Due To Whelming Feedback…

…from yesterday’s post, I went out for a drive last night.

Mind you, the feedback was neither over nor underwhelming, simply whelming.

Of course, the universe didn’t let that stop it from being a rather me evening.

To wit – or, since it’s me – to halfwit.

There I was, minding my own biznatch…watching my eighth or thirtieth consecutive episode of Star Trek Voyager of the day, and suddenly MomDonna chimes in cryptically via text.

I love how she just starts her text in the middle of the conversation. Hehe. I think that conversational familiarity is a hallmark of any good relationship, so I definitely count it as a blessing that I have that shorthand with my parents.

And like any good slacker son, since mom said, I did.

Did, in this instance meaning, I turned on my Postmates app while continuing to watch Voyager and simultaneously playing Words With Friends.

I’m sitting there looking for a place to play aioli and seriously within a minute I get an order. So I go.

Yes, I placed my word first…isolation priorities.

I walk the two blocks to the lot I’d parked in after my depressive two hour/three ride Monday morning drive efforts – I literally made enough to cover parking for the day – and realized the pick up was from the just the around the corner Italian joint. I coast over, park illegally and try to go inside.

The door was blocked by two septuagenarians waiting for a table. And the place is packed!

I immediately start to feel a scratchy throat coming on as I wait. Recreational hypochondria is an unsung hobby of mine, just behind “growing hair” but before “growing hair in weird places” on my free time to do list.

“This is how we all die”, I think, “these idiots.”

Mind you, I’m out picking up food for people, but:

  1. I was expecting that restaurants would be deserted on the night before the dine-in embargo became official. Look at me, with my uncommon sense. And;
  2. My mom told me to do it. What’s their excuse?!?
  • I drive my order from the NW quadrant over to NoPo – North Portland, our city’s fifth quadrant – and drop it off. With no other deliveries stacked up, I sit in Angela for a minute trying to decide what to do. Normally, I’d point my car toward home and then take orders if they came and quit when I got home if they didn’t.
  • Extraordinary circumstances, though.
  • Plus, I had been to the Silver Fox’s that afternoon and while there, peeked into his fridge. I’ve dubbed myself his real-life Kramer, so I feel it’s incumbent upon me to be weird and help myself to his food when he’s not around.
  • He’d abandoned me yesterday to keep his ex-wife company during her self-imposed isolation, so I figured liberating a kombucha from his fridge was the least I could do.
  • Empty.
  • Seriously, there was like a container of oat milk. I’d rather die than drink that before it’s 15 minutes of fame were up. Adding insult to injury, his ex’s grand nephew popped in to spend his spring break with them since Canada is closed…meaning I’ll probably not see The Fox again until it’s time to pull his plug.
  • Also meaning that I had to text him my disappointment at the fridge situation.
  • Knowing how to truly wound me, he replied that there were some frozen meatless burger patties in the freezer I was welcome to.
  • This is why we’re friends.
  • Anyway, apocalypse being now, I decided I best head to Gross Out for some frozen broccoli. If this outbreak kills me, I’d like my corpse to weigh a few pounds less than my live body does currently. If it doesn’t kill me, welp…Pride is in June, so I’ll exit forced isolation ahead of the game, eh?
  • I turn on my Lyft app to ensure I have every shot possible at scrapping a nutritious diet for pizza delivery, thinking there’s no way I won’t get distracted by one of the two apps before I get to the NE quadrant.
  • I get there. Who knew?
  • I go in and grab a couple salad kits then head to the frozen food coolers for my broccoli. They were sold out. The only thing left was albino broccoli.
  • I think I probably have something from Penzey’s that can make it palatable, but head over to the wine department, just in case.
  • I check out and get back to Angela, turning my apps back on for the potential ride home. Before I even push “start”, I have a delivery.
  • Sheesh.
  • I look at the nav…right across the street.
  • Woooow.
  • Apps are cool.
  • I pick up some guy’s dinner – a grocery bag full of Korean BBQ – and head off toward NE 60th & Couch.
  • Sidebar: You pronounced that wrong – it sounds like “cooch” here. But just the street, not the furniture.
  • So, there I am…sitting at NE 60th & – say it with me – Couch at 730 PM. I need to go home and feed Myrt the Murderous soon. She had a late snack, so I’m not feeling terribly guilty.

    Still, soon.

    But at the same time, I’m 80-ish blocks from home and would feel guilty just driving there straightaway. On the other hand, my caving to peer and mom pressure to get out and try some deliveries has netted me $7. Actually, after groceries, my net is -$25.

    This is why I don’t put a ton of effort into Postmates as anything other than a cure for boredom. Delivering two meals and earning $7 is way better than the alternative: drinking two $7 beers.

    Sure.

    Fine.

    Apps on, I point Angela toward the South Water Front and Oregon Health Sciences Hospital campus, thinking I might catch a shift change ride.

    I don’t.

    But as I’m weaving around the labyrinthine streets of SW Portland, I get a call up to the main campus on top of Marquam Hill. Technically, first I got a Lux ride that was 14 minutes away that canceled 90 seconds later. Seriously, that was a bummer because it was far enough out in SE that I’d probably have earned $40 on that ride, but if the passenger was gonna spend $60+ on a ride, they probably didn’t want to wait 15 minutes for it. Still, they couldn’t wait another 30 seconds and slide a $10 cancellation fee my way? Hehe.

    Ok, anyway.

    Then I got an order, then 30 seconds later I got the OHSU ride. I cancel the order – wondering what karmic shenanigans I’ve signed up for in doing so – and head up to OHSU.

    I drop the ICU nurse I pick up off at a Safeway in NE so she can do some shopping before heading home. This woman has some logic long game – she knew at 6 AM that she’d want to shop after work and parked accordingly. I pull out of the parking lot and am going around the block of one-way streets so I can head home.

    Another ride.

    Three blocks away.

    Seriously…this kind of takes some of the sting out of the Lux ride that canceled on me. But only just. I made $20 on Sunday – plus $5 off a delivery order – none of which tipped. My Monday drives had doubled those earnings, but I’d usually earn over twice that before the world slowly began ending, so I was pretty disheartened that Lux ride hadn’t happened to true me somewhat up.

    Alas.

    What ended up being my last ride took me to SE again, around 33rd, putting me a ways away from home. But I’d gotten a self proclaimed introvert to talk, so I was feeling pretty good as I pointed the car toward home once again.

    I actually made it home.

    However, since it was now 830 and the chatty introvert was the only tipper out of four “customers”, I wasn’t disappointed to call it a night.

    I had some dinner wine and went to bed so that I could wake up at 6 today and give it another go. I made about 30% more on my morning commute rides today – again, one tipper…disappointing trend – which put me at about 50% of my normal morning earnings. Enough to park Angela for the day and buy myself a coffee. To go, natch. But I got home to a push from Postmates telling me one of last night’s deliveries had tipped me $7.50, doubling my actual delivery earnings for the evening. Still not super impressed with the Income Potential from Postmates, but to MomDonna’s point, it got me out of the house.

    Plus, turns out Voyager wasn’t yanked from Netflix overnight, so I really didn’t miss anything.

    And that’s my last 36 hours of social-distance-slash-forced-isolation…one footnote to yesterday’s post, my first ride today – a nurse – demonstrated to me exactly how the US extincts itself.

    I drive in the mornings for the scratch, sure. Until the lottery decides to cooperate, anyway…But in these low earning days, I’d rather stay in bed. It’s being so close to so many (non-tipping, but still) medical professionals who Lyft to work since there’s no parking for them on campus that gets me up. Getting medical professionals to work these days is a reward that’s greater than the paycheck or non-existent tip.

    Seriously, one OHSU worker has tipped me in 9 months. And the buildings they live in aren’t dumps. Also, the wait list for parking on campus is long. One nurse has been on it for nine years. And there’s still 1000 people ahead of her! That’s what you get for building a hospital on a hilltop, eh?

    Anyway. I digress.

    This nurse tells me she was going to miss going out for St Paddy’s Day after work due to the forced closures. But at least she got to go out to her favorite neighborhood watering hole last night for a last farewell.

    I ask her which one and she tells me River Pig. I know it, I tell her. Ramzy – the owner – is a nice guy, despite spelling his name incorrectly. Kind of a douche, but still nice.

    Further demonstrating both my point about Ramzy and Governor Brown’s need to force social hubs to shutter to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or any of the lesser COVIDs, my nurse passenger tells me that Ramzy had told her he wasn’t closing. He was going to remain open for his regulars as a means of exploiting the 25 person or less private event loophole for restaurants and bars.

    Like I said, he’s a douche.

    But seriously, that’s how we die. Not some millennial taking a $87 round trip spring break flight to Puerto Vallarta, no…a nurse who should know better and a bar owner who clearly skews GOP values-wise. Oh, and 70-somethings going to packed restaurants during a pandemic!

    My workaround? I gave her a 3-star rating so I don’t have to risk picking her future COVID-zombie-self up.

    Stupid Americans…

    Due To Whelming Feedback…

    Going Out Of Business!

    Portland Edition.

    I went out on a lil urban hike yesterday morning and was confronted by the reality of a frequently occurring conversational topic of late: commercial real estate in Portland.

    The rug shop on the corner across from my place is closing. Well, is closed.

    Just as a reminder, I live in a neighborhood called The Pearl which is nestled in the Alphabet District of Portland’s Northwest neighborhood. Essentially, this neighborhood runs from Burnside to Lovejoy streets from North to South and from Broadway to 8th to Park and then 9th-13th on the East to West streets.

    It’s an 8×11 street grid.

    There is/was three rug shops within that grid, so “How many rug shops do you need in that small area?” is a valid question.

    Here’s one of the survivors, which was forced to move from its original location a few years ago to make way for a 14 story, half a city block apartment building that is finally nearing completion.

    I’m not complaining. Once this is done early next year, my immediate area will wrap up its fourth major building project over the last four years. That’s two new hotels and two new apartment buildings that added about 500-700 new neighbors and countless tourists to my corner of the world.

    Until the Post Office project begins in god knows when, I’m in the clear, construction-wise.

    Interestingly, the opposite corner of my block (shown above) rented nearly a year ago and just recently opened. It’s a rowing studio, which upset the Filipina Fox greatly, since she and her husband were planning – still are – to open a row studio. But if you got clients that are too lazy to walk into class, you’re probably better off not even bothering to open.

    At least they are friendly. Homegirl gave me a nice friendly smile and wave.Still, it goes back to my earlier question, how many <insert business here> does one small part of town need?

    When it comes to gyms, I can think of too many:

    The grand daddy of the OGs, 24 Hour. It’s been here since well before the turn of the century. Another OG – LA Fitness – came in a decade and a couple blocks later.

    There’s now City Row, Yo Yo Yogi, Pearl Yoga, Firebrand, Barre 3, Bar Method, RevoCycle, BurnCycle and countless CrossFit studios within my tiny grid. Including one that moved into this site for about an hour.

    But fitness and rugs aside, this whole conversation started with a few notable business closures.

    Namely, Pearl Bakery and Henry’s Tavern with an honorable mention to Byways Cafe.

    Pearl Bakery had been in its current location for 23 years, serving up fresh baked breads and pastries as well as top notch coffee the entire time. It was a Pearl landmark.

    Henry’s, on the other hand, could arguably be said to have been here in the Pearl since before there was a Pearl to be in.

    Henry Weinhard’s started brewing beer here in 1906 and I know people just a few years younger than me whose parents worked there. It was bought by AB a few decades ago and brewing operations were consolidated elsewhere sometime after that. In the 90s, the brewery was redeveloped into a founding corner of the a Pearl called the Brewery Blocks, which enveloped the block that Powell’s sits on and also included a couple of condo and apartment buildings The Henry and The Louisa, named for Weinhard and his wife. One of the old brick buildings was remodeled and became home to Henry’s Tavern, run by the recently relegated to the annals of bad business Restaurants Unlimited. Still, RI was snatched up by Landry’s and there was hope that the namesake restaurant in the Pearl’s Brewery Blocks would be spared the axe.

    Alas.

    Still, you gotta wonder, if coffee and beer can’t make a go of it in one of Portland’s affluent destination living and shopping districts…hadn’t there got to be a bigger problem?

    Henry’s is hardly the only brewery or taproom to face this fate.

    Last year, Bridgeport shut down brewing operations in the Pearl and later closed its onsite restaurant.

    Avid started its life as Atlas before being sued over copyright infringement and forced to rebrand. It opened last year in one of the two nearby apartment building projects i mentioned.

    On Deck will close permanently at the end of the year, putting the Pearl down a sports bar.

    It was quite the summertime destination – for some, not me) with a rooftop that probably doubled its square footage. I think this business in particular struggled with a too common threat in the neighborhood these days:

    Redevelopment

    Rumors circulated for the better part of a year that this block was due to go under the wrecking ball to create a new mid-rise building. Office Depot occupied the other corner of the block and pulled out last year.

    And while I am a supporter of housing density, the panic future development rumors create is detrimental to our present.

    Indeed, my backup – and preferred – coffee house is on that block, you can just make out the red reflection of its “Open” sign in the picture above. As a matter of fact, Nossa is new to this block within the last couple of years, having moved from literally two blocks down when its former location came under the same redevelopment axe.

    Yet, here its former location is. Empty as the rumors that helped facilitate its relocation. Also, some randomly occurring Jingle Bell runners.

    But as in favor as I am of redevelopment, I think the overall benefit is mitigated by the negative impact of commercial real estate’s larger problem: greed.

    Real estate – both commercial and residential is at a premium in Portland overall and more so in the Pearl specifically since it’s such a hub. So, for every new building that goes up, there’s at least one – if not two – large restaurant or retail spaces included in the new building as anchor spaces.

    Case in point, The Rodney.

    This apartment building was finished early this year and included a large restaurant space on the ground level. This corner is on Glisan, one of the two busiest one-way through-fares in the neighborhood. Including construction, there’s been over two years to lure a business into this spot. It’s next door to 10 Barrel Brewing and Rogue Brewing’s taproom restaurants and a block from Andina, another Pearl District restaurant mainstay.

    That they can’t rent this space out is problematic. Then again, it took two years post-construction for City Row to open in the large space next to my building, so…

    A bigger problem?

    The building right across Glisan that should be complete and open early next year. Including what I assume will be at least one large restaurant space in its three corner spaces – it’s a big building.

    Between these two buildings, we’re adding around another 750+ residents to the neighborhood…it shouldn’t be that hard to draw a business that can make a go of it here. As long as it’s not named something complementary-awkward to its neighbor. All we need is an apartment building named The Slice sitting across the street from The Rodney.

    But large restaurant space is tricky. Even chain based restaurants can’t make a go of it. Back before RI went out, they snatched up Pacific Restaurants. This was back in 2007 and I believe – forgive me if I’m wrong – PR was an affiliated evolution of Farrel’s Ice Cream Parlors.

    Between the two, they put successive restaurants into this Glisan corner space for decades.

    It was home to Palomino and Trader Vic’s with at least one other incarnation from the brand’s portfolio in the mix. Then it sat empty for a couple of years before signage for a Pink Taco went up in the windows screaming about a new future.

    Then silently came down.

    More recently, the space has quietly announced a new tenant.

    And apparently the low key nature of its announcement saved enough money for remodeling to actually begin this time around.

    Meanwhile, on the opposite corner of that block, facing Hoyt, another of the Pearl’s pioneer eateries sits vacant after closing in the middle of the night a few years back. Oba! was an exciting happy hour destination and a swanky date night or celebration restaurant destination.

    Then, poof!

    Gone.

    Ironically, another Pearl nightlife mainstay is rumored to have leased the space, but those rumors are growing stale after almost 18 months.

    Jimmy Mak’s was a jazz venue in the Pearl since the days where there was only one or two industrial co-ops and maybe one condo building in the hood. Then they moved catty corner to a new location next to one of our three neighborhood rug shops.

    Then, the rumors came.

    Kush decided to move ahead of the demolition of its half-block. Jimmy Mak’s decided to close down once its owner’s cancer resurfaced. The farewell party was planned – a New Years Eve to Mark the end of the Jimmy Mak’s era.

    On New Years Day Jimmy died. It was tragically sad and a simultaneously beautiful ending to the story.

    Until…a couple of former employees decided to reopen Jimmy Mak’s in the Oba! space six months later. Another beautiful tribute to a legendary entertainment venue.

    The “Leased” sign is up…but 18 months in, we’re still waiting.

    Celebrity chef based restaurants aren’t faring any better than chain-backed ventures.

    Isabel Pearl was a restaurant opened by cookbook author Isabel Cruz back in 2008. After a decade, plans for the San Diego based cookbook author cum restauranteur to expand into the old Gilt space a few blocks away on Broadway were announced.

    Gilt was the space’s former tenant and is the restaurant made famous by the Colin the Chicken episode of Portlandia…

    If you can’t stay in business with that pedigree…alas, instead of expanding to a second location, Isabel decided to “reimagine” their original Portland location.

    A hand-drawn magic marker sign. I can see that no expense was incurred – at least they learned something from Pink Taco.

    Speaking of which, maybe that’s the restaurant that should anchor the building across from The Rodney!

    Here’s a few more spaces that recently transitioned:

    The Star brings deep dish pizza to the space formerly home for tow decades to The Paragon. Hopefully, they enjoy a similar tenure.

    Two Wrongs is a collaboration between a Portland bar/restauranteur and the marketing/brand master behind Portland Gear. They took over a former Black Rock coffee house to open a bar.

    Here’s Byways, which I mentioned earlier. Fifteen years ago, this was Shakers Cafe. Both incarnations were kitsch themed diners and have occupied this space for…gosh, 25 years collectively? They announced their closure after failing to negotiate new lease terms with the building’s owner.

    There’s that greed again.

    That the Sheepskin shop that shares the building with Byways has outlasted them is truly mind boggling. And it’s not like the building is going anywhere. There’s a co-op on one side and a similar small building housing a taco joint and a kitsch decor store called Cult on the corner.

    Taprooms aren’t the only alcohol based destinations to struggle. This space is in the building that the Silver Fox lives in. It sits on Everett – the other main through-fare in the Pearl used to House a wine bar called Remedy. They limped along for a couple of years before closing and one of the owners – who owned the commercial space – had it rezoned and remodeled into his private residence.

    An old school shared office building (pictured top) closed up last year. It had been here forever. It featured a now whitewashed wall that formerly depicted a mural of home state hero Steve Prefontaine and a fun neon sign helpfully suggesting the proper use of ones time.

    I’d like this mural restored, if they’re just gonna cover it over and then leave.

    Come to think of it, I want the neon back, too! Maybe keeping the “Working” side lit would keep homeless people from camping in the doorway.

    Given its billion dollar a year losing competitor across the park, I can see where it would be hard to compete successfully. But this is Portland. We’re supposedly hard wired to support the underdog. WeWork should not have won in this scenario.

    Affluence doesn’t always guarantee success over commercial real estate greed, either. Opposite the corner housing Pearl Bakery – which started this whole ball rolling – was a Charter School. It had been there for quite some time, bringing kids into the Pearl’s North Park Block neighborhood. That was an add that even this grumpy old man appreciated.

    The City even collaborated to renovate the old Park Block playground into this

    Bit then the school decided to move – for whatever reason. Hmm…what could it be?!?

    Greed?!?

    Perhaps.

    Maybe they just outgrew the building.Ok, ok…I know this is running long. I think I’m wrapping up. I mean wearing myself out.

    Let’s compromise and call it both.

    The corner pictured above used to be a favorite pre-turn of the century coffee haunt of mine called Torrefazione. I actually made it a hangout for my main character in No One Of Consequence.

    Anyway, Starbucks bought the small chain out and then closed them all up! Talk about cutthroat.

    The Torrefazione family responded by leasing the restaurant space in the new high rise condo that was built on the opposite corner and opened Caffe Umbria.

    Take that Charbucks. The family’s roastery May be Seattle based, but at least one of the family members lives locally and drops in to watch soccer with his toddlers on the weekends.

    It was a very Portland thing to do, protest opening a business like that…even if selling out wasn’t so Portland.

    The three pics below all represent businesses being priced out or rumored out of their homes. The Beneficial Bank looks nice, right?

    It should.

    After being forced out of its home for a couple of years once it’s space was slated for a high rise residential project, it was welcomed back with a paint job. Seems funding may have hit a snag. Who knows? Anyway, score one for the little guys.

    Snow Peak, on the other hand, is just beginning it’s rumor based adventure. There’s a new “Coming Soon” window sign up a few blocks away. It coordinates well with the rumor of a new mid rise building in its current spot.

    What I can’t figure out, though, is the how of that mid rise rumor. The Snow Peak space sits between the aforementioned and newly remodeled Rogue Brewery space on one side and an architecture firm on the other side.

    I’m kind of worried that the architect space will come down to make way – along with Snow Peak – for another high rise apartment building.

    The rub?

    It’s right across from The Rodney – so maybe that intersection isn’t out of the redevelopment woods just yet.

    Even more surprising is the answer Snow Peak represents to my “How many” question from earlier.

    Snow Peak is in the Pearl’s crowd of outdoor and cold weather clothiers.

    REI, Nau, Fjallraven (with TWO locations in the Pearl!), North Face, Patagonia and Icebreaker…and I know that I missed some!

    Ironically, for as persistent as outdoor clothing stores are in the Pearl, home stores don’t fare so well. The Tactics skateboard shop above is a new notion for a space that was a gallery and then a home store and then a home store and then nothing. Likewise, the brick warehouse across the street was a furniture store and the space across the alley was also a home store that became a CrossFit gym for an hour or so before settling into its current sweatpants and ponytail version of an empty space.

    In a further fit of irony, the CrossFit space was subdivided when it was a home store to reduce the size of the shop and thereby the overhead. It was slated to become Jimmy Mak’s new home before the cancer resurfaced. Then it became an “event space”.

    Let’s hope the Oba! space fares better. Eventually.

    Design Within Reach expanded last year to the above space, leaving its old two-story space vacant.

    It looks way more inviting now, so I’m glad. But it got me wondering.

    Maybe the evolution/solution to our commercial real estate vacancies is going to be something that Design Within Reach, Snow Peak and Nossa Familia have all already learned – along with countless college students.

    The way to control real estate expense is to move.

    It may cost more in the short term, but overall you leverage the expense downward.

    For everyone.

    It forces the market price correction that is necessary to offset the empty space and make those spaces affordable. I mean, commercial real estate brokers could just do the right thing and re-write current leases.

    But how likely is that?

    The banks didn’t do it with mortgages during the real estate crisis until Obama forced them to. Somehow, I don’t see the commercial real estate industry doing the right thing here.

    Then again, investment brokers are doing something similar right now, by cutting transaction fees all the way to $0. I’m prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

    Until then?

    I wouldn’t mind seeing out city planners get a little more involved in approving all of this ground floor commercial space.

    Or not approving it.

    I think there’s a case to be made for more ground floor live/work space.

    With the Pearl spanning 11 blocks on the North to South expanse, surely we could limit the commercial space on the ground floors to maybe 4-6 of those blocks? I mean, residence density is our goal here, not excess vacant commercial space.

    We don’t need a brewery, yoga studio, flower shop or restaurant on every block.

    I think the current situation has proven that.

    Going Out Of Business!

    Awkward Things I Did This Week

    Ok, how this isn’t an ongoing theme for my blog…I just don’t know.

    Maybe I should try making #ATIDTW a thing.

    I realized after my walk this morning – doing prep for a larger entry tomorrow – that I was wearing mismatched socks. No biggie…it’s just a Saturday morning walkabout.

    It was the second time this week. No, they weren’t the opposites of the other mismatched set. Yes, last time was a workday.

    I guess I should be more careful about golfing laundry in dim lighting.

    Or around wine.

    I barely avoided sending a snarky email to the owner of the company I am consulting for the other day. I realized I had somehow chosen to “reply all” as I was proofreading it – I’ll explain what that means later, Silver Fox – and decided it was safer to just tell her in person.

    In a small victory over my own awkwardness, I fell into my chair at work without spilling my coffee. I was attempting to sip coffee, hip-check my chair so it spun so that I could sit down and turn around all at the same time. My foot landed on one of the casters, sending me off balance as I turned and my chair skittering in the opposite direction from my vector.

    I fell backward.

    Somehow, I hit the chair.

    Arms flailing.

    Coffee sloshing but not spilling.

    Thank gawd I was alone in the office, but I still looked to make sure not even the Chief Feline Officer was present to witness my derp.

    No, neither of those three things – socks, reply all or near fall – happened on the same day.

    I am only in the office three days a week, so I’m batting 1000 in the awkward department for this week.

    I had a date this week. Someone I met online and decided to throw $20 at to see if he was as good in person as he was online.

    He was!

    A cute construction worker type. Maybe 5’8″, so right there in my shorty sweet spot.

    And while he was an engaging conversationalist, he was also a good listener. Letting me prattle on about me-things while he listened attentively and encouraged me with relevant follow up questions instead of scrambling to get the conversation back to himself.

    Turns out…he was 20!

    Is. Fine.

    Goddamnit!

    While he was trying to sell me on the fact that he was almost 21, I was asking him if he voted in the last election.

    “Nope. I wasn’t old enough, silly! But I’m voting in 2020, for sure!”

    “Nono. In the midterms!”

    Blank stare.

    At least I came away from the encounter with something more upsetting to me than his age.

    And to cap off my week in derp, I stopped on my walkabout this morning for a coffee. It was my backup coffee shop because it was geographically desirable, plus my primary shop opens at 9 on Saturdays and it was only 8-ish.

    I haven’t been in in about a month because my Barista Boyfriend has a girlfriend now. Or at least he did last time I was there at the beginning of November. We were the only two people sitting on the mezzanine and he stopped by to kiss her.

    No kiss for me, though. But fresh off a really good kiss (goddamnit!) from The Toddler yesterday, I figured there’s worse things than being fake betrayed by fake boyfriends.

    “Oh my god! It’s been so long!” – Female Barista, Boyfriend Barista was looking on, smiling from behind his La Marzocco.

    “Coma.” – Me

    “You look all flush! How are you feeling now?” – FB

    “I think it’s just walking in the cold. Or maybe my scarf is too tight! I miss Elvis, though.”

    “That was a long coma…”

    We went on to chat a bit more, then finally convincing me that I needed a hot coffee if I was going back out. Might as well be a peppermint mocha, too if it’s the only hot coffee of the season.

    Winning argument.

    I also found myself without my reusable bamboo straw, this being a spontaneous event. FB convinced me to get one of the metal straws, since it had a silicone tip and she could chew on it.

    “Well, you can chew on the bamboo straws if you really want to.”

    “P’shaw…I’m not a panda!”

    “Whatever you say, Ping Ping.” – Me, in perfect deadpan.

    That was the awkward, by the way….

    “Well, I may be Chinese, but I’ll leave the bamboo chewing to the pros. I’ll still answer to Ping Ping, though, but only for you!” She gives her coworker a little side eye warning.

    She was laughing, as was Boyfriend Barista and I thought Ping Ping could stick. Still, there I was…totally feeling like a latent racist for bringing panda names into the conversation with someone who turned out to be of Chinese heritage.

    It registers on some level with me when someone is a POC. But that level is the same level as hair color.

    Still, when race comes up, so does my guilt. Honestly, I couldn’t profile an Asian person’s race if there was a million bucks riding on it. For a cool mil, I might make a guess. Otherwise, I just don’t care.

    One of my best friends is Philippino. Something I only remember because she nicknamed herself Filipina Fox. The Silver Fox’s daughter in law is Asian, but I have no idea what race. She’s from Las Vegas and Seattle, the end.

    Anyway, with Ping Ping, I decided to ignore her race drop in and pivot. I segued to panda trivia.

    “Did you know that it costs $10 million a year for China to loan out pandas? That’s per panda.”

    “No! Really?”

    “Yup. Key word: loan.”

    “Goddamn. That’s quite a racket!”

    “And any pandas born while they are on loan belong to China, not the host country! No anchor pandas allowed!”

    The discussion went on from there, but I never got to impress them with the full extent of my panda trivia because people came in.

    I’d bought my cool reusable straw –

    – but I did manage an aside to my two-timing Barista Boyfriend as he topped off his latte art with a few dollops of chocolate whipped cream.

    “Hey, if anyone asks for a loaner straw for their drink, charge them $10. Per drink, no free use on refills!”

    “Right? Why should China have all the fun?!?”

    I don’t think these things only happen to me. I do kinda think that it’s possible no one embraces their awkward with as much vigor as I do, though…

    Awkward Things I Did This Week

    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.

    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