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…

Merry Christmas!

And Feliz Navidad!

My Christmas – low key as it usually is in my family, just mainly together-time and food! – was kind of crap this year due to circumstances I couldn’t really control.

Well…I could control them somewhat.  And I did.

But I still ended up working today instead of being off with my family.

What happened is that I had a couple of new associates scheduled to work today that called out sick yesterday, probably a pretty good indicator that not even paying them double time for working the holiday was going to motivate them in to work today.

So…I motivated them in to quitting.

Manipulate is such a negative sounding word and I really feel like my implied ultimatum was effective in getting these two off my team.  That’s important to me, because when people abuse our attendance policy, the rest of the team pays the price.  

Hard.

I was able and lucky enough to find an associate to volunteer to come in to replace one of their shifts.  But for the other shift I had to push our scheduled Manager On Duty into a store, which meant I got to be the MOD.

It’s fine.

Really.

Hold on, while I mop up the mess that sarcasm made.

Christmas plans scuttled, but it didn’t really break my holiday spirit.  I thought I’d try and put together a few of the Christmas memories that came into mind while I worked among the holiday travelers at PDX.

Christmasisms, if you will.

In no particular order…I really just hope to remember the thoughts I enjoyed today on my MAX ride home.

I’ll start with an easy one.

Ever since I took Spanish and Algebra in Junior High, I’ve amused myself by making a little equation out of the word Christmas.

Chris + mas (the Spanish word for “more”) = More Chris!

My staff today might disagree…hey, it’s double time!  I’ve seen enough war movies – both GI Jane and A Few Good Men! – to know double time means “fucking move faster, grunt!”.  

Yeah, that’s inside humor, Chris…

There was the Christmas that my grandfather gave us kids a foosball table.  Man, that was the shit.  I think we were so excited to see that sitting in the back of the El Camino that we collectively wet ourselves.  I didn’t even know gifts could be that cool.

But I did know that gifts could be the exact opposite.  When I was maybe ten, probably younger.  I got a gift that was basically this

As an adult, I’m ashamed of my ten year old self’s (maybe) behavior (definitely).  My paternal grandmother had bought me a suit.  I dare say it was my first suit.

It was very…brown.

Mom made me go into the bathroom and try it on.  I went.  I went and I stared at it, sitting there in its box.

I didn’t think of how little money my grandmother had, and that she’d chosen this while thinking of me.  Yeah, grandma totally knew ten year old me (maybe) was a Future Homo of America (definitely).

No, I didn’t think of that.  I thought of how brown it was.  I was apparently also hardwired to be a bitchy gay, too, since I waited an appropriate amount of time, rustled some paper and then went back out declaring it was, “Fine”.

I also learned at Christmas that gifts could be a rite of passage marker, too.  Like the Christmas Mom and Dad got us three older kids bikes for Christmas.  

Banana seats.

Handle bar streamers.

The whole shebang.

Wait…is shebang a sexist word?  Oh, well…if you’re easily offended you should probably be reading The Bible and not this drivel, so you really only have your delicate self to blame.

You know…the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether those bikes were Christmas gifts or just Awesome Parent gifts.  Well, it’s a good memory, either way.  I remember the three of us taking our bikes out for an inaugural ride, so if it was Christmas, it was temperate.  Riding around our cul-de-sac on La Cour, streamers flying.

Speaking of La Cour, the street I grew up on and fun little equations…my first pets name was Butch, making my porn name Butch La Cour.  <adult toy drop>

Ok…walking home on icy sidewalks now.  Just a couple more quick memories from today’s Christmas Snowmageddon.

I told you about my least favorite clothing gift of all time, how about my favorite clothing gift of all time?

Silk boxers.

Not for me, per se.  I agree with Kramer.

But I remember working a post-Christmas sale at Meier & Frank when I was managing Men’s Sportswear.  Alison, the Men’s Furnishings manager gives me a “Psst!  Hey, hey!” From across the aisle.  When I look up at her, she gives me directions via some crazy eyes that I correctly interpret as “Look over there!”.

Subtle, Alison.

I played it cool and was rewarded with a couple of barely college aged bros walking through the department in sweatpants.

Enjoyable – anytime – for me, probably excruciating for them on this instance since they both appeared to be learning that silk boxers are not practical attire until after you can no longer ejaculate over your own head.

I felt bad for them, but that wasn’t the only thing I was feeling, figuratively.

Gotta love silk boxer season.

Last one, swearsies.

Sacha and I – y’know what?  It’s Christmas.  I don’t want to think of Sacha anymore today.  

Plus, I’m home.  Let’s end this on silk boxers.

I’m gonna go inside, take off my pants, peel off my tights – proper Snowmageddon attire, bad walking ten miles at work attire – and sit on my couch with a pamplemousse La Croix and let my boys air out for a while.

Enjoy that Christmas visual.

Merry Christmas!

Fitfy 49:39

Missed these little check-ins from the final year of my fifth decade?

Fret not, they’ve not been pushed far from the front of my mind…they are only a trip past my bathroom mirror away, as a matter of fact.  But, this final week of the third quarter of this trip around the sun for me seemed like a good time to check-in again.

First some obvious accountabilities:  exercise and diet.

Exercise:

I’ve quit my gym.  That may not seem like anything but a big step backward, but I think it’s not.  Sure, this was initially a financial decision, the money I spent on gym membership could be better spent on wine, after all!  

I kid.

What I came to realize, though, was that at this time in my life, lifting weights was problematic.  More of a tether or a crutch for my old fitness mindset of recreating or restructuring my physical self…making it into something it’s not.

I have some 4-25 lb dumbbells at home that I can use for a variety of toning exercises when the mood hits.  Overall, that’s what I want to rediscover: tone.  My arms were as thick as my neck in my 30s – don’t get excited, I’ve been called pencil neck before. My chest and ankle measurements might make you wonder if my “father” was, in fact named Frankenstein.

What happens to that forced physique when you stop feeding it iron plates is not pretty.  Over the past three months, as I’ve changed my exercise regimen up – mostly changed it to “rest” – is that those muscles have softened.  My chest does not have as much in common with a 35 year old man as it maybe does with a 50 year old woman.

And that’s ok…for now.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want either of those racks.  But it’s a stop on the way to slimming down.

So, what’s this new regimen?

It’s more intense cardio based, as far as structured exercise goes.  Spin class.  God bless RevoCycle and the Filipina Fox for getting me back into spin!  I really love it…it’s prohibitively expensive, so I’ve been on a little break for the last few weeks, but the time commitment vs results impact is exactly what I want as I try to return to a slimmer silhouette overall.

The remainder of what I’ve been doing outside of mini weight workouts at home and spin class is lifestyle exercises.  Things designed not to get me out of the house and into the gym, but rather to get me out of the house and outside.

Hiking, mostly.  I live in the Pacific Northwest…God’s Country.  I have 40 miles of trails in Forest Park, a quick two mile urban hike away.  I live on Park Ave – between 8th and 9th St in Portland’s Alphabet District.  My stretch of Park is between Everett and Flanders – do not  stalk me…you’d be gravely disappointed.  Forest Park has an entrance at about 28th and Thurman.  That’s 14 blocks over and 19 blocks up.  

Easy.

Until you see this, anyway.

We all need a little touch up now and then, eh?  That’s what this year-long theme is about!  But I found an alternate entrance a few blocks further up the hill and have had myself a couple of nice 10 mike hikes over the last few weeks.  It rained almost all of last week, but today on my weekend agenda…yeah!  More hiking!  

Now

Diet:

Ugh.

Remember, what I didn’t want to do was overcorrect here and go radical self-deprivation by only allowing myself chicken and broccoli for dinner.  That usually leads to chicken and broccoli for most lunches, too.  And that leads to Unhappy Xtopher.

Also, I didn’t want to not drink.

I wanted to eat real food, have real junk food and get my drink on when I wanted to.  Be that when hanging out with friends or doing a little self-soothing after work.

I’d say the one thing my diet is missing right now is protein.  In eschewing chicken, I’ve become cognizant of the fact that I’m not chewing enough of anything that used to be alive.  Almonds, peanut butter, lunch meats and tuna ain’t cutting it.

Non-Dad-Bod Xtopher needs some red meat.

Shut up, Diezel.

Other than too much pasta in my diet, I’ve been happy with my intake.  Oddly, I’ve found myself craving kale lately.  I should definitely give into that, I bet my body is feeling less nostalgic than it’s actually trying to tell me it needs something.

My alcohol consumption is steady, I know you were worried.

I find that my drinking has become less…binge-y and more consistent.  Neither in a bad way.  When I was drinking before, I’d drink for several hours, ignoring the fact that I was setting records with how many drinks I could consume in an hour.

I’ve gone from drinking 2-3 drinks an hour for several hours to drinking 2-4 drinks a night.  Maybe I drink 5-6 nights a week versus 3-4 nights a week, but I’m not waking up groggy after and I find myself deciding to have another beer versus just giving into habit or simply being handed one by an attentive bartender.

All this came to the front of my mind during last week’s acupuncture appointment.  My Needle Man had been diagnostically probing my abdomen and when he was done, instead of quickly pulling my shirt back down and making a comment about covering my shame, I began absent-mindedly playing my belly like a drum.  He smirked at me and when I realized what I’d been doing, smiled sheepishly and apologized.

He made a comment about enjoying seeing such self-acceptance in today’s body shaming culture.  Someone just innocently enjoying their body without realizing it – literally, in my case, he said – was refreshing.

I told him that I planned on enjoying my body in not so innocent ways later, which gave us both a chuckle.  That may sound a bit depraved to you, but we talk about my sex life almost as often as we talk about my digestion.

If we’re gonna talk shit, nothings off the table.  Plus, there’s a couple of treatments he does that have a great reproductive side effect.  It may not be strictly necessary in my case, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be appreciated!

The conversation eventually led to – well, directly led to – how self-acceptance was kind of the theme of 2017 for me.  I described how nothing I did physically replaced running in my life, how I could run in the rain but cycling and hiking in the rain were no-goes for me.

“Why don’t you run anymore?”

So, I gave him the back story and then short-handed it to “bone density issues in my lower legs”.

I’ll short-hand his response to “There’s a needle for that”.

Me:  Do not get my hopes up.

Not at all, he told me, cautioning me that it will take time and be something I have to build up to, but there’s probably no reason I shouldn’t count on running again.

So, as I enter the last quarter of this Fitfy (mis)adventure, I find myself looking forward to an unexpected and welcome gift for my 50th birthday…an evening jog to close out my work day.

It’s just what I wanted.

Fitfy 49:39

Fitfy: 49.18

Well, there’s a break in my weekly fitness accountability updates.

Perhaps I should just call this one Fatfy.

Six weeks off between posts.  I blame The Silver Fox, but only recreationally.  Overall, I’m in charge of me, but here’s the story…you may enjoy it.

It all started with The Fox taking one of his ever more present weekend trips away.  While also having cataloged the rest of his upcoming weekend getaways.

It might have been our Friday coffee before his family vacation in Bend, OR where he, his ex-wife and son from south of Portland and his Seattle son and his family all rendezvoused in this Oregon high desert brewer’s delight of a town.

Perhaps it was the weekend after, where he went north to Seattle to dog sit while his Seattle son’s family went to the in-laws for a visit.

Or the weekend when he popped down to the coast to work on the beach house renovation his ex-wife – the perfectly lovely Sallory – and he were embarking on.

Definitely not this past holiday weekend when he went down to yurt erection party at the beach house.

At one point during his laundry list of upcoming weekends away with his family and/or Sallory, I exclaimed, “You guys are retired! Why can’t you go away in the middle of the week?!?”  A thought that caught him a little off guard, I could tell he was briefly considering the worker bee ritual of maximizing one’s weekends that no longer strictly applied to him.  Ultimately, he set that aside to declare that he couldn’t do that for the yurt building party because the other folks helping still worked.

But he left me an 18 pack of Mac and Cheese from his pre-Bend provisioning Costco trip, so there’s that.  It’s great when your best friend knows you so well that a box of Kraft soothes all manner of sins.

Also, I’m quite simple.  Not basic, since my tastes tend to run either rather high brow or – as in this case, obvs – low brow in the extreme versus basic…which is just common.

I’m gonna have to think about the amount of justifying that my admission of love for the comfort of Kraft Mac and Cheese just required.  But, Myrtle likes it too!  Or the box, at any rate.

So why is my absence from blogging about – or even actually participating in – my fitness journey as I approach my 50th somehow The Fox’s fault…even if only for my amusement?  He’s one of those…motivated people.  It’s so disturbing to my natural state of procrastination.  On my Fridays off, he likes to get our coffee and chat about the week and then make for the gym, which is basically kitty corner from the coffee shop we hang out in.  Well, he hangs out there.  I am a squatter, since my caffeine tastes run to Nossa Familia down the block, but his coffee shop has better seating.  Still, the gym is right in the middle of the two, so he’s right on that we should go to the gym while we are in the area.

However, it’s not my style.  I’ve always been a post-work gym goer.  As I’ve gotten older, my energy level has…leveled off.  The result is that after ten or more hours at work, I’m just as likely to fall asleep on MAX as I am to have the energy to break out of my couch’s orbit once I get home.

Ergo, gym-going has been relegated to my days off.

While this yearlong journey is intended partially to help me find new habits that I can adopt to move forward with into the back third of my life, I have not fully explored too many things that felt like a sustainable routine.

For one of these weeks away of his, I decided that I would have coffee with The Fox and then go home, do some chores and then go to the gym afterward instead of the somewhat established routine of wake up, coffee, gym…it’s such a breakneck pace for what is essentially my Saturday morning.

Looking back, that was the last time I even planned to go to the gym over this six week hiatus.

I was busy.

Eighteen is a lot of boxes of Mac and Cheese.

Plus, I was working.

A lot.

A couple of six day weeks.

Averaging about 7.5 miles of speed-walking around PDX during those hectic workdays…it’s not like I wasn’t getting some exercise in.

So, I forgave myself my weakness and indulged my inclination to potato myself on my couch.

After a few weeks of seriously sedentary days off, I started thinking that it was getting to be bike riding weather in Portland.  Another week of not pulling that trigger and I began experiencing lower back pain.

A side effect of my sofa slouch.

Good news for the Needle Man.

Bad news for my future fit fifty year old self.

But!

You’ll be glad to know that as of last weekend, I have returned to my reluctant cyclist self.  My first ride was a shorty.  A ride that I hear others talk about as an achievement and roll my eyes – a simple 10 miler.

Uphill.

See?  That right there was an error in judgement on my part.

I was looking for a scenic ride on a sunny Portland day.  Thinking, “Hey, it’s just five miles away…” and completely forgetting that it was five miles uphill.  Crazy, windy, two-lane roads through a part of Portland’s semi-exclusive west-side hills.  It took me an hour to make the ride up.  the view I had on my beautiful city once I got there was worth it.

You can’t see the floaters in my field of vision in the pictures, but you can still see Mount St Helens and – what I think is – Mount Adams in the distance.

The ride home was – obviously – much easier.  But harrowing as I rode my brakes most of the way downhill into town.

In rush hour traffic on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

Yeah, this was a super well thought out excursion.

On the decidedly plus side:  endorphins.

On the decidedly not-plus side:  my ass feels like hamburger from my saddle rash.

But, I’m not going to let that stop me.

I.

Am.

Back.

 

Fitfy: 49.18

Fitfy:  49.6

I had this great idea for goals that would refresh my commitment to working out consistently.  I thought it would be fun to commit to five cardio sessions that matched the distance I walked at work during my five day week.  I was thinking it didn’t have to be on the exact day…my work week didn’t have to be mirrored by my cardio days.

It’d be a lark!

I mentioned it to The Silver Fox during coffee on Saturday and…he poo-pooed it!

I think it was just to prove a point.  Occasionally, he’ll get bristly when I call him things like an enabler or supportive.

I think over correcting gives him a good chuckle.

Me, on the other hand…tell me something isn’t a good idea and dollars to doughnuts, I’ll try and make my point!

Ergo, here’s what happened at work last Sunday:

The 5.5 miles walked at PDX on Sunday meant my cardio goal for the evening was another 5.5 miles on the elliptical at the gym!  Of course I needed to make a statement by ensuring at least me work and cardio weeks began on the same day.

Sure enough…stubborn Xtopher made his point.

On my way home from the gym, I couldn’t stop thinking about the pasta with Italian sausage that I was gonna dive into when I got there.

Somehow, that morphed into a can of Progresso, a bottle of wine and a half bag of Cretor’s.  What?  I was too wiped out to cook!

FML.

But

At least I can say that 5.5 miles on the elliptical = 633 calories, and I have it on tenuous authority from Little Buddy that a bottle of wine is 620 calories…

So, there’s that.

Then on Monday, this happened:img_1856
I mean, c’mon!!!

I put a pin in that lil hurdle and took the day off from the gym.

Tuesday is acupuncture day, so ditto on the day off.  I intended to go in at my regular 6:00 am start time and leave at 1:00 that day, get to the gym by 2:00; lift, do some cardio – especially since it was only a 5.1 mile day – and then head home to shower before my 4:45 appointment.

I can have it ALL!!!

Except I forgot about a standing – particularly when I make alternate plans – meeting at 2:00 on Tuesdays.

Oy.

Fine.  Day two off from the gym…but I could make up ground on Friday and Saturday.  I mean, it’s not like I wanted to go to the gym every day.

So, Wednesday I go and knock out a nice lil 5.26 cardio sesh.  It’s like I got a point to make.

I don’t remember Thursday, although, I do know that it’s my Whine Down with The Fox to detox from my work week and get mentally prepared for my “weekend”.   The not so secret ingredient is wine.

Oh, wait…now I remember.

So, how about that Friday workout?!?

I got my lift on with a nice full body workout and then went upstairs to do some cardio.  I ended up riding out the full hour, even though that put me in between any of the remaining goals from my work days.

img_1860There was an extenuating circumstance or two…I had a celebrity look alike stretching in front of me for the last 20 minutes of my session.  The guy that plays Ryan from Quantico.

Not just stretching.

More what my dog trainer would call presenting.

Rawr.

I definitely got time for that!

Saturday, I intended a good old lather, rinse, repeat type workout – at least as far as the cardio went.  I did a full body workout with weights on Friday, so I was out for recovery on Saturday.  The Fox and I did coffee in the morning and then compared notes on the rest of our day.

Me:  errands and gym before my grandfather’s 95th birthday outing.

I needed kitty litter.

He:  off to the grocery to grab some fixins for an hors d’oeuvre he was taking to dinner that night.

I say “night”, but both of our dinners were starting early.  My family’s reservation was at 4:00, because:  95 years old eat early.  He was due at his friends’ at 3:00 so that their dogs could play around in the yard while it was still light out.

Somehow, I ended up getting a ride along for my kitty litter errand as he went to the grocery.  Oh yeah…it started raining.  Like, biblically raining.

We went to Mud Bay, got some litter – he also decided on the impulse to grab some toys for his pup.  Then we hop in the car and go after some of what I can only call…the best hummus on the planet.  I hope I didn’t undersell that.  Seriously, though…if you are in Portland, you need to get a chance to grab some King Harvest Hummus.

So good!

You can only get it at a few places.  The closest place to us is the New Seasons Market over in the Conway district.  As we walked in, they had a yoooge stack out of Juanita’s Tortilla Chips.

Great chips.

The best.

Even better are the Chilipeno flavored variety.  And they had Sweet Chili and Jalapeno, too.  Neither of which I had tried…and they were 2/$5, so…yeah, that happened.

But, I thought it might make a nice lil treat for after the gym.

Until I realized that it was really raining now.  I guess I was just kidding about it raining hard earlier.  This was a downpour!  So, I figured that I could go to the gym after my grandfather’s shindig and plus, if I went to the gym and then had a snack of chips that I can never stop eating, I would probably be too full come dinner time.

Just like I was too full at 7:30 when I got home from dinner.  I guess I conveniently failed to factor in that we were eating at The Old Spaghetti Factory.  Not exactly light fare.

But, still…27.6 miles walked – briskly, I might add – and 16.5 miles on the elliptical?  That ain’t too bad.  The Fox was right, I’m not up to matching my walking output on the elliptical yet.  Nor am I anywhere near the work/life balance getting to the gym five times in a week requires.

But there’s a goal for the next few weeks!

Fitfy:  49.6

Portland’s Siberian Winter

img_1712Trump is POTUS, we shouldn’t be surprised that winter this year is reminiscent of Russia.

It’s been a very cold and severe – for Portland – winter in the Pacific Northwest.  Normally, we pride ourselves on the secret that the weather here is not what the rest of the country mentally conjures up when they think of my hometown.

It’s really, generally quite mild.

I think that – let’s just give a final nod to politics here before I get into what the last few weeks have been like for me surviving the Snowpocalypse of the ’16-17 winter – this is the worst PNW winter since 2008, a fact the Silver Fox reminded me of a few weeks back as we sat and chatted during our regular Friday morning coffee after Christmas.

“This is the worst it’s been since 2008!” he literally exclaimed.

I replied, “I think we’ll be saying that a lot over the next 4 years.”

img_1657It started off idyllically enough with a nice dusting of snow that began one night as I quietly sipped a nightcap alone at CC Slaughters in Old Town.

I came out to a peaceful and beautiful snowfall that is typical of snow in Portland, namely:  a fine dusting.  Less than an inch of accumulation that is generally gone within 24-36 hours.

Unless

We get freezing rain.

And wouldn’t you just know that in the days preceding Christmas, that’s exactly what happened?  Luckily, my Big Box and Department Store retail days are behind me.  Retail at PDX is different.  People are gonna fly, regardless.  Particularly during the holidays.  So, it was really just a matter of time and cobbling together staffing for my five stores out at the airport during this first hit of what was to be a long and repetitive winter.img_1665

Eventually, this lovely and temporary dusting of snow gave way to an evening of freezing rain and we started seeing icicles and hearing the crust of ice give way as we explored our frosty city.

But still, even the freezing rain was fairly mild.

For freezing rain standards in Portland.  I remember as a kid when we would get inches of freezing rain at a time.  Where we had to chip around our car doors before we could pry them open.

img_1633Not that we should have been driving anywhere!  There was the dreaded black ice to consider.  That shit didn’t fool around.  Coming across black ice while driving pretty much equalled disaster.

But what we got were these basic, tiny lil icicles.  Anyone in Portland, Maine would probably pat our heads and tell us how dear we are if we bothered to complain about it.

Instead, the city just quietly gave up and rode it out.

There was some commuter drama where people couldn’t safely get out of their neighborhoods, given Portland’s policy against salting the roadways.  Not much a snow plow could do against freezing rain, either – and I think Portland owns three snow plows, so anything we tried with a snow plow would be lacking.  Some bus lines were disrupted, at least until they got chains on the buses and then it was really just delays since the buses can’t drive over 55 MPH with chains.  I ride the Max redline out to the airport and didn’t have any problems getting to and from work.

img_1727Myrtle certainly was intrigued by the drifting snow.  But, in true cat fashion, after being let out to explore, was content to investigate from the relatively dry patio area just inside the snow line.

I think what’s pictured at the left is the second round of snow we got about ten days after the first.  Trust me, her curiosity didn’t change, nor did her willingness to trust this curious white stuff covering her summertime snack foliage.

I don’t think curiosity is gonna claim any of this cautious kitty’s lives anytime soon.

So, I guess that puts us into the second wave of snow and freezing rain for the season.  It was much more an exercise in the latter, unfortunately, which does make getting around harder and the city did pretty much come to a halt once again.

Y’know, I have to hand it to the local – and even the national – news services.  Hyperbole has nothing on these guys.  As a fairly unconcerned viewer – since I don’t have to drive in the inclement weather – my biggest concern is whether or not I can walk ten blocks to the Max without falling and potentially breaking myself.  Let’s face it:  I’m at that age where I’m looking at hip damage if I fall just right.  My secondary concern is how difficult it will be for my staff to get into the airport from their geographically scattered homes.  I am forced to face, each year, the reality of the actual weather versus the impact of news shows desperately trying to validate their advertising costs by exploiting each potential weather crisis.  Sadly, I think that most of the failures to get to work result in people hearing the dire forecasts and deciding to fail before they even consider trying to try.

Not that I want my team to risk life or limb.

My boss, after the challenges that the first round of inclement weather created at work, despite the hotel rooms that he arranged for the team, faced the staffing challenges of this second wave of freezing rain a bit more aggressively.  He offered to pick up one of our stranded associates, PLoop, on his way into work.  Being the gentleman that he is, instead of just pulling up and honking to alert PLoop to his arrival, he parks and goes to the door to get her.  He escorts her out to the passenger side of his truck, gets her settled in, closes the door and promptly disappears from sight…ending up under the truck after slipping as he turned to go to the driver’s side door.

Here’s a few cracked ribs for your chivalry, kind sir.

Way to be a dick, Mother Nature.

But does he miss a day of work?  Yeah, but it wasn’t that day.  He toughed it out, made sure business was on track and then left it in our hands to rest up for a couple of days.

But as we come out of snow and ice version two, that’s the worst to report.  We had a couple of cars stuck in their moment, later retrieved.  There was one team member that ended up in a ditch versus rear-ending someone that stopped short.  But all-in-all, we are surviving this as the natural inconvenience that it was.

And I’m not going to lie, around work, my attitude about the seven day forecasts was pretty jaded.  Outside of work, I really didn’t care a whit about the forecast since I can survive pretty well in my little neighborhood regardless of what the weathermen forecast.

So, I have to take credit for what happened next.img_1720

Those crazy weathermen alerted us to 1″-4″ inches of snowfall.

I scoffed.

After a couple of weeks of looming snow with no follow through, I was inured to their cries of any great white snowy wolf.

Rooms at a local airport hotel were, once again, made available by my boss.  I came home, Myrtle needed tending to, after all.

Oh, the hubris.

My carefree appreciation of the snow that finally started falling, hours late, on my way home was a delightful exercise in lonely romance as I walked from the Max stop in Old Town to my home in the North Park Blocks just ten blocks away.

Really, it was gorgeous.

A few hours later, Facebook is losing it’s collective shit as people post pictures about their local snowscapes.

I go to bed.

I wake up to the scene above.  I think I snapped that pic on the way into work the next morning as I headed back to my Old Town Max stop at 3:45 in the morning to catch the 4:04 redline into the airport.

It never came.

Nor did the 4:39.

I decide – along with a few other intrepid commuters – to head over to the Moda Center across the Steel Bridge after the 5:09 fails to show.  I haven’t seen a bus or a train pass by in the hour-plus that I’ve been standing in the snow.  The walk was like hiking the undiscovered country, wherever that might be…regardless, I know know that there is also 9″ of virgin snow there.

Yeah, the weather folk fucked it up again.  Twice the estimated worst case scenario is what I woke up to.  Do you think that this city that doesn’t salt it’s roads was prepared for that?

They weren’t.

So, there I am, hiking epically across Tom McCall Waterfront Park and the lower deck of the Steel Bridge, over to the stairs on the far side of the Willamette River’s Eastside Esplanade.  It’s about a half mile, maybe a little more.  We arrive – and thank god, I’m not carrying a suitcase along like one of our group was, who had travelled up the prior evening on a BoltBus from Eugene, Oregon – at the Moda Center Transit Center to…I dunno…chaos seems too generous a descriptor.  Chaos looks intentional compared to what Tri-Met was giving us this particular morning.

The good news?  There was a train there when we arrived.

The bad news?  It was heading west and I needed to go east to get to work, but…off it goes.

About ten minutes later, a second train pulls up from the same direction.  I look east and can see Max trains lined up at each stop backed up for god knows how far.  What I know about Max service is that there is a depot out in east county that the trains take off from each morning, heading west in a wagon train to begin their eastbound service at around 3:45 each morning.  These were those trains.  This was as much progress as they had made in the first two hours of their commuter service.

The next train pulls up and it’s 5:30-ish at this point.  I consider jumping on and heading west, jumping off at whichever stop in Old Town ends up being closest to my place – the red and blue lines run along First Street in Old Town and the yellow and green lined run along Fifth and Sixth, depending upon which direction they are traveling.  These trains are all blue or yellow.

I decide to wait and if any of the trains that have passed thus far haven’t returned heading east by the time the next train west comes by, I’ll text my boss and give him my apologies.  Two hours in the elements seems like a fair attempt, less than two seemed like I was giving up too easily.  Nonetheless, that next west bound train arrives and still nothing headed toward work.

I stomp across the tracks and sit down, happy to be back in something approaching warmth but a little sad that I’m going to let my team down for this day.

Imagine my conflicted feelings when the overhead speakers announce that this train will be reversing course and heading east toward Gateway Transit Center as a blue line, where anyone (me) wanting to go to the airport can get off and catch a redline to connect to PDX.

But, at least this was progress.

I get to Gateway and de-train.  I’m waiting for the redline to come by…but nothing is happening.  Across the tracks on the opposite platform, I see Tri-Met employees directing people to the blue and green line trains or the buses set up to get them where they want to go.  Nothing on the red line until finally, one pulls up and we all eagerly board after everyone on the train gets off.  For our courtesy – waiting for people to get off before getting on ourselves – we are rewarded with the driver leaving his compartment and getting off the train, stopping at the door before his final step and yelling over his shoulder that the redline was shut down due to weather.

Great.

Off we all get.

Angry.

Stomp across the tracks to the opposite platform, we all do.

We are told that there will be a bus to shuttle us to the airport shortly.  When?  No one knows, so shortly might be a bit of an over promise…

Meanwhile, blue line and green line trains continue to come and go for the next half hour.  A red line shuttle bus pulls up, kicks everyone off and shuts down.  Obviously, none of the Tri-Met employees know what that means.  They just keep telling us to stand in one of two bus shelters and they will let us know when a red line shuttle arrives.

That seems hard to manage.

Almost as hard as 75 people trying to cram into two bus shelters that are made to hold about a half dozen people each.  Maybe 14 people each if we pretend they are phone booths and that we are in college.

Let’s pretend it’s summer at the same time.

Finally, a bus pulls up and the driver yells out the door that she’s going to the airport and that she can take a couple of people.

A couple?!?

As I was not blessed with fitting into one of the shelters, I was first on the bus.  Well, as it turns out, first at this stop.  The bus is packed.  I realize once I board that my inability to see into the bus wasn’t that the cabin was dark, it’s that the windows are near maximum condensation from the dozens of people packed into the bus.  There was, literally, room for four people.

A half hour later, I was at work.  Two hours and forty five minutes after leaving my home.

Jinkies.

I work the day and monitor my commuting options as well as closely as the cancelled flights as the day wears on.  PDX has turned into a hotel.  People dropping their bags wherever and just collapsing in a hopeless heap on our world-famous carpet as their travel plans crumble before their eyes.

img_1724Ten hours later, I decide to give it a go and head home once I hear that Max is up and running again, albeit in a limited capacity.  I’m going to have to take a redline to Gateway TC and then transfer to either a blue or green line to get downtown.  Regardless, Tri-Met gets me to Old Town between the red and green lines in about 35 minutes.  Not much more than my normal commute.

I’ll take it.

Plus, the walk home is pretty easy since this is only snow, but definitely “the worst it’s been since 2008”.

If only everything so “bad” was as beautiful as Old Town was that evening.

img_1725

Things weren’t all unicorns and rainbows, though.  Or should I say reindeer and icicles, given the situation?

The North Park Block trees sustained a good deal of damage from the weight of the snow.  This damage may have been more of a cumulative effect, since a few days after the record breaking snow fall, we got…you guessed it:  more freezing rain.

A Max train derails, further complicating commutes.  Fortunately, Max derailments are a rather non-event, usually manifesting as the first set of wheels leaving the tracks and then stopping the train without fully derailing and toppling the other cars.  The overall impact is that it takes about six hours to jack the train up and guide it back onto the tracks.

This happens a couple more times over the next few days.

I hear reports that four homeless people have frozen to death.

Goddamnit.

It’s like we can’t catch a break, regardless of our socio-economic status, Nature is proving what a leveling device she can be.

Or, equally as likely, hell has frozen over and Trump’s America is hell in this scenario.

The two days after my successful Max ride back into the NPB were my days off.  I was happy to be home and just settle in for a couple days of rest.  I’m not too proud to admit that my aging feet and legs aren’t standing up to either the rigors of my job nor the added pressure of the extreme weather very well, so sitting on my couch and watching Netflix for a couple of days while the world around me thaws is a rather appealing notion.

I get back to work on Sunday and it’s two days of relatively normal business, I think I have one more whacky commute in there where it takes me two and an half hours to get into work, but I’m mobile and things are resuming a quasi-normal routine.  My Regional Director is due in that Tuesday, which is fine, while not “normal routine” it’s not a traumatic event, plus he’s a pretty good guy, so seeing him is actually a nice change of pace!

Except

Yeah, those good old weather people start telling us to brace for the worst yet.  A freezing rain storm coming west from the Columbia River Gorge that will likely bring an inch of ice with it.

Seriously?

Whyyyyyyy?!?!

We wait.  We brace.  We suspect that our RD will cancel.

He doesn’t.

Nothing really happens, anyway.  The temperature has been vacillating wildly all day.  One moment the forecasts are showing freezing rain for a few hours with temps well above freezing, even into the low 40s.  The next, it’s rain for the rest of the day.  Then it’s freezing temps with freezing rain.  While nothing is really happening, we still don’t know what to expect.

Then our RD lands and we decide to go to lunch at one of the airport restaurants with a view of the runways.  As we’re eating, it hits.

Luckily, he was planning to spend the night.

Also lucky, it looks like I’m still able to get home, since I’m monitoring Max traffic into and out of the airport pretty closely.  A couple more hours pass and we all decide to wrap it up and head home.  The weird thing is that in the two hours since lunch, it’s continued to drizzle while alternating between freezing rain and actual rain.

The roadways are clear.

Flights are flying, in and out.

I get on the train only to find out that the last train out has encountered iced over lines a couple stops away.  Until it clears, my train can’t leave.  I wait it out for a few minutes and then decide to grab an Uber.

Surge Pricing.  Naturally.  Sheesh.  Is it worth spending $48 to get home?

I decide to wait a little longer, just to see what happens.

Ten minutes later, I’m tired of listening to the train driver entertain us.  Or attempt to…he’s going on about how we should have built the Max to avoid this type of failure.

I get off the train and heel-toe it over toward the Arrivals island that Uber and hotel shuttles use, checking the app as I go.

Bonus!

The surge pricing is still in effect, but I can get an XL Uber – which is an SUV – for less than an UberX, so I snatch it.

Twenty minutes later, I’m home.

It begins raining later that evening and rains for 24 hours straight.  When I wake up the next morning at 3:00, expecting the worst and preparing to head in and help man the stores, I find perfectly clear streets in my neighborhood.  The warming temperatures and the rain doing their job to expedite the melt.

Praise Cheeses.

I walk to the Max in the drizzle and worry that my transit app is telling me to expect continued delays as there was an equipment failure on the Steel Bridge.  As the train’s 4:04 arrival time comes and goes, I decide to walk it.  This time, instead of going through the Waterfront Park, I just walk up the traffic ramp to the upper deck of the bridge.  I’m passing about 15 City of Portland trucks on my way up and thinking that this must be a fairly large repair.  A suspicion that is confirmed when I get to the lift section of the bridge and am turned around and told that there is no car, train or pedestrian traffic allowed until the repair is complete.

Ok, I know I’ve put on a little weight, but I don’t think it’s fair to lump me into the same weight class as a car or train.

I turn around and stomp down the bridge, thinking I’ll just head into the park and take the lower deck.

Closed.

Balls!

It’s getting onto 4:30 now and I’m frustrated that I won’t be at the airport before our 5:00 latest possible opening time, just in case anyone in the far reaches of the metro area didn’t luck out with the rainfall like I did.  I check Uber and am told that the closest car is 15 minutes away.  Plus, you guessed it…Surge Pricing.

I walk back to the Old Town TC and consider other bridges I can walk across to get to the Moda Center TC and catch a train from there.  The Broadway and Burnside Bridges are my most likely candidates, but they both would take in excess of 30 minutes to get to, traverse and then get back to the Moda Center.  I check Uber again…a car pops up 6 minutes from me.

Mine!

Surge Pricing puts the estimated fare at $46, but it’s totally worth it to ensure the stores all open without incident.

I get to the airport at 5:10, my Uber driver is awesome.  We chat all the way in and I’m sad to get out of her car, but duty calls.  My reward for the expense of a $46 ride into work is a good three hours of productivity before my RD rolls in from his hotel, he treats us to Blue Star Donuts for breakfast and I think everyone on the early team made it into work.

The best part?

It looks like it’s over…at least for now!

Portland’s Siberian Winter

My People

This morning while grabbing my coffee, I was reminded of a time in my life where I had “people”.  That is how I used to categorize folks who were my friends because of a bond that formed through a business relationship.

My Hair Guy.

My Barista.  Back in the dark ages of coffee when I drank SBUX.

My Nordie’s Guy.

My Doula.

My Trainer Guy.

My Bartender.

My Car Guy.  For buying.

My Car Guy.  The grease monkey one.

Obviously, it was hard for me to find common ground for a friendship with my grease monkey guy.  But, me being so awesomely me…I managed.  My Car Guy was a mechanic who worked across the street from the first gay bar I ever went into, The Silver Fox in beautiful downtown Long Beach California. silver-fox

OK, not downtown.

Man, while you’re picking your jaws up off the floor over the irony that my best friend’s blog name is also the name of the first gay bar that I went into, I’ll amuse myself with now much the exterior of this joint has changed.  It’s deco palace exterior is quite different from the vanilla So-Cal stucco basic-ness from when I was a boy.  And those windows?  They used to run across the front on both sides versus the little peek-a-boo business that’s going on now.  It’s a good thing, because even at…21 – yeah, that’s it – your dear Xtopher had a dark side, and walking in past those windows I remember thinking that they were ideal for a drive by hate crime.  It was Long Beach in the early 90s.

Yeah, I never sat by the windows.

So, anyway, I bonded with My Car Guy over comments of his like, “Why don’t you have a drink across the street instead of hanging out here for an hour?”

That hour was always better spent in the care of the lascivious Mr. John Barnes and his free pours.

Ok.  Had enough time to recover?

So, I caught myself leaving Nossa Familia this morning after a prolonged chat with one of their awesome baristas, thinking, “Man, my coffee people are the best” and remembered my old habit of referring to service industry folk as my own belongings.  Why?  She told me this great story.

I hadn’t seen her in particular there for quite some time.  Since going back to work full-time, I’ve only managed to get into the shop twice a week, at best.  I go to work at 5:00 and they don’t open until…later.  I’m actually not sure what time they actually open.  I do know that they’re just a bunch of layabouts since they aren’t at work when I need them.

Obviously.

nossa-exteriorNossa Familia is more of a roastery than a coffee shop.  Their Pearl – and I think only?  ok, only one that I care about – location is where they roast and package their beans for retail distribution.  They also have this cute little walk up coffee counter.  It’s located behind the flimsiest of doors, that happens to be a wall panel with a single door cut into it.  That panel is covering a roll up garage door and hangs on a track and can be slid to the side during the summer months.  The whole space is about 144 square feet.  Annoyingly, they also have coffee classes on Saturdays, which is the only day that I know I can always make it there.  Sometimes I am – and by “sometimes” I mean every damned Saturday, regardless of what time I go – lucky enough to be walking in to order my coffee to a room of home brewers waiting to be taken back into the roasting room for their class.

“People take up a lot of space” ~ Hitler

nossa-doorwayLike I said, this morning I got to see my favorite of their crew.  A cute little blonde woman whose sass reminds me of one of my old assistant managers.  She was also a shorty.  And, as it turns out, they both have girlfriends.  I learned that about My Barista just this morning during her story.

And all I did was ask how she survived our recent Snowpocalypse.

Ready?  Here goes…

The Snowpocalypse coincided with her day off, starting the day before her scheduled day off and extending it to a full “weekend” due to its overnight shenanigans pretty much shutting down the town on Friday.  She casually mentions that her and her girlfriend had gone to see Magical Beasts Thursday before the snow and freezing rain began – at which point she ignored the question her new co-worker (I had never seen her before) asked about how the movie was – when they came out and saw that the snow had finally decided to make a showing, they went and got a bunch of comfort food fixings and went home to wait it out.

Pretty basic couple stuff.

I was pretty jealous.

Especially after the evening of IMing and drinking I had had the night before with an old friend of mine.  It resulted in my waking up wondering if I should hold him to the commitment we had to get together when we weren’t drinking.

It also resulted in a tasty new screen saver for my phone.  <wink>

But this is hardly the time for a sidebar.

She talks about how frustrating it is to drive in the snow and ice anyway and how her car’s door lock had gotten frozen over the last time we had ice and she broke it trying to stab through that ice with her key.  I interjected that she was super-polite to make it easier for people to break into – very Portland – and reminded her that if people wanted to break in, they were going to get in.  A broken lock just minimizes the damage.

She goes on to tell me “Wait, wait…it gets better!” and described being awoken by a car alarm in the middle of the night during the ice, her girlfriend sleepily asking, “Is that our car?”  Upon deciding that it was their car’s alarm, they open the windows to see a guy cautiously running off.  The weird part, she says, is that the dude only stole the most random stuff.  She’s cataloging the personal items of hers that were in the car and not stolen:

Her golf clubs.

Her trumpet.

How did I not know this woman was a lesbian, I’m thinking to myself.

Her parking change.

The guy just stole a bunch of papers.  The car was a little neater-looking, to hear her tell it.  Also very Portland, tidying-up thieves.

“Weird…” she says.

Punctuating the end of her story by turning her head slightly toward her now butt-hurt-looking new co-worker, but cutting her eyes all the way, and saying, “It was really good, you should go see it” in a perfect deadpan.

Told you she was sassy.

Me, I’m chuckling at the passive-aggressive smack down she gave her interrupting co-worker while mentally picturing her thief running off in a snow and ice storm with a set of golf clubs and a trumpet.

I’m hoping you all know that doula thing was a joke.

 

My People