TIL #1:  A Life of Bias

I’ve recently begun thinking that we need a forum for old people to share information.  I’ve literally picked up two tricks-slash-tips from Sallory and The Silver Fox in the last year or two that have me thinking this is a missed gold mine of information.

Not the typical “fool me once” or “eat dinner at 4 pm” type of wisdom we expect from the older generation, no.  Having learned that you can’t tell young people anything, older folks know it’s best just to speak in cryptic tones when the situation of giving advice arises.  

Rather, this blog theme is some real Today I Learned bullshit that you’d never see on the Reddit…mostly because we’re too old to understand how Reddit works, what a s/Reddit is or even to want to risk the inevitable disrespect of a down vote our input might engender on the site.

Redditors are such punks.  

I’ve no thought on what to call this blog theme, so feel free to make suggestions, for now, I’m just going with TIL.

The thought that prompted this first entry, I first learned about two-ish years ago, actually, but once I started thinking hard about the real pro-tips coming my way, I realized I had to start out with this particular gem. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Diagonal.

The scramble crosswalk had appeared in the Pearl District while I was living in Shittatle.  I know it wasn’t there before I moved because I have a vivid memory of standing on one corner of the intersection between Powell’s City of Books one weekend when I’d popped into town on the sly for the night without telling my family.  What makes it such a vivid memory was the smirk on my younger brother’s face as he stood on the other corner.

Of all the times for my suburb dwelling siblings to decide to meet in town for dinner.

Anyway, the scramble was not there in that memory. 

It seems to take an inordinate amount of time to trigger the scramble.  Luckily, Portland is still a small enough city that traffic usually allows you to safely jaywalk whenever the hell you want,so one mustn’t necessarily wait.  However, whenever I’m around when the scramble lights officially engage, I feel compelled to say “scramble!” before or as I am entering the intersection.

I’m not really very mature.

In addition to this scramble crosswalk, another thing I noticed after moving back was The Fox’s predilection toward stepping off curbs in the middle of the street and just crossing devil may care style when traffic allowed.  I noticed this new habit because it’s what I do, notice things.  

I also noticed because of the increased threat to my persistent survival this created for me.  He’d decide to cross without warning and I’m still walking down the street jabbering away as I realize he’s now adrift in the middle of the street, fading in my peripheral vision.  Immediately setting off on an intercept course usually put me in danger of taking a hood ornament in the ass…it took me a while to learn I wasn’t going to break him of this habit and train him to give me warning before taking off on one of his impromptu scrambles.

“It saves so much time!”

Because you have fewer days ahead than you do behind, this is a going concern of yours?

That was pretty much the gist of our conversations, but over time the distance at which those conversations had taken place has decreased.  That tells me we’re working the kinks out of our system of non-verbal communication.

“Think of all the steps we’re saving!”, of course, this was before everyone lost their shit over getting their steps in last year.  What do they really know, anyway?

And it’s true!  The Diagonal saves me a ton of steps and time.  Especially when I’m heading to the MAX stop at 430 in the morning.  Young Xtopher would waste both standing at a cross walk just to hook a 90 degree turn and head down the street perpendicular to the direction I crossed.  Cutting across the street’s traffic lanes is a much more productive use of my resources.  Plus, that whole pivot motion as I turned had to put undue stress on my little chickeny ankles.

Who needs that?

Plus, it’s a victimless crime.  Portland Police don’t really come out for crimes unless they can reasonably expect to discharge a non-lethal weapon into a group of liberals…so there’s really no threat of a downside here.

TIL #1:  A Life of Bias


So…here I am, abandoned by the Silver Fox.


This time on a month-long adventure to Spain with Sallory.

Me, with no one to drink wine with but Mistress Myrtle the Mean.  All that’s left for me in life is sharing my gift of Oregon-bred passive-aggressiveness.

Er…I mean, write.  Nothing to do but write.

I figure there’s no better time to flesh out this placeholder draft that is earmarked as a guest post for him to share their Cuba adventure from last January.  Yeah, the one he went on instead of sitting around with me, doing nothing on my birthday.

Who’d want to miss that opportunity?

Anyway, as it turns out, not only is Cuba a cool place to visit, but in the near-year that The Fox has been procrastinating (just kidding, he’s not doing it…I just never deleted the post) this, our be-loathed President has undone the work Obama did to open Cuba up to American tourism after a half century of it being a big no-fly zone for vacationing Americans.  So once again, only Americans traveling under certain strict guidelines – like as part of a cultural tour – can travel to this lost in time country.

It’s amazing what changes a year can bring.

Anyway, I can tell you, from the stories I heard, this little island nation could turn American sensibilities – ie: capitalism – on its ear.

Sure, the beaches are amazing in a non-resort-y type way.

Yeah, the cultural arts are untapped treasures.

The architecture is beautiful, albeit in an increasingly decrepit way.

And the people!

The Fox couldn’t talk enough about them.  

There’s the hybrid of tourists from every other nation in the world – well, Canada and Europe, anyway – since we are the only holdout with a travel embargo.  


All the way to the juxtaposed relative poverty of doctors and lawyers by comparison to the prestige and wealth those vocations have in our culture.  Many of the cab and bus drivers they he and Sallory encountered were actually moonlighting doctors, which came in particularly handy in the case of the tour bus driver/doctor who was able to render some first aid on a tour he was driving for…wait, now I’m confused about whether that happened on their tour or one of my other friends’ trips.

Nobody ever takes me anywhere nice.  Hehe.

I am sure, though, that it was The Fox that told me about the lawyer moonlighting as an ambulance driver.  

Lawyers…in Cuba, they drive ambulances; in America, they chase them.  

Hashtag: irony.

Then there’s the residents.  In every story I heard, I was impressed with how unaffected they were by the tourist trade aspect of their economy.  Well, mostly unaffected.  I heard countless stories of restaurants where travelers were treated like family, with an unfakeably sincere hospitality.  Or how knowledgeable the tour guides were on history and how easily they shared the culture of the people.  You can’t put a price on that passion.

But for each of those stories, there was a less subtle eschewing of the tourist trade.  Like the men who “entertained” – without judgment – travelers for cash.  Again, though, being a genuine population, they were known to share their life stories with their guests…telling their male and female clients equally about their families – including their children.  Can you imagine the sensibility and life circumstance that affords you the opportunity to turn tricks to provide for your kids and family without simultaneously being anything other than genuinely grateful for the financial resource?

I don’t even know how I feel about that, and I’m from liberal Oregon!

A little less conflicting is the story of the 90 year old woman, sitting in her doorway and smoking a Cuban cigar like she had no fucks to give…and charging tourists for the privilege of a photo op with her.

That’s a slightly less dire example of how this somewhat upside down culture was embracing capitalism.

And then there’s the cars.

We all know the island is basically a classic car museum…but why not take it one step further and let Disney turn it into an amusement park?

I mean, seriously, by all accounts, the infrastructure there is severely lacking.  From buildings on the verge of collapse to an airport that can barely handle three planes at a time.

Think about it.

Flotilla rides.

A Haunted Soviet Mansion tour.

The Bay Of Pigs Mystery Dinner Theater.

Tobacco Picking and Craft Cigar Workshop.

The people are definitely accustomed to the hospitality trade, all we gotta do is teach them to run rides and we’re set.

I’m sure we could ruin that island in no time…maybe our Bigot-in-Chief did them an inadvertent favor by shutting the island off to us again.

Oh well, I can always use a good excuse for a quick trip to Vancouver, BC…gotta get done of them Cuban cigars!