I Took A Break

From being grumpy.

Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be back to my normal Grumpopotamus self in the morning.

For today, though?

This has been me:

You see, e-scooters have come to Portland. You’d think I would have strong feelings about them, but I feel like the cacophonous complaints from the rest of the city has drowned me out so completely that I don’t even care any more.

Well, check that. I can still muster a sympathetic lil eye roll when someone else mentions the subject. But otherwise? Meh.

I’ve got 99 problems. E-scooters can be everyone else’s. I’m kind of just glad people are demonstrating an ability to experience the combination of low grade anger and impotence to effect change that is my daily struggle.

Go ahead, shake your fists in the air as these e-scooters silently and quickly surprise you from behind.

Rage at those windmills as people leave them scattered about without thinking of the impact their actions will have on anyone else.

Cluck your tongue in disapproval as you witness obvious violations of the simplest e-scooter operating guidelines.

…for all the good it’ll do you.

To their credit, Lime has made their operating guidelines pretty idiot-proof. To their fault, they seem to have willfully failed to realize that there is no bar so low that a #StupidAmerican won’t try and crawl under it.

Here are the rules, presented as pictographs so you barely need to know how words work to understand.I’m a little bothered that this handbrake thing needs to be explained.

There was one more about avoiding obstacles in the roadway, like potholes. I’m not in love with that one so much because I’m usually rooting for my pal Darwin anytime Stupid Americans are involved.

Hey, I don’t want bad things to happen to people. I do, however, expect their actions to support that they don’t want bad things to happen to themselves either, though.

Anyway, I’ve been listening to people carp about this or that e-scooter issue for a few weeks now. Most of the complaints tend to be one of three things:

1) Helmets

2) Riding on sidewalks

3) Scooter parking

I pretty much keep my own counsel on these conversations because, Darwin can use a win and I think these scooters can help take some of our bigger idiots out of the gene pool…I know, that was pretty savage. That said, I don’t want that win to come at the expense of some oblivious everyday Joe that’s texting as he walks down the street and trips over a carelessly parked scooter.

AKA: me.

If you remember the picture rules above, you’ll recall that there isn’t anything in the pictures that says “don’t ride on sidewalks”. As a matter of fact, I mistakenly believed that e-scooters were supposed to be used in bike lanes and sidewalks as opposed to traffic lanes.

I think I was wrong. But, aside from the stoplight picture, I only know that because I watched the maybe-minute-long instructional video on the Lime website.

How many people are gonna do that? Certainly not too many of the people complaining about the scooter users.

From what I gather from said video, you shouldn’t use e-scooters on sidewalks. I’m discerning that mainly from the demonstration video, where all scooting was done on the road and sidewalks were only shown with parked scooters. Riders were also told to obey all traffic laws and the helmet advisory was repeated.

Sorry, Darwin, old pal. If riders bother to watch this, you’re gonna get screwed.

Nevertheless, I’m just listening in on these conversations. I’m also assuming that when I complain about my grumpy old man triggers that I look like the sane e-scooter haters and not the frothy-mouthed versions.

It’s my blog, I can delude myself if I want to.

But my voyeuristic pleasure took an upgrade this week when I subscribed to Nextdoor. I’ve been hearing exasperated sighs from the Silver Fox lately when his phone Pavlov’s him and it’s not anything exciting like a text or a juicy news tidbit to fuel our coffee clatch conversation. “It’s just Nextdoor” hell say dismissively, without explaining.

So I joined.

At first, I totally got his exasperation:

Lost cats.

Inconsiderate dog owners.

People seeking recommendations.

But, then…the scooters!

Here’s a little snapshot of the conversation that’s gotten me through the last couple of days. Just my favorite parts, if you’ll pardon my editing out the repetitive stuff.

Hehe…that second guy kinda turned on the Original Poster by telling her that complaining on Nextdoor was pointless.

That last one really gave me an inner tee-hee moment. Not ten whole violations in a single hour!

The scoot-manity!

I just imagined that cranky lady sitting in the Adirondack chairs outside Lovejoy Bakery barely able to enjoy her luxury pastry and alternative milk latte for all the fist shaking she was doing. She sounds like the type that might make the staff make her a new latte since her first didn’t stay hot.

These scooters…they’re like Christmas!

Icing on the cake?

Our local free weekly rag, Willamette Week, ran a story after week one with a headline that basically congratulated us citizens for the fact that only one scooter had ended up in the Willamette River in the first week of use.

Seriously? What did they think would happen?!?

Stupid Americans.

I Took A Break

I Had an Idea On My Way to a Tiny House Warming

107-ish weeks ago, I posted an entry about a party that I’d been invited to and to which, I had actually gone. What was unique about it was that it was an invite from someone outside my inner circle, so my comfort was not necessarily assured.

This party was part of the impetus for my writing project that year. I called it #TheYesGame and the goal was…well, fairly obvious.

Well, I’m proud (?) to say that yesterday, I said yes again! While I’m sure there were additional moments of success in The Yes Game in the intervening 107 weeks, I’m still a grumpy old man at heart. What that means is that my reply to an invitation is more likely to be “maybe” versus “fuck, yeah”.

Still, yesterday’s party in question wasn’t too risky compared to the Garden Party of 2016. Back then, I only knew the host, not any guests. As a matter of fact, I really only knew the host as a service provider…he was my hair guy. I was confused about whether he was inviting me as a date or simply a guest. My confusion was enhanced because I really wanted to coitus him like a white guy.

None of these factors was in play yesterday.

The hosts yesterday are known to me through my inner circle friends. I guess that makes them second ring friends, right outside my Chosen Family. So, I really like them. Additionally, without confirming with any of our mutual friends, I had a high degree of certainty that I’d run into someone I know at the party besides the hosts.

That didn’t happen, but just like in the Garden Party of ’16, I had a really good time!

In both cases, I was able to find people to chat with and just be sociable. Plus, I got to see the hosts’ new Tiny House, which was the whole purpose of their party.

One thing that was different and surprising this time around was the getting there. Proverbial wisdom suggests that it’s half of the actual fun, right?

Well, yesterday I had to choose a means of getting there. Since it was hotter than Hades yesterday, I chose Uber over the bus.

The hosts aren’t MAX adjacent, so I didn’t have the option of taking a train. On a really hot day, I can tolerate a train…buses, though are kind of ugh on a normal day.

Anyway, as I’m wont to do in most situations, I just started chatting with the driver. Well, it’s that or attaching my face to my phone for the duration.

It’s my experience that most Uber drivers drive part-time as a means of supplementing their income. Yesterday, I had an Uber Unicorn – a full-time driver!

He went on to say that if anyone ever did an Uber Driver Reality Series, he was going to be on it.

…and, my imagination was off to the races.

I started with suggesting that the series could follow a Real Housewives type format, but that my preference would be to have more of a Portlandia vibe to the production.

Sure, it would be cool to give these featured drivers a communal garage and/or living space. But that latter feature feels kinda Real World-y. The Pacific Northwest hadn’t really embraced those types of shows in the past, though.

Additionally, Uber’s vehicle standards is kind of elitist, but only inasmuch as they want to protect the value of the experience their service provides. That standard lends credence to more of a Real Housewives-type luxury. Again, not very PNW-y.

For those reasons of exclusion, my gut said a Portland based reality show would have to come from a more quirky concept.

So, we’re back to Portlandia.

Obviously we’re gonna have to design our own app. The benefit there is that you can work in the usage waiver for appearing on camera to the Terms and Conditions.

No blurry faces on my show!

The point of the app is the same, basically. My vehicle standards would just be appropriately Portland-ized. Less this

More this

Imagine finishing up with your date, a great dinner or show or what have you and opening up the Uber app only to find it’s surge pricing.

Screw that!

What better reason do you need to open up the Portland version and get a ride? Sure, you’ll be on TV – and probably a lil buzzed – but you won’t get gouged by da man.

Then this guy pulls up

That would make for an interesting ride home.

The next day you could ask yourself, “Did I not get any because I’m cheap or because I traumatized my date by making her get into that car?!?”

But the real twist on my program wouldn’t be weird cars. It would be alternative transportation.

Maybe even a power share vehicle…our own version of a fare split.

We are kinda famous for our weird means of getting around. Electric Scooter shares just launched in town. We’ve got BikeTown stations all over the place. Segue commuters are as common as our Segue Tour service.

The person skateboarding down the street is equally likely to be a 50-something as they are to be wearing a wedding dress. I’m just saying we take it to its next illogical incarnation with a ride share app that is distinctly us.

Of course, there’s only a couple of options for moderators that come to mind. It’s got to be either our controversial and quirky former mayor

Or this guy

Obviously.

Because, like I said earlier, getting there is half the fun!

So…anybody know Andy Cohen? Hook me up.

I Had an Idea On My Way to a Tiny House Warming

Why Do Drag Queens Hate Me?

News Flash: they don’t.

Well, not any more or less than the usual person.

For some, I’m an acquired taste.

But as we flit into Pride weekend in Portland, I figured drag was as good a topic to reflect on as any. And I’ve had kind of a funny history with drag queens. Or DQs as I’ve referred to them in the past, since saying two words is so damned hard.

Actually, in thinking about this, I realized that maybe DQs should hate me. Maybe just a little.

You see, I realized that in my early gay days, I was kind of embarrassed by people who did drag. Reflexively, I want to give myself a pass for this early discomfort, since it is something that I know was happening when I was first working to overcome my own gay shame and internal homophobia.

This was the late 80s and early 90s. My knee jerk (or just flat out jerk) reaction when seeing a drag queen in a Pride parade – about the only place I ever encountered them – was “Welp, that’s what will lead the news story about Pride”. My thinking – or frustration – with that obvious reality was that Pride parades were supposed to help normalize our culture for the flyover states. Showing the most flamboyant elements of our culture was doing more harm than good in that battle.

Then I realized a few things:

First, unless we’re naked, we’re all in drag. This is some Grade A DQ wisdom. And it’s dead-bang spot on, especially once we start dressing ourselves. We dress how we want to be perceived in the world.

Second, and piling onto and expanding that sense of expression, drag is a frigging art. If you’ve never watched one get into face- as it’s called – find a YouTube video and be prepared to be amazed. Drag Queens are equal parts self expression and performance art. Regardless of whether they are on a stage or socializing, when a DQ is in face, they are performing. That’s not just Jeff in a Dress you’re seeing. Jeff has a different name and persona once he slips those stilettos on.

Third, our community’s most extravagant fringes should be our ambassadors to the Normie Culture. Accepting anything less than our wildest representations is acceptance with conditions, like that friend who accepts that you’re gay as long as you don’t do gay stuff around him.

Bitch, when I’m being your friend…that’s me doing my gay stuff.

So, flash forward to me overcoming my own homophobia. It only took me leaving the LBC for Florida, living in Texas, moving back to Long Beach and landing back in my hometown of Portland.

Easy-peasy.

Except…not so fast.

When I move back to Portland in ’96, I lived on the Willamette River. This was back when Stark Street was commonly and crassly referred to as Vaseline Alley because most of the gay bars were clustered along a three-ish block stretch. Not the closest gay bars to my home, of course. That was Embers.

Half dance bar, half drag performance venue…I would bypass it for Stark Street unless I was out with a group of friends that wanted to shake their booties.

Interestingly enough, I credit this balance between my “safety in numbers” approach to Embers and my early onset grumpiness with helping me develop a comfort and then appreciation of the drag community. You see, I would go dance at Embers with my friends, but being an evolving grouch, I could only take so much crowding and being stepped on before I had to give myself some alone time on the drag side of the bar.

Not that it was empty or even less crowded. But it was quieter…if only by comparison to the dance side. I’d stand in the back and watch the show for a bit or throw a $20 into the video lottery or grab a beer and enjoy it solo.

Ok, I usually did that last thing with either of the first two while the walls buffered the thumpa-thumpa of the music next door and I decompressed.

It was here that I first saw Linda Lee, Raven, Poison Waters and many other performers that showed me the breadth of our drag personalities.

Linda Lee simply refused to tuck as part of her prep. Usually you could count on at least one flash of a pantyhose encased crotch during her performance. She also didn’t really bother to learn the words to the songs she was lip syncing. When she got to the end of the words she knew, rumor – or legend now – had it that she’d either start mouthing “fuck you” over and over until she found another chorus or treat us to an incredibly obscene tongue display.

I remember seeing Linda out in public one day. Well, part of her, at any rate. It was a summer day and I was driving around doing errands and had one stop downtown before heading home. I was looking for parking and realized that I’d just missed an opportunity in the shape of a car door being carelessly flung open in front of me. I’d just rounded a corner and stopped versus trying to change lanes to avoid taking the door off. The door started to close again just as the driver’s leg was coming out. It was a thick, varicose veiny old man’s leg and it caught the door to stop it from amputating the leg as he tried to exit the car.

That was when I realized the leg was attached to a subtle pump, maybe a tasteful 2″ heel. It was midday after all. Gradually and awkwardly, Linda pulled the rest of herself out of the old car, her skirt riding up as she scooched of the driver’s seat, turning to hold the door open with her half exposed ass as she gathered her stuff off of the passenger seat.

Another signature Linda Lee show.

Raven was another story. For a crass as Linda was, Raven was to opposite to the point of genteel. The first few (hundred) times I encountered her, I was sure she was hitting on me. She’s Native American, so right up my alley. She’s also about 20 gay years older than me, so that alley ends at the end of a pier. Gradually, I got comfortable with her overtly flirty style and would just enjoy our occasional chats from her perch at the bar for what they were: low key social interaction. Those “I’m talking to a man in a dress” conversations were what really helped me embrace drag as both an art form and lifestyle that was an integral part of our gay community.

Still, neither of my experiences with these DQs prepared me for the time a performer ended her number by jumping off stage and making her way directly toward where I stood at the back of the bar. She was smiling like a crazy person and barely broke eye contact as she navigated the tables between us, prompting me to basically do one of those look-to-both-sides-then-mouth-“me?” things like the cool guy I am.

It was me she was headed for.

Apparently, I was distracting her throughout her number and I was to be chastised, thanked and asked out on a date.

In my stunned and flabbergasted state, I agreed, forgetting my Groucho Marx motto about not wanting to be a member of any club that would have me as a member. That carried over to finding fault with someone who was attracted to me…I wasted so much time hating my beautiful younger self.

This was somewhere between hereand here

in my 20s.

<sigh>

Anyway, we went out. I can’t remember his name, but I do remember our date started with me picking him up at his place and ended at my place the next day.

Being a good American conspicuous consumer, I appreciated that I was picking him up at his place in an old two story 20s-era apartment that I’d probably just about kill to live in. Tile roof, stucco exterior, arched doorways and fantastic landscaping. I was jealous and impressed…drag obviously paid better than I’d thought. Turns out, his day job – and family, black sheep that he was – set him up pretty well. Drag was just an expensive hobby, as his second bedroom turned sequin gown filled dressing room attested.

He was a beautiful boy outside of that fancy dress, but it was that second bedroom – and the later realization of that thought about the dress – that made us a bad match at the time. Both my faults. I’ve often wondered where he ended up…he was a really nice, fun guy. Too bad FaceBook was still a decade away.

After my decade long Seattle exile, I moved back to Portland and re-settled myself near the remnants of the now scattered gay bars. Stark Street has been rendered unrecognizable from the enclave of gay bars I’d left, only one remaining. Gentrification touches everyone…but I’d positioned myself close to my primary gay watering holes: Embers and CCs, which had the added bonus of being close to Hobo’s and Fox & Hounds for when I wanted to eat with my people and/or be left alone, respectively.

Embers and CCs has a steady stream of Drag Queens because they both had a drag component to their bar environment, CCs even has a Drag Queen Bartender

which is truly a rarity, I believe she’s one of only three in the US. Every shift is a completely different incarnation, each a very elaborate artistic creation.

Major drag bars aside, my favorite interactions with DQs occurred in settings that reminded me of my barside chats with Raven all those years ago. The Fox & Hounds is around the corner from CCs and on the opposite side of the block from Darcelle’s, Portland’s own world famous and Guinness Book of World Records holding female impersonator. This provided a steady stream – trickle, really – of drop in drag queens who, like me, wanted a drink in relative peace.

Even though I’m pretty sure all three bars are semi connected by Portland’s underground network of Shanghai Tunnels, most DQs would work the sidewalk around the block, chatting and taking in a casual smoke on their way to Fox & Hounds for their “break”.

I’d casually chat with these performers about where they were performing or whether they were just out and about for the night as well as what was going on. Sometimes, we’d just sit quietly, sipping in the camaraderie, others we’d play some video lottery and urge each other toward victory or commiserate our losses. Still others, we’d talk about our town and the community and the subculture that is drag.

At the end of the day, our struggles were what united us more than our sexuality. After one evening of winding down at Fox & Hound, I’d decided to wander around the corner to CCs to see what was going on. It was the first day that weed was legal for recreational use in the great state that is Oregon and there was a palpable – if not subdued, for some reason – energy in Old Town. There was a group of people from all walks of life planning a sort of smoke in on the Burnside Bridge beneath the ubiquitous Old Town sign

I learned this as I was passing CCs’ hostess in residence. Our relationship had run the gamut from enthusiastic, gushing fan when I saw her at my first Pride after moving to Seattle – a welcome bit of my hometown – to our current low key drive by greetings as she worked the crowd at CCs. This particular night, she acknowledged me by offering me a hit off her joint. I passed, but thanked her. She reminded me to go to the bridge later to celebrate. End of story.

My absolute most favorite DQ story happened shortly after this. I was meeting a friend at the Mock Crest tavern for a drink after work. I was working a few blocks away in North Portland at the time and got off work around 11. Oftentimes I’d chill with a beer or two before catching – or missing – the last bus home. We were sitting in this little shotgun of a hole in the wall bar, enjoying a beer and listening to the three piece band that they’d managed to somehow cram into this tiny space as we talked.

It was very pleasant, which I know is a surprise coming from me.

As we’re sitting there chatting, in walk a couple of Drag Queens and I’m wondering how the hell they got so lost as to end up in a dive bar in NoPo…only to realize one of the two was friggin’ Raven!

It’d been nearly 20 actual years since I’d seen her and my presumption was that she’d died, like her counterpart Linda Lee had. I bought her and her friend a beer and learned that she wasn’t dead, “just in my 60s!” as she’d put it. We chatted for about a half hour before she and her friend took off for town. They had stopped in to mentally prepare themselves for the evening out on the town seeing friends while navigating the crowd of “bitchy kids” as she put it.

I apologized for having been one of those bitchy kids when we first met and she gave me a big kiss, hugged me and told me I was always a delightful companion at Embers.

Not bad for a future grumpy old man.

As if that wasn’t enough to put a smile on my face, I’d also missed the last bus of the night. Naturally, I stayed and closed the place before grabbing an Uber home, reflecting on how life really is just such a rich and delightfully strange and unpredictable journey.

Back to my titular (hehe) question. Drag Queens certainly don’t hate me. If anything, some might say the opposite. In the best possible way, their collective acceptance of pretty much anyone they come across helped me to become a better human. Certainly, the acceptance I have felt from the drag community over the years has helped me accept – and stop hating – myself.

The things we learn in unexpected ways…

Why Do Drag Queens Hate Me?

BikeTown Chronicles #2

Over the past week, I’ve been missing being active as my foot heals up. It’s provided me the opportunity to live actively vicariously through myself…my memories of being outside and active, at any rate.

It’s also gotten me thinking about the unfortunate side effects of getting back on my bike. Back in the saddle, if you will.

The muscle soreness, I look forward to. Achey knees, I’m able to tolerate…literally walking off the cumulative shock in the hours or days after a ride.

That saddle rash, though.

Short of getting a new seat, I’ve done what I can to minimize the occurrence of saddle rash. Wearing fewer layers of fabric to minimize chafe. Wearing the right layers, ie: padded undergear. Post-ride care, including a bag balm, because some remedies have to make you question whether the cost of the cure is worth the cause of the malady.

Kinda like the old chestnut about only sane people questioning their sanity. So when I ask if applying salve to my taint-ish region is a reasonable post exercise recovery…I have to be able to affirm my cycling adventures. It’s not as worth it as it would be if someone else were (gingerly) working the cream into my nether area.

Shush, Diezel.

But, since that’s not a fun part of my cost/benefit cycling analysis – and since today is the first day old leftie is feeling like a ride won’t send my recovery backwards – I move past the potential discomfort into other areas of my recent outdoor adventures.

So I’m co-opting or resurrecting this draft of my second BikeTown Chronicles with a few things further onto the plus side of cycling in order to motivate me back out onto the road this afternoon!

I had gotten to the point where I would remember gloves. Actually, I was pretty proud, I remembered them after my first ride. My forearm soreness was pretty severe after my ride, but in a weird way. I also experienced numbness during and after my ride. I remembered the gloves recommendation from one of The Fabulous Baker Girls, who is an avid cyclist. She swore the padding in the palms of the gloves would reduce, if not flat out alleviate, hand and wrist numbness during my ride.

The fact that I experienced numbness up my forearm after the ride reinforced the need for gloves. I put them inside my helmet so I wouldn’t forget them for my next ride. My hands and wrists still get a little numb during my rides, but not until I’m about 10 miles in. I have a mountain bike, with traditional straight handlebars. I’m sure there’s an alternative bar that would afford me the opportunity to reposition my hands during my rides so that I can reduce this numbness even further, similar to 10-speed handlebars. I just haven’t done any research into those options yet.

Cycling took an unexpectedly social turn on my third or fourth ride of the season when I ran into – more accurately, he “caught up” to me – Casey Adler toward the end of my Springwater Trail ride. How he recognized me from behind, in cycle gear – including a helmet, Mom! – is beyond me. I don’t consider myself to be that distinct looking as to be recognizable from either that angle or at that velocity.

It was a nice surprise, though. We rode the last couple of miles of the trail together, catching up.

Honestly, though, there was a moment where “catching up” turned into “catching my breath”, when I tapped out and told him he needed to talk for a while while I wheezed and listened.

I’m old, I own that!

I hadn’t been in a situation where I needed to be cognizant of sharing the path as we rode two abreast and chatted. I’m usually the grumpy guy muttering “excuse me” as I steer to avoid such people. I was proud of the fact that Casey and I took turns dropping back to avoid colliding with oncoming groups that were also riding side by side, albeit obliviously so. Hell, Casey was even aware enough to see a faster rider coming up behind us and sped up so we were riding single file again so Speed Cycler could pass.

Our social cycling ended abruptly when we realized that Casey was taking a street route – presumably – back to his place in NoPo while I was peeling off to take the Esplanade back toward my place.

After we separated, though, I focused on his casually motivational comment when I asked where he was coming from. He simply said that he’d taken the path out to Boring and was on his way back in. I was inspired because that’s a 50 mile ride for me, probably closer to 60 for him.

It was just two rides after this encounter that I managed – and promptly swore off of – my own half century ride. I know I’ve got another 50 mile ride in me…at some point. I just need to figure out how to incorporate them into my cycling routine, since they are time consuming and do have quite a physical toll.

My Health App and Strava finally synced on this ride, too!

Prior to this, for whatever reason, there had been about a half mile discrepancy. My Health app had been shorting me a half mile in ride and doubling the total mileage post-ride.

Weird.

Interestingly, it had been – and still is – waaaay overvaluing my caloric burn. It measures the energy in kcal units, which as my simple mind understands metrics – is 1000 calories. For the ride above, Strava estimates a 534 calorie burn, while my Health app insists on making that a 534 kcal burn.

Sadly, I don’t see me burning a half million calories in a month of cycling, let alone a single day.

But like I said, maybe calories and kcals are interchangeable and I’m just an idiot on the subject.

Could totally be the case.

There are definitely a few things for me to remember as I psych myself up for a ride today. Negative factors that are beyond my control, unlike padded shorts and gloves.

The ride that prompted this entry originally occurred on Cinco de Mayo. I failed to connect the dots between the holiday and the fun zone idiots I encountered on my ride home along the waterfront. The path along the waterfront is mixed pedestrian, cyclist, skateboarder, roller blader, unicyclyer, jogger, segue rider and any other mode of transport you can imagine. It’s Portland! The city may as well put up bleachers on the path at Gov Tom McCall Park since the path runs between the river and the strip of grass that houses amusement park rides or tents during the many summertime waterfront events. This effectively renders the pathway unnavigable as lower functioning humans are stunned into a slack jawed, mouth breathing and quite stationary existence on the path as they contemplate whether or not to enter.

Sidenote: this is not happening anywhere near the actual entrance to the festival.

Since we are in the midst of Portland’s annual Rose Festival activities, the fun zone is in full swing. Luckily, there’s a path along both sides of the river. I just have to remember to take the right one on my way home!

Hey, did you know that Walkathons are still a thing? Apparently, most of them are in support of Rude People Pride since they seem to block the entire path…prompting me to admonish them to share as I weave and wobble through the crowd.

That said, a Monday ride is a ride free of Walkathons!

However

I need to be careful to time my ride so that I’m back before rush hour for Portland’s bike commuters. This is particularly important while there’s an event at Tom McCall Park since everyone funnels along the east side of the river to get home, bypassing the virtual bleachers on the west side of the river.

Generally speaking, I love catching the worker bee exodus of Portlander cyclists as they leave work for the day when I’m returning from a ride. It reminds me of what a great city Portland is to live in.

The only pinch point is the Steel Bridge.

This bridge was opened in 1912. One has to admit that at 106 years of age, it’s fared quite a bit better than more infamous technological marvels of that same year. Portland has also worked to integrate the bridge into its infrastructure plans to make sure it doesn’t cripple the city’s growth through the years.

Originally, this two-decked bridge carried vehicles on its upper span and train traffic along its lower span. When Portland introduced its commuters to light rail in the 80s, the upper span was repurposed to carry two lanes of car traffic and two lanes of light rail MAX trains. When the Eastbank Esplanade was created, the Steel and Hawthorne Bridges were selected to connect the east and west side waterfronts, each gaining a pedestrian and cycling path. For the Steel Bridge, that manifested in an addition to the lower deck. At about 5 feet wide, it’s half the width of the paths along the waterfront.

For all the ribbing Portland drivers get for being too polite, demonstrated nicely by Portlandia in its “No, You Go” sketch where two drivers at an intersection bent over backward to yield to the other, one of whom didn’t even have a stop sign or signal, the same cannot be said for its cyclist population. Especially bike commuters.

I’ve long suspected that being killed as a pedestrian by a cyclist would be the perfect manifestation of a Red Shirt worthy demise. Little did I realize that cyclists are trying to take one another out, too. During the Cinco de Mayo fun zone-slash-bike commuter rush hour, the Steel Bridge became something of a cycling Thunderdome. As I was crossing over in this last mile of my ~20 mile ride, the path was packed with slow-moving pedestrian and bike traffic.

I’m sure there was a very good motivator for what I experienced on the bridge this day, but all I can muster is either selfishness or straight up idiocy. We riders were all doing a slow pedal across the bridge as we navigated across with our walking counterparts. For whatever reason, an oncoming cyclist decided to pass a mother/father/stroller situation that was walking side by side across the bridge.

Mind you, at around 5 feet wide, this path is barely wide enough to accommodate three people across. This oncoming cyclist – in her irrefutable good judgment – decided rush hour was the day to make this a four person across path by bending the rules of physics.

She was partially successful, this typically stupid American. However, most of her success I attribute to me slow-crashing my bike into the hog wire railing of the pedestrian path. The commotion she caused didn’t cause her to slow down or rethink her judgment whatsoever. To her credit, it also didn’t cause her to speed up, so the chaos she created was maximized.

What a feckless cu…well, you get where that’s going.

So, hopefully the need for editing in this post is minimal, since I’m giving it less than that. You see, I have a 3 hour and 6 minute window for my ride before the bike commuter rush hour starts. I need to run.

Er…peddle.

BikeTown Chronicles #2

Fat Shamed By My Phone

I’ve been a little lazy lately. Kind of living the life of a shut in or hermit.

Lots of factors.

However, the two that led to this initially and then hooked me, eventually were:

A) The first of the season sunburn that I exposed myself to during my spur of the moment half century ride has kept me inside versus making it worse. I could simply buy some sun screen, but for now I’m living a literal version of “once burned, twice shy”…at least until I stop peeling!

And,

B) I hurt myself. Yes, again. Yes, while I’ve allegedly been inactive.

But there’s a story behind that Point B.

Naturally.

The Silver Fox was laid up a few days back and I offered to take his pooch out for his pre-bedtime walk. His dog is a good boy. Certainly a better pet than my Mistress Myrtle, who is currently in the midst of an Otter Identity Crisis.

George is 110 pounds of heart. Definitely more heart than brain, but as soon as I open the door he’s doing his “happy to see you” dance. It’s the same dance I get when I’m visiting and use the bathroom in The Fox’s Lair. Anyway, having been a slug for the past several days and wanting to make sure The Fox gets every opportunity to rest up by sleeping through the night, I decide to give the dog a good pre-bedtime run. We zip around the North Park Blocks in the darkness in between sniff and pee breaks so that he can get all the pup-dates the neighborhood dogs leave…the NPB really are like Canine Facebook.

Still, we ran up and down four of the five blocks of park in between Chez Galby and The Fox’s Lair, occasionally doubling back on ourselves as we ran and played. It was only 3/4 of a mile, but I knew it was more than George usually gets at that late hour and I could tell he was ready to settle in for the night when we were done.

I went to bed thinking, “You know, you could shuffle out a mile jog around the park blocks a couple times a week” and motivated to give that a try to see how my knees and lower legs tolerated it.

Of course, I woke up on Monday scarcely able to put my ever increasing body weight on my left foot.

Gotdammit.

So I’ve been relegated to the sofa most of this week…naturally, it’s also a week where my normal Monday morning acupuncture was cancelled because of the holiday.

First World Problem.

You’d have thought being laid up would give me plenty of writing time.

You’d have been mistaken.

I’ve been trapped in a daily Netflix Spiral.

But, ending the week on a high note, I am determined to tell the story of that time my phone fat-shamed me. It was also my last outdoor activity, a hike with Little Buddy in Forest Park. There might even be some pics, it was so long ago that I’ve forgotten if I snapped pics during that hike or not.

One of the reasons that I enjoy hiking is the natural setting, of course. That’s the same reason I enjoy cycling. The difference is that while hiking, I can enjoy the scenery a bit more than when it’s buzzing by at a whopping 15 MPH. Hence the potential for pictures.

My usual Forest Park hike is a ten mile affair, about 50/50 split betwixt sidewalk on the to and from and actual trail in the park itself. It’s usually a 3-4 hour endeavor, depending on how long I stay at Pittock Mansion once I reach this little urban summit. Little Buddy had told me she had a few hours between work and family dinner duties, so I stopped her from paying to park by my place when she rolls up, figuring we can park adjacent to one of the many entry points and start there.

I’m not just respecting her pending familial obligations, I’m also ensuring our post ambulation recreation at The Big Legrowlski: beer!

Here’s the rub, though: I’ve never driven to the trail, so I have zero clue where to direct Little Buddy. Being the slave to technology that I am, I google Forest Park and get directions.

This takes us in the complete opposite direction than I normally head off in when on foot, so I’m completely lost. I usually head NW through the Alphabet District – encompassing the Pearl District, Slabtown and The Conway neighborhoods – and then into Northwest and ultimately the forest on Thurman Street.

These google directions set us off toward Burnside, the primary East-West thoroughfare through town and really the first street in the Alphabet District, and the opposite end of the alphabet from my normal entry point. Mind you, Google Maps is – allegedly – going to provide the quickest route, so off we go.

Intrepid, no?

Here’s the payoff for struggling through those Portland neighborhood specific details…patience really can pay off.

We’re heading up Burnside, chattering comfortably away about her and 2.0’s new home escrow, an upcoming kitchen remodel in their current home and my parents’ kitchen remodel – it appears I literally have nothing to add to this conversation myself, so I’m ripping off my parents. But, being an okay son, when she mentions having a potential Quartz Guy, I tell her that my parents had wanted quartz but opted for marble because they couldn’t find a decent deal on quartz.

Sidebar: She literally just texted me this as I’m writing

Hehe…Wong’s.

This is my life, I cannot make it up any better.

End sidebar.

So, we’re driving up Burnside and our conversation is interrupted by directions, as is often the case when GPS is your friend. Or in this case, frenemy.

“In 600 feet, continue on past Taco Bell”…

As far as landmarks go, if you’re going to base them on businesses, Portland has a few iconic offerings along Burnside. For example,

Jim Fisher Volvo has been on Burnside since 1957 and its sign 60 feet over Burnside is nearly as famous as this guy sitting at the head of NW Burnside.

But, no, my phone had inherited my snarky and completely unveiled bitchy personality. Allow me to translate its directions for you.

“Hey, fatty, since you don’t drive and based on your drunken Uber history, the park you’re looking for is past Taco Bell…do not stop at Taco Bell!”

Little Buddy and I were so stunned by this out of character type of direction that it took us a moment to begin laughing our asses off. LB nearly drove into a truck. We were laughing so hard that we nearly missed the second warning at 400 feet. We’d regained our composure enough to enjoy the fact that google kept on shaming me until the “200 feet” marker.

As funny as that was – shituationally – I felt a little cheated that there was no congratulatory message once I’d successfully made it past my drunken dietary siren.

Somehow – after that amazing ab workout slash dose of the best medicine – we made it to our urban trailhead destination. I recognized it, as I’d crossed this road a few times on other adventures. After parking, we head out into the trail as I try to mentally adjust my map so I don’t get us lost.

We both quickly realize that we aren’t entering at the easiest point on the path…as we pretty much are silenced 300 feet into a maybe 12 degree (I’m guessing, not really sure how grades are measured…just assume it’s steep) climb when LB says something along the lines of, “Geez, how long is this hill?!?”

Basically, what I was desperately trying to remember. Wiping the streams of sweat from my face before turning to answer, I tell her that “I can’t actually remember” and that it’s “longer than I recall, I’m trying to remember which way to go at the top so I don’t get lost again”.

Now, this Little Buddy of mine, she’s pretty sharp.

Again?!?”, she asks.

This totally takes the pressure off the early phone fat shaming since I answer her honestly by telling her that I’ve only gotten lost in Forest Park twice.

This year.

This just happens to be one of the two paths I’ve been lost on.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’d guess that the initial climb was about 1000 feet and my treacherous phone told me we climbed 13 stories. One of my math-y friends can figure the grade out and tell the rest of us in the comments.

After that initial near death humility inducing beginning, the path leveled off into a more comfortable elevation gain and we were back to our normally chatty and much less wheezy selves. It was last Wednesday and we both enjoyed the relatively people-free trail as we absorbed the natural settings and caught up.

It’s one of those normally awesome experiences that is even better for the company. I’m glad she and I have had a couple of opportunities to enjoy each other’s company, being outdoors, some beer, a lil wine, great weather and surprisingly few other people. As a matter of fact, once we reached the mansion, I mentioned that this was the smallest crowd I’d seen up there in the three years I’ve been hiking these trails.

Less than a dozen counting us. Excluding us, maybe not even a half dozen.

Heavenly.

Naturally, two of the only other visitors were feeling chatty. And commemorative, asking me to get a pic of them in front of the overlook. LB took off for a shady spot in the corner while the tourists from Salt Lake chatted me up. I mentally praised her reclusiveness, even though I knew that I was projecting my early onset grumpiness onto her mom check in moment.

I can’t blame the tourist for wanting to capture the beautiful view, even if the mountain wasn’t out that day.

I swear, there is a mountain in that haze…somewhere. Maybe next time. I have that luxury, even though it’ll probably be so crowded up there when the mountain is actually out that I won’t be able to get a decent shot of it.

Oh well, first <ahem> step is to get my foot cooperating again!

Fat Shamed By My Phone

I Live in BikeTown, USA

Don’t let the title fool ya, I’m a fair weather cyclist. Part of me dreams of being an intrepid cyclist type that commutes to work regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us.

But I’m not.

I had tentative plans to find the path to the airport and bike to work “once the weather got good” a few times this summer. Instead, I quit my job. The only thing worse than a bad job is a bad job that you also have saddle rash while doing, right?

Ok, maybe there’s worse things. Probably that’s no contest,

But outside of the weather, I’m leery of becoming a regular bike commuter for two reasons:

A) I saw a UPS truck going the wrong way on a one way street the other day.

Now, my faith in humanity is pretty low, I won’t lie. To that end, I look both ways before crossing a one way street. But I don’t expect to see a professional driver pulling a bonehead move like that.

B) Bike Commuters are mean. At the very least, intimidating. Probably to some degree because of their hyper vigilance on the road due to the folks in example A, but even within their own ranks, their pretty fucking judgy.

But, Portland has had its False Spring and now that nice weather has come around for the second time, I can reasonably expect the weather to be decent more days than not and I’ve trotted out the old bike to try and blend in.

That’s a lie.

I’m trying to pedal off my Winter Layer.

I’ve managed two rides in the last week and am heading out on my third this morning, but am also enjoying being trapped under Mistress Myrtle while sipping my Monster so I thought I’d tap this out before I go…I’ve just got to get out before all the Cubicle Dwellers finish their First Brunch of the weekend and get outside.

That was one of the many things I re-learnt on ride number one.

Second Spring arrived on a Saturday and I let my enthusiasm get the better of me and went out for an afternoon ride on the Eastbank Esplanade and out the Springwater Trail.

Mistake!

But it was only my first of this short ride.

Everyone was there. They also seemed largely to be suffering under the delusion that they were the only people on the planet. I expect the Esplanade to be busy with strolling couples on a weekend. Lovey-dovey shit going on is gonna happen. The only way I’ve discovered to avoid it is to be…y’know, me. But on top of those slow strollers, you’ve got the other fair weather athletes out getting their shakedown runs and rides on the books.

Oh, and the actual athletes that probably were hating on all of us.

But it was a shit show.

No one was paying attention to anyone past the immediate obstacle they represented. Sure, they were going around them, but not thinking past them to what might be ahead.

Around the figurative next bend, if you will.

Here’s an example:

A jogger comes up behind a slow moving couple walking hand in hand and moves around them by running down the center of the path. There just happens to be a cyclist coming the opposite direction, but it’s ok…the path is wide enough to accommodate four abreast.

Ok, that example NEVER happened.

It was close, but:

Maybe the couple wasn’t walking hand in hand and there was a person width gap between them.

Maybe the jogger passing the strollers was a fair weather athlete and as he passed, a real athlete came up and decided to pass him simultaneously, not realizing that jogger was passing a couple he couldn’t really see.

Maybe the oncoming cyclist was two abreast instead of single file.

Unattended toddlers.

Wandering geese.

This shit show created a lot of Matrix worthy action as everyone just carried the fuck on.

Meanwhile, I’m looking at oncoming traffic before I try to pass someone and occasionally hold up behind them until oncoming obstacles go by, only to see some jerk-wad pass me and the people in front of me and almost die in a head on collision with oncoming traffic he didn’t see ahead.

Sidebar: I’m not being sexist when I say “he”, we men are typically at fault when it comes to single minded selfish behaviors. Outside of nothing, I never saw any of the many women doing their fitness do any of this stupid alpha male bullshit behavior.

What really surprised me was that this general cluelessness continued onto the Springwater Trail. I wasn’t expecting this. The Springwater is a 25-ish mile long path that runs from Downtown out to the ‘burbs. It’s actually got an extension now out to the Netflix-famous town of Boring, Oregon, so maybe it’s even longer these days.

That said, it’s not a path that really affords a casual “let’s just get on the trail” type of experience. The entrance and exit points are fairly distant, so once you’re on, you’re on for a while. Seeing so much casual traffic was confusing to me because I couldn’t figure out their motivation or destination.

It became clear to me a few miles in when I encountered the first couple just suddenly reversing course.

No looking around before they turned.

No stepping to the side to let any trailing traffic pass and check to make sure it was clear.

Just, “we’re going back now” and <poof>, they were suddenly facing the other direction.

This happened three times on the Springwater during my nine mile ride on it – 4.5 out and the (after pulling off at a wide point by a bridge) 4.5 back to the Esplanade.

Really, I left the Springwater hoping for more Wandering Geese. At least I couldn’t fault them for their brainless behaviors.

That earlier sexist disclaimer aside, I cane upon a weird situation that just ended up being a racist stereotype trap by Oaks Park during my ride out.

There was a woman seated on her BikeTown bike seat walking her bike instead of pedaling. She was in the middle of the outbound half of the trail. The way she was moving, I thought she might be injured. I slowed down to make sure and check as I went by – on the right side of her. Naturally, the runner behind me just blew by on the left as some oncoming cyclists passed a slow mover on their side so we almost all died.

Turns out, the woman I thought was injured was just Asian and the slow mover in the oncoming lane was only her boyfriend trying to snap an “action” shot of her “riding” her BikeTown bike in front on the Oaks Amusement Park roller coaster in the background.

Idiots.

The rest of my Mistake Moments on this inaugural ride of the season were gear related.

Remembered: Helmet, tunes, water bottle and sunglasses.

I did pretty good for my first ride.

Forgotten: Padded underwear and cycling gloves.

Now, this was only a 12 mile ride. I was intentionally taking it easy because I’m prone to injury.

The injury I wasn’t prepared for was the hamburger ass I ended up with for forgetting my padded underwear.

It was ONLY 12 miles!

But, sure enough, every little bump on the ride back in was an exercise in agony.

Bicycle seat + cargo shorts + cotton underwear + my lame yet frustrating excuse for a vestigial tail = the perfect recipe for saddle rash. Regardless of the shortness of the ride. Add to that a good sweat on a nice day and you get “Oh, c’mon!” type irritation for your ride home.

As if my trail cohorts weren’t irritating enough.

But, lessons learned so that future rides were more enjoyable, right?

Sure enough, my second ride of the season was mid-week and much less crowded. Poorly timed, it seems, if only because all the shirtless runners were heading into town as I was heading out.

It took me the first three oncoming joggers to really relax into appreciating the oncoming displays of masculine beauty.

The first one was a slender but muscular runners framed guy with a smooth chest and impossibly thin waist. My internal pedo alarm went off and I warned myself against ogling truant high school boys.

The second jogger that came my way prompted the same perversion diversion behavioral subroutines to activate. I began thinking that I’d wandered out during a HS track team practice run and prepared to tuck my lascivious nature away for the duration of my ride. Just as I began to look for a place to pull off and put on some Indigo Girls music to tamp down my inner dirty old man, the third, fourth and fifth shirtless runners passed by, visually reassuring me that the first two were just flukes.

I was relieved. Guy-Candy is such a motivator for me when it comes to exercise. I enjoy being a fair weather cyclist. I love the urban nature Portland has to offer and I unapologetically consider shirtless athletes to be part of that urban nature.

So, motivational visuals safely intact and padded underwear securely in place, I confidently set my sights on a 20 mile ride.

It was great.

Not too crowded.

Actually, the best Portland stereotypes were out.

Recumbent cyclists.

Superfit granola-y type people in their 60s or better out slow-jogging.

Rollerbladers, because Portland Weirdos still do that.

Combination standard/recumbent dual bicyclists – that’s a new one one me.

No list of Portland’s finest would be complete without Segue Riders or the poor man’s Segue, the Razor Scooter.

All out on display on this gorgeous day.

Not too hot, but sunny!

Gorgeous scenery. The aforementioned male pulchritude and the riverside greenery and occasional wildlife.

My favorite part was the 5-way intersection on the way back by Oaks Park where the Springwater crosses a road. A driver coming out of Oaks had the right of way, I was next and then there was a car coming to a stop on the road.

Now, this lady could have been through the intersection before I even stopped at my sign. I was gauging this and thinking about whether I should stop just to be sure the second car didn’t pull a California stop and kill me in exercising my right of way.

But, no…this being Portland, the first driver waited for me to stop so she could yield her right of way to me in true Portland fashion. But I’m certainly not going to complain about someone being considerate!

Speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get out onto the trail for my ride before it gets too people-y. I’ll proof read later.

Maybe.

Oh, PS: I still forgot my damn cycling gloves last time. This caused some good numbness in my forearms during my ride, but my achey knees made up for the lack of feeling in my arms. But I’ve got the gloves safely stowed in my helmet for today’s ride.

PPS: I’m thinking this might have to be a summer blog series…thoughts?

Ciao for now!

I Live in BikeTown, USA

PDX Weather…

Life in the PNW is low-key glorious.  We don’t want word getting out and even more people moving here to experience it.  They always bring their hometown tarnish with them and it harshes our mellow just a bit.

Let ‘em scratch their heads in confusion about life here:

Rain.

Without umbrellas.

Great food.

That comes from a truck on the street.

Great coffee.

That’s intimidatingly simple to order.

Beer swilling liberal haven.

Filled with inexplicably fit folk…

Being smart and right burns a lot of calories, m’kay?

Let ‘em think all that crap about us. As long as they stay there and don’t move here.

Come get a taste of the wonder, but be careful how you time your visit.

You can get a great hike in our in the gorge or cascades.

Or

You can watch horrified like the rest of us as our beautiful landscape burns at the hands of some punk.

You can enjoy our tasty brewed treats – caffeinating or intoxicating.

Or

You can question reality – and how strong that beer was – when you (think you?) see one of these characters.

Two of those are undeniably real, the other is a secret.  Not sure whether any of them are actually a reason to stop drinking or a better reason to start.

Again, it’s about timing in the PNW.

Just when you think you know all the potential traps to avoid when planning your exotic getaway to weird Portland, Orygun, you go to your travel agent and say something like, “Um, like we wanna go” – just assuming you’re from the San Fernando Valley for some reason – “for a weekend during Spring Break.  All the locals will be gone, but it’s not as touristy bad as summer will be.” only to find yourself wondering why your Travel Agent is giving you this face.

It’s because you can’t outsmart us.

Don’t.

Even.

Try.

It’s a little known fact that our summers here are simply glorious.

God’s Country.

Lit by the longest, most sunshiny days you can imagine.

An even less known fact is springtime in Portland.  Every year I wait for it.  It doesn’t happen every year, but when it does…it’s amazing!

It’s been on my radar since early this week, when people were talking about snow this coming Saturday – aka: tomorrow, at this point.

I have to check myself when I start to expect it, because you never know it’s coming.

Wrap your mind around this:  all four seasons in one day.

It almost happened yesterday.

I woke up and tried to plan my day’s attire.  Really, the mystery here is what type of outerwear I’m putting over my jeans and tee shirt.  It was 32 degrees.

Winter.

I’d gone in on my usual day off, but ended up arriving a few minutes later than expected.  I’d taken a later train than planned when I’d returned to my condo for an umbrella after hitting the street and discovering rain with drops the size of my head.

Aaaah, Spring.

And, yes.  We locals do use umbrellas.  We aren’t idiots, like the transplant that started that rumor.

I left work and decided that I deserved a margarita.

The Silver Fox joined me for my second and when we left, proving margaritas are a cure for what ails ya – working on my Saturday, in this case, it was sunny and golden bright out.

Summer.

For two blocks.

Then it was sunny and raining out.  It kept getting brighter and the rain got harder.  People were laughing and smiling as they strode the sidewalks of Old Town in the surprise – and gorgeously lit – shower.

“Sunshine drops!”, I yelled out, giddy over the prospect of hitting the weather lottery.

This is why people think we don’t use umbrellas.  You’re out and about and get caught be a sudden shower.  Others might step into a doorway and wait it out, Portlanders relish it and carry on about their business.

I went home and surprised Myrtle doing something she wasn’t supposed to do – sitting in one of my dresser drawers that for sure wasn’t open when I left.

But I was only home to grab a growler so I could get provisions for the evening and hole up for the finale: snow.

I went to the Big Legrowlski to fill up and chatted for a sample or two with one of my favorite Pearl District peeps as she filled my growler with a lusciously light triple IPA.

As I was leaving: hail.

So close.

I woke up this morning to a reminder from Apple and Mother Nature:

PDX Weather…