The Password is: CULTURE

Celebrity Host: Yogurt.

Me: <blinks>

CH: Kombucha.

Me: <blink, blink>

CH: Live performances.

Me: THINGS I SEE FOR FREE!

CH: Oh! Wait, what? No. I’m sorry, we were looking for “culture”!

Me: Same, yo…but not on my budget! Someone else gonna need to pick up that tab.

CH: No parting gifts for you. Can someone get my agent on the phone!

Ok, my skinflintiness is situational. I’m choosing to be amused by the pattern. I’m also choosing to be grateful for the opportunity to see live performances again.

It had been too long before the pandemic started. Tack on two pandemic years to that too long and you’ve got a real risk of Xtopher returning to some devolved Appalachian form of human.

Don’t get me wrong, I know my problematic drinking made me luckier than most during the pandemic. Geez, that sounds like a line from a winning entry for a free stay at Betty Ford…

Tis true, though. My former old standby, the Big Legrowlski, hosted music during the pandemic.

Daily.

It was quite…the salvation.

No, I wasn’t there daily, thank you.

But a couple times a week. I’d go and sit in their three-sided tents outside and watch people perform through the 10 foot windows, doors open and speakers on the sidewalk.

Plus, fire pit. It was the mental health booster I needed during the lockdown. Sorry for anyone who thought “alcohol” was the correct answer there. Close second, but…no. And that’s despite the fact that many of these mental health boosts happened in 40 degree weather, oftentimes with rain running in under the tent wall and right under my feet.

So when I was working from home and heard one of the DJs from my local radio station – Kink.fm – say he was giving away tickets to a Saturday morning performance at the inaugural re-opening of their live music lounge…I was on that phone! Despite the fact that refreshments were being sponsored by Coors Light.

And I won!

And that’s why I was out of bed before noon a few Saturdays back.

Tom Odell, that is, not free Coors Light. (Sorry, dad!)

Seriously, having a chance to see live music for the first time in over two years…we’ll, I thought Indigo Girls playing at the Pioneer Courthouse Square would get me fixed up. But that show isn’t until June. And I’d have to buy my tickets. I still might. Or I’ll just go hangout on the sidewalk, since the venue is literally a brick plaza on a city block.

Proof Portlanders use umbrellas?

Legitimately seeing live music for free, though? Highly recommend. And as if free wasn’t an awesome enough incentive? The free libations included some Topo Chico hard seltzer options, so I had some. Partook of the two free drink maximum, did I.

Booze Bracelet!

Then there’s the reality that this venue holds less than 100 people. I tried to count seats, and I don’t think it has 70. It had 7 rows of seats. I chose to stand close to the bar in the back, since I was alone.

Free, boozy, intimate…well, I doubt I’ve ever experienced those three adjectives simultaneously before.

Plus, Tom Odell has a seriously distinctive and evocative singing voice. The first note off the piano made the hair on my eyes stand up and when he opened his mouth, tears started welling up on my forearms.

Wait. Something’s not right in that paragraph…here, don’t think too much about that. Look at these pics, instead.

Ok, his voice and fingers do all the heavy lifting. He doesn’t have to rely on visual distractions like dancing and pyrotechnics to give a killer experience. But it does make for a dozen pics that look almost exactly the same.

But just look how small the venue is!

Pre-show audience games

Best part – besides standing in a room with a few dozen strangers having an aurally stimulating experience? When I turned on the car, guess who was playing on the radio?

Right outside the station, no less. Quite a meta-moment, if you ask me.

This is all top of mind for me right meow since I just got home from a show with Little Buddy. I was her +1 for Freestyle Love Supreme this afternoon. Yay for married season ticket holders with busy spouses!

That’s right, I am spoiled and got to see a second live performance in less than a month for free! I wasn’t super into seeing the show, but I was super into a social fix with Little Buddy. It’s always too long between visits, but since she moved out to the Columbia River Gorge, it’s even further between visits.

Don’t get me wrong, she invites. I think I’ve taken her up on it twice, although one of those might have been prior to the full-time residency. But it’s home to some of the best wine in Oregon – and that’s saying things! – so it is somewhat problematic for this light weight…since it’s an hour away.

So on the second-nicest day of the year so far in Portland, I donned my dress-Chucks and went to the theater.

Hey, it was over 70 today…I almost wore shorts!

For a show I wasn’t jazzed to see – call it a variant of something every younger sibling knows too well, since this was co-created by Lin Manuel Miranda and (through some scheduling miracle) playing at the same time that Hamilton was in town – this was pretty damned entertaining.

The premise is that it’s all pretty much improvised based off of audience feedback, hence the “freestyle”. There’s also a lot of hip-hop vibe going on with that improv. There’s a beatbox guy, a couple MC folks, not in the Master of Ceremony vein, rather the MC rappers tack onto their stage names.

And then a bunch of middle-aged or better white women from the suburbs yelling out suggestions.

FWIW, my word was gonna be orgasm – but some of these Karens brought proof they’d had sex with them. Since I have a modicum of decency, I didn’t ejaculate yell out my contribution.

I think part of the fun for me was judging what people did yell out.

Two people yelled out answers that one of the MCs had used as an example. Friggin’ brainiacs, those two.

Several others yelled out variations of things like “singing” or “dancing” and I was all, “Really? We’re here to watch some hip-hop improv and your subject matter suggestions are ‘singing and dancing’?!?”

Mouths shut, husband’s wallets open, ladies. That’s all the contribution to the arts you need to worry about.

Makes me regret not yelling “Orgasm!” when they were taking suggestions on the “Something you can’t live without” theme. Seriously, someone yelled “Banana”…to be fair, I think it was the sibling of the STD that yelled out “Monkey” when the MCs were looking for verbs as a cue. But who can’t live without a banana?!?

Despite my audience members doing their best to prove they are barely more tolerable only being seen versus heard, I’m in the mood for more super spreader events live entertainment.

Given my aforementioned pandemic “live entertainment loophole”, I can only imagine how exciting these past few weekends were for others. I can overlook them not fully knowing how to audience appropriately.

And, damnit…now I’m in the mood! I may need to pick up a rush ticket or two over the coming month. Who knows, I might even troll Craigslist for an Indigo Girls ticket.

The Password is: CULTURE

Well, Now I Feel…

Something.

Bad?

Nostalgic?

Accomplished?

Formerly accomplished?

Probably that last one. So…thanks, Facebook Memories.

Three years?!? How has it been that friggin’ long already…since I’ve had a date?

Kidding. Trying/not trying.

But I guess it’s just one more reminder that it’s been a long pandemic. If we factor those two years out, then it’s only been one year!

Don’t get me wrong, I tried to make hay out of the forced free time we all gained with the 2020 lockdowns. In April, I started NaNoWriMo – despite having two WIPs from prior NaNos still waiting for completion, then didn’t finish. Again.

I think I got derailed after a Twitter battle with a local stripper, who I’m sure knew nothing of my existence until I dared to correct him on his feed. Then I was all he could focus on, earning me featured status in his social media stories where he called me old and ugly. Not to mention a failed writer.

The young people are so woke – which seems to manifest with being disagreeable and combative. That’s regardless of the validity of their initial point. What moxy.

Sure, I’d only finished three books at that point, clearly, that’s failure in the eyes of a stripper who leaves the stage in a thong.

I actually finished all tasks associated with my job title, son. I have to imagine that a stripper’s job isn’t complete until they are clothes free. But what do I know? When I was a young man, tracing on one’s flesh was viewed differently than it is today – and I appreciate the evolution of sex work from villainized and humiliating to artistic expression and empowering.

This kid was – pardon the entendres – a dick.

Ultimately, that all stopped when he blocked me – the penultimate admission that he was wrong. The ultimate expression being actually saying it. But this is hardly the United States of Accountability, let alone Admittingyouwerewrong.

Anyway, as this was going on, I flirted with the idea of going to one of his shows and tipping him one of my books – yeah, I’ve got a few copies laying around. My overt grumpapotamus self imagined reading wasn’t high on his hobby list, see also: how he got to his current level of misery in his life.

Judgy.

The women strippers I meet driving with Lyft are all – every damned last one of them – such interesting people. Very engaging. Great stories. The male strippers I meet are all cunts. And not in that cool English slang type of way. At best, they look at me, and treat me like, I’m an ATM. Not that I go to strip clubs often…none of them have palatable beers.

I also considered going and tipping him $.02, since me giving him my figurative two cents was what set him off in the first place. Ultimately, I decided my absence was the best action for me.

Still determined to make some productive hay out of the lockdown, I pivoted to another project I’d been kicking around. When I finished my third book, it came in at a whopping 530-ish pages. I hardly consider myself a gay George R. R. Martin, so I sought out opinions from a few beta readers. They all told me it was fine.

But that length made printing costs pretty high and I think the lowest price I could charge was $19…and that was with me making less than a buck a copy. I knew there was a logical plot break that I could use as a kind of cliffhanger if I chose to split this into two books, I just hadn’t.

But with one half finished draft from April’s NaNo making me feel guilty, I decided this was the perfect time to tackle that split.

Obviously.

And I did it!

Well, “did it” so long as completing the split and edit of the first half. I knew I needed to flesh out the second half to beef it up a bit. It had originally suffered under the pressure of me knowing the page count was running high for one book. This was my chance to flesh it out.

But my first goal was to get the newly shortened second installation in my No One Of Consequence series back up online. Then I hit a formatting snag. Just a teensy one, but it proved to be overwhelming to my lockdown self and I never went back to finish it. I couldn’t imagine jumping to the third installment to get that story wrapped up, it just seemed wrong.

Four frustrating months go by. I spent a lot of that time considering the optics of dying during a pandemic with unfinished works. I thought it looked pretty good. Other artists somehow pull it off.

Margaret Mitchell.

Elvis.

No, wait…Hemingway! That’s a better comparison. I’m a drinker, not a druggie. And we’ve established the fact that 500+ page books are not my style, so…yeah. Hemingway.

That was probably my biggest self-soothe of the pandemic.

It carried me through the next three months. Right up to the next NaNoWriMo event, the big one in November. Now I can finish!

Or…start another work.

The following April?

Ok, this was pure motivation. And adrenalin.

I had just gotten my Peloton and was jazzed to pick up the autobiographical trilogy I’d fancied when I wrote Dating Into Oblivion. When I wrote that, I was nearing the end of a year long blogging theme that had resulted from a friendly intervention at my 50th birthday party.

Rude.

As a result of the collective will of my well-intentioned friends, I leaned into a blog theme I had just finished that I hashtagged fitfy. It was a play on fifty, an age I had been determined to reach with some progress toward accepting my aging self with a healthier attitude toward diet and exercise.

I’d been having trouble forgiving myself for not being able to eat and exercise like an idiot twenty-something. Naturally, my 51st birthday had involved me tapping a keg of my favorite beer at my then-favorite bar.

Anyway, knowing I had that “fitness in my fifties” notion in the back of my head, I decided to tackle dating in my fifties. It gave me something to do, at any rate. I figured the trilogy could round out with working in my fifties. It was a notion I rather fancied.

The problem was, there wasn’t much I could actually do since I’d just gotten my bike. I considered harvesting stories from my year of fitfy blog posts, as I had when I put together Dating Into Oblivion. But I considered that would have been only a portion of the project. I needed new content to complete the story.

Another partial credit NaNo for old Xtopher. PaCreNaNo? Kind of sounds like a pancreatic medical crisis.

Maybe that stripper was right.

Shudder.

Possibly, but improbable. Maybe what I needed was the motivation of writing something people might be attracted to en masse. My current accomplishments and WIP library all featured what I call gay shit – and I hate to break it to you, but The Gays aren’t known collectively as big readers.

It’s the pandemic – everybody else was pivoting, why not me? That sounds like a riff of a Cranberries album.

I picked a theme close to every Portland NIMBY’s heart: the homeless. Came up with a mystery plot. I even created a nom de plume based off of my parents middle initials and old world naming paradigms – JT Robertson.

Finally…in November of 2021, I completed a NaNoWriMo! Have I published? No. I’m mentally kicking it around, polishing it up. Completely retooling the voice. Flipping the plot 180 degrees.

Y’know…the basic writer’s nightmare.

April’s NaNo is weeks away.

Weeks.

I’m determined to finish something from my WIP list before adding anything else to it. I figure at this point, if my goal is to have a WIP library consisting of a prime number of works – it isn’t but I need to set boundaries of some kind – then I either need to finish one or add four!

I think seven is enough of a library. Let’s see if this Facebook Memories shaming is enough of a motivator to get NOOC2 published and back online. Lord knows that providing airplane reading material for a friend’s trip to Africa last month wasn’t it, so fingers crossed.

Sure enough, I woke up this morning, uncovered my laptop…and started organizing my tax receipts. Then I got this text

RUDE!!

So I wrote this, instead. I refuse to be so known by my best friend.

To answer my original question: seen. I feel seen.

Well, Now I Feel…

The Homeless Guy With Game

You gotta admire a down and out guy with moxie.

I was running into my building to feed Myrtle last night. In doing so, I passed one of the fire exits to my building. These are recessed doorways, making them a perfect opportunity for someone wanting to duck out of weather, shoot up or take a nap – hell, maybe all three, depending on the day.

I saw the bike-turned-upside-down gate and a pair of feet stretched out under it before I passed by, so I knew it was occupied. Turns out, there were two occupants of the tiny makeshift shelter. He looked like he was feeling no pain. The other occupant was sitting cross-legged with a jacket draped over her head, like Cousin It went as a coatrack for Halloween.

“You’re pretty fun to hang out with. Do you want a boyfriend?”

I mean, way to just casually toss that out there. A directness I can appreciate.

“No”, I hear in a tentative voice from under the coat,” I mean…I already have one.”

Ouch.

And what had they been doing – and for how long – that this guy knew he wanted to lock her down but didn’t know she was already taken?!?

I acknowledged he at least shot his shot as I fobbed into my front door. My trip home was a quick one, literally ran in to feed my cat, hit the can and then I was off again.

Passing back by the door, I saw the girl was still wearing her coat wrong and the guy’s head had lolled back and to the side a bit. He was apparently not done making his case.

“…I also speak Japanese and Farsi, but I can’t write in Japanese…”

Geez. How far down on your assets list are those tidbits? I’m assuming his “physical” attributes – those most exaggerated bragged about by dudes – were either previously known or had topped the list. Then again, based on where this conversation was taking place, we knew he skipped right over where he lived and what kind of car he drives.

Oh, Portland…

The Homeless Guy With Game

That’ll Do, Nic. That’ll Do.

If you haven’t watched the movie Pig, stop reading and do it now.

I’m waiting. I’m also not guaranteeing this will be a no spoilers situation. Not sure how I feel, and since I write by the seat of my pants…who knows what will happen in a blog post?

Not me.

I’m usually as surprised as anyone.

Here’s a shorthand of the movie.

Divided by

Plus

Equals

I shit you not. Watch it and tell me I’m wrong.

I watched this today during my “lunch break” with the Silver Fox. I was not prepared for the storyline or the execution.

I’d heard it was one of a couple recent Nicolas Cage films that showed a return to independent versus studio films. And I knew it was filmed in Portland. Let’s face it, I’ll watch any show that was filmed in town.

I love Portland. When the city costars in something, I have to watch it. It’s simply quite beyond my control.

All I knew going into the film is that it starred Nic Cage and had a pig in it. I was all, “Well, that’s Portland enough for me”…but then couldn’t rally myself to a theater to see it in a pandemic. FWIW, Tom Holland couldn’t get my old, gay ass back to the theater, and you can stick your NAMBLA (Google it) jokes in a sock. Suffice to say, it’s been a long road to recovery for this I’ll-see-anything-as-long-as-there’s-popcorn moviegoer.

But this movie brought more than just a weird guy in the forest with a pet pig. It poked fun at Portland’s foodie scene, from the diners to the service industry folk that make it work – at least I hope that underground restaurant fight club scene was tongue in cheek. But then it juxtaposes those scenes with scenes so raw about how chefs create not just food but future generations of chefs and restauranteurs that will make you cry with just a few words.

Then there’s the storyline of the second person you see on screen – and instantly hate. Well, disrespect. Watching the relationship between these two evolve over 90 minutes is amazing.

After the last couple months of TV viewing as a distraction from what I reluctantly call a life…this film is a welcome and quality break.

Did you watch it? Tell me what you thought in the comments. And if you haven’t yet complied with my earlier instructions…the pig dies at the end.

That’s what you get, punk.

That’ll Do, Nic. That’ll Do.

Still Mad: An Update

In case you were wondering, Mother Nature is still pissed at us. Feel free to see what caused me to make that obvious statement originally before reading on – or not. All will be clear soon enough.

I woke the other morning – yes, I was up before noon! – to find these pics of my beloved Park Blocks/front yard from a local news anchor on my Twitter feed.

Another of our North Park Block’s hundred-plus year old trees had fallen overnight. As you can see, it more tipped over after its roots basically failed to hold it in the ground. I mean, we’ve had a lot of rain the past couple of weeks…but not that fucking much rain.

Minimal upside, I suppose, could be that the building it fell onto is slated for demolition to make way for a hotel that will take up the park-facing half of the city block that it sits on. As soon as the other building on that half of the block is removed from the Historic Register.

Yeah, that part is kinda fucked up.

I walked past the site this morning after checking Angela into the “spa” for her repairs. It doesn’t look better by light of day.

The clean up isn’t done, obviously, but I’m surprised the building wasn’t more damaged. I guess that’s a testament to the masonry workers of the…19th century?

I guess the actual bright side here is that no one was hurt. This being Portland, home to the third largest homeless population in the country – behind NYC and SF, if you can believe that…we should not be on a population based list with cities of their size – we have urban campers on virtually every block in the close-in downtown area. Not every side of every block, but you’d be hard pressed to find a block without tents on at least one side. Not to mention RVs parked along the city streets for weeks at a time before being forced to move to another street.

That being the case, I’m glad these poor souls living just to the left of where the tree landed on the building weren’t harmed in the incident. But you can be damn sure they had the living daylights scared out of them.

Mother Nature is mad. At us…and with good reason. But I see no reason that the least among us should pay the ultimate or any physical price for the damage the wealthiest and more conspicuously consuming among us create.

That poor tree, though. I’m so sad for the ongoing damage our Park Blocks are sustaining. Everyone go buy an electric car!

Still Mad: An Update

John Lennon Was Right

Instant karma got me.

Or, car-ma…as the case t’were. I’m accepting that it was my fault for kvetching about one measly 4-star rating out of two and a half years of 5-star rides.

Hence the karma pun.

Anywho…Angela crapped out by the side of the road tonight. Actually, it was in a drive lane, but it was the curb side of the road – if you’ll allow me to split that hair.

I had called my friend, Diezel, before she died. He sometimes works on things like brake pads for me – hey, he works for burgers! His take on it was that it was an alternator and/or battery issue.

Angela had given me a “charging malfunction” error before I had called Diezel. When she had died the first time, giving me a last minute “drivetrain malfunction” message as she locked herself down in a parking lot.

The middle of a parking lot.

At sundown.

In The Numbers. Let’s just say that’s nowhere for an old white man to be broken down. Particularly after dark,

I Google “drivetrain malfunction” + “BMW X3” and learn that I can probably restart it after five minutes. I find a tree, take a whiz and go back.

<Le poof>

She starts up.

Knowing what to expect performance-wise, thanks to the prophet Google, I set out for home. I’m crawling, since Angela isn’t feeling like giving me more than 20-ish MPH.

Sticking to arterial surface streets, I had called Diezel as I limped westward. He tells me to look for a side street to park on and he’ll come get me and take me home, I can have her towed tomorrow.

I know he’s right – he’s an engineer and a rational thinker. I am an emotional thinker.

Emotionally, I want to get home. Knowing Diezel is right, my fallback is to get out of The Numbers.

Shit goes down there. BiPOC folx who live on the west side are reluctant to head to that part of the eastside when it’s dark. Last year was Portland’s deadliest in decades: gun violence, fire deaths, homicides, traffic deaths. You name it, if it was violent or deadly, we either broke a record last year or came damn close.

The Numbers – a nickname based on the blocks between ~122nd and 180th on the eastside of town – had more than the lion’s share of traffic and gun violence deaths last year. Don’t even get me started on the record number of stolen cars last year – October and November had around 13k stolen cars for the two month period.

Two months.

I didn’t want to leave Angela there.

We made it into the double-digit block numbers. I’d just crossed 102nd and was promising Diezel I’d pull off as I hit the 205 overpass at about 93rd.

She died. On the uphill approach to the overpass. I briefly considered jumping, but only therapeutically. Well, mostly.

I told Diezel what happened and he told me to drop him a pin for my location, he was leaving that moment.

Friends like him…they make me feel like I don’t deserve them as friends.

I throw a little pity party while I wait.

I’d just squared up my Multnomah County business taxes from 2019 and 2020, because TurboTax small business doesn’t do them – nor does it tell you that ain’t happening.

The county, though. They tell you. Two years later.

Well, that’s when they told me I owed $1400 in tax for 2019…the year I started driving for Lyft. In August. I decided to get ahead of 2020 – when I’d driven the whole year and made 4x what I made in ‘19 – and dig it out before the county hit me with penalties like the 2019 miss had created.

So much for buying a new place this year.

It wasn’t looking good, anyway, based on financial timing and the likely prime rate boosts coming down the pike this year. At best, I’d be looking at two hikes before I had mutual acceptance.

I’d accepted this. It was nice to at least have a goal to work toward, however briefly.

But here I was again, in crisis mode.

I was startled out of my pity party by a pair of headlights in my windshield.

Diezel!

But…not Diezel.

A Good Samaritan!

Yes! This was the Portland I knew and loved.

It was a woman who had passed by and pulled a u-turn in front of me to pull up to my hood grill – let’s not call it a hood whilst stalled in The Numbers. She walked up to my passenger window and asked if I needed a jump. I told her, “heck, yeah!” and she was off to her cargo area for her cables.

BMWs are weird. The battery in my X3 is in the back, but you jump it from the front. Actually, there is a positive post, that’s it. I’d been watching videos on this, so I kind of knew this – but she wanted to check in with her significant other, so we FaceTimed him. He agreed with my guess that we just needed to attach the negative to a hunk of metal and we were good to go.

She started her car and I got in mine to give Angela a wake up call.

She started right up. I revved her a few times. I was ready to let her sit and charge for a few minutes, but my Good Samaritan was antsy to go. I couldn’t fault her, but knowing about jumping cars from watching my parents do it while growing up in the 80s, that was my best guess for next steps.

Sadly, she was already talking about how to disconnect the cables with her Boo when I came around. He agreed I was good to go, so I yielded to their current information.

As soon as she turned and left, I put Angela in gear…and she re-died.

Diezel immediately pulled up behind me.

My first and third savior of the night.

“Galbs”, he said to me, “you need to call a tow truck to take this to a garage.”

I knew from his tone that this was his way of telling me this repair was beyond his capabilities. At least as far as roadside repairs were concerned.

He gave me a towing company name and number. Three hours.

He pulled another from his list and dictated the number to me. One hour!

Between calls and hold times, Diezel had been amusing himself by blowing his air horn at passing cars that had cut their lane change around us too closely. One of those blasts had clearly scared the towing company dispatcher shitless.

Fifteen minutes later, Diezel decided to get out and strobe his flashlight at the Stupid Americans who were too distracted to see his emergency flashers and proactively – not to mention safely – merge into the other lane.

He was worried about someone rear ending him. Looking at Angela’s dark brake lights and dead emergency lights, I couldn’t blame him. I was grateful to him for being there to save a near-certain collision.

There was a car backing down the overpass in front of Angela. He stopped and popped his rear hatch.

“Why don’t you go meet him?”

I acquiesced, and the man met me by my car with three flares. Another Good Samaritan.

For such a crappy night, the universe was putting a lot of amazing people in my path.

By the time the tow truck was a half hour late, the flares had burned through. Diezel was strobing approaching cars again. We could not believe how people fucked up such a simple thing as not hitting a stalled vehicle.

I couldn’t decide if it was distracted driving, stereotypically too polite Portland-slash-Portlandia-type drivers, or a combination of the two. Cars in our lane would slow to zipper in behind the car with the right of way, and that car would in turn yield its right of way by slowing to let it in front of them.

Both lanes of traffic came to a stop or near-stop several times. I retreated to the cab of Diesel‘s truck for an update on the tow truck.

Fifteen minutes.

Ten minutes later, the driver called. He was ten minutes out. He told me the tow would be just under $200. I asked if he could invoice me because I didn’t have it immediately – see also: why I was out driving on a Tuesday.

No.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity-fuck-fuck.

I’d payed two year’s worth of County back taxes and my January bills in the last ten days. Followed by also taking several days off to process my 4-star rating.

The savings I can usually access within 48 hours was nearly tapped. I was anticipating needing to tap into my other savings for the repair – that savings has a five day turnaround, so no driving for the better part of a week on top of opening the drain on my savings again. Not to mention any significant penalties for early withdrawal – or its modern day equivalent.

I was feeling hosed.

I looked a little more longingly at that guardrail. Sensing my distress, Diezel handed me his credit card and told me gently not to worry, pay him back whenever, but get the repair taken care of first.

I offered to at least get him a beer, but he demurred. It was after 9:30, after all…this one hour wait had turned into two and a half hours, not to mention the 30 minute transit and depositing Angela at the garage. He usually turns in closer to 8. Proposing a counteroffer of a hug, since we hadn’t seen each other in real life for over a year, he took off for home.

Realizing Myrtle’s dinner was over four hours late – a millennia in cat-time – I rushed upstairs to feed the mistress.

Then I prescribed myself a therapeutic Emotional Support Pizza that I keep in the freezer in case of emergency.

Don’t judge my Hawaiian pizza tastes!

You cannot understand the number of weekend nights I’ve come in from driving to bare cupboards. This was one of several I picked up after deciding I simply couldn’t face another 3 AM pizza from 7-Eleven. Plus, you can dress up a frozen pizza with red pepper flakes and – especially – an herb mix from Penzey’s Spices.

You’d eat this. <chef’s kiss> Admit it.

Plus, I broke open a bottle of the Columbia Gorge’s finest – from Marchese Cellars – to polish up the therapy session.

It’s a $30 bottle of amazing red. Not a bad companion to a $7 pizza…so if those herbs and red pepper flakes don’t make that pizza palatable…this will! Then this happened

Come the fuck on!

Undeterred, I got that cork out on the second try. Hopefully, that’s a harbinger of the ease of repair for Angela.

Now, I think I have some In Case Of Emergency Ben & Jerry’s around here somewhere…

John Lennon Was Right

Rebranded

Nope. Not about the new name for Facebook that we’re all anxiously anticipating from the investor meeting tomorrow.

No, this is related to a conversation I had with a local hospital worker the other day. He’d graduated college last year and began working in his field of study at a hospital. He mentioned it by way of expressing his relief at being out of retail, which was how he put food on the table during his school years.

I told him that was kind of the reverse of my career trajectory – which had me doing some hospital work in college and then landing in a luxurious retail career. Don’t be jealous, it makes you look bloated. Then I asked him when he was going to take his clothes off what department he was working in and he replied “Environmental Services”.

“Oh, I think that would be the department my job fell under, but I don’t think my job title exists anymore.”

He asked what my job was and I told him – again, don’t get jealous – “I was an Orderly”.

Laughing, he asked what I did, and when I ran down my job description he told me that job would be either an Environmental Technician or Patient Transport. Setting aside the reality that he’d never heard the word Orderly before, my college job was now two jobs?!?

Ok, sure. Why not? Hospitals are nothing if not job creators. Given the exploding size of our elderly population as the Silent Generation handed off the title of elderly to the Boomers, I can imagine the workload involved in getting patients to and from place to place within hospitals has grown significantly, so I’m game.

Maybe that was the reason behind the name change, too, but I doubt it. I mean, “Janitor” had already begun to morph into other job titles with some iteration of the word “facilities” or “maintenance” involved in the mix. Why couldn’t Orderlies remain Orderlies while the Environmental Technicians addressed the newly created role?

Now, picking up that whole thing we set aside earlier, this guy not being familiar with the term “Orderly”. C’mon, man…get out into the hospital! It’s an environment filled with “people of a certain age” who are loathe to let go of their ways and adopt new terminology. In that setting, he’s bound to hear patients loudly addressing someone as “Orderly”, talking about how Nurses aren’t supposed to be male, and mispronuncifying the word “Italian”.

He’s just not paying attention. That’s hardly the point, though. Go ahead, fly your desk.

It got me thinking about other jobs that have experienced a similar rebranding over the years. I easily came up with one from my retail career. When I worked in stores during High School, I was a “Clerk” or a “Stock Boy”. That last one didn’t survive long enough to transition to a gender neutral title – like Mailman did when it became Mail Carrier. No, my High School job became known as “Sales Associate”.

Whatever. It beats, “Hey, dumbass” as a means of getting someone’s attention.

What were Package Handlers called before they were rebranded? I think it was Delivery Boy/Person, but might be wrong…

The job title “Milkman” died before it had to address its gender bias. Now, though – at least in kooky Portland – it’s seeing a resurgence as people shift back toward locally produced dairy products. What are we going to call these folk? Artisanal Dairy Procurement Agents? Sounds bulky, and doesn’t really lend itself to an acronym…ADPA?

Another example popped up during a ride I gave yesterday. This young kid hopped in my backseat and almost immediately declared he recognized me from somewhere. Choosing to own my diminished desirability, I didn’t even entertain the option that we’d had a date of any sort. Not that he wasn’t delightfully right up my alley, aesthetically – although, I like to think I have a good enough memory to not forget that’s how I know someone. Instead, I assumed I’d simply given him a ride before.

Ok, I see now how that phrase works for both scenarios…still, I usually remember duplicate passengers of either stripe.

He said maybe it was because he’d seen me at one of his past jobs, back when he was working in restaurants before the pandemic.

“Did you ever go to Ringside?”

I laughed and told him I had not.

“No! I remember…it was Tanner Creek Tavern!”

Oof. Now, that’s a good memory. I told him that was indeed my usual hangout and asked him what he did there.

“I was an SA.”

“I don’t know what that is.”

“You know…a Server’s Assistant!”

I managed not to belch out, “Oooh, a Busser!” See how I got the gender neutral job title correct? I’m not a Boomer, after all.

“Hmm. Sounds more like a cart or a tray…”

Just because I’m not a Boomer doesn’t mean I can’t be mad that something with a perfectly fine job title has been rebranded to provide an ego boost to the worker. You want to boost their ego? How about giving them something to back up the level of esteem you purportedly hold them in and just pay them a decent wage? That’ll boost their ego, being paid like a human being. The median income for a Busser Server’s Assistant is less than $20,000.

No? Sticking with the rebranded job title? That’s what I thought. Skinflint.

Look, I can’t say the title “Orderly” really described the job those people perform. But “Busser” kind of did nail the job duties expected of those individuals in that job. The believed origin of the original job title of Busboy is a shortened version of “Omnibus Boy”, meaning they were basically a Jack of All Trades for a restaurant.

Also, the most common tool of said trade is called a bus tub, so renaming their role from Busser or even Bus Boy/Girl calls into question all of the other job titles that use the main tool or function of the job itself in the job title. What shall we call Bus Drivers, Cooks or Electricians going forward?

Just kidding, those last two are easy: Cookie and Sparky.

How about Physicians and Doctors? If Masseurs became Massage Therapists, maybe Doctors should enjoy a similar rebranding to…Health Advisor? Although if you asked a Nurse, they’d probably opt more for something along the lines of “Overcompensated Do Nothinger”.

What rebranded jobs did I miss? Tell me what you’ve encountered out there in the working world – or what job titles should change!

Rebranded

My Brush With Royalty

Rock royalty.

Portland rock royalty.

There I was last night, driving around and minding my own business in Milwaukie, a close-in Portland suburb. Mostly, this manifested as trying to figure out whether I should shut my app off so I can stop incoming rides briefly to set it to “home” mode. It was around 5 PM on a rainy Friday afternoon, so the ride bonuses in Portland were crazy.

For instance, I made almost $50 on my first three rides in the first hour on the road. You can see how those ride bonuses dropped on that last pick up outside the city core.

Yes, get me back to town, please.

Plus, that $2.50 bonus was a round trip ride to the liquor store for a guy who met me at the end of his driveway – which I love – only to mime “Do you have an extra mask?” from where he stood as I pulled up. Then, once he’s gotten one, climbs in grumbling about how “It’s not like these do anything, anyway” before careening into “The old man was killing him”, referring to Biden – neither of which I love right out of the gate in a ride. I managed to steer him into a conversational area he was better qualified to have an opinion on: sports.

Stupid American.

I’m sure that explains why I was debating getting back toward the city. That’s when this ride came in.

Now, Zia is not a common name. I’ve known one in my entire life, a former employee here in town. I pulled the picture up to see if it was her, and, well…wrong race.

However, I thought this rider skewed age and race wise toward being the only other Zia I could think of, who I certainly didn’t know, but whose early musical career I was well aware of, the Dandy Warhols.

The Dandys are a local band with one song most people will know – Bohemian Like You – and who I’ve been lucky enough to come across a couple times back when I stumbled into music venues around town in the 90s. Zia stood out among the band because she usually could be counted on to pull her shirt up at some point during a show.

That leaves an impression, even on a late-20s gay boy.

I mentally start discarding conversational riffs based off that song – “I’ve got a great car”, “Do you like vegan food”, “Did I see some guy sleeping on the couch? Is he always there? Why’s he looking kind of ‘meh’?”

Stupid stuff. – that I’d never actually say!

More likely, I’d try to get a heads up on her current band’s upcoming gigs. She’s got several projects going on these days and one of them – Brush Prairies, I think – has been doing shows at small venues, like the Dandys used to.

Also, I could pin her down on which member owned a wine bar here in my neighborhood and where it was actually located. Rumor vaguely has it that it’s over on/around Pettygrove & 14th but the place over there I’ve seen isn’t that impressive. But it’s open hours certainly suggest it operates on a rock and roll vibe, aka: it’s open or not on a whim. More specific rumor has it that it’s a place called Le Happy.

Cute, right? It’s at Lovejoy & 16th, so about half as much closer than the other place, but…

Permanently closed?!?

Even if this wasn’t that bar, it’s sad. Such a cute lil joint. I hope the building doesn’t get torn down in Portland’s growth/building boom.

Anyway, in real time, I was pulling up her name on Google to get a current pic.

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit!

It was her!

OMGOMGOMG.

Be cool.

I pull into this driveway that’s on the backstreet of a side street behind a school in Milwaukie. The remoteness says “privacy” while the overgrown disrepair of a once well-tended yard says “recluse”.

“Damn, Zia, I know having four band projects going has to be a lot…but get it together!”

Then a college-aged kid walks out.

“Well, that’s not Zia…”

He’s got a cute mix of nerd and emo looks going, so I also tell myself to keep my eyes on the road. 🤦🏽

We’ve got a long ride ahead of us into Portland – thank you, Lyft app! – so I start off with some small talk about what’s up.

Turns out, he took a bus into town to hang out with his friend – a female friend, not a girlfriend 😈 – but he went to the wrong house. I comment that this girl has the right kind of problems…too many houses, and he clarifies that he went to her dad’s house (ok, so it’s a “depression vibe” in the yard, not “recluse”, got it) instead of her mom’s so mom was getting him a ride to the right place.

Cool mom.

AND IT WAS ZIA MCCABE!!!

Anyway, that was as close as my brush with rock royalty came. Well, that and maybe she was shuffling things around on the porch when I pulled up. And that I low-key know where she lives, but I’m not creepy, so that knowledge is just a little “I know stuff other people don’t” thrill.

But I still need to catch a random show of hers one of these days. Oh, and she’s a realtor, too, so that’s bad news for my realtor neighbor who lives in the building I want to eventually buy in…because I am Le Happy to be that kind of creepy.

Hey, it’s not like she wouldn’t get something out of that transaction, and The Gays are nothing if not transactional.

My Brush With Royalty

The Most Officious Of Pricks

No, this is not about my impending eligibility for a COVID booster – but you best believe I’m getting that sucker as soon as I am able!

This prick is a person. Not a bad person, I’m sure.

Just a guy doing his job.

Poorly.

And since it involves a badge of sorts, well, let’s just say that Americans no longer need power to be absolute for it to be too great a temptation for them to abuse.

Pricks.

This one was an airport cop. Not even TSA or the Port Police, either. He was a contract employee – is…I didn’t have him fired – working traffic detail in the Arrivals pick up area at PDX.

A little context, PDX has a two tiered front. The upper deck is the Departure level, where you walk in to the ticketing counters. The lower level is Arrivals, where you exit from baggage claim.

Outside of either, you have “islands”. The inner island, closest to the doors is for private vehicles to pick up or drop off. The outer island – called…get this, Island 2 – is for commercial vehicles, which is where I spend most of my airport time these days.

I’d say about 40% of the time when I have a ride to drop someone off at the airport, I’ll get paired with a ride back automatically. If I don’t, I just leave. It’s not worthwhile to chill in the holding area and wait, because usually there’s 20-60 other drivers in there.

Idiots.

And even smaller portion of those return rides I get paired with occur on my approach to the airport versus as pull away from the Departures drop off.

Why does it matter, all of this esoteric knowledge about airport ops at PDX?

Context.

You see, the round trip to get from the Departures level to the Arrivals level is about 4 miles and takes about six minute. Passing through and back into three different speed zones, no less:

25

35

45

35

25

Ironically, the route is rather parabolic in shape, so there’s a strangely soothing rhythm to the round trip.

Still, it’s wasteful. Plus, it throws unnecessary pollution into the air.

Sooooo…when I get that very rare return ride on my approach to the airport and happen to have that even rarer passenger that travels light – like, backpack light – I’ll ask if they mind me just dropping them on the Arrivals level. I mean, if they can work the Lyft app, I feel fairly certain they possess the competencies required to navigate an escalator.

I had one of these unicorn situations the other day. Since the passenger was also a Portland native, they easily agreed to my request tp drop them off downstairs. Hell, being a Portland native, they’d have fallen all over themselves to leave an arm behind if I’d asked.

We’re nice folks.

Passive-aggressive like there’s no tomorrow, but nice. We’re like the British of the US.

Anyway, I ask if she’d mind the whole “Departures drop off on the Arrivals level” and she’s game.

I pull up to the first of two crosswalks (from the parking garage to the terminal) and she hops out. As I’m waiting for pedestrian traffic to clear, this Officious Prick person walks over, points at my dashboard Lyft lamp and says, “You know Departures are upstairs, right?”

I tell him “Yes, but I had a pick up, so…”

“Well, next time you need to do it right!” Like there’s a wrong way to drop someone off at the airport that doesn’t involve the words “Tuck and roll!”

“I see”, I reply. “The environment doesn’t thank you”, I tell him pointedly. What a bunch of nonsense. Please, this is my job – as it were – trust me to apply some critical thinking to the situation, appropriately.

Of course, as I’m thinking this, he replies, “I work for PDX, not the environment.”

Surrealiously, pal?

Yeah…I’m not sure why I thought critical thinking would enter any equation involving Stupid Americans, but here I am.

Fuck the planet.

Quick! Someone kill Greta Thunberg so she can roll over in her grave!

<facepalm emoji>

The Most Officious Of Pricks

Ire, A’ight?

Here’s what I’m mad about today:

As I’ve been riding around town lately, I’ve started seeing what I’ve been reading in the news manifesting.

Higher gas prices.

I’m still paying $3.85/gallon at my secret squirrel fuel shop. Around town, though, I’m seeing higher prices.

Inconsistently.

Sometimes it’s $4.10, others $3.95…and still others closer to $4.25 or $4.50.

Yesterday I saw $5.10! Ironically, this was at a Shell station located across the street and half a block away from another Shell station, where the gas was $.60 cheaper.

It’s like there’s no rhyme or reason.

Except

That inconsistently part I mentioned earlier? Yeah…the higher prices are in parts of town that are historically known as economically depressed or predominantly Black.

Oooh, that pisses me off.

Ire, A’ight?