M.A.S.H. Up

I had the most realistic dream last night.  One of those dreams that makes you doubt reality.  

The strange aftereffect was further enhanced by a couple tangents.

First of all, the dream was about David Ogden Stiers.

He’s kind of one of my so-called life extras, a phrase I carried away from my time with Sacha.  By the by, Sacha complains that I only write horrid lies about him – basically – so I’m sure he’ll be blind to the fun memories I have of life extras with him.


Anyway, DOS was a life extra because of the Pearl District Segue Dude, who whips around the Pearl on his segue – in case you were struggling with the name – looking a lot like DOS, who had famously lived in Oregon.

Giggles reminded me that he had indeed still lived in Oregon at the time of his death when she posited that there might be an influx of M.A.S.H. celebs through the airport for his services.  She was giddy to the point of distraction, which was pretty crazy for someone born within a year or two either way of the show airing.

So, I guess that’s Tangent One, before I really ever get to the damn dream.

Nice pacing, Xtopher.

In the dream, Giggles’ own dream of celebrity sightings during her shift did, indeed, come true.


Alan Alda pulled a Carrie Fisher and dies on his arriving flight.

My dream reaction was so vivid that I woke up.  Then I couldn’t tell if it was something I’d seen as a push alert on my phone when I checked the time or part of my dream.  The two potential realities coalesced that quickly.

I go into my phone and start checking the news.

Some Korean actor killed himself after some #metoo allegations surfaced.  Giggles is a huge K-pop fan, so that tangent just keeps fueling my confusion and distraction.  Not that K-pop and Korean actors share the same spotlight or affections in Giggles’ universe.

The D’Wayne dude that inspired Scott Bakula’s character on NCIS New Orleans died.  I’ve never really liked the New Orleans franchise, nor Bakula’s character…so this news was kinda awkward.

Surely Alan Alda dying would scoop either of those two celebrity-ish deaths.

Still, I google Alda specifically just to be sure.

Still alive.


…and he’s been married to the same woman for 60 years!  Amazing!  Then again, he’s one of those people that I just assume is an amazing human based solely on his acting.  I fully admit that there’s no correlation, but there it is.  

Don’t judge my crazy brain.

So, in awesome Pam Ewing style, I’d dreamed it all.  This was not tangent two.

This was.

Of course, I had to tell the Silver Fox about it on the way to coffee.

Of course, he had to scoop my ass with his own DOS story by reminding me that one of his condos – either the one he rented, which I believe is correct, or the one he ended up buying – belonged to DOS’ boyfriend.

Me: Y’know, I don’t think you ever actually told me that!

Which devolved into a brief summary of this guy’s resume and a reminder of DOS’ famed involvement with the symphony community on the Oregon Coast.

Now, that’s a tangent.  As only The Fox can provide.

I was still kinda turning this damn dream over in my mind as I was out running errands when I saw this on Broadway.

Sorry about the crap picture, but I was relieved to see Segue Dude alive and well after the surreality of my morning.  Just zipping down the busiest N/S street in downtown Portland like a damn boss.

M.A.S.H. Up

Birthday: Food

My birthday was a week ago.

There may be (there is) a cake and fork situation in my refrigerator.  Only just barely, now, though…

But that cake is just the icing on a fantastic birthday celebration.

This is my big landmark birthday and it fell on a weekend.  The perfect recipe for breaking those diet resolutions I never bothered to make.




Plus a secret gold star that I survived…but might be too big a shock for people who know me to survive.

The food started on Saturday with a solid four dozen peanut butter cookies that a couple of my co-workers made.  They were taking up too much desk space so I pared them down by a good half dozen in the first half hour.  

A full third were gone by day’s end.

At which point, I had to run out to get ready for my surprise party.

God bless The Silver Fox, but when Little Buddy called dibs for Saturday night, I knew something was brewing.  For his part, he kept the bond of trust, never admitting there was a jig, up with which to be.

And I threw out some doozy theories in the week leading up to the big day.  Seriously, I had the whole thing being filmed by any surviving Zapruder.

Little Buddy had told me she was inviting The Fox, who then made his apologies in advance for missing the get together because he had tickets to a play with Sallory.

“Like you won’t be changing those plans!”, I taunted.

I went on through the week with scenarios like, “The big surprise will be when I show up and announce that I’m only 40”.  

The Fox invited me to join he and Sallory at the hotel bar next door – he and I are…regulars – and kept changing the time.  I teased him with accusatory questions like, “How long does Little Buddy need to sneak in and decorate my place?!?”

It’s not that big and there’s nowhere really to hide.  But if that was the plan…I’m fortunate to have folks who would be bothered to go out of their way  for me.

He insisted that wasn’t the case, but when he had casually suggested the day before that we stop and get his Key Buddy key made for my new place…well, c’mon.  You don’t have to be an Olympic caliber conclusion jumper to arrive at the too easily drawn…conclusion.

All my scenarios be damned, though.

I show up at Tanner Creek Tavern and it’s just The Fox and Sallory.

We have a beer, they ordered food because somehow they hadn’t changed their tickets. There is only one opening night!  Even at The Armory.

I’ve been wrong a lot in my life, so I rallied pretty easily.  Plus, Sallory had brought me a present!

Presents: that which I secretly love but publicly play it cool.

This was still a nice upgrade from last year, though, when The Fox had bothered to be out of the country for my birthday.  I just love busting his chops.  He could light me on fire and he’d still be the best friend I’ve ever known.

This year, Rib and his new boyfriend had taken a page out of The Fox’s birthday playbook and gone to watch the Australian Open live, which inconveniently occurs around my birthday.

So, there we are, us three.  Beer and wine raised to toast the eve.  I’m happy to have them for even a little while.

And while I’m enjoying a simple moment with dear friends, I find myself following four eyes across the bar, focused on black balloons parading from the door and headed in our general direction,

Ok, that one I did not see coming.

Little Buddy.



The good and getting better friend…he really will need a blog name at some point.

All parading toward our table.

Well, that can’t be a coincidence.

Wires having been crossed, I was expelled from the bar and left to cool my heels in the hotel lobby so our table could be staged with all the required fiftieth birthday party accoutrements.

You know, I’m lucky to have people I love in my life who also tolerate me.  Less surprising to me, but perhaps me alone, is that there’s a bar in my life that doesn’t mind setting aside a table for my friends to mark my pickled ass’ birthday.

On a damned Saturday.

In downtown Portland.

On the Onesie Pub Crawl weekend.

Whatever.  I was here first.

When I returned from my lobby exile, the Filipina Fox and her husband had joined the birthday melee.  So had a new instant friend that I’d met at LB’s and 2.0’s wedding last summer (more on that in a later blog, promise) and her younger, better looking and more Asian blooded version of my doppelgänger boyfriend.  Little Buddy had rallied quite a bar busting group for this lil surprise shindig.  

I was pleased.

So, Little Buddy had made this cake.

It was glorious, but also a shituation, as I learned.

She had been aiming to do a cake-homage to both my Star Trek fandom and my Red Shirt Diaries blog theme.  The red fondant hadn’t cooperated and she’d scratched it and taken it back to the drawing board for a slam dunk of subtlety that bumped the overt Enterprise shaped 30th birthday cake to second place in the Best Ever Cake category,

Sorry, not sorry, Sacha.

It was a Tribble Cake.

I mean, I ate a bunch of those tribbles and a healthy slice of cake.

And a second beer, duh.

Happy as I was, I learned that this party was portable.  There was a table waiting for us at Nostrana.

It’s a tres she-she Italian restaurant that I’d never been to.  I’ve eaten several times at the Pearl District sibling restaurant, but that’s just a front for $50 pizza.  Nostrana is a mother lode restaurant.

We ate the pants off that place.

Remember, I was full from beer and cake.  

Let that stop me, I did not.

2.0 started us off with a charcuterie plate that featured typical sliced cheeses and cured meats as well as a few terrine options and fucking lengua.

Yeah, that’s beef tongue.





Little Buddy corralled the Som for some wine.

We were also downing bread like Dr Atkins was heading our way in slo-mo with a scale.


Then…the pasta main course.

The plan had been to take my Michael Douglas ass out to a bar after dinner but the trifecta of the Onesie Bar Crawl, 2.0 comfort considerations (in a gay bar) and my grumpy old man refusal to pay cover to be ignored in a bar landed us back at my place drinking The Fox’s wine.

It was perfect.

But the weekend wasn’t yet done with my belly.

Sunday morning was brunch with The Fox. No doubt penance for not canceling his opening night plans the night before.


Check that…obviously he shouldn’t have made those plans in the first place.


I mean… he knows how extra I pretend to not be.  It’s like we had never even met.

But a one on one brunch with my NSLP – Non Sexual Life Partner – was beautiful.  What a delightful way to usher in day one of my 50th.

It’s surreal to type that.

Post brunch plans included a pre-family dinner nap…and I kind of needed it.  One big meal left in my weekend and I was already ready for my food coma.

We were eight for dinner.  I definitely didn’t get too hungry for dinner with eight.  But I nearly ate my weight with those eight.  If only our table had been at 8:00, that could have been a seizure inducing alliteration.

Alas, my family all traveled the 20-30 miles into town to join me at the newest Pok Pok. This is a Portland “It” restaurant from years past.  I’d never been, so they had opened a new place “ten” blocks from my place to tempt me.  I’ve been meaning to get there for months since they opened.

This was the perfect excuse.

I think we split nine entrees between the eight of us.  They recommend an entree for two people to share, so we were a little over that ratio given our census.  But best safe versus sorry, right?  Plus, I think I forgot a few in my tally.

Here’s my gold star moment:

My whole life, I’ve been a picky eater.  My list of “No’s” for food looks – and probably is – longer than any single person’s list of disqualifies for potential mates.

And yet, I don’t starve.

Because in my years I have learned to think of others, I made sure that our order included the mushroom salad for my mother, who may have single-handedly in life made mushroom farming a viable vocation.  

Seriously.  She loses it for mushrooms.

One of my favorite mom/son bonding stories is of our family table growing up.  At our pre-Chuck family dinner table on La Cour, I had a side of our six top table to myself.  My sporty siblings sat across from me and I sat next to my mother on my side of the table, obvious gay son dinner table placement, right?

Me being the petsnickety culinarian and my mother making her food budget pennies scream to feed her Galby Five, there were a lot of what I would call lesser filler ingredients.


The Peppers Bell.


My awesome mom would sit next to me and eat these Xtopher-only deemed lesser ingredients off my plate.  Right out of their individual and separate piles I’d created for each at the perimeter of my plate.

Talk about a Niles Crane worthy OCD moment.

Talk about symbiosis!

Obviously, I stipulated that this Xtopher anathema of a mushroom salad be placed at the end of the table nearest Mom-Donna, furthest from me.  You know that bitch mushroom salad ended up getting passed to everyone and ended up at my corner.

It was my personal hell.

Me, being both a newly minted legitimately grumpy old man and a dick, I quietly engaged in the dinner table conversation with my family while quietly – and for attention only – eating off the mushroom salad plate.





I even casually and without irony said things like, “I think there are mushrooms in this” and yet…nothing.

I’d only had a glass of wine and a complimentary glass of champers at Thelonious Wines before dinner and a cocktail with, so I wasn’t even buzzed when I made the decision to choke down some mushroom salad, defiantly.

And no one noticed.

So I went home and ate some of Little Buddy’s bday cake…planting a fork in it for future and what turned out to be frequent use!

I’m still full a week later.

And that’s my birthday.

Of course, with so many people I hold dear in my life turning out to celebrate, my grinchy old heart might just be so full that it’s pushing down on my stomach, making me feel that I’ve over eaten.  

Toss up, eh?

For your amusement, the song Pandora barfed out as I’m wrapping this up was Knocking On Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan…you can’t make this shit up.  It’s my life!

Birthday: Food

I’m (Not) A Survivor

It’s Sacha Story Time!

We were together for six years, which is a long time for a broken relationship.  While I’d say neither of our needs were optimally met, we both drew something or some things out of the relationship along the way.  

I’m not going to speculate as to what his takeaways were, but as my birthday draws nearer, I’m drawn back to this draft I originally thought of about last Spring when reading about the TV show Survivor.

You see, Sacha was a creative type and a person that approached his faith in humanity from a busted up, scientific method standpoint.

Pro: He generally gave great, all-in gifts to his loved ones.

Con: He required significant proof that you loved him.

That last one is pretty easy to dispatch with.  

Also, tricky.

Suffice it to say, tokens went a long way with him.  He called them symbols.  Not at all problematic.

Except…100 people surveyed, top 1 answer on the board.  “Name something that symbolizes a commitment in a relationship”.

“Uh, ring?”


So, you just know that came up way too early in the relationship.  And me being a long-game, “what’s next?” type of guy looked at this simple fix as an opportunity to ask what the next fix would be.

Yeah, no ring.

But we did end up with new cars about every other year – that’s every year for him and every other year I got a new car for a week or two until he decided he liked mine better and I got his hand-me-down.

Oh, and three dogs.

So, I was proving as hard as I could, without capitulating, of course.

That’s the con.

The pro?  

Man, there’s a lot of great stuff to talk about.  He was creative, so when he put his mind to it, he nailed gift giving.  Besides being elaborate, they were usually fairly unique and personal.

Take my 30th birthday.  He reserved the back room at this place called The Alibi. 

It was a disintegrating tiki bar in NoPo that we’d go to occasionally with friends.  I called it “the gayest straight bar in Portland”.

This was before the hipsters resurrected it a decade ago when Interstate Ave got its urban renewal shot in the arm.

So, we were just going there to hang out a bit with Black Sheep Bro and his current girlfriend, Jackie Jack Ass.

Everyone I knew was there.

And, Sacha – not a baker, by any means – had made a gigantic cake in the shape of the starship Enterprise-A.  It was, if memory serves, two half-sheet cakes and two tiers of a round cake.  It was pretty fucking amazing, indeed a unique and memorable way to usher in my 30s.

There were the trip-gifts he gave us.  Sure, I usually ended up funding them.  He always earmarked his annual freelance project money for these trip-gifts, but it never fully funded them.  But, it was ok.  We were making memories.  Again, he usually tried to keep them a surprise, requesting time off with my boss behind my back.

It was special.

I’ve been to Italy, France and Holland thanks to these little experience gifts he gave us.

Oh, and climbed a – y’know – volcano.

But even gifts that weren’t extravagant still demonstrated a lot of imagination and thought, making them uniquely personal experiences.

That’s where Survivor comes in.

For one of my birthdays, Sacha came up with this Great Race themed scavenger hunt or Survivor immunity challenge thingy.  He gave me a clue to start me off and then planted subsequent clues and gifts throughout the house.  Behind the TV, in the dryer, in our gazebo-thing…all over the place.  Once again, Black Sheep Bro and Jackie Jack Ass were on hand, following my progress.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t all on board. He kept kinda having to prompt me along.  Maybe it was because this was where I officially began getting old and grumpy.  Maybe the clues were actually more obscure than I could bet my head around in the moment.  Maybe it’s because I was inwardly terrified that he’d somehow actually submitted me to be a contestant on Survivor or Great Race.  

Maybe I just don’t like being propelled into the center of attention.  I can get there quite nicely, thank you.

On the one hand, even though I may not have demonstrated much enthusiasm in the moment, this example of Sacha gift giving also helped get me to the point I’m at today, where experiences are better than actual gifts.

On the other hand, I still carry the relationship wariness from that moment with me.  That I might get caught up as the Ethel to my boyfriend’s Lucy in some crazy harebrained scheme like submitting me as a contestant in a reality show against my will where I have to pretend to be excited about something I’m not. 





Let’s call that Why I’m Single #50 – turns out, I’m actually a reluctant participant.

But, I’m going with the pro: experience gifts > things.

So, there.

My birthday is in two weeks.

I’m not registered…go figure.

Your gift to me?  I’m turning 40.

Go with it.

I’m (Not) A Survivor

Merry Christmas!

And Feliz Navidad!

My Christmas – low key as it usually is in my family, just mainly together-time and food! – was kind of crap this year due to circumstances I couldn’t really control.

Well…I could control them somewhat.  And I did.

But I still ended up working today instead of being off with my family.

What happened is that I had a couple of new associates scheduled to work today that called out sick yesterday, probably a pretty good indicator that not even paying them double time for working the holiday was going to motivate them in to work today.

So…I motivated them in to quitting.

Manipulate is such a negative sounding word and I really feel like my implied ultimatum was effective in getting these two off my team.  That’s important to me, because when people abuse our attendance policy, the rest of the team pays the price.  


I was able and lucky enough to find an associate to volunteer to come in to replace one of their shifts.  But for the other shift I had to push our scheduled Manager On Duty into a store, which meant I got to be the MOD.

It’s fine.


Hold on, while I mop up the mess that sarcasm made.

Christmas plans scuttled, but it didn’t really break my holiday spirit.  I thought I’d try and put together a few of the Christmas memories that came into mind while I worked among the holiday travelers at PDX.

Christmasisms, if you will.

In no particular order…I really just hope to remember the thoughts I enjoyed today on my MAX ride home.

I’ll start with an easy one.

Ever since I took Spanish and Algebra in Junior High, I’ve amused myself by making a little equation out of the word Christmas.

Chris + mas (the Spanish word for “more”) = More Chris!

My staff today might disagree…hey, it’s double time!  I’ve seen enough war movies – both GI Jane and A Few Good Men! – to know double time means “fucking move faster, grunt!”.  

Yeah, that’s inside humor, Chris…

There was the Christmas that my grandfather gave us kids a foosball table.  Man, that was the shit.  I think we were so excited to see that sitting in the back of the El Camino that we collectively wet ourselves.  I didn’t even know gifts could be that cool.

But I did know that gifts could be the exact opposite.  When I was maybe ten, probably younger.  I got a gift that was basically this

As an adult, I’m ashamed of my ten year old self’s (maybe) behavior (definitely).  My paternal grandmother had bought me a suit.  I dare say it was my first suit.

It was very…brown.

Mom made me go into the bathroom and try it on.  I went.  I went and I stared at it, sitting there in its box.

I didn’t think of how little money my grandmother had, and that she’d chosen this while thinking of me.  Yeah, grandma totally knew ten year old me (maybe) was a Future Homo of America (definitely).

No, I didn’t think of that.  I thought of how brown it was.  I was apparently also hardwired to be a bitchy gay, too, since I waited an appropriate amount of time, rustled some paper and then went back out declaring it was, “Fine”.

I also learned at Christmas that gifts could be a rite of passage marker, too.  Like the Christmas Mom and Dad got us three older kids bikes for Christmas.  

Banana seats.

Handle bar streamers.

The whole shebang.

Wait…is shebang a sexist word?  Oh, well…if you’re easily offended you should probably be reading The Bible and not this drivel, so you really only have your delicate self to blame.

You know…the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether those bikes were Christmas gifts or just Awesome Parent gifts.  Well, it’s a good memory, either way.  I remember the three of us taking our bikes out for an inaugural ride, so if it was Christmas, it was temperate.  Riding around our cul-de-sac on La Cour, streamers flying.

Speaking of La Cour, the street I grew up on and fun little equations…my first pets name was Butch, making my porn name Butch La Cour.  <adult toy drop>

Ok…walking home on icy sidewalks now.  Just a couple more quick memories from today’s Christmas Snowmageddon.

I told you about my least favorite clothing gift of all time, how about my favorite clothing gift of all time?

Silk boxers.

Not for me, per se.  I agree with Kramer.

But I remember working a post-Christmas sale at Meier & Frank when I was managing Men’s Sportswear.  Alison, the Men’s Furnishings manager gives me a “Psst!  Hey, hey!” From across the aisle.  When I look up at her, she gives me directions via some crazy eyes that I correctly interpret as “Look over there!”.

Subtle, Alison.

I played it cool and was rewarded with a couple of barely college aged bros walking through the department in sweatpants.

Enjoyable – anytime – for me, probably excruciating for them on this instance since they both appeared to be learning that silk boxers are not practical attire until after you can no longer ejaculate over your own head.

I felt bad for them, but that wasn’t the only thing I was feeling, figuratively.

Gotta love silk boxer season.

Last one, swearsies.

Sacha and I – y’know what?  It’s Christmas.  I don’t want to think of Sacha anymore today.  

Plus, I’m home.  Let’s end this on silk boxers.

I’m gonna go inside, take off my pants, peel off my tights – proper Snowmageddon attire, bad walking ten miles at work attire – and sit on my couch with a pamplemousse La Croix and let my boys air out for a while.

Enjoy that Christmas visual.

Merry Christmas!

Boudoir Art

Alrighty.  Take Two, WordPress.

This morning I read a blog post by a writer I follow about an art show he’d recently attended.  He talked about the unwritten rules around art shows, how depending on the degree of friendquaintanceship with the artist, you may be socially obligated to buy.  He went on to mention that this particular artist’s creations were more bedroom fare than living room pieces, and I thought, “Yup.  Been there!”

I was reminded of a time…

Sacha had broken up with me and I’d come out of my breakup funk, but The Wallpaper had not yet moved in.

The Silver Fox and I were new friends.

Among other things he did to remain too busy, was sit on the board of a gay men and abused women’s health resource organization.  He was helping with an art auction and I went along with him.  

Something outside my norm, for sure.

He wasn’t certain of the outcome or attendance and asked me to make some bids in the silent auction to grease the wheels while he made his rounds, assuring me that I wouldn’t win anything this early but appreciating me helping to build some momentum.

Charities are so rigged.  Lol. 

Of course, I won four items.

Luckily, after saving my home post-Sacha by cleaning out one of my 401k accounts, I had a little scratch left.  Even after treating myself to this lil guy…

I still had the $2k to cover my competitive wheel greasing.  Here’s a couple of pieces I walked with that night:

The B&W was kind of a “meh” moment of bidding as I thought the starkness of the medium and actual barrenness of the scenery matched my emotional self pretty well at the time.  Since then, it’s become a unique piece among my other B&W art, most of the others being drawing or photos of buildings.  

Incidentally, the drawings I own were both done by former employees of mine, further demonstrating the social rules of art shows.  I picked these up back in 2015 when one of my employees at Green Zebra was opening her gallery.  Seriously, the only two pieces I was drawn to ended up being works by two of my other employees.  Crazy.

So, back to that first art show…in – what? – 2005?  No, I think it was 2004.  The second piece I won that night was actually a twin piece.  It’s the burnt orange dot pattern pictured above on the right.  I can’t say it was the only piece I was interested in winning, because it was actually half of a pair.  I loved the set and bid silently on both.  Unfortunately, a German couple was taken with the other half and bid only in it.  

Thanks to my competitive streak, the wheel greasing went a little wild as Otto von Ruining My Life kept trying to outbid me.  I thought I had him as I snuck up to bid again in the final minute.  He was a few feet away and facing the other direction as I scurried behind him and made my winning bid.

As they announced the clip boards were being picked up, I congratulated myself on my win.  When the volunteer got to the table with the twin set, Otto calmly turned, scribbled a bid, looked directly at me and then turned back around.

My inner congratulatory celebration turned in an instant to a slow motion scream of “Noooooooo!”

Fucking Germans.

But, at least I had one the piece with the best story.  Also a piece a normal person would never display conspicuously.

Naturally, I hung it in my hallway in Seattle for a decade, ensuring everyone who visited my condo saw it.

So, here’s the story.

When I saw this piece, my first thought was, “Boy, that sure looks familiar…”

Turns out, it was painted from a profile pic on one of the earliest asocial media platforms, Adam4Adam.  That’s where I’d seen it.

Further, the artist was known as Father John, an actual priest.

That’s a pretty depraved story, right there.  But to further make owning this more personal to me, Father John and his long term partner – while now living in Portland – had been part of the model for the “A Gays” characters in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.  By far my favorite books.

I heard this story, looked at this dick and thought, “I’ve gotta have it!”  You all enjoy that.

I guess I have one final art show tale.

When I was with Rib, one of his co-workers was an artist.  Aung was the epitome of struggling and working on finding her identity as an artist.  We went to several of her shows.  The pieces I bought ranged from “fun” like this Monty Python evoking piece.

To the piece I picked up at a “Rent Show”.

Hey, it fit perfectly in a blank space in my kitchen.  So there’s that.  Neither of these is displayed too prominently, if at all.  But then there is my favorite piece by Aung.

Obviously, I have a thing for pieces with bold colors.

I loved watching Aung mature as an artist.  Even more rewarding was visiting Rib’s flat after we’d broken up and seeing it filled with a bunch of Aung’s work that he’s bought at her “Moving Show” when she left Seattle.

He had learned the rules too well!

Boudoir Art

The Red Shirt Diaries #18

I’m back from coffee with the Silver Fox, our normal Thursday/Friday ritual, where I announced undramatically that I thought I had colon cancer.  It’s a legit back-of-mind concern as I enter the year of the colonoscopy, but The Fox downplayed my announcement.

Oddly, cancer came up again later when I mentioned my stomach had been a little wonky since our beer date last night.  We were at our favorite watering hole, The Big Legrowlski, enjoying a new IPA option from our collective favorite brewery, Barley Brown.  It was an unfiltered IPA called Feast From the Yeast, or something thereabouts.

Anywho, that yeast was doing a number on me.  In addition to feeling tipsy after just a few sips, my stomach just began feeling fluttery as I quaffed.  Not a general flutter, a focused flutter, which is what made it weird.  

Of course, I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying a second pint!

But when I told The Fox about my 14 hour strong stomach flutter, he put me at ease by diagnosing me with pancreatic cancer.  It’s like we were playing hypochondriac poker.

Fortunately, the acid from the two cups of coffee pretty much killed – and then escorted out – whatever it was that was funking up my gut.

Instead of thinking about how cancer or heart disease will probably be my ultimate undoing, I thought I would share another of my less-likely-lethal ends while I sat here uncomfortably on my couch with Mistress Myrtle, who is in an uncharacteristically cuddly mood.

Sacha once corrected my comment about one of my irrational fears by telling me that all fears are irrational.  I disagree, I think my fear of heights and falling a distance is a healthy fear.  Darwin would be proud.

My fear of sharks is irrational.


It’s not that I’m a frequent diver off the Australian Great Barrier Reef or South African Coast or even off Hawaii…then, perhaps, a fear of sharks would be quasi-reasonable.

I’m afraid of a shark attack in any body of water.



Swimming pool.




I blame the Jaws movies.  Well, watching them at an impressionable age, at least.

Seriously, how cute is this?

So, after seeing those films, I became aware of a reluctance to put my head underwater in a swimming pool.  It was a discomfort that remained a fairly stagnant dis-ease as I rarely swam.

However, after Sacha left me and I came out of my post-breakup funk and dipped my toe back into the dating pool, I met this guy who called himself frigginfantastic online and we went on a few dates.  He lived on Hayden Island here in Portland and invited me to go kayaking with him on the Columbia River.

I went.

It was cool.

And disgusting.

Sitting in a kayak, you’re only a few inches from the filth that floats atop the river’s surface.  Discarded styrofoam from a decade ago, plastic, that gross foam and natural debris like twigs and leaves all combing to create a stinky, frothy, disgusting barrier that is quite un-see-through-able.

That lack of visibility awakened my fear of being caught off guard and general vulnerability.  I vascilated mentally between being grabbed by Jason from Friday the 13th and pulled under or just being attacked by a shark.

This was not too long after a news story of a confused shark swimming upriver, so…y’know, top of mind.

Not too long after this, The Fox and I became friends.  We took a trip to his family beach house about a year after meeting and spent a night there as well as at his ex-wife’s house about an hour inland.  I remember standing on the bluff at the beach, watching the surfers bob idly on their boards, waiting for a rideable wave.  Their feet dangling off their boards into the water…I shudder just thinking about it, a shark grabbing their lower leg.

When we got to Sallory’s place the next night, I was confronted by a more tangible challenge to this runaway fear of mine: a drink in the hot tub.  

At night.

The view of the night sky in this rural part of Oregon was awe-inspiring.  Leaning my head back against the side of the tub allowed me to enjoy the celestial view while also completely freaking out about my entire body being underwater and a potential target.  Mentally, I envisioned being bitten in half by a mammoth great white, legs and shoulders being all that was left, bobbing in the hot, frothy, bloody hot tub waters.

I felt the same discomfort last year sitting in my gym’s jacuzzi.  Because I’m obviously deranged.

The apex of this personal terror came during a vacation with Rib.  We’d rented a yurt on an island in the San Juans.  He was all jazzed about renting sea kayaks and paddling out to a nearby island, oblivious to his own mortality like only a 26 year old can be.

Irrational fear of sharks plus kayaking in legit Orca territory equals fuck me.  My heart was pounding so hard the entire time that I’m quite surprised that I didn’t end up with fractured actual ribs.

But, survive, I did.  Fear:  confronted.

Speaking of actual fractures, this was a couple of years before I fractured my tibia running.  The first occurrence.  My doctor decreed that I was retired from running and suggested a less stressful form of exercise, like swimming.


The Red Shirt Diaries #18


I’m on a quasi alliterative titular jag, it seems.

Last night’s entry had lit in its title.

This morning/afternoon, I’m writing about embers.

Later today, I’ve got one tentatively titled woodwork that should post.

You didn’t really need to know that, but these are the things about my blog that I enjoy…so, I’m sharing.

It’s almost noon on Friday.  The first Friday in nearly 49 years that Portland won’t be celebrating the weekend at a dance bar called Embers.

It’s been going nearly as long as I’ve been around.  Sometimes strong.  Others…well, it was one of the bars that I referred to as being in a three-way tie for second worst gay bar in Portland.  

The worst, Casey’s has always in my mind held the best wishes for continued success by these three bars:

One of the contenders for second worst – The Fox and Hounds – sold a few months back and immediately launched a transformative campaign to alienate its base clientele by changing everything.  The campaign was known as “We’re not going to be making a lot of changes or anything”.

Embers shuttered it’s drag stage and dance floor at 2:30 this morning for the last time after announcing earlier this week that its owner had suffered a stroke and was no longer able to run the business.

So…CONGRATULATIONS, EaglePDX, on being the last second worst gay bar in Portland!

Oh, and Casey’s quietly closed a few months back, so…this is a really big day for you!

All that having been said, Embers holds an awkward place in my nostalgic old heart.  So much so, that I would still pop in every couple of weeks or so for a beer and some chat with the staff.  Usually, I was the only non-homeless person and non-somehow tenuously employed by the bar patron in the place.

This is my life, people.  Try not to cringe.

But back before making its run at the title for second worst gay bar in Portland, well…it was an IT bar for Portland.

I was forcibly relocated to the Great Plains before I could legally drink or patronize a night club in Portland.  Two facts that the Great Plains didn’t really give a fuck about, because my Catholic High School honor student buddies started taking me to one of the two (only) premiere (by default) night clubs (dive bars) in beautiful downtown (no comment) Atchison, Kansas to do homework (I shit you not) when I was 14.

Kiby’s East – there was no other Kiby’s – was where I learned to both harshly judge and appreciate a true shit-hole-in-the-wall bar.  When it’s 50% of your choices – 33%, if you seriously consider doing nothing to be an option – you make the most of it.

It was on the banks of the Missouri River.  On sultry summer nights, they’d open up the back doors to let the breeze cool the dance floor.

They had $1 pitchers of beer for what would pass as happy hour.  Perfectly affordable to us high schoolers whose after school jobs paid $2.35 an hour.

I once saw – while taking a study break on the mezzanine – a big muscly guy dancing by himself on the crowded dance floor.  Well, I say he was by himself, but over his wife beater clad shoulders he was wearing what I hoped was his pet boa constrictor cum dancing partner.  I watched as he flirted with it, lifting its head to his lips to kiss at it playfully as the snake’s tongue flickered at his lips.

Then, in an emotionally scarring PDA, he put the whole head of his snake in his mouth.  I’ve seen similar things happen at EaglePDX.  


So, from boas constrictor to feather, I have a good idea of what makes a bar tragic or fabulous or something of the unremarkable in between variety.

Embers was all of these at some point over the 21 years that I’ve been whetting my whistle at its gold fish inhabited bar.

One of The Fabulous Baker Sisters put Embers on my social radar via MySpace after I moved back to PDX from SoCal in the winter of ‘96.  

When The Fourth Fabulous Baker Sister speaks, I listen.  Especially about booze, clubs or in this case, both.

My socializing quickly began to include Embers.

Occasionally, I would go there after work with my team to dance our asses off and blow off steam built up over the course of the week.  I would usually park my Jeep in front of the building I now live in and stagger back several hours later feeling invigorated and refreshed, baptized in the sweaty waters of a smoke machine filled dance floor.

The next day my chicken legs were rubber at work from too much dancing.  But those nights of group dancing with Margi, Candace, Jackie Jack Ass, Erica-Schmerica and Panzy are some of my most treasured 20-something memories.  Pansy being a couple decades our senior, but representing and showing us how it was done…even if toward the end of the night it was done on her back, waving her arms in the air on the dance floor after too many drinks and/or clove cigarettes.

Other times, I’d sit alone at the gold fish inhabited bar and drink.  Raven, one of the older drag performers would chat me up, hitting on my unreceptive ears as we watched Linda Lee obscenely tongue flick her way through performing a song whose words she was only vaguely acquainted with.  This was how I preferred to watch the show after the first time a drag queen hit on me here.  Jumping off the stage after her number and bee lining her way through the crowd of chairs right up to me to introduce herself.

That DQ was a sexy boy, turns out.  I should have set aside my own homophobia and accepted his advances.  Probably, it would have headed off some bad mojo I didn’t know was brewing for my future.

Every Pride Parade I attended in Portland passed by this Portland icon, overflowing the crowd into the street for the day, much like the scene from last night.

Sometimes, I would stop by with Black Sheep Bro, where without fail, my straight slightly younger brother would get hit on in a gay bar and I would not.  That’s fair, thanks, universe.  I chalk it up to my self-unrealized intimidating beauty.

Then there was the time I turned those tables and met a so-called straight boy whose friends had allegedly failed to show up for the evening.  I turned from the bar to face the dance floor after ordering a drink, the machine generated smoke parted and out walked Sacha.

The good old days…yeah.

Ten years later, I moved away.

Ten years later, I moved home.


Embers was still there.

Portland’s heralded gay strip – which Embers was never on – Stark Street, graphically nicknamed Vaseline Alley, had been broken up.  Now, instead of a street filled with gay bars and then Embers, way over there; Portland now had gay bars all over the inner part of the west side of town and Embers was sitting dead in the middle of them.

Literally, dead, as it came to pass.

Living now right across the Park Blocks from the bar, I’d go in there…and it just wasn’t the same.

Some familiar bartenders and staff.

The owner sitting at the end of the bar, being asocial.

Some drag queens.

But the crowd was hard to find.

An occasional crowd at a performance, but now the drag community – at least in these four walls – had become so insular as to be nearly exclusive.  It’s probably my own fault, rebuffing Raven’s advances and dissing that other boy in a dress so many years ago…this was my karma.

Latin night on Sundays.  That had a crowd! But the bar wasn’t so much a celebration of the Latin pop culture of Selena and Shakira as it was a horrifying celebration of a mariachis meets quincinera Latin culture.  Again, it felt strangely exclusive to my old white ass.

Which is too bad, because Latin men…<swoon>.  Looking at you, Wallpaper.

Pride was still an amazing experience here.  Sadly, that raucous party was just a single day in the year.

I stopped trying to catch the nostalgic night scenes from my 20s and 30s and would settle for stopping by for a happy hour drink.

I began walking on the far side of Broadway from the bar after running into a day-drunk friend stumbling out of Embers for the third time in the first six months after moving back to the hood.  Aaah, the glamor of a gay bar that opens at 11 am.

Also, running into bored daytime bartenders smoking on the street put me at too great a risk of becoming that stumbling day drunk person during my idle days.

But now that risk is gone, for better or for worse.

The neighborhood gossip mill has started in with the “here comes more ugly condos” trope, but it could be worse…the building’s decades long decay could just accelerate.

Surprisingly, the rumor mill hasn’t resurrected – as far as I know – the rumor that Silverado, one of the Vaseline Alley era bars, was moving from its exile in SW to take over the space, closer to the other gay bars.  Since it and Casey’s were the only gay bars in SW – technically, Vaseline Alley was in SW, but only by one block – now that rumor would make total sense.  This would leave Scandals as both the only gay bar of any significance in SW and the only gay bar left in the original gaybourhood…tightening the gay scene in Portland, once again.

That wouldn’t be so bad, in my opinion.

Alas, the news is reporting that the building’s owner is looking to sustain the space as part of the LGBTQI community, seeking investors from around the nation to invest some capital in the space and open a fresh gay club.

And that’s an outcome I can appreciate.

RIP Embers.  And thanks for the mEmberies.