A.W.O.L.

It’s kind of just like me to go from one extreme to another.

I’ll wait for you to collect yourself after that announcement.

In other world-shaking news, Donald Trump occasionally bends the truth.

In less…surreal news, I’ve arranged my schedule so that I work Sunday-Friday days between my HR gig and my convenience store job. This leaves me evening’s free to drive for the Verb or opt into meal delivery, if I’m feeling the need to generate income but not be social. Either way, I have the freedom to take a night off and I give myself Saturdays off.

Or free at any rate.

While my parking situation isn’t just like my parking situation on weeknights, it’s similar. There’s the option of paying for street parking two hours at s time. Or, I can pay to park from 7 am until 7 pm (when Street parking is free) for $7.

You’d think with all those sevens, I’d win the lottery or something, but…no.

This morning, I was slated to opt out of work and park using the $7 option. I even went to bed early, so I’d be up and at ’em by 7. Then I woke up at 130, tosses and turned until 5 and didn’t wake up until 8.

This is life. But, it did solve one awkward problem. My goal was to hit the cafe and write this morning. However, the cafe opens at 9 on Saturday, so I was kind of homeless until then.

Plus, writing is technically a job – sure, it’s my worst paying and I should probably report myself for my flagrant minimum wage violation – but it’s still something I call work. No, not so that I can write off my coffee as a work expense.

Now that I think about it, though…

On top of that little timing complexity, I left my laptop at my office yesterday.

Which brings me to the point of this post – other than to indulge in something I’ve missed doing.

In needing to drive to my office and retrieve my laptop and having missed my discounted day off parking, I decided to play my favorite ride-for-hire game.

Sorry…it still needs a name.

When I need to run an errand: recycling, ATM, picking up a paycheck; I get in my car and turn on my driving app.

Then I see how long it takes to run said errand. Do I accomplish my task or do I get a ride?

Well, this morning, I didn’t even get out of my parking space – I hadn’t even shifted into drive – before I got pinged. From three blocks behind me. It wasn’t one of the nearby hotels, but as I rounded the last corner, I did realize it was the extended stay/corporate housing buildings in the neighborhood.

Looks like I was going to the airport!

Couldn’t be a ride of shame, like I usually get right out of the gate on weekends.

No, the airport.

But waiting on a return ride gave me a chance to write this – another version of that favorite game!

Plus, the guy I picked up was a nice looking young man.

From the UK.

Wearing sweatpants.

As if that wasn’t enough, he tipped before I even got his bags out of the car. Such a nice boy.

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A.W.O.L.

The Seaward

My new neighbor moved out of my old unit.

This is the guy who took a month to move in to my old unit at the beginning of the year. I saw him twice and we spoke once.

Yes, he offended me.

Ergo, I nicknamed him The Seaward.

Not because he was always heading for the beach, not that I’d know. It’s a play on words.

Well, a specific word.

The C-Word – in case you needed that spelled out.

And, no. I did not mean it in the cool English slang way.

Anyway, his move out has been as subtle as his move-in. Over the last several months I’ve begun realizing that he just spends very little time at home. My presumption was that he was at his boyfriend’s. But in the past weeks, his patio has been looking less and less like a set from Sanford and Son.

The middle of last week, I noticed some tree debris in the hallway and later noticed that even the planter with his lil shrub in it was gone. Now it’s just the prohibited-but-don’t-let-that-stop-you BBQ and The Seaward’s beach chair left.

In an unguarded moment last weekend, I saw a moving truck outside my building and thought, “Oh boy, new neighbors!” My first thought was that one of the four – of eighteen – units for sale had sold.

Then I caught myself.

The Seaward.

Took a month to move in.

Lasted eight.

The Seaward

This Must Be Foodie Hell

What you see above is all that’s left of Portland’s biggest – and my personal favorite – food cart pod.

It’s fate has been known for the last year or so, since the owner of the lot it sat upon announced future development plans. What remained unknown was the timing as the local business press kept the curious up to speed on the plans for the site.

What came to pass was design approval for Portland’s fifth tallest building and first five-star hotel.

So, on this past May 31st the business owners at the 10th & Washington food cart pod were notified that their last day of occupancy would be June 30th.

30 friggin’ days!

What a crushing bit of news for the thousands of folk that made a meal at this pod a part of their routine.

Bad news for the businesses, too, one would imagine.

That said, there were a couple of really big unknowns accompanying the announcement.

A) who exactly this five-star tenant would be. It’s not that it wasn’t announced, it’s that no five-star hotel has expressed interest in or accepted the opportunity to partner in the finances involved in a project of this scope.

Yup, the owners of the land evicted the tenants without financing for the project. Which brings me to the larger issue here,

2) where are the displaced food carts to go?

Thirty days isn’t much time to secure a place in any of the other pods – even though Portland is crawling with pods. The thing that made this pod so successful, aside from location, was the following its carts engendered. I can’t tell you the number of times I took friends to my personal fave, Bing Mi, or recommended it to visitors from out of town.

As a matter of fact, that was how I heard of the cart in the first place!

Anyway, a few carts had used the vaguely looming deadline as a chance to find a new place and move on their own terms. The former square of outward facing food windows had started to show a few gaps, but it was far from looking like a hillbilly smile.

The end result was the same, though – come July 1st…no more pod.

During our last coffee klatch or two of June, the Silver Fox and I had discussed the rumored future for the displaced carts. It was exciting to consider since it would directly benefit us, even though the chance of happening without disruption to business as usual was exactly zero percent.

The rumor was that the city had proposed moving the pod into the Couch and Davis side streets of the North Park Blocks. Remember, the northwest quadrant of the city that I live in is called the Alphabet District because the street names are in alphabetical order. For context, The Fox and I live on opposite sides of the Park Blocks between Everett and Flanders.

Yup, the proposal from the city would land the pod one to two blocks from our homes.

The shit thing for the businesses affected is that with more harmonious planning, the city could have laid out the minimal infrastructure changes – power and traffic flow – needed beforehand while the carts were simultaneously able to notify their loyal customers of their new location.

Actually, I misspoke earlier – the city was proposing lining the actual park blocks with the carts by placing them in the parking spaces on the park side of the street facing the park itself.

The plus side here was that it would drive foot traffic into the urban park blocks, which the city considers to be underutilized. I swear, that’s bureaucratic-speak for “an increase in regular citizen traffic would probably create a decrease in urban campers”…aka: Portland’s much maligned homeless.

The side street idea was mine. It came from a couple of issues, of both my own making as well as reporting on the potential project.

The city spends a lot of money each year on planting and replanting grass in the park blocks. No sooner does the initial reseeding effort bear grass than the summer parade/festival season begin, starting with Pride and the International Beer Festival in June and ending with Art In The Park in late August. Lining the blocks with park-facing carts is just going to cause more damage to the parks.

For its part, the city seemed concerned about a loss of parking meter revenue – and parking ticket revenue, I’m sure!

For my part, I don’t care about parking revenue. I do care about where I can get my Bing Mi!

Gimme regular, uninterrupted access to a Bing Mi and nobody gets hurt.

My plan of using side streets for the carts might do nothing to reduce any parking revenue impact this proposition creates, but it has another positive impact. Namely, eliminating traffic trauma for drivers unfamiliar with Portland downtown traffic.

You see, the North Park Blocks are bordered by 8th – a one way street that runs southward – and Park – another one way street that runs northward. Most of the side streets are two way. For whatever reason, this confuses drivers and The Fox and I spend a lot of time watching drivers go the wrong way down one way streets.

It’s really quite surprising, the frequency. More so, the number of times someone realizes their mistake and corrects it by turning the wrong way onto another one way street in order to make things right.

People.

Anyway, both Couch and Davis are two way streets. Lining those blocks with carts and making them one way would allow the city to make the approach blocks one way in a manner that allowed only right hand turns onto or off of the park blocks, eliminating confusion. Looking at you, Vantucky Drivers.

Where’s my damn Nobel Prize?

But this is all in the planning stage still. A phase I’m sure will outlast the displaced carts’ ability to remain out of business. Oh, and it’s worth repeating that these carts were displaced by construction and that half of the block between Burnside and Couch is due for demolition (an old Bridgestone service center) for construction of a new apartment building in the next year-ish.

So, where are the carts in the interim?

I don’t know, exactly, however I did discover this little hiding place the other day one a walk.

We’ll get to the markup in that photo in a second. First, this…

That mural says Market of the Future. It’s decorating the street side of the parking lot those food carts are parked on.

The lot itself is the backlot of the downtown US Post Office’s sorting facility. For context you’ll need soon enough, the Post Office complex runs three blocks wide from Hoyt Street to Lovejoy Street, enveloping Irving, Johnson and Kearney Streets.

The back story there is that the city decided not to renew the government’s lease on the nine square blocks between Hoyt/Lovejoy and Broadway/9th in favor of development for housing and retail space.

Oh, and an extension of the North Park Blocks!

The US government – as a result of this eviction – proactively moved its sort facility to a new industrial development out by the airport. Now the former urban sort facility sits empty except for the walk up customer service counter and PO Boxes which basically occupies the storefront space on Hoyt between Broadway and 8th Street.

This has been the only functional part of the business for quite some time.

Long enough, actually, that one day while accompanying me on a trip to my PO Box, The Fox decided to go up to the counter and demand of the poor associate an explanation for the delay in development.

He returned with an actual explanation, stopping my smug chuckling at the futility of his mission.

It turns out, the crafty US government had written into its contract a provision which I’m sure was meant to discourage eviction by the city. Namely, if the city sought to terminate its lease, they needed to find a similar sized customer service store front with 25 parking spaces within ten blocks of the current site.

Well played, US government…well played.

Maybe 20 years ago the city could have pulled this off, including on my very block. Unfortunately, now the three abandoned warehouses on my block have been replaced with a Hampton hotel.

Most other blocks within that pre-ordained 10 block radius have already been developed. Indeed, the nine square block parcel the Post Office complex is on is the largest and nearly only undeveloped parcel within the Pearl District.

But now that the sort facility has moved, most of that parcel is derelict. There’s signs of the city trying to repurpose the space in the interim, but keep in mind that about six of the nine blocks are occupied by empty structures. The remaining three are abandoned employee and truck parking.

Cleverly, to that end:

But that is only one of the three blocks of parking. The food carts are on one of the other blocks at the far end of the parcel. From the looks of that mural, one (me) could reasonably assume that perhaps the city is planning some sort of urban market that would incorporate food carts into it.

The wrinkle here?

The mural says, “Coming summer 2019” and its approaching mid-July.

Also, Portland’s Saturday Market is practically blocks away on the waterfront. Sure, maybe this Market if the Future would be open every day…still.

Never fear, Galby is here to save the day by solving everyone’s problems.

So, back to the markup…

That “separate back building” is on the back third of the nine block parcel between Kearney and Lovejoy streets.

There’s only the teensiest little overlap of the main building with this back third of the parcel. Methinks that could be demolished and closed off with minimal impact to the remaining customer service windows located on the first third.

The paid parking in the middle block could remain operational and likely have plenty of customers on the construction crew.

Developing that back third would allow for planning a building with a ground floor retail footprint that included with it the required parking spaces so the Post Office could move, allowing development of the remaining two thirds of the parcel.

The thing is that the city didn’t know know what it wanted to do with the area. Sure, they know they needed housing solutions within the downtown core. Then the whole Amazon HQ2 thing came along.

To its credit, the city seemed to know it didn’t want that…yet knew it was expected to throw a proposal in the ring. So they did, but with tax breaks so bad they were like garlic to the tax-dodging vampire that is Amazon, ensuring we were never a serious contender.

Since then, the city has begun posting plans around the parcel – sorry for the tightness of this shot, but it’s a picture of a nine block development plan on a piece of 8×11 copy paper…

For placement context, that dark black structure is the Broadway Bridge and it’s at the northeast corner of the parcel. Broadway itself runs on the east side of the Post Office, but the bridge actually ends with Broadway forking off onto Lovejoy Street as well, which borders the north side of the parcel, or the back third that I was talking about developing first to move the whole project forward.

From the perspective of a person with virtually zero knowledge of either urban planning or construction – ignorance is so liberating! – it seems doable. Further to the upside, that back third is the only part of the project that has buildings on all three blocks. The remaining two thirds will have buildings on their outer blocks, but the center blocks will be the extension of the North Park Blocks I mentioned earlier.

The potential benefit there is that starting with the back third would mean that three of the seven blocks with buildings planned on them would be done first. That’s 43% of the construction, meaning that work would progress away from the most labor intense phase. Somehow in my mind this means less whining about construction noise from the new buildings’ residents but I’m having trouble quantifying my argument.

Something about the remaining 57% of the project being divided into fourths for the impact of the two blocks adjacent to the Lovejoy blocks and then in half again for the development of the Irving blocks in the final third phase…but I’m so distracted by my craving for a Bing Mi right now that I can’t get there.

Meanwhile, in the interim I’ve got no Bing, thousands of others are missing out on their favorite carts from the 10th & Wa pod and were in a holding pattern on both the development of the Post Office blocks and the new five star hotel.

Lose, lose, lose…how is it that when we lose things – like my favorite food cart pod – it happens quickly yet when we gain things, it comes so slowly? Rhetorical questions aside, though, with so little happening so slowly, the positives that we gain will likely feel like winning the lottery when they do finally happen.

This Must Be Foodie Hell

That Attitude Of Gratitude

I mean…superiority?

No, no. That doesn’t sound right.

Gratitude. Final Answer.

This has been kicking around my head for a few days since I weighed in on a comment thread about a letter to Portland’s mayor from a tourist who lives in Lewiston, Idaho.

He’d complained rather emotionally about how all the trash cans in the city wire overflowing, there were needles all over the parks and homeless people sleeping in every doorway.

I was trying to let it go…

Then, this morning on my way to work – more on that later, maybe – I followed a tourist couple for about a block and a half. Then we passed a very unfortunate looking homeless man sitting on the sidewalk…not sleeping and not in a doorway, just to be clear.

I don’t understand why he doesn’t go to a shelter. Y’know, if he’d just go to a shelter, he wouldn’t have to sit there like that…

And there it was.

All it took to catapult me back to my frustrated Facebook space was one tourist who “knew” better. She had the “I’d like to speak to the manager haircut” and everything.

Back in the day, she was the reason for this type of Society of Native Oregonian Born humor…

Please feel free to drop off you comment cards, passive-aggressive letters to our mayor and just any advice you might want to leave for Oregonians with this guy on your way out:

Ok, do let me fill in the blanks. Let’s start with the Haircut Lady.

There’s a few different types of shelters, not counting your basic flop house. The first is a free, take all comers until we’re full type of deal. The second is a pay-your-way-in and then taking all comers til we’re full type of situation.

I don’t think I need to explain that first one. The second one – I think – runs like $5-10 a night for a bed. If you’ve ever seen a panhandler looking for handouts so they can get a hostel room? Yeah, that’s this. Hostels aren’t throwing their doors open for homeless folks, they got guests to preserve an experience for.

Obviously, you can’t earn your $5-10 for a hostel sitting in the hostel, so off to work you go. Right?

Regardless, these places are pretty much first come, first serve on a daily basis. You may get preferential consideration if you were there the prior night, but only maybe…don’t quote me. But, what the nice Haircut Lady forgot to consider as one homeless person was ruining her vacation was that shelters are more like hotels than private homes.

That means they clean the rooms during the day.

Everyone out of the hostel.

They are welcome to hang in the common areas, but if you’re running a shelter and you’ve got space for 100 or so homeless homies to hang out in your common areas? Odds are you’re thinking, “We should add beds”…after all, the concern of shelters is to provide a place for people to sleep.

Stupid Haircut Lady.

So, she made me realize that I had to save humanity from its stupid self. Ergo, I must blog.

Save us, Dopey Wan, you’re our only hope.

Haircut Lady was a pretty minor perturbance.

Applying her to the coliseum that is the Facebook, where Anonymous Posters are throwing facts and reality to the lions…

well, we’re gonna need a bigger coliseum.

A bartender acquaintance of mine – who I rather respect – posted the Oregonian article about the Lewiston Tourist on his thread next to a gas can and a dumpster and just walked to a safe distance.

I read the article.

Then I read the comments.

There was a lot of, “Wish it were better, but we live in Portland!” type comments.

Then I thought, some of these people didn’t read the article. But at least they aren’t pouring any more gas on the situation.

And, then

I found a few comments that were negative.

And then more.

Then some that were harshly so.

And, then…some that defied any semblance of humanity.

BRB, haven’t been on the Facebook in a couple days – mandatory self imposed detox – but going to see if I can screen grab the comments…the things I do for my readers.

Ok, I gotta tap out on this one. No great screen grabs for you! Sorry…

Here’s the gist of my comment,

There are two factors to consider here, outside of homelessness:

The first is that Oregon in general and Portland in particular have made social services a priority. This means that for unemployed or underemployed or people living below – what I’ll liberally call – the poverty level can get access to free healthcare (from dental to mental and everything in between) under the Oregon Health Plan. That paired with our liberal food stamps program ensures a baseline of care for people in need.

Second, since these programs were just ideas and pilot programs aimed at – amongst other things – getting Portland’s homeless youth off the streets in the 80s & 90s and turning them into productive members of society, certain other cities have been offering their homeless who run afoul of the law the option of jail or a bus ticket to Portland. This approach solves two problems: one, said municipality’s own homeless problem; two, it very likely improves the homeless person’s quality of life.

Rain be damned.

Then I shared a story from that very same week of a young man – with facial tattoos, ergo: issues or terrible judgment – that had asked me for directions downtown. I’d told him where to go and how to get there, at his request. Then he’d TMIed me by apologizing for having to ask, he just hadn’t picked up his phone yet.

Me: phone?

Him: yeah, the county gave me a phone and this is where I have to pick it up.

Me: …

Him: yeah, I’ve only been in town a week, but the first day I was here, I got my OHP insurance and my prescriptions filled…and an Oregon Trail card with some grocery money on it.

Me: wait…you’ve only been in town a week from where?!?

Him: New Jersey.

Me: and you just got all this for showing up?

Him: yeah, man.

Me: huh.

Now, mind you…I’m standing on the street talking to this face-tattooed dude and thinking, “Right on, Oregon”, you really are the best state!

Just guess what the Facebook hive mind thought.

Never mind, I’ll tell you:

They.

Lost.

Their.

Shit.

Here’s one of my more vocal critics:

My response was that my critics’ arguments all seemed to stem from what they didn’t have. Free medical, free phone, free food.

Not what they did have. A damn home. A tether to reality…even if it came without a sense of empathy.

Yeah, I pointed that out.

Don’t worry, there hasn’t been a public pillorying like I got in about 2000 years, if you get my drift..,

“Me, me, ME!” – Facebook Users

Seriously, if any of these people traded what they have for what these horrible homeless people get for “free”…well, I find it hard to believe that they could last a week before realizing that maybe what they coveted was not worth the emotional value they assigned it.

Here’s your free health care. Enjoy going to a clinic filled with “those people” to see a doctor!

Here’s your free food. Oh, and the list of items you cannot use it for: goodbye booze, nicotine, energy drinks, your dignity when an acquaintance chats you up in line at the grocer as you are paying with your Oregon Trail card…

And, here’s your free phone. Enjoy your no data plan and trying to find a welcoming public place to charge your phone up.

Absolute idiots.

But, one must admire persistence. They were undeterred and stood firm in their “woe is me having to work” mantra.

Later, “they” – this aforementioned vocal critic – went on to add their thoughts (such as they are) to another thread. Take a gander:

Seriously? You don’t feel bad that a cop killed a homeless person? Obviously, this dumpster fire of a conversation degraded significantly after I weighed in.

Naturally, I had to fight my own impulses as to whether to educate, ignore or yell louder than this person.

I knew I was not engaging in that last activity. Not my style. Reason over volume any day, for me.

I was also pretty sure that whether the state of mind they were in was situational because they were all wound up over homeless people or their actual sad state of being – the current state was not ideal for absorbing or processing new information.

Fine, but just because I am choosing to ignore someone doesn’t mean I can’t take a lurk at their public (idiots…I swear) Facebook page. Right?

My takeaway there was that drag is a hobby, not a second job. Plus, it’s an expensive hobby, so if you’re doing it, your “other job” – aka: actual job – pays you well enough that you make more than the $36k (or thereabouts) threshold to qualify for free Oregon Health Plan coverage. So, shut your drawn on lips.

Also to consider: if it takes a lot of money to make Dolly Parton look so glamorously cheap, imagine how much more it takes to make an overweight, hirsute man look good in a dress.

And then – in the drag world – instead of getting a paid gig, you usually end up getting to do a number or two in someone else’s meagerly paid gig for several years until you’ve established yourself as enough of a draw to have your own show.

But trust me, our PT Drag Queen is yelling loudly at anyone and everyone about how she wants a paid gig and where is it?!? Want to guess what my bartender friendquaintance and I talked about last time we chatted?

Yup. DQs who think putting on a dress and being a bitch entitled you to a pay check.

Key Word: entitled

And that’s what brings me full circle in my frustration. This PT Drag Queen and Haircut Lady are both lamenting – although, props to Haircut Lady for at least making empathy sounds – the focus on themselves.

What if Haircut Lady considers her good fortune to be able to leave her home and travel to Portland for a weekend getaway? By the way, remember, “getaway” is travel industry lingo for “get away from it all”…so Haircut Lady has left all her troubles behind for the weekend. Sadly, viewing another person’s crisis level problems ruined her escape from her own.

Sad.

But then there’s PT Drag Queen. They’re upset that they aren’t getting free healthcare, food and a phone in exchange for giving up their income and housing. As if that’s not twisted up enough, they are willing to join a class of society that they think the police should be able to essentially execute – by their own words – when they are perceived to have done something wrong.

That ain’t America.

It isn’t any modern religion I know of.

I feel like this question placement from OKStupid applies here…

It’s one thing to say it, people, and another to do it.

Anyway, it sure isn’t Portland.

For me?

I’ll gladly struggle to make it in a city and state that takes the well-being of its “worst” or least fortunate citizens and makes them a priority. After all, if we only acknowledge “those people” to complain about them, what have we done? But if we allocate tax money to help elevate our least fortunate to at least a minimal level of humanity – and I’m not kidding…it’s still a tragically low existence – than we’ve done something to help. It didn’t even cost us anything that we hadn’t already paid, either: taxes. All we had to do was go to work, something many of these homeless people are unable to do themselves.

Catch our Haircut Lady’s eyesore of a human being in a lucid enough state to ask; I’m sure he’d rather sleep inside and know where his next meal is coming from than sit on the sidewalk in filthy and rather unflattering clothing, drooling onto himself while people walk by, clucking their tongues in disgust.

My gregarious street youth?

He actually asked me if I knew where he could get a job. I told him Amazon seems to always be hiring…

Long and short of it, he’d probably happily take PT Drag Queen’s day job so that she could get all her well-deserved freebies the state and county have to offer.

Stupid Americans…where did we learn to think this way?

One of the things that makes me “grumpiest” is that I went to Catholic school.

No, wait…that came out wrong.

I am grateful that I went to Catholic school. The values I learned there – from the Bible I tell ya! – gave me a foundation to be at least a passing human being in life. I sure as hell (not a real place, BTW) am not perfect in anyone’s eyes: “god’s”, Christian’s, sexual or racial minority’s…so, thankfully I never claimed to be.

No, what makes me grumpy is that collectively we do such a poor job of practicing the simple lessons I learned from Catholic school and the Bible. These days, instead of doing unto others as we’d have done unto us – right? There’s no actual effort required for that one! At a baseline level, actually doing nothing earns us nothing in return.

But then we break the arrangement: we judge someone else.

How about that tenth commandment? Need a refresher?

People would – if you believe their words – kill for “a body like that” or “a decent parking space”…we’re America, we can bust two commandments in one go.

And then there’s some easy to ignore lessons from outside the Bible, since I know my education was a privilege.

Walk a mile in their shoes

I like to think of this as a Church of Elvis lesson, but it’s more likely a Native American idiom, where shoes are actually moccasins.

Or, hell…

Humor aside, the saying cautions us against envy and toward empathy.

But that’s proving to be a struggle. Isn’t there just an Instagram filter that applies empathy?

That Attitude Of Gratitude

Murderous Myrtle

Well, it’s finally happened.

Myrt has upgraded her nickname from Mistress to Murderous.

It’s a development that’s only surprising because I’m not dead. I always assumed that in our closed little ecosystem that I would be the only prey available to her.

But, somehow I woke up to this unexpected sight this morning…

I had to turn on the lights to determine that Myrtle hadn’t upgraded her recent poop mischief to that infamous “my cat pooped in my shoe” scenario. Then I thought it was dark fluff from the underside of my box spring.

But, nooooo.

Apparently, Myrtle is trying to make amends for her litter box antics. It’s just a surprising manifestation, since I live in a fourth floor condo with maybe a 20″ wide Juliet balcony.

There’s not a lot of room to work there…plus, Myrtle’s not the best hunter. She hasn’t caught the red dot once since I’ve known her.

Even more concerning is that I left my balcony door open for her while I was out, like I do when it’s nice. But when I got home, it had cooled down, so I closed the doors and put on the heat while I watched a movie before bed.

I had no idea there was a bird in the unit!

Then I slept through the entire death match that I imagine happened after I went to bed. I mean, the bird might have been dead when I got home, but not put out for me yet…somehow that seems more disturbing.

Do you think this more a Santa Myrtle scenario or an escalation of her psychotic behaviors?

Regardless, this is a cat behavior I surely never thought I’d have to deal with in my urban life!

But since people often comment on Myrt’s weight and shape, her litter box shitnanigans do make it easier to put her on a diet. I’m basically using food to positively reinforce good kitty bathroom habits, so she’s leaned down quite a bit in the last few weeks.

Apparently, her new svelteness has allowed her to better keep up with her prey.

Yup, I just found a way to take the blame for this poor bird’s death. Welcome to my head, people.

Murderous Myrtle

Oh, You…Universe, You!

It’s a wily cosmos out there, that’s for sure. The last couple of weeks have proved that to me in spades.

Whether you believe it’s the Universe, the Lord, Karma or some other idiomatic dark horse…behold my recent story. I’ll try and make it as follow-able as possible.

So, y’all know that I self- published my first two books – one nonfiction and fiction work each – in March. I consciously chose self-publishing since my research showed that writers lucky enough to get a publishing contract got dropped as soon as the contract ended if they didn’t turn out to be the next James Patterson.

The differences here – aside from the looming publisher break up – were that self publishing pays royalties monthly versus twice annually but there’s no up front money. So I might get a monthly payout, but it was gonna be ~$500 on average versus an advance of anywhere from $5-25k that you may never make back, hence the writers I talked to getting dumped.

I opted for the slow burn even though so far my earned royalties aren’t even what I made in a day when I worked at Macy’s.

God, I miss Macy’s money.

Anyway, I just pushed publish and silently hoped that some industrious producer discovered me.

So, while all that’s going on, I’m wandering around the Pearl and see this sign in the window of a store that I managed for three months four years ago.

Now, I could have called that outcome when I left there. I’m actually surprised that they lasted this long. I came on right after the founder retired and promoted the Vice President/Buyer to run things. He was grooming the District Manager to take over his role and I was brought on as a DM in training to run the store in the Pearl District until that change occurred.

It quickly became apparent to me that the dipshits in charge couldn’t manage their way out of a wet paper bag…so, like I said – I’m surprised they made it this long.

Still, I feel bad for the employees. Sorta.

Anyway.

Things are getting pretty tight at Casa de Xtopher. In February, my unemployment was suspended because they think I’ve been working and not reporting my income. This stems from a quarterly report from my temp job at Amazon – irony alert: that’s who I self-published with – that indicates a status change in my employment with them.

I wasn’t surprised at this, the timing the unemployment office described to me put this blip as a termination for not meeting my one shift a month commitment as a temporary employee.

Of course, the brainiacs at the unemployment office completely melt down and don’t know what to do, so they pause my benefit without telling me.

Seriously, how these people have jobs and I don’t…?

My question to them was

“So y’all require employers to report quarterly employment changes but you can’t differentiate between a new hire and a termination on those reports?”

Idiots.

We straighten that out and then – before a single benefit week is paid, some troll in their office comes up with, “Yeah, but his waiting week in October was paid. He has to pay that back.” To which I replied,

“I worked with your own clowns to figure out the correct timing and claimed earnings as I should have. Go pull the tapes.”

Sure enough. That was right, but by that time, the state had already withheld the week and a half of benefits from me for the payback.

Whatever.

I figure that will just extend my claim by a week and since I’m already over the hump of not having that week of benefits, I let it lie. So naturally, the next week I claim, I get an error message that my claim has run out or expired.

What fresh hell is this?

“Oh, yeah. You contested the original ineligibility decision back in April of last year.”

“And?!?”

“Oh, and that means your benefit may be reduced by eight weeks. We sent you a letter. Lemme find it…ah, here we are!”

And this very nice, surprisingly competent sounding woman reads the letter they sent me verbatim. “Blah, blah, blah may cause a benefit reduction of eight weeks blah, blah…”

“Right. ‘May cause’ not ‘will cause’, please allow me to explain the English language to you…”

“Oh, well we don’t right the letters ourselves…”

Because, of course not. If I had patience with incompetence and a lack of accountability, I’d just be leaving my job at Storables. That means that I’d never have gone to work at the airport, but if I had…I would have loved it there since competence and accountability are their scariest boogey men.

I count back eight weeks from my original claim on April 6th of last year to my last benefit payment…yup. They nailed it.

At least I come out of that experience knowing that the unemployment office is as good at stopping benefits as I am at not working for poorly run companies. What I did learn from this last contact, though, was that my claim can be renewed on April 7th, but at just over half of the original amount.

Not that I’ll believe that until I see a check.

Naturally, I’m panicking. I think my rent is paid through May, but my other meager bills will be dicey.

By The Way

Too subtle?

But, then…

I see on the Facebook – of all friggin’ places – that The Container Store is hiring for an Ops Manager. Of course, I apply!The Container Store and I have a long peripheral history. Way back in the 90s, the store I worked at – for a decade, lest you think I just can’t hold a job – carried a modular storage brand called Elfa. The Container Store eventually bought Elfa.

I was their customer after buying my condo in Seattle in the aughts. I outfitted my closet with their Elfa system. When I was looking for work up there, I got to the final round of interviews with them, but ended up missing out on the offer.

Then I went to work for Storables – which I nicknamed Regrettables – and learn that the owner had been aligned with the owners at TCS but the partnership disintegrated and he struck out on his own.

So, here I am. Still applying for jobs, wherever I can and at any level from janitor to manager.

Nothing.

I get a call. Turns out it’s from the owner of a chain of convenience stores here in Portland with a terrible reputation. I once saw a six pack of craft beer that’s $12 at the she-she brodega across the street from me for sale there for $19!

He pretty much offers me a cashier job on the spot for $12/hr, which according to him, “Is pretty good pay.”

It’s literally minimum wage in Portland.

Nevertheless, I’m freaking out about how to buy cat food for the meanest cat in history. I also think,

“Well, between this, the book royalties and maybe my unemployment – if someone there finally manages to get an answer right on the first try – I can pay my June rent. That’s something.

I’m really good at covering up my urges to leap from tall structures these days.

Incidentally…

Naturally, since my belly is now full of swallowed pride (shut up, Diezel) on the last day in the year since my last day at my nightmare airport job, I score an interview with the Area Manager for TCS. It goes great. I’m not just optimistic for the opportunity, I’m motivated by the conversation. She says she’s passing me down the chain of command to her local manager for a face to face.

Then, nothing happens.

No call yesterday.

Except today on the anniversary of my first day off work after quitting my job at the airport, I get a call from the local guy at TCS!

He wants to talk Monday, before he leaves for a week, but he wants “to get this rolling”.

That’s a good sign, right?!?

Naturally – since this is my life, here – Monday is my first day of work at the crappy, humbling convenience store job. So here’s what Monday looks like:

5:30 – wake up!

6:30 – start work at the convenience store.

2:30 – get off work at the convenience store (I hope!)

4:00 – interview with The Container Store.

Basically, I have 90 minutes to hoof it home to change, steal the Silver Fox’s car and drive 12 miles in Monday rush hour traffic.

The most heartbreaking thing is that I will have to walk right by my favorite dive bar – Kelly’s – on my way home from the convenience store.

But you best believe I’m fucking doing it. All of it.

And I’m getting that job!

Oh, but still…

Oh, You…Universe, You!

Petty Minds Matter

You might remember that not quite a year and a half ago I moved one door over in my building over a rent dispute with the lady who owned the condo I’d lived in for two years. Well, the short of it is that after sitting vacant a year – which gave me an admittedly petty pleasure – she rented it.

At the rent I’d wanted the year before.

Go figure.

Not long ago, I met the new neighbor.

That one time was enough.

I’d decided when I heard him moving in that I wasn’t going to mention that I’d lived there before him when we eventually met.

It was such a good idea.

However, when we finally met, I was leaving and he was standing at his door in gym clothes with two bags of groceries. My assumption was that he was just getting home from work and had stopped for provisions on the way back from the gym.

He asked how long I’d lived here. Told me he was new to the area.

I had accidentally Mrs Kravitz-ed him when closing my bedroom blinds one night and seen two men getting cozy on the couch. Meeting him at his door affirmed my assumption that he was a big ‘mo.

The worst part was I could tell he was one of those clenchy, uptight types.

Sure enough

Whoever lived here before must have had a cat because it took me three days to clean before I could move in.

Definitely uptight.

He went on to make a couple carelessly pretentious comments about things that really made me stand back on my heels to put as much space as possible between us. Myrt, realizing I was just on the other side of the door, decided to scream a few times.

Oh, you have a cat, too?

“Yup. I actually got her when I lived in your unit.”

Beat.

Beat.

Oh! You lived here?

“Yeah. I moved about a year ago.”

So, you must know the person that lived here before!

I lean against my door frame, “Kinda.”

Well, he wasn’t much of a housekeeper is all I know.”

He makes one of those awkward laughs that you have to watch out for, the kind where if you laugh it’s interpreted as tacit agreement? Naturally, I remained stoically neutral. Maybe my eyes narrowed just the teensiest bit.

“I’m sure I couldn’t say. I guess not by your standards, at least. But I do know the owner had a professional two person crew in here for a day a few months back…”

Me: level gaze

Him: blink

Me: level gaze

Him: blink, blink

“Maybe there was just a lot of hair in the ducts, who knows?”

I’m sure that’s it.

Me: level gaze

Him: blink, picks up grocery bags

“Of course, I shouldn’t keep you. And I’m sure my friend is waiting outside now! I should go. Have a good night!”

I go to the elevator and push the button, looking back just in time to see him disappear into the building’s stairwell.

What the? Who leaves their house in gym clothes with two bags of groceries?!? And we’re talking produce on top type bags of groceries.

Maybe he was cooking for his couch canoodling friend.

I dunno.

What I do know is that he was pretty judgy for a guy who’s balcony has looked like this for three full months now

Even worse, there’s one of those countertop compost pails sitting out there now, too. How gross is your compost pail that it can’t sit in your kitchen?

Must be more gross than a bit of cat hair.

Anyway…that’s not the petty part.

The other day I was running a bag of Myrtle related items to the trash chute – she’d had a day. First, she pooped on the living room rug for whatever subtle bit of feline logic. Then a few minutes after I served her highness dinner, I hear

Hurr. Hurk. Hurr…huuuurk!”

coming from the front door and just as I get to her, Myrtle uneats all over the entry rug.

Huzzah.

So, I’m cleaning the rug and hear doors opening and closing all over the floor. Which is kind of my new normal. I’ve gone from a random door closing once or twice a week and occasionally seeing a tacky wine bottle in the recycling as evidence of the old lady who lives on the other end of the floor’s presence to having a neighbor who is one of those people that can never leave his unit successfully on the first try.

So, I’m cleaning and I hear a door close. A minute later, I hear another door close, then another again.

About this time, I head out to throw my cat barf in the trash chute and just as I reach for the trash room door knob, it opens. My old lady neighbor just about dies on the spot – I swear, I saw her soul try and leave her body.

She makes some urgent “Oh, my!” sounds as I excuse myself and she disappears into her unit again. That’s probably the last time I’ll see her in 2019.

I drop Myrtle’s barf bag into the trash chute and head back to my unit.

As I’m passing my old doormat, I see there’s a note sticking out from under it. Curiosity tugs at me, but since I now know that I’m unaware of my neighbor’s whereabouts, I keep going. All I can see is that it’s a piece of copy paper with laser printed text on it.

I’m kind of thinking it’s a note for a delivery driver or something and put it out of my mind.

The next morning, I’m heading out – probably for coffee – and as I’m grabbing my jacket, hear my neighbor’s door slam.

Then open again.

Then shut.

Open.

Shut.

Then the fire stairs door slams and I wait.

Nothing…he’s gone.

I leave and see the note is still there, but it’s been moved. I push the button for the world’s slowest elevator. There’s plenty of time as I’m waiting to sneak a peek at the note.

Dear Neighbour,

You may be unaware of how the sound of your music travels through the walls…

It becomes clear to me that the series of doors I’d heard the night before was my old lady neighbor delivering this note before taking out her trash. Additionally, for whatever reason, she’s used English spelling twice in her note even though I’ve never detected an accent when we’ve exchanged words in passing.

Whatever. I don’t really care. I do note, however, that it’s a shame my new neighbor’s music has made a bad impression on my old lady neighbor, since they both seem rather affected.

Seems like they should get along fine.

But the petty part of this whole thing is me thinking that I lived in this guy’s unit for however long and never got a snotty, passive-aggressive, nearly-anonymous note from my neighbor about my music.

Must have been the extra insulation from all that cat hair…

Petty Minds Matter

My Fake Boyfriend Is Straight…

And not in the “straight to bed” way that I used to appreciate in my younger, more capricious days.

The Silver Fox invited me along for a walk this morning with him and his pooch, George. This is different than our usual morning routine of sitting in the coffee shop, reading the news like a couple of old men. But, hey, it’s a beautiful day and our regular coffee shop is closed, so…hi, Uncle Bob.

The Fox assured me that we could swing up and grab me a coffee, regardless at Nossa Familia. Noting his verbiage, I assumed he didn’t want a coffee – George is a handful – and passed. The day is still warming up and it’s not yet at it’s high of 50 degrees, but I put on a quarter zip and a light tech jacket that I’ve had for about 15 years, grabbed my sunglasses and we were off.

We went through the Pearl, toward the “new construction” and eventually found ourselves at the North end, where there’s an off leash park for the dogs. It. Was. Packed. So we just walked around the perimeter and left, me noting that we actually have all week to come here when it’s not so crowded.

We chatted comfortably about how crazy George was – likely overwhelmed by all the scents and pup-dates that have been laid down by the local dogs since his last really long urban walk. Last night’s SNL. How many of the new buildings we could name. Just casual good friend stuff.

All while George tried to accidentally kill me by zig-zagging like a crazy animal in front of us, behind us, around us as if his leash wasn’t creating a dangerous Xtopher trap with each erratic response to new stimuli only he could detect.

Eventually, we ended up coming down NW 13th, which is a historically preserved alley way. No sidewalks, but a lot of raised walks in front of the newer construction that compliment the truly historic boardwalks in front of shops new and old. As we came closer to our regular part of the Pearl District, we noted that the Bridgeport Brewery still seemed to be open, even though last night was supposedly its last night in operation. We agreed that maybe last night was just the end of food service, but by that time, we had traversed another block and were in front of the Safeway, causing The Fox to realize that Samoa Cookies had been missing from his life.

Since I don’t need that temptation in my life, I went across to Nossa Familia and ordered myself a coffee.

And by “ordered myself a coffee”, I mean that I got my fix of the barista I’m currently in an imaginary relationship with. Last time I was in, he punched the last three beans on my coffee card so that I had a free coffee…OBVIOUSLY this is love.

I had finished with my ordering and was chatting with him and a woman who was around the corner working on something out of sight while I waited. I turned to see the Silver Fox standing outside with George and asked if he wanted anything. He declined and I noticed the cardboard Girl Scout box he was carrying,

How many cookies did you buy?

“Eight boxes!” and I couldn’t tell if he was excited to get that many or proud that he’d ONLY gotten that many.

Fat Pants

And I closed the cafe door and turned my affection – er – attention back to my barista. I’d lost the conversational thread, so I went to the young woman making my latte – iced, because: duh – and introduced myself, since I didn’t recognize her. She said she normally works the closing shift, so if I come in the morning, that’s why we haven’t met yet. But she has also only been there six months, which paired with my once a week visits explained a lot.

Her name is Tea. I imagine it’s spelled Ti, but still…her parents couldn’t have named her The Cure For Cancer?

I was distracted by George bursting into the cafe, pulling The Fox along behind him. He appeared to be uninjured. My Barista Boyfriend had offered him a treat, which is what caused George to learn how to operate doors. Now they were playing and George was getting a good affectionate scrubbing from my fake boyfriend.

I got my drink and we left.

The Silver Fox pointed out an odd sign on the plasticized wood tables that were clustered together, waiting for the 60 degree end of this week and next week’s 60+ degree days to be put into use.

It’ll probably snow, since the weather app thinks it will be in the 60s…

After getting virtually no snow here in town after weeks of having it either in the forecast or dominating the forecast, I’m not really trusting its predictions more than 20 minutes out at the moment.

“Yeah, but what do you think this means?” The Fox is pointing to a sticker that warns that using footed stemware may cause damage to the wood.

Not sure, I’ve never seen a warning label like that before.

I went on to theorize that the glass foot might magnify the sun and cause damage that way, “like burning ants”, I hypothesized. He agreed, as if he’d simply been gut checking his own theory against mine and I accused him of bullshit. Of course, he denied this allegation of mine, but by that time, we were outside the new wine bar that’s opening up soon and each making mental notes to check it out at some point…even though it is a block further than the last new wine bar to open up and three or four blocks further than our original little wine bar.

Choices.

Well, my Barista Boyfriend is straight.

The Silver Fox seemed unfazed by my devastating declaration, but humored me with a palms up gesture and a “How do you know that?” Like it wasn’t simply likely that he has been straight and misfiring kind gestures my way this whole time.

Boxers. When he bent over playing with George, I saw that he was wearing boxers.

Obviously.

Like I need to watch a cute guy play with a lovable dog. What I need is to verify where I’m investing my emotional capital before I start egregiously overtipping this guy.

My Fake Boyfriend Is Straight…

Joe With Joe

Last week I had coffee with my Home Owners Association President, Joe. Joe is around 75, give or take a year or two and spends part of his year here in Portland and the remainder in South Carolina. He owns homes in both places, but makes it clear that he never wanted to be a Portland resident. He is a South Carolinian.

He spends time here because of his daughter and grandchild. Maybe even a little bit for his son-in-law, too.

You know, I’m getting to that age where I’d probably enjoy being close to one of my kids.

Like that was not an unusual statement or sentiment…

We see each other every week or so when he’s here. He’s one for poking around the building to check in kind of like old southern ladies poke around restaurants, table hopping and talking their way out after their meal. Occasionally, he’ll knock on a door just to give an update or meet a new resident. In a building with only 5 residential floors totaling 18 units, that’s kind of a nice touch from the HOA prez.

Sometimes, I’m not wearing pants, so I don’t answer. Ok, once.

Outside of that, we have the best of intentions to get together formally for a coffee or a drink while he’s in residence.

Last week, we succeeded.

Joe with Joe, if you will.

And it was a true treat.

When Joe putters around the building, you can catch a conversation on a myriad of topics from him…about the building. Oftentimes, I end up catching him as I’m rushing out to something – late, only because the Silver Fox is early – or rushing home and urgently needing to hit the can. But when you are fortunate enough to get him out of the building, the conversation is going to tend toward lots of interesting topics and casual brilliance.

He can’t really help himself. He’s rather smart. A math fella, not sure if he’s a PhD, for sure, but that was his career, so I bet so. He wears pithy tee shirts like thiseuclid tee
Which I think is a great play on words, so it’s amusing to me. However, put a gun to my head and make me explain the principle behind it and it’s gonna be bad news for me. I kind of top out at hypotenuse-level brilliance with math.

He mentions to me that he’s read my blog a little, back when he was using the Facebook. I’m instantly self-conscious because: smart. But he goes on to say that he liked my stuff,

It’a better than a lot of the stuff you see on there.

That seems like a pretty low bar to clear, knowing what I usually see on social media. But then he moves on to a trip that he took with his wife and one of their daughters and the moment passes.

To Edinburgh.

Because they wanted to do the whole Ulysses tour-thing. Ok, I’m gonna admit, I’ve never made it through Ulysses. Here’s the thing, I tell him, “I muddled through Ayn Rand and hated every page of it.

Before we moved on to other books, we indulged in our mutual disdain for Ayn Rand.

Greenspan was a follower, you know.

Of course, I did not know this.

Once I picked up Ulysses and started choking on the text, I put it down and pretty much left it wherever it was that I set it down.

Oh, yeah. That stream-of-consciousness writing is garbage. I can’t stand that style of writing.

But, wait…stream-of-consciousness is my style of writing! But, once again, he’s moved on in the conversation.

I only went because I wanted to see Scotland, I let them do all the Ulysses crap. I didn’t care about that.

Somehow, we move from there to Economics and his appreciation of the subject, which isn’t surprising coming from a math guy.

Economics – invented in Edinburgh, btw.

Because, Edinburg is awesome, right? But you can clearly tell that Joe has absolutely zero Scottish heritage, too, I’m sure. He talks at legnth about the topic, referencing Wealth of Nations so enthusiastically that I’m suddenly dying to read it.

Books we actually like was a recurring theme in our talk. Women, Fire & Dangerous Things was a clear frontrunner for him. Ok, when I say “books we actually like”, I mean he was talking about some of his faves while I made a Powell’s shopping list.

No, literally a list!

Imagine my surprise when he turned the table on me. Tales of the City, of course, is a continual go-to for me, when I haven’t loaned it out.

<don’t you think I’ve forgotten, Mom!>

Anyway, I told him I could do without the goofy Scooby-Doo style mystery. For me, those books are all about people developing connections that endure. Regardless of age, race, gender or orientation. So, during this particular coffee klatch, I’m glad it came up.

The liquefaction of the Portland waterfront – one of the reasons he doesn’t want to call himself a resident – when the big one hits the cascade plate was another topic. Complete with a shout out to…you guessed it!

Geology was also created in Edinburgh…

I believe in the Big One more than I believe in the Second Coming of the Lord, but I’m not convinced either is likely to occur in my lifetime. If it does, I don’t want to live through it, so the Pearl District is a good place for me.

However, in a fit of turning my What Could Possibly Go Wrong mantra on itself, I’m sure Fate will spare me my Red Shirt Diaries demise.

Alas.

For his part, Joe is happy to know his daughter lives on a granite shelf, so no liquefaction for her. The child and grandchild – and yes, even the son in law – should be safe.

And with that, Joe must go. He’s taking some steaks to his daughter’s place for dinner. He wants to drop them off and then head over to the nearby Pickle Ball courts for a little play before dinner.

Because it’s Portland and we have public Pickle Ball courts, damn it. And because that’s only a little weird, our septuagenarian residents play pick up games at them.

So, good news for us, Joe…like it or not, you’re

Joe With Joe

How to Make Friends

by Me!

As much as I may say that I don’t like anyone, I actually tend to make friends pretty easily. When I have a mind to.

Ok, even when I just can’t help myself.

I was reminded of this a few times over the last week, and it had me thinking that I might be leaving you all with the wrong impression of my favorite person.

My ruminations took me back, all the way to my first days in Seattle. As the Operations Manager at the downtown Macy’s it was indirectly my job to make sure the store actually opened every day. It was directly Loss Prevention’s job, but often the Dock Manager would help and if I was there, I did, too.

You see, we had seven banks of doors to open on the main level, each bank had three double doors. On the sixth floor, there was a single door coming off the sky bridge from the parking structure and on the basement floor, there was a bank of three double doors coming off the light rail and bus tunnel. We weren’t hurting for doors so much as we needed a friggin’ army to open them all at 9:00 each day. When I first offered to lend my key to the process, I got the distinct impression that these guys weren’t used to a lot of support from my predecessor.

That didn’t stop them from taking advantage of my FNG status (Fucking New Guy) and giving me some hazing as a thank you for my contribution.

This is how I came to be opening the southeast bank of doors on 4th Avenue each day.

My first customer every day – no matter how strategically I began opening the doors – was a very friendly and exuberant young disabled man. He was the exact opposite of a Walmart Greeter, inasmuch as he didn’t work for us and did not let that stop him one bit.

The first day I opened the southeast doors, I opened all of the inner vestibule doors and then as soon as I opened the first outer door, he was right inside, up in my stuff.

“What is your first name, please?”

I’m standing there with the door in my hand, trying to pivot backward, around and away from him, so that I can keep opening the remaining doors. He actually sidesteps his way with me, until my back is up against the backside of the door I just opened. People were just funneling in the only open door available as I looked down at this guy – who had to be all of 4’5″ and built like a little fireplug – who was completely blocking my access to anywhere but where I presently was.

He repeated himself.

“What is your first name, please?”

“Excuse me, I need to unlock those other doors, please”, I say as I futilely try to negotiate my way around him.

“And, what is your last name, please?”

Somehow, he seems to be perfectly fine assuming my name is “Excuse me, I need to unlock those other doors, please” and has moved on to getting to really know me by asking my last name. He also seems to be taking notes.

Over his head – without much effort, obviously – I see our LP Manager pushing through the doors behind my new friend to open the remaining two doors in my block.

He might be smiling just the teensiest bit. He’s definitely not trying too hard to disguise his laughter at my discomfiture.

This happened several times a week for the 15 months or so that I worked at that store. I have no idea who this kid was or where he came from, but every day…

“What is your first name, please?”

First thing in the morning. No matter where he was when I started opening doors, he used that compact mass of his to move into position so that he was the first person through the door when I twisted my key in the cylinder. I mean, as far as first customers go, I’ve definitely experienced worse.

The Macy’s Greeter situation all came back to me the other week when I passed a guy on a street corner that turned out to be a beggar. The Guy From Saigon. God, of course this has to happen right in front of my mother, but we had parked around the block to run into Penzey’s Spices for one of their coupon offerings and were on our way back to the car. I saw the guy, dirty, straggly hair and all weather jacket that had seen better days standing there in the middle of the corner so that people crossing the street on either side had to pass by him. Mom and I were just hoping to walk around the corner, but had to do so single file because of his positioning.

“I am from Saigon!”

His voice is like a hatchet, chopping through his greeting. Caught slightly off guard by his delivery, I absent-mindedly took his hand when he held it out.

“Can you give some money!”

Note, that was not a question. I was glad that I had boldly let mom go first, so she could keep going as I got this guy’s attention.

“You know, I only have plastic on me”, I apologized as my feet tried to keep moving, but he had not yet returned custody of my hand to me.

“That is ok. You can buy me some food!”

He’s now let go of my hand and is motioning toward the restaurant behind me, which is a Vietnamese restaurant that just doesn’t think Panda Express charges enough for their food.

“You know, that’s a big ask, and I’m gonna pass! Thanks, though!” I’m as cheery as possible to avoid accidentally triggering this guy.

That’s a lesson I accidentally learned about 30 years ago while walking through downtown with my dad. I’m not sure what downtown it was, to be honest. The timeframe should place us in Long Beach, but for some reason, I remember it as Old Town in Portland. Either way, this clearly homeless Native American guy jaywalks across the street and demands, “Give me a dollar!” with an open palm, while literally standing in the gutter.

“No!” I reply, indignantly while me father pulls me into the crosswalk and away from this unknown character. It was probably a good thing, too. I was really worked up over his poor manners. This was back in the days when minimum wage was around $2.35/hour, so this fella had some nerve in my hard working book.

Fortunately, The Guy From Saigon was more than happy to move on to other pedestrians trying to make their way to shops or cafes during their lunch breaks. for her part, mom only got the meagerest of pleasures out of the interaction. Her mom radar noticed me holding my hand away from my body before I realized I was doing it.

“I’ve got some hand sanitizer back in the car.”

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of hand sanitizer, but in this case, I was glad to have my Swiss Army Mom handy.

Because I live where I live, there’s no shortage of opportunities for me to make friends on the street as I make my way to my here’s and there’s on any given day. There is an outfit called Central City Concern that provides shelter and social services to the less fortunate in our city. Since their board wisely gobbled up real estate in Old Town before the Pearl District became a reality, they own about 25% of the buildings in the area. They put them to good use with short term micro studio housing as well as longer term shelters, flop houses and rehabilitation centers.

The end result is that I get a lot of chances to “meet” folks on the streets of the central city that are…concerning.

One such guy is a fella I call The Forgetful Guy.

He’s a shambler.

Just making his way from here to there, just like the rest of us, albeit without any real focus or urgency. It’s a nice day when his antipsychotics are all loaded up just so, he just meanders down the middle of the sidewalk around the Burnside/Broadway/Couch/8th block for hours at a time. I’m not sure where he goes when he’s not there, and when I see him anywhere else, it usually disorients me for a moment.

Then there’s those days where maybe he didn’t get his meds mixed just right or into his system on time. Or maybe his socks are wet. I don’t know.

What I do know is that those days he is just the most vocal, disturbing person to be around. And he’s pissed because on those days, he’s lost track of something.

“Where’s my LIGHTER?!?”

He mixes up the things that he’s lost from week to week or sighting to sighting – because in all fairness, he’s “on” more than he’s “off” – but when he is off, I try to give him about a block’s worth of buffer. It’s still an assault on my ears, though.

Couple weeks back – right around the time I met The Guy From Saigon with mom, I came up behind him on the Couch part of his circuit and when I was about 10 feet behind him, he just let it rip at some woman walking toward him.

“WHERE’S MY SMOKE?!?”

Holy mother of…that was a good effort.

I think I jumped higher than the woman his outburst was actually aimed at, but she went sideways and landed with one foot on the curb and the other in the street. I moved up to her real fast – which I think did nothing for her frazzled nerves in the moment – but I wanted to get myself between her and him.

Before you think I’m too brave – because, I’m too stupid, if anything – I know this guy well enough to place him when he’s around, but I couldn’t pick him out of a line up if I had to. What my quasi-familiarity provides me is the knowledge that he is a one-hit wonder when it comes to these outbursts.

One per customer, please.

Then it’s usually, nothing to see here, please move along, until he encounters a fresh victim.

So, that’s reassuring, I guess. The most impressive part of his walkabouts is that he never lifts his head. I’m sure it’s a physical disability that gives him this posture, but the impressive part is how attuned his peripheral vision is to people around him. Like I said, it’s one verbal assault per customer, and he’s done with you and on to spread his special brand of attention to the next lucky pedestrian. Which is way better than cornering some poor tourist who doesn’t know any better than to expect weirdness in general in Portland, but specifically on this particular block getting pinned against a wall or parked car and not able to get away from The Forgetful Guy. Lunch time is the only really bad time for him to be out and off his meds. Otherwise, there’s not too many people on this particular block. Thankfully.

Now…I have to take a moment to say that I’m really bummed, because when I thought about this Who’s Who of the Friendly-ish Portland Crazies, I made notes about my usuals and then made this note:

The Lincoln High (not) Grad.

“Hot second!”

And, for the life of me right now, I cannot recall the incident that prompted those notes. Clearly someone who was sharing his educational accomplishments-slash-shortcomings with passers by one day a couple of weeks ago while this blog notion was kicking around my brain. A guy who also happened to have quite a catchy verbal tic.

Alas.

I’ll keep my eyes and ears peeled for Mr Hot Second, but that I haven’t seen him in the last couple of weeks suggests that he might be a true transient and has moved on. Maybe he was just letting us all know that he was only gonna be around for a hot second when I saw him.

I think the Silver Fox would be disappointed if I didn’t mention The Richest Homeless Guy in Portland while I was talking about our (mostly) affable street folks.

The Richest Homeless Guy in Portland is a fella that we usually see when we head over toward Nossa Familia for a Sunday coffee or if we need to – need to – buy a lottery ticket. Safeway is one of two joints nearby where we can get a lottery ticket once it gains enough potential ROI to get on the Silver Fox’s radar. The other place is a murder mart called Pico Mart, but they close early and are dangerously close to the Bing Me! food cart, so when we go to Pico Mart for a lottery ticket, we feel ripped off if we can’t get a Bing at the same time.

So, Safeway it is, oftentimes.

And when we go, there he is, The Richest Homeless Guy in Portland, standing by at his station, ready to avail himself to the kindness of strangers.

Or Safeway customers as they exit the store onto NW 13th.

I nicknamed him The Richest Homeless Guy in Portland because he is a monolith of wool, every time I see him. Covered, no…wrapped from head to toe, face barely visible, in more blankets than you could imagine carrying. The first time I saw him, I thought to myself, “That homeless mo-fo is gonna trip over those blankets”, because the edges of his blankets drag the ground.

But he never has, as far as I know. And if he did…he’s well cushioned. And god help him, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say a word. It may be because his mouth is partially covered by blankets, thereby muffling his words. But I really think he’s a quiet guy. All I see of him is eyes, nose, tufts of wayward hair and whichever hand is holding his sign. Otherwise, he’s just slowing moving through the streets of the Pearl District, either on his way to or from the Safeway like a statue of liberty wrapped in moving blankets.

And frankly, aside from an occasional outburst or two from The Forgetful Guy? These folks are all local flavor. Down right affable in the case of The Guy From Saigon and pretty much harmless if they are anything other than affable. It makes me feel…generally comfortable, if that’s the right expression. Not that we have homeless people wandering in our midst. But that they are at least mostly harmless fixtures in our community.

There’s panhandlers that make me feel ill at ease on every block, don’t get me wrong. Usually with a dog I trust more than I would trust them. These friends I’m talking about that I’ve made while living in the Pearl neighborhood? They’re good enough folks. And I’m glad that Portland has the social-ist network that they need for support in their day to day lives.

Because it can’t be easy for them, that’s for sure. That’s why I always try to give them some eye contact and a smile or nod when I encounter them.

How to Make Friends