Xtopher’s Rib

This here, ladies and gentlemen and all-gendered readers, is the oldest draft I presently own.

May 24, 2016…if you’re curious.

It’s been back on my mind because of my commitment to wrap up my open gay-jacent writing projects during Pride month. Also, Rib graduated Flight Attendant College last week and this was his first full week working as a Flight Attendant.

I sent him a text when I realized he had finished the 8 week course, which seemed to go on forever from where I witnessed it. I wonder what it felt like to him…although his occasional social media updates suggested he enjoyed his time there.

His response was, “Thanks, Dad!”

Classic Rib.

I should note that Rib actually provided his own blog identity after briefly wanting to change his name to Rib during Culinary School.

It is a name that has stuck with him, at least with my friends. The Silver Fox spied this restaurant on a trip through Spain and Portugal and demanded I forward it to Rib.

I initially started this post after I participated in a Writing Workshop that the original Fabulous Baker Sister had suggested to me.  It was my first such experience and I found that my ex had been a topic that came to mind during a couple of the assigned exercises.

Not knowing what to expect of the workshop, I arrived just the slightest bit anxious.  Also, the teensiest buzzed thanks to a spontaneous happy hour with my parents.  I love my mom and dad. The pre-funk helped me relax into the exercises.

I had been thinking about what – or if – to write about that experience.  It was really amazing.  There were four exercises we did and two of them had ended up involving the best of my ex boyfriends.  Later in this same week, he moved into his first home with his partner, so he’d kind of been center stage in my consciousness for several days around the week of the workshop.

Regardless of how readily he sprung to mind after the prompts given at the Writing Workshop, the blog entry kind of stalled.

Limbo.

Truth be told, I had actually started this draft the year before the date I quoted earlier…that was just the most recent edit.

The summer before, Rib and his boyfriend had come down for a spontaneous visit. I think it was near the end of Summer. They live in Seattle and had been to dinner at one of Rib’s former classmates from Culinary School. She lived in Olympia and when I got the call, he said that they had decided to pop down to Portland since they were so close.

Ok

Seriously, though, that type of spontaneity in a relationship is just fun.

They checked into their hotel and then popped over for a nightcap. We may have gone out for a Spanish Coffee at Huber’s that night because that’s what you do with out of town guests in Portland.

It was a fun evening, connecting with them as an actual couple, like adults. I admit that when we all lived in Seattle and ended up together, I’d recreationally by the boyfriend shots just because I knew how he suffered the next day.

To his credit, he was at least a willing sport, borderline good sport about it.

The day after their surprise visit, we went wine tasting in the valley. They had just bought a humongous orange Jeep. I was kind of jealous, never having really gotten over getting rid of my own Jeep at Sacha’s urging back in ’02. He hated it, granted it was a piece of shit…but the boys’ Jeep was certainly enviable.

We hit three different wineries and had a wonderful afternoon tasting at the different estates, two of which were simply breathtaking. I can’t believe I don’t have pics from that day at my fingertips…checkout my last post for a little insight as to how those might have gone missing.

Anyway, after the Writing Workshop, I was all jazzed up to share my Rib relationship story. Then I saw an article in the Huffington Post suggesting that people who were friends with their exes were either narcissists or psychopaths.

Great.

Here I was, 45-plus years on, feeling proud to finally have an ex that I was able to remain friends with. I’m off brand for friendship with Sacha. The Mulligan has the bad manners to die.

So, yeah, no pressure, Xtopher…but I felt Rib was my one last shot at exercising the concept of actually maintaining a post-relationship relationship with an ex.

You see, here’s the deal, Rib and I were never supposed to date, anyway.

We’d met in a bar one night when I wandered out for a solo beer in Seattle, as was my weekday ritual. There was this ginger nugget of a guy siting at the corner, right near where I ordered my beer.

We chatted while I waited to be served, so I ended up sitting next to him. Rib was sitting around the corner of the bar and occasionally interjected during our conversation.

Sassy.

He eventually drove the other guy away. As I watched him leave, I realized that he was actually meeting the bartender, Rock, at the door and they left together.

Glad I could help pass the time. Hehe.

Then it was just Rib and me. He’d still blurt out random conversation as I sipped. Eventually, I realized that hidden by his hedgehog hairstyle were earbuds.

“You’re listening to your own music?!?”, I said realizing now why his additions to my earlier conversation had seemed so erratic, they had come as he overheard our conversation between songs.

Seems he didn’t appreciate the bar’s music. When I asked why he didn’t go to a bar that was more his style, he admitted that the bartender gave him free drinks here.

“The one that just left with the guy I was talking to?”

We chatted a little more, learning that he’d only been in town for a few weeks, having moved from SoCal. He liked it ok, but had not yet adjusted to how hilly it was, gesturing to his feet, where there was a large pair of high laced combat style boots.

Apparently, they were pretty heavy to lug around, especially after a few drinks. He admitted to having fallen just recently and blamed the terrain.

It was cute.

He ended up coming home with me that night – nothing happened, you pervs! I’d gotten him – with Rock’s help – a little too relaxed to safely haul his boots home.

Interestingly, and DP will tell me that he told me so, he never really left after that first night. DP’s relationship philosophy, as he’d described it to me once, was that you meet someone and take them home…they either never leave or you never see them again.

It’s admittedly jaded, but also truer than I’d like to admit.

However, while Rib was right up my alley as far as my tastes in guys go; I wasn’t ready to blindly accept DP’s sage dating advice at face value.

Over the coming days, I learned that Rib had chosen Seattle because his sister lived here and he’d wanted to get out of his mom’s house and onto his own two feet without totally forfeiting an actual safety net.

Made sense.

In SoCal, he’d gone to college for a while and then dropped out and moved back into his mom’s house. For the time before deciding to move, he’d been taking care of the family cats and cooking meals for his mom while she worked.

I asked what he was doing since getting to Seattle.

“Oh, y’know…taking care of my sister’s dog while she works and cooking dinner for her”

“Good thing you got out from under your mom’s skirts”, I joked.

Obviously, we weren’t a good match. I’m grumpy old me and he was just this endearing Lost Boy. I told him that and when he asked why, I told him that I expected a boyfriend to have a job.

Dating younger guys, I hardly expected them to have similar professional accomplishments, but I expected them to at least be working toward something.

Thinking that was that, I was surprised that he went out and got an interview at a local candy shop-slash-tourist trap.

Go, Rib!

Ok, that was kind of impressive and before you know it, we’re six months in.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. We’d have talks about serious stuff – how to continue his upward trajectory toward being an adult – that would end in big, slow rolling tears. It was strange to navigate those talks. They usually started with a Rib mini-tantrum, something like him hating his job.

He’d just blurt out, “I hate it! I’m quitting!”

I’d counter with something like what he hated about it and he’d yell “Everything!” or complain that he didn’t get paid enough for what they expected him to do. He’d eventually settle down and pull his knees up to his chin as he gained an understanding of what he was struggling with, arriving at the realization that he needed to be able to stick it out at a job he “hated” until he found something else.

He didn’t like it, but he understood it.

My rule of thumb when dating younger guys has always been “leave ’em better than you found ’em”. Rib surprised me by being pretty open to the perspective I had to offer – despite occasional tough conversations like I described above – when he encountered challenges, either at work or just in getting his feet under him in a new city.

Like I said, he’d grown frustrated with his job and somehow – I think through another co-worker – gotten hooked up as waitstaff for the private club behind my condo.

It was a challenging job jump because it was a pretty exclusive, high touch club. But he took to it.

He really got excited about the environment, from learning about high end wine to serving in a fine dining environment.

At some point in those first years we were together, education came up. I’m not sure how. Probably, I was a bossy jerk about him completing a degree.

Given his enthusiasm for cooking – for his mom, then his sister and now me – and food in general from his experience at the club, he was thinking about Culinary School.

It made sense, too. The boy was a complete geek whenever he came to my kitchen store. His passion and enthusiasm were obvious and my team loved seeing him pop into the shop to explore or take a class. Soon enough, we were having Thanksgiving dinners at the condo with his mom and aunts visiting from SoCal and the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico.

Rib actually managed to complete his culinary degree debt free because of his Native American heritage. It was a big plus for him an took a lot of the stress out of his decision to finish his education.

His graduation was a big deal, as it should be. It was shortly after his Chef of the Day project. His mom came up from SoCal, his Seattle-sister was there, obviously, and my parents and sister drove up from Portland in what turned out to be the winter storm of the century. It had turned their three to four hour drive into a nine-plus hour affair.

Luckily, Rib went all out for his CoD and the menu included baby octopus. Prepared as obvious octopus. Everyone forgot the travel journey and seems to only remember that. But in having so much of our respective families present, it really felt like a family affair.

After graduation, he floundered. What he’d realized in college was that he didn’t want to be a cook.

Ok

When pressed during conversations about it, he’d articulate how he wanted to use his education to be able to design menus, but he was getting more and more interested in the front of the house experience he was picking up at the club.

His boss at the club ended up connecting him to a restaurant in Pike Place Market. It was fine dining and Rib was pretty excited about the change. It ended up being a good change for him. He was working part time hours and with the tips he earned he was making high $40k a year.

Waiting tables.

I was a little jealous!

This Lost Boy that I’d picked up in a bar a scant few years earlier that had had no job or inclination was now a college grad and making a respectable living for himself.

I was proud of him.

Even not realizing what was ahead for us.

Oooooh, foreshadowing!

So…right, even with all this growth, the boy still had quite a bratty streak in him. It was a constant in his personality and part of what I loved about him, but occasionally he’d take it too far.

Frequently, we’d be out with friends and – depending on the situation – he’d get bored because my friends did boring “old people” stuff and he wanted to dance and carry on or we’d do stuff with his friend and I was too much of an “Oldie Hawn”. We each enjoyed the others friends, but when he wasn’t into it, it could really get stressful.

It was on one of these nights out, us and DP, where I don’t remember what exactly was going on, but he wasn’t enjoying it.

Oddly, we were headed to his favorite late night food spot for some pozole, but he was still not having it. He was literally dragging his feet and bitching from a half a block behind us about how lame we were.

It was then that I realized that for all of his growth, this was as far as he was going to grow with me. I sent him home and went to dinner with DP.

I don’t know what he did when he left, but he was home when I got there, sitting on the floor somewhere between a pout and guilt. I told him that his behavior was unacceptable.

He knew, he flashed a couple of those big, sad, trauma tears and I told him we should break up. I could see that he was maxed out on growth, having taken a big step in moving from SoCal to Seattle, but he hadn’t really given up the security of having someone else in his move from Mom to sister to me. My thinking was that until he had to really bear the burden of his own responsibilities, this was as close as he was going to come to becoming his own man.

It was a super hard conversation. Flashing through my mind as it was happening was another conversation. We’d run into a friend of mine at The Cuff and he was chiding me about Rib being so young. This was early in our relationship, they were just meeting for the first time. In response to his trading, I’d said, “What? He’ll be 30 before I turn 50!”

It earned me a laugh and an eye roll at the time, but in breaking up with Rib it was playing in my mind as I admitted to myself that this could be the last relationship of my life.

I know…so dramatic.

Still, I knew that Rib would eventually get bored stagnating in this almost state. He’d come to this same conclusion eventually, then he’d leave me. Whether it was six months or six years later, I was certain it would happen and then I’d resent him. I’d react indignantly and overemphasize the sacrifice of my leveraged happiness that I’d made by selfishly staying with him.

Y’know, like I did with Sacha.

It took me a long time to get over my anger at him for leaving me. Part of that was the way that he’d left me, the other part was jealousy that he’d had the balls to leave me when I’d stayed with him out of fear of being single at the time.

So, I knew what I was talking about in this situation.

We set up a timeline for finding him his own place and within a few weeks, he was looking at furniture and settling in. I sent a lot of good kitchen stuff with him that we’d accumulated over the years together, but I knew that he’d get better use out of it than me.

His sister – unhelpfully – set him up on a date about three weeks after he moved out. She’s a serial dater, so I wasn’t surprised. However, I thought he really needed time to get to know himself as an individual before really dating again.

That disagreement – and Rib’s subsequent sudden new boyfriend – caused me to lay down a six month embargo on contact.

I needed time to heal and adjust myself.

Well, not “adjust myself”…y’know, just get an answer to “Who is single Xtopher?”

At the end of that timeframe, we found ourselves drawn together on occasion. Sometimes randomly, running into each other at a bar, cue shots for the boyfriend! Others, I’d get a request for a solo lunch date and we’d talk about struggles: work, boyfriend, what have you.

The boys still come to town – not enough in my opinion – and I’m happy to let them treat me to a $300 dinner…has anyone seen my pride? Usually, though, I see them pop up on social media. It’s a pleasant vicarious surprise, seeing them post from Flushing Meadows or Australia as they attend an Open. A sudden trip to Germany with the fam for Oktoberfest.

I’m glad to see him thriving with his new boyfriend. Now, particularly seeing him become a flight attendant after trying to get into the program for three years. That was something that came up seemingly out of nowhere, but he didn’t let the first two experiences discourage him.

And now he’s done it.

Anyway, I can’t think of a better way to wrap up Pride month than completing a project about a person I was lucky enough to spend some time with and am privileged enough to still be a part of his life, albeit just as a friendly little narcissistic and/or psychopathic sliver.

Right, HuffPo?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go be alone forever.

<dramatic sniff>

Xtopher’s Rib

My So-Called Sunny Disposition

A funny thing happened on the way to the cafe today.

I demotivated myself.

Again.

AKA: day two…

Earlier this week, I publicly announced my June writing goal of completing my gay themed drafts prior to the end of Pride Month. Yesterday, I gave myself a pass on the four drafts remaining. That pass cut the four to two, because two were really just situationally gay.

And one of those is a really daunting topic.

I don’t need that kind of pressure.

So, this morning, on the way to the cafe, I’m looking at the last two drafts and the last two days of June.

Both of these drafts are about exes. Exes that I still cared about when I ended the relationships.

Y’know, chipper shit.

This morning, my thought was, “Damn. This shit is heavy. If I write about this, I’m likely gonna be down for the day. Maybe I should just worry about one and forget the other…both drafts are at least a year old, anyway.”

This is no recipe for success, folks.

I grab my coffee and instead of sitting down and tapping something out on my phone, I start reading the blogs I follow. Occasionally, I see a theme that motivates me.

This was the case today as well. But then I got all Dad on myself and said no new entries until you finish a draft.

The writer equivalent of “no dessert until you finish your veggies”.

Then I saw this entry from Pace Mind Blog

and clicked on over to give it a read. I’m not gonna lie, he titled his post “Another Award” and it made me chuckle because as much as getting nominated by a fellow writer is motivating, however, it can feel a little

if you know what I mean.

There I was reading about how being nominated for this made him feel like he’s not putting negative content out there since the purpose of this award is to recognize people who inspire and spread positivity…my thought?

There’s no way in hell that I’m getting this nomination!

Imagine my surprise…

But, I’ll confess that it was a pleasant – albeit unexpected – surprise, so, thanks Pacey! Click on the link above to check out his blog. I enjoy living his Aussie life vicariously though his posts.

Naturally, I’m going to use this as a procrastinating device!

Nonono. I’ll write more later, this will just get my writing juices flowing…but first: rules!

Rules, Rules, Rules!

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog ✅

2. Answer the questions the blogger asked you – keep reading

3. Nominate new blogs and write them new questions – patience, paduan

4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post ✅

See? Already halfway done!

Ready? Here we go! And I really like Pacey’s questions, so I’m actually excited to answer!

1. Gay man to Gay man (and the world) favourite Ru Paul Queen?….Wait do you even watch drag race?

I’m way too grumpy for that stuff! And I’m a terrible gay, I know.

I have actually never even seen a full episode of RPDR, can you believe that?

I bet you can.

I have been present in a bar long enough to finish my drink after they started screening the current weekly episode. Does that count?

It’s a little trope-y, but my take on this is a little derivative of the old Groucho Marx quote about not wanting to be a member of any club that would have me as a member. Basically, every other gay person is losing their shit over it, so I want nothing to do with it.

It’s weird, since I do enjoy being around Drag Queens so much.

Upside? I had no desire or care to know what the hell the whole “Vanjie” thing was. I was amused at how crazy it seemed to be making people, though.

2. Why so grumpy?

I wear this adjective like a mantle of pride.

Truth be told, though? I think I’m pretty happy.

I get grumpy when people are rude or even careless about their role in a society.

Just this morning, as I approached the cafe, I had to make a decision about manners. There was a woman approaching the door from the opposite direction. She was a little closer, but I naturally move a little faster than she due to my height.

In my mind, I see my grandmother, standing there waiting for me to open the door for her. I decide that even if I step up my pace a bit, best case is we’ll arrive at the door at the same time.

A) This will allow me to open the door for her, but it opens in the direction she is approaching from, so that would actually be an inconvenience for her.

B) It’s gonna look like I was trying to beat her to get into the cafe first.

So I end up hanging back.

Yes, I’m a little neurotic.

No, this isn’t sexist, I’d have had the exact same dilemma if there was a guy approaching the door.

She looks right at me as she opens the door just enough to squeeze through and let’s it close on me.

Ok

Inside, she peels off to the left instead of heading straight for the counter. I figure she’s looking for someone or staking out seating before she orders and continue on. Then she abruptly changes course toward the counter so I roll my eyes and slow down – again, trying to not appear like I’m jockeying for position in line.

She passes the counter and I realize she’d been looking for the restrooms as she tries the door and I think, “You’re gonna need a key”…which is conveniently available from the barista station. She grabbed it without acknowledging the staff standing nearby and went off down the hall.

Basically, all of this awkward dancing I did with this woman was so she could deuce out without buying anything. In and of itself, that bugs me – using a business’ bathroom without patronizing the business itself. However, the oblivious manner in which she interacted with myself and the barista just rankled me.

I’m actually trying to work on my reaction to people like this. I remind myself that I don’t know her situation and try to assuage my frustration and head off my judgment.

Still…can’t you even give a sheepish “Hi” to the barista who’s gonna end up cleaning the bathroom? I know you’re doing a pee-pee dance, we’ve all been there, can’t an American ego handle this scenario? After all, we all start off learning the same thing at pre-school story time:

So chill out.

3. Since you are looking for work, if you could do any job what would it be?

Oof. This is a great question! I’ve been in retail my entire adult life, see also: Why so grumpy

Not only is retail comfortable to me because I know the expectations so well, but I also love the social opportunity that the nature of the environment provides.

On top of that, the chaos the job provides is energizing. I can get to work each day with a mental list of what needs to be accomplished that day. My expectation is that that to-do list goes out the window the first time I pick up the phone or as soon as I open the door. Taking care of my customers’ needs and still accomplishing my deliverables for the day is a fun challenge.

Frustrating as it can be, it’s hard to imagine a job without that chaotic nature. It allows me to leave with a sense of satisfaction every day that is more rewarding than the validation payday provides every two weeks.

That said, I’ve tried to escape the retail grind a couple of times in my career. Nothing fulfills me the same way.

I think writing would.

I started this blog to develop my writer’s voice. I’ve learned that my inner writer has quite a foul mouth. It’s hard to monetize that as a copy writer without a filter, so that can limit paid writing opportunities.

As far as writing a novel?

Well, that doesn’t really pay that well, but I’d still like to do it. I’m just struggling with the reality that my style lends itself to more of a David Sedaris type monologist book and I’d rather emulate a serial type style like one of my writing heroes, Armistead Maupin.

It’ll happen…just not in a “this is my job” type of way.

4. Would you ever be someones sugar daddy? would you ever have a sugar daddy?

Right now, I could use a Sugar Daddy.

Certainly, I’ve played a role as a daddy-type in my dating life, it’s the nature of being attracted to younger guys.

However, admitting that I’m attracted to younger guys – despite their inadvertent behavioral attempts to make themselves supremely unattractive to me – rules out having a Sugar Daddy myself. For the same reason that I won’t be someone’s Sugar Daddy: respect.

When I’m dating someone, I need to be able to respect myself and my boyfriend as an equal partner in the relationship. Dating someone for what they can provide financially or for the lifestyle upgrade goes against my ethical grain.

I’m single because there aren’t a lot of guys out there that see me beyond that filter.

Also, because the last guy that could see me beyond that filter proved out the other potential of inter generational dating: staying with me was beginning to retard his development into a fully functional adult.

My golden rule for dating younger guys? Leave ’em better than I found ’em.

He’s actually the subject of one of the two drafts that I mentioned earlier, so you may be reading more about that situation soonly

5. Where in the world have you travelled? and where do you still want to travel to?

Last part first: Australia has been on my bucket list since before the turn of the century. I was actually planning a tenth anniversary trip with Sacha, but we crapped out at the six year mark. Since then, it’s lost its luster to some degree, but I’m planning to reclaim the trip on an individual basis at some point in the next decade!

I’ve been to a good chunk of Europe, but Spain and Portugal are still on my list. I’d like to go back to Italy for a month-long immersion, but I think that’s a post-60s trip. Oddly, the eastern parts of Europe have never really had much of a pull for me.

My first trip off the North American continent was to Northern Africa, mainly Egypt. I think there’s still some exploring to do in that region, but I definitely want to experience South Africa before I die. Or after, maybe disembodied travel is cheaper!

Now…the hard part, paying it forward. Who to nominate…

What makes this hard isn’t just a matter of who to nominate. Every blog I follow, I enjoy. Choosing would be easy through that filter. The tough thing is, who would appreciate it? I joke about these awards being “Everybody Gets a Trophy” affairs and call them Montessori Report Cards, but they do mean something to me…they motivate me to keep going when the goals I set for myself are difficult to achieve or when my own inertia is proving difficult to overcome.

That said, I think I’m passing the baton to Ben over at My Casual Trainwreck Life because – like this peer wreckognition type of award, reading his blog can motivate me. We’re a little similar and a little dis. I think he’s a better writer than I am, simply because he seems more disciplined in his style. That makes his writing slightly aspirational to me because it makes me think about how I write and whether I can or should look for the next evolution of my style.

Check him out.

Here are my questions for him, if he chooses to play along:

1) Give us a quick bio to introduce yourself to us. Mother’s maiden name, social security number…just the basics.

2) What’s your end game as a writer, do you have writing aspirations beyond the blog?

3) How do you motivate yourself to produce content?

4) Tell us an embarrassing story.

And…

5) I liked Pacey’s question about where I’ve traveled and where I still want to go, so I’m ripping that one off for you, too!

Thanks, again, Pacey for the nod.

As always, if you like what you see, let me know with a comment or just feel free to share on your own platform.

Cher-ing is caring, as they say!

My So-Called Sunny Disposition

TIL #6: Jenny Protocol

So, this is ideally a series about things I learn from my older friends as I am initiated into the Golden Oldies Club.

Silver Nuggets, as Little Buddy likes to call them.

But yesterday I had a chance to give back!

I was out to coffee with the Silver Fox and I told him I needed toothpaste, so we swung into the RiteAid so I could pick some up on the way back. He decided to impulse buy some flossers and we were off to the checkout.

Like many stores, the RiteAid has a loyalty program. You earn points for every dollar you spend and they repay you with a discount on your purchases, based on your level of spending.

Now, it’s totally not important, but I feel like I have this unreasonable point of pride around being in the “gold” reward level. All this really means is that I save 20% on my purchases.

And that I spend a lot of money at the RiteAid.

Getting old ain’t cheap, my prescriptions are expensive.

So, I go to the register with my toothpaste while The Fox skulks around being next in line. I save my $1.20-something and pay as The Fox joins me for his turn. The cashier asks if he’s a rewards member and he admits that he isn’t.

Like with social media, rewards programs go into The Fox’s “Fer Suckas” bucket and he steers clear of them.

He’s not opposed to a punch card, but nothing that requires an email or phone number.

Probably not a bad idea, given how grumpy I get deleting marketing emails from everyone in the Northern Hemisphere.

But

There’s a workaround.

Or two…

Take grocery stores. At the Safeway or Fred Meyers, for instance. Sacha and I were rewards members at both places. When he bailed, I continued to use the landline number at our house to get those discounts even though the programs were in his name.

There wasn’t a Safeway near me when I moved to Shittatle and there was only one distant Freddy’s. Interestingly, Fred Meyer is a Kroger subsidiary, but their reward programs aren’t linked so I just signed up for my own Kroger reward account.

Being back in Portland now, I go to the nearby Safeway to drop my recyclables every couple weeks and will pick up cat food and La Croix and whatever I might need for a dinner or two…I still plug in my old landline number from my Sacha days and badaboom-badabing…I get the club member pricing.

Sacha can have the fuel perk, I don’t need it.

He says I’m mean to him.

Pish.

On the other hand, that whole Kroger thing worked against me when I moved back to town, because their system doesn’t recognize my landline. Either it was inactive too long and auto-purged from the system or we used Sacha’s cell number for the membership. Hey, I’m lucky to remember my landline from 15 years ago, don’t expect me to remember my ex’s old phone number. It’s all I can do to ignore his texts versus blocking the number.

Regardless, in this instance I simply activated the Jenny Protocol.

Yup, when I go to a store where I don’t have a rewards account – assuming I don’t want one, either – I simply type in my local 503 area code followed by Jenny’s number…867-5309.

Works.

Every.

Damn.

Time.

So, there I was explaining this to The Fox in the RiteAid while the cashier stared at me in slack-jawed amazement. I was getting a good chuckle over it until I realized he just wanted me to put my number in to keep the line moving…

TIL #6: Jenny Protocol

The Great Job Hunt 3.1

PaMiDa Edition

I spend a lot of time reflecting on my past. Because: neurotic. But I also spend a lot of time recently wondering if this is what it’s like from here on out.

Reliving the glory days.

Although, humorous as my stories can be, surely one life shouldn’t provide so much schadenfreude. That being the case, perhaps gory days is a better way to describe my life of one bumbling mishap after another.

It really has been fun being me, so I hope there are new misadventures in store for me yet!

Maybe I’m just noticing my tendency to reflect more with my extra free time since quitting my job. When I go back to work, things might change.

Until then, maybe it’s an escape? Don’t bother asking what. Before I get into the fun stories from this PaMiDa outfit, I’ll tell ya what from what I require escape:

1) Honestly, I think I give a job search in retail management the attention it deserves. There aren’t a lot of appropriate jobs out there. As a matter of fact, many of the positions I’m interested in end up frustrating me. Sometimes the posts are for companies I’d like to work for that don’t actually have the opening for which they are advertising. Whether this is the unlikely scenario of looking to fill a job before “at willing” the person currently in the job or just a – more likely – way to pad their EEOC coffers, just in case. Since I have never gotten a call from someone that wanted to talk to me about a job I applied for six months earlier, I’m thinking that whole “keep your Application on file for future openings” schtick is a bunch of BS and don’t see the value of this practice…other than to tick me off.

Another frustrating thing about my current search is employers demonstrating their incompetence up front. That’s really kind of them, but frustrating since I see a position I’m qualified for with a company I’d like to work for and then I see something like this when I click on the link to apply

or, better yet, a link to a job in another city instead of a post for the specific city where this job search is occurring. I know it’s hard to believe, but I live in Portland, Oregon and would rather not move to Auburn-friggin’-Washington to work. Little known fact, the landfill in Auburn gives the place an aroma that makes me wish I was at a dinner party with rotting corpses, versus anywhere near that dump of a city.

One of the most aggravating things about being unemployed – even by choice – is seeing incompetent people with jobs that they do poorly.

2) Thinking about funny good times from “the old days” is an effective offset from the uglier parts of your past.

Case in pointing saw this as I was heading to bed the other night.

Sacha has never liked the idea that he gets mentioned in my blog occasionally.

At first, I was surprised he read the damn thing since we aren’t in contact these days. He insists that our mutual friends inform him about his occasional mentions. This kinda tracks, since he takes exception to entries he appears in in what I would consider a positive manner.

Because it’s not like our relationship was six years of bad times, I challenged his assertion to react based on what our mutual friends were allegedly telling him about his starring role in the blog with the idea that if they were feeding him negative information, maybe they weren’t as good a friend as he was thinking…cuz like I said, I don’t set out to write negatively about him. Today aside, virtually all of his mentions are from over a decade ago and from my perspective not terrible.

And he still cares…or our mutual friends do, as he’d have me believe.

But, I could see him having a reasonable objection to his original blog name since it was quasi unflattering…unless you actually read the blog post, then it’s just awkwardly cheeky. Still, to spare his ego – er, feelings – I shortened his blog name to Sacha as a sort of acronym for his original moniker.

Plus, Sacha is a lot easier on my fingertips.

He tried commenting early on in my blog some petulant BS, but he wasn’t a wordpresser, so publishing his comment would have ruined his anonymity by broadcasting his email – and, ergo his name – to any reader who cared to check my comment threads. I explained this to him in a text after he accused me of being “too scared” to post his comment but just got more bluster for my attempt to shield his identity from his own spin control.

His comment the other day was breathtaking. It takes a special kind of bastard to kick a guy when he’s down – he was commenting on my entry about basically being punished at my last job for being a whistleblower – but add to that the extra layer of bother he went to by creating a wordpress profile just to be able to make a petty, vitriolic comment “anonymously”.

And that’s all I’m saying about that, because I try to keep my stories about him and our relationship about that time in my life. I know nothing about his present day life, aside from these occasional and unwelcomed glimpses of his present day efforts at charm.

I dunno…maybe if I’d changed his blog name to Huge Dick, he’d have been happier. He was generally pretty proud of being a show-er. Maybe that hint at flattery would have blinded him to the double entendres. Or maybe apologizing for his original moniker – Sucks At Cheating Ex – since he seemingly didn’t get the cheeky entendres behind that name.

<ahem>

Let me try that now…Sacha, you don’t suck at cheating.

What kind of sociopath is proud of that skill? If any of us are going to cheat, I would hope we suck at it just to speed shit along.

I guess I did have a little more to say about that…

However, onto the fun stuff!

I was originally wanting to share some memories of one of my first jobs.

That was the point of this entry, although a little context had seemed appropriate to demonstrate the allure of my visit to Memory Ln.

I had had jobs before, picking berries in the summer, delivering papers, shagging balls – shut up, Diezel – at a driving range – still shut up, Diezel – but my first real job was at a place called PaMiDa.

I started working here shortly after my family moved to Atchison, Kansas. PaMiDa is/was a big box discount retailer, much like Target or Walmart and it was close enough to home at the time to walk to, a perfect commute for me in my sophomore – no, wait…junior? – year of high school, since I didn’t always have wheels at my disposal.

Legend had it that the owner had named the outfit after his three kids, Pat, Mike and Dan…Dave? It’s been 35 years, I forget.

My department manager there was a nice enough curmudgeonly greaseball of a guy named Doug.

(Hidden irony)

Hygiene was not high on his daily to do list. I could usually depend on seeing him in the same short sleeve button down shirt with pit stains and ring around the collar, black clip on tie and his red PaMiDa vest lurking around the department. I say lurking, but he was usually making the rounds, creating a to do list for us as he monitored the goings on with his trademark heavy lidded, shifty gaze. For his caricature-making hygiene and habits, he was a pretty fair and respectful supervisor. I have learned through many years of trials and tribulations that there are worse bosses.

Atchison wasn’t the least diverse of towns, but it certainly wasn’t in any danger of being called a melting pot. I had one black co-worker, Sheila, who lived on the other side of Division St, if you get my drift.

I loved her!

She had one of these full body laughs that no one could not enjoy. She was the jocular offset personality to Doug’s outward schlub. I was glad she was in my department but simultaneously sad, since it meant we usually worked opposite shifts and I didn’t get to see her much.

Which is why she was probably caught off guard when I walked around the corner of the aisle she was working in to find her muttering to herself. I’d heard Doug’s voice and needed him for some reason or another.

Sheila, for her part, did not. At least that’s how it seemed since she was muttering something about how he should get his “day old sex smelling ass” out of her face as he left from the other end of the aisle.

That’s certainly a graphic statement.

She turned to me as I asked her what she’d said, thinking she was talking to me. I was a teenager, I assumed everything was about me.

(And still may…)

When she realized she was caught, she laughed one of her longer full body laughs. It was so loud that I think it may still be echoing though the building. She nearly fell off the ladder she was working on as she tried to dismount it, still laughing. She supported herself on my shoulder, holding herself up as she doubled over…still laughing.

As she began to regain control, she wiped away tears, apologized for speaking her thoughts aloud and said, “I’m so embarrassed. If I was white, I’d be red right now!” in a demonstration of self-effacing reverse racist humor that made me laugh nervously at the time.

Now? I think it’s hilarious. I wish I’d understood the humor as well at the time so I could have enjoyed the moment less awkwardly with her, but two people laughing uncontrollably at our department manager’s expense would have just drawn unnecessary attention.

Oh, Shiela…

While I am pretty sure that the store manager interviewed and hired me, Doug introduced me to him during my store tour on the first day of work. It was something along the mumbled lines of, “This is Mr Stickler, the store manager…” as we were speeding by on our little tour.

Stickler.

I was young enough – and naive enough – to accept what my ears told my brain at face value. Therefore, despite what my eyes screamed at me on the daily, I spent the next three months greeting and responding to him with a “Good morning” or “Hi!” or a simple, “Yes, sir”, Mr Stickler.

Much to the terror or utter amusement of my co-workers and head scratching chagrin of my store manager, Mr Strickler.

Missed it by one very important letter.

Nonetheless, fate placed him right in front of me to enjoy the look on my embarrassed teenage face when that omitted “r” finally clicked into place for me.

I was white, so I was red!

Fate being a bitch, this had to occur right after my closest encounter with a tornado. Of course, that obviously turned out ok for me, but had the tornado happened after my embarrassing realization, I might have hoped for a more shituationally merciful outcome.

Of course, I’m happy with the way things turned out…near miss with a funnel cloud. At the time, i has seen several tornadoes. However, I’d never really seen a funnel cloud or understood its connection to a tornado, so this was quite the educational moment for me…

I was covering a break at the front registers and was staring hypnotically at the parking lot out of the 60-feet of plate glass windows when the associate returned. Following my gaze skyward to the gray and black clouds coalescing into a shallow swirl over our store parking lot, she advised that probably we should move away from the window. This happened just about the time the city’s tornado warning sirens went off and other associates ran to the front from their respective departments.

We mostly ended up watching the slow moving swirl pass over our parking lot like a bunch of Darwin Award honorable mentions. We were ready to duck behind the cash wraps, should the funnel look like it was going to touch down. For all the good that would do.

At some point in my senior year, Mr Strickler quit. He had apparently bought the…I wanna say, Taco Time franchise across the street from us and was working there as an owner/operator. I didn’t understand going from working in a store like PaMiDa to fast food, even if you were the owner.

At the time, PaMiDa was the best job in the world! Definitely gets a good bit of credit for me starting down my retail career path. Of course, at the time I was gonna go to college and then law school, so the wrap lawyers had in the 80s for being basic shit-heel people didn’t hurt the eventual lure of retail’s sense of immediate career gratification…

The Great Job Hunt 3.1

Galby’s Grow Op

No, mom…I’m not growing pot!

She’d totally turn me in, too.

No, my grow op is my lil patio pot garden.

Mom totally endorses this type of grow op. Out in “the wilds” surrounding my family’s homes in Columbia County, there are three Galby Gardens. One for each of my parents’ and siblings’ yards. Having a hopefully lush patio is the least I could do to try to blend in from my urban abode.

Mom even made a contribution at our lunch this week, trucking this lil baby in with her and Dad.

Let there be salsa! Er…tomatoes. I know there’s no such thing as a salsa bush.

Most surprising to me after planting my initial garden over in 3C last year was how Myrtle left the plants alone. She had killed most of my indoor plants, Christmas Cactus barely survived. There are still leaves with Myrtle’s bite marks scarred into them, so I was surprised she hadn’t tried to kill last year’s or even this year’s patio plants.

Sure enough, she’s content to sit peacefully amongst the greenery.

Well, she was sitting peacefully until I went to snap a pic, then she went on high alert.

Crazy cat.

To further nurture my yard-ly yield, my absentee takeaway from last year’s white elephant family Christmas celebration was an AeroGarden, which I just decommissioned today after what I hope will be a successful transition from hydro to soil.

Wish me – and these lil babies – luck.

The mini-countertop garden kit came with basil, dill and parsley. I was most excited about the basil, since I grow tired of buying mine. However, this plant got monstrous on my counter and dwarfed the other two in the aeroponic setup. Probably, I should have done this weeks ago. I fear the poor thing is too top heavy at the moment to successfully support itself, hence the alley oop from the deck railing.

The basil is still that big and heavy after taking 1/3 of the plant off…fingers crossed.

After planting the three victims – er – herbs, I think the parsley is the prettiest. Being in the creative couple’s project pot that Sacha and I each painted half of certainly enhances the delicate beauty of the plant itself.

I love that damn pot.

Again, not pot-pot. The one that survived the end of our relationship, ten years of condo living with no deck after moving to Seattle and then the return move to Portland. I rather like having a tangible reminder of that relationship. What better reminder than something we created together?

Regardless of how the new additions take to their soil surroundings, I’ve still got the perennials that I added this Spring as well as my personal favorite – don’t tell the others! My olive tree.

The Silver Fox was over the other day and remarked that it was really taking off. That’s a big improvement over his earlier observation as Winter began to give way when he said it didn’t look like it was doing too well. He’s some sort of master gardener, so I usually pay attention to his advice and admonishments…even when he ends up being wrong!

Anyway, last night he was over to watch some TV and I took the opportunity to passive-aggressively ask his advice on the olive tree and how to/when to prune it. I think it’s getting a little shrubby looking.

“Google ‘how to prune an olive tree'”, he offered.

Touché, Fox. Touché.

Should I name my olive tree?

“Olive” would be too obvious, right?

How about “Carl”? “Carl the Olive Tree”, no one would expect that…

Galby’s Grow Op

Indigo Girls

“Well, that can’t be a coincidence”, I thought as a CD title caught my eye in my local Long Beach music store. The album in question was simply titled Indigo Girls. It was on sale, so being a newly-ish minted gay, I bought the CD in a show of solidarity.

My rationale?

Cyndi Lauper talks about it in her 1983 song She Bop…

“Well, I see them every night in tight blue jeans.

On the pages of Blue Boy magazine.”

Blue Boy magazine was a glossy tribute to twink pulchritude. A gay porn magazine, in other words.

Indigo is a shade of blue.

I’ve apparently been jaded forever. But just the right amount. Maybe it’s just in my head that a gender pronoun and shade of blue equals some gay code – indeed, to hear them tell it, they went shopping through the dictionary for words that resonated…indigo struck gold for them for whatever reason – but in my music store, this CD priced at $7 resonated with me.

I’ve been a fan ever since.

I’ve owned every album.

Committed more song lyrics to memory than I thought I had the capacity for.

Lost my shit in the theater when they showed up as extras in Boys On The Side…embarrassing my friends by frantically whispering, “That’s the Indigo Girls!” in the darkened theater.

Seen them in concert in a half dozen cities on two continents..

My favorite performances being their zoo concerts. I’ve seen five zoo shows here in Portland and two more at the zoo in Seattle. The crowds at the concerts used to skew heavily lesbian, given their sexual identities. Once Lilith Fair took the music world by storm and sent female singer/songwriter types on a never before seen trajectory of success, those crowds started to straighten out.

My concert attendance started to fall off then, too. Where I’d always loved the live music experience Indigo Girls concerts provided, it was also a safe environment for me as a gay man…to flirt. Safe, because other guys there were like minded, both in bed and in musical tastes. It was as good a starting point as any for selecting a mate, right?

Never happened.

Matter of fact, the closest I got to an Indigo Girls concert love connection was attending shows for a few years with Sacha. You’d have thought that the Valentines Day show we saw at the Aladdin Theater would have put me off their concerts, but I was a super fan and after that show where Sacha and I argued through the entire thing…well, I started going mostly alone or with girlfriends.

No, what put me off was the intrusion of straight men at the shows. I’d loved the strong female vibe I encountered at their live shows. It was such a safe feeling.

A generous space.

When I looked up at one concert and saw my handful of musically like minded gay men replaced with straight guys who were canoodling through the concert until fuck time…I was done.

Until

A few years back, IG got together with a symphony.

It was crazy.

Rib and I went down to Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle and saw this show. Indigo Girls backed by the Seattle Symphony.

By “crazy”, I mean AWESOME.

Their music lends itself to the process. It’s always featured eclectic instruments, so switching to classic orchestral instruments wasn’t a huge stretch.

The Girls are storytellers, so watching their show always included an intimate glimpse into their music and personalities. My favorite story of this night was the story about the symphony performance itself.

The symphony had been practicing their set independently. The Indigo Girls, of course, had the material down. But they never practiced together until the day of the show!

The Indigo Girls roll into town – I am pretty sure this was before Amy married a girl from Seattle, so she wasn’t a randomly occurring celebrity in town yet – do a couple numbers with the orchestra and then peace out until showtime, hoping for the best.

Why is this anything important to know?

Well, Today I Learned on the Facebook that there was a symphony album coming out. Twenty-two songs, with a video of Galileo to kick it all off.

I.

Was.

Excited.

I watched the video a couple of times. It’s not their best live performance, but I can only take their word for it when they talk about the humbling experience of putting your voice in front of a giant machine like a symphony orchestra.

Viewed through that filter? This is incredible. If nothing else, it elevates the majesty of the stories their songs have always told.

From almost 1990 to almost 2020…these ladies have been and have made an enormous impact on my life. I jokingly say that at the end of my life, my relationship with my cell phone carrier will be the enduring relationship of my lifetime.

Compared to my musical relationship with Indigo Girls (they prefer no article in their band name) and Melissa Etheridge, the more accurate statement would be that the relationship with these two acts shaped the adult gay man that I became and one of the significant relationships of my life.

Interesting recipe, equal parts family, catholic school and music subculture equals…me. What an arc it’s been for us both.

And I can’t wait to hear this album!

Indigo Girls

Let’s Bring It In

“C’mon, now. Give us a hug.” – Not Me

Ok, big news in the Silver Fox family from this past weekend: Number One Son has returned to Portland with his family after living away for just about ever. They weren’t far away, just a few hours of driving.

The Fox and Sallory, though are looking forward to having the grandbebe available in real life versus FaceTime, so it was quite an exciting weekend!

In related news, The Fox abandoned me for the weekend again to help with the move.

To make up for it, The Fox bought his son a “Welcome to the ‘Hood” beer at Big Legrowlski after they arrived in town.

Oh, and invited me along to say “Hi!”…that was the “making up for it” part.

Fortunately for me, this just happened to be the weekend that a couple of friends came into town for the weekend. That was well played, indeed, Universe.

What do these events have in common?

Beer.

Obviously.

Lots.

But, also, hugs.

Lots and unexpectedly lots of hugs.

I haven’t seen my visiting friends or The Fox’s son in person in years. But it was when I walked up to find Fox & Son outside the BL (as we call it), tossing back already in progress, that I started thinking about hugs as a communication device.

This is a big deal for me, since I don’t come from what I’d call a hug culture.

Well, apart from trees, that is.

I remember the family send off at my sister’s wedding as she and her husband took off for their honeymoon. We all stood in a receiving type line as she hugged her way to the car. It was all pretty standard rite of passage stuff until she gets to Black Sheep Bro and they hug. Gradually, he raises one leg and slowly wraps it around her hip. It was a pretty funny moment as well as a commentary on how little our family hugged, since he blurred the lines between platonic and intimate with his.

Although, I’m sure that meaning was hidden from him at the moment.

Regardless, we all got a good chuckle.

Maybe it’s just me and my shoddy memory. Then again, maybe my memory is correct this time around and my family was actually hug naive.

I don’t really care.

However, as an adult, I don’t really remember hugging to be part of a normal family greeting or farewell past the wedding hug until Sacha came into the pic. Then again, maybe we were re-traumatized by that wedding incident. Who knows?

Say what you will about Sacha – and if you ask him, I’m only ever barfing negative and embarrassing shit about him into the universe – but I remember hugging becoming a part of my family experience during his visits to our family gatherings.

It was kinda weird to see him hug my mom goodbye while I just chucked her on the shoulder with a casual, “Take care of yourself, Old Girl”. At first I managed no better than a one-armed side hug. Gradually, I was able to work my way up to a full frontal two-armed job because: growth.

So, when my Seattle friends arrived in town on Friday, it was the usual quick “gay friend w/a peck” greeting for us all and we were off. Honestly, not my favorite part of the gay culture, but given the expression I am happy bending to the cultural norms with my close friends who are so inclined. Casual acquaintances don’t get the same courtesy, they can make due with my normal not at all awkward typical greeting…

I didn’t think about those quick, off the cuff greetings that are the usual until I got to the BL yesterday and told Number One Son not to get up since he had his pup on his lap. He gave me an “oh, nonsense!” type response and got up to hug me.

That was when it dawned on me.

Well, 10 seconds later it dawned on me as I dropped my arms but couldn’t move away because I was still being hugged. The length of my embrace was just about the same amount of time it took to silently congratulate myself for not gay-smooch-greeting my best friend’s straight son – hey, nobody’s perfect. But that’s where I’m still newish to this whole hugging thing.

I’m assuming NOS was raised in a hugging environment. The Fox will confirm my suspicion soon enough. And it shows, because he’s got some serious hug game.

In my spare time while he wrapped things up, I started thinking about how sincere the greeting was. Not casual, like I’m used to with those carefree gay greetings where I find myself doling my casual greetings out only to significant people in my life.

Reread that.

How fucked up is that statement? Rationing out a throw away gesture to people I care about.

Now, back to NOS. As I’m standing there recanting my earlier silent congratulatory “attaboy” and chastising myself for blowing the appropriate hug duration. Then I relax into it and can feel the subtext of his hug.

It’s genuine.

Sincere.

Like I said, he had some good hug game and he’s happy to see me.

Me.

Miserable, old, grumpy Xtopher.

But that sharing of a physical connection as a greeting. Well, I started to ponder when that dropped out of our human or American cultural norm – I’m betting on the latter – and whether, no…how that impacted how we treat one another present day. I admit that I am one to harrumph at demonstrations of our discarding of social graces and niceties. I am also one to call myself out when maybe I’m part of the problem.

Potentially.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we spend 15 minutes hugging ourselves into and out of each family or social gathering, who has that kind of time? But let me tell you, after yesterday’s hug? I’m good for a while. I only wanted one beer as we sat chatting…but I fully admit that it could have been more a product of me being both cold – since we were sitting outside and it was 56 degrees – or my dinner nachos making me full.

But why not a combination of all three?

I like when something so seemingly innocent provides me the chance to think about how I interact with others and what I can learn from exposing myself – not like that – to other people.

It inspires me.

To be a better son.

And friend.

And person.

So, I can add Number One Son to the too short roster of truly great huggers in my life. It’s good to have him in town. I’m looking forward to seeing how The Fox adjusts to having family close by, I know his people mean a lot to him and the poor guy is usually stuck with this grumpy old bastard.

I apologize for the lack of media for your viewing pleasure in this post. I had a couple of fun hug gifs to enhance the theme, but WordPress was being wonky and would let me add them in.

And people wonder why I’m grumpy…now I need another hug.

Let’s Bring It In