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

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.

Alas.

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.

Except

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.

Phew.

…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.

So.

Much.

Food.

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.

2.0.

Breitbarb.

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.

It.

Is.

So.

Good.

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.

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.

No.

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

Obviously!

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.

Onions.

The Peppers Bell.

Mushrooms.

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.

No,

One.

Noticed.

Goddamnit.

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?”

<BING!>

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. 

at. 

all. 

excited. 

about.

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.  

Hard.

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.

Really.

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!