Management Tools

Sometimes I have to distract myself from the anger and frustration of things I cannot by focusing on something else. Looking at you, SCOTUS.

That’s not fair, this week’s decisions prove that it’s a disservice to the words “supreme” and “justice” to consider those recently appointed to the high court as anything other than Extreme Court Injustices.

I should distract myself from their work by focusing on the irony that two-thirds of the court now represent the views and interests of one-third of the country.

But instead, I distract myself with lesser frustrations and injustices. Yeah, I focus on things that make me angry and frustrated that I can at least do something about when the things I cannot do all that much about get me down.

For instance…have you ever heard of Hint water?

It’s like La Croix, if you opened it and left it out overnight. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy both. It’s just Hint has – in my opinion – jumped the ethical shark.

If you look closely at the pic, you can see it’s an Amazon ad for a 12-pack for $20.99 – for water.

That’s $1.75 a bottle. You can still pretty much buy a 12-pack of La Croix for the price of two bottles of Hint.

I was first introduced to Hint when I was working at the airport. PDX is an amazing airport, for sure. One of the amazing things they do is make their businesses within stick to street pricing – so unlike LAX, you won’t find a $16 bottle of kombucha at PDX. They further require their business partners to be minority owned/operated or have a minority business partner. But that’s not the point. The point is that they make their business partners provide annual pricing audits to prove they are within 20% of street pricing.

The business I was with used the infamous Peterson’s convenience stores as one of their comparable stores.

So, yeah…my employer at the airport used a business that is notoriously 30-40% overpriced to prove they were “within” 20% of street pricing. If you’re on the wrong side of the street, though, that math won’t hold up.

But this is where I first tried Hint, which I think we sold for around $2-3/bottle.

Mind you, we bought it for a buck a bottle from our wholesaler. None of this bothered me since my rent at the airport was a percent of sales. Gross sales. And rent was 18% of sales, which was also…gross.

Sidebar: if you’re ever curious about how PDX can afford to consistently be the best airport in America or spend a cool billion on a remodel, now you know. They get 18 cents on every dollar spent there. Port of Portland ain’t messing around.

Anyway, well after I left there, I saw an ad on social media for Hint water. Three cases for a buck a bottle. They promoted it as 30% off, which I thought was a weird spin for a manufacturer.

But they’d jumped on the direct to consumer (DTC) bandwagon and this was their hook.

I bought some. But when I went to reorder, the best deal I could get was 20% off for a certain number of cases. Less than that, if only save 15%. So I stopped buying it.

And they’re still promoting it the same way, basically. Here’s a recent email promotion from them:

Get this, now three cases are $55.99! On sale! So only $1.55/bottle instead of $1.83/bottle.

But here’s why all this bothers me – I used to buy it from my purveyor for about a buck a bottle. That means they already had their markup on that price after buying direct from Hint. I’m guessing Hint sold to wholesalers for around $.75-.80/bottle, but that’s just a guess.

I don’t need this information. It’s just evidence of the stern fucking you get on a daily basis for the privilege of waking up in America.

Spitballing for inflation, a 400% markup to sell direct to consumers seems high. Especially when you think that the 30% off promo I took advantage of at a buck a bottle meant they normally charged $1.30/bottle at that time. Now their regular price is $1.83/bottle. Assuming for the sake of making a generous argument that all expenses raised by that same margin, they’re still making $.50/bottle more selling to consumers directly than they made selling to wholesalers.

Why is that fair?!?

Shouldn’t the reward of running a manufacturing venture and selling to the public as well be…more customers?!? Why do they need to be able to have street pricing be their guide in that arrangement. Seems like the only people that benefits is them. Their wholesalers lose potential business because of it, so they’re losing out. Customers pay the same price either way, so it’s a net zero situation at best for them.

But there’s Hint, pockets so full, they can’t sit down. That makes me mad. Pick a business model and run it.

But unlike the SCOTUS rulings, where all I can do is vote every chance I get which is every other year at best, I can do something about this. I can vote against their business practices with my dollars every day.

That’s a win for this grumpy old man. And for La Croix, apparently.

Management Tools

I Can’t Have It All?

Part 2: What the hell was I thinking?

Damn universe, always teaching me lessons…like crippling humility.

So, there I was…having most of it. Gently nudged into balance by the Silver Fox. I’d gotten Angela all spruced up for her annual check-in with Lyft, but was focused more on those other pillars that make me feel like a normal person productive: writing and exercising.

No big news on the writing front.

Yet….

Couple blog posts. I re-read my prime WIP, by way of seeing where I need to tweak formatting before I hit publish. That’ll happen this month.

For sure.

So that’s something. Hoorah for lightly edited stories.

Also something?

I exercised twice as many days in March as I had in February. That ain’t nothing. April’s looking good, too, there’s a Class Every Day challenge and I’m on track. But balanced old Xtopher is keeping in mind that some days will be ride days, others will be strength…but mixed in will be days that are just a longer than my usual 5 minute post-ride stretch classes or even yoga classes.

Balance.

Also helpful? And this is where all that foreshadowing nonsense comes in: I got de-platformed by Lyft.

You read that right. Boy, they rogered me but good. Real good.

But that’s another blog.

I chose to look at it optimistically. The removal of a barrier to a balanced day.

The thing is, though, my temp gig doesn’t pay that well. I mean, I can’t complain, it’s not minimum wage – which I’ve certainly done as I explore non-career level employment. And it pays the bills. And-and, in a real Pinocchio twist, they started making sounds about converting me from a temp role to a real boy job.

The pay talk…we’ll see. I’m looking at it as a positive – even though the talk happened on April 1st. That’s just how my life goes. It was a good talk.

Except, the universe being the lesson teacher that it is, I was de-platformed by Lyft after dumping about $3k into little repairs for Angela that I’d been putting off. That was the month after the surprise $2500 I’d put into her in January, no less.

And after all that I had boldly (ie: no drink in hand) faced my taxes.

The day after I’d done my first draft of the taxes was the day I got the dry fuck from Lyft.

I’ll tell ya…I don’t believe in god, but I fully embrace the notion behind the phrase “If you wanna make god laugh, make a plan”.

And that’s what I had done. Made a financial plan that included making quarterly payments to the Feds for my $11k tax bill.

Thank god it was only a first draft. The second draft is a much less traumatic $8k, but it’ll still require an episiotomy after my main revenue stream gave me the same treatment it gave the driver that raped a passenger here in Oregon.

That seems fair. My punishment is the same as a rapist. My crime? I got two speeding tickets in a 12 month period. Yeah, well stick with “sounds fair”.

More on that later, I’m sure. You know how loquacious I can be when I get going on something.

Now, look…I may be seriously fucked right now, but I’m all Mr Bright Side, damnit! Even if that just means I jump off the bridge with the best view in town – that’s a tough one here in Portland – and don’t take anyone else out with me.

So that naive dumbass Mr Bright Side fella is looking at this as a way to achieve balance. Less opportunities for proChristination. Fewer distractions.

Bright side. Mr. Me.

But since my temp job doesn’t keep me in the happy hour budget I like, tax debt or no, nor does it afford the luxurious $30 treats Mistress Myrtle prefers…I need a second income stream.

Reluctantly, I signed up to be a delivery old man boy with DoorDash.

I hate it. It’s boring. It does give me that “in service to others” paycheck I found I missed after leaving retail. So, that’s a plus. And it pays around $7-10 more and hour than the temp job, so there’s that, too.

But it’s sooooo fucking boring.

Bright side? I can really only tolerate doing 5 deliveries in a shift. More than that is excruciating. Ok, that last part wasn’t very bright side, I admit. But, dashing out to do 5 deliveries after work a few nights a week and then a double or triple on a – singular – weekend day leaves me plenty of time for happy hour hangouts during the week – and it gives my budget the wiggle room to offset said indulgence. It leaves me the time for writing and exercising.

All. That.

There’s plenty to be grateful for. And since I hate it, the ~20 hours I give it each week balances my books. Well, excluding the G-men obligation. I might have to see if there’s a niche market for barely out of shape old men on OnlyFans to solve that problem. God only knows what weird shit passing as erotic that The Gays are lapping up these days.

Fucking morons.

But I think I’ve got a third draft of my taxes in me. I just need to make a phone call first. I think we all know how long I could drag that task out. So I’ll also file an extension…sometime between April 14th and 17th.

It’s good to have a plan.

And goals. Since my goals are work, exercise, write and not “pay less in taxes than Trump” I think I’m in a good place.

Fuck, being optimistic is a weird feeling. I should’ve stretched more before this post. Anyone else miss grumpy old Xtopher?

Don’t worry, he’ll be around. Until then, cheers to the bright side and cheers to you for reading. Thanks!

Look how my thigh is about the same size as my thumb in that pic. You go, Chicken Legs McGee!

I Can’t Have It All?

I Can Have It All!

Part 1: Everything’s fine!

I creep into every week with a simple goal – to have a day or several where I succeed in all three pillars of what I consider a “good day”. I want to make some money, exercise and write.

That’s it. Nothing earth shattering. No outrageous goals like cure cancer before lunch.

You may wonder how I struggle to accomplish this. Like, why is my weekly goal “a day or several” and not something more aggressive reasonable like “at least three days a week”?

The answer is simple: go fuck yourself.

Wait. That came out wrong.

I used to run, run, run and go, go, go. All day. I did that for 30+ years, starting in high school, no less!

Now I’m tired. Actually, I’m not just tired…I’m fucking tired.

And after leaving my retail management career behind after 30+ years, I was ready to rest. I liked my little income setup: Lyft 25-ish hours a week and keeping an iron in the temp job fire to keep things fresh. My average for temp placements was 2/year, which I was fine with.

I was a little less fine when I got my W2 for last year’s temp assignments and saw that I’d earned around $1700 in 2021. And that mindset is never the right time to pick up the phone when your temp wrangler calls.

But I did, didn’t I?

Because I’m a dumbass.

Which is how I ended up on assignment in early February. It’s full-time, which I hate because I frankly make more driving. Plus a 40 hour/week commitment seems so vulgar now. But I’m getting used to it.

Stubbornly.

Case in point, I was still committed to getting my minimum $500 in ride earnings in each week after this temp job came through. That goal actually wasn’t much of a problem, most weeks I was clearing four digits. I swear, with Lyft, if you download the app they practically automatically send you $500/week. I think if you go longer than one week without managing to earn over $500, they send someone to check in on you.

What I’m saying is that it’s pretty much a sure thing. People gotta go places, you’re going to make money. I’m ok with that.

Until…the Silver Fox ruined everything. Root of all evil, that guy.

I met him at our local after work one day when he’d come back up to town. Him being all pro-me, he was apologetic or overly grateful or something…stressing that he didn’t want to keep me from making money.

Ooh, foreshadowing!

But I assured him everything was fine. I’d overachieved prior to his visit, so it turned out that Bob’s now my uncle. In assuring him I was ready for a rest – there’s that foreshadowing again – I spilled my prior week’s Lyft earnings to him.

Amazed, he asked how long that took me.

Me: I dunno…like 30 hours? Nah. Less! I dunno…I was getting up at 430 if I couldn’t sleep and going out for the early bonus hours before plugging in to work at 8. Then doing a little driving after work on some days, too. Oh, and then Friday and Saturday!

SF: And you worked 40 hours on top of that doing the payroll thing?

Me: <raises glass to self> Yupperz.

SF: Geez! You worked 70 hours last week!

Me: <blinks cluelessly>. That can’t be right.

SF: That’s amazing.

Me: It never occurred to me that I’d worked that much. Driving doesn’t feel like working. Not at all.

See? He’s obviously the devil.

Anyway, that also drove home the point that my stubbornness had over-corrected and was keeping me from succeeding at accomplishing my other metrics: writing and exercising.

Shift my focus, did I.

Plus, Angela needed some spa days. I’d been putting off my oil change and replacing a fog light some malcontent had popped out of my bumper last summer during our…protests.

Who objects to a fog light being in a bumper where it belongs?!? That’s what I want to know. Stupid protester.

Anyway, I book a few days in the shop for the car and dial back the driving.

Ratchet up my workouts – which had gotten ridiculously infrequent. Like less than two/week.

I still struggled to write. I posted a couple of blogs and opened my laptop to check on a draft…the shock of which nearly fried my laptop.

What? It was a long pandemic.

But I still have WIPs to get out on “in progress” status. The Gays aren’t big readers, so it’s really only for my own sense of accomplishment. It still bothers me that they are languishing there in WIP status. That’s on me. No one reads them? That’s on someone else.

Shockingly, that stubborn streak of mine asserted itself in a strangely non-self-sabotaging manner. I started choosing to exercise or write versus choosing to drive, aka: proChristinate.

It was oddly liberating.

And motivating.

Maybe I could manage to have it all several days a week after all?!?

Tune in soon. See if that next shoe that drops is a platform heel with a goldfish living in it or a cross-trainer that washed up on the shores of the Puget Sound with an amputated foot still in it.

Yeah, I think we all know which way this is going for foolishly optimistic old Xtopher….

I Can Have It All!

I Can’t Believe I Got Up Early For This

Since I left professional/career level work, I’ve been low-key looking/not looking for an opportunity to get back in. For the most part, Lyft and the occasional Payroll/HR temp position keeps me engaged and feeds my need to feel productive.

Then I had to go and start thinking about buying a new place.

I had a plan: take the earnings off my savings in the 1st quarter of next year – which would equate to about 10% of the price I’m shopping in – and then save another 10% by adding 5-10 hours to my weekly drive schedule.

Then I talked to a mortgage guy who told me a self-employed worker really should put down 30% to get the best terms. I briefly considered lowering my target price, but really didn’t want to walk away from the properties I was seeing and trade down on amenities – which was a big factor in my moving considerations after a year and a half of being more of a homebody than I like.

I prodded myself to just keep to my plan and if I didn’t buy, I just ended up with that much more savings. Who knows, maybe I’d start a business with it.

Then October hit. And it didn’t pull its punches. I know part of this was the cumulative effect of spending ~$500 a month on therapy. While I felt it was helping me know myself and manage my triggers better, it was an extra hurdle each month.

Anywho, I took money out of savings to pay my monthly bills before vacation. Overused my credit card and generally felt the time I put in behind the wheel mid-month didn’t give much of an ROI.

I was a little underwhelmed.

Knowing that month end was coming up and assessing the demand for rides resulted in bleakness, I sold some more stock and prepared to cut into my savings a little deeper to prep for November. I also didn’t renew my therapy program for the month. If you’ve read my last couple posts, you know that the month went out like a lion and November started like it’s been the rest of the pride.

So I’m feeling a little optimistic, like I could feel whole and back-ish on track by month end. Hurrah.

Then I get a call about a job I applied for at the CVS around the corner from my place. In applying, I’d been my usual princess self: I wanted to walk to work and I wanted to be paid. I honestly figured there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d hear from them.

Oh, and they use assessments as part of their screening/hiring process. I loathe them and generally don’t do well on them because they ask the same questions over again later in the assessment to check for consistency. As a perceiver personality, that’s hard for me. I’ll read something and think , “Yeah, that’s what I’d do” and mark it down as an “Always”, but when it comes up again, slightly reworded, I start to find the gray area and lean into an “Almost Always” response.

Variables, amirite.

I’m not making any pendulum swings in my response, but there’s definitely room to give context for my thought process but nowhere to do so. Hence, I don’t like them.

But I got the interview!

The manager said she had time the following afternoon if I was free. I told her I was and she suggests 11 AM.

“Well, that’s morning, but I can make it.” Like I said, princess. She laughed and it was a date.

I walk into the store and she’s the only person on the sales floor. She cruises by me with a hobo whose bottle returns she’d just counted, tosses a “This’ll be a floor interview” over her shoulder as she passes and gives the bum his cash.

Then she leaves the register with a customer standing at it, comes over to introduce herself and declines a handshake or elbow bump. She literally said, “We don’t need to do that”!

I ask if she needs to help the customer and tell her I can wait. She says it’s fine, he can use the self-checkout.

The store is a shit hole. An absolute shit hole. Four foot high fixtures at the front of the store were empty, save abandoned purchases that customers just dumped and walked.

She’s wearing a beaded mask. I can see her teeth and know that it’s a mask in name only, versus anything offering protection.

“You don’t have any retail experience, what made you apply for this role?” She started out guns blazing.

Which is the only way to do it when you’re also starting out wrong.

“This is my third corporate retail job, and let me tell you, this place will chew you up and spit you out. So I’m curious what made you apply.”

Babe, if that’s the way you feel, why am I here? You clearly don’t have time to waste. “Well, I wouldn’t call 30 years of retail management nothing.”

She tells me I should have put that on my resume and I resist the impulse to counter that she should have read it. See? My therapy is working!

This is how the interview goes, her preening about this being her third corporate retail position, how she’s fought to get security and the store’s operating hours reduced. But not really talking much about me.

I offer a few times to let her tend to her customers and she accepts once and waves the offer off the rest of the time. We are within earshot of the customers she’s blowing off. That’s got to make them feel appreciated.

I wave to the empty shelves and ask about staffing: specifically what her plan was.

She poo-poos that by saying this store is just like this. Then follows it up with some crap about how if you can get promoted out of this store, everything else is a cakewalk. Basically, it sounds like she’s putting her time in until they get desperate enough to pull her out.

I’m thinking anyone that doesn’t fire her should also be fired.

Then I tell her that I worked in this very building for the former tenant…and it wasn’t like this. I go into my HR experience and how I could help with hiring, training and retention. She tells me she prefers to do the hiring personally.

“Well, I have a track record of retention, and have never had a store as critically poorly staffed as this, so if I’m her candidate she should rethink that. I offer the opportunity to meet applicants I like for her gut check approval and she offers a maybe. Sister, your interviewing skills are less than special, and your staffing crisis proves it.

The thing is, she only hires by gut. She didn’t ask any follow up questions or probe for details on my answers. I could have replied “Because” to a question and I don’t think she would have followed up. She was just thinking of her next question while I answered her.

No wonder her store was in crisis. If this was a first date, there wouldn’t be a second.

She asked what my salary expectations are and I tell her that I’d like to be on the low end of the range I indicated on the online application.

Nothing.

She regroups and asks what I’m looking for as an hourly rate. I tell her that a minimum of $30 would be the low end I mentioned. This is me converting the annual salary option I was given online to an hourly rate in me head. She tells me this role has a cap of $21/hr, so she’d have to get approval.

“You’re not going to get that. Paying me 30% more than others in this role would get you into trouble with Lilly Ledbetter. As a matter of fact, to avoid the appearance of unfair wage practices, many corporations – and remember, this is her third – have stopped asking what an applicant’s salary expectations are and switched to telling them what the job pays.

Not this mess of a manager.

I kind of left the interview angry. This is exactly the culture of incompetence that I’d left behind at my last professional – in name only – job. If The Peter Principle wasn’t slightly sexist, I’d tell you that it’s still thriving in retail.

But, Bob’s your uncle I can tell you that incompetency is still rewarded in retail. In case you were worried…the people serving us in stores are apparently hired on their ability to fog up a mirror. This woman could do it without taking off her mask, too, so she probably got extra credit on that test.

I came home determined that I didn’t want the job and wondering why I didn’t tell her so at the end of the interview. I’m still torn on whether it was uncertainty in my ability to do so without going full Julia Sugarbaker on her or if was the potential for better mortgage rates.

Nonetheless, when I got home, I decided to withdraw my application. I went to their hiring site and was surprised to find this.

There is no option to withdraw your application from consideration.

Ain’t that America?

You can’t reject us. We can put you through the ringer applying and put our worst foot forward during the interview process, but our ego will not allow for the possibility that you wouldn’t be lucky to be offered a job with us.

Stupid Americans.

GlassDoor, here I come!

I Can’t Believe I Got Up Early For This

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!

The Hustle

I’d kind of taken to thinking of my job search as an exercise in futility. Sure, the only exercise I was getting, but it wasn’t really contributing to an elevated state of health – physical or mental.

In searching for appropriate career level positions, I hit wall after apathetic wall.

The struggle is surreal.

I found myself rethinking the jobs I was applying for with companies I told myself I wanted to work for. My thoughts turned toward,

Do I really want to work for these companies?

Learning from my interviewing experiences with them, I realized answer was coming back “No” more and more frequently. Hell, more often than not, I was realizing I no longer wanted to be their customer.

At the same time, I was really digging my lil writerly routine.

Come to – er…wake up.

Clean up.

Head to the Arthouse and write for a few hours.

I found that the morning was when I was really able to create. I worried that work would ruin that flow.

Realistically, though, I needed to work. Not just for the financial aspect – although, obviously – but also for the ancillary payback.

Allowing me to feel that I’ve not just accomplished something, which I achieve with writing, but to feel that I’ve contributed to something.

Then there’s the social interaction void after leaving retail. I’m used to dozens if not hundreds of quick interactions with people that challenge me and keep me socially engaged.

A.

Day.

That’s tough to replace.

I wasn’t getting that on my couch – and I tried both ends!

Out of literal desperation, I applied for a part time job as a clerk in a convenience store. For what the owner called “Good money for a job like this” during my interview.

It was $12/hour.

The owner calls that good money, Oregon called that Minimum Wage. I should note that this was at the time, Oregon’s Min Wage is now $12.50, so I think I now qualify for membership at Mar-a-Lago or something, right?

I quickly learned the reason that the owner considered Minimum Wage good money for this job: his employees didn’t do much during their shifts. The majority of them played on their phones or read books waiting for customers. They didn’t even say “hi” to them when they entered the store. Some had friends stop by. Still others had hangouts with off duty employees.

The owner wasn’t getting a good return on his payroll investment, for sure.

But I just had a few lunch/dinner shifts a week, like 16-24 hours. Covering a store for an hour while the associate took their meal break, then moving to the next for an hour and then the last store to finish my four hour shift.

I got to talk to people and I got to do things…even if it was just putting beer and water into coolers. It’s weird, it was what I did at the airport to help out my associates. To make them feel supported. Now it was my job.

The other employees objected to that aggressively productive behavior of mine with an array of flimsy reasons. My response?

I came to work!

I didn’t care if they loved or hated me. I was getting paid with that sense of contributing with every task I completed and customer I met.

You’re so much nicer than the other employees!

I heard that a lot. In all three of the stores. Just about six months in now, I still hear it once or twice a week.

You know what? That’s nice to hear, but it also makes me feel bad. Most of my co-workers are nice enough to me – despite my reluctance to work down to their standard. What if the job just beat them down into spiritual submission?

Was it only a matter of time for me, too?

Doubts like that aside, I was finding myself entertaining the notion of finding job and financial satisfaction in more of a piecemeal manner. I’d been witnessing younger workers doing it for the last decade. Running from part-time job to part-time job to cover their expenses. Maybe I could turn away from the full-time mentality and “retire” to a gig mentality.

I began exploring app-based work like Uber or Postmates. The obvious problem there for me was: no car. Still, with Postmates I could use my bike. The problem there? My lazy ass. Since the FWV (friends with vehicles, duh!) I dropped hints to about this notion let those hints drop unacknowledged, I tabled the idea.

Somehow, in this same timeframe, I became the boss’ shining star employee and go-to. She asked me to cover her role during her month-long vacation. At full-time.

Fine, as long as it’s just for four weeks…I can do it.

Three weeks before she left, all hell broke loose. Two people got fired and another quit in the course of maybe five days. By the time my boss left for vacation, I was ready to go back to my sweet lil four hour shifts.

Flash forward two months and I was still averaging about 35 hours a week. Feeling broken, I at least had my family’s annual vacation get together to look forward to in a month.

Still, I told my boss to schedule me less so I could get my writing back on track. I was an entire project behind schedule.

No change. Unless being scheduled for only 32 hours counts.

Then I got a call I wasn’t expecting.

A temp agency specializing in HR had reached out to me a few weeks earlier about a position they thought I’d be perfect for.

Oh, and the position you originally applied for was filled, unfortunately.

No shit? That was months ago!

Anyway, the position was designed to offload the HR responsibilities of a dual role HR/Ops manager that wanted to focus on her Ops responsibilities.

I agreed, I would be perfect for the role. I interviewed and still thought it would be a great fit. The money was certainly better than the convenience store, but it was only two-thirds of what I should be earning. At part-time the money would barely cover my monthly expenses. Looked like I wouldn’t be ditching the convenience store job anytime soon.

I realized that idea didn’t bother me. I romanticized a perfect schedule where I worked my gig HR three days a week from 8-5 and did dinner breaks from 6-10, earning enough to feel financially able while having four days off a week.

But this is my life, right? That Cinderella story didn’t happen.

Surprisingly, the person creating this job thought you were too into people. She’s going with another candidate.

Oh, for fuck sake.

The person who was more into the Ops side of her job and didn’t want to be bothered with the Human Resources side of her role…didn’t want somebody who was into humans to take that off her plate.

Seriously.

Surrealiously.

This journey is basically the meat of my next non-fiction book. I’m leaning toward calling it 50-gig – get it? I’m ~50 and competing for gig work with them there millennials? – however, on days like that one…it’s hard not to call it These Damn Idiots I Meet.

I mean, really, dating. Job hunting. It could be the group name for my non-fic work. 50-gig and Dating Into Oblivion could both easily fall under that heading. I wonder if there’s a third piece to round out a trilogy.

Obviously, The Gym.

But, I’ve digressed.

Romantic notion of working three days a week: le poof.

Anyway, I go back to my partly full-time job at the convenience store, grateful to still have a purpose but missing out on writing. At night, I drink wine on my lonely couch while binge watching Star Trek TV shows in their chronological order versus release dates while mentally cutting myself to take away the pain of my obsolescence.

Then the HR temps call back a few weeks later.

Maybe a month.

Let’s say a few weeks ago.

I doubt you’d be interested, you might consider it too boring.

I took this with the grain of salt required to swallow my belief that nobody wanted me, anyway. Basically, my position was, “I dare them to fucking hire me!”

Still, the “three or four days a week” aspect really appealed to me.

They’d really like someone to start next Monday, if it’s a good fit.

I just laughed at that, still waiting for Old Mother Hubbard’s second home to land on me like a was The Wicked Job Hunter of the West.

Oh, boo. What was that collision of metaphor?!? Mixing nursery rhymes and Young Adult novels from barely the last century.

Hey, don’t even worry about it. It’s Wednesday…if they let me know by tomorrow morning, I can have my boss at the convenience store work me around it.

Apparently, my “I fucking dare you to hire me” attitude was too much to resist. Thirty minutes later, they called back and told me to get in there Monday morning.

Having resigned myself to never getting another professional job again, I’d gone back to thinking about app based gig-work. I’d looked into car-sharing options for driving with Uber or Lyft using someone else’s car through an app called GetAround. It would probably end up costing about a third of what I’d make driving, but it would pull me out of being able to say “yes” every time my boss at the store had a need.

Actually, every time isn’t fair. I knew she tried to not abuse my availability. I appreciated it. But still, of the instances I knew of where she didn’t call on me, I knew she was just sucking it up about half the time.

I felt bad about that.

Anyway, somewhere in there – and consistent readers already know this – I said “Fuck it”, and bought a car. They’ve subsequently been dubbed Pat the Patriot in a perfect fit of Portland political correctness.

I figured maybe I could still do some gig driving, if only for the experience of writing about it in either my blog or even that notion of a book. I’d actually priced it all out and come to the benchmark of driving only six hours a week covering my car costs.

I could live with that.

I could also live with my complete lack of surprise at my experience trying to sign up to drive with Uber.

I’d given up using Lyft in conjunction with Uber a decade-ish ago when a woman in a homemade floral print dress and Jesus bobble head on her dash tried to fist bump me. If I was gonna drive, my first choice was going to be with the brand I’d been using as a consumer.

After a month of effort, let’s just say that I’m driving with The Verb and not The (unearned) Adjective.

And it’s addictive.

Not just the people engagement reward, but actually, the immediacy reward, too. I’ve only driven three times, but it’s been very satisfying…like 90% fun and 10% “Meh, that was still better than a day working for my last professional job”.

Plus, I get a cell phone bill and think, “Welp, let’s cash in on the app” and my pay is instantly in my checking account. The next morning I wake up to a utility bill and think, “Well, I’ll go have coffee with The Fox and then drive for a couple hours to get this paid…beats paying for two more hours of parking”.

And, yes – I am looking for a monthly space to rent! Especially if I want to leverage that whole three days of work/four days off thing.

Until then, a couple hours to pay my $30 gas bill versus spend $4 on parking turned into driving for five hours and saving $10 on parking and limping out of my driver’s seat with $100.

See? Addictive.

Now, before it starts raining Other Shoes, here’s what’s on the horizon:

– Before I committed to Lyft, I applied to drive delivery for GoPuff and Postmates. I’ll probably fold at least one of those in, if only for the potential writing material for 50-gig. But also: tips! I’ve actually never had a tip job before, so I’d be interested in how that adds up.

Plus, as a car share rider from the early days, I never tip. It was part of the deal. Then the deal changed, but guess who didn’t? Yes, me. But also: practically everyone else. Out of – I think I’m at…18 rides over three outings I’ve been tipped by two riders. I don’t expect it, but feel I’ve really earned the gratuity when they land. It’s not that I got a tip for reflex of it all, I did something that stood out compared to other rides these Tipsters have taken.

That’s what I’m telling myself.

What else?

– Oh, yeah…the convenience store. There’s a shoe. If you know me, you know I won’t repay hiring me when no one else would – yes, for a job I should have a lobotomy to be qualified for – by walking away, middle fingers flying just because I got a better opportunity. So, if this HR gig pans out, I see a serious scheduling conversation happening there.

– The HR gig. When someone – an employer – says “three or four days a week”, who knows what they mean? It could be three days, with the hope that the dangling fourth will provide added bait. It could mean four, for so many reasons.

In this case, I heard “three”, because that’s what I wanted to hear. Then I talked to the owner and heard the job scope and said, “Yeah, I can do that in three”.

Sadly, I think they really want someone for four, but tough nuts.

Or not so tough. If I end up working four days a week, it’s not the end of the world. Plus, since I’m HR, I have access. That access shows me – innocently, I assure you – that my non-temp predecessor was making $6/hr more than I am. But I get the temp costs offset. If they hire me off my contract, I’m getting that money. Knowing what I do of the owner, I won’t have to ask…she’ll offer. How awesome is it to have a boss you think of in those terms?

It’s fucking awesome.

Also: there’s an office cat. He’s nicer than Myrtle, too, which makes that fourth day a real draw. Poor Myrt. She’s not not nice. She’s just psychotic and can’t help herself.

Or I have Stockholm Syndrome.

Now, let’s see…other shoes. Other Shoes. Any others, hoes?

Ah, yes!

– Writing! Doy. The second book in the No One Of Consequence story is nearing completion. Yes, Phil…I’m editing! Hehe. After some good feedback, I also intent to brush off Book One and give it an extra lil polish before launching Book Two. Now I should have the ability to advertise, too.

I wanna run an ad campaign this month, I think I’ll go drive for a few hours.

I like the sound of that.

Then, come November I can put balancing work, work, work and possibly work schedules with writing, I’ll try and get most of 50-gig drafted during NaNoWriMo. That’ll be an adventure.

Almost as big an adventure as doing my 2019 taxes will be with two W2s, possibly four 1099s and at least a little bit of royalties income to factor in. I better start limbering up my procrastination muscles now!

Yes, it’s 5:30 in the morning on my day off…why do you ask? Truth be told, how this three job thing is working out so far has created a three weeks straight without a day off, so my old ass is tired! But I slept well on both Friday and Saturday night.

Of course, that was after saying

I’m burning the candle at both ends…with fucking blow torches!

So I was ready for early nights and good sleep. Maybe I’ll try a nap later.

Nah…I’ll go drive! Haha.

The Hustle

TIL #10: Bufferin

They should just market this as a people repellant.

Because, people – me, at any rate – need a buffer.

Yeah, don’t kid yourself, Today I (didn’t) Learned…why they call this Bufferin. Although, the bros that just walked into the Arthouse Cafe – f&b was renamed and rebranded to compliment the neighborhood a bit better.

Complete with street art!

Anyway, these bros order food and then execute my trending pet peeve:

Taking the seat closest to me in an empty space!

It’s truly annoying. You’d think my favorite part of this shituation would be that they both started playing videos on their phones.

I mean, why even go out to eat together?!?

But, I noticed they were sports videos, even those these two were obviously gay for each other. Maybe the videos provided distraction enough to keep them from soberly blurting out

I love you, man!

Whatever. I don’t care.

No, the most annoying part of this wordless bromantic breakfast was the gift of allowing me to watch them tossing food into their never-closing mouths and then grind it up before sending it on its way to the poop chute.

So gross.

Therefore, since I’m not being given my people buffer and there sadly is no pill to rectify that, I’m going to distract you with a story. This happened a few weeks ago while I was working, and since my lil PT gig provides me with an opportunity to interact with people and is decidedly unchallenging, I exploit the opportunity to my maximum amusement.

In this case, it involves taking another pet peeve and making up a fact around it.

Of course, the story starts with a cute guy.

Goes without saying for this ho without a laying? Right?

He was tragically buying smokes and looked under 30, so I carded him. He whips out an out of state ID and I ask if he’s visiting.

No, I’m practically a native, I’ve lived here so long!

Me:

What? Oh, wait…are you a native? How long do I have to live here before I can call myself a native?

Me:

Stop saying “native”.

Indigenous?

Ok, that made me chuckle.

I went on to tell him that natives don’t call themselves native, they call themselves SNOBs – Society of Native Oregon Born.

It’s a thing, but I was vamping, we call ourselves natives all of the time. But he was enjoying my schtick, so I kept playing.

So, how long until I can be a SNOB?

Me:

Never.

That’s what I was afraid of.

Me:

Wah-wah. Look, here’s the deal, being an Oregonian isn’t about time served.

It isn’t?

Such wonder and naïveté.

Uh-dorable.

Me:

No, it’s fucking Oregon, not a prison sentence.

More laughing, which I take as him begging me to slide deeper into – er…keep going.

Me:

Being an Oregonian is about how one drives.

Trick question! You cycle, right?

Me:

Yes, but no.

Kinda dying over here…

Me:

Alright, alright. Simmer down. It’s how you drive. Specifically, relative to pedestrians.

Oh, really? Wait, wait…the whole “No, you go” thing, right?!?

Me:

Partial Credit. That’s the filtering device.

So, transplants see someone at a crosswalk – maybe they see them, pedestrians might not even register to out of towners – and just whiz on by. “Watch out, poor people, I have an automobile!”

But SNOBs stop!

Me:

Of course, but more importantly, we stop correctly.

Because there’s a right way.

Me:

Yes! This is the difference between a self-proclaimed Native and a SNOB.

Natives fall all over themselves making a show of stopping. Standing on the brake and laying down 10 feet of rubber at the last minute, if need be.

SNOBs understand that crosswalks always exist, even if you can’t see a person nearby, and are ready to stop.

Seems like an arbitrary differentiator…

Me:

Does it? Ask the car waiting to cross traffic from the side street while the native driver idles in the intersection in a dissipating cloud of stinky blue tire smoke.

Damnit! I see that all the time!

Me:

There ya go.

Ok, the gay bros left.

Thank you for allowing me to distract myself!

TIL #10: Bufferin

Oh, You…Universe, You!

It’s a wily cosmos out there, that’s for sure. The last couple of weeks have proved that to me in spades.

Whether you believe it’s the Universe, the Lord, Karma or some other idiomatic dark horse…behold my recent story. I’ll try and make it as follow-able as possible.

So, y’all know that I self- published my first two books – one nonfiction and fiction work each – in March. I consciously chose self-publishing since my research showed that writers lucky enough to get a publishing contract got dropped as soon as the contract ended if they didn’t turn out to be the next James Patterson.

The differences here – aside from the looming publisher break up – were that self publishing pays royalties monthly versus twice annually but there’s no up front money. So I might get a monthly payout, but it was gonna be ~$500 on average versus an advance of anywhere from $5-25k that you may never make back, hence the writers I talked to getting dumped.

I opted for the slow burn even though so far my earned royalties aren’t even what I made in a day when I worked at Macy’s.

God, I miss Macy’s money.

Anyway, I just pushed publish and silently hoped that some industrious producer discovered me.

So, while all that’s going on, I’m wandering around the Pearl and see this sign in the window of a store that I managed for three months four years ago.

Now, I could have called that outcome when I left there. I’m actually surprised that they lasted this long. I came on right after the founder retired and promoted the Vice President/Buyer to run things. He was grooming the District Manager to take over his role and I was brought on as a DM in training to run the store in the Pearl District until that change occurred.

It quickly became apparent to me that the dipshits in charge couldn’t manage their way out of a wet paper bag…so, like I said – I’m surprised they made it this long.

Still, I feel bad for the employees. Sorta.

Anyway.

Things are getting pretty tight at Casa de Xtopher. In February, my unemployment was suspended because they think I’ve been working and not reporting my income. This stems from a quarterly report from my temp job at Amazon – irony alert: that’s who I self-published with – that indicates a status change in my employment with them.

I wasn’t surprised at this, the timing the unemployment office described to me put this blip as a termination for not meeting my one shift a month commitment as a temporary employee.

Of course, the brainiacs at the unemployment office completely melt down and don’t know what to do, so they pause my benefit without telling me.

Seriously, how these people have jobs and I don’t…?

My question to them was

“So y’all require employers to report quarterly employment changes but you can’t differentiate between a new hire and a termination on those reports?”

Idiots.

We straighten that out and then – before a single benefit week is paid, some troll in their office comes up with, “Yeah, but his waiting week in October was paid. He has to pay that back.” To which I replied,

“I worked with your own clowns to figure out the correct timing and claimed earnings as I should have. Go pull the tapes.”

Sure enough. That was right, but by that time, the state had already withheld the week and a half of benefits from me for the payback.

Whatever.

I figure that will just extend my claim by a week and since I’m already over the hump of not having that week of benefits, I let it lie. So naturally, the next week I claim, I get an error message that my claim has run out or expired.

What fresh hell is this?

“Oh, yeah. You contested the original ineligibility decision back in April of last year.”

“And?!?”

“Oh, and that means your benefit may be reduced by eight weeks. We sent you a letter. Lemme find it…ah, here we are!”

And this very nice, surprisingly competent sounding woman reads the letter they sent me verbatim. “Blah, blah, blah may cause a benefit reduction of eight weeks blah, blah…”

“Right. ‘May cause’ not ‘will cause’, please allow me to explain the English language to you…”

“Oh, well we don’t right the letters ourselves…”

Because, of course not. If I had patience with incompetence and a lack of accountability, I’d just be leaving my job at Storables. That means that I’d never have gone to work at the airport, but if I had…I would have loved it there since competence and accountability are their scariest boogey men.

I count back eight weeks from my original claim on April 6th of last year to my last benefit payment…yup. They nailed it.

At least I come out of that experience knowing that the unemployment office is as good at stopping benefits as I am at not working for poorly run companies. What I did learn from this last contact, though, was that my claim can be renewed on April 7th, but at just over half of the original amount.

Not that I’ll believe that until I see a check.

Naturally, I’m panicking. I think my rent is paid through May, but my other meager bills will be dicey.

By The Way

Too subtle?

But, then…

I see on the Facebook – of all friggin’ places – that The Container Store is hiring for an Ops Manager. Of course, I apply!The Container Store and I have a long peripheral history. Way back in the 90s, the store I worked at – for a decade, lest you think I just can’t hold a job – carried a modular storage brand called Elfa. The Container Store eventually bought Elfa.

I was their customer after buying my condo in Seattle in the aughts. I outfitted my closet with their Elfa system. When I was looking for work up there, I got to the final round of interviews with them, but ended up missing out on the offer.

Then I went to work for Storables – which I nicknamed Regrettables – and learn that the owner had been aligned with the owners at TCS but the partnership disintegrated and he struck out on his own.

So, here I am. Still applying for jobs, wherever I can and at any level from janitor to manager.

Nothing.

I get a call. Turns out it’s from the owner of a chain of convenience stores here in Portland with a terrible reputation. I once saw a six pack of craft beer that’s $12 at the she-she brodega across the street from me for sale there for $19!

He pretty much offers me a cashier job on the spot for $12/hr, which according to him, “Is pretty good pay.”

It’s literally minimum wage in Portland.

Nevertheless, I’m freaking out about how to buy cat food for the meanest cat in history. I also think,

“Well, between this, the book royalties and maybe my unemployment – if someone there finally manages to get an answer right on the first try – I can pay my June rent. That’s something.

I’m really good at covering up my urges to leap from tall structures these days.

Incidentally…

Naturally, since my belly is now full of swallowed pride (shut up, Diezel) on the last day in the year since my last day at my nightmare airport job, I score an interview with the Area Manager for TCS. It goes great. I’m not just optimistic for the opportunity, I’m motivated by the conversation. She says she’s passing me down the chain of command to her local manager for a face to face.

Then, nothing happens.

No call yesterday.

Except today on the anniversary of my first day off work after quitting my job at the airport, I get a call from the local guy at TCS!

He wants to talk Monday, before he leaves for a week, but he wants “to get this rolling”.

That’s a good sign, right?!?

Naturally – since this is my life, here – Monday is my first day of work at the crappy, humbling convenience store job. So here’s what Monday looks like:

5:30 – wake up!

6:30 – start work at the convenience store.

2:30 – get off work at the convenience store (I hope!)

4:00 – interview with The Container Store.

Basically, I have 90 minutes to hoof it home to change, steal the Silver Fox’s car and drive 12 miles in Monday rush hour traffic.

The most heartbreaking thing is that I will have to walk right by my favorite dive bar – Kelly’s – on my way home from the convenience store.

But you best believe I’m fucking doing it. All of it.

And I’m getting that job!

Oh, but still…

Oh, You…Universe, You!

Kids These Days

…Got nothing on The Gays These Days.

In the defense of kids, at least they’re kids. I really have no defense for some of the ridiculous shit The Gays do.

Case.

In.

Point.

A byproduct of the reality TV celebrity culture lives here in Portland. One of the Fabulous Baker Girls suggested she arrange an introduction back when the sand was still falling through this guy’s Quarter Hourglass.

My gut reaction was to reject the proposition outright. I mean, A) I’m too old; but, B) I also just tend to steer way clear of that reality nonsense. But, to be fair, I still gave him a once over.

No…

Not for me. Far too dear.

But, we interact on the Instagram occasionally and I enjoy most of his escapades. Random fitness center selfies (told ya, too dear for me!) from his apartment building, dog walks – which is totally my “aw” spot – carpool karaoke solos and whatnot. Whether or not he should go blond again.

He shouldn’t.

Yes, I told him. He asked!

Of course, right now I’m watching his work trip (Nike, so I have to hate him now) to Japan and kind of dying of jealousy. I feel better if I tell myself that he’s the admin for the group.

A bit.

Right now, he’s low grade obsessing over being “in shape” for Coachella. To which I say: boo!

I mean…first of all, he’s in shape enough. But mostly, how is politically right supporting Coachella still a thing?!?

And that’s kind of got to be a deal breaker for at least the LGBTQ community, artists and their allies and supporter.

Doesn’t it?

Anyway, I’m sure that at least partially to that end, a couple of weeks ago I watched one of his stories where he was getting Botox and lip filler.

That gave me a little pause.

Naturally, I had to ask…

And then I never heard back from him. We’ll chat again, we always do…if I initiate it. The same “got better stuff to do” phenomenon occurred a few weeks ago when he was fake-bitching about having eaten a full dozen donuts.

Come to think of it, that might have been him bragging.

I certainly would.

But back to the whole Botox thing…just, c’mon. If he’d been older than I imagined – ok, he is, but if he’d been way older than I’d imagined – that would be one thing.

32 though…that just ain’t right.

And I come by this opinion pretty honestly. When I was living in Seattle, I had Botox. A few times.

I was nearing 40.

It was amazing how big a difference it made on my forehead after a lifetime of witnessing the stupid shit people do in public during my retail career. “Relaxing” those muscles that were in a near constant state of use from raising my eyebrows in surprise several times an hour at my co-workers’ and customers’ shenanigans really made a dramatic change to my forehead.

No more lines!

As a pleasant side effect, this also allowed me to remain an enigma to my friends and employees, so when I let my frustration show, it was a choice.

And a surprise!

But I only did it a few times. The last benefit I received from my use of Botox was surprising my doctor when she told me that her prices were going up from $10/unit to $15 and I replied,

I’m never coming back here again!

Poor dear…never saw that coming.

Anyway.

With that context for at least one of the injectables he was using, I felt I had a foundation for my comment. But this might surprise you: his use wasn’t what irritated me most about this Instagram excursion.

It was that his doctor let him video the whole thing!

I’m watching and then realize, (s)he’s working around his arm that is attached to the phone he’s using to video this whole thing. Shame on that friggin’ practitioner!

It makes me mad, but I guess it’s up to the two individuals involved…I guess. Once again, though – what we tolerate, we condone.

Maybe “kids” these days need adults (like me, or doctors) to tell them when something is not an appropriate behavior or just wrong for them.

But now I wonder if he’d still have that crooked smile if he let his doctor work in an obstacle free environment…

Kids These Days

So, It’s Gonna Be Like That…

Eh, Universe?

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

Nice to get plenty of notice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then a BBQ showed up on my old balcony.

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

Remember how rents went down 3%?

Yeah, she didn’t get the memo.

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

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

He’s gonna be one of those neighbors.

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

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

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

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

Alright, alright…I’ll go!

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

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

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

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

Oh, I’ll be able to find you.

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

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

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

Ah, the joys of the great job hunt.

Whatever, happy-fucking-holidays.

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

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

I debated reminding her, but then as the conversation began

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

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

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

I don’t think so…no.

– she says, sounding rather uncertain.

There are two District Managers for Portland.

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

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

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

That could be a sticking point.

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

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

To that, I say

C’mon, 2019!

So, It’s Gonna Be Like That…