Not So…Fast?

Do you ever do something or realize something and think,

That was exactly what I needed!

Yeah, well I’m not sure this post will technically qualify…yet, that is exactly what’s seemed to happen the last couple of days.

You see, by the time I eat dinner tonight, I will have subsisted on only water for the last 48 hours.

No coffee or soda.

No Mac & Cheese or pizza.

No booze.

Surely, I’ve lost my mind.

However, I met up with Diezel on Sunday afternoon and he just looked so good. He’s playing around with facial hair again, but now it’s got the best gray pattern. It looks great. He’s been playing sportsball with the gays, so he’s looking taut and toned, in addition to the endorphin glow.

Me? I’m sitting across the table, haven’t had a haircut in three months, opted to give my hair a day off from washing, to – which is allegedly good for it. But I still looked like Step One Of Dreadlocks.

I haven’t been to the gym for anything but cardio since before Christmas. And, trust me…the cardio I’m doing isn’t keeping up with my erratic diet of mostly beer.

In short: my self care was in the toilet.

I needed a change.

Nonetheless, Sunday night I ended up eating…I dunno what for dinner and then topping it off with ice cream. I was so full at bed time, that even though I fell asleep, I woke up two hours later and tossed and turned until it was time for work.

At work, I felt so full that I was worried any caffeine would only give me heartburn, so I stuck with water. At lunch, still feeling full, I opted to take advantage of the beautiful weather and walk the Esplanade.

I mean…why not?

So, all in I walked 6.1 miles that day and drank only water…on two hours of sleep. But my vitamin D intake was off the charts.

Not that kind, Diezel.

But, all that fresh air and lack of sleep had me in bed by 7 without dinner. When I woke up this morning, I decided to keep it going through lunch. My cafe wasn’t open yet when I walked by on my way to work – so, no caffeine.

Again.

It was a beautiful day here in Portland.

Again.

So, why not take another spin around the Esplanade? It’s a great way to kill the better part of an hour. Plus, I’d remembered my sunglasses today, so the ghostly white limbs and bare backs of the runners wouldn’t blind me.

Side note: the Portland Police and Medical Examiner were busy fishing a body out of the river as I walked by the midway point on today’s urban hike. No idea what happened, but I cautiously wondered if it had to do with too little caffeine…

So there’s the answer to my earlier question about why not walk the Esplanade at lunch.

Who knew?

Anyway, the positive here is that I accomplished what I suspect is a pretty significant fast. Plus, I didn’t even get hangry until today around noon. That’s saying something for me.

Additionally, toward the end of my workday, Diezel started texting me and making sounds like he might want to attend the lowest key gay pride event I can find this year…so now the pounds I shed the last couple of days get me within spitting distance of being nowhere near having a pride-ready body.

(How messed up is that? Gays feel like they can’t show their pride unless their bodies are show-worthy…)

So, while I want spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, I’ll probably obsess myself into baby carrots and water.

But maybe this is just the snap my mind and body need to get back in the groove.

Advertisements
Not So…Fast?

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

I Got In Trouble On FB

Big surprise, right?

At least it wasn’t the type of trouble some of my friends get into. They go to FaceBook Jail and no one hears from them for a few days…or a month.

Nope. My trouble was mild by comparison:

The post that started the brouhaha? Just this lil nugget of a story:

It was that darned hashtag:

#shittatle

I call it that situationally. Sometimes I try to spin it, a la George Costanza:

That goes something like this:

It’s a portmanteau of Seattle and Shittakes…

But everyone knows I don’t like mushrooms, so that compliment is backhanded at best. And, truth be told, I like Seattle! I think it’s a great city.

To visit.

Heck, I even got my favorite pot holders there at that place…whatever they call their version of Saturday Market.

Pike Place Market!

I knew I’d remember.

Can you tell they are my favorite? No telling why. I got them at a little place called Heavens To Betsy! I had to buy something with a cute name like that!

I should have seen the FB callout coming when the little hang-y up-y thing-y broke this morning. It made me sad at the time, but now I see that it was clearly an omen.

But here’s the deal, I like Seattle – like I said. I just didn’t love living there. More and more often I see people with normal incomes talking about how much it’s changed and how overcompensated tech bros have ruined everything for regular folks.

I get that.

PS: by “talking”, I mean whining.

Occasionally, I’ll see a regular person get their hackles up over those treacherous comments and respond with a variant of,

If you don’t like it, leave!

Which, you’ll notice…I have.

So I come by my little pleasure of watching Portland frequently outpace the Emerald City in national Best Of type rankings honestly.

I’ll go visit Seattle again.

Someday.

For now, I just enjoy watching people I know from Seattle come to Portland to get away from it all.

Bitches, I’m away…and it feels great to live somewhere again that I don’t need to escape from. When the Silver Fox asks if I want to go to the beach house, my response is usually “Meh. I guess so?” or something close. It’s never,

Oh, gawd yes! I gotta get out of here!

I recently observed a friend of mine from Seattle was in town for a weekend. When I called him on it, his response was,

We’re just in town to buy our wedding rings.

Because you can pay for a hotel room and two nights of bar hopping with the damn sales tax you save. Clearly, he thinks that Seattle is great enough without his tax money to fix their numerous problems.

He also thinks nothing of coming to town and checking in at a bar that is literally a block from my place…which is kinda part of what I didn’t like about Seattle.

Actually, those two examples are pretty much my gripes. I don’t care that things are expensive there. I live in Portland – things are expensive here. Although we are more affordable, so there!

It’s that there was no sense of community. It’s just my decade-long observation.

But that bugged me.

People putting themselves above their city, culture or, y’know…other humans.

I could do without that behavior.

Back in the Seinfeld days, Seattle was indeed the pesto of cities. Since then, it’s like Basil or Pine Nuts have gone extinct and they are selling the last batch. Or – and this would seem more likely – some enterprising Seattle-ite (I mean, transplant) has bought all the Basil ranches in the country, trademarked the term “Pesto” and is now selling it as a monopolized commodity.

Those are the folks who come to town and don’t try and get together, friendquaintances. The handful of genuine friendships I established there give me the opportunity a few times a year to hang out with someone when they visit town and enjoy my city while we talk about the good old days in Seattle. Those fine folks are outnumbered by the influx of Seattle transplants and friendquaintance-type people who don’t act in the interest of the greater good to keep Seattle the city that made it so pesto in the first place…and that’s why I enjoy Seattle from afar and in small doses.

And to sarcastically call out the schadenfreude. It’s petty…but we all need someone there to point out when we think we’re hot shittake but really, we’re just toadstools.

No charge, Seattle. You’re welcome.

I Got In Trouble On FB

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

Always Begin With The End

It’s official!

As can sometimes be the case, I finished early.

Let’s call it “ahead of schedule”.

My goal was to have this available on 4/1. To that end, I released my Dating Into Oblivion compilation in the second week of March to get a feel for what to expect of Amazon’s publishing routine. Better to know what to expect ahead of time versus missing a deadline, right?

Can you believe I can’t get a regular job with that attitude? Truth.

Here’s what I learned from my first crack:

– Cover design is pretty easy in Amazon, no need to pay for any software to create one. Ask me how I know

– Except, the back cover. That’s another story. But I figured it out after the first dozen or so copies were ordered, so there’s some collectors edition Dating Into Oblivion hard copies out there with nothing on the back cover but my face. Getting that kink out basically came down to making the assumption that you should paste or enter content into the space where the dialogue box was. Somehow it just works out.

– PDFs are formatted as 9×11 documents. Have you ever seen a book that size? Too big for a paperback, too small for a coffee table book. The cool size paperbacks are 6×9, so I had to overcome a “I can’t fucking do this on my own” moment when I previewed that.

Therapeutically yelling

I need a 20-something!

was helpful in reducing stress. Alexa, on the other hand…

Calling Felipe

Not as helpful.

– It’s better to start the publishing process with your hard copy and then go to your e-book afterward. I don’t know why…it just is.

– There seems to only be spellcheck in the paperback process, too. So…yeah.

My impatience taught me another lesson:

My first stab at publishing warned me that it could take up to 72 hours for formatting to be approved and the book to go live. It took 4. For this second effort, it took 34.

That could have been a real problem had I found myself in possession of a normal timeline versus arbitrarily picking April Fool’s Day as my live date. Because that just wasn’t going to happen.

But, what are ya gonna do?

As it was, my novel went live on 3/25 and I’m just going to be content with that reality.

Now, since I’ve had this blog for four years, officially and never bothered to monetize it, I’m gonna drop a link for y’all.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/f.html?C=Z9SQXHR9LXA4&M=urn:rtn:msg:201903130222099bb62a7a858d4eb8b682ee7bd520p0na&R=V158RSV9LR9Z&T=C&U=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fauthor%2Fchristophergalbreath%3Fref_%3Dpe_1724030_132998060&H=DHROTLNEXOMIGVARF6X15DAUPM0A&ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

Wow. That’s a terrible link.

https://www.amazon.com/Christopher-Galbreath/e/B07PLNKTHB?ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

That’s better.

That’s my author page on the Amazon. It has kindle and hard copy versions of both of my books.

If you’re a longtime reader, just enjoy knowing Dating Into Oblivion is out there, you’ve read about 80% of it here for free. However, No One Of Consequence is a largely fictional work that I hope you will enjoy in either format.

And, please, if it’s not too much to ask…share this post if you think you have folks in your readership I’d appreciate you reposting or sharing this to get it in front of them.

Thanks in advance!

And in the meantime, enjoy this picture of what I encountered when searching for myself of the Amazon.

Yeah. Sometimes you straight folk don’t make such clever kids. We’ll talk about that later. For right now, just know that this was the progression of my childhood nicknames:

Grade School – Gallbladderbreath

Middle School –

Girlbreath

High School –

Ballbreath

Now, even though I knew they were onto something with that last one, when my brother coined the nickname Galby, I was on it.

But I’m glad the Amazon is there to help pick at that emotional scar.

Always Begin With The End

My Fake Boyfriend Is Straight…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many cookies did you buy?

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

Fat Pants

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

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

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

I got my drink and we left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choices.

Well, my Barista Boyfriend is straight.

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

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

Obviously.

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

My Fake Boyfriend Is Straight…

The Red Shirt Diaries #24

It’s been a while since I wrote a Red Shirt entry. I wasn’t itching to, but last night, it just demanded to be so…so, here you go.

Last night, after eating a really salty dinner of sausage and pepperoni pizza, I made an early night of it. I was tired and my belly was full. Sleep came easily.

Until about 1 AM.

I woke up thirsty. Not just thirsty, THIRSTY-thirsty.

Luckily, I sleep with a glass of water by my bed. It’s a 20 oz glass that I’ve had since the last century.

And it was full.

Mistress Myrtle was laying between me and the night stand, so I had to negotiate my reach without disturbing the dear. My tired ass had gone to bed without turning off the heat, as I do, so exacerbating my thirst was an elevated body temperature. I had somehow worked my legs out from under the covers to help remain comfortable, this is also how Myrt ended up on a side of the bed she does not normally inhabit.

Side note: Myrtle would expect me to tell you that her place is the center of the bed.

This all manifested as me using my exposed legs to leverage my torso up so that I could drink without spilling my water all over. Picture the bowl of a martini glass with a really big kalamata olive in the bottom of it and that’s the basic shape I’m in.

There I am, sucking in water, thinking life is good. I put the water back and lay back down. Five minutes later, I’m thinking that the other half of that glass sounds like a pretty good idea, so I repeat the whole ordeal…and barely avoid choking to death on a cat hair floating through the air that my thirsty ass sucks in while I’m initiating my lip to water connection.

Of course, this – in turn – caused me to narrowly avoid drowning as I aspirated water.

When I laid back down, that’s where my mind went.

I mean, not right away. It took a circuitous route getting there. I didn’t just lay down and think, “Gee, Myrtle, that could have been it for me…” and immediately let my mind wander onto wondering how long it would have been before someone came looking for me.

Lips.

Ears.

Fingertips.

Toes.

That’s how long I suspect it would have been before someone saved Myrtle from her smorgasbord of me.

Y’know, like six hours.

“What? I didn’t want it to go to waste…” – Mistress Myrtle

No, where my mind went on its way to reminding me that I had nearly drown in my own bed was stranger.

It started off with a flash onto into an Albert Brooks movie. The scene where people awake on a tour trolley dressed in Tupas – long white robes tied at the waist with a sash – that everyone wears upon arrival in Judgment City. This is usually also the first clue that they’ve died in real life.

Then, of course, I had a stop at Albert’s brother – Bob Einstein, aka: Super Dave Osborn, who passed away earlier this year – sitting there in a trolley arriving in Judgment City.

“They really expect this place to be a one size fits all joint?”

Bob was pretty tall, and I could hear him kvetching about the length of the robes.

Oh, you’re still surprised to hear that Bob Einstein and Albert Brooks are brothers? Yeah, Albert changed his last name to avoid being confused with the other famous Albert with whom he shared a last name.

Anyway, on from there, I went to some mental Beetlejuice purgatory. You know, the type where there is no dress code? You just show up in whatever you died wearing. Yeah, so I was there in my Oregon sweatshirt and a pair of Pump boxers.

I’ll wait while you readjust your mental image of my martini shaped description from earlier.

Good?

Well, not GOOD-good, but…ready? Make sure you got the legs skinny enough.

I’m sitting there in Hell’s waiting room in my death suit – which my father would like for you to know is University of Oregon colored, not Oregon State colored, so I’m spending eternity in an “outfit” that he does not endorse – and the guy next to me is one of those chatty newly dead guys.

“You from Portland?”

Huh? Yeah. Uh…yeah.

“How did ya die? You don’t mind my asking.”

Oh, yeah. I’d rather not talk about it. We just met and all.

“Stabbed, right? I bet you were stabbed. I’ve heard that about Portland. Ya’ll are weird out there.”

Are you from Jersey or the South? I can’t really decide. I guess it doesn’t matter now, but wherever it is, you should pick a regional dialect and stick with it, y’know?

Me…making friends wherever I go. Quick reminder, this is all taking place in my subconscious. What does that say about me?!? Here I am, in the afterlife, telling people how to live their deaths.

“Whoa. Geez. Touchy. Relax, it’s a long afterlife. So, C’mon…How’d you go?”

It’s too embarrassing.

“C’mon. Me? I got here via blunt force trauma. Wife caught me tipping the sitter, you get what I mean.”

Let’s just keep our elbows to ourselves, here. And, yeah. Doesn’t take much to get your meaning. I hope she made it look like an accident. For her and your kids’ sake.

“You really not gonna tell me?”

Well, A) this isn’t kindergarten, so just because you showed me yours, I don’t have to show you mine. But, B) how about this, I’ll just say that I got here because it’s true what they say, “you get what I mean” and leave it at that.

Because…apparently last night, it was true…you can drown in a teaspoon of water.

After five minutes of not falling back to sleep, I get up and take a Mellie, but just one. I also refill my glass, because what are the odds of that happening again?

The Red Shirt Diaries #24

Joe With Joe

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

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

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

Like that was not an unusual statement or sentiment…

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

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

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

Last week, we succeeded.

Joe with Joe, if you will.

And it was a true treat.

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

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

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

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

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

To Edinburgh.

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

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

Greenspan was a follower, you know.

Of course, I did not know this.

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

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

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

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

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

Economics – invented in Edinburgh, btw.

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

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

No, literally a list!

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

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

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

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

Geology was also created in Edinburgh…

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

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

Alas.

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

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

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

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

Joe With Joe