time.

Newsflash: Probably not. Maybe next time, though…

Sometimes I have to remind myself what my goal was when I wrote my first book – No One Of Consequence.

Money.

I mean…empowering a reader. It was important to me for a couple of reasons.

First: Gays used to be fabulous. Now, we’re frivolous. A friend posted this on my Facebook timeline this morning.

I love this friend. She’s funny and bold and generous and caring and she’s a survivor.

In this case, she was also wrong. But thirty or even twenty years ago, she would have been right.

But then AIDS decimated gay culture. What we managed to cobble together to replace it wasn’t better, it just wasn’t nothing. Speaking of trajectories…it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it still wasn’t actually good.

So, yeah, my book took on the challenge of showing gays reaching back to elevate newer generations of gay men and help make them into citizens we can be proud of. It’s an example of what we should do for one another as people – not just as a gay subculture.

Second, I spent a lot of time being angry about Stupid Americans. We became so insular. Not just as a country, but as individuals.

Our protective bubbles became insecurity condoms: skin tight and hopefully impervious to anything that might harm us – but hopefully still allowing us to feel good in the <ahem> end.

When I gave up – as I was just on the verge of accepting my relegation to a post relevance existence – something actually happened. This story became a higher purpose in and of itself. I could use this story as a platform to show examples of how to be an individual without that individuality coming at a cost to another or to society as a whole.

After yesterday, realizing the true arc of my grumpiness, from frustrated, powerless observer to an observer who funneled that negative emotion into something…I’m left feeling grateful.

That I could contribute something to this and future generations and loosely call it art.

That a few people actually read what I have created.

Shameless plug: I’m still accepting new readers, generous reviews and shares across social media to expand upon that reach!

And that I may have channeled my frustration into what I hope is also a change in my own behaviors so that I can be a better passive example to others.

Maybe someday we’ll be at a level where I could respond to my text message from yesterday with a message like

I think the words you were looking for were “there’s” and “ethically”.

…without ending up blocked or the recipient’s default being to take that statement as offensive.

As I learned yesterday, though, those friggin’ emotional condoms that we never seem to take off work. When I left the guy yesterday, I got the distinct impression I’d never see him again. So now I’ve got to figure out whether the Universe has simply given me what I wanted all along – to not be dating a 20-year old – or if I’m supposed to continue to gently urge the guy toward an emotionally bareback* existence that he understands is safe and nurturing and not hostile.

*Just in case it needed clarification, “bareback” is a slang term for sex without a condom.

Well, That Was A Surprise

Gods And Monsters

The May/December dynamic is hardly unique to gay culture.

<looking at you Catherine ZJ and Michael D>

Star Trek even gave it a glance in The Next Generation as Wesley whored his way through his teens and most of the male crew memb…wait, that didn’t happen on the show.

I got confused…I’m old.

No, it was in the episode The Best of Both Worlds when Admiral Hanson brings his protege, Commander Shelby, aboard on the way to investigate a missing colony.

Captain Picard witnesses the dynamic between the elder officer and his female subordinate. To their credit, the writers not only created a strong female character in Shelby that didn’t define herself by a relationship, they also made the Admiral self-aware enough to give an honest assessment of his situation when asked by Picard.

Just an old man’s fantasy.

Boy. Little did I know then…but as this will end up being my birthday post, what better time to dust off this three month old notion?

Back around the beginning of November, I caught an old art house flick I’d seen in 1998. Literally, in an art house movie theater. Gay cinema was still struggling somewhere between taboo and mainstream.

The movie? Gods and Monsters.

Somehow, they managed to corral a stellar cast to tell the story of the last days of golden era director James Whale – played by Ian McKellan. He created the Frankenstein movie and the sequel, Bride of Frankenstein while living as a closeted homosexual.

Whale’s housekeeper – Lynn Redgrave – hires a new yardman – Brendan Fraser – that catches Whale’s fancy, despite the gardener’s obvious heterosexual nature. The film explores that relationship, pretty baldly, too. There were moments viewing it at 30 that made me cringe as a young man who had suffered overt advances from older men. The film did not shy away from those clumsy, vague advances viewed through the 1930s mindset of an older man with a modestly lascivious gleam in his eye.

It was hard to watch then, providing a certain ew factor based on my experiences. It was still hard to watch now that the movie is of legal drinking age.

Obviously, I’m not one to judge an older/younger romance. But it was hard to watch from a couch that is fortunately situated in a much more tolerant era.

My gaydar is fairly well tuned. That, paired with gay men feeling comfortable enough to express themselves freely without policing either their naturally fey tendencies, flamboyant behaviors or even their wardrobes, makes it a fairly comfortable environment for me to appreciate men I find attractive without fear for my physical well-being. Those same factors have made straight men much more secure in their own sexuality, largely reducing their fear or discomfort when a gay man hits on them.

Not eliminating the fear, entirely, sadly…but there’s a topic for another time.

But this isn’t about old Hollywood pool parties or an analysis of why older men chase younger men.

Their lost youth, duh.

It’s about the lasting impacts of those inter generational gay/straight friendships.

I might even say it’s more about how people come into your lives for a reason.

Sure, James Whale might have thought his yard man, Clay, came into his life simply as a distraction from his failing health at first. Or, you know…to cut his grass. But as their relationship evolved, Fraser’s gardener provided more than “just an old man’s fantasy”. Ultimately, he inspired McKellan’s Whale – don’t make that dirty, Diezel – to live during his final weeks of life. Of course, Whale then tried to manipulate him into killing him in a “gay panic”. But at the end of the movie, maybe a decade after Whales’ death, we see the lasting fingerprint Whale left on his yardman as he watches one of Whales’ movies with his own son.

Clay – the gardener’s name – learned some tolerance and empathy from his exposure to someone different than himself. Not just any old man, either.

A gay, old man.

I think that double-whammy of diversity was too hard to sweep aside and it made Clay pay attention to Whale versus just looking through him. Even if he wasn’t immediately aware of what was happening in the moment. Later, it made him a better father and a better steward of future generations.

Noticing that the second time I watched the movie made me appreciate what we take away from the people who cross our paths.

<Cue up some John Lennon music…>

We can all use a little more awareness and empathy in our day to day encounters – random or not. Imagine a world, a country, a state, city or block where we could see that awareness and empathy in action.

It’s a not infrequent theme in my blog, human decency. Random kindnesses. Living with intention.

Holding doors for one another.

Making eye contact with people on the street, saying “hi” as you pass.

Little things.

I do them, even though I’m a self-professed grumpopatomus. Think of how unbearably chipper I’d be if someone thanked me for holding a door or smiled or just said “hi” back.

That’s a world I can imagine. I’d just rather see it.

And so, while I sometimes feel like a dirty, old man when a younger guy catches my eye, my motivation is nothing, at worst. At best, it’s to consciously leave them better than I found them. Whale’s presence in Clay’s life may have had unintentional benefits; I’d prefer mine are more direct impacts.

I think with American culture in general, each of us being aware of the legacy we leave younger generations with would be a positive for the future. But I think gay culture in particular would benefit from not being blind to what other generations have to offer our own, and vice versa.

Gay culture lacks a generational continuity. A handoff of knowledge and norms from one generation to the next. AIDS…whaddyagunnado? But instead of walking away from that cultural canyon, we should work toward filling it in to create a cultural continuity.

I was reminded of this the other day when I watched The Assassination of Gianni Versace. There’s gay guys that can legally drink that don’t know the shock and horror of that random crime any more than they know the fear of living your true life in the open.

All these people, with no idea of the cultural importance of Versace’s work or the significance of a gay hustler executing an older, wealthy gay man.

The sad thing is that they blithely post about “living their best life” on social media with an insipid or ironic – god, I hope it’s ironic – pic of some frivolous thing like a venti gourmet coffee or expensive pair of shoes.

The irony to that “best life” is that many more young men enter into exploitative situations with older men to finance those “best lives”…strictly in a tit-for-tat (or cash-for-ass) basis. Sometimes that transaction is strictly through social media, but more and more men are turning to escorting to finance their best life. Bragging as they do that one sugar daddy isn’t enough.

Those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them, right?

I guess, culturally, that means we’ve got a bunch of little Cunanans – thankfully only in the escort way, not the spree killer way – running around without even knowing it. Ryan Murphy to the rescue…

But that’s the type of culturally defining story that we lose not just with a missing generation, but also because of the accepted reality of generational isolation. It shouldn’t take a TV show to educate an entire culture across generations.

But it does, sadly.

I was talking with Sallory months and months ago about this phenomenon. We were talking about how valuable generational influence is, whether it’s friendship or romance based. The gist of the conversation – which started as a “What is wrong with younger people these days?!?” type of thing – was that so many kids come up with a lack of adult or parental influence. People work. I know. But the benefit of older/younger relationships is a better filling in of that gap.

As funny as it sounds, it really does benefit younger generations to hear someone say, “When I was a kid…”

I’m definitely here to say that and I have people in my life that want to hear it. Friends and when I’m lucky, lovers.

Of course, in my case, the movie would be made as Cads And Monsters – given that old gay men are not gods. But the lost boys I let distract me are still certainly lil monsters in their own right. But hopefully having an older friend or boyfriend helps tame them.

Gods And Monsters

My Work Is Never Done

Recently, in Why I Hate the Interwebs land, I came across the tweet below.

I’m not sure why I bothered to white out his identity. Pretty sure it’s because I don’t want to inadvertently contribute to his…notoriety. He’s already a Portland-famous self-proclaimed celebrity.

I point out that his celebrity is self-proclaimed…if it were up to me, I’d choose Stupid American as a label for this clearly adrift Lost Boy.

Ok, A) yes. Right?!?

But, also, B) I wasn’t really that confident that he was joking. I think I was trying to “program” his behavior with my words.

Also, I am fairly sure this is why people sometimes refer to people who use Twitter as twits.

Another grumpopatomus response that went through my head was

Not as weird as you even asking the question.

But grandma had a strong voice when it came to appropriate behavior, so I gave her her day on the Internet.

Now, because I can exist in the simultaneous states of grumpy and self-entertained, I was having a different internal conversation with my dear departed grandma about this tweet as I typed my response. That voice was cracking me up with a running dialogue kvetching about how much work it would be to execute this plan.

I mean, the waxing, the bleaching, you’re gonna want an intensive week of leg day workouts beforehand…and then you gotta find a photographer. And it can’t be just any photographer.

“Why not? Wait…what do you know about leg day?”

Don’t you worry. But it wasn’t all water aerobics at the Y for me, let me tell you.

Now, you’d want natural light for this shoot. You’d need an outdoor photographer.

“An outdoor photographer?”

Of course! This isn’t picture day at school. You can’t just hire any old guy from Sears Portrait Studio to do this.

Obviously…?”

Quite right, you are! Imagine some poor schmuck that makes his living taking pictures of pets for family Christmas cards trying to pull this off.

“Mm-hmm. I’m sure that simply wouldn’t do.”

Correct, again.

You’re gonna want the guy who puts out a Grand Canyon calendar every year for this job.

He’s used to working with giant, gaping holes.

“That was quite a lot of set up just to backhandedly call this guy a slut, grandma.”

He’s nothing but a common tramp.

I’m not sure why, but sometimes grandma sounds like grandma in my head. Others, she has a Southern accent. I call her my imaginary Southern grandma. This time she had a New York Jewish accent. That’s new…

It’s a wonderful time to be alive, folks.

My Work Is Never Done