BikeTown Chronicles #2

Over the past week, I’ve been missing being active as my foot heals up. It’s provided me the opportunity to live actively vicariously through myself…my memories of being outside and active, at any rate.

It’s also gotten me thinking about the unfortunate side effects of getting back on my bike. Back in the saddle, if you will.

The muscle soreness, I look forward to. Achey knees, I’m able to tolerate…literally walking off the cumulative shock in the hours or days after a ride.

That saddle rash, though.

Short of getting a new seat, I’ve done what I can to minimize the occurrence of saddle rash. Wearing fewer layers of fabric to minimize chafe. Wearing the right layers, ie: padded undergear. Post-ride care, including a bag balm, because some remedies have to make you question whether the cost of the cure is worth the cause of the malady.

Kinda like the old chestnut about only sane people questioning their sanity. So when I ask if applying salve to my taint-ish region is a reasonable post exercise recovery…I have to be able to affirm my cycling adventures. It’s not as worth it as it would be if someone else were (gingerly) working the cream into my nether area.

Shush, Diezel.

But, since that’s not a fun part of my cost/benefit cycling analysis – and since today is the first day old leftie is feeling like a ride won’t send my recovery backwards – I move past the potential discomfort into other areas of my recent outdoor adventures.

So I’m co-opting or resurrecting this draft of my second BikeTown Chronicles with a few things further onto the plus side of cycling in order to motivate me back out onto the road this afternoon!

I had gotten to the point where I would remember gloves. Actually, I was pretty proud, I remembered them after my first ride. My forearm soreness was pretty severe after my ride, but in a weird way. I also experienced numbness during and after my ride. I remembered the gloves recommendation from one of The Fabulous Baker Girls, who is an avid cyclist. She swore the padding in the palms of the gloves would reduce, if not flat out alleviate, hand and wrist numbness during my ride.

The fact that I experienced numbness up my forearm after the ride reinforced the need for gloves. I put them inside my helmet so I wouldn’t forget them for my next ride. My hands and wrists still get a little numb during my rides, but not until I’m about 10 miles in. I have a mountain bike, with traditional straight handlebars. I’m sure there’s an alternative bar that would afford me the opportunity to reposition my hands during my rides so that I can reduce this numbness even further, similar to 10-speed handlebars. I just haven’t done any research into those options yet.

Cycling took an unexpectedly social turn on my third or fourth ride of the season when I ran into – more accurately, he “caught up” to me – Casey Adler toward the end of my Springwater Trail ride. How he recognized me from behind, in cycle gear – including a helmet, Mom! – is beyond me. I don’t consider myself to be that distinct looking as to be recognizable from either that angle or at that velocity.

It was a nice surprise, though. We rode the last couple of miles of the trail together, catching up.

Honestly, though, there was a moment where “catching up” turned into “catching my breath”, when I tapped out and told him he needed to talk for a while while I wheezed and listened.

I’m old, I own that!

I hadn’t been in a situation where I needed to be cognizant of sharing the path as we rode two abreast and chatted. I’m usually the grumpy guy muttering “excuse me” as I steer to avoid such people. I was proud of the fact that Casey and I took turns dropping back to avoid colliding with oncoming groups that were also riding side by side, albeit obliviously so. Hell, Casey was even aware enough to see a faster rider coming up behind us and sped up so we were riding single file again so Speed Cycler could pass.

Our social cycling ended abruptly when we realized that Casey was taking a street route – presumably – back to his place in NoPo while I was peeling off to take the Esplanade back toward my place.

After we separated, though, I focused on his casually motivational comment when I asked where he was coming from. He simply said that he’d taken the path out to Boring and was on his way back in. I was inspired because that’s a 50 mile ride for me, probably closer to 60 for him.

It was just two rides after this encounter that I managed – and promptly swore off of – my own half century ride. I know I’ve got another 50 mile ride in me…at some point. I just need to figure out how to incorporate them into my cycling routine, since they are time consuming and do have quite a physical toll.

My Health App and Strava finally synced on this ride, too!

Prior to this, for whatever reason, there had been about a half mile discrepancy. My Health app had been shorting me a half mile in ride and doubling the total mileage post-ride.

Weird.

Interestingly, it had been – and still is – waaaay overvaluing my caloric burn. It measures the energy in kcal units, which as my simple mind understands metrics – is 1000 calories. For the ride above, Strava estimates a 534 calorie burn, while my Health app insists on making that a 534 kcal burn.

Sadly, I don’t see me burning a half million calories in a month of cycling, let alone a single day.

But like I said, maybe calories and kcals are interchangeable and I’m just an idiot on the subject.

Could totally be the case.

There are definitely a few things for me to remember as I psych myself up for a ride today. Negative factors that are beyond my control, unlike padded shorts and gloves.

The ride that prompted this entry originally occurred on Cinco de Mayo. I failed to connect the dots between the holiday and the fun zone idiots I encountered on my ride home along the waterfront. The path along the waterfront is mixed pedestrian, cyclist, skateboarder, roller blader, unicyclyer, jogger, segue rider and any other mode of transport you can imagine. It’s Portland! The city may as well put up bleachers on the path at Gov Tom McCall Park since the path runs between the river and the strip of grass that houses amusement park rides or tents during the many summertime waterfront events. This effectively renders the pathway unnavigable as lower functioning humans are stunned into a slack jawed, mouth breathing and quite stationary existence on the path as they contemplate whether or not to enter.

Sidenote: this is not happening anywhere near the actual entrance to the festival.

Since we are in the midst of Portland’s annual Rose Festival activities, the fun zone is in full swing. Luckily, there’s a path along both sides of the river. I just have to remember to take the right one on my way home!

Hey, did you know that Walkathons are still a thing? Apparently, most of them are in support of Rude People Pride since they seem to block the entire path…prompting me to admonish them to share as I weave and wobble through the crowd.

That said, a Monday ride is a ride free of Walkathons!

However

I need to be careful to time my ride so that I’m back before rush hour for Portland’s bike commuters. This is particularly important while there’s an event at Tom McCall Park since everyone funnels along the east side of the river to get home, bypassing the virtual bleachers on the west side of the river.

Generally speaking, I love catching the worker bee exodus of Portlander cyclists as they leave work for the day when I’m returning from a ride. It reminds me of what a great city Portland is to live in.

The only pinch point is the Steel Bridge.

This bridge was opened in 1912. One has to admit that at 106 years of age, it’s fared quite a bit better than more infamous technological marvels of that same year. Portland has also worked to integrate the bridge into its infrastructure plans to make sure it doesn’t cripple the city’s growth through the years.

Originally, this two-decked bridge carried vehicles on its upper span and train traffic along its lower span. When Portland introduced its commuters to light rail in the 80s, the upper span was repurposed to carry two lanes of car traffic and two lanes of light rail MAX trains. When the Eastbank Esplanade was created, the Steel and Hawthorne Bridges were selected to connect the east and west side waterfronts, each gaining a pedestrian and cycling path. For the Steel Bridge, that manifested in an addition to the lower deck. At about 5 feet wide, it’s half the width of the paths along the waterfront.

For all the ribbing Portland drivers get for being too polite, demonstrated nicely by Portlandia in its “No, You Go” sketch where two drivers at an intersection bent over backward to yield to the other, one of whom didn’t even have a stop sign or signal, the same cannot be said for its cyclist population. Especially bike commuters.

I’ve long suspected that being killed as a pedestrian by a cyclist would be the perfect manifestation of a Red Shirt worthy demise. Little did I realize that cyclists are trying to take one another out, too. During the Cinco de Mayo fun zone-slash-bike commuter rush hour, the Steel Bridge became something of a cycling Thunderdome. As I was crossing over in this last mile of my ~20 mile ride, the path was packed with slow-moving pedestrian and bike traffic.

I’m sure there was a very good motivator for what I experienced on the bridge this day, but all I can muster is either selfishness or straight up idiocy. We riders were all doing a slow pedal across the bridge as we navigated across with our walking counterparts. For whatever reason, an oncoming cyclist decided to pass a mother/father/stroller situation that was walking side by side across the bridge.

Mind you, at around 5 feet wide, this path is barely wide enough to accommodate three people across. This oncoming cyclist – in her irrefutable good judgment – decided rush hour was the day to make this a four person across path by bending the rules of physics.

She was partially successful, this typically stupid American. However, most of her success I attribute to me slow-crashing my bike into the hog wire railing of the pedestrian path. The commotion she caused didn’t cause her to slow down or rethink her judgment whatsoever. To her credit, it also didn’t cause her to speed up, so the chaos she created was maximized.

What a feckless cu…well, you get where that’s going.

So, hopefully the need for editing in this post is minimal, since I’m giving it less than that. You see, I have a 3 hour and 6 minute window for my ride before the bike commuter rush hour starts. I need to run.

Er…peddle.

BikeTown Chronicles #2

TransDating: Part I

Sooooo…The Facebook, right?

Coming through for me the other (early) morning when I couldn’t sleep. I was scrolling through my newsfeed, I had probably cruised through the previous 36 hours worth of newsfeed-algorithm-worthy posts when I happened upon the “People You Might Know” feature.

Probably, this is where the ZuckerDrones are looking out for me, “thinking” this is what usually makes him throw his phone down in disgust so I could get back to sleep. Little do they (or DO they?!?) know that I usually at least look at the top recommendations before throwing my phone down in the aforementioned disgust.

Today, though, today…I’ve clearly got time. It’s 5-ish am, I’ve been scrolling for 45 minutes, “Why not see who the Facebook thinks I should know?” I think, before doing a deep dive.

I was a good 10 minutes into the PYMK section when I saw it.

Ok, given the name of this post, that was a poorly chosen pronoun due to the ease of exploitation that “it” allows. Well, exploit it for humor, we got no problems…we’re obviously chums for a reason. Exploit it for its vaguely gender-vague crime-worthiness and, well, you can fuck right off and then keep on humping.

Because, what I saw was a “who” that I crushed all the way out on while I was working at the airport.

One of the Fabulous Baker Girls has probably already used her super sleuthy skills to figure out who I’m talking about, she’s that good.

For the rest of you…this is a person I used to see a couple times a week because he managed a store out at PDX while I worked there. Still does, if the Facebook is to be believed.

And, believable or not, the Facebook was giving me the profile of a super sexy fella to scroll through as I debated “friending” him.

If he’d remember me or accept said friend request…TBD.

As I scrolled, I was rewarded with those validating pics young folks post…showcasing their natural gifts and/or the fruits of their gym labors.

Oh, right. I forgot there was also significant tattoo-age. They were all spelled correctly, so the attraction was preserved.

What it took me a few extra minutes of scrolling to realize was that the muscle definition and tattoos both served to draw the eye away from some very artfully concealed scars…of the double mastectomy variety.

Well, shit-fuck-damn.

I’ve always held young people unreasonably accountable to having a better physique than I, however…where gender reassignment is involved, I give a hall pass.

Does that seem fair?

Well, I don’t care. Ask your mother if life is supposed to be fair.

Back to me.

Trans-folk get a hall pass on body stuff because they are fighting an uphill battle. Whereas young cis men have hormones helping their physical accomplishments, trans-folk have what are likely the wrong hormones working against whatever correct hormones they may be pumping into their bodies. It results in a battle of science vs nature toward physically expressing their true selves.

I’m not judging that.

No way, no how.

Plus, in the case of this fine fella, and I’m sure many trans-men…should they put their minds to it, they could kick my ass twice before I knew the first ass whooping was happening. I’m smart enough to not make enemies, let alone enemies that could actually harm my favorite person.

But my trans hall pass has always expired where the appreciation of their physical accomplishments meets the reality of my Kinsey 6 sexuality. Top surgery and potentially hormone assisted physical accomplishments aside, at the end of the day I can’t get my old school homosexuality around the “beaver in my bed” scenario. I’m an ass man, through and through…but frontside foreplay is still a part of the routine, because…well, because it is.

Enter Anachronistic Xtopher.

It’s been a decade long entrance, in case you thought this was a fresh struggle.

You see, when I moved to Seattle back in ’06, I spent more than my fair share of time getting to know my new bevy of gay bars slash neighborhood watering holes. I really loved all of them. Little did I know that a lot of this euphoric experience was relative to me being fresh meat (at goddamned 40 years of age) in a relatively small dating pool’s bar scene.

Still, by ’08, I was well past that…the blush was off the proverbial lily.

It was then that I’d found myself out for a weeknight wee bit.

<Interior: The Cuff, upper bar…because they don’t bother opening the lower dance and patio bars on a goddamned Tuesday>

I’m swilling quietly, minding my own obliviousness at the end of the bar, when a brick shithouse of a dude in all his construction worker drag walks in, sits down by me and orders a beer.

Now, we all know where this is heading, because: title spoilers, but suspend your disbelief.

Jesus. Rough crowd.

I’m sitting there thinking, “Sure, on a four-sided bar, this is the only place to sit where you won’t have an unwelcome crowd form around you”.

It’s also a Tuesday, so crowds would be a no.

It’s also the side of the bar furthest the door.

Ergo: it’s also the only side of the bar that you have to pass all three of the other (service) sides of the bar to get to.

All of this conspires to convince me that this placement is intentional…for whatever reason.

Nevertheless, there was a beer or two of conversational foreplay before I trot out this gem, “How does it feel to be the best looking guy in this dump?”

“Well, it is a Tuesday…but still pretty damned ok”, he says, laughing.

“I was gonna offer to get your next beer, but as the second best looking guy in the bar, I realize that puts you in a tough place.”

“Drink up. I got this one, since you look smart enough to not waste your aspirations for bar dominations on a Tuesday night. But you’re definitely on the hook for the next one!”

“Thank god this isn’t a Wednesday”, I reply, thinking that this guy’s humor is right in line with mine. I’d love to have an equal in sass…not as easy as one might think since you have to factor overall disposition into the equation. I don’t mind an overly queeny sense of sass near as much as I’d run away from or flat out fail to appreciate a guy with hard up bro-sass.

That struggle? REAL.

Anyway, we chatted a bit about what afforded us the luxury of drinking on a Tuesday night in a bar people only cared about on the weekends. Some other stuff. He was a lot of fun to talk with, truth be told.

Comfortable.

Easy.

However, on beer four – my fifth, just to be completely honest – he disclosed that he was FTM (female to male, for the uninitiated). Now, sexually, my heretofore growing chub lost volume…for previously mentioned Kinsey 6 reasons.

Still

I was really enjoying this guy’s company. Obviously, having lived in Shittatle for two years and still finding myself drinking alone on a Tuesday night, I was in need of friends. If our schedules aligned to allow a regular social coalescence…that’s a good ROI on my Tuesday night of drinking.

Right?

Well, I never heard from him again, so fuck me. What are ya gonna do though? This person was – after two years in Seattle – literally within the first six people I’d given my number to.

He didn’t use it.

It’s been 10 years since that eye-opener of a night. But in a decade, I have realized that easily navigated complexities sometimes only end up being precursors to significantly more complex situations. Situations whose ramifications extend way further than the least crowded side of a four sided bar on the least crowded night of the week.

Well, when I put it that way, my ’08 encounter seems…easy. But, trust me…it wasn’t.

Not in the moment.

Reductively, it’s choosing between clams and sausage on the sexual menu. But in reality, clams vs sausage is an argument that a very, legitimately very small percentage of our population known as bisexual ever actually engages in. For the rest of us, that sexual argument is rarely ever brought front and center on a casual night of drinking. For me, dropping my pole in a decidedly gay watering hole for a drink generally results in “I got a drink” at best and “top or bottom?” in an unexpected better than best at the worst.

Having to navigate original plumbing in this fishing hole scenario made me think cats were my future.

Don’t worry, Myrtle has made me realize there’s no love to be found in a truly hopeless place.

Which is pretty much where I was earlier this year when I ended up chatting with Liz at my local caffeination station about proper gender pronoun usage. It was one of those conversations where I not only felt relief that I wasn’t the only person confused by what pronouns were socially acceptable for everyday polite usage, but also a conversation that left me thinking, “Nah, you should stay at home forever” once I realized that if a multi-unit coffee shop manager easily ten years my junior in goddamned Portland, Oregon can’t figure it out then I had – really – no hope.

Like, literally zero chance.

She was referencing customers – well, a specific customer – and in talking about them, acknowledged her confusion about correct pronoun usage.

Why?

Because she was using them – a pronoun heretofore used in a plural sense – to reference an individual. It made things…complex. And not just conversationally.

We each acknowledged the pronoun struggle by way of clarifying the actual object of her statements.

Why is this a big deal?

Well, let’s jump back to my awkward night at The Cuff. What if I happened to take my spontaneous drinking buddy’s bathroom break as a moment to confide in the bartender?

“Close me out, I think I’m gonna take him back to my place.”

Yeah, that’s how early 21st century conversation looked.

Ah, the simplicity of the aughts. We’re in the teens now, though.

Fuck simplicity.

Nowadays, I’d have to say, “Close me out, I’m taking them back to my place for a night cap.” Of course, I’m referencing an individual while using a plural pronoun…this is confusing!

Not to mention, unsafe.

Sure, we’re a decade back for this example. Nonetheless, what if this happened while I was talking to someone that the bartender knew to have a chain smoking boyfriend that never made it into the bar? I suddenly end up looking way cooler than I ever was in my original 40s. But I also end up probably equal parts likely to have an unplanned three way as I end up being rolled by an unexpected third or beaten up by a jealous, unknown boyfriend.

There’s a lot of downside to these vague, politically correct repurposing of existing pronouns.

But, by all means…let’s put personal safety aside for recreational contrariness of a sexual minority. Whatever happened to the pre-turn-of-the-century s/him for men veiled in feminine dress?

Was that so offensive, somehow?

My money is on the difficulty in creating the gender appropriate version of a pronoun for a woman out and about with her masculine flag flying. I’ve been semi-thinking about this for over a decade. What would that new pronoun be?

I think that – in a very weird turn of events in gay-phobic America in the second decade of a new millennia – that an inverse Crying Game scenario based on gender appropriate pronoun confusion would create a larger kerfluffle than Jaye Davidson could ever imagine.

That said

Of course I get a text from Diezel a few weeks ago asking if I’d ever date a FTM guy.

<eyeroll> “Why is life so hard?!?” – Me

Still, since I adore Diezel and also kinda try – as long as it doesn’t put me out too terribly much – to be a good friend, we chatted a bit about it. I knew this wasn’t one of those random questions, rather one borne of a specific circumstance – this wasn’t a random Monday Night Supper Club conversational topic like Intersectionality was – after all.

But our little chat took us through this whole decade-long arc of mine.

In mere moments…

The crux being, “What’s the point of plumbing, anyway?”

Honestly, for me, in about ten minutes…nothing. I think we get to a point where the sex is secondary to the connection.

Sexondary – Chrisism!

But as humans, as sexual beings…that secondary connection doesn’t happen until the sexual connection is either satisfied or mitigated. There’s a simple statement. Mitigating that sexual connection is simple…give it a few decades, then who cares?

BOTH OF YOU! That’s who. Since you’ve now both lived through a relationship where neither of you got your rocks off. Obviously, that scenario doesn’t necessarily or easily work. However, it might work if you’re in a post-sexual time of life.

Mind you, I’m <cough> in my sixth decade and my best friend is in his seventh…not sure when sexual compatibility moves to the back burner. But, goddamnit…I hope that this is a thing. Maybe these much maligned – at least in this blog – millennials will figure it out, this sexual conundrum.

<belly laugh interlude>

Better? Maybe you need another minute…

How’s it going? Oh, still wheezing?

Walk it off.

Focus on taking deep breaths through your nose, out through the mouth.

Sometimes Millennials figure things out!

Oh, gawd. It’s gotten worse!

I really feel like I should apologize. I’ll try and warn you before I say something like that next time.

Ultimately, I decided the friend request that motivated this whole blog-thought-exercise was a bad idea, since my desire to know him was initially sexually motivated. That seemed like a recipe for butt-hurted-ness…somehow.

So, for now? I’m leaving it with “I don’t know”. But I’m still thinking about it and trying to work my way through it correctly…

Stand by.

Lordy, I feel like this is gonna need a Part II…

TransDating: Part I

Embers

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

Last night’s entry had lit in its title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colloquially-speaking.

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

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

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

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

My socializing quickly began to include Embers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The good old days…yeah.

Ten years later, I moved away.

Ten years later, I moved home.

Again.

Embers was still there.

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

Literally, dead, as it came to pass.

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

Some familiar bartenders and staff.

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

Some drag queens.

But the crowd was hard to find.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s an outcome I can appreciate.

RIP Embers.  And thanks for the mEmberies.

Embers

150 Minutes

I wasn’t going to go.

I never do…so why start now?

It’s complicated.

We’ve been bred to dread these events.  Yet, like so many other things, what’s old is new again.  More appropriately in this case, what was out may very well be in again.

What could I possibly be talking about?

My High School Reunion.pioneer

The 30 year edition.

Thirty.  Fucking.  Years.

Sweet Jesus.  When did that happen?

Oh, yes.  I mentioned it was complicated.  Here’s the skinny.  When I was a boy – I think the aforementioned timeframe affords an un-ironic pass at using that phrase – we had grade school, middle school and then high school.  The breaks, at least in my district, were K-6th grade, 7th-Frosh and then Sophomore to Senior to wrap it up with each jump from one school to the next being fed by several feeder schools.  When I finished 6th grade at Jennings Lodge Elementary, me and my classmates were routed to Ogden Junior High for the start of 7th grade along with I don’t know how many 6th grade graduates from other schools.

Well, during the summer between the end of my Freshman year at Ogden and the beginning of my Sophomore year, my family moved from Portland, OR to a little place named Atchison, KS – pretty much known for being the point of origin of this and her. Continue reading “150 Minutes”

150 Minutes

It’s not me, it’s you. 

It really, really is.


Not that there’s anything wrong with that, empirically speaking.

And there’s nothing really wrong with my friend Diezel – formerly: Lurch – either.  We, like so many other singles in the world, optimistically bang our heads against the dating and relationship walls until we’re slightly worse for the emotional wear and then ask, “Why?” like a deranged Nancy Kerrigan.

Why?  Why us…why anyone?

Strangely, knowing there’s nothing wrong with oneself doesn’t always cushion the blow of another’s careless behavior.  Not necessarily intentionally careless behavior but definitely not cluelessly careless.  It would take a pretty special type of idiot to not know that pulling a fade away on someone just isn’t the adult thing to do.

One of the languages I’ve become somewhat fluent in over my dating career is Hint.  Enough so that I tend to check in and verify my Hint to English translations with people just to make sure they know what their actions are saying to me.

It’s a horrifying surprise to find out how truly clueless people are about what their body language and lack of follow through to their words and commitments says to someone else.

Shockingly horrifying.

We’ll see how I feel about providing examples of such behaviors later…maybe they’ll just show up magically like solid friendships or relationships do.  Y’know, without any actual work or effort on my part.  Oh, wait.

For now, I want to focus on the fall out.

A lot of things can happen when making new friends or building new relationships, it depends on the individual and whether or not Hint is their primary language, one they’re fluent in or even one that they are completely unaware of.

I find it’s easy for guys – gay guys, most famously in my opinion – to ask if someone wants to have sex.  Here in 2016, us awful people – men, not that we do a good job of living up to the definition of that word and acting like men outside of carelessly wielding an erection – tend to pretty much just barf out things like “Looking?” – or “You looking?” for the more verbose gays – to one another.  Personally, I’d like nothing more in life than to use that simple action as a conduit for culling perhaps the worst elements of our society.

Is that a genocidal thought?

Let’s table that…but remind me to tell you about The Jettison Project someday.

Some other folks, let’s consider them the less desperate element at the least and more genuinely self-aware at best, might want to take a more mature approach like meeting for a safe coffee or drink and see if there’s a spark or another reason to plan future social engagements over committing to just meet up and go right to Bonetown with someone they’ve never met.

I saw in a movie once that this is called dating.  It was in a movie, so it must be real, right?

So, here’s some options of what can happen, fallout-wise:

Equally clueless people probably stumble merrily along from one such instance to the next occurrence where they just “see what happens”…and are unsurprised when nothing happens again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

These good folks in the above scenario could be of the mutual hook-up mentality or you could have an instance of the mixed hook-up and dating ilk.  Tragedy usually occurs when one of the participants isn’t really aware of which kind of guy he is, or – more commonly, I suspect – isn’t being honest with himself about what he wants or what his motivation is.  That’s when things have the potential to get really messy.

People with a bit more focus in life, trying to live an intentional existence like Diezel and myself, tend to be affected a bit more by these messier encounters.  We can easily identify what our goals are in our emotional life and aren’t necessarily looking for fulfillment based on the luck required when one simply waits to just “see what happens”.  For my part, I will often push people away by trying to clarify what they are intending to communicate through their actions.

Boy howdy, so many people hate that.

Mentally, I picture those people as amusement park goers and myself as an adventure ride…they are simply not (emotionally) tall enough to ride my ride.  Know what I mean?

It gets worse.

“Dan Savage Wisdom” may help teens survive the coming out process but a few decades after surviving that trauma, I kind of want to shake him like a crying baby.

Undoubtedly, if we were a bit more intentional in how we prepared our young to function in the adult world of human interaction we would probably end up with a much happier populace.  I say “human interaction” because it’s not just how we date, but also how we treat each other in generic day-to-day social situations.

But, Diezel and I were recently discussing his dating life in particular.

Surprisingly, I was the participant on more solid emotional ground during our conversation.  Quite a feat after my summer of Broken Poet-ry.

Diezel, not so much.

I was surprised to find that he’d been experiencing tortured evenings at home following a prior conversation where we’d talked about him successfully navigating the holidays as a single man and frequent odd-man-out in the requisite holiday socializing.

Things can change and get dark quickly in the dating world and that’s where poor Diezel was existing lately.  So much so that I was surprised to find out that his two other confidants had held a well-being intervention with him a few days after our holiday survival conversation.

They were worried about him hurting himself.

What had I missed, was there something – a tell – that I hadn’t picked up on?

He assured me that no self harm was planned.  We exchanged assurances that he knew which friends to reach out to and what networks existed for people in crisis should he need them.

He can promise me all he wants, but I’m not one to assume that my loved ones won’t “pass themselves away”, to quote Ms. Evie Harris.  I’m fine telling them what I want them to do when the going gets tough.  Between life in general and AIDS in particular, I’ve lost too many friends already.  I’ve cleaned up one friend’s bathtub after he shot himself in it.  Thoughtful until the end; tile is much easier to clean blood off of versus paint and carpet…still, I’d prefer he was thoughtful enough to not deprive me of his presence in this world.

I’m selfish like that.

I’m also prone to offering helpful humor like this in between more substantial texts:

So, what was Diezel’s trigger?

A literal trigger.

He’d recently been talking with his friends about a couple of recent purchases, god help me, I can’t recall both…just the new gun that he had told me about.

Now, I recall asking about it as I mentally rolled my eyes since I have never really understood the allure of gun ownership, let alone multiple gun ownership.  As he discussed the purchase I also recall my threat level returning to a neutral color from the red-level that had briefly piqued.

Not so, the interventionalists.

But, Diezel admitted that he’d spiraled a bit after we met.

I don’t think that wanting a partner in life + owning a gun = suicide.  But I’m still glad that our friends are secure enough to discuss their concerns when they have them.  That’s super scary emotional ground and can be really awkward, but better safe than sorry.

I also don’t think that suicidal thoughts are as uncommon as people maybe would tell themselves.

I have had them.

I have them.

Friends sometimes share theirs with me when they have trouble banishing them back to the darker corners of their psyche where they belong.

I am a doctor, after all, so why wouldn’t they?

Well, I am if you listen to a few folks from my past that didn’t appreciate the guidance and comments I had made in regard to their actions and what their motivations might be.  But that blog post is still in draft form…stay tuned, the working title is The Doctor Is In(sane), because I’m ultimately no better or worse than anyone else, maybe just at a different point in my journey and able to offer some outside perspective.  People don’t have to listen…it’s not like I’m holding a gun to their heads.

Which, figuratively, brings us back to Diezel.

Knowing that he wants a boyfriend or a partner, partnered with how we both know Basic Gays, I offered this advice:

Don’t beat yourself up over wanting a partner, just check your expectations around having one so you can remain realistically optimistic.

He admitted to failing in the realistic optimism, offering “despairingly pessimistic” as his current state of well-being and admitting he had been thinking about seeing a therapist.

So, here we go…I admire that he openly discusses this with me.  Like suicidal thoughts, I think the majority of Americans – aside from New Yorkers of the 90s – consider seeing a therapist as a sign of weakness.

I disagree.

Strongly.

I think that admitting to oneself that they need that outside help is hugely beneficial to the self and incredibly brave.  Why do we have to live in a culture where getting help being the best and happiest that we can be as individuals has the connotation of weakness?  To beat another of my favorite drums for a second, consider the difference between amateur and professional sportspeople…is it coaches?  To me, this is the difference between people who get therapy and people who don’t.

People who don’t ever get therapy might be lucky, they might be living in denial, or they might be amateurs at living.

Chew on that for a minute.

So, what’s next when confronting the demons of dating?

You’ve bloodied your forehead against the wall of the dating world, be it a bathroom wall in a bar – and not in the good way – or against the screen of your smart phone.

You’ve gotten help.  A good debriefing of the good, bad and ugly of dating with your friends can go a long way.  Sometimes you have to pull out the heavy artillery and get a therapist or life coach to provide some clarity.

Then maybe all that’s left is the old chestnut:  If you can’t beat them, join them.

That last one is risky.  You know I’m a strong supporter of being a part of the solution versus part of the problem – again, you’d probably be surprised to find out how many gay guys hate being asked to consider whether their actions are part of the problem or part of the solution.  But, someone has to be the pariah.

I wish it was someone else, but really only so their blog name could be Pariah Carey.

So what do I mean by joining them?  Who are them, anyway?

The hook-up guys.

<needle skip>

Seriously.  When I left my ex up in Seattle (working blog name:  The Lost Caretaker, standby…) one of the Fabulous Baker Girls offered me this advice, “The easiest way to get over one man is to get under another”.  Which is just bullshit pop psychology…conditionally.  Medicating with sex is a dangerous path.  A path that leads to pathologically avoiding real life in favor of the potential mistaken gratification and validation that can be inferred from a hook-up.

After I was gay bashed in college, I spent a little time in denial.  Then I spent a lot of time self-medicating with sex in order to prove to myself that I had value as a person, was desirable as a sexual object and had the stamina of legend.

A lot of time.

Years.

Don’t ask me my number.  It makes other gays golf clap when they hear it.  That was not a humblebrag.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a long-term coping mechanism, but I didn’t have any real friends at the time that I could rely on.  I was fucking them all.  Oopsies.

Yet, when Diezel and I were continuing this conversation this morning, I observed that he had had a very social weekend, according to Facebook.  He commented that he had but that he’d been having too much sex lately and needed to stop that behavior.  FBG5 (yes, there’s five of these fantastic sisters!) and her pithy advice popped back into my mind and I was able to share with Diezel that it’s not bad to self-medicate with sex.  It’s bad to get lost in sex and abuse that particular form of medication.  Particularly if you aren’t honest with yourself about the need you are feeding or with the partners who are effectively your pharmacists.  Again, part of the problem or part of the solution?  Your solution can’t be part of someone else’s problem.  Right?  So you’ve got to be emotionally evolved enough to talk about expectations.

I used to flat out tell people “I’m never going to call you again” when I was self-medicating and would pick guys up in bars.  It was the 90s, we didn’t have the Scruff or the Grindr.  Hell, we didn’t even have smart phones.  That might be a little crass or jaded as far as behaviors go, but at least it was honest.  And I was too fucked up to be anyone’s boyfriend, anyway.  Yet, sometimes guys would ask if they could give me their number or have mine when bye-bye time came around.  I just looked at them.  I said something like, “Did I literally fuck you senseless?” to one poor guy.  Optimistic dating-type guys hooking up with 90s-damaged-me…I’m sure I would have been lucky to date him.

If you believe in karma, you could feel a lot less sympathetic to my dating woes after reading that little admission, eh?

But I think that approach is a lot less injurious to the other guy(s) than people who are confused about where they are in their sexual/emotion evolution.  The guy that thinks he’s a dating-type but is really a hook-up-type.  Or the guy who vacillates between the two, but at least he’s probably optimistic about becoming a dating-type eventually.  And I see – meaning: meet on dates – those optimistic guys every now and then.

Like recently.

I met a guy that wanted to hook-up a few weeks ago.  It was late, so I put him off until the next day.  We actually texted throughout the day and then decided ultimately to meet for a drink first.

During which, he decided I was dateable.  Yay, Galby.

On the second date, what?  New Year’s Eve?  Crazy.  Yay, Galby!

That NYE spirit got the best of him, or that Galby charm overwhelmed him and he put his mouth on mine.  Me, pitching a perfect game that night, apparently drove him to the edge of his self-control and he ended up sticking my hand into his pants.  Yay, Galby!

Also, yay, him…I’d have saluted him if my saluting hand hadn’t been busy bearing witness.

But then by date three, the reality of his situation sank in and he friend-zoned me in a fit of Hint-o-nese over dinner and drinks.  Naturally, I pushed for clarity and he shorthanded a recent heartbreak.

FML.

And that’s just an example of how people can optimistically be dating-types.  He will be a legitimate dating-type someday.  Not today, apparently, which isn’t at all helpful to my favorite person.

But sometimes it’s just about bad timing, and I’ll take that over the potential that someone is truly a bad person any day.

I hope I don’t get a “cease and decease” from Grumpy Cat.  Yes, I didn’t mean to type Cease and Desist.

It’s not me, it’s you. 

And Yet I Still Don’t Like Sushi

Well, I never called him again after that night ten years ago, but he keeps popping up in the periphery of my present day life.

Not calling seemed like the right call for a date that ends with him pushing a drag queen.

Down.

Hard.

It was one of those surreal cartoonish moments.  One minute I’m standing there talking to said DQ, the next her feet have made an appearance and there is just enough time to register the surprise that flits across her face – and this surprise could have been the thought “I have those same shoes!” – before she hit the wall three feet away and crumpled to the floor.

Then everything clicks into place and you realize that your date pushed her.

Hard.

His next shift was probably his last at CCs.  He was banned from the bar in the moments following that altercation, so that just seems like a realistic assumption.

I’ve thought of him a few times recently because one of Portland’s local Drag Queen celebrities recently died, Tiara Desmond.  It was she that I’d been talking to that night as we often did when I’d come in for a drink and she was working.  She might have been working both CCs and Darcelle’s at that point…all I know is she was around CCs at least as often as I was.

She had a more legitimate reason to be around.  I was just there drinking my way through some therapy after my boyfriend had left me.

For a waiter.

On our anniversary.

No biggie.  Just another gay in the life of Chris.  And there have been a lot of gays in my life.

The point is, she was always nice to me.  Genuinely nice, which I really needed.  More than I needed whatever medicine I was swilling at the time.

But her death has brought that night to the fore front of my consciousness frequently in recent weeks.

He was a go-go boy at CCs back when CCs had go-go boys.  The hottest one, in my humble, pickled opinion.  And HE asked me out.  Which is probably the beginning of the end of me being impressed with myself by younger guys hitting on me.

There’s always a reason.

Always.

What’s wrong with you?

What do you want?

But just because I’m no longer impressed or flattered doesn’t mean I’m not still open to the potential opportunity.  I like to think I’m more selective in my screening nowadays.

Probably, I’m not.

We’d gone on a couple of impromptu dates.  He was off work, let’s us grab last call at another bar or running into each other socially out on the town.

Or more accurately careening into one another.

We had a couple of date-y dates.  My favorite was also my first Pimps and Whores party.  I want to say it was at his place.  I hope it was because I think we woke up there the next day.  My memory of that time is decidedly fuzzy.

But this deliberate date was dinner.  I’d suggested it and told him to pick the place – dangerous stuff for a picky eater.

He chose sushi.

Fuck.

I chose Masu.  If I’m gonna eat food I don’t like, I’m gonna do it like a baller ant the newest and it-est sushi place in town.

We had a good dinner, surprisingly, I didn’t starve.  When I went to drop him at home after he asked where I was going as I exited the freeway.

“I’m not done with you yet” he replied when I told him I was heading to his place.

So, we ended up at CCs.  For a nightcaps.

You know the end result of that side trip.  I hadn’t figured him for the jealous type.  But who knew what else was going on.  I was kind of naive back then.

Remember, my boyfriend of six years had left me shortly before and I’d never seen it coming.

Needless to say, I felt my culinary compromise failed to deliver a decent return on my investment.

Smash cut to this evening.

I’m out for a semi-regular happy hour with my favorite local…let’s call them the Fabulous Baker Girls.  The surname is a 60% match.  The adjective is a 100% match.  They are all diversely fabulous.  So FBG1 and I are out at Henry’s having some beer and small plates and chattering away the evening.  It’s beer, so I’m also monitoring my gastrointestinal seismic activity, which is fine because FBG1 takes small talk to a level.  I love just sitting there and letting it was over me.  I don’t think I could keep up with her if I tried, she has the gift for gab.

Quite enjoyable.

Anyway, now and then when we’re together, something clicks.  Tonight it was after she’d suggested splitting the HH California Rolls and I had told her to go ahead, but I might just watch.

A few conversational ellipses later, she’s talking about this tangential friend and how he does a drag brunch somewhere in town.

<pronouns shift accordingly>

Oh, yeah…with Bolivia Carmichaels?  I’ve seen a few of her shows advertised at CCs.

“I’m not sure, I think it’s on her Facebook page” and I’m grossly paraphrasing our conversation here…

And I find her Facebook page and we start talking about the place and how I need to get there since I keep hearing about it.

I’m not sure how many degrees of separation this DQ was from FBG1 nor whether the DQ’s husband was part of said degrees or not, but I literally failed to suppress my ejaculation when I clicked on his profile.

Sorry, my ejaculation was of the “OMG, I dated this guy for a minute just after the turn of the century” type.  Just in case you thought otherwise.

Dirty readers.

And just guess who that husband was?

I tried some California Roll.

And I still don’t like sushi.

And Yet I Still Don’t Like Sushi

Writing the Rails

I’m flattered to have friends tell me they like reading my blog.  Even more so when I get a *like* from a random reader.

Yesterday I woke to one such text from a friend since my high school days, the eldest of the Fabulous Baker Girls.  She went one further, though.  She told me that she thought I should apply for a Writer in Residence position and sent me a link to apply.

Prior to this, I’ve been the Writer in Residence of Chez Galby, and doing a pretty poor job of meeting the “requirements” of the position…which is to publish one measly post per week.  To be on trend to make that goal, I should have 40 published posts and this will be #31, so I am behind, but gunning to make it up with a renewed discipline…maybe that will make my dick boss happy.

This renewed discipline also affords me a “reason” to procrastinate working on my other writing projects:  a couple of novel ideas I have been kicking around.  It’s a task that daunts me to the point that thinking about it just made me roll my eyes.

So, I read up on this Writer in Residence opportunity and decided to take the plunge.  It meant answering a couple of short essay type questions and submitting a writing sample.  So, I scrubbed a couple of blog posts for foul language and sent them along.  An earlier post and one that was more recent so they could see the progression in my writing voice as well as get an idea for some of the themes I discuss.

The program is for Amtrak, hence the title for this entry.

It’s weird to consider them sponsoring a position like this, then again, it isn’t.

It’s basically a short term position.

Like a four-day trip across country on a train and my job would be to write about the experience.

And that’s why I was excited to apply.  I’m sure nothing will come of it, my portfolio is still too meager to warrant a paycheck like a $500 cross-country train ticket, but…who knows.  Anyway, back to being excited to apply.  The reason I was so excited was because in researching the program, it occurred to me that one of my most common themes – starting way back with The Seattle Thaw and continuing into a lot of my posts about dating and relationships – is how people interact and treat one another.  My observations on social behaviors and preferred manner of treatment are somewhat anachronistic, just like train travel has become in America today.  This would be an exciting exercise in comparing how travel evolved from trains and buses to planes and automobiles and what we traded away experience-wise in favor of convenience while also highlighting the conveniences our technology now affords us and how that has impacted our cultural behaviors and social norms.

I think there is an interesting parallel to be drawn.

Maybe I’ll do it anyway, just for myself.

Flash forward a couple of days and I’m meeting up with FBG1 for some happy hour drinks and grub at Henry’s in the Pearl – hey, I had a gift card from New Year’s Eve at Cider Bite just burning a hole in my pocket – and we started talking about cruises.

This was one of my favorite games in college.  OK, it wasn’t a game so much as a necessity when sitting around with my roommates drinking beer from our BeerMeister and eating enough guacamole that I can barely stand to look at avocados anymore…but it’s basically retracing the conversational steps we took once we realized we had gotten off on so many tangents that the original point was lost.

So, let’s see.  We were talking about…Alaska?  That can’t be right.  Food?  I dunno.  Rest assured, she’ll let me know once she reads this.  That woman has an impressive memory.  Anyhoo.  I think we both agreed that we didn’t really care for the concept of cruises and whatever the objection she or I had was basically true for every cruise except a gay cruise.  Not that I would want to go on one of those!  I have heard horror stories, let me tell you.

She had a story about a gay couple that she or a friend of hers had met during a traditional cruise and said that they were just the best folks.  Really enhanced the cruise experience.  I think this was her personal story, but I’m old.  I get confused.  And this was after one whole beer, so obviously I was out of my mind.  Remember, beer makes me loopy.  I don’t know why I still drink it.  Oh, yeah…it tastes amazing.

But!

That gave me a great idea for the cruise ship industry:  Gays in Residence on cruise ships!

It would be perfect.  When gays go into a neighborhood, everything traditionally improves.  Why can’t that work with cruise ships, too?

And suddenly, I’m rethinking my stance on cruises.  I could go be the Truman Capote of the seas.

Writing the Rails