I Tried

If you hang around me long enough, you’ll hear me say – in a strictly non-pejorative way, I swear – “Either you’re part of the solution or you’re part of the problem”.

Or something like that.

After writing about the pending increase in Oregon’s Bottle Deposit last year, I knew that I was a part of the problem and committed to action. 

In my own charmingly procrastination prone style.

$.10 a can or bottle is a good chunk of change to literally throw away.  

Well, recycle.

Whatever.

Fine, it’s a good chunk of change to figuratively throw away.

What I ended up with was a utility room chock full of empty cans and bottles.  Heck, some were even non-alcoholic!  I was even bringing home the empty soda bottles from my lunches at work.  I was Xtopher in action.

Which, with the slightest amount of effort becomes:  Xtopher inaction.

A new problem.

Luckily, attempting to live on a budget and save money on my…quaint lil paycheck finally lit the fire needed to get me to recruit The Silver Fox as a driver and haul my recyclables to the Safeway.  

Call him conscripted.

I had fully intended to just walk to the Safeway every other week or so with a bag of empty cans and bottle jingling over my shoulder.  I try to go every Friday to stock up on lunch supplies for the coming week, anyway.

I couldn’t shake the mental image of me doing my best homeless person shamble there the streets of Portland’s swanky Pearl District.  My natural procrastination was well fed by this imagery.

Which is how I ended up in The Foxes SUV for a ten-ish block trip.  He dropped me off, parked and made the most of the inconvenience by going inside the store for some much needed oranges…

“When life gives you lemons, exchange them for oranges!” – The Fox.

Ok, he didn’t say that.

But about the time he was walking down the stairs from the parking garage to the store, I was standing in front of the Pearl Safeway’s two reverse vending recycling machines.

Oh, excuse me…the two broken reverse vending recycling machines.

Fuck me.

A homeless guy I’d woken up by walking in groggily said that someone had gone into the store to alert them to the crisis.  That sounds helpful until you factor in my uncertainty in his ability to tell me what day it was.

A very nice employee showed up as I was hauling my bags toward the ramp to the parking garage and offered to hand count my returns for me.  I gratefully accepted.  Then she suggests moving somewhere less stinky.

So I’m standing outside on the sidewalk watching helplessly while she counts my empty cans and bottles.

Of course, a crowd of homeless people with a couple bucks worth of cans each starts to gather ’round.

Oh, the optics.

If I harbored any hope of a future relationship, this would be the time our paths crossed.

$11.40 worth of counting later, I’m on my way.  I’m feeling rather unaccomplished and briefly consider drinking even less beer and soda than I have lately.  

Wine bottles are somehow exempt from the Bottle Bill.

That night, I’m wandering by The Brodega by my house and notice their new taps are featuring Barley Brown’s Pallet Jack and make a date with The Fox to grab one the next night.  

Hashtag: brainstorm

They also fill growlers.

That’s the key to my participation in improving the recycling issue: refillable growlers instead of six packs.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle after all!

So, in I walk with my growler the next night.  They fill it with an extraordinary amount of waste, but I’m kinda ok with it since The Brodega is she-she expensive and this growler will probably cost $19, based on their normal over-pricing.  By comparison, a growler fill at The Big Legrowlski is $16, I think.

$12.

That’s what my growler fill fist at The Brodega.

My favorite goddamned beer at bargain basement prices AND I just juked the whole bottle tax vs recycling conundrum.

Yes, please!

Hashtag: winning.

I Tried

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

150 Minutes

I wasn’t going to go.

I never do…so why start now?

It’s complicated.

We’ve been bred to dread these events.  Yet, like so many other things, what’s old is new again.  More appropriately in this case, what was out may very well be in again.

What could I possibly be talking about?

My High School Reunion.pioneer

The 30 year edition.

Thirty.  Fucking.  Years.

Sweet Jesus.  When did that happen?

Oh, yes.  I mentioned it was complicated.  Here’s the skinny.  When I was a boy – I think the aforementioned timeframe affords an un-ironic pass at using that phrase – we had grade school, middle school and then high school.  The breaks, at least in my district, were K-6th grade, 7th-Frosh and then Sophomore to Senior to wrap it up with each jump from one school to the next being fed by several feeder schools.  When I finished 6th grade at Jennings Lodge Elementary, me and my classmates were routed to Ogden Junior High for the start of 7th grade along with I don’t know how many 6th grade graduates from other schools.

Well, during the summer between the end of my Freshman year at Ogden and the beginning of my Sophomore year, my family moved from Portland, OR to a little place named Atchison, KS – pretty much known for being the point of origin of this and her. Continue reading “150 Minutes”

150 Minutes

Sheila E Would Be Jealous Of My Glamorous Life

I woke up on my couch at 6:00 this morning.

My couch is 60″ end-to-end, I am 75″ head to toe.  Yet there I was, flat on my back, feet and lower legs dangling over the edge of the little guy.  Let that mental image settle in.

Oh, and I had my glasses on.  Apparently, I fell asleep reading TV.

Yes, my lower back, which had been hurting in recent days, felt great.  Not that I would recommend risking this treatment if your back is sore.

I stripped off my clothes and glasses and successfully attempted a few more winks.  Go ahead and just let your mental image flash forward to me sitting here typing in my white undershirt and batik printed boxer briefs.  Glasses restored to their perch.

Hot, right?

Let’s all just assume – for now – that I was pretty relaxed last night.

Now, let me dash that assumption to hell and back, but thanks for playing along.

The Silver Fox sent me a text yesterday inquiring about my interview earlier in the afternoon.  I told him it was fine, but I didn’t feel like texting all the gory details and suggested a quick drink at the Big Legrowlski while I did the debrief.

It all began that innocently.

Then it turned into one of those nights where nothing happened, but it ended up being a perfect evening.

Before we even got a block into our walk, his ex – Casey Alder – had texted him, suggesting a drink.  Hey, great minds think alike; great livers drink alike.  Chrisism.  So, we’re about half a beer ahead of him and both manage to sensibly decline his offer of a refill.  Then the conversation starts flowing as we all catch up.  It had been way too long since the three of us had hung out together.  I went to grab a refill to ensure the booze-to-word ratio was appropriately maintained.

It’s measured in ounces.  However, it’s not a static metric…you could say it’s fluid.

Sometimes I play drinking games by myself.  Even with other people around.

We had a really good conversation.  Three beers each, then Casey had to beat feet and it was just the Fox and I again.

That didn’t last long…Diezel had inquired as to the goings on of my evening and turned up to re-round out our little klatch.  Good timing on his part, since the Fox had began his responsible rumblings about getting home to dinner.  I had fixated on pizza.  Not even the fact that my budget strongly suggested a frozen pizza was in the offing could deter my taste buds.

Diet over.  As if the beer wasn’t a dead giveaway.

Somehow, I tricked the Fox into ordering a pizza.  To the bar.  Beer and Xtopher can be very persuasive.

Also:  permissive.

Also-also:  you know he wanted pizza.

So, there we are, eating pizza.  Drinking beer.  Being guys.  I’m not going to try and convince you that there weren’t more beers involved…after all, the ratio!  But, Diezel is a responsible drinker and resides in a geographically undesirable location relative to the Big Legrowlski, so he was driving whereas the Fox and I were walking.  I would guess that there were only two beers relevant to this chapter of the evening.

Sensing the pattern here?  Ok, there’s no pattern, it’s just another little drinking game that I amused myself with.  <—  That’s some terrible English.

Casey:  3 drinks

Diezel:  2 drinks

Solo nightcap?  That just had to be 1 drink.  The pattern must be maintained.

So, I went home and drank a bottle of wine.

Shush.  I wasn’t alone, Myrtle was with me.  Myrtle is always with me, either physically or I have the physical reminders of her.


Plus, it was over the next four hours.  I know this because I watched four episodes of Z Nation, *falling asleep* midway through the fifth.

Ooh, a fifth…see?  My one-drink nightcap could have been worse.  The blog is named atleastihaveafrigginglass…you had to assume there would be drinking.

Thank you Netflix.

Actually, I blame the Fox…he’s supposed to be the responsible one.

Sheila E Would Be Jealous Of My Glamorous Life

Nicole’s Revenge

I’ll admit that the title of this post falls squarely – probably deeply – into the “too soon” category.  Alas…when has that ever stopped me?


I am invited for breakfast and Cuban Coffee and catch up time with the Silver Fox after his return from Cuba earlier in the week.

Anyway, the price is simply that I bring OJ.  Not a terrible deal, since an egg breakfast in this town will run you $15, easy.  Still not a bad deal, even knowing that the Fox prefers the OJ from our neighborhood Brodega, which runs $6.99 for 24 oz.

Brodega:  Chrisism for she-she over-priced neighborhood markets that cater to a crowd with more wealth than desire to mix with the riff -aff at the nearby Safeway.

So, I wander out at 8:00 with my mission.  And $22 in my Levis.

That last part is important because:

Math + Peppy Blondes + Early Morning = Grumpy Old Man

It’s simply an unavoidable universal truth.  Quite beyond my control.

I go to the checkout to pay for my juice and the cashier comes skipping over.  Pretty, young, blonde…your basic nightmare.  Speaking of “too soon”, it’s too early for this level of enthusiasm.

Really, it’s the excessive display of energy at this early weekend hour that bugs me.  Not the display of excessive energy.  See the difference?

This is when I encounter the $22 in my pants.

I give her the $20 and am met with, “Oh!  I’m out of $1s!”  Great delivery…I really thought the world was ending.

Now, being someone who is was raised to show his work when it comes to math, I’m not terribly surprised to see the shadow of confusion flicker across her face as I offer her my two $1 bills, hoping against hope that she will give me $5.01 in change instead of making me wait for her to replenish her supply.

There’s breakfast on the line, woman!  She should know how seriously we Portlanders take our breakfast…ok, any meal in this town before 2:00 on a weekend is collectively referred to as brunch, even if it doesn’t involve alcohol.  We’re renegades.

“It’s ok, I got it” she proudly declares.  Obviously convinced she had saved the world; she drops two $1 bills, four quarters and a penny on the counter.  I scoop my change up like panties (not hers, just a colloquial set of underwear…) off a stranger’s floor on an early weekend morning while working on my glaring side eye.  I really hate pocket change.  I consider any day that ends with me dropping more than $1 in loose coin into my change can to be a low-grade failure.


This turn of events was simply demoralizing.

As I’m leaving the store, pocket jingling, the Fox texts that there’s no hurry since his houseguest is still sleeping.

Fuuuuuck.

I could have waited for her break before making my purchase.  Speaking of which, where was my hot, hipster cashier, anyway?

So, I come home, refrigerate that OJ and begin my bitch-blog.  This is quite a therapeutic process.  I get about two paragraphs in before the Fox texts me that I can come anytime, breakfast is ready to be plated.  It’s been maybe five minutes since his previous text.  I give my phone a deadpan glare for delivering this traitorous message as my creative juices started boiling, chug my monster, save the post and head out.

Forgetting the OJ in my fridge.

And for all of you who know me well – or know that there’s no such thing a free breakfast in Portland – yeah…when I got the invite given the circumstances listed above, I made this face:

But the Fox being so uniquely the Fox and just an awesome human, I wasn’t exposed to three thousand vacation pictures with my eggs and coffee.  No, I walked in with my recently retrieved $6.99 OJ and was greeted with a great breakfast scramble, delicious coffee and a counter full of Cuba-swag that my best friend had brought home for me.

But there was no cheese in the eggs, so I think we know who paid the real price here.

Nicole’s Revenge

Adventures in Yes

The birthday yes.

Not “Yaaaaassss!!”, just a simple exercise in counter-curmudgeonliness.

I had a full day of amazing celebrating with friends and family stacked up with well wishing socializing tighter than the evening commuter push over O’Hare on a Friday night…until my evening date cancelled.

Two things:

– First, maybe don’t schedule a date on your birthday with someone you haven’t known for three months.  It’s a recipe for disaster.  Well, it’s a recipe for normal flaky gay behaviors, but it happened on my birthday so I’m taking some license with the hyperbole.  Sue me.

– Second, he didn’t know it was my birthday.  That means there was no pressure to crumble beneath.  I was actually quite torn about withholding that information from him…obviously, my gut instinct served me far better than my neurosis.

The thing that pissed me off most about this was just your basic run of the mill Narcissistic Death bullshit.  I was the guy you could count on to get some Thanksgiving ass.  Before apps.  When we had to do it in real time.  Or any holiday.

Now it’s just snowing in my bedroom.

And uphill.

So…what’s an EOG gay to do with a few free hours on his birthday.

Hello, Scruff.  You dirty, disappointing bitch.

One thing leads to another and it’s suddenly 9 pm…which I suppose is late for my gay twilight years.  But I’ve begun this interesting chat conversation with a recent – as in one week prior – Portland transplant from France.  Is it wrong to nickname him The Frog?  I hope not, because it’s just happened.

He’s been out and about shopping-slash-exploring in his new city.  Hopping on and off public transportation in order to do so, like a good European.  Chatting with people he encounters around town or on the bus – as inadvisable as that sounds, I actually encourage it…conditionally.  Some of that exploring was situational, some accidental as he hopped on a wrong bus or train here or there.  He tells me that he’s going to pass through downtown to make a connection to his place in the South Waterfront and suggests a meet up for a drink.  Turns out he loves cider and I had told him about Cider Bite earlier in our conversation.

Of course, I pass.

It’s, like, late.

Or something.

But, time wears on and he and I keep chatting and I remember my commitment to say yes more often.

And “Say Something” by A Great Big World had just come on my Sonos, so I said “Yes” and met him at his stop in Old Town.

We traded a couple of texts on my way to meeting him, he told me that he was in a black jacket.  Helpful information, that.  I warned him that I was in a too lightweight jacket for the weather and that I hadn’t shaved in a week and hadn’t showered for an evening out.  He tells me that he’ll keep an eye out for a homeless person approaching him.  Sassy.

He was a tall one, wasn’t expecting that for some reason.

And it was raining, I mentioned that, right?

And I had loaned my umbrella to the Fox for his trip to Cuba, just in case.  He’s a planner.

I hadn’t planned on rain during his vacation, it seems.  Nor do I own a jacket like the Frog was wearing…one with a hood and also happens to be waterproof.  Soggy, I got.

It’s getting on to closing time at Cider Bite, so we hoof lively and make our way there.  The home of 24 taps of delicious cider-y goodness.  I arrive, dripping.  Planting the Frog at the bar, I introduce him to one of the boys that owns the place before sneaking off to the loo to give myself a good toweling off.  I’m calling a 33 year old bar owner a “boy”, FML – incidentally, said “boy” promptly gives me a side eye dripping with “a little young for you” judgment.  Knowing I have zero romantical type designs on the Frog, I don’t give it a second thought, past enjoying that he thought that maybe I could.

Bless his heart.

We go on to chat and make some fun small talk as we sip.  We discuss the origins of the ciders with the owner.  All very interesting info to the newb.  Most tend to be Pacific Northwest by design, but there happen to be a few from the east coast that you simply have to have if you’re gonna open a cider bar and please the masses by passing their low-bar street cred criteria.  Woodchuck cider lurches into the conversation.  I explain that it’s from the New England area of the east coast.  He asks where and I tell him it’s right by New Hampshire, making my hands into the parallelogramish shape of the state for him and only add to his confusion.  Trying to clear that up, I proceed to make it worse by saying that it’s south of Maine, north of Boston like it’s a question.

This all earns me the teasing of a European because I don’t know my own country’s geography like the back of my hand.  Defensively, I counter that it’s not like I thought that Portugal was in South America, but can’t fault him for putting a dunce cap on America as a whole.

He saves my unhurt ego by telling me that some people he has met in America think that France is in Australia.  Sweet Jesus, people are dumb.

I also learned that the prior day – 1/20 – had been his birthday, so that was fun.  

We’ve tried a couple of ciders and it’s time to head out as the guys close up for the night.

Deciding it’s never a bad time to not end fun conversation and also always a good time for food, we head over to Hobo’s for some later-night grub.  It’s a great choice, because:  food.  But also because it’s a good introduction to a neighborhood with a little cluster of gay bars that a newbie gay will undoubtedly frequent, but a bar that we can easily still talk comfortably in.

Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but there’s food.

I know he’ll find CCs on his own, so I figure this is a better choice.  I introduce him to Uncle Dave, who is frequently behind the bar at Hobo’s.  My friend, frequent bartender, occasional caretaker and always good guy.

I have some chicken wings – I’m always ordering the tenders and Uncle Dave is always serving me the wings.  Silly man.  The Frog has a burger.  Having just introduced the him as a recent transplant from France, I’m not surprised he wants to try a burger.  I am surprised at the rapid-fire-fucking-with that Uncle Dave engages him in around his order…I try to stop it as my stomach turns over, but an enthusiastic immigrant is running amok, enabled by a bartender suddenly turned auctioneer:

I’ll have the Hobo’s Burger

You want cheese on that?

Yes!

Bacon?

Yes.

Guac?

Yes.  (in a tone that suggests he isn’t entire sure what that is…)

Egg?

Ok.

Jalepenos?

Yes.

<barfs in mouth>

Fries or a salad?

I say something about how ridiculous a salad would be on top of that order and suggest the French Fries then laughingly comment that he’s not going to be able to lift that monster of a burger and then order us a couple of hard root beers.  Uncle Dave skulks off to the kitchen to start our order and if he’s not chuckling about what he just did to this poor kid…well, I would have been.

We talk more about what he wants to do for work.  He’s a trained in environmental ecology and I congratulate him on picking Portland.  That leads to how the hell he chose PDX in the first place.  Turns out that it’s really just a marriage between convenience and flight of fancy.  He knew he wanted to live in the US and on the West Coast but between here and SF this was where his father had a tenuous network connection to help get him started out.  A colleague whose niece or daughter or something – it’s France, I really wanted it to be “former mistress” – lived here and needed a roommate, voila!

His burger comes and I tease him about what his eyes did when Uncle Dave put the plate in front of him.  Uncle Dave lays down on the floor to rest after carrying the burger out.  I kid, but he deserved to wear himself out after trying to kill this kid with a hamburger.  Hehehehe.

I ask him how he settled on Joe for his Americanized name.  He explains that it’s just JO, short for Jean Olivier…his first name.  I explain to him why that might be awkward.  He seems aloof and/or indifferent.  He tells me his middle name, another hyphenated tongue twister for my American pallate.  Then his last name, which I am sure is the French equivalent of “Smith”, but I’m distracted by the overwhelming number of syllables in his complete name.

Oy.

Glad he chose JO.

Having finished my 6 wings, I go to the bar for another root beer as he chokes down the last of the first half of his burger.  This second half might take a minute to finish.

Uncle Dave starts off with some conspiratorial muttering about how cute the guy is and whether I’m intending anything he’ll want to hear about later.  God bless everyone who thinks I’ve got the kind of game it takes to be the object of any random 20-something’s affections.  When I am, I consider it a viable reason that I won’t win the lottery.

Like any reason for not winning the lottery needs to be realistic.

I mean, I had just “lost” $1.5 billion (potential) dollars in the Powerball…but, no.

He had told me his bus schedule home when we were chatting earlier, and it occurs to me that we have about 20 minutes to get him on a bus.  See?  I’m not even maneuvering toward getting him to spend the night at my nearby place.

He chews and stuffs faster.  I’m actually a little worried about how much he is consuming.  He’s visibly struggling to swallow and I think his forehead is beginning to glisten with a light sheen of the meatsweats.

Undeterred, he paces out his last bite just in time to get our change and head out to the bus stop.

Into the rain.  Portland’s weathery breach, once again.

I walk him down to his bus stop, not just to make sure he gets there but also to ensure that the bus actually arrives.  Midnight buses in Portland have screwed me more than once.

So, we stand there and wait.

In Portland’s sliver of a remaining skid row.

In the rain.  Did I mention it was raining?  Oh, I did?  How about my lightweight jacket?

Naturally, the bus is late.  I spend the time showing him what apps I use for transit and discuss Uber with him as a back up to have handy.  I’m wiping down my phone frequently, since any bus shelter in this neighborhood would ultimately just be shelter.

His bus finally arrives and we part, committing to another meet up soon.

Flash forward a week and we’ve chatted a few times.  He actually scored a job over the last few days.  I’m jealous…but it was a good story.  Some random stranger he said “hi” to on the street during his explorations.  That guy’s company was looking for a French-speaking reviewer of some sort.  You can’t fight the universe on random encounters.  He’s disappointed that it isn’t in his field of study, but that is actually not surprising for my American sensibilities.  No one seems to work in their field of study any more.

Still, this whole story about his job just kind of falling into his lap reminded me of why I started my Yes Game in the first place.

He’s a good guy.  Maybe I’ll make him take me out for a congratulatory cider when he gets his first paycheck.  I mean, I didn’t even mention the Coneheads…obviously, I have to see him again!

And all because I allowed myself a birthday yes…I wonder what else this game will yield.

More friends?

A job?

It certainly seems to like doing that for others – why not me?  We’ll see!

Adventures in Yes

The Salad Tosser

Here’s a glimpse at my creative-slash-procrastination process:

I’m polishing up a year end/resolution type post.  One that I’ve been kicking around for over two months – since my last trip to Seattle, where I had a conversation with an old friend in late October or early November.  And by “kicking around” I mean, “please see the above note about my procrastination process”.

It’s been on my radar in particular this week because:  NYE, right?  Kind of lame to post a year end blog at the beginning of a year.  So, this week is the week.  Naturally, that means that I posted a completely different blog (Asocial Media) earlier this week versus working on the post with the expiration date.

Last night, I tell the Fox as we nightcap at the Big Legrowlski that I need a few hours this morning before we do coffee to review some job posts and work on the year-end post.

Or not. Continue reading “The Salad Tosser”

The Salad Tosser