The Blight

It started at the north end of my indoor garden, with my dracaena – Ming the Merciless. At the time, I attributed the yellowing and now darkened leaf tips to the attention Ming was getting from a truly merciless creature: Mistress Myrtle. She was quite keen on sitting on the edge of my TV console and rubbing her cheeks on Ming’s point tips. Eventually, she worked herself up into enough of a frenzy to take some live bites off the tips – which she then unate somewhere else in the house for me to clean up when I stumbled up (read: slipped on and nearly fell into) it.

But then that yellowing and darkening phenomenon spread to the side of Ming that Myrt couldn’t reach. Soon after, water just started running through the pot when I watered him – so I think the roots died and the plant is surviving off cannibalizing itself. If that’s something plants even do.

Then it started its spread south, this blight. It arrived at the other end of the TV console and hit Moppet.

At first, it – Moppet was <sniff!> agender – just dropped a couple leaves from the base. Again, Myrtle was my first suspect. I definitely allowed for some wildcard causes like trauma caused when I watered it, since the base leaves had to be moved in order to avoid water simply running off them and onto the floor; or, I’ve never seen a plant like Moppet before so maybe this was part of its growth process – dropping lower leaves and having more of a canopy of foliage.

Then I came home one day to find Moppet’s top half had broken off and fallen to the floor. There were some new leaves popping out around the base, but they are withering now, too. RIP: Moppet. I barely knew ye.

Still, these two situations I can accept. Either as the result of a simple numbers game at work or the likely more accurate result of my blind luck with plant keeping situationally running out. I’m not avid gardener, I just water the things, chat with them every now and again about world events and try to keep Myrtle from molesting them too aggressively.

Sure, every now and again I’ll take a stab at advance actives like repotting a plant or propagation. That’s definitely an exception to the daily routine.

But then this blight became a true curiosity. A phenomenon – and one that was not welcome.

It jumped from the TV console to Spiderella.

Spider plants are a curiosity in and of themselves to me. As a kid I could grow them like nobody’s business. As an adult, they die. Makes me wonder if mom was giving me an anonymous alley-oop in my youthful endeavors. She absolutely would because she wanted her kids to have confidence and accomplishments they could take pride in. A little behind the scenes assistance while I was at school wouldn’t surprise me – although, I’d like to know where it was when it came time to clean the gerbil cage.

Anyway, Spiderella was hit and declined quickly. Her crazy Liza inspired ‘do looks like it’s had one too many colorings applied in too short a time. That’s almost an overnight change…nearly as sudden as hair color changes themselves, no? This morning I trimmed off “The Kids” and put them in water to see if they’d root. Maybe something positive can still come of the sitch.

The weird thing is that if this would have started with Spiderella and moved north, I would have attributed it to changing temps. You see, my south wall is all windows and notoriously drafty. As the temps cooled – now dropping often into the 30s at night – it would have made sense for those closest to them to suffer a bit.

That’s not what happened, though.

Plus, it’s not like the inside temp in my place ever gets below 65 degrees. Still, maybe cool air from one direction and warm from the other just fucks unnecessarily with these poor plants’ sense of season and they don’t know what they’re supposed to do – so they die.

I think I just somehow blogged myself into moving when my current lease expires this coming spring. Luckily, I’ve been chiding the Silver Fox in an attempt to manipulate him into permanent residence in town by telling him I plan to move into his place during his Tahitian vacation in January, so…I’ve already got a plan! Plus, that would give me three months to proChristinate my move out cleaning. That’s a win-win.

I kid, of course. Except I really should think about moving at the end of this lease.

The issue with my drafty windows affects the whole stack, so the fix needs to be covered by the HOA and no one has even brought it up with the Board yet, so the solution is years away.

On top of that, I learned last Saturday night that I have a new upstairs neighbor. At midnight. Because he was singing in his bedroom loud enough to wake me up in mine.

The HOA Prez sent out an Unknown In The Building email that ended with us both learning he was the new renter above me. His email handle is Jeremy4Christ for Christ’s sake. The song he was singing loud enough to wake me in those wee hours was about his gun, so this is bound to be a shit show.

Pass.

I think I’ll just take my plants and myself – and, yes…even Myrtle – and find a new place. It shouldn’t be too hard to find somewhere with better weatherizing and peace of mind.

Y’know…where I’m the craziest person around. That I can live with.

The Blight

Dispatch From the Peoples’ Republic of Portland

Did I put that apostrophe in the correct place? I wonder if I’ll change it – or more to the point, how many times I’ll change it – before I post this.

See? This was gonna be a quick post because I feel bad that I haven’t written in a while and here I am, letting my neurosis dither on and on for 200 words. <face palm>

Anyway, one of the things Portlanders do well – especially natives like me – is passive/aggressive behaviors. Case in point, my building has new plantings around its front entrance.

Olive trees, no less. RIP: Olive. Update: Olivier is doing well, although Myrtle is munching his leaves like she’s part goat.

How is olive trees at my front door passive/aggressive? Well, you have to pull back the curtain – or column, in this case – a bit to understand.

You see, those plantings were strictly passive/aggressive self-defense. Specifically, the plants take up a fairly private camping area for our randomly occurring houseless neighbors. The cute little bike sculptures attached to the bike rack ensure no one opts for the “close enough” next best option.

The inspo for this idea is becoming more and more popular in the urban core of the city. There’s at least a dozen that have popped up on or near the three to four blocks framing the park in front of my building.

Go another block or two away from the North Park Blocks and there’s even more. An art gallery on the corner of Broadway probably has the oldest – and most successful – crop of planters. They’ve been there for over two years and the plants are thriving on the busiest N/S street in downtown.

Go another block further across Broadway and you have businesses on the Transit Mall lining their sidewalks with planters to keep the tents away and the foot traffic customers coming.

It’s not always successful. The art gallery – what, it’s Portland…we have a lot of art shit around here, ok?!? – on the corner diagonally from me has some cheaper looking planters that have largely died off. Luckily, the weeds are thriving. The gay strip club on the other side of the block from the park lined its outdoor area with plastic fig trees in 55-gallon drums, as if they’re campaigning to prove not all gays have taste.

Then there’s the corner of my cross street –

– at least they’re keeping the big tents away? The other side of this street is an empty storefront and there’s a solid row of tents from the corner to a driveway halfway into the block.

While it’s all a pretty flower icing on a crap cake type of a situation, I’m glad that this is how our civic displeasure manifests over this situation versus anything more aggressive and less passive in nature. Oooh, foreshadowing!

But it’s not for lack of “trying”.

One of our old money family scions has loads of empty real estate holdings downtown. His first attempt to keep people from lining Broadway with tents in front of one of his empty buildings was to install bike racks.

A very Portland solution. Except it was twenty-six bike racks. Even if that building was leased at some point, there are likely not going to be enough bike commuters stationed there to create anything close to a reasonable bike-to-rack ratio.

Plus, he hadn’t checked permitting, so our local weekly rag did it for him. Willamette Week has taken down our current governor’s predecessor, at least one state senator – anyone remember the Bob Packwood skit on SNL? – our first gay – and shockingly couldn’t keep it in his pants or ID his paramours – mayor, local congresspeople and god knows who I’m forgetting; so this bike rack thing was just them passing the time between scandals or the upcoming midterm elections. Oooh, more foreshadowing!

Undeterred, our scion switched gears and leased some of his empty downtown office space to a city council candidate – that’s who I left out of WW’s hit list! – for $250/month. When they broke that story, the guy claimed he couldn’t rent it for market rate, which was probably true. Still, you don’t have to know commercial real estate to know that if you can’t rent a space with a $6800/month market value that your fallback isn’t $250/month.

I can’t believe they could put that press release out with a straight face.

Worst of all? It was a conservative candidate for city council. I’d say it simply isn’t done, but that’s kind of where the City’s dysfunction over the past 2-3 years has led us. Not that I’m opposed to more middle ground and less extremes of one side or the other.

Let’s do it.

But if you have to lie to do it, you can fuck right off. That’s both my hardline and my $.02.

And it’s not just at the city level of politics, either. Our Governor is term limited, so that job is up for grabs. It wasn’t, but now it is a literal tossup.

That’s thanks to a rural congressperson refusing to let the heir apparent just have the nomination – leaving the Democratic Party to run as an Independent against our lesbian Speaker of the House who we’d all thought was a like it or not shoe-in.

I gotta tell ya, she made me think about voting Independent this cycle, just because she’s been such a centrist Democrat her entire career – go figure, a Democrat from a timber family is centrist. The big surprise is that she wasn’t a Republican. But like I said earlier, I’m not opposed to more middle ground and frankly, at the local level, the far lefties have not gotten things done.

Anyway, that was all well and fine to consider…until the Republicants somehow managed to avoid nominating one of their usual milquetoast-perpetual-loser candidates like they normally do. Usually it’s like they are either not trying to take the top job in the state at all or they are strictly trying to please/fleece their base by running on crazy shit the red counties with more cattle than people care about, candidate be damned.

Well, not this time.

And it’s a perfect storm.

Because it’s not a normal election year. We’ve already got the opposing Democratic split vote candidates issue.

Then there’s the whole the Republicants didn’t run a non-starter candidate from their usual roster of losers. They ran a newcomer, who’s quite a firebrand. With only three years of experience holding public office – so there’s no record to run against.

And to make it all just perfectly awful…it’s another woman. Don’t be surprised if our ballot drop box is only located on Themyscira.

Go ahead and Google that. I’ll wait, non-nerds.

Yup. It’s a three-way, all-female race for the governorship between a lesbian, a septuagenarian and a fair-haired Sarah Palin.

Hold onto your goddamn hats, people, because I can’t tell you what’s about to happen in the Peoples’ Republic of Portland. In a state where the GOP can’t get a job holding doors, one might be holding the top office for the first time in 40 years come January.

If that’s the case, I’m thinking the best thing we can expect – and, surprise…it’s not getting tents off the sidewalks – is the second coming of Portland’s “Dream of the 90s” heyday following the Ds retaking the governor’s manse. Because without our last round of Republican governors in the 80s, we wouldn’t have had the collective spirit or financial incubator that created the environment that made Portland such a unique place to be.

Plus, the tents will be gone. I don’t know how, but I’d put even odds on it being chartering a plane to fly any of them with Texas or Arizona IDs back to their home state.

Whatever the solution is, won’t it be great that we have so many cool sidewalk planters?!?

Dispatch From the Peoples’ Republic of Portland

Incredible Fortunes.

You ever wake up and just briefly consider the reality of your situation could simply be that Pam Ewing is really out there somewhere, dreaming nightmare versions of people’s lives?

To refresh memories or fill in pop culture voids…Pam Ewing was Bobby Ewing’s wife on Dallas. No, the original version. Season one ended with Bobby being killed. Season two was a shit show and season three started with Pam waking up to find her husband showering after a particularly vivid dream…of the entire second season.

The audacity!

Or that maybe you are her, and one morning you come to wake up to find that the worst was all in your subconscious?

Absolutely insane. It was almost enough to wipe our collective consciousness clean of Fonzi jumping a shark on water skis. Almost.

Anywho. I swear that’s me lately. And, frankly, I don’t know why I haven’t made time to buy a lottery ticket.

This life that I deride and take for granted…well, it’s serving me constant reminders lately that while the bad stuff may not be going on in Pam Ewing’s dreams, it’s not the star of The Xtopher Show that I call my life.

Cases in point:

I think I mentioned I was going to another free concert a week or so back. I was incredulous to have notched another free pass onto my 2022 entertainment belt.

And it was incredible…despite a rocky start.

The Shins were playing two shows downtown and I had won tickets from a local radio station. I had said I wanted tickets to the Friday night show, giving them Thursday night to warm up. I got my winner’s waiver the Monday after winning my tickets and was told further info would follow. It did not. Well, by the day before the show, I finally double-checked that I’d submitted the waiver correctly and then sent an email to the station that I’d won the tickets from using the “contact us” link on their website.

Several hours later, at around 2:30, I got a BCC email from the station saying “Congrats Winners!”, leading me to believe someone was having a really long Monday at the station. It went on to tell us that our tickets would be at Will Call and the gates were at 5, show at 6…that evening.

My mental needle skipped.

Luckily, I live about 9 blocks from the venue. I worked until 4:45 and then set out on foot for the show.

Turns out, the venue is all General Admission. Still, when the guy asked if I needed both tickets – after watching me walk up alone and casually scanning my area as he went through my info – I said “Yes”.

What? I wanted them both. I was definitely going to find a way to take up two spots in GA. Plus, that was just rude, right? It’s not like I had a bogey hanging out of my nose and he asked if I wanted a Kleenex. No, this was him rubbing my nose in my solo-ness. Boo, sir.

Because it’s Portland and this venue is a public plaza when it’s not a venue, there were food carts on the periphery of the fence. I hadn’t eaten, so I grabbed a huge sandwich for $12 and a 16 ounce beer for the same price. That amphitheater where I saw Styx can shove it’s $18 beers right up it…area.

I sat on the brick wall at the back of the venue and ate my sammie and drank my beer while the opening band did its thing. It was another Portland band (I know, The Shins are from New Mexico, but they’ve been in Portland long enough to be called locals) named Joseph. Two sisters with a third woman make up the band named for the Oregon town the sisters’ grandfather was from. I’d heard a couple of their sons on the radio before and liked them, but their 45 minute set was amazing. It’s really just guitar with the sisters’ amazing vocals and that’s it.

I was so mesmerized that I barely noticed the Guy Candy that was obviously hitting on me sat right next to me to nosh on his own sando from one of the carts.

Joseph’s set ended and the roadies started prepping the stage for The Shins. I figured I better grab another beer and stake out a place to take up two places near the stage. While I was in line, a true Portland weirdo native offered me a picture of her cat out of the blue.

My guideline when dealing with Portland’s kookier kooks is “humor them, they might be dangerous”, so I took the proffered pic. It’s now hanging over Myrtle’s food station, just to keep her on her toes. A reminder that there are other cats in the world – versus mine, who seems to believe a week isn’t complete without at least one protest poop or other non-litter box evacuation.

This was me, sipping my fresh beer in my taking-up-two-spaces space by the stage; reflecting on the Guy Candy, the Crazy Cat Lady and watching the sun set while nervously eyeballing the 20,000 crows flying around looking for a place to roost when someone tapped my shoulder.

No, it wasn’t Guy Candy guy. I’m lucky…but not that fucking lucky.

It was Sarizzle, someone I’d worked at Sur la Table with when I lived in Shittatle. I ran the market’s hero store in Kirkland (yes, it’s a real place!) and she ran the original store in the Pike Place Market. I knew she’d moved back to our mutual hometown, but we’d never managed to connect. Just two natives catching up on social media now and again. We hugged and caught up in real life a bit – while I behaved awkwardly because I was still in all my WFH glory and now turn into that person who runs into people they know wherever they go. Eventually, she said her goodbye to go back to her husband as the roadies started wrapping up and the stage hands started turning instruments.

Actually, after running into not one, but two groups I knew at the Bonnie Raitt show…maybe I am one of those people who runs into people I know figuratively everywhere I go.

Not long after Sarizzle left my to my own devices, The Shins took the stage and didn’t give it a rest for about 90 minutes. Their music has a pretty chill vibe, but the lead singer’s voice is haunting, something I figured was a product of some sort of modulator. I still think that, but was impressed that they were able to replicate it in real life.

Their set was so good that for about the first half, I was convinced at a minimum the lead vocals we lip synced. Joseph had come out to sing back up after the first few songs, so I knew it wasn’t the whole setup, but just how was it possible to recreate the lead singer’s otherworldly vocals?!? I enjoyed clicking off the hallmarks of live music that occurred in the set to disprove my suspicion that the lead was dubbed. Just crazy little tics, like singing toward Joseph at the back of the stage and losing the mic’s pickup briefly – nothing too overt.

I enjoyed watching the crowd really get pulled into some of their bigger hits and take over the heavy lifting of vocals or just get caught up in a call and response with the band.

But I’m a native Portlander and I go to shows to watch the show, not be a part of them. To that end, I stood there and tapped my foot, swayed a little and clapped after every song. That’s it. A true Portlander would never risk diminishing someone else’s experience by being overly enthusiastic. I’ve actually been to some fantastic shows where virtually all the crowd did until the end of the show was sit there and clap between songs.

Playing Portland must be an interesting experience for musicians. Well, not as weird as it was back in the day…there’s so many transplants now that the overly polite Portland crowds have been somewhat diluted. Sarizzle and her husband eventually crept closer to the stage and I saw her being true to our concert-going DNA, too. Her husband would occasionally throw an arm toward the sky or do that rhythmic hopping that people do at concerts, but she was doing pretty much the same low key sway in place as I.

The tour was basically a 21st birthday party for the band’s first breakout album, and they played it all, with a few extras sprinkled in here and there. At one point, the band riffed on Rod Stewart’s Do You Think I’m Sexy for a few lines between songs. Just, out of nowhere fun – for them as much as us. No one knew where the idle strumming was going until it careened into that pleasant little surprise.

Another fun moment happened during the encore – unlike Bonnie Raitt, I stayed for this one. No dogs to walk, no parking mess to get ahead of, so I just stayed and watched them completely blow the non-existent roof off of Pioneer Courthouse Square. The next little fun nugget was working a couple refrains of Tom Petty’s American Girl into the middle of one of their songs. I didn’t recognize the song, but I was definitely in the minority.

The following Sunday, I had to set an alarm to wake up and drive out to Hood River – by far the more scenic piece of our wine country. Little Buddy had two tickets to an event at one of their wine clubs called Reds, Whites and Blues. No, we haven’t started making blue wine in our notoriously blue state – the event featured a blues band to listen to whilst stuffing your face with BBQ and sipping on the vineyard’s reds and whites – not in that order.

Sadly, her husband, 2.0, had been tapped for a two-week trip to Germany for work and had to leave that morning, so Little Buddy had a – wait for it…free ticket. Fuck yeah, I went! I even set an alarm to make a day of it – we got a hike in before the event, which was just idyllic.

They set up the event beneath oak trees that are hundreds of years old in the middle of their vineyard and we drove up, parked by some vines and sat under those trees stuffing our faces and listening to blues in the middle of a sea of vines. Not even a barely visible Mt Hood through the smokey haze from our minimal forest fires could dampen the epicness of being immersed in such gorgeousness.

I’d love to sit around and let more of these experiences wash out of my memory and into my blog, but my drinking buddy’s buddy backed out of their plans to go to The Doobie Brothers show tonight this past Thursday. Luckily, I was sitting a barstool away when the text came in, so I’ve got to get ready for another show.

Another free show.

Second row from the floor on the stage side of the second section from the damn stage. It is going to be…epic!

Incredible Fortunes.

Mourning…Glory?

When Olive died during last year’s heat dome, I wasn’t prepared for – or even thinking about – how that would hit me. I was surprised at the number of the stages of grief I could identify. But yesterday, I finally reached Acceptance.

For the record, Olive was a plant. Obviously an olive tree.

Olive was the first plant I acquired after moving back to Portland. Even that took a while to accomplish, since I got her in 2016 and had moved back in 2014. She was the product of an in-store event I’d hosted for a local Olive Oil company who had brought a couple trees as set decor for their booth. The owner of the company had offered me one of the three they’d brought up to the event and without hesitation I accepted.

Anyway, I lost her – and everything else on my balcony during our three day heat dome last year. Y’know, the one where our temps in the PNW were the hottest on the planet. That should never happen in Portland, OR. Even watering twice daily didn’t do the trick because the temps never went down at night, there was just no respite. I think that instead of providing relief, watering just changed the heat from baking the roots in their clay pots to steaming them…

That was some Denial right there. Anger was reserved for the climate change deniers and people who helpfully told me that my plants could have survived with even more watering. Bargaining was the ridiculous habit I had of still watering her stick figure remains in hope the roots came back this past spring.

I think what was hardest for me was the throwback memory I have of my first post-relationship gay friend here back in the early aughts. He was only a friend, but we’re really got to know each other deeply since we were both navigating traumatic waters at that point in our lives. He was in recovery for sex addiction before it became a fashionable excuse for misconduct among our powerful and famous men. But something he told me was that one of the steps he had to complete before he could date was to keep a plant alive for a year. It was an exercise in caring for another’s needs.

So, yeah. Losing Olive affected me. I don’t believe I will have another relationship in my life, but I want to know that I still could vis-a-vis successful plant husbandry. How’s that for a new twist on the old “It’s not me, it’s you” trope?

I didn’t replant my balcony for fall as I usually do. Nor did I plant anything this spring. I just kept watering Olive’s carcass.

The Silver Fox picked up his own Olive on one of his trips to Trader Joe’s. Sensing my interest when he told me, to promised to remain on the lookout for me on subsequent trips. But their plant inventory rotates so quickly that timing is critical.

Which is why I was excited to share this pic with him on my way home from a walk to my local TJs for cat treats yesterday.

Lil Olivier. They were out of the cat treats, BTW. The next best option – fried salmon skin – seemed like a sure thing, but Myrtle turned her nose up at them. My current mental exercise is debating whether to risk Olivier on my balcony or keep him inside where I only have to worry about Myrt.

The interesting thing to me is how my inside plants have benefited from my undivided attention over the last year. I went from a roster of four to fourteen in the past year. That’s including a pothos that I propagated a second plant from. There’s a third rooting out now and a jade that has two plants in one pot that I need to split out. My spider plant is throwing off some babies I need to trim and root out soon.

I need to split this jade into two pots, but I’m afraid of damaging them in the process
The pending plant parent

I’m starting to wonder where I can keep them as I look toward a plant stable approaching twenty by year-end. My apartment has limited window space. My living room wall is basically 16 feet of floor to ceiling window. My bedroom on the other hand has only two panes. Plus I’m pretty bad at opening the curtains, but I think that will be one of the next steps.

Right now, I’m using dense clustering as a defense against Myrtle’s rubbing them to death. She loves scratching her cheeks on them, but that’s generally to their detriment. To that end, when I started putting plants on window sills, I learned that I had to arrange the sill so there was no room for her to sit on the same sill.

The climber that’s in the corner was a 4” rescue from the local grocery’s nearly dead section.

Likewise, since my dracaena sits at the end of my TV console, I need to find a way to limit Myrtle’s ability to get to that end since she’s already snacking on it.

And the unsnacking all over the floor.

But enjoy the last few pics of my lil therapeutic plant farm while I resume my mental debate over Olivier’s initial home…

The Christmas cactus on the upper sill was from a cutting from mom.
Cornelius, also a gift from mom.

If you’re in the states, enjoy your extra day off on this three day holiday weekend. I’ll be potting at least one plant today or tomorrow!

Mourning…Glory?

Bitches Be Bitchin’

I lost two skirmishes in the Battle of the Sexes today and I didn’t even know I was engaged in the warfare.

To make it an even more epic or decisive loss, it was on the same battlefield street. Within a three block stretch.

To be honest, this could have easily been a car vs not-car kerfuffle – for which Portland is known.

That Google News headline is the result of a three to four hour closure of the city’s east-west freeway artery, courtesy of a pedestrian vs car engagement that did not go in favor of the pedestrian. Unless the pedestrian’s desired outcome was to go the way of the Dodo.

Oh, and yes…the weather icon in that pic does indicate it’s 70 degrees here today and raining. That’s Portland weather!

By contrast, my own losses seem less than minor. But my ire is still roused.

Karen 1:

I’m sure it’s disrespectful to call an anonymous woman Karen. Or, since there’s two in this story, not call her Karen Prime. You just never know what will set someone off – as this story will highlight.

I was driving up Lovejoy just a few blocks from home. As I approached an intersection where Lovejoy had the right of way and one-way 11th had a stop sign, I saw a pedestrian walking north on 11th as I was heading west. She was nowhere near the corner when I saw her and I didn’t know whether she was going to cross Lovejoy or turn and head east.

I’m not a mind reader, after all. But I am one of those people who rolls their eyes at the Portland transplants that try to blend in as native Portlanders by stopping to yield their wrong-of-way to people half a block away. Usually by stopping in the intersection to wait so that no one can use it until they are done bring magnanimous.

Yet, when I looked in the rear-view to see which trajectory she’d been on, there she was giving me a dramatic and exasperated palms up. Oh, for fuck sake. What was her expectation, that I do a brake stand for her just in case? Karen, your mom might have told you doors would open for you but that didn’t mean you’d stop traffic. Although, she did manage to create a seemingly entitled bitch.

I debated going around the block to engage, but then remembered the old…Oscar Wilde? No, it was a Mark Twain quote and went on my unsuspecting way.

Karen 2:

Meanwhile, I had to park two blocks later – delivering brunch to someone who failed to grasp the core concept of brunch – and it happened again. Except Karen 2’s BS butthurt was 180 degrees from Karen 1’s.

I know this because we don’t just run over homeless pedestrians here in Portland, we’ve killed our share of cyclists, too. We had a very vocal cyclist population that rightfully and vocally spent a decade pointing out how often drivers bothered to decorate their vehicles and nearby pavement with them. Once they were heard and managed to get the city to enact meaningful change to traffic laws and management, they went off the entitlement rails and started doing shit like the cyclist version of a California stop. Or the cyclist version of yielding their wrong of way – which is actually never conceding the right of way isn’t theirs for the taking in any situation – vehicular or pedestrian, their stance is “fuck you, I’m a cyclist”.

Anyway, as I was pulling away from the curb – one space back from an intersection where I again had the right of way – I saw a cyclist Karen slowing at the stop sign. At, not approaching. It’s an important designation since cyclists are famous for this move, one that usually precedes a sudden acceleration through the stop sign when they decide there’s no immediate threat.

Thinking the odds are she could have easily missed me pulling out of my parking spot, I gave her the whole “no, you go” gesture.

Again, not a mind reader. This was made clear by the exasperated eyeroll cyclist Karen awarded my thoughtfulness. Fuck me for trying, right? My gall was clearly lacking any form of mitigation.

Having found my peace with the universe after my prior Karen encounter, I simply admired my nails over the steering wheel until she composed herself enough to clear the intersection.

But as I resumed my day, I realized I was 0-2 in this three block stretch, I figured maybe I’d better use my time on activities that didn’t involve other humans and came home to my murderous feline.

Completely forgetting the three bags of recycling I’d brought down and put in my car to drop off after my brunch time efforts. So now guess what I get to do?

Maybe I’ll see if my dinner time car-karma is any better and do some deliveries “on the way home” from dropping them off. I’d say wish me luck, but c’mon…what could possibly go wrong? Haha.

Bitches Be Bitchin’

Settled Affairs

I think I mentioned a while back that my grandfather passed away. He was just weeks shy of his 100th, so I like to say that he pulled a Betty White. I also like to say he might have liked older women, so was sure to leave a cushion between them. I think she died 3 weeks shy of her century and grandpa had closer to 6.

Of course, as he handed off the patriarch title to my father, I also like to think he was teaching us one last life lesson: don’t get your hopes up. You see, I’d bet the family was a bit more excited about having a centurian in our midst than he was about being said centurian.

Why doesn’t spellcheck like that word – centurian? It wants to make it “centurion”, but grandpa wasn’t a gladiator. The spelling paradigm for other decades of age grouping is “ian”, so why not here, too?

Septuagenarian.

Octogenarian.

Nonagenarian.

Centurian.

Maybe there’s just not a word for it in the English language since it’s such a rare thing in Western culture. Maybe there’s another word for it. Look, I don’t have time to Google it…I’m making sauce!

Also, my place smells fantastic right now.

Anyway…he decided to die without a Will. My uncle had helped him draw one up while he was visiting years ago – along with a power of attorney – and all he needed to do was get them notarized. He managed to get the PoA completed, but just didn’t find the time to get the Will done.

I come by my procrastination honestly.

So my dad and uncle have been slogging through settling grandpa’s estate.

It wasn’t – or hasn’t – been too challenging, aside from dad being local and my uncle being in Texas. My dad’s goal had been to have the house sold by the time that he and mom went to my cousin’s wedding in early April. Then it was just a matter of waiting out probate.

My uncle’s goal was a little less defined. Actually, it may have not even existed. Honestly, I think he has separation issues. If I’m not mistaken, someone still has some of grandma’s stuff in their garage that he couldn’t part with. She’s been dead close to 20 years now.

But my uncle did manage to go through a lot of stuff when he was here for the service. Including a quarter of a closet worth of stuff he wanted to keep.

I get it, this was the house he grew up in. That’s a rare occurrence anymore.

That said, he was reluctant to commit to anything more than what was ok to donate. At the same time, he actively poo-pooed the notion of an estate sale.

But once he was on a plane, my sister and I got right to work doing just that. To hear my parents talk about it, we were amazing. Honestly, though, my sister was an absolute force. I don’t have her drive or determination. Plus, her round trip commute every day with mom and dad was close to 3 hours!

Hats off, sis. All the props.

Since mom and dad credited us equally, it was their pleasure to encourage us to liberate anything we wanted from the estate. In the interest of heirlooms and legacies, y’know.

Since grandpa’s house closed a couple weeks back – the didn’t quite make dad’s timeline, but they were signing papers at the wedding – and there’s about a month left on probate, I figured now was a good time to highlight some of the things of his I’ve brought into my home.

Also, I’ve done the work on my relationship with grandpa and feel like I can look at these reminders and think of the man he was without being reminded only of the good or bad.

Oh, quick sidebar: one of the things that my uncle found was the original advertisement for his house – which was new construction in the mid-60s. Let me just say that I think the reality of owning a house for 40+ years os a thing of the past. Americans can’t commit like that. At the same time, selling a house for 30+ times the original purchase price is also a thing of the past. At least on my coast.

Now that the sidebar is out of the way, you can probably think of some of the amazing things that gathered dust at grandpa’s during the last half of his life. Not to mention all of mine.

I swear, I don’t covet. Really, the one thing I wanted once it was pulled out from the back of a bottom cabinet was the cookie jar from my childhood.

I knew it was valuable – estimates put it at around $300 – so I was reluctant to accede to mom and dad’s encouragement. Dutifully, I posted it online. But when takers failed to materialize, well…it wasn’t going to Goodwill!

It’s so cool. And aside from grandpa bringing out his 5 lb coffee cans full of change for us to sort through during our visits, stuffing my hand into this cookie jar was very looked forward to part of visiting grandpa.

And that was kind of how I approached my heirlooting heirlooming. Make it available for sale, but if no one took it, it was up for grabs.

I say “kind of” because there was a slatted bench I wanted – despite having nowhere to put it. Grandpa had it at the foot of his bed forever, however, my bedroom isn’t as spacious as his. Still, you know how The Gays are with the mid-century aesthetic.

So, for me – for now – it’ll be a plant stand. Also, like the cactuses on the other window sill, this keeps Myrtle out of the windows, which means I can put the screens back up for the summer. Who knew that Myrtle would hate slats?

Don’t worry, she’s upped her pooping out of the box game to let me know she objects to the placement.

You can’t really see it well in that pic, but there’s also one of a pair of nifty ashtrays that I pinched. I don’t smoke, so really these were just nostalgic discoveries when we found them. However, when I turned them over to find my grandmother’s signature of them, they became a remote tray and place to drop my keys and wallet.

I’m not a smoker. That’s not to say they aren’t well used…luckily, grandma’s glazing game was right on, otherwise I’m sure the smell that went along with those nicotine stains would have been a nostalgia dealbreaker.

Yes, yes…dusty. I know.

Unbeknownst to us, grandpa had a thing for old bottles and insulators. Like an “entire kitchen cabinet full” thing. That being the case, I didn’t mind adding a couple of his to my own collection of glass whatnots.

That bottle is an old Old Bushmills bottle. The glass – in raised letters – says that “Federal law forbids the reuse of this bottle”. My limited pre-post-Googling on this topic hasn’t brought and federal prohibitions – see what I did there? – to light. I’m sure someone <cough, cough> Phil! <cough> will have a notion on the topic, so let me know in the comments.

The last instance of heirlooting I’m gonna share was both a last minute discovery and an “I’m grabbing that before the house goes on the market” type of thing.

No one in my family agrees with me that this had been in great-grandma’s kitchen when she died in the mid-70s. So I’m likely wrong, but that’s what I remember. Still, when we cleared away the project remnants from it and pulled the protective cardboard off of it, I think everyone was surprised by its presence in grandpa’s garage. Clever man had the wear-withal to protect its surface, despite its relegation to his garage…

I’m just stunned that no one snatched it up at the estate sale! So, that being the reality, once dad told me the date the house was going live on MLS, I did a midnight run and picked this baby up. If no one else wanted it, Myrtle can use it as a feeding station. Saves my old knees and back squatting done multiple times a day to feed the not-as-old-as-me bitch gal.

I mean, look at it. It’s amazing! And in better shape for its age than I – but I’m working on it! Since entertaining isn’t really a thing these days – at least in my life – I’m in no hurry to add chairs. But I will, I’m sure.

Someday.

Until then, I’m glad I have these mementos of grandpa’s. For as difficult as our relationship was after I came out as gay, these remind me of the amazing grandfather he was, even if he wasn’t always the best human. And on that last point, he didn’t change so much as he changed his behaviors. That says something. I knew in certain moments of silence that he was editing his responses, if not abandoning them altogether. An impressive feat for someone whose anachronistic behaviors had been written off by most as “That’s just how he was raised” things we would have to endure.

Well, I was watching, and I think he proved them all wrong. That’s both a memory and an example that I can embrace.

Especially as my family faces it’s next obstacle: bringing Black Sheep Bro back into the fold.

Settled Affairs

Innate Skills

This is what happens (to my crazy ass, anyway) when your subconscious self thinks that your conscious self needs a reminder that you really shouldn’t be allowed out of the house unsupervised.

No, your personal retina/rod/cone situation has not been hacked.

Yes, I do know that orange is my favorite color.

And you can and have heard me joke about being OCD.

Wreckreationally.

But when I go into a store for a maté and a snack and the maté are on sale 2/$5, I get two. Of my favorite flavor.

Which is blood orange. I get it…

However, being responsible – or trying to be – about snacking, I’ll opt for something not crunchy or too processed. Dried apricots, right?!? They’re just hanging right there…

Obviously, also also orange-y.

No. I did not see the emerging theme.

But then I had to wait in line for some Karen-type. Her behavior stressed me out. Maybe it was more of an annoyed reaction. I dunno.

But those bastards at the Brodega run their line right down the goddamned chip and chocolate aisle – yes, they have about 18 feet of gourmet chocolate bars. Naturally, my response to this person’s behavior was emotional eating.

Plus, they recently – as I discovered in that moment – revamped their Cretor’s assortment to include cheese flavors again. Before this, they’d switched to only a pickle flavored SKU, and…no, thank you. Homey don’t want that.

However…

Anything cheesy and Cretor’s is amazing.

Highly recommend.

But what would you have me do in that situation?!? Of course, I picked one up.

So now I’ve got that calling me home. Myrtle could take a page out of cheesy popcorn’s playbook…

Innate Skills

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?

Training Myrtle

Long time readers may be familiar with my struggle, which is being my cat’s steward. Those who aren’t or those curious for a good reason to nominate me for some sort of heroism award can read up under the #mistressmyrtle tag.

A quick summary: I occasionally indulge in a one-sided conversation with Myrt that goes something like this:

Am I your fourth home because you’re such a bitch, or are you a bitch because I’m your fourth home?

For her part, Myrtle gives me an inscrutable cat stare.

I am curious, though, since I got her at a year and a half old. That’s a pretty bad track record…averaging a bounce every six months.

This was last year’s FB reminder…

For my part, I’ve been her home for six years.

You’d think that would get me a little loyalty, but no. It’s always something. This door is too closed, these windows face the wrong direction, you’re not warm enough, there aren’t any birds outside. Or – her fave, I think – you aren’t bleeding freely enough.

Breakfast was served too late, or not early enough. You served me the same dinner two days in a row. And it was cold tonight.

I dunno.

She has a distinct way in which she voices her displeasure. I call them Protest Poops.

They started as part of her complaining about her litter box, and usually occur about a foot away from the box. Subtle, no?

The cat seems to like smelly things, food & treats mostly – but her litter box is no exception. I learned that changing the litter resulted in her boycotting the box altogether. That was certainly no good.

A cat who is freaked out by fresh litter?

The workaround seemed to be that I scoop for a few days and then add in some fresh stuff. But that’s not an exact science, and sometimes I was reprimanded with a protest poop to encourage me to do better on my ratio-making.

Quick reminder, she doesn’t seem to care too much for me, so there’s that.

Lately, though, The Mistress’ displeasure seems to be escalating.

And traveling.

She had a habit a couple years ago of peeing in the shower. I blamed it on some rando pissing in my shower after an evening of – um…entertainment, so I couldn’t really be mad at her for doing what animals do, right?

Simple solution: my bathroom door is always closed now. Plus, it saves toilet paper.

You get the idea…

But she’s also started pooping further away from her box. Behind the front door, behind her cat tree, in the bedroom, behind her other cat tree.

We’ve had conversations about it. Well, some conversations. It’s either she doesn’t want to talk about it or she just screams at me and won’t have a dialogue.

With few choices left in my arsenal, I started punishing her. If she pooped outside her box, no dinner/breakfast, depending on the time of the offense. On the flip side, I started giving her treats exclusively when I cleaned her box. Same with breakfast, if I heard her using her box, I’d get up and clean her box, then give her breakfast.

She’s always been a food motivated creature.

Of course, she started gaming the system. She’s no dummy.

She’d use her box and immediately jump up on the shelf where I give her treats.

Waiting.

Meow.

I look over, tail twitching, chin bobbing in my direction, as if to say, <ahem>!

Well, it was a system that worked, I guess.

Until the other day.

I was on a call and heard her scratching dramatically at her box.

Really hamming it up.

But I’m on a call, so I’m stuck at my desk, right? There’s only so far you can go wearing a headset that’s plugged into your laptop. And I’d already learned that my desk was too close to the cat box, so I’d moved it across the living space.

After the call ends, I get up to go do my scoop and reward routine. The box was empty.

Laughing at how manipulative she is, I go looking for her. I find her mid-poop in the bedroom behind her cat tree.

“Do we need to talk about this, Myrtle?!?”

Meow!

“You’re a bad kitty! So baaaaad!”

Myrtle runs for the bed and stuffs her fatness flat as her back paws claw her slowly under. It’s quite pathetic to witness. Probably how she feels when she sees me trying to get off the couch.

All I hear of her for the next six hours – aka: dinner time – is a random plaintive meow from under the bed when I walk by.

Such a bad kitty.

And a bad kitty who still wanted dinner?

The feline hubris.

I made her wait a few hours. Just on principle.

Training Myrtle

The Homeless Guy With Game

You gotta admire a down and out guy with moxie.

I was running into my building to feed Myrtle last night. In doing so, I passed one of the fire exits to my building. These are recessed doorways, making them a perfect opportunity for someone wanting to duck out of weather, shoot up or take a nap – hell, maybe all three, depending on the day.

I saw the bike-turned-upside-down gate and a pair of feet stretched out under it before I passed by, so I knew it was occupied. Turns out, there were two occupants of the tiny makeshift shelter. He looked like he was feeling no pain. The other occupant was sitting cross-legged with a jacket draped over her head, like Cousin It went as a coatrack for Halloween.

“You’re pretty fun to hang out with. Do you want a boyfriend?”

I mean, way to just casually toss that out there. A directness I can appreciate.

“No”, I hear in a tentative voice from under the coat,” I mean…I already have one.”

Ouch.

And what had they been doing – and for how long – that this guy knew he wanted to lock her down but didn’t know she was already taken?!?

I acknowledged he at least shot his shot as I fobbed into my front door. My trip home was a quick one, literally ran in to feed my cat, hit the can and then I was off again.

Passing back by the door, I saw the girl was still wearing her coat wrong and the guy’s head had lolled back and to the side a bit. He was apparently not done making his case.

“…I also speak Japanese and Farsi, but I can’t write in Japanese…”

Geez. How far down on your assets list are those tidbits? I’m assuming his “physical” attributes – those most exaggerated bragged about by dudes – were either previously known or had topped the list. Then again, based on where this conversation was taking place, we knew he skipped right over where he lived and what kind of car he drives.

Oh, Portland…

The Homeless Guy With Game