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

I Don’t Like Anyone

Congratulations if you’ve made it to this point in my life and I like you.

Or even worse (for you) I call you friend.

Because I think the “like” department is either out of stock or never reopened after the Partial Government Shutdown.

I started thinking about this a couple weekends ago, after back to back dinner parties. But yesterday, it really crystallized for this old grumpopotamus.

I haven’t enjoyed the company of new people at all for at least a month!

Friday, I had an interview with MudBay. Again. Having breakfast with my parents beforehand, they even seemed caught between optimism and incredulity that this interview process was still going on. To be fair, I started with one DM in November and then got switched to a second in January after nothing happened with the first.

It was fine by me, DM #1 didn’t leave me feeling like she liked me as a candidate. This was after she just happened to be present when I did a drop in with a Store Manager that a former colleague recommended I talk to.

DM #2 and I seemed to really jive during our chats. So I was excited about Friday, even though the pay is pretty meh. It’s still seeming like a company that 99% aligns with what I’m looking for in a company.

So I show up out in BFE yesterday to have what I hoped was a final interview.

DM #1 was unexpectedly in attendance.

FFS.

Our conversation this time – she did more of the talking between the two of them – seemed better. DM #2 swoops in at the end to say she’ll be calling all the people they speak to in this round by Wednesday to let them know their status. I would hope that means a yea/nay on the job offer front. Regardless, it was specific. That’s way better than the way DM #1 left me hanging after our surprise first meeting.

I’ll call you when we’re ready to move forward with interviews!

Too chipper.

Also, I didn’t know this was an interview, so she didn’t have my resume to walk away.

So she didn’t have my contact info.

Or. My. Last. Name.

I can find you in our applicant tracker!

Too chipper.

By first name? You said you got hundreds of applicants. From a job that posted in June of 2018…and it’s November.

I can search by referral source, since you were referred by an employee!

Too chipper.

Plus, she should have said Muddy, since that’s what they call one another.

Well, that might narrow down the applicants with my first name. Assuming she remembered it. Or the Muddy’s name that referred me…

So, while I can at least appreciate that this conversation was a good one, I’m still a little rankled by the Shanghai Round Robin style interview.

Mostly, because I don’t like people anymore, it seems.

I actually got to have a spur of the moment lunch with Little Buddy a few days later while she was in my hood doing errand-type things. She was detoxing some family stuff with some fun adult lunch time.

I’m glad I can be that person for someone!

But, naturally, I ruined it by telling her I didn’t like the new people that came to her dinner party.

Why not? They are amazing people! So accomplished.

I dunno. The woman seemed intent on being the star of the party.

Pish. She’s fine, she just didn’t know anyone but me. You know how we can be in a group.

Fair point. But it all seemed like showing up to a wedding in a prettier dress than the bride to me.

I’m pretty sure we left that at a neutral assessment that I am just crazy.

Since it snowed here this week – with an anticipated 4″ on Friday – the wine event LB, 2.0, the Silver Fox and I were all going to Saturday got canceled.

Of course.

Naturally, the snow never materialized…

My walk to f&b for coffee was completely un-treacherous. The Fox joined me and we couldn’t decide if there was an unusual amount of families passing by outside or if there was just too few not families out to dilute their presence.

We were decidedly the only two people in the cafe for the most part until he left at 1:30. There was a couple of ladies who walked in and declared they had a half hour to kill and could they just hang out.

It had started snowing. Big, fat flakes. But, still…no! Buy a goddamned coffee and wait. Sheesh. These ladies looked to be 60-ish.

But the type of 60-ish that are entitled and well to do. Terrible combination. In my opinion, that question cost more in dignity that a $3 cup of coffee would have cost them.

I’m probably just mad because I know the cafe is struggling. Their rent is going up and likely to cut their barely double digit profit margin in half, making it likely they’ll close.

All because they’re in a convenient rendezvous area. And too nice to say

Buy a goddamn $3 cup of Joe or GTFO. Ma’am.

At two, I said goodbye to the staff and wandered next door to wash the taste of coffee out of my mouth with a Pallet Jack. Since I was in the area.

There was a cute and nice couple at the bar when I walked in. They chuckled at the catch up conversation the bartendress and I had but settled up, decanted and left shortly after I sat down. That left me, the bartendress (I’ve gone so long without giving her a nickname that I’m afraid she’s just going to become The Bartendress Without A Name…I guess I could call her T’Bwana, thoughts? It’s an acronym portmanteaus!) and a couple at one of the two tables by the window.

We continued our chatter while T’Bwana did her side work and tended the occasional need of the couple.

A third couple came in with a Plus One from New Zealand. They were fun, but not from around here, so I was over them quickly. Another regular came in and sat at the table behind me, reading.

Then.

It.

Happened.

Eight people came in. Fine. Whatever. I’ve made my peace with this illogical occurrence. Party of eight walks into a bar of mostly two-top tables.

What.

Ever.

I get it, you’re entitled, too. Maybe you’re looking for the old gals next door?

What ticked me off was that they pulled the last two tables in the main bar together for a sit down. The entire room next door – The Rug Room – is empty!

Oh, no…wait, I forgot!

This whole tome, there’s been a couple in The Rug Room. They came in, ordered drinks and went into The Rug Room. T’Bwana went in to check on them a while after and came back in with that “I’m So Sure” head tilt girls do.

What?

Is it weird that there’s 8 tables and 15 chairs in there and those two are sitting cross legged on the floor?!?

Kum-bay-yes! What the what?!?

Regardless, plenty of room for this octet in The Rug Room is the point. Instead, they decide to become a black hole in the middle of the main bar.

And they pulled the last two tables together crooked so there’s no good path around them that doesn’t involve a hop on one foot.

Naturally, I finish my beer and leave.

Loudly.

I might have mentioned something to T’Bwana as I was settling up.

So, I could make an anonymous call to the Fire Marshall for ya…I know you work for tips and can’t piss these oblivious bastards off.

T’Bwana texted me later saying they’d left shortly after me.

Huh.

Ok, one last example of how I don’t like anyone…and it’s my favorite story from the last couple weeks, so I hope you hung on.

This could only happen to me.

The Silver Fox had a dinner party. Me, him and his new neighbor. His new neighbor is having trouble making friends. Now, normally I’d give this type of invite a wide berth, cuz it’s an obvious setup, right?

Well, The Fox has me covered

Don’t worry, you aren’t his type, he likes younger guys, too.

Ouch.

But he’s right. He’s seen a guy I flung with once getting off the elevator on their floor. Me, being the Devil. No. Devil’s Advocate, mention that maybe the NY transplant gay couple on his floor are Portland-ing it up with a random third?

They’re in Palm Springs.

Nertz.

His assumption is solid.

I meet this guy from LA and – more recently – down the hall and he is just so friggin’ so.

Precious.

I’m calling him Jimbo.

A) because he’s from New Orleans, originally.

B) he would hate that nickname. And,

C) if you pronounce the “J” with a Spanish accent, you get “himbo” or a male bimbo, and he was!

He monopolized the conversation with unamusing anecdotes about how precious he is.

He has two houses in New Orleans.

He wants to buy a house in France when he retires. But not alone! Why not? I’m sitting here with you and my best friend, and I’m feeling pretty alone!

His BMW is hard to park in this little garage.

He can’t believe that condos in this building are selling for a half mil more than his house in the Hollywood Hills. Thank god he rented that instead of selling!

Why?

Topping it off, he has a friend visiting from Seattle soon.

Ok, that’s all your problem in meeting friends. No one compares to you. You’re fresh off the boat from the west coast city with the most superficial people, importing people from the west coast city that has yet to learn how to deal with its near instantaneous wealth and living in the chill city trapped between them.

Yeah. That’s your problem.

Shortly after we finished dinner – asparagus risotto and what must have been 24 ounce steaks! – he was talking about a shoe dilemma. He’d just mentioned he was a clothes horse.

The Fox gamely interrupted with a question about Marie Kondo. I loved that.

Of course, since Jimbo’s name isn’t Marie Kondo, he didn’t have time for the question and went back to his shoes. Apparently, they’re his faves but he needs to have them resoled and worked on.

I haven’t tried the guy you recommended, but I just can’t find a good shoe guy up here.

Welp, at least you’ve clearly overwhelmed yourself by turning over every stone.

He went on to share his decision on his ultra first world problem…

I have to go to LA in a few weeks for work. I’ll just take them to my old shoe guy. But I’m gonna tell him he has to get them done in a day.

Because, obviously.

One couldn’t trust this gifted shoe tradesman to be able to mail a shoebox. No, Jimbo needs his shoes now. This guy is so lucky to have a customer like Jimbo. I’ll bet he threw a party when she left town,

The Fox gave his dog, George, a doggie downer before the guests arrived. It had kicked the hell in.

Hard.

George was stoned out of his doggie brain.

And nuzzling my crotch while I scratched his butt.

The Fox got up to get dessert. I was so full, but…dessert!

You know what, G? I’m so full! But I’m still eating my dessert! Yeas I am. Yes I am! I’m just gonna fart to make some room and blame you! Yes I am!

A few minutes later, I pick up a decidedly not doggie scented fart coming from Jimbo’s end of the couch.

Oh, FFS. Really? You’re a precious homosexual…could you please act like it?!?

I debated telling him I was just joking about farting and blaming the dog. I may lack a certain – or any couth, but I have manners.

I can hold a fart – usually – until I get home.

Then he did it again.

Oh, this. This!

I really don’t like most people. But the ones I don’t like most are really amusing. For sure, not in the previous way that they think they are amusing, either. And the people I do like enjoy the shit that happens to me just as much as I do!

Because, it really would only happen to me…

I Don’t Like Anyone

The Portland Challenge

Someone called me out the other day when I blithely mentioned Portland’s weirdness factor. As if to say that every town is weird or something.

Sure. I’ll grant that point.

But with Portland, it’s a matter of magnitude.

We, the weird People:

There’s a homeless guy in a wheelchair that I see from time to time boxing with a newspaper machine. And bitching it out…I think that one of them needs out of that relationship.

Last summer, I saw a fella walking down the street using his prosthetic leg as a cane. I’m pretty sure prosthetic limbs are easier to install than IKEA furniture is to build, but this guy wasn’t having that. Maybe it was uncomfortable to wear the prosthetic because of the heat. It’s not like a shoe, where when it’s hot you can wear sandals. This might have been his work around. Lest you get the idea that I was too polite to snap a pic, worry not…my camera phone reactions are just too slow.

But maybe I’m a little too polite…

We are (were) voted the kinkiest city in America back in 2017. 2016? I dunno, it’s been a while since I’ve heard mention of it in the press. I don’t think it’s like the census and only done once a decade, so I’m sure someone has given us a run for the title since then. A “Hold my beer” moment, if you will. Then again, it’s not like I’m seeing less kink/fetish-type behaviors. There’s still (way too many, IMO) open relationships…like every time I meet a nice guy. Don’t forget Naked Pool Night, either – more on that later. I really can’t tell if that’s a kink or just plain old weird. To me.

Our homeless population. Nothing to brag about, but they are a semi- community unto themselves: from supporting one another in little gab-fests to flat out fucking in parks to the weekly potluck in the middle of one of our swankiest neighborhoods…mine.

Depending on who’s statistics you use, there could be ~16k to a high of 25k homeless people in Portland. Again, depending on the source, that could be anywhere from 3-7% of the population. Wanna have your mind blown? Portland’s black population is 6.3%. Basically, our homeless population is either half of or slightly more than that of its black residents.

We’re 72% white here in Portland…maybe that’s how we ended up so damn kinky. Overcompensating.

If these homeless folks ever organized, they’d be one hell of a voting block. But keep that quiet. The sad reality of mental illness in the homeless community being the sad reality that it is could work against us and Portland doesn’t need its own homeless version of Trump. It would probably end up being the newspaper machine that I always see that wheelchair guy boxing…

With the weird Places:

Have you ever seen a grown man naked? Well, have ya?!?

Then you’ve clearly never had a beer at a Portland bar. I think being able to have a stripper within three feet of your drink is in the top five reasons Portland is weird. To be fair, there’s only two gay male strip clubs, although you’re bound to encounter randomly occurring go-go boys at some of the others. However, our straight strip clubs, well, it’s almost like 7-eleven can’t find a good corner location here. That’s how many strip bars we have. It hits pretty close to home, too. One of the Silver Fox’s neighbors owns several. I think it’s about five. That’s a lot of breast meat.

But, then again, the frequency in which one encounters random naked non-strippers is weirder to me than naked dancers. Call me crazy.

One of Portland’s more regrettable – wait…forgettable? Meh, take your pick – gay bars is The Eagle.

Eagle PDX? I forget. This bar used to be at the top of Vaseline Alley. I’m pretty sure it lost its lease, but whatever the cause, it shut down. Eventually, it relocated to North Portland…for no obvious good reason. During that transition, our Portland bar lost its affiliation with Eagle International and that’s why there’s name confusion.

Anyway, it’s a gay bar that caters to the leather community, so it draws its own clientele but also has drop-ins that one would call mainstream. I dunno…maybe there’s an occasional neighbor that walks in thinking, “Ooh, a beer!”, but I’m pretty sure that would be a one time (mis)adventure.

Especially if they wandered in on Naked Pool Night.

I know it’s on a Thursday, or possibly Thursdays. Not sure which, but the first time I found myself there for – no…on – Naked Pool Night, I quickly added “pool” to the list of activities that should not be done nude. It joined frisbee and volleyball, if you were wondering. Sorry, Roger!

And, finally, the weird Things:

How about the largest entry into the annual World Naked Bike Ride. Yup, right here in good old PDX! Our event has grown to over 10k participants. That’s a lot, even if you convert it to the metric system!

But our weirdness isn’t all about homeless folk and naked peeps. (See what I did there?)

We are the only city to host Red Bull’s Flugtag Festival three times. I’m not sure of the first year we hosted, but we also had them in 2015 and lastly in 2017.

Looks like kind of a big deal, right? That second pic is from 2017. Sadly, that will be our last time hosting. The crowd gathered on the river in small watercraft (ie: paddle boards, canoes and improvised floats) proved too frustrating to the captain of our local booze cruiser, The Portland Spirit. Tired of waiting, he proceeded to pilot his ship through the assembled flotilla. But he blew his horn several times before doing so. Apparently, our politeness at intersections does not extend to our waterways…

But what is it, you ask?

Well, it’s a party, don’t get me wrong. But it’s dressed up as a modern day soap box derby. The challenge is to create a self-propelled flying machine and then you’re judged on how far you get, but also flair!

Mostly, it’s an exercise in gravity.

But it’s ok…it’s held on the river, so as long as you can tread water, you’re ok. Probably.

Speaking of alternative transportation, it is a big part of our commuter culture. Sometimes, though, I feel like we are just going out of our way to be weird about alternative transportation. I love the mass transit, personally. I have been a bike commuter. But we just reached an agreement that will allow for a second, longer test of the e-scooter program that plagued most and thrilled a few last summer, too. So we have emerging alternatives. Far be it from us to rest on our laurels.

Then there’s this guy

There was a minute a couple years back where you could encounter those hover boards on our sidewalks…I don’t see them much any more. That leaves more room for skateboards, longboards and that motorized one wheeled version – I think that’s still considered a skateboard. But it is a toss up as to whether our skateboarders opt for the sidewalk or prefer a traffic lane. To me, it’s equally nerve wracking.

I’ll accept that we may have stolen Austin’s “Keep Austin Weird” slogan – see how I phrased that? I’ll accept it but I’m not guaranteeing it’s true…

That said, you’ve got to love how we made it our own.

Some of that success was just attracting specific groups of people that are collectively weird. I think our little slice of the west coast was a safe haven for any and all weirdos between LA and Seattle.

But then we’ve got our unique individuals that propel us further into the weirdness stratosphere than any group of people could.

…because your weirdness needs it’s own Facebook page. I know I’ve got a better pic of Brian Kidd – aka: The Unipiper – but you can’t beat the Keep Portland Weird mural in the background.

And our weird people do things! This is former two-term mayor Bud Clark.

Before becoming mayor, he owned the Goose Hollow Inn, a shitty little dive bar. Actually, he started the bar in 1967 in an area that would later be named after the bar itself. Prior to the bar opening, this neighborhood was just part of the SW quadrant of the city. Eventually, it grew up and became known as the Goose Hollow neighborhood.

But that’s not what he’s most famous for, in my opinion. He’s also this guy!

Plus, just about every time you put a microphone in front of him, his first words were whoop.

Whoop whoop!

That’s our mayor.

Speaking of mayors – and not that being gay is weird, but another of our former mayors is Sam Adams. He’s notable for being the first openly gay mayor in the 30 most populous cities in the country. Sadly, he’s also notable for the alleged sex scandal with an intern that was under 18. This prompted the joke:

Why is Portland a cool city to live in?

Because it’s the only city in the country where an 18 year old can get a Sam Adams.

Ba-dun-dun…tsss!

But we’re Portland, as long as you’re recycling, composting, raising urban chickens and not assuming anyone’s gender…you’re welcome to join us. After all, the Fonz can’t have all the fun!

The Portland Challenge

The Search Continues!

I went to the gym recently. Everything appeared normal as I approached…

Until I rounded the corner and approached the front doors. Normally, I feel a little intimidated walking into the gym.

Doors are heavy!

For whatever reason on this day, I tore my eyes away from my feet. I like to mind my steps, because falling down would hurt. Also, I tend to become easily distracted by attractive and unattainable men.

What I saw when I looked up filled me with a minor sense of optimism…

We’re Hiring!

Well, sure.

Why not?

I went inside, making sure to smile at the check-in biometric machine that was on duty…just to leave a good impression. Then I did my little fitness thing.

When I got home, I went to the gym’s website to apply for my next dream job!

Alas…it wasn’t listed as available. Which means that someone out there has my job!

But I’m going to go back, obviously. When I do, I’m going to keep my eyes open for the person with my job.

If I see them, they’d better hope it’s not near the top of the stairs. Now that I’ve set my mind on it, I won’t be satisfied until I can hold my head high as a member of my gym’s team.

As the Before Model.

The Search Continues!

So, It’s Gonna Be Like That…

Eh, Universe?

Just before New Years, I got an email from my property management company. They were letting me know they’d be raising my rent…effective March 31.

Nice to get plenty of notice.

I signed a 15 month lease last year – well, 2017 – in mid-December. This was after my landlord in the unit right next door refused to negotiate my rent after this unit sat on the market for $200 less than mine…for six months!

When she finally agreed to talk pricing, my current unit had dropped another $100. When she came to me with a $50 reduction, I wished her well and opted to save $300/month on my largest expense. I iced my decision-making cake by telling myself that having a property management company versus a weird mix of hippy and dilettante for a landlord would be better, anyway.

When a property management company can’t figure out how to change the batteries in a smoke detector, run! That was indicative of each of the issues I’ve had since I moved in.

Garbage Disposal: 2 weeks to get a repairman here, 10 minutes to fix.

Balcony Doors Warping: 2 weeks to schedule a handyman, they show up to assess and three weeks later, still not fixed.

But it’s ok…it’s just winter and cold air is just pouring in around the edges of the door.

By all means, though…send me that rent increase email while you’re proving you’re not worth it. That 7% increase is pretty high, given that rents overall in Portland decreased 3% year-over-year from ’17-’18.

But at the same time, I knew I was getting a fairly good value. If they hadn’t been such foot draggers about repairs, I wouldn’t think twice about the $100.

However, since my old land lady had yet to rent my old unit, I thought about reaching out to her. I was curious about her plans for the unit. I thought maybe losing $20,400 over the year versus dropping my rent $200/month might have put her in a mood to negotiate.

Plus, the board president had let slip that her HOAs were in arrears. Oops.

I figured, get past the New Year holiday and see how she felt about a March move-in.

Then a BBQ showed up on my old balcony.

Eight months after I moved out, she put my old unit on the market for $50 more than what I last paid.

Remember how rents went down 3%?

Yeah, she didn’t get the memo.

Two months later, she drops the rent to what I wanted to pay before I moved out. It still took a month to rent and the new tenant moved in this month.

The BBQ was disappointing enough to see show up – our building doesn’t allow them. But now I’m wishing it was just a BBQ.

He’s gonna be one of those neighbors.

So, here I am, thinking of moving out of a building and area that I really love living in. I don’t have much else to do besides think – ok, obsess – go to the gym and write. This was a good lil back burner thought exercise.

Then, out of the blue, I get an email from MudBay about a job. It is a position I applied for in mid-November at the urging of an old colleague of mine. She works for them in Seattle and thinks of me every time there’s an open position.

I applied a couple of years ago, but nothing happened.

This time around, she not only insisted I apply, she arranged a drop-in with a former manager of hers who had moved down here to Portland to open a store for them.

Alright, alright…I’ll go!

The District Manager just happens to be there the day of the drop-in and we all talk for 45 minutes in what felt less like a drop-in conversation and more like a full-on interview. It also felt like they were trying to talk me out of the position. They both kept reiterating how hard it was for people to come from outside retailers because their culture is so different.

Well, at the end of that conversation, I offered to send the DM my resume and asked for her card or contact info.

Oh, that’s ok. If you applied, I’ll find your resume.

“But you said that hundreds of people applied…”, I say, not adding that the job has been posted for five months.

Oh, I’ll be able to find you.

“But you don’t know my last name…” Yeah, this is sounding like the end of a bad date.

But you were referred, so that’ll narrow it down!

She sounds so peppy and sure of herself. Still, I’m thinking for a company that’s so different from other retailers, this feels the same as a lot of other “don’t call us, we’ll call you” interviews I’ve had.

Ah, the joys of the great job hunt.

Whatever, happy-fucking-holidays.

To say I was surprised to get an email requesting a phone interview…well, that would be an understatement. Nowhere in my mind was the thought that she had actually liked me as a candidate. Or even a person.

That she forgot who I was, well…that was firmly planted at the front of my mind.

I debated reminding her, but then as the conversation began

Before we start, you read the job description – and that’s just the framework of the responsibilities of the role – but do you have any questions about it before we start?

…it really became obvious that she didn’t remember me. At the second question, I was really feeling like we were covering redundant territory.

So, I stopped her and asked, “Just out of curiosity, you aren’t the same person I spoke with in November at the store on Hawthorne, are you?”

I don’t think so…no.

– she says, sounding rather uncertain.

There are two District Managers for Portland.

I was thinking she was worried about stepping on someone else’s toes. But the way she said it made me reconsider.

She doesn’t like her counterpart. I was pretty damn sure I was right, but resisted sharing my experience to suss out my suspicion. Frankly, I found that to be a plus for me.

Sure enough, we went on to have a fantastic hour-long conversation. I think my only obstacle as a candidate for her is my salary; my floor is $2k over their max.

That could be a sticking point.

However, the landlord story above? Yeah…I live in one of the most expensive parts of town. If I get further into the interview process and she/they begin to understand where their openings will be…I could move closer to my assigned store and save a couple hundred bucks a month. That puts me back in the salary/expense ballpark I want to be in.

The Silver Fox would hate that plan – not that I’d be wild about losing the spontaneous nature of our neighborly friendship. But for a job with a company I want to work for? Maybe it would be the right thing to do.

To that, I say

C’mon, 2019!

So, It’s Gonna Be Like That…

Probably, I’d Bitch…

…if I were hung with a new rope.

To paraphrase one of my grandfather’s favorite gripes.

Lately, though, it seems the Silver Fox and I are able to walk into one of our preferred watering holes and complain about something.

Big Legrowlski: no Pallet Jack

Tanner Creek Tavern: inexplicably rotating Breakside IPA off their tap list

Even when we randomly wander into a “bar”. We were at the Safeway, buying lottery tickets and just happened into their taproom.

We were thrice rewarded.

First, they had Breakside. Naturally, we had to order one. It would be disloyal to not, right?

Secondly, they were $3 a pint. Unheard of! Normally, $5 is a good happy hour price. $6 is the accepted norm and $7 is “aren’t we precious” pricing.

Third, the Filipina Fox and her hubby just happened by and totally busted us day drinking in a friggin’ grocery store.

But we still found our way to a gripe.

There’s no head on this beer!

That was totally The Fox, BTW.

This observation was on our second beer – I mean, they’re $3 pints!! I had actually spent some time staring at the first two pints as they say there on the mat and The Fox chatted the bartender up over the realization that our tab was $6.

That’s $6.

I’m getting them both, actually – The Fox

Yeah, $6.

They’re only $3 each?!?

Right?!?

We’re gonna have to come back here!

And I’m just standing there wondering if it’s bad form to grab my pint and take a sip. So I happened to notice that there was a head on the glasses.

Regardless, they certainly hit the spot, I mean…we handily talked ourselves into a second pint. How could we not?

But I assured The Fox that there had been a head on the first pints and then we both made generic affirmation sounds for a minute or two. I think we were both searching our data banks for an explanation as to why beer loses its foam.

All of this came back to me today while I was having a beer with Diezel at Big Legrowlski. I had ordered a second pint while D nursed his first – he had to drive. One of my favorite bartendresses checked in on us a few minutes later to see how I liked the new beer I was reluctantly sipping.

I had commented that the back to back holiday weeks must have been good for them. Four of their 18 taps were empty. Halfway into my second beer, Boneyard had delivered five kegs and Owl X put four of them into immediate rotation. The IPA I was sipping was new to me, but from one of my favorite breweries, so where’s the risk?

Wow, look at that head!

That was all she had to say and I was immediately I was pulled back to the taproom in the Safeway.

For the record, it was a particularly creamy foam. It was like head plus, so I can see why Owl X was amazed when she saw it!

Ain’t no complaining about that!

Probably, I’d Bitch…

Free Money = Best Money

The Silver Fox started my day off with an email about National Coffee Day and I was off to the races. Like I needed an excuse. But, having slept a full eight hours off just one Mellie last night, my options were dwindling as far as execution on drinking coffee at 4 pm was concerned: f&b, my normal neighborhood outlet for coffee was closing at 4 and I’m low grade mad at most of the other coffeehouses for a variety of manufactured offenses…so Nossa Familia was the only option.

An option I’m not even upset with. Somehow, they moved two blocks further from me – literally from Johnson to Lovejoy in the Alphabet District – without raising my hackles. Credit their awesome coffee and baristas that are largely either tolerably hipster, cute Portland guys or brash and sassy young women. I’m ok with all of those things.

I’d showered at 5 when I got home and then watched the disappointing Wrinkle In Time movie while my hair dried, which was a fine way to end my work day. Still, my quasi urgent need for coffee to end my melatonin induced zombie walking fog meant a courtesy brushing of the teeth and a ball hat to hide my bedhead was the maximum effort I was willing to expend in getting presentable.

Even with that minimal prep time, I arrived at the cafe three seconds after the family of three trundled in the door to Nossa. I could have not picked up that penny I saw on the street to give myself the edge, but my grandmother taught me better than that! I could have also sped up in order to beat them in the door, but I hate for my competitive streak to be obvious.

I ended up slowing down for them to complete their entry maneuvers and silently – I think – groaned.

I stood back and waited for the inevitable “expresso” as two things became immediately clear:

First, this family of three had never ordered coffee in Portland before. Triangulating the cafes location compared to any nearby hotels – the closest is probably either the Residence Inn at 9th and Overton or the Canopy At 9th and Glisan…6 or 8 blocks, respectively – I decided that these people had just gotten off the streetcar that stops outside the cafe on Lovejoy.

A Canopy guest would just inherently know how to order coffee and something told me that the ~$100/night difference in room cost between the ResInn and a hotel five blocks away, across the river and by the Convention Center was a reasonable trade off for a family from – I’m guessing – a flyover state.

Forgive me, the caffeine hasn’t fully kicked in yet – I’m only about two shots into my quad- shot mocha – and I’m still grumbly from the Kavanaugh shenanigans on Cap Hill this past week…for which flyover state folk get a lot of credit. Nonetheless, I have no problem imagining why someone casually passing by this cafe would want to come in. It’s adorable and serves great bean juice.

But these people were not casually strolling by.

The cute appropriately hipster barista was giving me some serious empathy from behind his La Marzocco as the sassy young woman taking orders tried to not be sassy to these folk who would not get it.

Second – you thought I’d forget I was enumerating, didn’t ya? – the Dad was driving this trip to the cafe because he had to take a whiz.

He ordered a 16 ounce drip and then quickly started looking around for the bathroom while his wife and son ordered. It’s upstairs and through the shared vestibule, but I wasn’t going to volunteer that information.

This was about the time the cute, appropriately hipster barista decided to recreationally fuck with these people. Dad had ordered a drip and pretty much ran off, returning and trying not to look desperate about the time mom finished ordering a decaf iced mocha for their son and starting in on her own struggle of a coffee drink, so he missed out on the being fucked with.

There’s a sign at chest level telling you the current bean offerings for drip and espresso.

Poor mom was fixated on the drink menu above and missed this detail.

She ordered a light roast latte and our bored bean slinger asked her which bean she wanted since they don’t stop at light, medium or dark roast here in Portland. Shade grown or farm altitude can affect how beans taste, so can overall region or continent on which the farm is located, then the roasting enhances – or obliterates, in the case of Charbucks – the bean’s natural flavor.

This poor thing gave up and desperately decided to just get a drip, probably mentally chastising her husband for not going before they left the motor inn. Still, there’s two drip options, so the cashier got in on the fun and asked which she wanted. And, this does make a difference, especially with drip. If I’m getting drip, I want nutty and chocolatey notes over fruity in my cup.

I imagined I could see her skull pulsating as it built up to a regular old explosion – blindly picked a bean, from the espresso assortment.

I questioned whether that penny was really worth this experience.

“That’s the decaf, do you want decaf?”, the barista clarified.

Oh, no…I’ll take the Guatemala Timoteo.

Good job, mom! You picked the “light roast” that you originally wanted on your second guess. Unfortunately…it wasn’t a drip option.

I was actually beginning to feel bad for this woman as the barista offered to make her an Americano – which she would have loved. The hubby helpfully pointed out the two drip offerings as she picked the third espresso option. When the barista – I think feeling a little guilty now – offered to make that an Americano, too, she just collapsed and said, “Just give me what he had”, utterly defeated.

While this was spiraling, the barista had gotten my 16 ounce iced quad-shot hazelnut latte order and was starting it as he presented the son’s iced decaf mocha. I decided to throw her a bone and said, “Oooh, the chocolate whipped cream here is so good!”, providing her and her son with a nice shared tasting moment to take the sting out of what had just happened.

“Do you want some on yours?”, the barista attentively asked me.

I declined, excitedly declaring that that would be like a Nutella latte while mentally warming the boy about the dangers of paying me too much attention.

I’m old, I get confused.

So, what does all this have to do with free money?

Well, while finding the penny on the way over was a net zero experience – since in my idle time watching this coffee house drama unfold I was lamenting the good old days in Shittatle when I would find random $20s blowing across the street – I was getting a free drink today. On my last visit, our appropriately hipster, cute barista had “punched me up” on my punch card for no reason, so my next – this – drink was free.

Oh, no! I accidentally made you a mocha!

Earned me this

I can re-pull the shots!

“No worries”, I told my cute little barista, “as long as it’s a quad-shot, everything else is just a delivery system!” I don’t know why I was so chipper.

Oh, yeah…a cute boy was paying me attention. That is apparently better than any number of espresso shots.

Finally tally – and the day has just begun for me: one cent, a free coffee and two tokens for free drinks in the future. It’s not a $20, but at $18.01, including tip, that’s as close as I’ve gotten in Portland. A penny is still better than nothing, right?

Somewhere on the web is a post from my original blog called Rolling Twenties detailing my lucrative wanderings in Seattle.

Good luck finding it.

Free Money = Best Money