The Year of FREE Music

No, this is not a nostalgia post about my Columbia House membership.

Whilst working from home yesterday, I was planning out my weekend. The focus was getting my weekend blogging goal back on track as well as my exercise regimen – which has been off track since my vacation. Add into that the Silver Fox’s return to town. And this is still on top of wanting to maintain my regular weekend misadventures.

But it was also Flashback Friday on my local radio station. Back when I was living that #LyftLife that meant I listened to the weekly Party Out of Bounds radio show from 8-midnight while driving Friday nights.

All 80s and 90s music for four hours? Yes, please.

Now that I’m living the WFH life, I listen to the morning show until 10 Monday-Friday and maybe switch to a pandora station later in the day. But on Flashback Friday I might put in a little longer on the show because they give away tickets to upcoming live shows from 80s and 90s bands every hour.

I’ve set my limit at 5 calls per hour, if I’m able to call when they throw it out. Sometimes I’m on a Teams or Zoom call and can’t.

It’s fine. I’ve already won seats at their free in studio performances twice this year, so if I miss out, I’m still having a pretty good live music year. Some of the shows though…Jane’s Addiction, Garbage, Crowded House. There’s about five shows to choose from each week at a variety of venues: The Moda Center (where the Blazers play), Edgefield (one of our larger outdoor venues), Crystal Ballroom (if you wanna experience a concert on the third floor of a hundred+ year old building, this is your place – and let’s hear it for feeling the floor move beneath your unmoving feet!), or Pioneer Courthouse Square (aka: Portland’s Living Room).

Moda Center
Inside the Moda during concert mode
Edgefield – looking back from the 4th row. More on that in a minute
Crystal Ballroom – home of the “Floating Dancefloor”.
Pioneer Courthouse Square from the air…or an office tower across the street

I’ve been to shows at all of these venues over the years, but my attendance was stagnant recently – pandemic closures notwithstanding. I’ve been to Moda many times, including Fleetwood Mac on three separate tours. I saw Everclear back in the late 90s or early aughts at the Crystal and was “recently” (aka: five-ish years ago!) invited to Echo and the Bunnymen there. Pioneer Courthouse has a couple different summer music events each year. The first is just a “Portland is awesome” type of thing…a free Lunchtime Concert Series every Thursday at noon. Back when our downtown had businesses operating in it, people would throw open their windows in the neighboring non-skyscraper buildings to lean out an watch. People on the streets would be drawn to this packed city block brick plaza. I’ve seen several shows there, too. Notably, the Indigo Girls back in the 90s and I was sad to miss their return to this venue this year. There have also been a couple of community concerts featuring our local Pink Martini to mark holiday tree lightings or punctuate a local event – like a protest concert or to honor the life of a colorful former Mayor.

This is our former Mayor, Bud Clark. I missed his memorial at Pioneer Square, but if it was half as entertaining as he was…

Which leaves us with Edgefield out of the venues listed above. It’s a 7000 “seat” outdoor venue at the edge of town, owned by the same family that owns the Crystal Ballroom, so the music gene is strong. The official name of their music program is Edgefield Concerts on the Lawn…hence the apostrophes around the word seat earlier. I’d been decades ago when it first opened. It was fun to go and cop a squat on a patch of grass with a date or maybe as a foursome with another couple.

But that was decades ago, and my lawn squatting days are behind me.

Enter my drink buddy neighbor. He’s kind of my spirit animal for having a life as a single old man. I don’t know why this eludes me so. I think it might partially be a willful ignorance on my part. It was only a few – ok, closer to ten than five – years ago that I regularly wrote under the blog theme I called the Yes Game. Now I’ve got Jessla fresh off her divorce and recently moved back to the city from the coast talking about her Year of Yes as well as my drinking buddy reminding me that life is meant for living, not waiting for the end.

Anyway, my drinking buddy has adult children with a couple of grands that keep him busy, which is a resource I don’t share. Outside of that, which is plenty for most people, he also has this great life of solo adventures that have inspired me recently to do more than just carouse my way to the grave.

He’s the one that invited me to the Loverboy/REO Speedwagon/Styx show a couple months ago. That, in turn, motivated me to not be resigned to the sidelines of life. I remembered when doing things alone was a source of empowerment for me when I was younger. As I’ve aged, I’ve avoided that source of power while eschewing the source of one of my biggest frustrations: people.

It was good to be reminded that I can do both by planning strategically. While it will take a lot to get me back to the Moda Center for a show, post-pandemic. It was the show that I lucked into last week at Edgefield that highlighted the reality I’d been missing out on.

My drinking buddy ended up triple-booked on a Friday night: a family thing, a Timbers match (he’s a season ticket holder) and a show at Edgefield that he’d been raving about for weeks. It was the last-minute realization that he had a match that Friday and the laster-minute family thing that ended up with me being gifted his tickets to the Edgefield show.

To Bonnie-freakin’-Raitt, no less.

I couldn’t possibly say no! Even though I’d already said yes to walking the Silver Fox’s pooch while he was at the same show. And yes to walking Jessla’s dogs while she was out of town for the weekend.

On top of having a lunchtime doctor appointment…this was going to be quite the Friday. So at lunchtime I put my Out of Office on and hood it over to my doctor. That runs late, so I go right from there to Jessla’s pups afternoon walk. I’m back in my chair just before 130. At 430, I set my status to offline and head up to Jessla’s for a quick pee walk and dinner for her pups. Then I hop in the car and head east to Edgefield.

Did I mention that this free seat is in the 4th row of Reserved Seating?!? But I still have to wait in line with all the picnickers before the show starts at 630, thanks to this post-9/11 mass shooter gun violence world in which we live.

Getting 7000 people through metal detectors takes a minute. Factor in Bonnie pulls a Boomer crowd and you’ve got a real shitshow of a line scenario.

The venue is up there in that stand of trees, this grass will soon be covered in cars

The Fox had been insisting my seats were good, but the seats he had in the Sponsors Section – courtesy of his nephew, owner of Wyld, a cannabis edibles manufacturer – were better. Well, they came with reserved parking and free tacos and drinks, so he was partially correct. Otherwise, we both learned that they had moved the Sponsor Se ruin sometime in the past couple of decades. Here’s a view from my not-worse-than-his seat.

He’s under that white tent…

But that reserved parking was legit. After standing in a line for 45 minutes, what was I finally greeted by when I was able to branch off the mainline to the two measly metal detectors dedicated to Reserved Seating ticket holders?

I’d know that snow cap anywhere. He hadn’t responded to my bored-in-line inquiries about his whereabouts. Probably because he was driving out so he could walk right up to the Reserved Ticket Holder’s entrance. But it amused me – while I was ignoring my darker inner thoughts that he’s seen me and was ignoring me – that he was so focused on the venue that he didn’t notice me until moments after I sent this…

Remember the basement scene in Silence of the Lambs where Bill is reaching out in the dark behind an unsuspecting Clarice?

Anyway, we were both entertained by his level of surprise. A phenomenon I would repeat as I beat a hasty retreat during the encore to get back to Jessla’s pups for their evening walk and ran into the Fox’s former partner’s parents – with whom he’s still friends. The dad was wearing his Timbers jersey, showing support for his team as a season ticket holder since he’d made a different decision than my beneficiary. So we got to chat a bit until we made for our separate grassy parking spaces – turns out, they left early to get home to their dog, too. Since it’s an outdoor venue, I put down the windows and opened the moonroof to listen to the encore as I queued up to exit the lot.

I’m not the guy who runs into someone I know everywhere I go. I’m always the guy with the person who runs into someone everywhere there go. Seriously, it happened at the top of the Eiffel Tower. But in between this happening to me twice in one night, I saw an incredible show. A week later, I’m still in awe.

Mavis Staples was the opener. Let me tell you, at 83 this woman is absolutely killing it. She’s not tall enough to have ever ridden a roller coaster in her life, but onstage? Well, let’s just say that you can’t miss her – even though it was a good minute or two before I saw her head because it was behind a mic-mounted iPad.

What? I didn’t see her take the stage because I was getting a beer! The McMenamin’s brothers started out as beer makers, not concert promoters.

I watched Mavis in awe. Her band and back up were amazing on their own, but in no way making up for any diminished capacity in Mavis’ talent or skill. She might have had to sit down a couple of times during the set – 83 years old! – and the band didn’t lose a beat, but when she was ready to come back, she let ‘em know that the stage was hers again.

I will never not think of this performance when I hear a cement mixer’s engine idling while its tumble turns. That a voice that big comes out of such a small human. Epic.

If that was all there was to this show…it was still a bargain at twice the price. But wait…there’s more!

Bonnie-freakin’-Raitt!

In my concert-going career I’ve been to myriad shows. Folks touring to promote a recent album, storytellers on tour, spectacles of a show that hid lipsyncing artists, intimate venues, stadium tours, has-beens on the State Fair circuit, perennial favorites, career touring acts…and much, much more!

And it’s not like those options are mutually exclusive. It’s more of a Venn diagram.

I’d always thought of Bonnie as a storyteller on tour given my knowledge of her history touring with the likes of Lyle Lovett and John Prine. In this instance she was that storyteller on tour, touring to promote a new album and perennial favorite. I wasn’t super-excited to learn about the new album since that usually draws focus from the library I’m familiar with. For someone whose first album came out 50+ years ago, though? She is still creating amazing content.

Case in point, after talking about touring with Prine and reminiscing about them performing Angel From Montgomery together and how she can’t imagine performing it without him since his death, she tells how that history and loss inspired her to write a song with a similar story behind it. She’d heard a story about a man who showed up on a woman’s doorstep years after she lost her son in an accident…to thank her for the gift of life her son’s heart gave him.

Being an emotional sap is another good reason to go to these types of shows alone.

A few songs later, she performed Angel From Montgomery, and I think everyone was crying when she hugged her guitar to her like it was her lost, dear friend.

Starting the encore

Like I said, I beat feet at the encore, but didn’t miss anything but a 45 minute wait to exit the lot in doing so. Hearing her voice through the trees in the night air of a perfect PNW summer evening while idling in a grass field? It gave me time to think about what I take for granted: the future. Not for granted, so much, more something I look forward to with a sense of dread or contempt.

But this coming-up-on-73 year old and her 83 year old touring companion showed me that people can continue to give to the world around them well into the years of life when others have left their careers. And my Generation Jones aged drinking buddy is giving me an example on how to live life as a single-person without waiting for someone to live it with to enable it – and without caring what others think of my solo-status.

I am kind of happy about my reluctance to return to larger venues for this reason, too. Fringe benefit of going solo to smaller venues alone? I stand out as alone easier in a smaller setting. Hey, if I’m going it alone, I want credit for the finger I’m giving my failure at achieving an enduring relationship. Can’t get that in a crowd!

All of this is by way of telling you that on my fifth attempt at winning tickets in the Flashback Friday offerings yesterday, I succeeded!

Jessla would point out the time was a triple number as an indicator of this luck

You’ll notice it took 22 attempts – versus the weeks of effort that came before yesterday – but someone finally answered the phone! A few minutes later, I was the proud owner of a pair of tickets to the upcoming Shins show at Pioneer Courthouse Square and could not have been happier. Until a few minutes later when the texts started rolling in…

The year of free music rocks on, friends!

The Year of FREE Music

My Kind of Conversion Therapy

I got a call from my boss yesterday afternoon. She gets me. Here’s how the pre-call planning went via Microsoft Teams chat:

Boss: Hey!

Me: Quit screaming at me.

Boss: Call me.

Normally, my neurotic ass would immediately spiral with that enigmatic command. But like I said, she gets me. We have a…rapport.

She starts our conversation off with “Guess what?” Even though her tone suggested good news, that opener is cryptic enough that mentally I replied, “You need me to bring back my laptop?”

It was just the opposite, though. She told me that the CEO had finally signed off on my Offer Letter.

I probably added a “finally” retroactively where there was not one in reality.

Seriously, though, it had taken three months to get my Offer Letter put together and approved. I know this because I found it hard to take her seriously when she asked if I was interested in converting from a contractor to a core employee…since it was April 1st.

When I pointed that out a couple weeks later during our weekly touch base, her response was, “Wait, did you mean it when you said ‘Yes’?!?”

And this is why we get along.

I probably could have shared my thoughts on this surprise (to me) development with my boss. Thoughts like, “Thank gourd for The Great Resignation making employers desperate enough to hire a grumpy old bastard like me!” or “You could hire millennial or Gen Z folks for less than me…if you could actually hire anyone from those generations”. (Sorry, Vee!) Actually, I’m confident she would have beat me to the punch on that last part.

Anyhoo…she’d warned me it was gonna take a while. “We move slow”, she had admitted. She did not undersell that.

I just never imagined it would be a longer process to complete than the tenure I had as a temp with the company at the time she had issued that warning. I’d gotten the exploratory offer at two months.

Two weeks later when she’d “updated me” about my salary expectations, I’d told her that was faster than I’d expected. Two weeks after that, she’d confirmed that HR was starting on my Offer Letter.

Ok

Five weeks later I hear that my Offer Letter was on the CEO’s desk for his approval and I’m all, “Eureka!”

Three weeks go by. Mind you, a week after I heard the CEO had it, his Admin called me to check on some expense reports “he’d” submitted.

I had patted myself on the back for not quid-pro-quo-ing his expense reports and just told her that I process expense reports on Fridays. It was Thursday…so the next day I reimbursed his $25,000 from four months worth of expense reports. Before the day ended, the Admin was back in my inbox telling me “she’d” completed the last two months of reports, so I added another $15k to his reimbursement before beer:30 that day.

You know how you know someone makes too much money? Not just that they can get by submitting expense reports only twice a year, but that they can do it by letting an average of $7k a month ride.

Oy.

Anyway, I’m glad I coughed up his dough because it took a scant two more weeks for the Offer Letter to find its way back to HR. No telling how long it would have taken if timing hadn’t worked out like it had!

But someone was impressed enough with me to throw a couple extra percentage points on my salary from what my boss had said she’d try to get for me – which was less than I’d asked for, but more than I was making as a contractor, so I wasn’t mad. But seeing it come back just a shade off of what I’d asked for made me feel it was worth the wait.

Mind you, this is still a 45 hr/week base at about 60-65% of what I made last year driving with Lyft. I’ve been doing some DoorDash deliveries to help bridge the gap, too – but that’s another shituation. I can max out at about a dozen hours on a good week with DoorDash, that’s about half as many hours as I drove for Lyft and on a good week I earn about a third of what I made driving for Lyft.

All that boils down to me working more than twice as many hours this year over last and maybe making 75% of what I earned driving <30 hours a week for Lyft. Since it’s July, I don’t think it’s premature to declare that this is gonna be a financially tough year.

But the first six months of this year have helped me get back into a budget mindset. Between that and the 16% bump I’m getting converting from contract to core, I think I can stare down the balance of the year without having to steal from my parent’s present retirement fund.

Anyway…here I am, the guy who swore he was done working for Da Man back in 2018. Didn’t quite make it five years before I found something that appealed enough to me that I could sell myself back to an outfit long-term.

Maybe this company is the conversion therapy I needed to take away the shitty taste my last few professional roles left in my mouth.

I don’t want to shock anyone – I have more than a few older readers – but, yes…that was me sounding optimistic. I apologize for not warning you ahead of time.

My Kind of Conversion Therapy

Nostalgia Zone

When I first heard – years and years ago, now – that there was a sequel in development to 1986’s summer blockbuster Top Gun, I might have sprained something rolling my eyes. Admittedly, when news of production delays started trickling out, my surprise was hard to locate.

But once this year surprisingly finally arrived, bringing with it the promise of the Memorial Day weekend release of Top Gun: Maverick, I was…intrigued. Daunted, but intrigued.

Daunted because I had been psyching myself up for a post-lockdown return to theaters for months. There were shows whose marketing made me swear they would be the trigger to get me back yo my pre-pandemic routine of seeing 2-3 movies each month. After the marketing hype died down and the reviews started rolling in and showing the reality of that hype, those movies quickly faded from memory.

It was like the hyper intensity of losing one’s virginity all over again! I wanted to “give it up” for a worthy movie, not…The King’s Man.

Like Spider-Man – which I see makes my prior analogy creepy since this movie is about a high school superhero. In my defense, that could have been any Marvel movie. However, I’d given a Disney employee a ride last November and mentioned Black Widow possibly popping my post-COVID theater cherry and he encouraged me to save it and stream Black Widow.

In defense of ScarJo’s superhero swan song, I did stream it and it was quite enjoyable. Even the second time I watched it on Disney+.

The reality is, Spider-Man didn’t do it for me. I just couldn’t get to a theater for Peter Parker. None of the other seasonal tentpole movies got me there, either.

Strangely, it did end up being a Marvel movie that ultimately got me there: Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. It was…good, and I’m glad I saw it on a big screen, but at the same time understood the save it for streaming advice I’d gotten about Black Widow six months earlier.

But you know what made it the winner?

Top Gun: Maverick.

The gushing critical reviews were near-unanimous. It had a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

It seemed to be universally taking everyone’s breath away.

What, you thought the title would be the only pun in this post?

It had a Memorial Day weekend opening, 36 years after the original’s holiday weekend – I think the original had a July 4th debut – release.

But it wasn’t the hype or the reviews that bore out the hype that still failed to get me there. It wasn’t only the crowds I anticipated for a three day weekend blockbuster release that kept me away.

It was the PNW weather, believe it or not.

You see, when I saw the original, it was during the first summer I lived away from home after graduating high school. I saw it in an old-time one screen movie house in Manhattan on a sultry summer weekend night.

No AC.

No air handling whatsoever.

Movie magic induced adrenaline.

Sweaty hunks playing volleyball.

For so many reasons, those herculon-upholstered movie theater seats probably needed to be wrung out after this show.

But what will always stay with me about this viewing experience is the Basic Becky that stood up in the middle of both the show and and the theater and decided that it was more important for us all to see everything she’d consumed that day.

Given the presence of the humidity and heat, the absence of AC or any ventilation and the smell of co-ed puke and the underlying burn of stomach acid…an irreplaceable memory was created.

While I could certainly do without a Basic Becky reunion, I just couldn’t get behind a Top Gun reunion without summer weather. The PNDub let me down, having clocked our 10th wettest May on record. Seeing Maverick under those weather conditions would have been as weird as going to a movie theater and not eating too much popcorn!

So, Doctor Strange it was. It was an action that also indulged my desire to root for the underdog, since Maverick’s release was expected to knock Doctor Strange off of its two week reign of the box office. My ticket purchase didn’t keep it on top – nor did the other dozen tickets sold for that screening. But those conditions made for a comfortable post-COVID return to the movies for this grumpy old man.

Crowds. Who needs ‘em?

Carrying that strategy forward might extrapolate to my seeing Maverick this week…while everyone else is wrapping up the Jurassic World trilogy.

Nostalgia Zone

Bad Math

It’s been following me around this week.

I swear, I’m not even trying to entice this shit. It has been a particularly frustrating week for my inner Rain Man, though.

It started when I picked my parents up from the airport after their trip to see Black Sheep Bro. Actually, it was likely well underway at that time, but I hadn’t become attuned to it yet. They wanted to fill up my tank at the Fred Meyer near their house. At $4.95/gallon at the place by my house, I wasn’t saying no!

We roll into the station and the guy puts in mom’s phone number and asks if she wants to use her $1 off. She says yes, and I look at the sign and think the resulting $3.97/gallon makes the price damn near reasonable. We get the receipt and mom declares the $3.93/gal price to be downright worth the stop. I’m staring at the sign and mentally subtracting a dollar from the price posted in it and not coming up with $3.93 – but at least it was an error in our favor.

Then I woke up to this on the Twitter this morning:

Seriously. The state of Florida thinking their involvement in the schools improves the quality of the humans they turn out is grossly overestimating their contribution.

Like, not even in a bizarro universe is that a truth.

Here’s a math problem for ya: True or False – a racist minority + racist laws = less racists?

Pretty sure that is false and only increases the number of racist in that state because there’s no critical thinking – race theory or otherwise – being taught in those classrooms to offset the racist behaviors these kids learn at home from their racist parents.

My response on the Twitter post was something to do with math books being inherently unrelated to Critical Race Theory since…it’s fucking math! Maybe they were worried about the whole three-fifth a man thing coming up in the fractions chapter.

Hard to apply logic to a mind filled with the screwball thinking that goes on in Florida, though.

But here’s where I realized that this whole bad math thing had been simmering for a while. My now-truly-a-gig gig, driving for DoorDash.

My mind likes to recreationally search out patterns, and the way this app operates kind of lends itself to that on every job. When you accept a delivery, there’s a tiny .5 font telling you the estimated miles involved. I started noticing it so I’d stop accepting orders to the suburbs 10-15 miles away for $9 and no tip. Then it went from nothing over 10 to nothing over 7. Now, I’m loathe to accept something over 5 miles away unless it pays around $15.

But that’s not the algebra I’m getting at. My mind just likes to see that a job has X miles in it and then see how close that math shakes out. This is all really just something to pass the time, anyway. Might as well keep an eye out for things that make it worth the while…otherwise, I’ll focus on how boring it is and how much I really don’t like it.

But this is where it gets interesting. To me, anyway.

In the same Rain Man vein, I try to keep my lifetime deliveries at a number that ends in a 5 or 0. I did the same thing with my Lyft rides.

What makes it hard is mentally keeping track of where I’m at. Since it’s boring and I hate it, I consider 5 deliveries a full shift. I can usually mentally count to 5. But there are jobs that I cancel for one reason or another: the restaurant is closed or surprisingly open given the dysfunction I experience once I arrive. There’s been a couple instances where I show up and they are having a random and insurmountable issue and tell me they have to cancel. I’ve had a couple of “shopping trips” where they were literally out of every damn thing the customer wanted.

So, that makes it kind of tricky on the old memory.

But after a few instance of checking my number and seeing odd things, I start paying attention – determined to true up my number and make my wreck-reational OCD happy.

I’d hit the road thinking, ok…I gotta do 7 jobs tonight to get back on track. I hit my seventh job and call it, and see this:

117?!? Well, that ain’t right. I try and figure out how things got that fucked up and just can’t make it make sense. More determined than ever, I hit the road the next time, determined to balance my scales with 8 deliveries.

It was a tough night and I failed, hanging it up out of frustration after my normal 5. Then I see this…

Ok, do the math with me here. 123 minus 117 does not equal 5!!!

Fine. The next time I hit the road, I’m committed to 7 deliveries.

Looks familiar, right? Just where I’d left off last time. This time, no grumpy old Xtopher moments to derail my productivity and I hang it up a few hours later, feeling like I’ve righted my universe.

Oh, short-lived peace of mind…

That’s right, people. 123 plus 7 is now 128!

You ever seen the movie Highlander? “There can be only one” ring a bell? I mention it because my reaction to that math might have resulted in me Highlander-ing Gilbert Gottfried this past week.

Just picture it…

But more important to me as a business person is how am I supposed to have confidence in an organization that can’t count? Especially since they farmed it out to a computer who was clearly programmed by graduates of the Florida Public Schools. Even more so, as an “employee” of this outfit, how do I muster faith in their accounting that I’m being paid correctly?

Not to worry, since this is me, I’m more concerned with unfucking up my stats. I’m back to needing 7 jobs to get there.

And in a victory for mathletes the world over…

Victory is mine! I can figuratively sleep once again. I’m back into a comfortable rhythm of blocks of 5 deliveries and calling it a day. My aggressive and goal oriented brain starts rocking the boat by turning numbers over in itself figuring out how many jobs a week I need to do to pay my rent. I try to settle that bastard down because it comes up with 35…which is only 7/night five nights a week – or three nights if I do a double one weekend day!

Me: Shut. Up.

I try willing my inner Rain Man to just settle down. It’s a struggle, because after 30+ years in retail, making goals is an intoxicating reward.

Still, I go out to put my 5 in tonight before dinner with a friend. I feel like I’m squeezing too much into my day, but am driven by the exercise, earn, write paradigm of success I’ve set for myself – a whole other goal. So I do it. I think that with my average being 2 deliveries/hour, I can make my 6 o’clock dinner with a little cushion if I am on the road by 330.

Fate favors all sorts. Sometimes even me…as I had my 5 jobs in by 5 and was pulling in to the garage by 515! Then I checked my lifetime number…

For the love of…just, goddamnit!

Bad Math

I Can’t Have It All?

Part 2: What the hell was I thinking?

Damn universe, always teaching me lessons…like crippling humility.

So, there I was…having most of it. Gently nudged into balance by the Silver Fox. I’d gotten Angela all spruced up for her annual check-in with Lyft, but was focused more on those other pillars that make me feel like a normal person productive: writing and exercising.

No big news on the writing front.

Yet….

Couple blog posts. I re-read my prime WIP, by way of seeing where I need to tweak formatting before I hit publish. That’ll happen this month.

For sure.

So that’s something. Hoorah for lightly edited stories.

Also something?

I exercised twice as many days in March as I had in February. That ain’t nothing. April’s looking good, too, there’s a Class Every Day challenge and I’m on track. But balanced old Xtopher is keeping in mind that some days will be ride days, others will be strength…but mixed in will be days that are just a longer than my usual 5 minute post-ride stretch classes or even yoga classes.

Balance.

Also helpful? And this is where all that foreshadowing nonsense comes in: I got de-platformed by Lyft.

You read that right. Boy, they rogered me but good. Real good.

But that’s another blog.

I chose to look at it optimistically. The removal of a barrier to a balanced day.

The thing is, though, my temp gig doesn’t pay that well. I mean, I can’t complain, it’s not minimum wage – which I’ve certainly done as I explore non-career level employment. And it pays the bills. And-and, in a real Pinocchio twist, they started making sounds about converting me from a temp role to a real boy job.

The pay talk…we’ll see. I’m looking at it as a positive – even though the talk happened on April 1st. That’s just how my life goes. It was a good talk.

Except, the universe being the lesson teacher that it is, I was de-platformed by Lyft after dumping about $3k into little repairs for Angela that I’d been putting off. That was the month after the surprise $2500 I’d put into her in January, no less.

And after all that I had boldly (ie: no drink in hand) faced my taxes.

The day after I’d done my first draft of the taxes was the day I got the dry fuck from Lyft.

I’ll tell ya…I don’t believe in god, but I fully embrace the notion behind the phrase “If you wanna make god laugh, make a plan”.

And that’s what I had done. Made a financial plan that included making quarterly payments to the Feds for my $11k tax bill.

Thank god it was only a first draft. The second draft is a much less traumatic $8k, but it’ll still require an episiotomy after my main revenue stream gave me the same treatment it gave the driver that raped a passenger here in Oregon.

That seems fair. My punishment is the same as a rapist. My crime? I got two speeding tickets in a 12 month period. Yeah, well stick with “sounds fair”.

More on that later, I’m sure. You know how loquacious I can be when I get going on something.

Now, look…I may be seriously fucked right now, but I’m all Mr Bright Side, damnit! Even if that just means I jump off the bridge with the best view in town – that’s a tough one here in Portland – and don’t take anyone else out with me.

So that naive dumbass Mr Bright Side fella is looking at this as a way to achieve balance. Less opportunities for proChristination. Fewer distractions.

Bright side. Mr. Me.

But since my temp job doesn’t keep me in the happy hour budget I like, tax debt or no, nor does it afford the luxurious $30 treats Mistress Myrtle prefers…I need a second income stream.

Reluctantly, I signed up to be a delivery old man boy with DoorDash.

I hate it. It’s boring. It does give me that “in service to others” paycheck I found I missed after leaving retail. So, that’s a plus. And it pays around $7-10 more and hour than the temp job, so there’s that, too.

But it’s sooooo fucking boring.

Bright side? I can really only tolerate doing 5 deliveries in a shift. More than that is excruciating. Ok, that last part wasn’t very bright side, I admit. But, dashing out to do 5 deliveries after work a few nights a week and then a double or triple on a – singular – weekend day leaves me plenty of time for happy hour hangouts during the week – and it gives my budget the wiggle room to offset said indulgence. It leaves me the time for writing and exercising.

All. That.

There’s plenty to be grateful for. And since I hate it, the ~20 hours I give it each week balances my books. Well, excluding the G-men obligation. I might have to see if there’s a niche market for barely out of shape old men on OnlyFans to solve that problem. God only knows what weird shit passing as erotic that The Gays are lapping up these days.

Fucking morons.

But I think I’ve got a third draft of my taxes in me. I just need to make a phone call first. I think we all know how long I could drag that task out. So I’ll also file an extension…sometime between April 14th and 17th.

It’s good to have a plan.

And goals. Since my goals are work, exercise, write and not “pay less in taxes than Trump” I think I’m in a good place.

Fuck, being optimistic is a weird feeling. I should’ve stretched more before this post. Anyone else miss grumpy old Xtopher?

Don’t worry, he’ll be around. Until then, cheers to the bright side and cheers to you for reading. Thanks!

Look how my thigh is about the same size as my thumb in that pic. You go, Chicken Legs McGee!

I Can’t Have It All?

I Can Have It All!

Part 1: Everything’s fine!

I creep into every week with a simple goal – to have a day or several where I succeed in all three pillars of what I consider a “good day”. I want to make some money, exercise and write.

That’s it. Nothing earth shattering. No outrageous goals like cure cancer before lunch.

You may wonder how I struggle to accomplish this. Like, why is my weekly goal “a day or several” and not something more aggressive reasonable like “at least three days a week”?

The answer is simple: go fuck yourself.

Wait. That came out wrong.

I used to run, run, run and go, go, go. All day. I did that for 30+ years, starting in high school, no less!

Now I’m tired. Actually, I’m not just tired…I’m fucking tired.

And after leaving my retail management career behind after 30+ years, I was ready to rest. I liked my little income setup: Lyft 25-ish hours a week and keeping an iron in the temp job fire to keep things fresh. My average for temp placements was 2/year, which I was fine with.

I was a little less fine when I got my W2 for last year’s temp assignments and saw that I’d earned around $1700 in 2021. And that mindset is never the right time to pick up the phone when your temp wrangler calls.

But I did, didn’t I?

Because I’m a dumbass.

Which is how I ended up on assignment in early February. It’s full-time, which I hate because I frankly make more driving. Plus a 40 hour/week commitment seems so vulgar now. But I’m getting used to it.

Stubbornly.

Case in point, I was still committed to getting my minimum $500 in ride earnings in each week after this temp job came through. That goal actually wasn’t much of a problem, most weeks I was clearing four digits. I swear, with Lyft, if you download the app they practically automatically send you $500/week. I think if you go longer than one week without managing to earn over $500, they send someone to check in on you.

What I’m saying is that it’s pretty much a sure thing. People gotta go places, you’re going to make money. I’m ok with that.

Until…the Silver Fox ruined everything. Root of all evil, that guy.

I met him at our local after work one day when he’d come back up to town. Him being all pro-me, he was apologetic or overly grateful or something…stressing that he didn’t want to keep me from making money.

Ooh, foreshadowing!

But I assured him everything was fine. I’d overachieved prior to his visit, so it turned out that Bob’s now my uncle. In assuring him I was ready for a rest – there’s that foreshadowing again – I spilled my prior week’s Lyft earnings to him.

Amazed, he asked how long that took me.

Me: I dunno…like 30 hours? Nah. Less! I dunno…I was getting up at 430 if I couldn’t sleep and going out for the early bonus hours before plugging in to work at 8. Then doing a little driving after work on some days, too. Oh, and then Friday and Saturday!

SF: And you worked 40 hours on top of that doing the payroll thing?

Me: <raises glass to self> Yupperz.

SF: Geez! You worked 70 hours last week!

Me: <blinks cluelessly>. That can’t be right.

SF: That’s amazing.

Me: It never occurred to me that I’d worked that much. Driving doesn’t feel like working. Not at all.

See? He’s obviously the devil.

Anyway, that also drove home the point that my stubbornness had over-corrected and was keeping me from succeeding at accomplishing my other metrics: writing and exercising.

Shift my focus, did I.

Plus, Angela needed some spa days. I’d been putting off my oil change and replacing a fog light some malcontent had popped out of my bumper last summer during our…protests.

Who objects to a fog light being in a bumper where it belongs?!? That’s what I want to know. Stupid protester.

Anyway, I book a few days in the shop for the car and dial back the driving.

Ratchet up my workouts – which had gotten ridiculously infrequent. Like less than two/week.

I still struggled to write. I posted a couple of blogs and opened my laptop to check on a draft…the shock of which nearly fried my laptop.

What? It was a long pandemic.

But I still have WIPs to get out on “in progress” status. The Gays aren’t big readers, so it’s really only for my own sense of accomplishment. It still bothers me that they are languishing there in WIP status. That’s on me. No one reads them? That’s on someone else.

Shockingly, that stubborn streak of mine asserted itself in a strangely non-self-sabotaging manner. I started choosing to exercise or write versus choosing to drive, aka: proChristinate.

It was oddly liberating.

And motivating.

Maybe I could manage to have it all several days a week after all?!?

Tune in soon. See if that next shoe that drops is a platform heel with a goldfish living in it or a cross-trainer that washed up on the shores of the Puget Sound with an amputated foot still in it.

Yeah, I think we all know which way this is going for foolishly optimistic old Xtopher….

I Can Have It All!

Well, Now I Feel…

Something.

Bad?

Nostalgic?

Accomplished?

Formerly accomplished?

Probably that last one. So…thanks, Facebook Memories.

Three years?!? How has it been that friggin’ long already…since I’ve had a date?

Kidding. Trying/not trying.

But I guess it’s just one more reminder that it’s been a long pandemic. If we factor those two years out, then it’s only been one year!

Don’t get me wrong, I tried to make hay out of the forced free time we all gained with the 2020 lockdowns. In April, I started NaNoWriMo – despite having two WIPs from prior NaNos still waiting for completion, then didn’t finish. Again.

I think I got derailed after a Twitter battle with a local stripper, who I’m sure knew nothing of my existence until I dared to correct him on his feed. Then I was all he could focus on, earning me featured status in his social media stories where he called me old and ugly. Not to mention a failed writer.

The young people are so woke – which seems to manifest with being disagreeable and combative. That’s regardless of the validity of their initial point. What moxy.

Sure, I’d only finished three books at that point, clearly, that’s failure in the eyes of a stripper who leaves the stage in a thong.

I actually finished all tasks associated with my job title, son. I have to imagine that a stripper’s job isn’t complete until they are clothes free. But what do I know? When I was a young man, tracing on one’s flesh was viewed differently than it is today – and I appreciate the evolution of sex work from villainized and humiliating to artistic expression and empowering.

This kid was – pardon the entendres – a dick.

Ultimately, that all stopped when he blocked me – the penultimate admission that he was wrong. The ultimate expression being actually saying it. But this is hardly the United States of Accountability, let alone Admittingyouwerewrong.

Anyway, as this was going on, I flirted with the idea of going to one of his shows and tipping him one of my books – yeah, I’ve got a few copies laying around. My overt grumpapotamus self imagined reading wasn’t high on his hobby list, see also: how he got to his current level of misery in his life.

Judgy.

The women strippers I meet driving with Lyft are all – every damned last one of them – such interesting people. Very engaging. Great stories. The male strippers I meet are all cunts. And not in that cool English slang type of way. At best, they look at me, and treat me like, I’m an ATM. Not that I go to strip clubs often…none of them have palatable beers.

I also considered going and tipping him $.02, since me giving him my figurative two cents was what set him off in the first place. Ultimately, I decided my absence was the best action for me.

Still determined to make some productive hay out of the lockdown, I pivoted to another project I’d been kicking around. When I finished my third book, it came in at a whopping 530-ish pages. I hardly consider myself a gay George R. R. Martin, so I sought out opinions from a few beta readers. They all told me it was fine.

But that length made printing costs pretty high and I think the lowest price I could charge was $19…and that was with me making less than a buck a copy. I knew there was a logical plot break that I could use as a kind of cliffhanger if I chose to split this into two books, I just hadn’t.

But with one half finished draft from April’s NaNo making me feel guilty, I decided this was the perfect time to tackle that split.

Obviously.

And I did it!

Well, “did it” so long as completing the split and edit of the first half. I knew I needed to flesh out the second half to beef it up a bit. It had originally suffered under the pressure of me knowing the page count was running high for one book. This was my chance to flesh it out.

But my first goal was to get the newly shortened second installation in my No One Of Consequence series back up online. Then I hit a formatting snag. Just a teensy one, but it proved to be overwhelming to my lockdown self and I never went back to finish it. I couldn’t imagine jumping to the third installment to get that story wrapped up, it just seemed wrong.

Four frustrating months go by. I spent a lot of that time considering the optics of dying during a pandemic with unfinished works. I thought it looked pretty good. Other artists somehow pull it off.

Margaret Mitchell.

Elvis.

No, wait…Hemingway! That’s a better comparison. I’m a drinker, not a druggie. And we’ve established the fact that 500+ page books are not my style, so…yeah. Hemingway.

That was probably my biggest self-soothe of the pandemic.

It carried me through the next three months. Right up to the next NaNoWriMo event, the big one in November. Now I can finish!

Or…start another work.

The following April?

Ok, this was pure motivation. And adrenalin.

I had just gotten my Peloton and was jazzed to pick up the autobiographical trilogy I’d fancied when I wrote Dating Into Oblivion. When I wrote that, I was nearing the end of a year long blogging theme that had resulted from a friendly intervention at my 50th birthday party.

Rude.

As a result of the collective will of my well-intentioned friends, I leaned into a blog theme I had just finished that I hashtagged fitfy. It was a play on fifty, an age I had been determined to reach with some progress toward accepting my aging self with a healthier attitude toward diet and exercise.

I’d been having trouble forgiving myself for not being able to eat and exercise like an idiot twenty-something. Naturally, my 51st birthday had involved me tapping a keg of my favorite beer at my then-favorite bar.

Anyway, knowing I had that “fitness in my fifties” notion in the back of my head, I decided to tackle dating in my fifties. It gave me something to do, at any rate. I figured the trilogy could round out with working in my fifties. It was a notion I rather fancied.

The problem was, there wasn’t much I could actually do since I’d just gotten my bike. I considered harvesting stories from my year of fitfy blog posts, as I had when I put together Dating Into Oblivion. But I considered that would have been only a portion of the project. I needed new content to complete the story.

Another partial credit NaNo for old Xtopher. PaCreNaNo? Kind of sounds like a pancreatic medical crisis.

Maybe that stripper was right.

Shudder.

Possibly, but improbable. Maybe what I needed was the motivation of writing something people might be attracted to en masse. My current accomplishments and WIP library all featured what I call gay shit – and I hate to break it to you, but The Gays aren’t known collectively as big readers.

It’s the pandemic – everybody else was pivoting, why not me? That sounds like a riff of a Cranberries album.

I picked a theme close to every Portland NIMBY’s heart: the homeless. Came up with a mystery plot. I even created a nom de plume based off of my parents middle initials and old world naming paradigms – JT Robertson.

Finally…in November of 2021, I completed a NaNoWriMo! Have I published? No. I’m mentally kicking it around, polishing it up. Completely retooling the voice. Flipping the plot 180 degrees.

Y’know…the basic writer’s nightmare.

April’s NaNo is weeks away.

Weeks.

I’m determined to finish something from my WIP list before adding anything else to it. I figure at this point, if my goal is to have a WIP library consisting of a prime number of works – it isn’t but I need to set boundaries of some kind – then I either need to finish one or add four!

I think seven is enough of a library. Let’s see if this Facebook Memories shaming is enough of a motivator to get NOOC2 published and back online. Lord knows that providing airplane reading material for a friend’s trip to Africa last month wasn’t it, so fingers crossed.

Sure enough, I woke up this morning, uncovered my laptop…and started organizing my tax receipts. Then I got this text

RUDE!!

So I wrote this, instead. I refuse to be so known by my best friend.

To answer my original question: seen. I feel seen.

Well, Now I Feel…

Touched…Appropriately

As I mentioned in my last post, another year of my life recently expired. I believe I may have also mentioned that January has been a crap month.

Where. To. Start…

Let’s see, for those members of the TL/DR club who don’t get the above references or click on the links: my car, Angela, spent a week in the shop getting a surprise two-day repair completed. A week. The repair was $2500 and the extra time in the shop cost me another $1500 in driving income. Additionally, I forked over several thousand dollars to Multnomah County for unpaid business taxes that I was unaware TurboTax did not file. Note to self: start a GoFundMe.

In the middle of all of that, my grandfather died. We’re saying he pulled a Betty White, kicking it just seven weeks shy of his 100th. In my mind, I’m choosing to believe he either A) likes older women and wanted to keep his afterlife opportunities with Betty open; or, B) was taking a shot at teaching his family one final life lesson about getting our hopes up since I think we were all looking more forward to him becoming a centurian than he was. Either way, well played, gramps.

He died on the ninth and my birthday was on the twenty-first. We buried him on the twentieth.

You know where this is going…

When the year starts off like a twisted version of a John Hughes movie plot, it can’t be a good harbinger. Is this the theme for the coming year…Sixteen Fifty-four Candles?

If that’s the case, then this year better end up with something like this

Sidebar: The burial was pretty sweet for as fucked up a thing as death is. Back in the 70s, in a fit of post-divorce adulting, grandpa bought two cemetery plots – one for him and the other for his mother. Well, in ‘74, his older brother passed himself away committed suicide and grandpa gave up his plot for him since his wife and kids basically disowned him after that final act. His thought was that he’d pick up a neighboring third plot at some point and they’d all lay there together until the next asteroid. Well, after his mom died in ‘7…8? – maybe ‘76, I’ll lean on that old memory trope as a scapegoat – he pretty much forgot* to do it. So my dad and uncle decided to have grandpa cremated and then buried over his mother’s grave. Aaaaw. Now the three are together, almost as planned.

It’s a good thing he was cremated, too, because in a fit of communication breakdown between my sister and I, we listed several of grandpa’s non-epic-mid-century furnishings for free online – don’t worry, we’re selling/trying to sell the epic stuff. Sis took CraigsList and I went to Facebook Marketpkace. The breakdown came in regards to grandpa’s bed. When sis said to list it for free, I assumed she meant with the mattress, since the other two bedroom sets were similarly listed.

Wrong.

The spare room beds were used for days each year, while grandpa’s bed was used daily a lot more. But I listed it as a headboard, frame and mattress…and someone was happy to take it for the low, low price of $0.

Lesbian someones.

They picked it up one day before the rest of the crew arrived. When the fam eventually did arrive, I tried to steer them into grandpa’s bedroom for a nice surprise. When they didn’t bite, I told them. My sister went and looked – I don’t think she didn’t believe me, but it was still funny that she chose then to go down the hall.

Sis: Where’s the mattresses, did you move them to the garage?

Me: (laughing) No…they took them.

Sis: They did?!? Chris! Why did you let them have them? They were so old and gross.

Me: <cough, cough> Things grandpa’s last date said! <cough>

It was then that I told her that the takers were lesbians.

It may help to know that for a couple decades, I openly referred to my grandfather as The Grand Dragon for his backwards thoughts on minorities. While everyone else in the family seemed content to write that off as “the way he was raised” I couldn’t. Especially after coming out myself – something I feel the need to state as fact since there’s almost literally no evidence at all to support it aside from a moderate and only randomly occurring lisp. I wasn’t convinced he would change, but I wasn’t going to give bad behavior my tacit approval by granting him my presence. Lo and behold, the man shut up. I have to credit him with that, whatever prompted the change in behavior.

Me: Good thing we had grandpa cremated, because if we hadn’t, you know he’d be spinning in his grave right now!

Mom: (out of nowhere) Christopher!

Damned Mom Ears.

Ok, back to me!

My family didn’t go full Sixteen Candles on me – probably because I mentioned the fact that this timing was drawing potential attention away from me, but since it wasn’t a big birthday, that was…ok. My sister suggested she and her hubster take me out for drinks after we put grandpa in a hole the service and that I should invite the Silver Fox – yes, that’s what my family calls him, too.

Then they showed up to the service with my mom and dad in tow. Apparently, dad wasn’t feeling super the morning of the burial, so they came together. Fortunately, he rallied and we all went for drinks after, with The Fox meeting us.

That’s plenty for me. I joke about wanting attention. It’s only a joke. Let’s not remind me of what my traitorous mirrors refuse to let me forget.

But my sister being the nurturer that she is, brought me a lil something to commemorate the occasion

Plus a couple of beers from a local brewery where she lives – but photo evidence of that is not available for whatever reason. Now, it would help to know that she put on her Hints From Heloise hat during our vacation after seeing the white paint scarring my Angela’s bumper – she’d been attacked by one of the posts in the Silver Fox’s parking garage. Unbeknownst to her, I had listened to her and gotten the Magic Erasers as she had recommended. They worked great…and then I apparently forgot (see above) to mention it to her, so now you’re up to date.

On top of that, and either because of the timing of my birthday and grandpa’s service or just because he’s awesome, The Fox had enlisted Diezel’s help in a Sunday night dinner to celebrate my birthday. They took me to Farmhouse Kitchen – which was highly recommended by another blogger Dr Maria – and we filled up on ridiculously good Thai food. And drinks, of course, who’s style made me wonder if this restaurant chainlet was owned by a K-Pop group.

I mean, seriously…a drink in a disco ball glass. But it was amazing. I just tried to not think about the poor bastard who has to wash these glasses! And just take in what you can see of the decor in the background…I told you it looked like a tax shelter for a K-Pop band!

Plus, cake!

Obviously, I’m well cared for by my friends and family. And remember from the above- referenced post that I was too busy with family stuff and driving that I didn’t have the bandwidth to check in on the birthday goings-on on the FB, which I felt bad about. Turns out, there was no need for guilt as I’d forgotten that I’d made my birthday private sometime during the pandemic…if you’ll allow me to lean on the old brain trope once more. Last time. I promise. Today.

Despite hiding my birthday on social media, I still got several calls from friends and former colleagues – that I ignored, because how dare they! – and texts from acquaintances. Not to mention this lil package that showed up late one night last weekend.

It was from The Kids. At first I thought it was just some cute Christmas treats, but then opened the card. It was a Sorry For Your Loss card and just said the sweetest things. Made me all mushy inside. They’d also included a very flat, very smooth stone that they suggested I rub my worries out on (don’t go there, Diezel) and a $20 to have a couple of drinks on them.

Can you fucking believe it? I was certainly surprised.

So much for the pity party I had planned to throw myself. Fucking awesome friends…where do they get off? The gall!

Now, I feel like I should do something to live up to the attention I’ve had heaped upon me…maybe some Xtopher New Year resolutions – yes, I have my own New Years. Hmmm…I’ll have to think on that.

*Side-sidebar: Things grandpa didn’t get around to doing in a century of life; A) purchase third burial plot; B) notarize his will. So this is fun times, but now you know my proChristination comes hard-wired into my genes.

Touched…Appropriately

John Lennon Was Right

Instant karma got me.

Or, car-ma…as the case t’were. I’m accepting that it was my fault for kvetching about one measly 4-star rating out of two and a half years of 5-star rides.

Hence the karma pun.

Anywho…Angela crapped out by the side of the road tonight. Actually, it was in a drive lane, but it was the curb side of the road – if you’ll allow me to split that hair.

I had called my friend, Diezel, before she died. He sometimes works on things like brake pads for me – hey, he works for burgers! His take on it was that it was an alternator and/or battery issue.

Angela had given me a “charging malfunction” error before I had called Diezel. When she had died the first time, giving me a last minute “drivetrain malfunction” message as she locked herself down in a parking lot.

The middle of a parking lot.

At sundown.

In The Numbers. Let’s just say that’s nowhere for an old white man to be broken down. Particularly after dark,

I Google “drivetrain malfunction” + “BMW X3” and learn that I can probably restart it after five minutes. I find a tree, take a whiz and go back.

<Le poof>

She starts up.

Knowing what to expect performance-wise, thanks to the prophet Google, I set out for home. I’m crawling, since Angela isn’t feeling like giving me more than 20-ish MPH.

Sticking to arterial surface streets, I had called Diezel as I limped westward. He tells me to look for a side street to park on and he’ll come get me and take me home, I can have her towed tomorrow.

I know he’s right – he’s an engineer and a rational thinker. I am an emotional thinker.

Emotionally, I want to get home. Knowing Diezel is right, my fallback is to get out of The Numbers.

Shit goes down there. BiPOC folx who live on the west side are reluctant to head to that part of the eastside when it’s dark. Last year was Portland’s deadliest in decades: gun violence, fire deaths, homicides, traffic deaths. You name it, if it was violent or deadly, we either broke a record last year or came damn close.

The Numbers – a nickname based on the blocks between ~122nd and 180th on the eastside of town – had more than the lion’s share of traffic and gun violence deaths last year. Don’t even get me started on the record number of stolen cars last year – October and November had around 13k stolen cars for the two month period.

Two months.

I didn’t want to leave Angela there.

We made it into the double-digit block numbers. I’d just crossed 102nd and was promising Diezel I’d pull off as I hit the 205 overpass at about 93rd.

She died. On the uphill approach to the overpass. I briefly considered jumping, but only therapeutically. Well, mostly.

I told Diezel what happened and he told me to drop him a pin for my location, he was leaving that moment.

Friends like him…they make me feel like I don’t deserve them as friends.

I throw a little pity party while I wait.

I’d just squared up my Multnomah County business taxes from 2019 and 2020, because TurboTax small business doesn’t do them – nor does it tell you that ain’t happening.

The county, though. They tell you. Two years later.

Well, that’s when they told me I owed $1400 in tax for 2019…the year I started driving for Lyft. In August. I decided to get ahead of 2020 – when I’d driven the whole year and made 4x what I made in ‘19 – and dig it out before the county hit me with penalties like the 2019 miss had created.

So much for buying a new place this year.

It wasn’t looking good, anyway, based on financial timing and the likely prime rate boosts coming down the pike this year. At best, I’d be looking at two hikes before I had mutual acceptance.

I’d accepted this. It was nice to at least have a goal to work toward, however briefly.

But here I was again, in crisis mode.

I was startled out of my pity party by a pair of headlights in my windshield.

Diezel!

But…not Diezel.

A Good Samaritan!

Yes! This was the Portland I knew and loved.

It was a woman who had passed by and pulled a u-turn in front of me to pull up to my hood grill – let’s not call it a hood whilst stalled in The Numbers. She walked up to my passenger window and asked if I needed a jump. I told her, “heck, yeah!” and she was off to her cargo area for her cables.

BMWs are weird. The battery in my X3 is in the back, but you jump it from the front. Actually, there is a positive post, that’s it. I’d been watching videos on this, so I kind of knew this – but she wanted to check in with her significant other, so we FaceTimed him. He agreed with my guess that we just needed to attach the negative to a hunk of metal and we were good to go.

She started her car and I got in mine to give Angela a wake up call.

She started right up. I revved her a few times. I was ready to let her sit and charge for a few minutes, but my Good Samaritan was antsy to go. I couldn’t fault her, but knowing about jumping cars from watching my parents do it while growing up in the 80s, that was my best guess for next steps.

Sadly, she was already talking about how to disconnect the cables with her Boo when I came around. He agreed I was good to go, so I yielded to their current information.

As soon as she turned and left, I put Angela in gear…and she re-died.

Diezel immediately pulled up behind me.

My first and third savior of the night.

“Galbs”, he said to me, “you need to call a tow truck to take this to a garage.”

I knew from his tone that this was his way of telling me this repair was beyond his capabilities. At least as far as roadside repairs were concerned.

He gave me a towing company name and number. Three hours.

He pulled another from his list and dictated the number to me. One hour!

Between calls and hold times, Diezel had been amusing himself by blowing his air horn at passing cars that had cut their lane change around us too closely. One of those blasts had clearly scared the towing company dispatcher shitless.

Fifteen minutes later, Diezel decided to get out and strobe his flashlight at the Stupid Americans who were too distracted to see his emergency flashers and proactively – not to mention safely – merge into the other lane.

He was worried about someone rear ending him. Looking at Angela’s dark brake lights and dead emergency lights, I couldn’t blame him. I was grateful to him for being there to save a near-certain collision.

There was a car backing down the overpass in front of Angela. He stopped and popped his rear hatch.

“Why don’t you go meet him?”

I acquiesced, and the man met me by my car with three flares. Another Good Samaritan.

For such a crappy night, the universe was putting a lot of amazing people in my path.

By the time the tow truck was a half hour late, the flares had burned through. Diezel was strobing approaching cars again. We could not believe how people fucked up such a simple thing as not hitting a stalled vehicle.

I couldn’t decide if it was distracted driving, stereotypically too polite Portland-slash-Portlandia-type drivers, or a combination of the two. Cars in our lane would slow to zipper in behind the car with the right of way, and that car would in turn yield its right of way by slowing to let it in front of them.

Both lanes of traffic came to a stop or near-stop several times. I retreated to the cab of Diesel‘s truck for an update on the tow truck.

Fifteen minutes.

Ten minutes later, the driver called. He was ten minutes out. He told me the tow would be just under $200. I asked if he could invoice me because I didn’t have it immediately – see also: why I was out driving on a Tuesday.

No.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity-fuck-fuck.

I’d payed two year’s worth of County back taxes and my January bills in the last ten days. Followed by also taking several days off to process my 4-star rating.

The savings I can usually access within 48 hours was nearly tapped. I was anticipating needing to tap into my other savings for the repair – that savings has a five day turnaround, so no driving for the better part of a week on top of opening the drain on my savings again. Not to mention any significant penalties for early withdrawal – or its modern day equivalent.

I was feeling hosed.

I looked a little more longingly at that guardrail. Sensing my distress, Diezel handed me his credit card and told me gently not to worry, pay him back whenever, but get the repair taken care of first.

I offered to at least get him a beer, but he demurred. It was after 9:30, after all…this one hour wait had turned into two and a half hours, not to mention the 30 minute transit and depositing Angela at the garage. He usually turns in closer to 8. Proposing a counteroffer of a hug, since we hadn’t seen each other in real life for over a year, he took off for home.

Realizing Myrtle’s dinner was over four hours late – a millennia in cat-time – I rushed upstairs to feed the mistress.

Then I prescribed myself a therapeutic Emotional Support Pizza that I keep in the freezer in case of emergency.

Don’t judge my Hawaiian pizza tastes!

You cannot understand the number of weekend nights I’ve come in from driving to bare cupboards. This was one of several I picked up after deciding I simply couldn’t face another 3 AM pizza from 7-Eleven. Plus, you can dress up a frozen pizza with red pepper flakes and – especially – an herb mix from Penzey’s Spices.

You’d eat this. <chef’s kiss> Admit it.

Plus, I broke open a bottle of the Columbia Gorge’s finest – from Marchese Cellars – to polish up the therapy session.

It’s a $30 bottle of amazing red. Not a bad companion to a $7 pizza…so if those herbs and red pepper flakes don’t make that pizza palatable…this will! Then this happened

Come the fuck on!

Undeterred, I got that cork out on the second try. Hopefully, that’s a harbinger of the ease of repair for Angela.

Now, I think I have some In Case Of Emergency Ben & Jerry’s around here somewhere…

John Lennon Was Right

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There’s a first time for everything, they say.

Sidebar: there will be no sidebar tangent on the whole “they” phenomenon of deferring judgment of our own to that faceless, possibly all-knowing cabal known only as they. But you just know I’m dubious of their wisdom. Especially if they simply turn out to be nothing more than garbage-variety stupid Americans. <gasp>

There does, though, seem to be a first time for everything.

Just about two weeks ago now, I got my first non-5-star ride rating from a passenger.

4.

I was amazed at how much this affected me. I mean…

Out of about 7300 rides at that time, one measly 4-star rating. I couldn’t tell if it was the loss of my 5-star streak after almost two and a half years (August 2019-December 2021) or the overwhelming randomness of its presence against over 7000 other ratings.

I mean, I know not everyone bothers to rate me after a ride. In those instances, my rating defaults to a 5-star automatically.

Maybe it was that she chose to click a box to support her rating.

Unsafe Driving.

Yeah….that was probably it.

I’m not meant to know who these ratings or comments come from. But this was a particularly gnarly week. It was the holiday week. And it snowed.

Of course, that created some shitty driving conditions. Particularly since the snow followed a day of rain where about 2” fell before sundown and carried on into the night. Snow was really only falling in the higher elevations…y’know, like 500 feet.

That’s high elevation for Portland!

But on Highway 26, coming into town, that created a real shit show driving situation.

That highway is a steep grade down hill into town – heck, out of town for that matter…I’d hydroplaned going uphill on this freeway on my way to the pickup. That takes some doing.

I digress. Water was running across the lanes and down hill, then running even deeper with traffic where tires had grooved each lane. It was like a liquid tic-tac-toe board.

Since we were still at about 400 ft above sea level and a good 150 ft above the valley floor, there was snow coming down with the rain. But not just any snow. It was big, wet flakes. Like Mother Nature’s minions had confused Portland’s weather with their children’s home room winter decor.

Seriously, these snowflakes looked like they were cut out of construction paper by second graders, they were so huge. When they hit the windshield, they made an audible thwack.

It was no Snow Falling On Cedar moment,

Highway 26 is also windy – in both senses of the word, but in this case you just need to know it was twisty and turny. Did I mention we were heading downhill?

Even going only 40 mph, I hydroplaned. Twice.

And this is the weather this suburbanite chose to go into town in.

Lucky me, I got to drive her.

And then she said my driving was unsafe.

Girl, your judgment is unsafe!

Best part? She tipped me!

That’s what really made her stand out. I knew it was a white knuckle ride. Mainly because I’m referring to my own knuckles! But I remembered seeing the tip and thinking that was really generous of her, given the hairy road and weather conditions.

Then she fucked me in the comments.

It wasn’t that big a tip.

Anyway, the app itself does a fairly good job of building in an occasional rogering for us drivers, too. In this case, it’s that we don’t see individual ride ratings, we get a weekly recap about nine days later. That means that I’ve given between 50-100 rides between the time someone rates their ride and I see the recap.

But! There’s an appeal process.

All I have to do is scroll through my history to the ride in question, mind you, this is all we see in our ride history

No addresses, rider names, rating…just the date, time and earnings. So, sure…let me scroll back through the rides for that day – I give 20-40 on Fridays and Saturdays – and take my best guess and then tap “I Was Rated Unfairly”. I can narrow it down by filtering out the riders that didn’t tip, but I’m usually getting tips from 40-60% of my riders, so of the 15 rides I gave that night during that nightlife ride window, I’m still gonna have to take my best guess out of about nine possible rides.

Nine days later.

On the plus side, the app does default to a 5-star rating if the passenger does nothing. And it’s not like I’m really suffering…

I mean, roughly 20-25% of my passengers enjoy the ride with me enough to bother to tap a button telling Lyft I’m friendly or go above and beyond during their ride. Hell, 1445 riders tapped a button saying I’m a good driver.

So, why let one rider out of 7300+ get under my skin?

I dunno. Maybe they are right. Maybe with me, it’s always gotta be something.

But, honestly? I think it’s C-PTSD. My therapist talked a little about this with me during my too-brief mental health tune up this past summer when Black Sheep Bro came prodigally back.

I can’t let go of something that’s wrong. Not easily, anyhow. It’s why I left my last professional job, and why I left my part time gig with Amazon. Not to mention one of my temp jobs – credit to me, though, I finished the assignment but passed on the request to extend when the owner asked for me to stay longer.

All of those situations had me in places where I was witnessing bad behaviors from leadership. I had to go. That’s my trigger, bad behaviors. Specifically, people getting away with them. Especially if that creates a double-standard.

This? This was just one passenger prioritizing Saturday night fun (or whatever night it was) over personal safety and then making it my problem/fault she felt unsafe. And tipping me to cushion the blow.

Or at least that’s how my mind spins the blanks that it fills in. Blanks that are created by the absence of immediate feedback.

Whaddyagunnado, though, right?!?

Normal People: Fuggeddabowdit!

Me: …

I tried to shake it off. Carry on like normal. Move on.

How that manifested in the doldrums between Christmas and New Years, though – when ride demand is down because people are holed up with family, not to mention the exacerbation Omicron added to the mix – was me trying to soldier on but failing to be busy enough to distract myself from the trigger.

I went out Monday to do some afternoon/rush hour rides. Because New Years weekend was so slow – seriously, NYE was a Friday and it’s typically my biggest night of the year…I did half the business I do on a regular Friday night! – so I quit “early”. After the ball drop, before last call. So, I had three make up rides to pick up in order to true up my Lifetime Rides number.

What? I like it to end in a 5 or 0. That’s not weird. It’s tidy. I’m fastidious!

Sheesh.

I was in my third make-up-rides ride, trying to decide how awful long another five rides would take – those three put me at the two hour mark, usually I do 3-4 rides in one hour – when one of my drinking buddies texted me. I saw the preview drop down from the top of my phone, “Tanner Creek at 530?”

Fuck, yeah! That was a much more therapeutic better use of my time!

The next day, I got my 4-star ride. I didn’t drive again until Friday. Outside of my vacation in October, I hadn’t taken three days off in a row since…I don’t even know when! In non-challenge weeks (where I drive about 25-30 hours), I’ll take three days off, sometimes even four. Just not together.

I didn’t get out of bed until after noon each day, including Friday. That was the week of bad Bruce Willis flicks where I stayed up until daybreak at least twice. I over ate, over drank, smoked too much weed and didn’t exercise at all.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give that week a…4.

But I came out the other side of it, so there’s that. Note to self: I gotta stop letting things get corkscrewed up into my psyche.

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