Portland Tones It Down

I’m one of Portland’s biggest <ahem> fans. Whether it’s straight up civic pride or city v city smack talk, I got Portland’s back.

Because despite its lumps, and the wrong Vancouver adjacency, I think it’s still the best big town you can live in.

Unless you’re a bigot or member of a certain book club where no one’s managed to either read the book or grasp its core concept…you’re probably gonna love Portland.

And I’ve lived in a lot of cities in a lot of different states in my life. Just to establish credibility. It’s not like I’m one of those people that have never left the country that insist America is the best country in the world.

My big town is a city that is ever-evolving – and usually in positive ways. That’s not to say we don’t struggle. Every 15 years or so, we need a correction period to kind of reflect on what we’ve gained versus what we’ve lost and what needs to move forward or be resurrected. Find what works and polish it and identify what doesn’t and tone it down or get rid of it altogether.

Sadly, that’s kind of where we are now, what with those lumps I mentioned earlier and all getting a lot too real and too much national attention and…too little effective local attention.

In situations like that, I find it advantageous to find small things to be proud of or grateful for.

For which to be grateful? Yeah, that would’ve been better English. But gimme a break, English is my first language and I’m just an American…

Anyway, one of those little things for which I am grateful – nailed it! – is our weather.

Always. Rain or shine. June-uary be damned. Having all four seasons in one day keeps me on my toes!

But todays weather?

It’s our first heatwave of 2022, this weekend. This week we had our first 80-degree plus days of the year. See above: June-uary.

But where we can be counted on for our covert beautiful summers most years, last year’s summer kind of ran amok. You might remember us having the hottest temperatures on the planet last June?

119 degrees?

Anyone?

Well, it’s true if you knew it or not – and no Portlander was happy about it for any one of a very narrow set of options.

That was a year ago this very weekend, so having a high of 99 degrees over the course of the heatwave is toning things in the right direction. We should still be able to count the days we reach 90 in a year on one hand – and those should be a stretch to 90, not meteorologists apologizing that we might break 100 degrees.

Twenty degrees cooler year-over-year? Heatwave-over-heatwave? Yes, please.

And to have a city that learns from its past mistakes – not always, but always eventually – and changes things that don’t work so life is a little better the next time?

Grateful, I am.

In spite of last year’s cooling shelters, we learned from 59 fatalities during the heat dome last year – where only two of the deaths were unhoused people – that we need to not assume that someone inside is safe inside.

To that end, this year I was surprised to get a text during the heat wave warning me about the dangers and directing me to resources.

I was pretty ok with this, particularly with the effectiveness we seem to have gotten Obama Phones into the hands of our unhoused populace so that they have access to information. Imagine my surprise to get a follow-up voicemail less than ten minutes after.

We may not do everything right, but we aren’t likely to default to a “But that’s the way we’ve always done it” type of acceptance of things that break or just don’t work anymore. Nor are we likely to tolerate leaders who disappoint us. We vote. We will vote you out of office. Don’t forget, since we’re passive-aggressive, that’s really gonna sting…we will likely accidentally on purpose vote in someone who’s embarrassingly less qualified than the incumbent they replace and then let them do an awesome job.

Hey, I never promised that we tone everything down!

Portland Tones It Down

Crappy Pride, Y’all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok, that grossed me out. Me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crappy Pride, Y’all!

Nostalgia Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But you know what made it the winner?

Top Gun: Maverick.

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

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

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

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

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

It was the PNW weather, believe it or not.

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

No AC.

No air handling whatsoever.

Movie magic induced adrenaline.

Sweaty hunks playing volleyball.

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

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

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

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

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

Crowds. Who needs ‘em?

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

Nostalgia Zone

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’

Still Mad: An Update

In case you were wondering, Mother Nature is still pissed at us. Feel free to see what caused me to make that obvious statement originally before reading on – or not. All will be clear soon enough.

I woke the other morning – yes, I was up before noon! – to find these pics of my beloved Park Blocks/front yard from a local news anchor on my Twitter feed.

Another of our North Park Block’s hundred-plus year old trees had fallen overnight. As you can see, it more tipped over after its roots basically failed to hold it in the ground. I mean, we’ve had a lot of rain the past couple of weeks…but not that fucking much rain.

Minimal upside, I suppose, could be that the building it fell onto is slated for demolition to make way for a hotel that will take up the park-facing half of the city block that it sits on. As soon as the other building on that half of the block is removed from the Historic Register.

Yeah, that part is kinda fucked up.

I walked past the site this morning after checking Angela into the “spa” for her repairs. It doesn’t look better by light of day.

The clean up isn’t done, obviously, but I’m surprised the building wasn’t more damaged. I guess that’s a testament to the masonry workers of the…19th century?

I guess the actual bright side here is that no one was hurt. This being Portland, home to the third largest homeless population in the country – behind NYC and SF, if you can believe that…we should not be on a population based list with cities of their size – we have urban campers on virtually every block in the close-in downtown area. Not every side of every block, but you’d be hard pressed to find a block without tents on at least one side. Not to mention RVs parked along the city streets for weeks at a time before being forced to move to another street.

That being the case, I’m glad these poor souls living just to the left of where the tree landed on the building weren’t harmed in the incident. But you can be damn sure they had the living daylights scared out of them.

Mother Nature is mad. At us…and with good reason. But I see no reason that the least among us should pay the ultimate or any physical price for the damage the wealthiest and more conspicuously consuming among us create.

That poor tree, though. I’m so sad for the ongoing damage our Park Blocks are sustaining. Everyone go buy an electric car!

Still Mad: An Update

My Brush With Royalty

Rock royalty.

Portland rock royalty.

There I was last night, driving around and minding my own business in Milwaukie, a close-in Portland suburb. Mostly, this manifested as trying to figure out whether I should shut my app off so I can stop incoming rides briefly to set it to “home” mode. It was around 5 PM on a rainy Friday afternoon, so the ride bonuses in Portland were crazy.

For instance, I made almost $50 on my first three rides in the first hour on the road. You can see how those ride bonuses dropped on that last pick up outside the city core.

Yes, get me back to town, please.

Plus, that $2.50 bonus was a round trip ride to the liquor store for a guy who met me at the end of his driveway – which I love – only to mime “Do you have an extra mask?” from where he stood as I pulled up. Then, once he’s gotten one, climbs in grumbling about how “It’s not like these do anything, anyway” before careening into “The old man was killing him”, referring to Biden – neither of which I love right out of the gate in a ride. I managed to steer him into a conversational area he was better qualified to have an opinion on: sports.

Stupid American.

I’m sure that explains why I was debating getting back toward the city. That’s when this ride came in.

Now, Zia is not a common name. I’ve known one in my entire life, a former employee here in town. I pulled the picture up to see if it was her, and, well…wrong race.

However, I thought this rider skewed age and race wise toward being the only other Zia I could think of, who I certainly didn’t know, but whose early musical career I was well aware of, the Dandy Warhols.

The Dandys are a local band with one song most people will know – Bohemian Like You – and who I’ve been lucky enough to come across a couple times back when I stumbled into music venues around town in the 90s. Zia stood out among the band because she usually could be counted on to pull her shirt up at some point during a show.

That leaves an impression, even on a late-20s gay boy.

I mentally start discarding conversational riffs based off that song – “I’ve got a great car”, “Do you like vegan food”, “Did I see some guy sleeping on the couch? Is he always there? Why’s he looking kind of ‘meh’?”

Stupid stuff. – that I’d never actually say!

More likely, I’d try to get a heads up on her current band’s upcoming gigs. She’s got several projects going on these days and one of them – Brush Prairies, I think – has been doing shows at small venues, like the Dandys used to.

Also, I could pin her down on which member owned a wine bar here in my neighborhood and where it was actually located. Rumor vaguely has it that it’s over on/around Pettygrove & 14th but the place over there I’ve seen isn’t that impressive. But it’s open hours certainly suggest it operates on a rock and roll vibe, aka: it’s open or not on a whim. More specific rumor has it that it’s a place called Le Happy.

Cute, right? It’s at Lovejoy & 16th, so about half as much closer than the other place, but…

Permanently closed?!?

Even if this wasn’t that bar, it’s sad. Such a cute lil joint. I hope the building doesn’t get torn down in Portland’s growth/building boom.

Anyway, in real time, I was pulling up her name on Google to get a current pic.

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit!

It was her!

OMGOMGOMG.

Be cool.

I pull into this driveway that’s on the backstreet of a side street behind a school in Milwaukie. The remoteness says “privacy” while the overgrown disrepair of a once well-tended yard says “recluse”.

“Damn, Zia, I know having four band projects going has to be a lot…but get it together!”

Then a college-aged kid walks out.

“Well, that’s not Zia…”

He’s got a cute mix of nerd and emo looks going, so I also tell myself to keep my eyes on the road. 🤦🏽

We’ve got a long ride ahead of us into Portland – thank you, Lyft app! – so I start off with some small talk about what’s up.

Turns out, he took a bus into town to hang out with his friend – a female friend, not a girlfriend 😈 – but he went to the wrong house. I comment that this girl has the right kind of problems…too many houses, and he clarifies that he went to her dad’s house (ok, so it’s a “depression vibe” in the yard, not “recluse”, got it) instead of her mom’s so mom was getting him a ride to the right place.

Cool mom.

AND IT WAS ZIA MCCABE!!!

Anyway, that was as close as my brush with rock royalty came. Well, that and maybe she was shuffling things around on the porch when I pulled up. And that I low-key know where she lives, but I’m not creepy, so that knowledge is just a little “I know stuff other people don’t” thrill.

But I still need to catch a random show of hers one of these days. Oh, and she’s a realtor, too, so that’s bad news for my realtor neighbor who lives in the building I want to eventually buy in…because I am Le Happy to be that kind of creepy.

Hey, it’s not like she wouldn’t get something out of that transaction, and The Gays are nothing if not transactional.

My Brush With Royalty

Chicken Little Called…

I feel like the sky is falling.

Literally.

Which, of course, means figuratively as well as literally in the English language these days, but actually perfectly describes how I’m feeling.

Figuratively

With the chasm between common sense and willful ignorance widening daily, it seems like America – if not all of humanity – is doomed.

People are eagerly and proudly choosing to embrace behaviors and ideologies that are not simply personally risky to them (mask and vaccine deniers) but also threaten the future of living on our planet for very near, if not already present generations.

I truly cannot understand those people. Say it with me, “Stupid Americans”.

Literally

Two things here. The first is that the smoke from our fires in central and southern Oregon has finally rolled back in to Portland. The rest of the country has been getting our smoke – as far away as Minnesota from what people have shared with me personally, but I’ve heard NYC has even seen some.

It’s nowhere near the literal worst air quality on the planet we had last year, but it’s still a climate crisis in progress. But when you can see literal ash debris on your car after it’s been parked on the street a few hours, I’d say that qualifies as “falling skies”, no?

The second is even more heartbreaking to me as a native Portlander. I love our greenery here. Both the actual forests and our urban green spaces. I live on a street named Park that borders five city blocks of park space called the North Park Blocks. Many of the trees on these blocks are as old as our state, if not older in some cases. And they are called “North” because they are in the northwest quadrant of town and there is an even longer string of blocks on the same street running through the southwest quadrant of town. I’ll let you figure out what we call those blocks on your own.

Go ahead, now…intuit.

Anyway, over the summer, I know of four instances in my string of blocks where trees have just dropped branches.

Massive branches.

…and some not too massive. The above pic is not as big around as a small car, but it was a good 25 feet length of branch. There was one that fell right in front of me early in the summer late one night as I turned onto Park after driving all night. It blocked a two lane road from the base of its trunk to almost the opposite curb.

There’s no wind storm happening. And I expect branches to fall during our increasingly common winter ice events.

But in still skies?!?

My thought on this is that the trees are just so dry from our lack of rain – and it’s a drought condition that has been going on since our February snow storm. April ‘21 was the driest on record by one-third with only a half inch of rain for the month – that these trees have become too dry and brittle to even resist gravity.

How sad. Tragic.

But, Portland being weird and still trying to be green, puts a decidedly Portland spin on the situation by creating…a seating nook!

Here’s the branch that fell, about one-third of the tree’s canopy.

And here’s what Portland does…makes it cozy. Not that I know these will be left here long term. Although I wouldn’t blame Portland Parks & Rec if they did decide to leave them. Branches like this become breeding grounds for all sorts of other flora, so it would essentially be a public science exhibit.

But on a less pithy and optimistic note, check out the tree that had to be completely removed after losing part of itself to nothing more than the pull of gravity.

It was taller than the historic five story brick building across from it. Probably older, too.

Now it’s nothing more than a stump that’s basically the size of a BMW.

So sad.

Of course, maybe I have this all wrong. Just because I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime doesn’t mean it isn’t perfectly natural. Maybe trees randomly fall apart every 50 years or so.

Or…maybe it’s due to climate change.

Ooooor…maybe there’s a giant cat roaming around town at night that no one has seen yet. I certainly have something similar – albeit on a much smaller scale – happening in my home.

Mistress Myrtle is not taking questions.

Chicken Little Called…

At Least We Tried?

The poor restaurant industry in Portland.

They just can’t catch a break.

After going into Lockdown 2.0 in mid-November, Multnomah county was announced as meeting re-opening thresholds for COVID infections last week. Specifically, falling below 200 cases per 100,000 residents. The re-opening date was set for Friday, February 12th.

Mother Nature decided to bloop a lil dose of PDX weather on us, though:

Being a native Portlander, though, I view a potential winter weather event as an either/or proposition. It’s either something that happens or completely fails to materialize. Unless, that is, the forecast is off by just enough that we’ve already eaten our way through our kale hoard and then it’s

So by the time the 10-day forecast had gone from an unheard of six days of snow to only four, I’d written it off. I felt that cavalier position was merited when the predicted Thursday noon start for snowfall had passed and that we were heading for a big buncha nothin’.

Of course, my more reasonable friends told me, “Oh, no…they bumped it back to 4:00″.

So, four o’clock comes and goes. Nothing.

Then, just before nightfall, I see one lil lonely flake drift down into my balcony courtyard-slash-well and I think, “There you go. Snowpocalypse ’21!”

The next day:

Bloopsie-daisies.

That was about 4″ at 2:00 after I trudged over to the Safeway to get Myrtle some wet cat food, y’know, since I’d decided it was going to be a non-event and didn’t stock up.

Then I went inside and did what you do on a snow day – or what college kids do every day – got baked and took a four hour weed nap.

Of course, I woke to not only a text from my mom asking if I was “bored yet”, but after I didn’t respond for a couple hours, she set dad off on a text mission. I woke up around 8, I think, to a “Hello?” text from him and had to mea culpa for being such a lightweight stoner.

Last night, when I stepped out onto the balcony to assess the “disaster”, though, I could feel freezing rain hitting my skin. If you’ve never had the pleasure of feeling freezing rain, boy howdy…it burns.

I stood there getting pelted by icy, burning rain and pondered the irony of the situation: Portland is finally allowed to re-open indoor dining at 25% capacity and then the city basically shuts down because of snow and ice.

Following last night, I woke up to this new forecast:

Great…more pain for the service industry. A whole day of freezing rain.

Unless it’s not.

Of course, as I’m writing this, a buddy of mine texts to tell me the Last Restaurant Standing in the neighborhood is open.

It looks like they are at capacity, too…given the guidelines. But I’m still feeling guilty that I haven’t showered, so can’t really bop over there to give a lil support. Even if it meant sitting outside in a tent.

Hell, I’ve got five and a half hours to drink think about it…so maybe I’ll rally and then grab a pint and a snack before closing time.

At Least We Tried?

Here’s The Poop

Hell, yes, this is gonna be a colonoscopy tale.

Command performance, no less!

For all of you tl,dr readers, here’s the punchline:

The evening you’re taking human grade drano to clean out your insides for your colonoscopy is not the time to watch Challenger: The Final Flight on Netflix.

Just hear me now and believe me later on that one, m’kay?

I mean, seriously – and you’ve got to believe that this was only a coincidence, this being the anniversary week of the disaster – a documentary about rocket boosters and failing O-rings?

Tell me that wasn’t accidentally brilliant foreshadowing.

Ok, now, for all you long form readers:

The Date

When the GI doctor calls, you answer the phone, ok? Just…pick up your phone and schedule the appointment.

My doctor is so cute, how he implores me to at least put on a veneer of self-care.

My response? “How long did you chase me around to take this damn shit – “

“Fit. It’s called a Fit test.”

Shit test?”

No response.

“Three years. At least. You think I’m just gonna let this GI guy off easy without making him work a little bit?”

“Just answer your phone and then this will all be behind you.”

“Pun intended. Look, this is all Chadwick Boseman’s fault. I only took the test because he up and died”

Sidebar: “up’n died” is southern speak for a sudden death. I picked it up when I lived down around the Gulf. Probably my one takeaway.

“Anyway, we both knew that I’d fail the damn thing after complaining about my come and go, passive-aggressive hemorrhoids for the last five years!”

“Just – “

“I know. Pick up the phone. Sheesh.”

So they called. Which I considered rude.

And I scheduled the damn appointment…probably nine weeks out, no less. But their earliest appointment afforded me an opportunity to indulge a dark behavior that I’ve kind of let slip away over the past couple of decades: scheduling consequential doctors appointments around my birthday. The earliest appointment available was on January 26th, my birthday is on the 21st, so this was close enough to be darkly satisfying.

The Foreplay

Now, I’ll admit that I scheduled the damn colonoscopy with near certainty that it wouldn’t actually transpire. I’m not saying I was intending to put any effort into making it not happen. It’s just…this is my life we’re talking about here, weird shit just happens.

Maybe my GI guy would get hit by a meteor. My life being borderline ridiculous, whatever might cause my appointment to not happen would likely be something even more Wile E Coyote worthy than that.

I certainly did not think it would be anything as mundane as me potentially losing my insurance. I did nothing to renew my existing coverage during open enrollment because…I was on the cusp of getting a PT job with Multnomah county that would start in December, with benefits kicking in on January 1.

Who’s life is it?

Right.

So…what happened with the job? Fuck if I know. Let’s call it festively colored tape. Mom would have been so proud, too. Alas…

A little more on point for my appointment being canceled: Snowpocalypse ’21! Native Portlanders shrug when snow is forecast for the valley floor. This is a stark contrast for the enthusiastic loosing of Portland’s collective shit – not to be confused with what I was about to experience: the losing of one’s shit – when snow is predicted in the mountains. Those local ski bums go nuts for those forecasts.

However, Portland sitting on the valley floor between the Coast and Cascade mountain ranges protects us from a lot of weather. The ranges frequently keep us insulated from the severe stuff on either side. Additionally, our famed rain comes from clouds that cover the valley like a blanket, keeping our temperatures too high to really foster a good snowfall.

Yet, here we were, a couple weeks out from my appointment and my weather app was showing four days featuring a ❄️ next to them. That still gave us several days before my appointment for things to clear up, but Google “Portland Snowpocalypse” and see what you get.

Never mind – the fun begins around 45 seconds in.

Nonetheless, Portland weather being the exercise in insanity that it is…those four ❄️ became two and then one and then two again over the next seven days.

And then…it just rained.

Cut to the weekend before my appointment and the whispers were starting again. I could barely hear them over the sound of my eyes rolling and supermarkets being ransacked for kombucha and kale.

I had other problems of my own making to worry about.

In addition to having a macabre sense of scheduling for impactful doctors appointments, I’m also loathe to be dependent upon others. Especially when it comes to driving. Having not driven for close to 15 years, I learned to mostly make do on my own two feet. Usually, when I couldn’t, I felt like a bother or a burden. These jokers telling me I couldn’t drive after my <ahem> procedure just kind of pissed me off.

Never a good ingredient to add to the mix of “I really don’t want to do that anyway” that I was already feeling here.

I wasn’t going to ask my parents because, ew. Also, they already do so much for me, their most pathetic favorite child.

This would have to fall to someone who was 1) in debt to me for performing a similar friendship task; and B) a close friend…no way was this falling to an acquaintance who’d not cleared the friendship bar.

Obviously, they had to be local, too. That made this a fairly small candidate pool. Plus, still ew. I’m not the type of person who is comfortable being helped. Particularly in such a helpless state that I’m unable to operate a vehicle.

I’d already predisqualified the Silver Fox, since he’d been isolating with his ex about 90 minutes out of town since last March. It was hard to do, too, since the colonoscopy transport tally was 2-0 in my favor.

The only other friend I’d consider a candidate was Diezel, who I’d taken to his LASIK last…spring? Maybe summer? I don’t even know. I just know that I had a credit in the ride bank. Mind you, this is a friend that had helped me move five years ago, truck and all. He also just replaced my rear brake pads for me, so asking him to give me a ride felt like extra ice cream on my neediness cake.

It was for that reason – those reasons? – that I’d said “Of course!” immediately when he’d asked me during my brake pad installation for a ride back to his LASIK doc to have one eye tuned up.

Just let me know when and I’m in…

I’m not taking bets that you know what happened.

What are even the freaking odds that his appointment would be within 90 minutes of my own on the 26th?!?

When I joke about my life…it’s really just my way of coping with the horror-slash-irony of my reality.

So I had to cave and ask the Fox.

But I waited. The bitter end has nothing on my proChristination. My pre-tooter-rootering call was two weeks before my appointment. Because of my insurance debacle – which turned out pretty well…I was automatically renewed in my current plan versus canceled when I did nothing during open enrollment – that call took place 10 days out instead of 14.

During the call, they asked about my ride home and I told them I didn’t have one.

“That’s ok, you can take a Lift. They have a medical transport you can use.”

News to me, being a Lyft driver.

You see the problem here?

Fucking homonyms.

So the Silver Fox got his shoulder tap maybe five days out. And, not that he would, but how could he say no two days before my birthday?!? Haha. I wasn’t remotely worried about that, simply neurotic over being a bother to him. He insisted that he’d come up that morning and then drive back down that evening, but that it was no bother.

Crazy bastard.

But I was ready to go. Finally.

The “Let’s Do It”

I’m not gonna lie. To this point in my life, I’ve never spent a night in the hospital and I’ve never had stronger sedation than novocaine. Naturally, my neurotic self had built up a mythology that had me believing that the cumulative shock of experiencing either would simply kill me.

Because: obviously.

Since I was assured that the anesthesia I’d get was nowhere near the level of a general sedation during my intake call, clearly I’d check in for my procedure and then immediately be hospitalized and surgery-ized by whatever terrors they discovered up in my dusty, old man claptrap during my scope.

I couldn’t imagine any other possible outcome.

Yet, there I was…sipping my preptail at 6 pm the night before my procedure. Watching Challenger: The Final Flight with zero irony.

I made quite the last hurrah of what I’d imagined to be my final meal – ever: Cajun Mac from my current favorite food cart, Montage a la Cart, and finishing up my birthday cheesecake.

Then I’d had a weedtini around 11 PM on Sunday night, resulting in my waking up at noon on Monday. I highly recommend being unconscious for as much of any day that requires you to fast or be on a clear liquid diet from the time you wake up.

By the time I sat down with my preptail at 6 PM, I had only been up for ~6 hours, yet I hadn’t eaten for 20 hours. Very tolerable.

Each episode of the Challenger documentary is about 45 minutes long, give or take a few either way.

The first episode took me 90 minutes to get through. About 30 minutes in, I was blasting off my couch to the can – still absolutely without irony. I’d had the wear with all –

Or is it wherewithal? I need to look up the ideology of that word. To me, it connotes a certain sense of smarts…something you would “wear” with anything. Why the “where” version is seemingly correct according to spellcheck is…completely off topic.

– to put on my jam pants and leave the bathroom door open so I wouldn’t have to mess around with belt buckles or doorknobs in what I had been forewarned would be a crisis. Still, my journey from blasting off the couch to a panicked, if not literal, splashdown on my toilet seat was bridged by what I imagined was some sort of manic looking forward moonwalk.

Apropos of the documentary I was watching; inconvenient, though, given that mental image made me chuckle along the way. Chuckling while trying to hold your guts in is not advised.

Within 90 minutes of finishing my preptail – which was nowhere near as horrific tasting as I’d been led to believe…barely more distasteful than cough syrup – my *output* was clear. Quite a feat, given my last supper. I also considered it to be a harbinger of good things ahead…like a fool.

The next morning, I woke to jokey texts from Diezel about my upcoming violation. For my part, feeling cocky about my clear stream that obstructions hadn’t predicted until after the second dose, I offered him my remaining prep solution to use…as he would. We enjoyed the humor that colonoscopy prep for his proclivities and peccadillos brought to mind, both knowing no one in Portland is *worth* that level of prep.

But like a good soldier, I took my second dose. I immediately started worrying – having absolutely no experience with what men who bottom during sex do these days for prep, outside of being the beneficiary of such preparations – that I would either not be completely clear for my scope or that I wouldn’t evacuate all of the liquid from my system prior to my appointment.

I am a neurotic mess, I tell ya. I think it’s my subconscious fucking with conscious Xtopher, but still…in my imagination I was envisioning laying there unconscious and the doctor experiencing something like the Log Ride at Disneyland as he went about his doings.

Erase that mental picture.

Of course, it snowed while I was sleeping. But only a slush. The GI guy had called while I was texting with Diezel and I’d answered with, “You are not closing your office!”

He wasn’t.

But someone had cancelled and he wanted to see if I wanted to get violated an hour earlier. Since The Fox was driving up, I passed. For his part upon hearing that option, the Silver Fox had encouraged me to take it. Because of course he’d be on Fox Time, despite driving 90 minutes to get me.

As it was, I ordered my take and bake pizza – and a salad! – to pick up on the way home and then just waited for the time to come nigh. I decided on take and bake since I would be enjoying my post-procedure meal alone, with The Fox slated to return to Monmouth after dumping my woozy ass off at home.

I tried to make “operating the oven” my biggest concern for the next couple of hours.

Sadly, my niggling fear of results and – oh, look…SNOW! – had me distracted.

I was watching pics/stories on Instagram of Portland getting some snow. Thankfully, my view was clear. On the other hand, the doctor’s office was on top of a hill with an elevation of all of 500 feet above sea level. Whenever there’s a chance of snow on the valley floor, this is basically the only part of town affected. Well, this elevation.

Once The Fox picked me up – 45 minutes before my appointment, and this is about a seven minute drive without traffic – I started to have some concerns.

Actually, that’s not a fair statement. Because I’m a petty bastard, if the Silver Fox insisted on picking me up 45 minutes early, I was gonna make him run an errand with me on the way. Just a few blocks out of the way to our bank so I could take some money out of one account and deposit it into another. It was two transactions at the ATM. We were back on track by 1:55 and my check in time was 2:30.

As soon as we got onto highway 26, heading up the 500 foot high hill, we started seeing what might be flakes. Halfway up, we were sure they were flakes. By the time we hit the top of the hill, it was as close to white out conditions as you’re gonna get in Portland.

It was 2:06.

You know my motto: What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, the Universe has an answer for that: Just you fucking wait.

Intrepid is hardly the word one would use to describe me. Still, after killing some time in the car, I began my reluctant trudge into the office at 2:24.

My intake paperwork was done by 2:40 and by 2:55 I was laying on a gurney with an open in the back gown, an IV line in my arm (another first) and a nice toasty blanket.

I was actually dozing on the gurney.

Around 3:20, the anesthetist wheeled me into the “suite”, as they called it. I noted that there were no adjoining rooms, so it wasn’t much of a suite and could I get a discount?

She laughed at my nervous banter and we chatted until the doctor made it to the suite.

He asked how my prep had gone and I told him how relatively easy it had been. I also told him my hemorrhoids had decided to just remind me of their presence the morning before, just so he wasn’t surprised.

If you’ve got a melon baller handy, feel free to scoop those mothers out, ok?

More chuckles…

The Afterglow

…then I woke up in the recovery area.

It was 5:00 PM.

Who slept like a champ?

I was mostly surprised about that since the anesthetist had told me that I’d wake up pretty much immediately once she stopped pushing the drugs into my IV. Either it took a long time or my being anesthesia naive affected me more than she’d anticipated.

That last point makes its own argument.

Here’s my argument for the former point:

Thirteen polyps.

Because, of course my colon would have 13 lucky fucking polyps. Adding to that that two were 12 and 20 millimeters in size – 3 to 5 times the size of the other 11 polyps and…well, there was some work to be done up in the old fart cannon. For what it’s worth, my thumb is 20 mm wide. That is certainly no baseball or grapefruit sized shenanigans but still seems pretty big.

But on the plus side, what I’d pretty much self-diagnosed as hemorrhoids, with my doctor’s non-visual buy in, had apparently been polyps. So…those are gone, now. And, unlike Challenger, my O-ring is now pristine.

Huzzah.

Now, maybe it’s that I slept until 5:00, but I swear, aside from a few wobbles in the recovery room and on my way out to the waiting room where I would be transferred to the Silver Fox’s custody, I didn’t feel a lot of aftereffects of the anesthesia. The Fox may have other examples of how I’m wrong, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Almost like the snow was sticking to the ground that afternoon.

How’s that for a transition?

The Fox decided – to my relief – to stay until morning versus driving back to Monmouth in the snow. Based on pics his ex wife had sent, it looked heavier down in her rural area.

However, a take and bake was fine for my post-procedure meal, but it simply would not do for a thank you dinner for The Fox. We stopped and picked it up – him declining when I asked if he was going in to get it, further proof of my functionality! I toddled in and then back to the car. Climbing back in, we decided on fried chicken from a local fancy schmancy restaurant that was still open for takeout. As the Silver Fox made his way, I ordered our meals through their website…again, coming out of anesthesia like a champ!

We picked up our chicken, made it back to my place, opened some wine and put in a movie. We both made it through the meh-movie (Outside the Wire on Netflix) but neither of us made it more than halfway through our meals. You gotta love coming off of what turned out to be a 48 hour fast with fried chicken leftovers and an entire pizza in your fridge.

Oh, and a salad. 😒

It took me a full 24 and then some hours to have my triumphant return to the poopatorium. A weird sensation, feeling your guts fill up. But, no issues – which was a pleasant surprise given what I was told about the effort required to get that 20 millimeter sized guy out of me.

Because – I suppose – of the size and effort of removing that fat bastard from me, the GI guy said he wanted to do a follow up in three months.

Hoorah.

Although, the paperwork he sent home with me said six months, so maybe it’s more a matter of he doesn’t know exactly when his kid’s tuition is due.

That’s what I’m going with. Unless, of course, pathology comes back with something I don’t want to hear.

Here’s The Poop

Don’t Call It A Recap…

Especially when recrap would be a much better way to sum up 2020.

And since it’s 2020 we’re talking about, I’m just going to talk about the last two months – really, the last month, outside of an early November mention. The whole year would run 20000 words, I’m sure.

Truth be told, I’m just going to bitch about a few things that broke down and then express a little post-holiday gratitude. This shouldn’t take long,

All in all, I’d summarize 2020 as a year in which if it didn’t break, it probably died.

Here’s a few things that gave it up in the last weeks of the year:

My laptop. As I geared up for NaNoWriMo in early November, my laptop started shitting its pants whenever it stepped off a high curb. I’d planned a non-fiction piece about job searching in my fifties. Fortunately, after a few hours of online tutorials, I was able to coax my laptop back to the land of the continent. That NaNo project, though…never did quite manage the download from brain to laptop. The Silver Fox stood by helpfully – virtually – while also acing his best friend duties by offering up the MacBooks he saw at Costco as a potential solution. I thought about it, even looked at one online in my most frustrated moment, but just couldn’t pull the trigger. The Costco offering was ~$800 and an Air model. In hindsight, that would have layered in what turned out to be unnecessary excuses for not tapping out a NaNo entry this year since the Air just doesn’t have the memory for writing like the Pro does.

New Pros run $1500-2400 and a used one is gettable for around $400. That’s what I did last time I replaced my laptop. I ended up with a refurbished model that was a year newer than my old one, so on balance I’m netting up two years of use…and counting.

After that brush with disaster, it looked like smooth sailing.

This being my life, that didn’t last long. The second and third weeks of December made week one of November look like a snowball next to their avalanche of misery.

Let’s see…

This is probably a clunky segue after my snow analogy, but it started to rain in the second week of December. Hardly a surprise in the PNDub, but I mean it rained. Like, people were walking around with expressions that said, “All that pandemic home improvement we did and we didn’t think to add pontoons?!?”

That type of rain.

I didn’t really notice it outside hearing things like “two inches in the last 36 hours” on the radio.

Until…I came home from running errands one day, took off my shoes, kicked up my feet to watch some Seinfeld for a couple hours and then – when I put my shoes and socks back on so I could go drive, my socks were wet. Flipping over my shoes, I was greeted with the thought, “How long ago did I get these?!?”

Walked the hell out of them, I did.

Off to NikeTown I went.

I was shocked by a couple of things:

First, my new shoes were only $130. I say “only” because that is about what I remember paying for my last few pairs – further reinforcing my suspicion that I haven’t had these last shoes that long. In reality, I recollect it being about 2 1/2 years, so they had more of a life than old Phil and his shareholders would like.

Second, the kid who helped me with my purchase was both unnecessarily tall and flirty. I’m not mad about that last part.

Next, as I rushed to get to the Festivus episode of Seinfeld before Christmas, my TV crapped out on me. It just started shutting off after an hour or two of play. I’d reboot it and it would come back…for a couple days. Then it just stopped powering on altogether. Haven’t been able to revive it yet using the same Internet U continuing education resources I did with my laptop. I might need to actually get someone on the horn to figure it out.

Then again, the other U – as in Universe – might be trying to tell me it’s all for naught. Last night, my final ride was a pick up at Video Only, a local electronics chainlet. While I waited in front for my passenger to emerge, I had prime seating for the TVs playing right inside the door.

Also, now I know that my car will hold a 65″ TV.

But in a fit of mixed messages, the guy wasn’t a tipper, which I’d interpret as the Universe steering me away from a new TV after putting me in front of Video Only’s temptations. And this is a rather significant sign since on top of having to figure out the logistics of getting a large object into a small space (merry Christmas, Diezel) this ride was from the far north end of town – literally, the Oregon border – to the far southeast quadrant of town…over 30 minutes, thanks to an accident on the crosstown. Yeah, by all means, feel free to drag your huge TV away from that scenario with no feeling of gratitude.

Let’s see…laptop, TV, sneakers…what else?

Oh!

Angela. This would be Pat the Patriot’s replacement from last February, who I don’t write about often because she doesn’t spend an average of a week in the shop each month like Pat did. Still, the other day – Christmas Eve – I got in the car to drive a bit and my low tire pressure alarm went off. Looking at the vehicle status screen on the onboard, I saw that the back passenger tire was the issue, but it was only a half PSI off of the next closest pressure level. I chalked that up to the morning being rather colder than the more recent days and planned to monitor it as I drove and fill it when I parked later. Sure enough, as the tire warmed up, the pressure crept up but still needed an eventual top off.

Undaunted, after eight rides, the Universe tossed me another grenade.

I pulled to a stop at a freeway exit and while I waited for the light to change, Angela made a sound I’ve not heard before. Let me tell you, I love the onboard computer, but the alarms are not subtle.

Everything is DEFCON 4.

“Hey, dummy…get gas!” makes the same sound as “Low Tire Pressure”. That’s also the same sound as the warning for low outside temperature…which is triggered at an unalarming and balmy 37 degrees.

However, the sound Angela made at that off ramp made me debate running away from the vehicle. On top of that, I was treated to my dash display and my onboard console display both changing screens to tell me my brake pads needed replacing.

It was rather a stimulation overflow.

Hell, with all that fuss, I’d have thought the wheels had come completely off the vehicle.

Nonetheless, I managed to both proChristinate getting gas and filling the low tire, so when I got in my car later that day – to go searching for wrapping paper, which was harder to find on Christmas Eve than crapping paper was in March – I was treated to a deafening cacophony of alarms that lasted about two blocks.

Sweet Jesus, Germans…calm the hell down.

But, as of Christmas morning, the only alarm still regularly greeting me is the brake pads warning. It is, however, pulling double duty. I hear it when I start the car and again when I switch it off…so, someone is looking out for my C.R.S. Hoorah?

Not for nothing, I check my mail midweek, generally. Last night, for whatever reason, I checked it when I came home.

Yeah…pretty sure that’s a ticket. The city is pretty good about screaming the purpose of its mailings if you pay attention. Sometimes it’s as easy as seeing the bold type that screams “City Arts Tax Statement” and others, it’s just knowing that the mailing address is the County Health Clinic just down the way. Not that I’ve ever gotten a letter from them…

The vagueness of this letter – only a “Response Requested Within Thirty Days” to guide me – made me think “request” was meant to trick me into opening it. Like I’m getting invited to the Mayor’s re-election party or something. And I do remember driving one night and seeing three strobe like flashes out of the corner of my eye. I looked at my dash and saw I was doing low 40s in a 35 MPH zone, but wrote it off as paranoia since I was also on an old state highway versus at an intersection where one usually sees red light cameras.

Heck, I don’t even know if Portland uses photo radar for ticketing. I can’t wait to find out when I open this sometime next July.

Now, just to make sure that you’re not all looking longingly at your own balconies or googling “macrame nooses” – that might just be a Portland thing – remember, I did get a pair of new sneakers out of the ordeal.

Plus, then there’s the actual good things that happened in the last few months, no wait…weeks, no…wait hours of the year. Optimistically, I’m choosing to accept these as net positives despite the fact that the Universe tends toward Lucy behaviors to my Charlie Brown existence.

For instance, when I checked my mail last week, I got a Christmas card from Little Buddy.

I know it’s hokey and completely against my typical on-brand bitterness, but just look at that grandpa playing Santa with his grand baby! It just made me tear up again!

Also mail related: when I checked my mail last night, I found that the City of Seattle had gotten its shit together and sent me some unclaimed money.

Mind you, Portland had theirs resolved weeks ago. Like pre-Thanksgiving. But on the upside, I was expecting $100 and got a check for $123, so…I’m not complaining. Hopefully that maybe-ticket isn’t too much more than that. Actually, if the maybe-ticket turns out to be a not-ticket, that check can go right into my New TV Fund!

The actual bummer here is that I don’t want a New TV Fund. I’d been hoping to have January bills squared away last week so I could maybe splurge on a Peloton-like bike for home. My 2021 non-fiction project is going to be a bit of a redux to my Fitfy blog theme. I figure that will nicely close the loop on my aging series of non-fiction: dating, working and fitness.

Anyway, I digress. Now we’re up to Christmas Day!

I’m not kidding when I – again, against my Early Onset Grumpiness brand – say that seeing my sister and her family of three for the first time this year had me feeling things. My attendance at family Christmas was (secretly) predicated upon the size of the gathering.

Our Thanksgiving had been four – mom, dad, youngest bro and I – from three households. State guidance was no more than six – pass! – from two households – fail! Those guidelines held for Christmas, too.

That said, Christmas was set to be that same group along with the welcome addition of my sister’s family from central Oregon and the unwelcome addition of Black Sheep Bro and his two teenaged sons, whom none of us have ever met.

From Texas.

If the pandemic weren’t a thing, I’d still have “put my foot down” level issues with this occurrence.

After screwing up my courage – not in an alcohol related way – I took my shot with the parents. It’s not that I begrudge them their parental – and grandparental feelings – which I will never experience first hand, but my shot was that Christmas should be a repeat of Thanksgiving.

I know. This is why people sometimes call me the Voice of Treason.

But I figured not saying anything would be the real problem. And I didn’t want the Christmas follow up conversations to be:

People: What did you get for Christmas?

Me: Dead Family. You?

So, I said it.

What I offered was to do a same day drive over and back to drop off and pick up gifts for my sister’s family…on the additional condition that we all *not* miss BSB for another Christmas. As expected, the results were like my favorite joke* and resulted in BSB being cordially disinvited but my sister still coming over.

That suited me fine enough. Although I was chagrined-ish to run into my brother in law and nephew in the drive when I arrived, on their way out to walk the dog. After exchanging greetings and getting a brief update, my brother in law says to me, “Are you going to wear your mask in the house?” I’d completely put it on out of habit before getting out of the car.

At least I’m consistent.

Now, what you should know about my family is that we are terrible Americans. At least as far as Christmas goes. We have a small family. I’d say our “core” census is seven: mom, dad, sis, brother in law, nephew, brother, me. Even adding in what I’d call the extended family – my uncle’s family in Texas and my 98 year old hermit of a grandfather – only adds five to that.

Then there’s BSB trying to add in his brood of three to our numbers now that the wife he basically left the family for has left him. Allegedly for something that comes with a cork in it. I shared a bedroom with the guy growing up, though, and I’d say the wine was a cure and not the cause my BSB would have us believe.

But that’s another blog.

The reason we are bad Americans at Christmas is that we draw names for our gift exchange versus just buying everyone gifts from everyone. However, the upside is that between breakfast and dinner, we only have to open ~7 gifts instead of four or five dozen, so there’s very little disruption to our holiday feeding frenzy.

On top of that, we make lists. Whoever draws our names basically has a cheat sheet. My youngest brother, as I gather – having not seen his list, even put down websites. That guy came to Thanksgiving prepared!

Me? I came to Thanksgiving oblivious. When I learned the routine for this year, I was stuck completely in “What the fuck do I want?!?” mode.

I vamped my way through my list of 3-5 things before coming up with something useful:

1) Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice

2) Skateboard

Here’s the explanation of those requests. Really, though, I hoped I didn’t get those items because I’m old and hips are expensive.

3) This Tee

And then my brain kicked into gear.

4) An InstaPot.

There had been an InstaPot at last year’s Christmas, but it was a White Elephant style exchange and it got stolen by mom. But I loved the Brady Bunch Inspired gift I brought home…

I present to you the real reason 2020 has been such a shit show!

Now, this year’s rules mandated that the gifts be given anonymously – which I missed, so my brother in law knew I was his Santa – so when I opened my gift, I didn’t know who to check for smirkage.

Because it’s me, and I didn’t just happen, I was completely open to my Santa being someone who knew I’d never buy myself an InstaPot and that I was disappointed to not walk with one last Christmas. Heck, I’d gone rogue and bought my nephew a gift card to a sporting goods store and debated putting it in a box with some rocks to weigh it down, so I couldn’t reasonably expect my Santa to not have had the same notion.

But, not knowing who to scrutinize for tells, I was left with opening up the outer box for verification.

Blammo!

Apparently, not only can you find one for $100 – that’s another rule – you can find one that connects to goddamn wifi and can be controlled from your smartphone. What an amazing time to be alive!

I finally found out that my Santa was my sister. When I told her I was worried my list was either entirely gibberish or over the price limit, she gave me a humblebrag about her ability to “find a deal”. Whether that meant she’s a legit Coupon Queen or threw me a bone and bought the only thing on my list that wasn’t snarky, despite having to bend a rule is unclear. I am pretty sure she honestly found a deal. She is good like that.

Now, I just gotta decide what to make and then screw up my courage to do it!

All in all, it’s a year that makes me think “I should have moved into a unit on a higher floor” whenever I stand on my balcony. Luckily, the year is nearly behind us, so I don’t think I will be worrying whether a four story drop would qualify as a landing I could walk away from or not.

Now, for all of you who waited patiently for the *, here’s my favorite joke of all time:

What do you get when you cross the Atlantic with the Titanic?

Halfway.

Keep in mind, I heard this joke as a pre-teen on the friggin’ Muppet Show. That Fozzy Bear could bring a house down, I tell ya. But four decades later and I’m still carrying his torch!

Don’t Call It A Recap…