The Red Shirt Diaries #21

The Big One edition.

I just got back from a quick escape to the coast with The Fox.  This is an important point, only because we specifically discussed potential caffeination strategies simply because of the beach house’s remote location.

Coffee wasn’t going to come handily.  Either you have to make the dreaded drip at the house, prepare to trek into town for whatever offerings you find or take some with.  

It’s a worthwhile trade off for this view, though.

The Fox is a Stok fanatic, which is a pre-made cold brew that you can buy in the store.  So, he was taking a bottle of that to get him through and offered to take a second for me.  I told him that I would likely just grab some Monsters to get me by.  I used to have a daily habit, but weaned myself off when I moved back to Portland and found worthy cold brew that was accessible on the daily.

Still, I spent the next several days listening to facts about how bad Monsters are and how they were named as one of the 10 worst things you can buy at the grocery.

Our route home from the coast was atypical for The Fox.  Normally, he will stop off in the hinterlands of Portland at the Costcos and Wincos to stock up for Armageddon. However, this time we stopped by the Fox Family Homestead to pick up Sallory – who is off on another family world tour and in need of a lift into the city and the airport.

No better reason to change the usual routine than that!

So, the usual Costco stock up and Winco Stok up run was put off a day.  I was asked if I needed anything and really could only think of hamburger.  Later, as we all played a pick up game of Where I Hurt – it’s a mental poker game I play when a group of us complain about our respective maladies – and my losing hand consisted solely of nightly calf cramps, I added magnesium.

The Fox rolls up to my front door with the ground beef and magnesium later as well as some back up lasagnes and a flat of Monsters.

Enabler.

I can find a place in my pantry for those!

However, it did prompt this question about our usual coffee date this morning:

My Earthquake Kit.

Of course, the big one is nigh.  There’s scarcely a month that passes without at least one of the weekly rags publishing some sort of article about life after certain death.  Most recently, it was a Dr Know entry about whether houseboats were the next big housing craze in Portland – after RVs and ADUs – particularly as a potential way to survive and ride out the aftermath of The Big One.  The response, I will leave to your sleuthing.

Because

This morning’s quandary for the Red Shirt was, “Would I want to survive?”

Even with the Monsters The Fox provided and the cash stash my parents taught me to have, I imagine Portland will quickly de-volve into some sort of post-apocalyptic knock-off version of itself.

Zoo Bombers will run the looter gangs.

Vegans will become cannibals before the first aftershock.

Yard chickens will become prophets – because it is still Portland.

And, somehow, I think all the little things about humanity that bother me will survive…even becoming amplified.

My inner optimist wants to believe that survivors will band together to create a better tomorrow.  Focused on making a community out of the ruins of our hipster culture.  But realistically, I think sacrificing myself by running into my crumbling building to rescue my neighbor’s (completely fictional, but give it time) balcony chicken will be the better move.

“All hail the prophet Cluckerella!” will be my last words as I fling my neighbor’s (again, completely fictional) balcony chicken off the balcony to freedom from our collectively crumbling roost.

The Red Shirt Diaries #21

TIL #7:  Danny Glover Was Right

A few months ago, I ran into a former employee of mine from the airport.

At.

The.

Airport.

What was initially awkward about it was that she had quit me with no notice because her doctor told her her legs couldn’t handle it.  She told me she’d really only worked sit down style jobs before.

“You were a bartender!”, I had corrected her at the time, incredulously.  

“Yeah, but that was only part time.  And at The Elks”, she had replied, like The Elks was a stand-alone explanation.

I’d written it off as relative at the time.  I really liked Kim, she reminded me simultaneously not to judge a book by its cover and that stereotypes exist for a reason.  That was Kim.

Mrs. Magoo glasses.

Bowl style haircut.

She was a middle aged transplant to Portland from Spokane.

SpoVegas.

SpoCompton.

Spokanistan.

Take your pick.

She moved away from Spokane for her internet fiancé.  Fuck my life…should this boost my romantic optimism?

Anyway, I run into her in the roadway under the airport at about 5 am.  She was just getting off work, I was just starting.

Innocently, I ask how she’s doing and express my surprise at seeing her.  Instead of the conversational default response one expects to off the cuff, reflexive social niceties, Kim gives me a longform response.

I guess that I – particularly – had that coming.

She was back to work, ground crew for one of the airlines.  Nights, it was hard, but it worked with her and her fiancés parenting schedule.

“Wait, your doctor wouldn’t let you work in a newsstand but now you’re working ground crew?”

I had both knees replaced!

“Wait, wait, wait.  Parenting?!?  Knees replaced?!?  It’s only been 6 months!”

She and her also middle aged fiancé had adopted or were in the process of adopting a 6 year old relative of his.  They had also moved out of his parents house.  I mean, mid-50s is probably the right time to venture out of the nest, if ever there was one.

She was going on about how she was looking forward to getting onto the day shift, but not until school started and she was going to have either her hips or ankles done.

I get distracted by imagining her as Jaime Sommers.

…and tune back in as she says, “but now my doctor wants me to wait to do that until after they take out the brain tumor” like it’s y’know, somehow an elective surgery.

I had to get away from this surreal conversation.

I walked away thinking, “How does she not put a gun in her mouth?!?”  It was really inspiring to think on.  Kim took over as my workday inspiration.

Shitty joints.

Late in life love and parenting.

Entry-entry level physical grunt work.

Oh, and a brain tumor.

If she can do it, I can do it!

Bad news for my former inspiration/mantra:

For the moment, “If Britney can make it through 2007, I can make it through today” took a backseat to my new battlecry of “Tim Kimke!” which was a mash up of her actual name.

It was really kind of the motivational push that I needed.  Britney’s breakdown was only getting me so far.  I was also reaching back to when I worked with a peer that was a real B-word in my mid 20s-30s.  

I was stubborn.

That stubbornness was manifesting itself in longevity in a job that didn’t deserve my efforts.  But I was learning a lot, while simultaneously refusing to walk away from a bad company where I had a boss I liked.

But he was weak and didn’t reign in my counterpart.

Ooh, foreshadowing.

Nonetheless, I stayed, refusing to leave before she did because to me it sent the message that she won.  

It was kinda fucked up.

My payback was that I was learning how to really manage.  Succeeding through my people, versus calling what I could accomplish with my own two hands success.  That kept me motivated whenever I crossed paths with my backstabbing peer.

But, I was recruited away by a former peer and I took a leap.  It’s actually where I met my current boss, even though we only worked together tangentially at the time.

Flash forward 15 or so years.

I’m doing good work, feeling like I make an impact everyday…of course, there’s a but coming.  

My boss is weak, but I like him.  But that’s not enough.  He’s afraid of being the bad guy.

Since last summer, I’ve been stringing up carrots to get me through the bullshit that weakness has manifested:

Make it to your year anniversary.

Make it to bonus payout.

Make it to review time.

Well, the other day, I found myself thinking, “Only 11 more months til bonus payout” and that was a wake up call.

 I’d doubled my tenure since work got shitty, I’d spent as much time dreading my job as I’d spent loving it.  The writing was on the wall, too.  Things weren’t going to change…just like my boss’ poor people management skills created the dysfunctional environment I was spending my time in, his boss was further enabling it by refusing to take action when measureable company policies were broken or violated.

You just need to learn to get along…maybe I heard that one too many times.

Looking back, once turned out to be too many.  The writing was on the wall, but I had to hear that damn phrase a few more times before I saw it.

Then I turned in my notice and basically fired my employer.

Time to reset.

Me time.

Heal wounds.

Because I stuck with it as long as I did, I’ve got the foreseeable future covered in cash:

Forgoing vacations allowed me to bank some PTO to ice the bonus cake I’d waited out.  Believe me, I’m gonna make every penny scream.  If you wanna enjoy my therapeutic free time with me, of course, you can treat!

I’m gonna write again.  No more of these weeks without content or publishing.  That bullshit ends.

Starting here.

And tomorrow, I’m going to brunch and then a hike like a normal Portlander does on a weekend.

TIL #7:  Danny Glover Was Right

PDX Weather…

Life in the PNW is low-key glorious.  We don’t want word getting out and even more people moving here to experience it.  They always bring their hometown tarnish with them and it harshes our mellow just a bit.

Let ‘em scratch their heads in confusion about life here:

Rain.

Without umbrellas.

Great food.

That comes from a truck on the street.

Great coffee.

That’s intimidatingly simple to order.

Beer swilling liberal haven.

Filled with inexplicably fit folk…

Being smart and right burns a lot of calories, m’kay?

Let ‘em think all that crap about us. As long as they stay there and don’t move here.

Come get a taste of the wonder, but be careful how you time your visit.

You can get a great hike in our in the gorge or cascades.

Or

You can watch horrified like the rest of us as our beautiful landscape burns at the hands of some punk.

You can enjoy our tasty brewed treats – caffeinating or intoxicating.

Or

You can question reality – and how strong that beer was – when you (think you?) see one of these characters.

Two of those are undeniably real, the other is a secret.  Not sure whether any of them are actually a reason to stop drinking or a better reason to start.

Again, it’s about timing in the PNW.

Just when you think you know all the potential traps to avoid when planning your exotic getaway to weird Portland, Orygun, you go to your travel agent and say something like, “Um, like we wanna go” – just assuming you’re from the San Fernando Valley for some reason – “for a weekend during Spring Break.  All the locals will be gone, but it’s not as touristy bad as summer will be.” only to find yourself wondering why your Travel Agent is giving you this face.

It’s because you can’t outsmart us.

Don’t.

Even.

Try.

It’s a little known fact that our summers here are simply glorious.

God’s Country.

Lit by the longest, most sunshiny days you can imagine.

An even less known fact is springtime in Portland.  Every year I wait for it.  It doesn’t happen every year, but when it does…it’s amazing!

It’s been on my radar since early this week, when people were talking about snow this coming Saturday – aka: tomorrow, at this point.

I have to check myself when I start to expect it, because you never know it’s coming.

Wrap your mind around this:  all four seasons in one day.

It almost happened yesterday.

I woke up and tried to plan my day’s attire.  Really, the mystery here is what type of outerwear I’m putting over my jeans and tee shirt.  It was 32 degrees.

Winter.

I’d gone in on my usual day off, but ended up arriving a few minutes later than expected.  I’d taken a later train than planned when I’d returned to my condo for an umbrella after hitting the street and discovering rain with drops the size of my head.

Aaaah, Spring.

And, yes.  We locals do use umbrellas.  We aren’t idiots, like the transplant that started that rumor.

I left work and decided that I deserved a margarita.

The Silver Fox joined me for my second and when we left, proving margaritas are a cure for what ails ya – working on my Saturday, in this case, it was sunny and golden bright out.

Summer.

For two blocks.

Then it was sunny and raining out.  It kept getting brighter and the rain got harder.  People were laughing and smiling as they strode the sidewalks of Old Town in the surprise – and gorgeously lit – shower.

“Sunshine drops!”, I yelled out, giddy over the prospect of hitting the weather lottery.

This is why people think we don’t use umbrellas.  You’re out and about and get caught be a sudden shower.  Others might step into a doorway and wait it out, Portlanders relish it and carry on about their business.

I went home and surprised Myrtle doing something she wasn’t supposed to do – sitting in one of my dresser drawers that for sure wasn’t open when I left.

But I was only home to grab a growler so I could get provisions for the evening and hole up for the finale: snow.

I went to the Big Legrowlski to fill up and chatted for a sample or two with one of my favorite Pearl District peeps as she filled my growler with a lusciously light triple IPA.  

As I was leaving: hail.

So close.

I woke up this morning to a reminder from Apple and Mother Nature:

PDX Weather…

Before Forrest There Was Pre…

I pass by this mural practically every day.  It’s about a block and a half from my place, pretty much right between Chez Galby and my favorite caffeinating and intoxicating holes, which are conveniently located next door to one another.  I say “practically” just in case I miss the odd day, but I don’t actually think that happens unless I’m temporarily near death…

I like to think it’s based off this pic, but I’ve never fact-checked it.

This is a mural honoring Steve Prefontaine, a runner for the University of Oregon in the late 60s and early 70s.  He’s a native Oregonian – well, was…he was killed in a single car drunk driving accident in 75 – and has had a fanboy grip on me since I learned about him forever ago.  

A) because he was an Oregon hero

B) he spoke to me on a gay-instinctual level before I knew what sexuality even was…I mean, hubba-hubba

And,

C) he represented a mystery to me…dying when I was only 7, I never knew of him in real time so my connection to him has always been inexplicable.  

Well, minus the hubba-hubba factor.

He never lost a distance race, his entire running career.  He’s actually co-credited with starting the running craze, not just here in Oregon, but nationwide.  Take that, Jim 


Of course, Jim bothered to live a bit longer than Pre.  Still, dying at 52 versus 24 could give you a pretty solid con-running argument.

Glad I was forcibly retired from running?

Anyway, I wear a winter reminder of this mural, so I find myself thinking of my slight Prefontaine Obsession even when I’m not passing the mural.  A couple years back, I was walking back from breakfast at Fullers and saw some nogoodnicks throwing fluorescent green paint on the mural.

Acting before thinking, I ran toward them yelling at them to stop.  They ran off like punks, throwing down their paint cans as they left.

Me.  Running again!

I got closer than I thought because when I got home I realized some of their paint had splattered on me as their paint cans bounced around.  Lucky me, it was my $400 Arcteryx jacket.

I’m not letting a little green paint stop me from wearing that! 

Or the fact that I’m a little too puffy to wear a puffy down jacket.

One of my favorite things about this mural, though?  The optical illusion.

It’s even odds that that plumbing hardware is going to make me think, “Ooh, nipple!” as I pass by.

Before Forrest There Was Pre…

M.A.S.H. Up

I had the most realistic dream last night.  One of those dreams that makes you doubt reality.  

The strange aftereffect was further enhanced by a couple tangents.

First of all, the dream was about David Ogden Stiers.

He’s kind of one of my so-called life extras, a phrase I carried away from my time with Sacha.  By the by, Sacha complains that I only write horrid lies about him – basically – so I’m sure he’ll be blind to the fun memories I have of life extras with him.

Alas.

Anyway, DOS was a life extra because of the Pearl District Segue Dude, who whips around the Pearl on his segue – in case you were struggling with the name – looking a lot like DOS, who had famously lived in Oregon.

Giggles reminded me that he had indeed still lived in Oregon at the time of his death when she posited that there might be an influx of M.A.S.H. celebs through the airport for his services.  She was giddy to the point of distraction, which was pretty crazy for someone born within a year or two either way of the show airing.

So, I guess that’s Tangent One, before I really ever get to the damn dream.

Nice pacing, Xtopher.

In the dream, Giggles’ own dream of celebrity sightings during her shift did, indeed, come true.

Except

Alan Alda pulled a Carrie Fisher and dies on his arriving flight.

My dream reaction was so vivid that I woke up.  Then I couldn’t tell if it was something I’d seen as a push alert on my phone when I checked the time or part of my dream.  The two potential realities coalesced that quickly.

I go into my phone and start checking the news.

Some Korean actor killed himself after some #metoo allegations surfaced.  Giggles is a huge K-pop fan, so that tangent just keeps fueling my confusion and distraction.  Not that K-pop and Korean actors share the same spotlight or affections in Giggles’ universe.

The D’Wayne dude that inspired Scott Bakula’s character on NCIS New Orleans died.  I’ve never really liked the New Orleans franchise, nor Bakula’s character…so this news was kinda awkward.

Surely Alan Alda dying would scoop either of those two celebrity-ish deaths.

Still, I google Alda specifically just to be sure.

Still alive.

Phew.

…and he’s been married to the same woman for 60 years!  Amazing!  Then again, he’s one of those people that I just assume is an amazing human based solely on his acting.  I fully admit that there’s no correlation, but there it is.  

Don’t judge my crazy brain.

So, in awesome Pam Ewing style, I’d dreamed it all.  This was not tangent two.

This was.

Of course, I had to tell the Silver Fox about it on the way to coffee.

Of course, he had to scoop my ass with his own DOS story by reminding me that one of his condos – either the one he rented, which I believe is correct, or the one he ended up buying – belonged to DOS’ boyfriend.

Me: Y’know, I don’t think you ever actually told me that!

Which devolved into a brief summary of this guy’s resume and a reminder of DOS’ famed involvement with the symphony community on the Oregon Coast.

Now, that’s a tangent.  As only The Fox can provide.

I was still kinda turning this damn dream over in my mind as I was out running errands when I saw this on Broadway.

Sorry about the crap picture, but I was relieved to see Segue Dude alive and well after the surreality of my morning.  Just zipping down the busiest N/S street in downtown Portland like a damn boss.

M.A.S.H. Up

TIL #1:  A Life of Bias

I’ve recently begun thinking that we need a forum for old people to share information.  I’ve literally picked up two tricks-slash-tips from Sallory and The Silver Fox in the last year or two that have me thinking this is a missed gold mine of information.

Not the typical “fool me once” or “eat dinner at 4 pm” type of wisdom we expect from the older generation, no.  Having learned that you can’t tell young people anything, older folks know it’s best just to speak in cryptic tones when the situation of giving advice arises.  

Rather, this blog theme is some real Today I Learned bullshit that you’d never see on the Reddit…mostly because we’re too old to understand how Reddit works, what a s/Reddit is or even to want to risk the inevitable disrespect of a down vote our input might engender on the site.

Redditors are such punks.  

I’ve no thought on what to call this blog theme, so feel free to make suggestions, for now, I’m just going with TIL.

The thought that prompted this first entry, I first learned about two-ish years ago, actually, but once I started thinking hard about the real pro-tips coming my way, I realized I had to start out with this particular gem. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Diagonal.

The scramble crosswalk had appeared in the Pearl District while I was living in Shittatle.  I know it wasn’t there before I moved because I have a vivid memory of standing on one corner of the intersection between Powell’s City of Books one weekend when I’d popped into town on the sly for the night without telling my family.  What makes it such a vivid memory was the smirk on my younger brother’s face as he stood on the other corner.

Of all the times for my suburb dwelling siblings to decide to meet in town for dinner.

Anyway, the scramble was not there in that memory. 

It seems to take an inordinate amount of time to trigger the scramble.  Luckily, Portland is still a small enough city that traffic usually allows you to safely jaywalk whenever the hell you want,so one mustn’t necessarily wait.  However, whenever I’m around when the scramble lights officially engage, I feel compelled to say “scramble!” before or as I am entering the intersection.

I’m not really very mature.

In addition to this scramble crosswalk, another thing I noticed after moving back was The Fox’s predilection toward stepping off curbs in the middle of the street and just crossing devil may care style when traffic allowed.  I noticed this new habit because it’s what I do, notice things.  

I also noticed because of the increased threat to my persistent survival this created for me.  He’d decide to cross without warning and I’m still walking down the street jabbering away as I realize he’s now adrift in the middle of the street, fading in my peripheral vision.  Immediately setting off on an intercept course usually put me in danger of taking a hood ornament in the ass…it took me a while to learn I wasn’t going to break him of this habit and train him to give me warning before taking off on one of his impromptu scrambles.

“It saves so much time!”

Because you have fewer days ahead than you do behind, this is a going concern of yours?

That was pretty much the gist of our conversations, but over time the distance at which those conversations had taken place has decreased.  That tells me we’re working the kinks out of our system of non-verbal communication.

“Think of all the steps we’re saving!”, of course, this was before everyone lost their shit over getting their steps in last year.  What do they really know, anyway?

And it’s true!  The Diagonal saves me a ton of steps and time.  Especially when I’m heading to the MAX stop at 430 in the morning.  Young Xtopher would waste both standing at a cross walk just to hook a 90 degree turn and head down the street perpendicular to the direction I crossed.  Cutting across the street’s traffic lanes is a much more productive use of my resources.  Plus, that whole pivot motion as I turned had to put undue stress on my little chickeny ankles.

Who needs that?

Plus, it’s a victimless crime.  Portland Police don’t really come out for crimes unless they can reasonably expect to discharge a non-lethal weapon into a group of liberals…so there’s really no threat of a downside here.

TIL #1:  A Life of Bias

The Red Shirt Diaries #19

Portland’s Got Stabby edition.

I admit that walking through Old Town on dark or early mornings gives me more pause than I’d like to acknowledge.  It’s always been a little dodgy.  When I would drive into town back before the turn of the century – yes, we had cars back then – to go to the downtown bars, it was with the knowledge that there were strangely high odds that my windows could be punched out when I returned.

Luckily, I had a Jeep ragtop.  

Leaving the bars and heading back to my car, I could count on seeing a couple of cars that had been broken into along the way.

You could discourage this by locking up stuff in your trunk versus leaving it on the seat in plain sight.

No need to beg for it like a dumbass.

Over the decades since, Portland’s Old Town has gotten increasingly developed.  Mostly, or firstly, by Central City Concern…an organization that has used its property to provide affordable short or long term housing for the disenfranchised.

The disabled.

The recently out of rehab.

Some battered spouses.

And the mentally questionable.

In addition to providing low – like sometimes free low – housing, these places provide resources for the residents to get back on track.

For those willing.

Portland is famously liberal, pretty much single-handedly turning a would-be red state blue.  Low to no cost healthcare, a police force that is more tolerant of homelessness than it is our Little Beirut liberal protests…and they are pretty tolerant of those, outside of a few notable exceptions.

All of this has led other cities with less tolerant officials to sometimes remedy their own homeless problems – er, situations – with bus tickets to Portland.  The last report I read said we had about 30k homeless residents.

Most living or killing – sometimes literally – time in Old Town.

Not to lay this stabby streak on the homeless, they only get partial credit.  However, the dozen or so Urban Campers that I walk by during the pedestrian portion of my commute put me a little on edge when they rustle the wrong way.

Sue me.

The stabbing seems to happen once a month or so anymore.  Most don’t reach my consciousness unless I happen upon them shortly after or during the investigation.

That’s a pretty sad realization, but in my defense, I don’t watch much news.

The ones that tend to hit my radar are the incidents involving my community like the local nightclub DJ who was stabbed and later died in what was presented in a manner that easily suggested a hookup gone wrong.

Thanks for that, Main Stream Media.

Of course, there was the MAX stabbing last year that had the whole city running cold for weeks afterward.  A man had been harassing two young women on a train, one wearing a hijab, when three cool portland types came to their defense and ended up stabbed for their efforts.  

Two died.

The three named murderer said, “That’s what you get for your liberalism” or something along those lines.

Great, our mentally ill population is woke.

No, the ones that get my attention aren’t those truly horrendous incidents or the white trash brawls and domestic disputes.

Those I notice are the true Portland-weird fashioned occurrences.

Like last weekend’s apparent workplace dispute…with a kukri.

Oh, good…you can pick this up on Amazon.  I wonder if there is free shipping.

Really, Portland?

Or this one.

Pink Bunny suit…let that sink in.

Pink

Bunny

Suit

Unless the victim was Ralphie from A Christmas Story or Donnie Darko or even Glenn Close, then I can’t even guess what the fuck this was all about.

It was a couple months before the Onesie Party

So, just…really, Portland?

Really?

But, at this point, I could reasonably see “Really?!?” being one of my last words as I’m chased by a samurai wielding bear dressed up as an Oops. I Did It Again Brittney Spears…

The Red Shirt Diaries #19