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.

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

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

Just Go Back To Sleep

You *woke*, bro?

Over the past week or infinity, I’ve crossed paths with several *woke* people or groups. People, actually, whose values and politics align with my own.

Strangely, it has not gone well for me. Witness:

Facebook: Minimum Wage

I’m not going to lie, I’m still scared to look at my Facebook notifications for fear of seeing what a woke mob of Portlanders has left there for me. As a matter of fact, since this happened, I’ve likely opened my Facebook app less than a half-dozen times.

My crime? Standing up for a local restaurant chain called McMenamin’s. They had posted an ad for cooks.

The gall.

Actually, that was the lead comment by a woke Portlander who saw the ad on Craigslist and decided to post it on the DamnPortlanders Facebook page. A page that I’m quitting, if it hasn’t already expelled me.

Let me tell you about McMenamin’s crime before I go into details on my own. They posted this Craigslist ad for cooks: minimum wage (which is currently $13 and change, but moves to $14/hr on July 1st and $14.75 next July 1st) plus tips, medical/dental, 401k, PTO…not bad, in my opinion. Most of my service industry friends have no insurance since they are usually consigned to part-time positions. And 401k? Forget about it.

This woke Portlander was offended that a company would offer a minimum wage job in today’s job market, particularly in Portland.

My crime? I simply pointed out that Portland’s minimum wage is nearly double the federal minimum wage and that maybe there were other levers to pull to ensure Portland remains a livable city for our service industry workers – particularly since it’s such a big part of our culture. I may have also mentioned that attacking our own liberal policies made us look a bit schizophrenic.

Remember our unofficial town motto: Portland, where young people go to retire.

Anyway, I wasn’t expecting gratitude from my comment. I just wanted to throw a little voice of (t)reason into the dialogue. I’ll tell you what I wasn’t expecting…attitude.

I’m not even kidding. Given where the comment melee ended up, it actually started in a benign – if only by comparison – place. The OP claimed she worked on the minimum wage campaign five years ago and that it was out of date already. Without citing context, of course. She said that $15 should be the minimum.

I reminded her that $14.75 and $15 are pretty damn close, wondering if she was really upset about what amounted to $10/week. I also pointed out that she shouldn’t be upset by employers offering the minimum allowable wage – they were meeting the state’s baseline requirement of employers.

Her counteroffer was that the minimum should be $22/hr, $26 if you work downtown.

Ok, merely moments before, she’d declared that $15 should be the minimum. Now she’s saying $22 should be the minimum – do you feel like I was necessary in this debate? She seemed to be negotiating against herself just fine.

The split minimum wage is nothing new to Oregon. We created a three tiered minimum wage when we voted on it back in 2015.

There’s also a Rural tier that’s not pictured. The interesting thing from this last round of increases is the unexpected fallout: job loss. We’re famously one of the few states where you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas – we’re job creators like that. However, after the minimum wage hike, rural communities were allowed to eliminate those jobs and customers pump themselves there.

Basically, in small towns where there are fewer jobs, we managed to make things worse under the auspices of making them better. Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m all for a livable minimum wage. I’m also all for friggin’ oil and gas companies not getting away with crap like that.

I’m also the guy who pulls up to a gas station in Vancouver, Washington – and now Hood River and beyond – and sits in his car waiting for no one to come pump my gas. Basically, I’m a big dummy.

Anyhoo.

Asked the OP if she really thought the guy that takes my order at my favorite food cart downtown should be making $52k a year, because that’s what full-time work at $26/hr nets out to annually. I also asked if she thought a food cart could sustain that salary level, since I very much doubted that the owners of the cart made that much.

It got crazy from there.

Crazier.

One guy did a lovely math story problem for me involving rent on a one-bedroom at a crazy $1800/month rent, plus medical insurance, utilities, etc minus working full-time at $15/hr. Yes, the result was a negative number.

Also yes, he thinks a minimum wage earner is going to be dumb enough to live in the Pearl. Or alone. He seemed offended by my reply – a story about people having roommates.

Then someone jumped in suggesting a $30/hr minimum wage. Because, of course Portland should be 4x the federal minimum.

Who the fuck are these dumbasses?

I made another attempt at pointing out how taxing companies and the wealthy appropriately versus letting them hide profits and grow wealth through loopholes would help us provide healthcare for all. Oddly, that’s kind of a wash for employers in my mind, since they would have to pay taxes but wouldn’t have to bear the burden of paying for the administration of a healthcare plan. It’s a double win for employees, too. They wouldn’t have to pay a portion of their employer’s healthcare offering, plus the obstacle preventing employers from offering full-time jobs versus part-time jobs would be eliminated. Well, one of the obstacles, I know that some employers still need part-time workers to allow for scheduling flexibility.

Honestly, after that immersion into literal liberal retardation, I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t just opt out of the DamnPortlanders group, but go as far as deleting my Facebook profile altogether

Regardless, this is a great example of people not thinking for themselves – or maybe not having the critical thinking skills to extrapolate an action plan that is actually actionable…and solves more problems than it creates.

Last time around, we eliminated a few pump jockey jobs. This time around we’d be eliminating small business if these woke jokers had their way.

But they don’t seem primed to compromise. A behavior that makes me think they might just be happy being unhappy.

Twitter: Feminism

I recently shared a post that I came across on the AppleNews feed on my Twitter page. It was an opinion piece by a former member of Congress.

My “offensive” comment underlined in red…

Overall, pretty innocuous re-post. In it, the author lays out a case that I was surprised to find out wasn’t common sense. Then I remembered 70 million Americans who would bristle at the accusation that they possess common sense and were willing to vote to prove it.

Enter the overwoke feminists.

The first comment came in: Can we try that again without the misogyny?

She jumped on this pretty fast for a blind Tweeter…

Ok, A) “bitch” is nearly as versatile a word as “fuck”, so if you know me…feel free to assume my intentions. If you don’t, methinks thou art projecting too much. Maybe try seeking first to understand instead of leading with an attack.

You can see the “Tweet Unavailable” above my comment, indicating she blocked me.

And, B) of all the people who need a feminist to have their back…Marjorie Taylor Greene hardly seems high on that list. As a matter of fact, I bet she’d decline any defense of her character and respect-worthiness from a feminist.

But this former follower of mine – a female using a gay pride flag emoji in her Twitter handle – wasn’t going to let anything like non-consensual support stop her. I encouraged her to check her assumptions and maybe try assuming best intentions versus worse, but she wasn’t having that. She even tagged in a friend of hers to join in the attack. I felt like the wounded gazelle to their simultaneous hunter lionesses and scavenger hyenas. As noted above, this woman is blind, but I’d be surprised if perhaps she was only blind to the opinions of others.

Once again: the problem with liberals is that when we have a chance to do something for the greater good, we distract ourselves with infighting versus collaboration. The result is an epic display of ineffectiveness.

The Street: Racial Justice

On the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, there was a vigil-protest here in Portland. Because that’s what you get in a woke city whose unofficial forecast is “Cloudy, with a chance of protests”.

Commemorating nothing, I’d gone out to Kelly’s Olympian for a couple pints of the good stuff after clocking my 10 rides for the day. As I left – crossing 5th & Washington on the diagonal – I heard bucket drums behind me and turned to look once I’d cleared the intersection.

Sure enough, there was a wall of people dressed in black bloc just coming across 4th and up Washington toward me. A little excited to be catching a front row seat at one of my city’s marches in support of social justice, I pulled out my phone to capture a video.

Me: getting in trouble for basically standing.

What I hadn’t seen was the marchers’ advance team. Usually a few folks on bikes or motorcycles that ride ahead of the march to stop traffic prior to the marchers’ arrival. Because: safety first! I hadn’t noticed these two because they were on rented e-scooters – which I generally pay as much attention to as a mosquito.

They took issue with me taking a video. More accurately, they deferred authority to a vague “them” figure instead of being adults and just asking me not to film.

That’s not very Darnella Frazier of them.

I’m not someone who can physically defend myself, so I’m not sure why I mouth off as frequently as I do. I am good with words, though…so, maybe I do know why I pop off like I do.

I also bristle easily at intimidation. And these goombahs menacing me without owning it kind of demanded fucking with. I actually posted the video – along with my frustration – to my Instagram. It was there that one of the local protest pages filled me in on a possible rationale for the protesters request to not be filmed: videos could potentially be subpoenaed as evidence or to help identify marchers.

Ok. Sure…it’s a stretch, in my opinion. But I can respect a reasonable request with some context versus a vague threat from a disembodied “them”.

I actually thanked the local page that provided the insight, because I hate not knowing the “why” behind something I’m expected to do. Hate it. As a matter of fact, my complain-asking these types of questions and listening to the rationale behind things like ACAB, Defund/Disband the Police, Trans Rights, TERFs, and countless other movements that initially repelled me due to a too liberal use of hyperbole for my taste has helped me understand the actual meaning behind each group’s messaging.

I guess I have a thirst for knowledge. It’s like a sickness…

My question though: Why can’t the advance team use a specific reason like I was given after the fact while making their request versus just barfing out a “Hey, we don’t care, but they might…” and expecting me to fall in line?

Seems like police level bully behavior to me. “Because I said” is such a winning argument with me.

Instagram: Body Insecurities

There’s a fellow blogger and indie gay writer that I follow(ed) on Instagram as well. He lives in the UK and shared many of my frustrations with The Gays – apparently, we’re a global pandemic with our carelessly selfish behaviors.

But he’s also one of those gays that has self-diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I should have known that many red flags would only lead to bullshit shenanigans.

Last month, he posted a close up of his lower face with only the caption “It’s time to shave”. He sports stubble off and on, so I thought he’d been referring to his body’s follicular pigmentation betrayal.

I.

Was.

Wrong.

Ok, so I assumed incorrectly. I suppose that gives him carte blanche to return the favor by incorrectly assuming my own intentions. Where I thought I’d been on his wavelength and sent a cute comment, he’d been referring to gawd knows what else and chose instead to assume I’d been trying to offend him. By the time I came to awoke the next morning, I was blocked and he had apparently deleted the post. As you can see, I originally liked his “post deleted” comment because I thought he’d been responding playfully…then I scrolled to the final message.

It’s not like we were ever going to have an acquaintanceship outside of social media, but I’m still sad about his decisions. But that’s the trouble too often these days – and I refuse to use the term too liberally, so I’ll just let you get there on your own. Perhaps, though, if he didn’t allow himself to react rashly after listening to his more self-sabotaging demons, he wouldn’t be self-diagnosing with anxiety.

What do I know, though? I’ve just been dealing with a bunch of the same crap he whines about regularly for a couple decades longer. Of course, I’m the enemy.

The truly sad news is that I’ve likely forgotten some recent examples. But overall, it seems people are – and I don’t know why this surprises me – just sleepwalking their way through wokeness.

My take? Being woke may as well be broke if you aren’t willing to think critically about the conversations you participate in. If all you’re doing is regurgitating talking points or assuming worst intentions without listening to the other person, you’re not going to help anyone.

More likely, as in my case, you’re likely just going to alienate likeminded folk.

Just Go Back To Sleep

Look, I’m *Very* Busy…

As in, very.

Case in point, I just finished watching all six seasons of Grimm. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 forty-five minute episodes.

For.

The.

First.

Time.

I feel like I really fell down as a Portlander. I definitely fell down as an extra on the show.

When I started watching, I recollected that I’d been on the show 2-3 times. As my viewing progressed, I changed that tally to four.

Only one made the final cut.

Although, honorable mention for this close call…

Dishonorable mention for me gushing later about the cute guy in the scene with me – that I thought was also a background actor. It was David Guintoli – I’m sure I spelled that wrong – aka: the Grimm hizzownself. Side note, I also infamously gushed to the Silver Fox about this cute guy at the gym, a couple of times I think, before he told me in an incredulous tone that that was Sasha Roiz.

<blank stare>

From Grimm!

He completely missed my point, of course. I don’t usually like tall guys. This moment of attraction was growth for me!

Everthemess…

The other two “castings” I booked, I never made it out of the holding area. Whatevs, still got paid, suckas!

I didn’t spend a lot of time giving the show 100% of my attention. Like I said, very busy. I had social media to scroll, Words With Friends that needed dominating and, I dunno…I had to multitask to make sure I had time to drink and occasionally get stoned.

Shut up, it’s a pandemic.

But most of the time I was either falling in love with the scenery of my hometown or picking apart why they would use street names as a point of reference for the wrong part of town. Or why they wouldn’t consistently use real street names or manufactured names…that was a conundrum.

Plus, for the first several years, an abandoned US Customs Building in my neighborhood was used as the Police HQ.

The photo where I’m just out of the frame, behind a column? Yeah, that was the interior of the precinct.

Except…by that season, the Customs House had been bought by this lil outfit called WeWork and the set had to be rebuilt over in the NW Industrial District. Pretty impressive that they could replicate the set do exactly that viewers were none the wiser. I actually drove by that old filming location out at Guilds Lake – there’s no lake, FYI – today while picking up a ride. I guess you can thank Lyft for finally getting this post onto the blogosphere.

I also drive by Nick and Juliette’s house several times a week. It’s weird to think that I never knew that was their “home” until just last month.

It’s funny how many scenes took place in my little part of Portland, the North Park Blocks. In addition to the Customs House, I noticed several other random scenes.

Sometimes the scene of a murdered person being discovered. Take, for instance, this “Who Wore It Best” moment.

Seriously, it was me.

…as evidenced by my unbathed/pre-spin class looks and the ability to stand alone in front of such an iconic piece of neon.

You shoulda seen me after that spin class, though. The Filipina Fox really kicked me keister for those 45 minutes.

Incidentally, that sign is gone now. The company – a shared office space, ironically, since it sits across the park from the Customs House/WeWork building – has closed up and took their sign with them.

Ergo, now I default to “playing” just to be safe.

Other times, it was just an apartment building lobby being repurposed as a storefront.

The shop behind Rosalee – Glyph, as it was known back then – is the infamous F&B cafe, where I like to go and write in the mornings during non-end of the world times. Right around the corner is the world famous (to me) Big Legrowlski.

Of course, this was also an opportunity to nostalgically appreciate old haunts that have been gentrified the fuck out of existence, as Portland grows. Places like the Overlook Restaurant.

Which is now – wait for it – an apartment building. But back in the days I called North Portland home, it was a place Sacha and I spent many a dinner with his parents.

Good memories.

The show turned out to be pretty good brain candy. I’m glad I finally made the time in my very busy schedule to watch it.

And it only took a global pandemic.

Look, I’m *Very* Busy…

Monstrous Mash

You ever have a moment where you feel like you should say something, but you just don’t feel like you have anything to say?

No?

Just moi?

Blogger problems, I guess.

Anyway, with nothing really to say in particular, I am undaunted. I also have this ginormous glass of wine to keep me company

So…yeah.

And other than a productive weekend for mine truly, I wasn’t celebrating anything. I just like to distress my doctor whenever he asks how my diet it.

I’ll be adding cheesecake to the lineup before this bottle goes into the recycler.

Wondering why I underlined that passage about celebrating? Because I wasn’t until I opened up my WordPress app to tap out this…whatever it becomes. I had a push notification, so I clicky-clicked it to see what was up

…which is really just code for WordPress telling me my annual domain hosting fees are due again.

Mmm. That’s tasty wine.

A blog buddy of mine – who I’d love to link to, but she has two blogs (one public and the other anonymous) and I don’t want to fuck that up for her – does this weekly recap she calls a Chex Mix post, I generally find that slice of life writing fun to read and hers are quick snd easy reads.

So, given my nothing-to-talk-about-ness I thought I’d try something in that style. Of course, I’m a tad verbose, so what she typically accomplishes in a few hundred words will probably run upwards of 2k knowing me.

Buckle up.

Seriously, you’ve been warned.

Writing

A while back I lamented that my writing mojo had mogone and I hadn’t done any work on my work-in-progress novels since last April when I completed a first draft of what I hoped to be the third installment of my No One Of Consequence series. After that admission, I tried to jump start my writerly vibe with daily entries for a week.

The end result seemed to be that I was at least back on the blogging bandwagon. That’s not nothing.

But it don’t pay the bills.

Not that the $20 or so that I rake in from book royalties each month puts much of a dent in my bills. But it usually covers my Natural Gas bill.

By the way, when I say “rake”, I meant one I found in my junk drawer from a desk top Zen Garden I don’t have any more…

I floated the notion back then that I didn’t have a writing spot at home, and that’s why it was hard to get motivated to write at home. Usually, I decamped to the corner cafe for a couple hours several mornings a week to get my productivity juices flowing.

Anyway…after a particularly profitable evening of “socially distanced” drinking a couple weeks back – read that as: I sat at a video lottery machine by myself and swilled beer – I was feeling a little flush and decided to shop around for a desk.

Notice at the top where you can barely make out that it says “redeemable at lottery offices”…yeah, bars typically only cash out winning tickets up to around a grand. So the next day, I drove down to Salem to pick up my winnings.

But due to the pandemic, the offices are closed snd I just had to drop my ticket snd claim form into a drop box. I’m still waiting for that lil check to arrive.

Feeling…unfulfilled after that experience, I decided to treat myself to a few beers. And since no one likes me we’re still socially distanced drinking, I went to another of my regular dive haunts.

Lighting doesn’t strike twice, so I figured I would give Kelly’s a break from my shenaniganery and hit Yur’s.

Too busy.

I decided on Marathon Taverna, which is on Burnside and 18th, so pretty much the farthest edge of my “a good stumble” roaming habitat.

Plus, neither Yur’s nor Marathon have Pallet Jack, so being further away that Kelly’s really works against them. The fine video lottery machines at Marathon seemed interested in making amends, though.

Like, really interested in making amends…

And I kept on winning. I felt bad after about my third trip to the bar to cash out, so I actually switched machines…my lightning strike logic and all.

By the time I left – three beers in – I figured I’d easily pulled $2500 out of the bar. At one point, the waitress told me she’d called the owner to come replenish her kitty.

Don’t get my wrong, I was tipping her well, at one point I left a $150 winning ticket as a tip for my beer instead of my pandemic normal $5 per beer tip.

I guess karma was pleased with my attitude of gratitude.

On my was home, I stumbled up a couple blocks and made three $500 deposits at my bank’s ATM. I woke up the next morning with $350 still on me, which felt nice. I was also strangely proud that that meant I’d payed over $500 back into the machines, too, according to my mental math.

Until last week…when I found $1000 I wasn’t expecting in a coat pocket. I’m not 100% sure that was a leftover from this particular night, but I can’t really think of where else it could possibly have come from.

Loathe as I am to admit my math skills may not be up to snuff after three beers, that is.

Maybe it was dad.

He can be sneaky. My family is quasi-obsessed with making sure we have “walking around” money. And the last few times he’s asked, I’ve proudly assured him my boat was afloat. A pleasant departure from earlier inquiries during my unintentional semi-retirement where the confidence of my responses was more like, “Sure. I’m ok…”

Still, I could see him getting the money in my pocket without my knowing, but not him getting the zipper up.

Blackout Mysteries.

Short story, long? Here’s the desk I ordered

Nice and simple, should be here by Wednesday.

I don’t know why I just said that. Now there’s a potential accountability expectation from you all.

<grimace emoji>

Homework

I have a small…apartment. When I moved back down to Portland from Seattle in 2015, I kept my condo up there and AirBNBed it for about 18 months. Meaning…that once I finally sold that place, I had two homes worth of furniture to fit into one 700 square foot unit.

First World problems.

I divested myself of several odd accessory furnishings at the time, but have since just dealt with the excess.

One big difference between my homes in the two cities is that my Seattle bedroom was huge.

Like, really big.

It was like a suite. I had a king sized bed (now gone), an eight drawer dresser, matching nightstand, a bench (also gone now) and a corner chair that used to belong to my grandmother.

To highlight the Portland home’s less-than-palatial bedroom, I know sleep in a queen sized bed, which is fine. But there’s not enough room in my bedroom for my dresser! I use it as a TV console in the living room…not that the clothes in most of the drawers fit me anymore.

Where is that cheesecake?!?

My unused mountain bike sits up against my kitchen bar because my utility room is too cramped to hold it and still be usually as a laundry room.

I mention this because creating a writing area by adding a desk was basically Furniture Thunderdome.

Something had to go.

Given that I eat in front of the TV, my pub table was the likeliest candidate. Plus, it was also the most reasonable position for a writing space.

I’d gotten this in about 2007 in Seattle after moving into my permanent Seattle residence. I wasn’t entirely sure that a 14 year old pub table would sell, but gave it the really old college try.

Girding my grumpy old man loins, I waded into the pool of CraigsList fuckery. Y’know, where you list something for sale and get responses like, “Can you hold that until I get out of prison?” or “Would you be willing to accept 20% of your listed price?”

That type of crap.

After a few hours and not even a pain in the ass response, I debated lowering my price from $75 to $50. Then I got a response. He wanted to look at it this morning and didn’t see why he wouldn’t take it home with him today.

No muss, no fuss.

Of course, Portland had my back to ensure shit got weird.

When I went down to get him, I opened the door…no one was waiting. I look around the column, homeless man standing there in what would be tighty whities on someone 50 lbs heavier than him.

And he was yelling at his shirt. To his credit, though, he seemed to only be changing clothes versus wandering around in a fat man’s underwear.

That was when I noticed a guy squatting down on the other side of the column, smoking crack. As glad as I was that my buyer wasn’t just showing up in underwear for this transaction, I hoped there was a third guy somewhere nearby.

My phone buzzed. It was the guy, boldly hiding out in his – wait for it – Subaru on the corner. I scared the guys down the block and my Subaru driving Vantucky neighbor came in.

And bought the damn thing, just like he said he would. No dickering, no hemming or hawing…he even had exact change.

You’re not from around here, are you?

Remember what I said about lighting not striking twice in the same spot?

Yeah, me, too.

Still, I was also still remembering living with too much or out of scale furniture for the last six years, well, four – I should my condo in 2017. That’s when shit got crowded.

That memory is far more ingrained than a gambling (for entertainment purposes only!) winning streak a couple weeks back.

Since I had some space, I figured I would do a little front room gerrymandering to see how to fit my writing desk into the equation. I moved my couch off the wall opposite the TV and positioned it facing the balcony. That meant the chair needed to go into the corner by the balcony doors…which I liked overall.

It even left a nice wide walkway between the living room and kitchen bar. I’d ordered a wall bracket for my bike, so it can stand against the wall on its rear tire, which I’d hoped my allow me to put my console table or desk behind the couch. The problem was, though, that my coffee table and side table were…redundant in my small living room.

So, I put ’em on CraigsList and two hours later was loading them into a Prius. Now, I could push my couch in almost a foot without my space feeling crowded.

Plus, I got to go buy a new coffee table – which I kind of love.

The hairpin legs make the space feel so much more open than my old side by side bases for the glass top coffee table I divested myself of a few hours earlier. My only regret, though, was not finding a matching coffee and sofa table. I’d wanted to use the sofa table as a TV stand and move my dresser back to the “blue wall” where my console table is presently.

Sadly, just like my console table, the matched sets I found while shopping today were about a foot too small for my TV. Well, there was one…but it was $700 for just the sofa table.

No, thank you. This fool wants to hold onto some of his lottery winnings. Or at least have some left over as seed money for my next socially distanced drinking outing.

The Green Loop

I know…you’re all dying to know how the three-quarter Wrong of Way intersection was resolved. Well, maybe just the Silver Fox.

Well, the other day, I saw a city worker carrying a stop sign on Flanders, heading toward the intersection in question on 9th! Mentally declaring victory, I went inside and, I dunno…opened a bottle of wine?

Seems like a safe bet.

The next day, I saw this as I was coming down 9th, preparing to turn onto Flanders for my preferred parking space.

Say what, now?

Cross Traffic Does Not Stop

Surrealiously.

After all that – at least three different days of dickering with signs, they’d finally put in the missing stop sign at the four-way intersection…and then removed the original two signs from when it was a two-way stop.

I can’t believe that I can’t get a job and whoever is running this shit show is getting paid with my tax dollars.

This should have taken a couple of “road closed” signs and an afternoon to move the existing signs 90 degrees. But, no…this is Portland, we had to make it weird.

Well, whoever had that bright idea needs to know that “weird” and “dysfunctional” are not synonyms.

They also, as of today, have yet to sandblast the white stop lines off of the new through traffic lanes, too.

Adding insult to civil injury, they removed the stop sign I used to park behind and moved it 90 degrees so that Flanders has right of way all the way down my immediate three block stretch of road. Not that big a deal, really, since the idiots going down my street usually yielded their right of way at Flanders by stopping on Park to let people who were required to stop for cross traffic…cross traffic.

Ugh.

Is that enough of a download to constitute a mash?

Nailed it…that’s 2300-plus words. But in a breath of fresh airness, only a minority of them were typed in a rant tone of voice.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a refill and some cheesecake!

Monstrous Mash

The Red Shirt Diaries #26: LyftLife Edition

Long story, short:

I still love driving for Lyft. It’s currently my favorite form of prochristination and cure for boredom.

Now…

Short story, long:

Last night was the second time I’ve thought, “Sheesh, that could have been it for you, son” after a ride.

Yes, I talk to myself like that inside my head. Well, mostly inside my head. I also have a “Mom Voice” and a “Dirty Harry” persona that make occasional appearances.

But out of ~3500 rides, two that could have gone from dicey to deadly ain’t bad, right? Also, check out that 5-star rating! I feel a Rain Man voice coming on, because…

Clearly.

Anyway, I never wrote about the craziest drive I ever gave because it:

A) was just about everything anyone who’s ever said, “I bet you could write a book about your experiences driving” would think it would be; and,

B) my actual mom would use her actual mom voice on me and make me get a real job again.

Also, maybe I’ll write a book about it.

So…

The Runner Up Ride:

First off, last night started out as a shit show. I picked up a guy on my first ride who tells me he was just leaving a friend’s place after a hang out. Assuming correctly that “hang out” was exactly the euphemism I thought it to be, partnered with the reality that this is a heavyset fella, I was immediately equal parts envious and Nancy Kerrigan.

I mean, really…whyyyy?!?

Then it got weird, when he asked if he could ask me an off topic and admittedly weird question. I’m pretty game for weirdness, so I chuckled and told him to get at it. Well, it turns out this guy and I worked together briefly at a local healthy grocery from which we were both fired – because that’s what this joint is like. In a fit of C.R.S…I have absolutely zero recollection of him.

His question could have been weirder, but my C.R.S. added just the right layer of awkwardness to the conversation.

We trashed The Gays for a while, since he’d mentioned his friend was a dude and 1 + 1 = a sword fight. Then, as he was exiting the car at the bar I was dropping him off at (a coping mechanism I completely understand) he says, “For what it’s worth, being a gay guy in his 20s is totally different than being a gay guy in his…” and waves his hand at my general state of being. Then he shows me a quarter slot as he hefts his way out of the back that could hold every damn quarter ever. That overly cheeky fat fuck…the nerve.

First person to throw up in my car? Me. Almost. Well, I did, mentally.

Optimistically, I thought, “Well, things can only go up from here” in my Dirty Harry voice.

Then I picked up a young woman who answered “Better…” when I asked how she was doing. She followed it up with “I’ve been throwing up all day, but now it’s mostly dry heaving. But I brought a plastic bag, just in case.”

So…that was a quick arc, from virtual to actual (potential) vehicle based vomit.

It turns out she’d drank an entire bottle of something that was lost behind and effort to stifle something else on Friday night – on an empty stomach, no less – and yesterday was a Bob’s your uncle type day for her. Fortunately, we made it to her destination without incident, Portland’s pot-holey roads notwithstanding. Her ride ended close to my home – and, in a completely unnecessary side bar, right across the street from a place I lived back in ’96-97 – and I though that maybe I should just give up and call it a night.

Clearly, the universe was trying to tell me to fuck all the way off something.

But the (recreational) O.C.D. is strong in me and I like to give blocks of 10 rides when I go out. My feeling was that even if I was going to short-day it, I needed to hit five rides so I could sleep. Hell, at least four, so I could true-up my total ride balance to a mentally comfortable multiple of 5 or 10.

Full disclosure: when I get into what I call “overtime”, that 10 rides block goes out the window. If I’m in the far reaches of Portland on my 10th ride – as is often the case, given the level of fuckery I endure from the universe – I’ll put my app in Home or Lux Mode and take rides that come my way, but not hold myself to ending on a multiple of 5 or 10…

Surely, I could manage two or three more rides. Right?

Again, optimistically, I thought in my Mom Voice “You never know, the next ride could turn everything around for the better”.

That was just plain, old foolhardiness, though.

Enter, my third rider.

A phrase that is as potentially foreshadowing as a depraved mind could imagine. Seriously, you wanna know how this turns out? Remove the comma.

Let’s call this guy Donnie Drunko.

I clocked his blood alcohol level as elevated as he wobbled toward the car. I also clocked his sexual proclivities as he gave a long hug to a male friend before heel-toeing it my way.

He seemed amused when I told him I came out to drive after giving my wine rack the side eye too early in the evening, unnecessarily admitting he’d had a few drinks. “Yeah”, I replied, “but knowing my night owly tendencies, I knew that if I opened a bottle at 6:30, I’d be opening a second before 11.”

I went on to mentally muse that there was also a $15 streak bonus at 9:00 for giving three rides between 9-10 PM and I wanted to start a second streak in that hour to add a $30 bonus to my night’s effort. That bottle of wine could wait until 11.

Well, that’s what my thought process had been. I was already second-guessing that moderation decision and by the end of this ride, I was going to regret not boarding the bus to Hammertown.

Let’s just go straight from his surprise that it was only 7:40 and he was firmly wrapped up in a booze blanket, bypass the fairly enjoyable conversation about owning a house as a single person and skip onto me pulling up to his curb, eh?

He seemed to have trouble getting his shit together before deplaning getting out of the car. Not an unfamiliar phenomenon – especially with relaxed folk. People want to make sure they have everything, and that’s just more of a production from inside a bottle.

I’ve learnt to display a detached patience when this happens, like I don’t notice.

Instead of struggling to get out of the car, I realized he’d been struggling to close the diagonal distance between us. From the back, he grabs my arm to pull himself toward me so that his chest is against the back of my driver’s seat.

Assuming best intentions – like a moron – I ask if everything is ok, like maybe I parked in front of the wrong house. Nope…right house, wrong ballpark, as I soon found out.

“Do you, uh…want a hand job?” he slurs at me, his masked face surprisingly close to my own when I turned to face him.

“Boy, did you read that wrong”, I replied, enjoying the chance to use one of my favorite West Wing quotes in the same manner – albeit far more X-rated – that Leo McGarry had used it when Josh had tried to hug the curmudgeonly Chief of Staff on the show.

Shrugging off my rejection like it was my character flaw versus the complete cultural abdication of class on the part of The Gays that it is, he gets out of the car. Eschewing my usual “wait until they get to their door safely” M.O. I drive off immediately, debating when I should 1-star this clown and lamenting the pathetic state of Gay Kulture.

Internally, I’m trying to talk myself into waiting until morning. Then I hit the Block Hammer wall that I encounter so frequently on asocial media. When I don’t align with someone’s self-indulgent world view behaviors and they block me for – and I’m paraphrasing here – telling them that they are basically an affront to anyone with actual retarded developmental issues.

I know…you’re just dying to know that if that was the paraphrased version of my online response, what is the actual content. Trust me, it’s usually full on Julia Sugarbaker-esque indignation.

Low grade concerned that this guy could effectively pull that same cancel culture bullshit on me that faceless gays do online when they block me, simply by lodging a complaint about me with Lyft, I pull over and pull out my 1-star rating for this Lost Boy.

I hate giving someone a low rating/review and think Lyft is a little overly cautious in its pairing paradigm. Out of five possible stars, the app will never pair you with anyone you rate 3-stars or less. I think that’s a bit harsh, but I understand that they are trying to make the community the happiest possible place for passengers and drivers by pairing you with seeming favorites. It’s cool with that perspective. Wanting to be a busy boy, though, I tend to rate riders thusly:

5: good/great ride with a tip

4: good/great ride

3: lacking behavior, self-aware enough to tip to compensate

2: lacking behavior

1: WTactualF

This guy got a 1…even though I woke up to a chubby tip. I’d have still not felt bad had he given me a fat or even morbidly obese tip…and here’s why: it wasn’t until I pulled back onto the road to fetch my fourth ride that I realized this guy pulling himself so close to me could have easily ended with him pulling a knife across my throat – remember, I live in Stabtown, USA – as it did with a clumsy offer of a handy. Needless to say, I was a little trembly when I pulled up to my next pick up.

Happily, and in a fit of Mom Voice vindication, ride four was a 25 minute Lux ride from the swanky West Hills to far less swanky Felony Flats on the east side of town. As if the $50 ride itself wasn’t enough to tilt things back into cosmic balance for grumpy old Xtopher, the guy was a great conversationalist…which is fucking priceless.

The post-credits scene:

Since you obviously want to know…having stayed this long; no, I did not manage to double up on the streak bonus. Ride number four in my streak efforts barely fell into the 9-10 o’clock hour, but by the time he ran out his five-minute pickup time, it was 10:03 so I couldn’t start a second streak.

Still, I’ll gladly take:

A) a $50 ride

B) restored faith in my riders’ behavior; and,

C) getting to my 10 ride goal after a really rocky start to the night as offsets to a second $15 bonus.

The Red Shirt Diaries #26: LyftLife Edition

Soul? Oh!

This is something I’ve been kicking around for close to a year now. I’ve got a draft from last December called Un-Civil War that I just can’t quite get right.

So there it sits. This draft. But the notion keeps coming back to me more like a ghost haunting me than the orphan attempting to find a home or get the attention it needs.

Last week, though, it settled into my consciousness and caused me to be aware of the same old things differently. I noticed things that had been sticking out, but felt understanding beginning to crystallize.

I think it was watching Biden’s acceptance speech for the nomination as the party’s candidate for president that did it. In it, he talked about how this election is a battle for the soul of our democracy.

Since then, I’ve been seeing Trump supporters differently.

  • The random oversized pickup truck driving around downtown with Proud Boy flags flying off its bed.
  • The lady in Vantucky driving along in the car by herself with the WWG1WGA bumper sticker. That stands for the QAnon tag line “Where We Go One, We Go All”.
  • The people on social media decrying the destruction of “their city” from the protests, without realizing all that’s wrong with that mindset – even though many of them still count themselves as democrats.
  • The old bastard on the hill in Oregon City crazily waving his Trump flag and holding a small sign that asked who Jesus would vote for.
  • The pickup with the “88” window sticker. H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. That’s a White Supremacist symbol, seen also in tattoo form on too many prisoners. 88 = HH = Heil Hitler.
  • The guy in Clackatraz driving around with his convertible top down, holding a pole with the “Trump 2020” campaign flag flying – by far the most representative example of Trump supporters’ IQ. Cumulatively, I doubt they could post an IQ high enough to get MENSA’s attention.
  • Or the family of three – a man, his wife and their not-old-enough-to-vote daughter holding Trump signs and the Blue Line American flag supporting the police.
  • Usually, I give these demonstrators a “thumbs down” gesture and just go about my business, feeling low-grade intimidated nonetheless. Since seeing Biden’s speech and having his question percolate, I’ve realized something different may very well be at play here.
  • These Trump supporters are sad and lonely people. Orphans from modern American ideals who are screaming for any attention they can get themselves. Not realizing that any group that needs coded language like WWG1WGA or 88 to signal others like them probably aren’t worth belonging to. They certainly don’t have a message they can be proud of if they have to hide it.
  • These sad individuals – driving around alone in their cars or standing alone or only with their family-slash-hostages – stand in stark contrast to the other groups I see around town. The groups that make me proud of my town and my race. Whose actions signal redemption for the values of our country versus coded subversion of those values and subjugation of other races and genders than their own.
  • Not the hundreds to thousands of protesters downtown demanding police reform and an end to systemic racism in America – and after last night’s police shooting, I’m guessing it will once again be 1000s, not 100s.
  • No, the people making me hopeful are the neighborhood and school and professional groups that have organized to remind passers by that Black Lives Matter. Seeing neighbors coming together in numbers large enough to crowd all four corners of a city intersection, or line both sides of a suburban highway for a hundred feet is, I hope telling of the results we’ll see in November. Watching someone deliver and start to set up a tent for shade on our recent 100 degree days while someone else hands out water reminds me of the compassion liberals are able to demonstrate for others. And, yeah, watching the Riot Ribs guys cooking in the park across from the Justice Center during the day, when the only people I see them feeding appear to be homeless also makes me feel that same thing…but the randomness of the former example reinforces the best notions of what conservatives condemn as bleeding heart liberals.
  • I’ll take those small reminders, because stacked up next to what the opposition can muster, they’re far more impactful by comparison.
  • As a matter of fact, the largest group of Trump supporters that I’ve seen doing similar messaging isn’t half the size of the smallest BLM group I’ve seen, reinforcing the realization that these fringe groups and Trump supporters are indeed lonely.
  • Which is why they brought guns and mace to Saturday’s counter protests in Portland while the people there calling for reform and justice brought umbrellas and signs. Just like a message that needs to be coded, a message that needs guns to be valid is probably – or at least obviously should be – self-indicting.
  • I’ll still feel intimidated when I see these Trump supporters out and about, but I’m happy to feel something else stirring now: pity. Because while the people with the right idea have lots of company in this battle for democracy’s soul, the opposition is usually fighting solo in their pursuit to spread its soulless message.
  • Soul? Oh!

    Going Out Of Business!

    Portland Edition.

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

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

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

    It’s an 8×11 street grid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Alas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Redevelopment

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Case in point, The Rodney.

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

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

    A bigger problem?

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

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

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

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

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

    Then silently came down.

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

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

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

    Then, poof!

    Gone.

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

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

    Then, the rumors came.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Here’s a few more spaces that recently transitioned:

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

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

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

    There’s that greed again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Greed?!?

    Perhaps.

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

    Let’s compromise and call it both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    It should.

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

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

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

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

    The rub?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The way to control real estate expense is to move.

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

    For everyone.

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

    But how likely is that?

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

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

    Until then?

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

    Or not approving it.

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

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

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

    I think the current situation has proven that.

    Going Out Of Business!