Woodwork

I really oughta learn my place.

Saying things like, “I think I could be open to dating again…”

Really, who do I think I am?

The Yoda of gay dating?  No…but I could use one inside my head.

“Date or do not date.  There is no open to.” – Gay Yoda.

Because it takes two to tango, as they say.  Three, or an open dance card at least if you’re in Portland, Oregon.

I’m not closing my borders, by any means, but I am readjusting my expectations to the point where I can entertain the idea that it wasn’t that I was closed off to dating in the first place.

Maybe I was just the only one in the dating scenario who was ready.

Fine.

And, in the meantime?  I have tales to tell.

Because in the last couple of months, my past dalliances have been coming out of the figurative woodwork to…I don’t know what.  

Make a point?

For, or against.  That is the question!

The New Kid

A couple of month ago, while the words “I think I’m ready to date again” were still hanging in the air, the new hotel next to my building opened.  That’s all well and fine, the absence of both construction worker (they really aren’t particularly hot, despite what The Village People would have you believe) and construction fencing was a big plus in my book.  Plus, the new restaurant was lookingbto be quite the add to the neighborhood.

Serving up great local Breakside IPA – check that, great looking guys serving up great local Breakside IPA, well, The Silver Fox and I knew we were in a good place.  

News Flash:  the battle of the bulge is back on, because I’m off wine and back on beer!

Y’know how the beer was both great and local?  Yeah, well the staff of Turner Creek Tavern seemed to be only great.  Literally every member of the team – as we chatted them up, Fox style – turned out to be from Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania or some other far-flung, imaginary sounding, likely red voting land.

But the beer was good and local.  And closer than any other beer or wine in the neighborhood…so, go, we did.

The Fox’s nephew-in-law was moving to town for college and he had hoped to put his in-laws up in the hotel on move-in weekend.  Alas, the timing for reservations was just days out of sync with their trip.  But, family lodging still being top of mind, we wandered into the hotel lobby one evening to check it out.

Of course, we ended up talking to the assistant manager, who offered us a tour and gave us his card to set it up.

I set it up, since he gave me his card.

Turns out, it’s a pretty nice hotel.  Also turns out that the bar isn’t the only place that can’t hire locally.  On the tour, it comes out that The New Kid is – hence the name – from out of town.  We offer several suggestions for places to go since it seems he lives nearby. 

I offer to take him along to any of the aforementioned places, since it turns out that he’s in love with local craft beer.

We trade texts over the next week as we endeavor to set something up.  Here’s a breakdown of that…breakdown.

He thinks I’m nice and attractive.  Reflexively, I assume his employer’s vision plan is garbage.

I tell him that – while questioning his judgment – the best way to get a guy in the PNW is pretty much fresh off the boat before dating in Portland ruins them or makes them kinky.

He admits that he has been seeing someone, but he’s feeling neglected.

Great!  I can not neglect.  Plus, I’m on staycation for a week, so we don’t have to worry about meshing schedules, I’m pretty available all week.

He lets slip that the guy he’s been seeing is his boyfriend from back home, who he’d asked to not move here with him.  That explains the Pearl address on an assistant manager’s salary.

I revise my expectations for romance backward – I don’t want to date any mess, er…anyone fresh out of a relationship – but leave the social invite open.  If he wants to get together, I’m good with it.  We had clicked on an interpersonal level during the tour.  

Besides, I’m too old for him, probably.

He confides that he had surmised my age after seeing my email address and liked it.  No, it wasn’t an aol address.  Turns out, he would be turning 28 soon and apparently, older was on his next boyfriend wishlist.

Ok, that’s swell, but irrelevant unless we ever got together to further our friendship.

Never available.

Work.

Allegedly.

Once my entire week off had passed him by, I pulled out my spade calling bullhorn and informed him he was failing at friendship or whatever he wanted to accomplish in getting together.

Just figure out what you want, I told him.

I hadn’t shared with him that – through the power of Facebook Deductive Reasoning – I had figured out that the guy he’d kind of been dating was actually a five year relationship. 

If it were me, i helpfully told him, I’d start at home and clean that situation up, then find some work/life balance.  Once that happened, I’d be around, but I wasn’t looking for a text friendship or relationship.  While he’d been going home to a boyfriend that took him for granted every night, I was left holding a bag of nothing.

The Fox said I was too hard on him.

He never returned that text.

Perhaps someday.  Or not.  But speaking of perhaps somedays…

Jeo

I’d run into Jeo on MAX one day while checking out another guy.  So many cute men, so little time…even less actual opportunity.

He’d told me during that encounter that he’d been thinking about how he left things with me and how he wanted it different and had been wanting to talk.

Serendipity.  In a very Portland-y passive manner.

We’ve talked/texted in the last few months. Shared early morning MAX rides to the airport – he’s s flight attendant – and ran into each other on the street a few times.

But we haven’t managed to sync up on purpose for some face time.  Mutual responsibility there.

For my part, he shared with me that he was just out of a relationship and still living – well, this probably sounds familiar.

But for his part, he’s away from home so often that having his own place really doesn’t make a ton of sense to him.  Plus, apparently his ex is a way better roommate than boyfriend.

Whatever, it’s fine.  

Jeo has continued to impress me with his drive, creativity and constant initiative.  Ok, that might be redundant, but this guy is really inspiring.  

Also, an A+ hugger.

But overall, just a great person to have any type of interpersonal relationship with, regardless of what’s happening with the Slot As and Tab Ds between us.

The Wallpaper

Speaking Slot As and Tab Ds…I ran into The Wallpaper socially a while back.  Well, we sloshed into one another in a bar.

He got what he’d been wanting for the better part of a year now – his new boyfriend be damned – and I haven’t heard from him since.

Guess he realized that it wasn’t what he’d wanted all along.  Which is fine by me, because weird open relationships, freshly single men…none of that is what I’ve been wanting, right?

Plus, from an accomplishment standpoint…Jeo and The New Kid leave The Wallpaper looking a little outdated.

The Broken Poet

Thanks, Twitter.

Apparently, in an unforeseen “add all” error when setting up my Twitter profile, The Broken Poet got tossed into the fray from my phone contacts.

Hey, I was trying to use the Twitter to grow my blog presence, so help a brother out with some shares, aight?

Nope.  I cannot pull that type of talk off.

Anyway, my carelessness in not realizing my “add all” was from my phone contacts versus my Facebook friends list may have been aided by a little wine.  I didn’t realize that had been the case until it – he – followed me back.

He immediately started responding to my tweets with bullshit like, “I miss Portland”.

Yeah, not even engaging on that front.

But then he starts popping up on my Twitter feed with pathetic Poor Me tweets and I have to debate unfollowing him.  I go back and brush up on my Covert Narcissism facts to bolster my urge to respond supportively.  Plus, I try to temper my gut reactions to this guy based on how he treated me.  That was almost two years ago.  Even though I know people can change, I also know he basically pulled similar shit with his next boyfriend since he was a virtual friend of mine.

People can change.  It doesn’t mean that they will.  Plus, me being open to dating is about me not anyone that I’ve dated in the past.  I’m trying to relate to people based on their present actions and how they affect me.

Of course, when he starts tweeting from the hospital, I make the mistake of letting my empathy out.  Turns out, he’s in the hospital for a “staff infection”, maybe also for borderline literacy.  

I don’t correct him.

That’s definitely too much.

But he starts in with how his life is passing him by and all his Victim Greatest Hits like how if he could do his life over things would be different and I just tell him that he’s gotta focus in the future and not dwell in the past.

Of course, this gets me a “You don’t know me” response and I sprain my eyes and walk away.

The Other Kid

For once I’m able to actually find a guy that is kind, good looking – with some mutual attraction – and have a couple of dates.  

It’s nice.

He’s really sweet when we’re together, holding my hand while we sit on the couch and watch a movie and giving me the sweetest kiss goodbye when he leaves.

I have the pleasure of cooking him dinner.

He has good table manners!

I wonder how he manages to be single and available.  He corrects me be saying that he’s single but not gay available.

When I ask what that means, he tells me he’s saving himself for marriage.  He literally says the words “butt stuff” which makes me laugh out loud and sob internally.

But I get what he means by saying he’s not gay available.  He does seem to have a fantastic network of friends, based on the number of Friendsgivings he attended.  He also seems to have s surprising number of dates for someone in his moral position…he must have an itch he wants to scratch, because he’s dating pretty hard.

Sadly, that makes him unavailable to me as often as I would like, but at the same time, I understand that that means I’m not his future husband.

This doesn’t bother me.

Like with Jeo, it’s just nice to be in the presence of someone who is living their lives so intentionally.  So, this Other Kid is an enjoyable and occasional add to my life even without further potential.

Now that I think about it, they’ve both deleted their asocial media profiles over the last couple of months and seem perfectly happy without it.  Probably, I should embrace that.  Maybe that was my mistake in planning when thinking about dating, associating with these Lost Boys who are largely living their lives unaccountably from one orgasm to the next…that’s really not what I want for myself.

Woodwork

Getting Lit

First of all, not that kind of “lit”.  Although I live where it’s legal, I suck – thank gawd – at smoking, be it weed or nicotine.  Pretty good at puffing a stogie, go figure.  Still haven’t indulged in that for over a decade.  So, in regards to getting lit-lit, I’d be vaping or partaking of the edible variety.

But I was riffing on lit as it refers to literature.  You see, lately I’ve been quite distracted by books.

So much so, that I haven’t posted a blog in a couple of weeks.

It all started with Ready Player One, which I purchased for my work trip back on the 12th.  I spent my flight alternating between reading my new book and writing a blog post.  Ditto my return flight, which was the last entry I posted back around the 16th.

Of course, in between flights I fell in like with a co-worker at the work conference.

The new read continued to occupy my time on my daily MAX commute, which I usually spend writing my #MaxBlogChallenge posts.

The book is super enjoyable.  I’m not a big video game fan or home gamer, but Rib was, so I kind of know the culture second hand.  Plus, I do enjoy an occasional visit to Ground Kontrol for a few beers while I blow a sawbuck worth of quarters.  

Fun!

But I am definitely a fan of 80s-90s pop culture…Oingo Boingo music, John Hughes films.

Good times!

I intended to finish Ready Player One over Thanksgiving at my parents’, but you always forget something when you pack for a trip, right?

Enter, The Witness.

My mom brought me a stack of books to choose from:  The Witness, that ubiquitous Wally Lamb book and the second volume of The Tales of the City omnibus, which I had loaned her a few months back.

I always mean to re-read these old favorites of mine, but never make the time.  Instead I loan them out to The Broken Poet and – more favorably – Mom-Donna.  Heck, even Mistress Myrtle seems to enjoy my old books!So there mom is, trying to soothe my distress, always the Mom!  I decide Wally Lamb is too aggressive for a second book and pick The Witness. 

Lemme take a minute and tell you how I feel about reading multiple books.

I don’t like it.

Tried to.

Can’t.

It’s like dating more than one guy.

No, actually dating, you tramps.

You have to invest emotionally in books.  Giving up your imagination in this relationship versus your heart, in order to really get everything out of a book you can.

So, I tend not to do this…which is partially why I looked like a pouty baby when mom was handing out secondary reading options.

I got a few chapters in during my three day stay.  I packed it to pick up again when I finish Ready Player One.  It might go somewhere…but ever since I read Fifty Shades of Grey, my ability to fairly assess a book has been a bit wonky.

Talk about lowering the bar.

Oh, and I packed The Witness and forgot Tales…because you always forget something when you pack.

<eye roll>

The next day after work I went to get a haircut.  Naturally, in the Barber Lottery, I once again won my pink haired – and eyebrowed – trans barber.

Once again, we started off with innocent enough chatter.

Innocuous.  Hair talk.

But as soon as she started snipping, our innocent chatter veered awkwardly off course with “How was your Thanksgiving?”

She asked me, and I responded with enthusiastic yet low-key examples of our small family gathering.  When I asked her how hers was, I realized my mistake.  If I’d glanced down at myself in the mirror, I’m sure I would have seen this guy staring back at me.

You really just can’t win with some people.

As I’m listening, I glance down at her work station’s shelf and see a stack of five books.  I ask her if they have special significance to her and she just casually responds that she’s reading them.

“Simultaneously?, I ask.

“Of course!”, she replies, “But two of them are actually textbooks because I’m teaching myself Hebrew.”

Of course.

And, no, I didn’t pursue the conversational thread about how one teaches oneself Hebrew effectively with a text-only resource.  I just sat there and enjoyed the literal, physical manifestation of how different she and I are as individuals.

As if the pink eyebrows weren’t proof enough.

Then she cut my hair too short.

Getting Lit

Something Is Missing

This blog post’s title could cover a wide array of potential topics in my life:

Structured exercise.

Work/life balance.

Vegetables.

But in this case, it’s personal belongings and transitively, a feeling of my personal security.

I began this post at the first of the year.

Too raw.  Set it aside.

I came back to it about six months ago.  Couldn’t finish it.  Too embarrassing.

But now that I’ve uttered the words, “I think I could be open to dating again”, I feel like – at least therapeutically – I need to wrap up some of my old dating and relationship posts.

Since I’m on vacation, I’m trying to trick myself into writing more and wrapping up those dating drafts by also finishing up old vacation stories.  Like…hiding the hard stuff in between some fun memories.

There’s cumulatively eight drafts in this mix…only two of them are vacation stories. Three if you add in a ninth draft, but that’s a guest post I set aside for The Fox to share his Cuba adventure from last year.  

That’s 1/3 fun and 2/3 dating-trauma-drama.  That sounds like my life.

But nine is too many for a vacation week.

The Silver Fox is about to set off for a month-long Spain adventure…maybe his return could be my more realistic deadline.

Maybe I could just delete a bunch of drafts about painful stuff that I can sometimes make funny but am clearly telling myself on a subconscious level that I don’t want to process.

Except

My most read posts are my romantic misadventures.  You people are quite an unsavory lot, aren’t you?

How could I say no to that level of depravity?

So, here it is.  The worst, first. 

I’m just gonna skim through it and make sure it’s quasi-intelligible and post it.

Do you see that?

Right there, between my tool storage and the TV antenna The Silver Fox gave me to give to my parents to help get them off cable.

Yeah, on the shelf over my under-utilized spice rack and my cat treats.

Pay no attention to the stacks of Mac & Cheese.

There’s something missing.

And that freaks me out.

Not because I can’t recall exactly what it was.

Not because it was something so germane to my daily life that I can’t go on without it.

Because it’s simply gone.

And I didn’t “gone” it.

Someone else did…and that someone didn’t have permission to be here.

So, an unnecessary recap:  I’m pissed and maybe also just a tad scared.

I’m not scared for my safety.  

I’m scared because this isn’t the first time this has happened.

This year, sure.  Maybe.  I’ve been ignoring it, hoping it would go away.  The last six months…definitely not so much.

I’m scared because whatever used to be here was of no value.  Not to me.  It just was.  But to the person who disappeared this item?  It is a symbol.  A middle finger to me.  An eye-level eye opener that this is still happening.

Oh, mom…stop reading at the beginning.  Sorry.  I was distracted and forgot to warn you.

But since we are talking about – or, to – MomDonna, you should probably know that the last time she and dad visited, she walked right up to my door, looked at me side eye over her shoulder and opened the door as if to suggest that I should not be leaving my door unlocked.

Well, sure.

Kinda.

I purposefully live in secure buildings.  For the security, sure.  But also by chance of living in cities and in condo buildings where the security is part of the amenities…because I like to leave my doors unlocked.

Sue me.

Or – in this case – fuck me over.

Early in December, my Earthquake Money went missing.  I didn’t notice right away.  I noticed after my landlord texted me on December 29th and told me that my rent hadn’t been deposited yet.  

This was a week after her text wishing me a Merry Christmas.  You’d think she would have known then.  But, hey

Ok, that struck me as odd.  I usually write out my rent check and then fail to succeed at a few opportunities to deposit it.

I am a procrastinator, after all.

So, when my landperson told me my rent check hadn’t been deposited, I had to confront my assumption that I had completed the transaction as normal.  I don’t actually retain any of that in my long-term memory.  Sure, I recall snippets of the interactions I have with bank personnel.

And Chipotle meals…Chipotle being one block away from my landperson’s financial institution.

My assumption that I completed the transaction lies in the absence of the check from my entry hall table.  That’s my checks-and-balances system.

Luckily, I save the deposit receipts.

December was conspicuously absent amongst the other 14 receipts from past deposits.

So, what happened?!?

Fuck if I know.

What I do know is that I have a drawer in my hallway console table where I keep my Earthquake Money and miscellaneous financial shit like my rent check.

Right there, under the tray where I keep my wallet, keys and the coffee can with loose change.

The drawer is a hidden drawer.  You have to know it’s actually there and then touch it right so that it swivels open.

All this, of course, points to something of an inside job.

My missing rent check could be the result of the obvious culprit of an inside job, who likes to greet me coming home from her perch atop the table.  But I pulled the table away from the wall – careful not to disturb the wine stored beneath it.

Sunglasses.

Wine corks.

Other, less favorite playthings of Myrtle’s.

An epic dust bunny.

Fortune cookie fortunes – speaking of unwritten blogs, this one doesn’t even have a draft!

No. Check.

The easy solution is to grab some of my earthquake money and rectify the situation with great immediacy.  The awkward reality is pictured above.  My secret stash drawer was giving me Old Mother Hubbard vibes.

I keep bundles of money in that drawer that I win when I gamble.  Last summer, in a fit of discipline, I imposed an embargo on the drawer:  money goes in, it doesn’t come out.  It was an attempt at moderation.  If I won when gambling, I put it in the drawer. $500 denominations were the buy-in for a “deposit”.  I’d accumulated several $500 bundles of $20 bills.  The $50s and $100 bills eventually collected into a $2000 bundle, the $500 bundles of the bigger bills were too insubstantial and would bunch up.

Terrible problem to have.

What was an actual terrible problem to have was being confronted by an empty drawer that should be full.

I sat down and thought about it.  I examined the real possibility that I’d broken my rule in a drunken moment and blacked it out.  I went to a couple of bartenders and asked if they’d recalled any particularly egregious moments of drunkenness over the past few months.

That was a cold moment.

But at least I was accountable enough to my behaviors to blame myself first.

One of these fantastically fun and patient people looked me square in the eye and said, “I’ve served you off and on for two decades.  If I thought you were doing yourself damage, I’d tell you myself.  This one’s on  me…you look like you need it.”

The second and third were on me, and the $20 tip I left him on my $12 tab was the least expensive therapy co-pay I’ve made.

Back home, I went to my original earthquake stash…a drawer in the kitchen that I’d used when I first moved into my condo.  It got too full of wraps, foils, baggies and back up chefs knives to be a viable storage spot, so I’d moved my stash.

Plus, back up chefs knives…another first-world problem.

But there was $700 and change in there.

Which was a help in paying my now-two-months of rent due.

Not much of a help in figuring out my pricier mystery.

I had to set aside my deer-hunter cap for the moment to solve my rent problem.

Back to the hall table.  I kept other important-yet-homeless things in there, including my e-trade debit card.  

This is the account I had loaded with $25,000 of the proceeds from my Seattle condo sale.  I’d been Day Trading with that money to subsidize my existence while failing to find a professional landing pad.  I’d been wire-transferring $5k/month for bills and living expenses and calling any month that I walked away from with more than a $25k balance a win.

Well, this was my “break glass” moment.  No time for a transfer, I was gonna need my debit card to cash advance two months of rent.

I think we all know how that ended up.

Social Security Card.

Fake $5000 poker chip.  If only.

Passport.

Another fortune cookie fortune.

My almost full punch card from a coffee shop I stopped going to after The Broken Poet.

My actual checkbook.

No debit card.

WTF?!?

I had been digging through the drawer on my knees and rocked back to rest on my heels as I processed what was going on.

I felt gut-punched.

I looked slowly to my left, toward my front door.

I got up and adjusted the lock so that it was locked from the outside.

Davey.

When we’d broken up the previous Fall, I’d gathered up his left-behind things, borrowed The Fox’s car – ironically, an Escape – and delivered them to the boy who’d ghosted me.  He wouldn’t come to his door, so I just left his stuff on the porch and left.  The only thing I’d asked of this guy was to return my spare entry door key.

Yeah.  That was too much of an ask.

However, I’d not given it much thought.  He lived way out in a part of town that I always think of as Shitville.  My neck of the woods was definitely out of his way.  When he’d visit, he’d come in for a few days at a time, having one of his housemates in what was basically a flop-house watch his cat…which was why I gave him my spare entrance key in the first place, so he could come and go while I was at work.

I had heard from a friend-quaintance that he’d recently met Davey.  Based on the context of the things he said – He’s sweet.  Lost, but trying to get his life together -and what I had gleaned of this acquaintance’s life choices that he’d met Davey at an AA meeting.

I never thought he’d steal from me.

Setting that aside, I set up a wire transfer, cancelled my debit card and told my landperson she’d have her January and December rent in a week.

She was…not happy.

I wracked my brain over the next week or two about what to do.

I also locked myself out twice.

All of the phantom noises and clicks that I’d heard over the past six months came randomly back to me over the ensuing weeks.  Things I’d thought were doors clicking shut or neighbors in my basically uninhabited floor and written off as the sounds of a building settling became sinister scenarios.

The times I’d woken up to what I thought were doors closing late at night were what I believe started my late night sleepwalking patrols from earlier this year.  It certainly explained the episode where I’d woken up to the pile of light furnishings and decor in front of my door.

I am Xtopher’s complete loss of control.

My e-trade account had been hit pretty hard.

$500 withdrawals anywhere from a couple times a month to a few times a week over the last 90 days.  There were a few times where withdrawals had been thwarted by insufficient funds when I’d made a trade.  

Unfortunately, I wasn’t that involved in trading after going back to work the prior October.  I’d lost sight of a couple of bottom bounces – not the good type, Diezel – and dropped about $15k on trades in November and December.

Good thing I had a paycheck to look forward to…but I know enough now to not look forward to existing on that paycheck.  Thank gawd for my parental benefactors, otherwise I’d have drowned by now.

You see, my final response was an overreaction.  Absolutely.  But I now own an annuity.

After getting a new debit card and filing a fraud report with e-trade, I steered desperately into my financial situation to stop the spin.

My trading account has slightly less protection than a typical bank account.

Their fraud department was able to get shit quality ATM pictures of what looked to be Davey in a hoodie, a cracky looking twink (so much for AA), and a transvestite that wasn’t quite pulling it off.

I thought I knew who these people were.  Davey had talked about movie nights at his flop-house with a crew I imagined would present similarly.

I was offered the opportunity to file a police report, which could lead to some restitution if anyone was arrested.

Ultimately, I screwed myself over by storing my debit card in the envelope my PIN was mailed to me in.  That’s a no-no, but I knew I would never remember the PIN if I needed it.  Not that I planned to need it.  On top of that, my sense of accountability had me reluctant to move forward with any shadows of doubt remaining about who I suspected.

I began hanging out at one of the bars that I knew Davey’s transvestite housemate frequented.  Doing a little Kojak-action at What is arguably a bar in a three-way tie for Worst Gay Bar In Portland.

After a few possible connections with her, going to the bathroom to compare the ATM picture while she smoked, I was uncertain.

Fuuuuck.

As my deadline for filing a police report approached, I gave it one last chance.  I went out in search of a few times with mixed results.

Just missed her.

She’s visiting her kids this week.

And then, paydirt.

She has the kind of voice that precedes her like the cloud of drugstore perfume and stale cigarette smoke that follows her…I heard her coming.  An unexpected encounter at Embers, where she’d been 86ed by the same bartender that told me back in December that he had my liver’s back.  I was peeking over the taps at the bar while the bartender confronted her at the door.  I guess I wasn’t the only one attenuated to her voice.

As I’m watching, a third unseen voice breaks free moments before scootching through the door and heading for the bathrooms.

Davey.

So much for AA.

I turned my back to the door, hunched my shoulders and sipped my beer until it was done.

Then I stood up, squared my shoulders and walked out of the bar, thinking, “Fuck it.  I’m done lying down with dogs.”

Every meager paycheck since then, every time my parents have asked if I had “walking around money” since then has been a reminder that I can’t be vulnerable like that in today’s world.

I may have The World’s Most Dangerous Cat living with me, but I don’t have to expose myself to the Daveys of the world that even she can’t defend me against.

And sometimes, just as extra punishment to myself, I would tell my parents that I was fine…and that reminded me that I am fine.  That realization helped me to be more honest with myself, my parents, my best friend and, now, his best friend…the internet.

I’ve gotten myself square, emotionally.  Now it’s time to get myself righted financially, and that means living off my paycheck while still saving for my future…and also not punishing my future self by depriving myself of a potential boyfriend.

So, I’m open to the possibility of dating again.

Plus, my building replaced the entry door, that’s obviously a sign.

Something Is Missing

Jury Doody

What can I say?  I’m not that mature, so the name of this particular entry was either gonna be a poop-related play on words or a riff on the phrase Hung Jury.

And given the jurors who spent two days in the pool with me…that was a viable option, or at least an option I wouldn’t mind investigating further.

So, here’s where I did my civic duty…well, lurking over the sidewalk next door to where I did my civic duty.img_1209-1The name of this sculpture is Portlandia.  Her nickname is The Pull My Finger Statue.  I didn’t coin that moniker, but I do live in the correct city for my particular taste in humor.

Obviously.

For the record, this is the second time I have had Jury Duty in my adult-ish life and the first time since 2006.

New Year’s Eve of 2006, to be precise, because that’s how my life works.  Recently single, determined to mingle?

Nope.  Jury Duty. Continue reading “Jury Doody”

Jury Doody

Mercury Poisoning

Mercury is in retrograde.


Whatever.

This is the same type of hippy-dippy bullshit I’ve been dodging for about 30 years…ever since my agent offered to do my chart for me.  No, wait, that was only twenty years ago…so even before that.

No, thanks.  I wouldn’t follow.

I went to a psychic when I was 22 and she told me I was going to die young.  I laughed at her.  Now I curse her.

<Ptew!  Ptew!>

Not that I was really prepared to live this long.  But I have a great sense of balance about these minor setbacks in life:  regardless of what’s going wrong – er, on – in my life, every day that I don’t die is a day longer that I’ve lived than those younger than me.

I’m setting a high bar definition of success, no?

Maybe.  We’ll see how that plays out. Continue reading “Mercury Poisoning”

Mercury Poisoning

Dreams

I had a weird dream last night.

In it, I am pouring out a bottle of wine halfway through the first glass because I got invited out.  Such a waste.  But I remember, vividly, thinking “Well, doesn’t look like I’m going to get a chance to finish this off”.  Which may seem like a premature leap, since I had only opened the bottle about two ounces prior.

Not such a strange thought once you factor in the fact that I really don’t like to eat leftovers.  It’s just one of my quirks.

Takeout from a restaurant is one thing.  Taking home leftovers from a restaurant…probably just going to sit in my fridge until I toss them out.

My family loves to send food home with me after family dinners.  I have loads of plasticware I really should return to them…and I do try to make an effort to eat those leftovers, the symbolism of my family taking care of me with food.  So core.

My lunch yesterday at The People’s Pig, a local dive BBQ joint up in North Portland is a good example of this habit of mine.  My sandwich order ended up being a Pluto-sized BBQ pork sandwich with about two spuds worth of jo-jo potatoes on the side.  I got about three-quarters (closer to half, I’m sure) through the sandwich and tapped out.  When the purple haired and tattooed waitress suggested that there were takeout boxes available if I wanted to take the rest home with me, I told her to just give it to the homeless guy out back – there’s always a homeless guy around in PDX.  She looked a little offended, but I assured her I would be back.  More menu items to gorge myself on!  I just know myself well enough to know what is going to happen to that poor pig if it ends up in my fridge.

I think this soldier is to blame for the dream imagery, BTW.  He’s been sulking here on the countertop since Tuesday…

Probably not the most reassuring thing to have car keys chilling next to a half bottle of wine…but they aren’t mine, I swear!

Anyway, the meaning of the dream, from the little thought that I have put into it this morning seems to point toward not letting opportunities pass me by.  Particularly with friends, as this situation would indicate, but overall in life.

Remember The Yes Game?

Well, in this dream, I said yes to friends…even though I’m sure it could appear that I said no to wine.

Don’t worry, I drink enough.

Promise.

I think this dream was meant to remind me that I’ve a fairly solitary existence.

In part, I think this is a habit from my career.  I spend a lot of time being center stage at work.  One of my ex-boyfriends called it “Being on” in a pejorative kind of way, but he was right.  When I’m working, I’m on.

For my customers.

For my employees.

It’s my job.

The flip side of that personality coin – for me – is that I spend a lot of my off time doing things on my own.  Exercising.  Reading.  Movies.

I’ll hit a movie alone without a second thought.  Turns out, I like avoiding crowds when possible.  I love my weekday days off.  I can grab a matinee and shame eat popcorn in relative privacy with only the judgment of strangers in a dark room to weigh me down.  Plus, I hate sharing food.  Particularly finger-type foods.  But that’s a blog for another time…I hope I remember to write it!

Not that I think this dream was trying to suggest I learn to share.

When I exercise, I tend to do it solo – although it is a great date activity.  Alas…

Anyway, the reason behind this behavior is that when I want to exercise, I want to focus on it and get it done.  There are so many guys at the gym who use it like a social club.  I joke with the Fox that his jaw looks really pumped after he works out, since I frequently witness him standing around chewing the fat with his pals at the gym.

Becoming the Silver Fox does have it’s costs and responsibilities, it seems.

That said, when I work out and get stuck behind a Chatty Cathy, it kind of frustrates me.  But, there are other machines.  What frustrates me is that I find myself wishing that guys were as social at the clubs as they are when working out.  The difference there, of course, being that they don’t bring a gaggle of friends to the gym to insulate them like they do the bars.

Maybe the dream was trying to tell me to chill the fuck out and be flexible.

<eye roll>

Sometimes I sit at home with a bottle of wine – and recently, with Myrtle as a companion – and watch TV or read a book.  A young friend commented once that it made him sad when I said that.

Inside, I told him to go fuck himself.

Outside, I challenged him as to why he felt that way.  He responded that when he drank, he liked to go out and drink with friends or go to a bar and meet new people while he drank.

I get that.

I also get that that’s less the reality, even though it’s a good concept.

He’ll learn.

I spend plenty of time drinking in a bar.  I’ll hang out at CC Slaughters or Hobo’s fairly regularly, just to get out of the house for a few hours.  Sometimes, I will chat up the bartender or on a good night, find a social fellow patron.  Most nights that I go there aren’t good nights, though.  Frequently, I will read a book or – more recently – even work on a blog post as I sip (aggressively gulp) my drink.

Maybe you’re familiar with the old saying about gay men disappearing once they turn 3o?  Well, it’s not literal.  But for a variety of reasons, we do.  The lucky ones have met a boyfriend and settled down.

Talk about unicorns, though.

The more common phenomenon is that the gay culture is incredibly youth-obsessed and when a guy starts to show his age at 30, shedding the twink or otter or cub body he sported effortlessly in his 20s…he is passed over in favor of the Pretty Young Things that have come after him.

With the rise in usage of apps like Grindr and Scruff, the unicorn phenomenon I mentioned earlier has only gotten rarer since it seems gay men are settling down less frequently.  The smorgasbord menu those asocial media apps provide seem to be making “settling down” more synonymous with “settling” in the face of all the accessible “options”, incorrect as that interpretation may be.

I hope I don’t live to see the full circle our culture comes to when the world is populated with lonely gay uncles attending family get togethers with no one special to accompany them.  It’s kind of what I feared becoming when I was a young kid…there were always flamboyant or quirky – frequently drunk and dressed in seersucker suits – vaguely gay uncle figures in my reading and TV viewing providing a tragic glimpse into what eventually became my existence.

Sans seersucker suit, mercifully.

Presently, I think the gays would be topping off their glass and staying in, eschewing the offer of time out with friends in this particular dream scenario.

But that’s not what this is about.

I think this dream for me was a reminder to do what I’m doing in the dream.

Say yes!

Even though my psyche knows I will likely not return to that unfinished dream wine, it’s reminding me that there is always going to be another bottle available.  So, go on…get out.  Don’t let an opportunity to spend time with friends or foster real relationships with new ones pass you by.

I also think it’s a way of allaying some of my simmering fears about selling my condo and exploring self-employment versus banging my head against the doors of people who don’t seem to want to work with me.  If I want to experience being one resume or profile amongst thousands that gets ignored or just a surface glance, only to ultimately be dismissed without any real reason…well, I can always keep trying to date.

There are recurring dreams that I have had my entire life that kind of make me stop and take a look at what’s going on in my life…reminders to not just proceed blindly without weighing the pros and cons a situation or person might offer.

One such dream I have had time and again over the years is of me playing darts with Larry Tate from Bewitched.

Seriously.

And you thought I looked so normal on the outside…

I don’t even play darts in real life.  I used to, for a short time – I think just because of this dream.  But, for some reason, my psyche landed on this figure to be my dream time sounding board.  Interesting since he was a pretty unsympathetic character on the show.  Nevertheless, there we are, tossing darts and talking shit out.

Less weird and surprising than that dream would be the reality that in my conscious life, the Silver Fox is my best friend.  So, in my waking life, I have a Larry Tate stand in as a sounding board.  The Fox, however…definitely a likable character, despite the occasional shit I give him!

The message that I think my psyche sends me here is to stop and consider a situation and not to get trapped in my own head while doing it.  In my life, I am fortunate to have several great friends that I consider confidants.  Certainly, my parents are always there for me, too.  As a matter of fact, they are traveling through the middle of next week and I’m eager to have them weigh in on what’s happening as I seek to become self employed.  I think it’s going to be a long week…but the take away is to use those resources I am lucky enough to have in my life.

The last dream I want to share is a recurring childhood basic weirdness dream.  In the dream, I am an infant and my dad has taken me to work with him.  He was supervising a crew of longshoremen – not his actual job, so where my kid-brain got this imagery is beyond me – as they pulled on some ropes that led into a gigantic warehouse.  The strain they were under and the effort they were putting into their task was obvious.

There was a preternatural quiet.

I was crawling around in some crazy yellow infant-wear carrying a white plasticized Easter-type basket.

Gay.

I wasn’t paying much mind to the work being done, but was super aware of the strain.  I could feel it.  Eventually, I noticed that a giant slab of stone was emerging from the warehouse.  Slowly.  The piece of rock was as big as the opening to the warehouse.

It was otherworldly looking.

Eventually, they got to about the three-quarter mark on their work.  The stone was literally as long as the warehouse.

This dream feels like it takes forever to unfold.

What happened next was deafening.  Over the sounds of their pulling, the deafening sound of a rock breaking apart overwhelms my ears.  I start to cry, but stop as the rumble is replaced by the song of a little girl’s music box.

My perspective pulls back and I see myself crawling over the rubble, dragging my basket behind as the dust settles.  I zoom back in and see myself collecting bits of debris into my basket.

Fingers.

I’ve had this dream since I was a kid.

It used to terrify me.  I’d wake up, literally shaking my head, unable to understand what the hell I had just experienced.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to interpret this dream as a sign that I was putting a great deal of effort into something in my life.  Perhaps more effort into something than I should.  Eventually, it would either pay off or end in catastrophe.  This dream has served to make me stop and examine what is happening in my life and assess whether what I was focused on was going to end up being worth the effort I was pouring into it.  Ultimately, if it didn’t yield the expected return, then it was just my responsibility to pick up the pieces and carry on.  The symbolism of the men was interesting, given that I began having this dream before I became aware of my sexuality.

BTW…Broken Poet, anyone?  Where was this dream then?!?  LOL.

But the real moral here, or the most immediate one…never leave a bottle behind.

Dreams

The Great Job Hunt: Redux

Late last week or early this week – I have too much free time and frequently lose track of it moment to moment – I received a Facebook IM from a friend of mine, a former co-worker from the good old days of Chris being employed.  We talk semi-frequently this way and it’s nice to keep a little more in touch than just reading someone’s Facebook feed, I also run into her a couple times a year; just randomly in the Pearl District as she shops or runs errands and I…change things up from my normal routine of sitting around and venture outside.

This particular message was especially intriguing.  She was asking what one does when offered a job you don’t want or when you get an offer that isn’t what you expect.  Compared to my current job search norm, I think this is a good problem to have…so this was a meaty dialogue.  We traded a few messages and she suggested we meet for coffee.

And meet we did.

Yesterday.

We met up at Sisters Coffee House here in The Pearl, which turned out to be full of people proudly out doing what I normally do all day – sitting around on their computers – so I assumed they were all homeless, since I can do that at my condo.  Unshowered and, if I can stand the sight of myself, in my loungers or undies.  But all these people sitting alone at tables for two or four kind of pissed me off, since it left us to the sidewalk seating.

It was 45 degrees yesterday.

So, when she told me her story, I was cold and in a “Screw that, say no” mood, but I made myself filter my frustrations.  As chance would have it, a seat inside had opened up.  Plus, there’s no reason my EOG should negatively impact the lives of any innocent bystanders.  Particularly when they have sought out my advice on an issue.

I totally get where she was struggling, too.  We’re both at a point in our lives and careers where we expect certain things from employers and situations.  When we don’t get them, it raises a red flag.  We’re also alike inasmuch as we come from a time when we took a job offer or didn’t.  More often, we took it, because it was just what you did.  Worked.

Then the 80s happened and people started negotiating their worth during the job offer process.  It was really all kind of downhill from there, since now people don’t negotiate their worth as much as they simply don’t seem to deign to work at all in exchange for the rate of compensation they negotiate for themselves.

It’s crazy.

All things considered, I think I would rather live with Harvest Gold and Avocado Green kitchen appliances forever in exchange for a return to a true working class population like we had in the 70s…where we also worked for a whopping $2.10 an hour minimum wage.  Today, it seems we all think we’re going to be millionaires and are prepared to offer zero effort in return for anything less.

It might be worse in Portland, famously described by someone as “Where young people go to retire”.  So true, but not as unique to Portland as one might think.

Anyway, my advice was being sought and after listening to her story I told her about what my dad said to me when I started looking for work, “Don’t take a job you aren’t going to be happy at”.  And I absolutely hate that it’s so challenging to find such a simple sounding position, but absolutely love that I am fortunate enough to have parents that say something so awesome and then consistently point me back to that when I get frustrated with my job search.

She completely understood that sentiment and shared that she was kind of in the same place; after all, her job had just ended in December, so she’s only six or seven weeks into her Unemployment Insurance.  This particular offer was less money than she had been making and below the market value for the position and only had five days of PTO.  She’s looking for a job she can offer a five year commitment before joining her husband in retirement, how hard should it be to find a place one can be happy working for five years?

What must she give up?

Money?

Family time?

She’s mature enough to carefully weigh what it means to pass up a job even though she admitted that she’s never really been in that situation before.  Nor had she ever negotiated, so this was a brave new world for her, career-wise.  She had been granted an extra five days of PTO in her job offer but had decided to counter with the pay she expected – which was on the low end of the industry average – and ask for an additional five days of PTO prior to meeting with me.  I wholly supported that move and openly supposed that she would probably get the money but not the PTO, which sounded like a blessing since it provided her a legitimate reason to decline the offer.  The worst possible case I could imagine after hearing her story was the owner coming back with everything she asked for and she still didn’t actually want the damned job.

Then she’d be in a pickle.

One other thing that I asked her after hearing her story, was whether she thought this was the employer putting his best foot forward, which gave her a good chuckle.  Her offer was from a small company, six people including the owner.  We worked together at a once-great small company…only 75 stores when I joined up back in 2009, and still family owned for the most part.

Since then, we have both aligned ourselves with smaller outfits, so the dysfunction she shared during her story was familiar and cringe inducing territory for me:  irrelevantly good people who kinda sucked at their jobs.  Great…it’s a small company, it should have character like that, I guess.  It’s one of the things that gets lost in a larger corporation:  personality.  But on the flip side, those larger corporations have the ability to withstand someone who isn’t the most competent at their job making a mistake.  Not so in a six million dollar company.  Someone fucks up and people lose their jobs.  Back at the job I accepted in 2013, separating me from my work life with this particular friend, the controller made a $600,000 mistake and 10% of the company’s employees lost their jobs.  Me included.  And that was a twelve million dollar company…which frankly surprises me with its persistent survival.

It’s a real head-scratcher.

On the way home from this coffee date, I was thinking of the Silver Fox.  He was given early retirement at the beginning of 2015 with a fantastic severance package and a one-year non-compete, which he thought was no big deal since he was retired!

A few months in – and I swear he came by this on his own, even though we were spending a lot of our mutual free time together – he had decided he needed to go back to work.  He wanted to.  For his peace of mind.  I think he had always planned to continue working, but I was making unemployment look so glamorous that he simply had to try it out.

Right…

Anyway, there he is, putting out feelers.

He starts getting the passive-aggressive attention I’ve come to love so much about looking for a job:  being ignored.  This is one of those things that prompted me to write in my original Great Job Hunt that Human Resources is one of the most worthless parts of any organization.  It’s not like this is a hard part of their job, they tend to have rather expensive Applicant Tracking Systems to allow them to manage what anyone who has ever hired off of a Help Wanted ad will tell you is a potentially overwhelming influx of applicants.

That said, each of these systems also has an automated Thanks For Your Application email as well as canned Thanks, But No Thanks emails that can be sent to applicants you aren’t interested in…the latter just takes the click of a mouse.

People who can’t manage that low-bar job expectation have jobs and I don’t.

Go, America.

And some will judge that this is my expectation of employer behavior and not what should be expected.

Of course, I disagree.

My thought is, these software designers didn’t think, “Hey, this function would be cool!” and just put it in.  They got feedback, gathered data and were likely encouraged to include such a feature allowing for easy communication with applicants.  Regardless, though, I think if you are going to ask people to apply to work for your company, it’s the right professional behavior to repay that effort.  It’s the right human behavior to show that minimal amount of respect to your applicants.  Again, these people are probably customers of your business in some way, shape or form.  If they aren’t, you’re probably likely to be snubbing someone who works in the industry your business does its business in and unlikely to not cross paths with these applicants at some other point in the future.  Who wants to go into that situation at a disadvantage because someone thinks your organization isn’t?

Back to the Fox, he had been approached by some folks in his massive network about a position in his industry.  For a non-profit.  A religious non-profit.

We all know what I said.

My knee-jerk reactions to that information notwithstanding, he felt the same way.  Being the mature person he is, he took a couple of meetings about it and learned things like the expectation is that each meeting begins with a prayer.  Led by the person calling the meeting.  Him.  Surprisingly, he still ultimately interviewed…walking away with the impression from the President that it wasn’t as bad as it sounded, she herself not being “that religious”.  So he ended up being kind of jazzed about the opportunity.

Naturally, nothing happened.

But, the President did at least call him to explain the final decision, which was professional of her.

Thank god.

It reminds me that the interview process is very similar to dating.  How you act could and should determine the future of any level of relationship you have with the other.  Personal or professional.  If someone asks you out for dinner and then doesn’t even show up or acknowledge that you did what they asked…instant jerk status, right?  Why would a potential employer be any different?  They place an ad asking you to apply, invite you to meet with them and then you hear nothing after?

I’m glad that wasn’t the Fox’s experience.  They were slow, but at least someone reached out and thanked him for his time and effort.

What my coffee date reminded me of was that there’s pros and cons to any situation, but also ultimately that my dad is right…I shouldn’t feel like I have to take a job just to have a job.

Last October I applied for a job with Target.  It was the second time I had applied for a job with them, earlier in 2015 I had applied for a Store Team Leader (just a store manager job, but look at them being all precious about it) job with them and interviewed with a great person in their corporate HR department.  We discussed my flexibility about working either in Portland or Seattle and she put me forward for both markets to speak with people in the respective markets face-to-face.

And nothing happened.

Then The Broken Poet applied for a job with them.  Just as a cashier, but still, he had essentially zero qualifications for the job.  He had a 13 minute interview and left with a job offer.

Let me say that again:  a 13 minute interview.

No reference checks.

No second interview.

Simply 13 minutes of Hot Seat questioning and then a “Please, come handle part of our $30 million in sales transactions every year, WhoeverTheHellYouAre.

He never showed up.  He was busy having a melt down and fleeing the big city for the dustbowl he called home.  Again.

Given their strict standards, once TBP had up and left me again, I applied for the next Store Team Leader position I saw posted…bringing us back to October of last year.

I got to speak with my buddy at Target corporate again.  She’s sweet.  She remembered me.  Then told me she was definitely putting me forward to meet with the Portland leadership.

Again.

I emailed her two weeks later to ask if the position had been filled, because I hadn’t heard from the locals.  She replied 10 days later, asking me to complete a fresh assessment, since they had changed in the month since my application was submitted.

She sent me the wrong link to the assessment.

I said she was sweet, I didn’t say she was great at her job.

I emailed her with the issue and she never replied.

Until a couple of weeks later when she called out of the blue to ask if I was still interested.  Now, admittedly, my interest was waning.  However, my need for a job was not, so I stifled my grumpy old man schtick and eagerly replied in the affirmative.  She told me to expect the process to move quickly and to be prepared for a Portland person to reach out and set up an interview and a job shadow for the next week, with a job offer to follow shortly thereafter…not a promise of employment, just filling me in on her timeline.

A timeline that had me starting the week before Christmas in a thirty million dollar store.  But I was definitely not intimidated by that prospect.

Then, wait for it…

…nothing happened.

In the middle of the second week of January I got an email from Target asking if I was interested in a job shadow two days later with an interview the following week, at 8:00 in the morning on my birthday.

Fuck no.

Er…yes!  Yes!!!

So at 3:30 the day before the job shadow, I get the details and go meet a lovely, peppy and significantly overpaid for her age Store Team Lead.  Thirty miles away from my home.  Why would it be convenient at this point in the game?  We spend a few hours together and this job returns squarely to the “Fuck yeah” list of jobs I want.  It was a really good experience.

The next week – happy birthday to me – I have a phone interview with the District Team Leader (District Manager to all us unfortunate, non-Target retail slobs).  It also goes great.  Nice way to begin my birthday.  At the end of the conversation, she tells me to expect corporate to reach out within the next two business days to set up a FaceTime with her boss and probably the VP of HR.  After that, the guy who is responsible for all Target stores in the top half of the US will call me, but it will all happen quickly from this point.

See, that phrase…I just shoulda known.

Nothing happens that Friday.

At 3:00 Monday, I’m thinking about emailing my corporate contact, but decide not to.

She calls at 3:30 my time.  From the Midwest.

Yes!

She’s all excited.  Thanking me for my patience, acknowledging the length of time I have invested in the process.

And then kicks my balls and tells me that she’s super sorry but they went with another candidate.

I soccer mom the grumpy old guy residing within, cooly and professionally “admitting” that I’m both surprised and disappointed to hear that outcome.

She digs down a little deeper with some assurances that the next opening is mine – which does sound pretty close to a promise of employment; pulling the dirt in after her by telling me that it was an internal candidate from somewhere else in the country that they were hiring.

My inner soccer mom steps aside and lets the grumpy old Christopher take a head run at her with, “Well, if the team in Portland would have been on top of their game back in October, I could already have my first Target Christmas under my belt…come to think of it, had this internal candidate even expressed interest in the position in October like I did?  Because fair is fair, and I’m pretty sure that I was first.  Again, if the locals could perform their jobs effectively, this internal wouldn’t have an option here.”

I feel bad, because she’s stammering and I know she feels bad, but that empathy doesn’t get me a paycheck, does it?  Ultimately, since she wasn’t watching her open job requisitions or enforcing the expectation that the locals follow up on the candidates that she put forward…well, she kind of made her own pain.

I’ll bet next time she simply sends an email.

While sobbing a little inside.

I’ll also bet she doesn’t call me for the next opening.  Just a hunch.  But Target has crash landed itself in the list of companies that I don’t want to work for now.  After my time being underemployed, I know that I want to work until I’m 70.  Screw my fantasy of retiring at 50, I need to work…it gives me a purpose, not just a paycheck.  Spending the next couple of decades wallowing in dysfunction without the ability to make an impact isn’t a job, it’s a sentence.

No thank you.

Going back to Applicant Trackers and Human Resources…well, whose job do you suppose it is to keep track of open job posts?  Yup…HR.  They’re supposed to be watching them and making sure they are opened when needed and are actually worked with urgency.  Their department name pretty much predicates that they are responsible for making sure stores are staffed appropriately with managers and sales associates…the literal human resource all companies need to succeed.

Here this peppy, sweet person is letting a job post stay open for 90+ days.  That’s just not acceptable.

Again, and I don’t have a job.

Nor does my coffee date friend from yesterday.  At the end of the day, she decided to pass on the job and sent an email to the owner of the company honestly and professionally explaining her decision.

And I think we need more of that respectful and open communication in both corporate and every day America.  Not having it has gotten us Stainless Steel kitchen appliances, which is awesome.  It’s also gotten us Kardashians…which is decidedly not.

The Great Job Hunt: Redux