Going Out Of Business!

Portland Edition.

I went out on a lil urban hike yesterday morning and was confronted by the reality of a frequently occurring conversational topic of late: commercial real estate in Portland.

The rug shop on the corner across from my place is closing. Well, is closed.

Just as a reminder, I live in a neighborhood called The Pearl which is nestled in the Alphabet District of Portland’s Northwest neighborhood. Essentially, this neighborhood runs from Burnside to Lovejoy streets from North to South and from Broadway to 8th to Park and then 9th-13th on the East to West streets.

It’s an 8×11 street grid.

There is/was three rug shops within that grid, so “How many rug shops do you need in that small area?” is a valid question.

Here’s one of the survivors, which was forced to move from its original location a few years ago to make way for a 14 story, half a city block apartment building that is finally nearing completion.

I’m not complaining. Once this is done early next year, my immediate area will wrap up its fourth major building project over the last four years. That’s two new hotels and two new apartment buildings that added about 500-700 new neighbors and countless tourists to my corner of the world.

Until the Post Office project begins in god knows when, I’m in the clear, construction-wise.

Interestingly, the opposite corner of my block (shown above) rented nearly a year ago and just recently opened. It’s a rowing studio, which upset the Filipina Fox greatly, since she and her husband were planning – still are – to open a row studio. But if you got clients that are too lazy to walk into class, you’re probably better off not even bothering to open.

At least they are friendly. Homegirl gave me a nice friendly smile and wave.Still, it goes back to my earlier question, how many <insert business here> does one small part of town need?

When it comes to gyms, I can think of too many:

The grand daddy of the OGs, 24 Hour. It’s been here since well before the turn of the century. Another OG – LA Fitness – came in a decade and a couple blocks later.

There’s now City Row, Yo Yo Yogi, Pearl Yoga, Firebrand, Barre 3, Bar Method, RevoCycle, BurnCycle and countless CrossFit studios within my tiny grid. Including one that moved into this site for about an hour.

But fitness and rugs aside, this whole conversation started with a few notable business closures.

Namely, Pearl Bakery and Henry’s Tavern with an honorable mention to Byways Cafe.

Pearl Bakery had been in its current location for 23 years, serving up fresh baked breads and pastries as well as top notch coffee the entire time. It was a Pearl landmark.

Henry’s, on the other hand, could arguably be said to have been here in the Pearl since before there was a Pearl to be in.

Henry Weinhard’s started brewing beer here in 1906 and I know people just a few years younger than me whose parents worked there. It was bought by AB a few decades ago and brewing operations were consolidated elsewhere sometime after that. In the 90s, the brewery was redeveloped into a founding corner of the a Pearl called the Brewery Blocks, which enveloped the block that Powell’s sits on and also included a couple of condo and apartment buildings The Henry and The Louisa, named for Weinhard and his wife. One of the old brick buildings was remodeled and became home to Henry’s Tavern, run by the recently relegated to the annals of bad business Restaurants Unlimited. Still, RI was snatched up by Landry’s and there was hope that the namesake restaurant in the Pearl’s Brewery Blocks would be spared the axe.

Alas.

Still, you gotta wonder, if coffee and beer can’t make a go of it in one of Portland’s affluent destination living and shopping districts…hadn’t there got to be a bigger problem?

Henry’s is hardly the only brewery or taproom to face this fate.

Last year, Bridgeport shut down brewing operations in the Pearl and later closed its onsite restaurant.

Avid started its life as Atlas before being sued over copyright infringement and forced to rebrand. It opened last year in one of the two nearby apartment building projects i mentioned.

On Deck will close permanently at the end of the year, putting the Pearl down a sports bar.

It was quite the summertime destination – for some, not me) with a rooftop that probably doubled its square footage. I think this business in particular struggled with a too common threat in the neighborhood these days:

Redevelopment

Rumors circulated for the better part of a year that this block was due to go under the wrecking ball to create a new mid-rise building. Office Depot occupied the other corner of the block and pulled out last year.

And while I am a supporter of housing density, the panic future development rumors create is detrimental to our present.

Indeed, my backup – and preferred – coffee house is on that block, you can just make out the red reflection of its “Open” sign in the picture above. As a matter of fact, Nossa is new to this block within the last couple of years, having moved from literally two blocks down when its former location came under the same redevelopment axe.

Yet, here its former location is. Empty as the rumors that helped facilitate its relocation. Also, some randomly occurring Jingle Bell runners.

But as in favor as I am of redevelopment, I think the overall benefit is mitigated by the negative impact of commercial real estate’s larger problem: greed.

Real estate – both commercial and residential is at a premium in Portland overall and more so in the Pearl specifically since it’s such a hub. So, for every new building that goes up, there’s at least one – if not two – large restaurant or retail spaces included in the new building as anchor spaces.

Case in point, The Rodney.

This apartment building was finished early this year and included a large restaurant space on the ground level. This corner is on Glisan, one of the two busiest one-way through-fares in the neighborhood. Including construction, there’s been over two years to lure a business into this spot. It’s next door to 10 Barrel Brewing and Rogue Brewing’s taproom restaurants and a block from Andina, another Pearl District restaurant mainstay.

That they can’t rent this space out is problematic. Then again, it took two years post-construction for City Row to open in the large space next to my building, so…

A bigger problem?

The building right across Glisan that should be complete and open early next year. Including what I assume will be at least one large restaurant space in its three corner spaces – it’s a big building.

Between these two buildings, we’re adding around another 750+ residents to the neighborhood…it shouldn’t be that hard to draw a business that can make a go of it here. As long as it’s not named something complementary-awkward to its neighbor. All we need is an apartment building named The Slice sitting across the street from The Rodney.

But large restaurant space is tricky. Even chain based restaurants can’t make a go of it. Back before RI went out, they snatched up Pacific Restaurants. This was back in 2007 and I believe – forgive me if I’m wrong – PR was an affiliated evolution of Farrel’s Ice Cream Parlors.

Between the two, they put successive restaurants into this Glisan corner space for decades.

It was home to Palomino and Trader Vic’s with at least one other incarnation from the brand’s portfolio in the mix. Then it sat empty for a couple of years before signage for a Pink Taco went up in the windows screaming about a new future.

Then silently came down.

More recently, the space has quietly announced a new tenant.

And apparently the low key nature of its announcement saved enough money for remodeling to actually begin this time around.

Meanwhile, on the opposite corner of that block, facing Hoyt, another of the Pearl’s pioneer eateries sits vacant after closing in the middle of the night a few years back. Oba! was an exciting happy hour destination and a swanky date night or celebration restaurant destination.

Then, poof!

Gone.

Ironically, another Pearl nightlife mainstay is rumored to have leased the space, but those rumors are growing stale after almost 18 months.

Jimmy Mak’s was a jazz venue in the Pearl since the days where there was only one or two industrial co-ops and maybe one condo building in the hood. Then they moved catty corner to a new location next to one of our three neighborhood rug shops.

Then, the rumors came.

Kush decided to move ahead of the demolition of its half-block. Jimmy Mak’s decided to close down once its owner’s cancer resurfaced. The farewell party was planned – a New Years Eve to Mark the end of the Jimmy Mak’s era.

On New Years Day Jimmy died. It was tragically sad and a simultaneously beautiful ending to the story.

Until…a couple of former employees decided to reopen Jimmy Mak’s in the Oba! space six months later. Another beautiful tribute to a legendary entertainment venue.

The “Leased” sign is up…but 18 months in, we’re still waiting.

Celebrity chef based restaurants aren’t faring any better than chain-backed ventures.

Isabel Pearl was a restaurant opened by cookbook author Isabel Cruz back in 2008. After a decade, plans for the San Diego based cookbook author cum restauranteur to expand into the old Gilt space a few blocks away on Broadway were announced.

Gilt was the space’s former tenant and is the restaurant made famous by the Colin the Chicken episode of Portlandia…

If you can’t stay in business with that pedigree…alas, instead of expanding to a second location, Isabel decided to “reimagine” their original Portland location.

A hand-drawn magic marker sign. I can see that no expense was incurred – at least they learned something from Pink Taco.

Speaking of which, maybe that’s the restaurant that should anchor the building across from The Rodney!

Here’s a few more spaces that recently transitioned:

The Star brings deep dish pizza to the space formerly home for tow decades to The Paragon. Hopefully, they enjoy a similar tenure.

Two Wrongs is a collaboration between a Portland bar/restauranteur and the marketing/brand master behind Portland Gear. They took over a former Black Rock coffee house to open a bar.

Here’s Byways, which I mentioned earlier. Fifteen years ago, this was Shakers Cafe. Both incarnations were kitsch themed diners and have occupied this space for…gosh, 25 years collectively? They announced their closure after failing to negotiate new lease terms with the building’s owner.

There’s that greed again.

That the Sheepskin shop that shares the building with Byways has outlasted them is truly mind boggling. And it’s not like the building is going anywhere. There’s a co-op on one side and a similar small building housing a taco joint and a kitsch decor store called Cult on the corner.

Taprooms aren’t the only alcohol based destinations to struggle. This space is in the building that the Silver Fox lives in. It sits on Everett – the other main through-fare in the Pearl used to House a wine bar called Remedy. They limped along for a couple of years before closing and one of the owners – who owned the commercial space – had it rezoned and remodeled into his private residence.

An old school shared office building (pictured top) closed up last year. It had been here forever. It featured a now whitewashed wall that formerly depicted a mural of home state hero Steve Prefontaine and a fun neon sign helpfully suggesting the proper use of ones time.

I’d like this mural restored, if they’re just gonna cover it over and then leave.

Come to think of it, I want the neon back, too! Maybe keeping the “Working” side lit would keep homeless people from camping in the doorway.

Given its billion dollar a year losing competitor across the park, I can see where it would be hard to compete successfully. But this is Portland. We’re supposedly hard wired to support the underdog. WeWork should not have won in this scenario.

Affluence doesn’t always guarantee success over commercial real estate greed, either. Opposite the corner housing Pearl Bakery – which started this whole ball rolling – was a Charter School. It had been there for quite some time, bringing kids into the Pearl’s North Park Block neighborhood. That was an add that even this grumpy old man appreciated.

The City even collaborated to renovate the old Park Block playground into this

Bit then the school decided to move – for whatever reason. Hmm…what could it be?!?

Greed?!?

Perhaps.

Maybe they just outgrew the building.Ok, ok…I know this is running long. I think I’m wrapping up. I mean wearing myself out.

Let’s compromise and call it both.

The corner pictured above used to be a favorite pre-turn of the century coffee haunt of mine called Torrefazione. I actually made it a hangout for my main character in No One Of Consequence.

Anyway, Starbucks bought the small chain out and then closed them all up! Talk about cutthroat.

The Torrefazione family responded by leasing the restaurant space in the new high rise condo that was built on the opposite corner and opened Caffe Umbria.

Take that Charbucks. The family’s roastery May be Seattle based, but at least one of the family members lives locally and drops in to watch soccer with his toddlers on the weekends.

It was a very Portland thing to do, protest opening a business like that…even if selling out wasn’t so Portland.

The three pics below all represent businesses being priced out or rumored out of their homes. The Beneficial Bank looks nice, right?

It should.

After being forced out of its home for a couple of years once it’s space was slated for a high rise residential project, it was welcomed back with a paint job. Seems funding may have hit a snag. Who knows? Anyway, score one for the little guys.

Snow Peak, on the other hand, is just beginning it’s rumor based adventure. There’s a new “Coming Soon” window sign up a few blocks away. It coordinates well with the rumor of a new mid rise building in its current spot.

What I can’t figure out, though, is the how of that mid rise rumor. The Snow Peak space sits between the aforementioned and newly remodeled Rogue Brewery space on one side and an architecture firm on the other side.

I’m kind of worried that the architect space will come down to make way – along with Snow Peak – for another high rise apartment building.

The rub?

It’s right across from The Rodney – so maybe that intersection isn’t out of the redevelopment woods just yet.

Even more surprising is the answer Snow Peak represents to my “How many” question from earlier.

Snow Peak is in the Pearl’s crowd of outdoor and cold weather clothiers.

REI, Nau, Fjallraven (with TWO locations in the Pearl!), North Face, Patagonia and Icebreaker…and I know that I missed some!

Ironically, for as persistent as outdoor clothing stores are in the Pearl, home stores don’t fare so well. The Tactics skateboard shop above is a new notion for a space that was a gallery and then a home store and then a home store and then nothing. Likewise, the brick warehouse across the street was a furniture store and the space across the alley was also a home store that became a CrossFit gym for an hour or so before settling into its current sweatpants and ponytail version of an empty space.

In a further fit of irony, the CrossFit space was subdivided when it was a home store to reduce the size of the shop and thereby the overhead. It was slated to become Jimmy Mak’s new home before the cancer resurfaced. Then it became an “event space”.

Let’s hope the Oba! space fares better. Eventually.

Design Within Reach expanded last year to the above space, leaving its old two-story space vacant.

It looks way more inviting now, so I’m glad. But it got me wondering.

Maybe the evolution/solution to our commercial real estate vacancies is going to be something that Design Within Reach, Snow Peak and Nossa Familia have all already learned – along with countless college students.

The way to control real estate expense is to move.

It may cost more in the short term, but overall you leverage the expense downward.

For everyone.

It forces the market price correction that is necessary to offset the empty space and make those spaces affordable. I mean, commercial real estate brokers could just do the right thing and re-write current leases.

But how likely is that?

The banks didn’t do it with mortgages during the real estate crisis until Obama forced them to. Somehow, I don’t see the commercial real estate industry doing the right thing here.

Then again, investment brokers are doing something similar right now, by cutting transaction fees all the way to $0. I’m prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

Until then?

I wouldn’t mind seeing out city planners get a little more involved in approving all of this ground floor commercial space.

Or not approving it.

I think there’s a case to be made for more ground floor live/work space.

With the Pearl spanning 11 blocks on the North to South expanse, surely we could limit the commercial space on the ground floors to maybe 4-6 of those blocks? I mean, residence density is our goal here, not excess vacant commercial space.

We don’t need a brewery, yoga studio, flower shop or restaurant on every block.

I think the current situation has proven that.

Going Out Of Business!

Awkward Things I Did This Week

Ok, how this isn’t an ongoing theme for my blog…I just don’t know.

Maybe I should try making #ATIDTW a thing.

I realized after my walk this morning – doing prep for a larger entry tomorrow – that I was wearing mismatched socks. No biggie…it’s just a Saturday morning walkabout.

It was the second time this week. No, they weren’t the opposites of the other mismatched set. Yes, last time was a workday.

I guess I should be more careful about golfing laundry in dim lighting.

Or around wine.

I barely avoided sending a snarky email to the owner of the company I am consulting for the other day. I realized I had somehow chosen to “reply all” as I was proofreading it – I’ll explain what that means later, Silver Fox – and decided it was safer to just tell her in person.

In a small victory over my own awkwardness, I fell into my chair at work without spilling my coffee. I was attempting to sip coffee, hip-check my chair so it spun so that I could sit down and turn around all at the same time. My foot landed on one of the casters, sending me off balance as I turned and my chair skittering in the opposite direction from my vector.

I fell backward.

Somehow, I hit the chair.

Arms flailing.

Coffee sloshing but not spilling.

Thank gawd I was alone in the office, but I still looked to make sure not even the Chief Feline Officer was present to witness my derp.

No, neither of those three things – socks, reply all or near fall – happened on the same day.

I am only in the office three days a week, so I’m batting 1000 in the awkward department for this week.

I had a date this week. Someone I met online and decided to throw $20 at to see if he was as good in person as he was online.

He was!

A cute construction worker type. Maybe 5’8″, so right there in my shorty sweet spot.

And while he was an engaging conversationalist, he was also a good listener. Letting me prattle on about me-things while he listened attentively and encouraged me with relevant follow up questions instead of scrambling to get the conversation back to himself.

Turns out…he was 20!

Is. Fine.

Goddamnit!

While he was trying to sell me on the fact that he was almost 21, I was asking him if he voted in the last election.

“Nope. I wasn’t old enough, silly! But I’m voting in 2020, for sure!”

“Nono. In the midterms!”

Blank stare.

At least I came away from the encounter with something more upsetting to me than his age.

And to cap off my week in derp, I stopped on my walkabout this morning for a coffee. It was my backup coffee shop because it was geographically desirable, plus my primary shop opens at 9 on Saturdays and it was only 8-ish.

I haven’t been in in about a month because my Barista Boyfriend has a girlfriend now. Or at least he did last time I was there at the beginning of November. We were the only two people sitting on the mezzanine and he stopped by to kiss her.

No kiss for me, though. But fresh off a really good kiss (goddamnit!) from The Toddler yesterday, I figured there’s worse things than being fake betrayed by fake boyfriends.

“Oh my god! It’s been so long!” – Female Barista, Boyfriend Barista was looking on, smiling from behind his La Marzocco.

“Coma.” – Me

“You look all flush! How are you feeling now?” – FB

“I think it’s just walking in the cold. Or maybe my scarf is too tight! I miss Elvis, though.”

“That was a long coma…”

We went on to chat a bit more, then finally convincing me that I needed a hot coffee if I was going back out. Might as well be a peppermint mocha, too if it’s the only hot coffee of the season.

Winning argument.

I also found myself without my reusable bamboo straw, this being a spontaneous event. FB convinced me to get one of the metal straws, since it had a silicone tip and she could chew on it.

“Well, you can chew on the bamboo straws if you really want to.”

“P’shaw…I’m not a panda!”

“Whatever you say, Ping Ping.” – Me, in perfect deadpan.

That was the awkward, by the way….

“Well, I may be Chinese, but I’ll leave the bamboo chewing to the pros. I’ll still answer to Ping Ping, though, but only for you!” She gives her coworker a little side eye warning.

She was laughing, as was Boyfriend Barista and I thought Ping Ping could stick. Still, there I was…totally feeling like a latent racist for bringing panda names into the conversation with someone who turned out to be of Chinese heritage.

It registers on some level with me when someone is a POC. But that level is the same level as hair color.

Still, when race comes up, so does my guilt. Honestly, I couldn’t profile an Asian person’s race if there was a million bucks riding on it. For a cool mil, I might make a guess. Otherwise, I just don’t care.

One of my best friends is Philippino. Something I only remember because she nicknamed herself Filipina Fox. The Silver Fox’s daughter in law is Asian, but I have no idea what race. She’s from Las Vegas and Seattle, the end.

Anyway, with Ping Ping, I decided to ignore her race drop in and pivot. I segued to panda trivia.

“Did you know that it costs $10 million a year for China to loan out pandas? That’s per panda.”

“No! Really?”

“Yup. Key word: loan.”

“Goddamn. That’s quite a racket!”

“And any pandas born while they are on loan belong to China, not the host country! No anchor pandas allowed!”

The discussion went on from there, but I never got to impress them with the full extent of my panda trivia because people came in.

I’d bought my cool reusable straw –

– but I did manage an aside to my two-timing Barista Boyfriend as he topped off his latte art with a few dollops of chocolate whipped cream.

“Hey, if anyone asks for a loaner straw for their drink, charge them $10. Per drink, no free use on refills!”

“Right? Why should China have all the fun?!?”

I don’t think these things only happen to me. I do kinda think that it’s possible no one embraces their awkward with as much vigor as I do, though…

Awkward Things I Did This Week

Feed Yourself

That’s a quote from the Silver Fox on our way back from coffee this morning.

I was serving him some OCD verbal vomit about my life, work, writing. He’d accidentally triggered me about 20 minutes earlier when we were grocery shopping. I had read a recipe for ribolitta while waking up this morning and when given the options, he’d decided what I should do.

I really want to try this recipe…but maybe I should make the Black Bean Goodness that I didn’t make last night.”

He decided on the ribolitta so after coffee, we went across Lovejoy to the Safeway for the incredibly simple ingredients. We both realized quickly that he would not benefit from his decision since the recipe has kale and he doesn’t.

Still, he stuck with me.

He stopped a few times at counters that interested him along the way. I left him behind because that’s what happens to me when he takes me to the Costco. It’s a lot easier to catch up-slash-find someone in a Safeway.

Just.

Saying.

Anyway, while I’m checking out, giving Sacha some gas points – if he’s still using the same rewards account we used when we were together – The Fox asked if we need lottery tickets.

I picked some up yesterday, so we’re fine.

Actually, we’d gone to buy them together and he bought them. But the point was, we had ’em.

“You know some trucker in New Jersey won Powerball?”

That was a ticket from a few weeks back. Or months? So we’re ok.

The Fox doesn’t like to play Powerball for less than $100 million. Any less than that and it’s just throwing money away, I suppose. Hehe.

I’d read the story of the trucker. Thinking of it now got me simmering. Halfway home, out it came. All over the Silver Fox.

The same thing had happened last Thursday night. But I just let it simmer in my head until Friday. That afternoon, I realized I was feeling completely weighed down by the pressure.

Thursday, I had wanted to go to the gym. Didn’t.

I was feeling like writing was a slog.

Two more days…then your January challenge ends.

Friday, I woke up with the same…congestion. Mental funkiness. Then I checked email.

I got a “Thanks, but…” from a position I was kind of excited about with Le Creuset. I’d had three interviews. It was a strange process. They seemed to go top backward instead of bottom up, like normal. Usually, for a Store Manager job, I’d expect to interview with the District Manager I’d report to, then if I was a go forward candidate I’d be passed up the chain for a corporate round robin interview.

With LC, I started with a director level, then a regional, then the DM and got spun out of the process there before the final round.

Well, that was a lot of effort for nothing…

I debated responding, but worried I’d come off as petty. That idea got tabled, and that decision became part of the mental funk.

By mid-afternoon, I didn’t think I could rally. Texts from The Fox about a party that was still FIVE HOURS away had me shrinking into the couch, further and further, until I just told him I didn’t think I could do it.

How am I becoming an introvert at this point in my life?!?

Yesterday morning, though, I’d woken up feeling good! It excited me. I didn’t feel great, but I didn’t feel neutral, either. Or even worse. I suggested to The Fox that we venture out for a Bing Mi before dropping in to the Big Legrowlski to say goodbye to one of the bartenders.

He’s going to teach English in South Korea.

The Fox was hip to the suggestion. Who wouldn’t be?

Mmm. So much, fuck yeah in these crepe sandwiches! We took our food from the food carts to the BL and had a beer – ok, I had two, Mr Reasonable had one – and ate while we chatted Joey up.

We were the only two customers in the joint. On my second beer (an 11.2% ABV called Notorious) I wondered aloud what was wrong with people.

It’s 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon. Why aren’t people out having beer?!?

Anyway, had they been, I’m sure I would have complained about that, too. By the time we left at 2:00, I was recharged. I went home and tapped out my final January Challenge blog and felt accomplished afterward.

I was jazzed.

It’s a wonder what harmlessly flirting with a straight bartender can do for the spirits.

We had gone from Big Legrowlski to Penzey’s Spices on the way home. It’s a whole two blocks out of our way, but they had a gift with purchase coupon for a chili spice I wanted.

In my post-writing high, I was contemplating making some Black Bean Goodness and adding in some of my new chili seasoning.

Filipina Fox to the rescue! She was at BL having a beer and wanted a sounding board to download the work she was doing for her start up fitness business.

I actually whined a little. Believe it or not, I didn’t want another beer. I was reluctant to drink any more and then do any knife work in the kitchen.

But I went and talked anyway. I’m pretty sure that everyone was low key surprised that I walked in and then out 30 minutes later without consuming anything…

Here’s the real surprise, after all that restraint, I still didn’t cook last night. I felt full.

Satisfied.

Fully satisfied.

I watched a movie and smoked half a joint that I’d been gifted a while back. When I pinched it out, I amused the absolute hell out of myself wondering if I should just pinch it out or also blow though it like I learned to do with cigars.

Joint…

Cigar…

Cigars seemed pretty durable comparatively. I decided not to risk it.

I’d hate to end up with a prolapsed joint.

Imagining that or a shower of ground weed flitting through my kitchen is what absolutely gave me the giggles. I put the joint away.

Probably just in time.

Now I’m a little peckish…

I’d been watching Veep on Amazon. I knew I shouldn’t be cooking, though. And that I didn’t have any snacky food. Looking at the clock I saw it was 9:45. Everything was closed.

Nice going, Hunter S. Thompson…

GoPuff to the rescue!

Twenty minutes later…

I realized I’m no good at ordering frozen pizza online. I thought I’d chosen a full sized za, but got a snack size. Not to worry, they threw in a lunch-sized bag of Fritos.

I can make this work…

I slept like a damn champ last night! Flash forward a couple hours and four espresso shots later and this well rested and over-caffeinated grumpopotamus was peppering The Fox with indecisiveness. He’d already enabled ribolitta even though I’d not made my Black Bean Goodness – can we agree that I’m short handing that as BBG going forward? – and now I was just dumping on him.

I need to find a friggin’ job!

Is it weird that I wanna write today?!?

The thing is, I’m choosing companies I want to work for, but by the time they tell me that they chose someone else, I don’t wanna work for them anymore.

Should I write? I need to finish my novel and just find a publisher. It would be best if someone would option my book. Takes care of the job thing, that does.

The Fox, walking next to me with the patience of Job, is just letting me wear myself out.

But I just want to write another novel now. I don’t want to edit, I don’t care if I get published…I just wanna keep writing!

“You need to feed yourself”, he chimes in when I finally take a breath. I hold up the bag of groceries I’m carrying suggestively.

“Your spirit”, he clarifies. I point him toward the post office so I can check my box.

We part, with me insisting he check out a three year old SNL clip that I found last night. Then I come home, unload my groceries and debate whether to just begin cooking immediately.

All because that trucker won our money!

Maybe I’ll start my taxes…

Feed Yourself

Tappa-Kegga-Day

That was what we called kegger night in college.Literally.

Ok, maybe just too old for a birthday on a three day weekend. Because the MLK day/Xtopher’s birthday alignment means my birthday was celebrated for four damn days.

Today is a day of rest.

Also, I have a handyman here (not) fixing things.

Having been busy yesterday, I just checked the Facebook for the first time since…maybe Saturday? Friday?!? Oh, the social media birthday love. It motivated me to share some of my weekend with you, which I wasn’t planning on.

My brain is fatigued and more than slightly pickled, though…fatigued from three weeks of daily writing. Im thinking of hanging that initiative up this Friday or Saturday. My goal was daily blog posts for a month. Would the 1st-26th count?

My original goal was to wear myself out writing so when I go in to try editing my book again, I make notes on what I want to edit. Last time I went in to try and edit, I started adding and fracked up my timeline.

I figure wrap up my January writing initiative, take a few days to read a book a blog buddy sent over – I’m seriously burnt out on words enough that I’m barely reading the blogs I follow. When I sat down to his book, the only opinion I had was

Nope. Cannot do.

(I’m sorry, Phil, I’m working on it!)

So, take a few days to read my friend’s work then get cracking on some damage control on my own.

Anyhoo, I’m sure you’ve already figured out the pickling problem.

Or, not-problem.

The unexpected outpouring of well-wishes I encountered on the Facebook surprised me, as usual. It also kinda washed over me and extended my birthday feels another day.

Friday and Saturday were pretty low key, drinks and shenanigans with my own version of Fox & Friends. Little Buddy shot me an invite, all spur of the moment, to go see a Power Point Improv show we’d discussed a while back. I couldn’t make it, prior engagement.

Birthday weekend shenanigans…

I debated not telling her it was birthday-related. I really am low key about my birthday. Swearsies.

Saturday when I was out with the Silver Fox, I asked him

My family has been quiet about my birthday. Are they up to something? If they are…I kinda feel like I should get a haircut.

He assured me that they were not. Then he casually remarked that I might want to get a haircut, though.

Jerk.

Hehe. I assumed he was commenting about my overall shagginess.

Resolutions for the new year?

Not exactly my thing. But when I do make them, they are me all the way.

1) Write and post a blog entry daily, which you all know.

2) Not cut my hair.

I’ve been trying to grow out a longer style for the last six months or so. Around June, I figured if I wasn’t going to work, maybe I should indulge my back of mind musings on having crazy old man hair.

Why not?

Only, the last few times I’ve gone in to get it cleaned up around the edges, I’ve ended up long on top, trimmed back to above the ears and looking like a Flock of Seagulls refugee.

So, I gave basic hair maintenance two tries and then embargoed it til the end of January. When I make up my mind about these types of things, I always feel bad for my friends. They’re the ones that have to look at – no, endure the fallout.

Anyway, I don’t care, my family isn’t planning anything, so I don’t give it much more thought. A little later, my mom texts me and invites me to brunch on my birthday.

Perfect. Nice and low key, just the way I like it.

For Sunday afternoon, The Fox and I had just planned on going to the hotel bar next door for a few beers. Then we were going to come back to my place and watch some Grace & Frankie. It was a perfect plan.

When we meet up on the corner, he announces that Owl X had texted him that Pallet Jack was back at Big Legrowlski.

Well, I guess we’re going to BL!

I’m laughing and crossing Everett before I even finish the sentence.

All things being equal, it’s Sunday afternoon. I know either bar will have some of my favorite staff working – all of whom definitely fall into the Guy Candy category. But Joey at Legrowlski is in his last couple of weekends before leaving the country to work overseas and has a habit of “accidentally” oversharing the most scintillating personal details. Unless the Tanner Creek boys are working in jock straps for my birthday, Pallet Jack and Joey win!

We walk in and I’m immediately irked by the twosome sitting in the corner. They brought their dog in. I love the dogs that come with or walk by at The Fox and I sit outside sipping away the Summer.

But not inside.

I’m trading hellos with Joey while I hope the Rug Room isn’t too packed, cuz I don’t want to sit on the small bar side with a dog.

Are you surprised?!?

I’m debating how to answer:

– Surprised you let a dog – other than me! – in?!?

– Surprised that I don’t see Pallet Jack on the tap list?!?

Don’t let anyone tell you that being a grumpy old man is easy.

Decisions, decisions.

The Fox is pulling me out of the way. I’m trying to look behind me to see whose way I’m in and he’s shoving me into the Rug Room.

Surprise!

My parents, siblings and brother in law are tucked around a pub table in one corner. Their table, I notice, is blocking the fire exit. The Fox is standing behind me, trying to get me into the group. They certainly know me.

Little Buddy, 2.0 and JOrtis are sitting around a low table, looking pretty happy with themselves.

Diezel and Linda Belcher are wrapped into the far corner, flanking some other guy. It’s kind of dark and the walls are all black in the Rug Room, but I really don’t know if I don’t remember him, can’t see him well enough to recognize honor if someone brought me a present.

Nah…that would be weird.

Not unwelcome…just weird.

What I should have said is:

Do you know what this could do to a man my age?!?

Or,

Surprised someone throws a surprise party for a something-ty-first birthday?!?

But instead I just stood there with my mouth hanging slightly open.

The Silver Fox is chuckling contentedly behind me and still nudging me, so I begin hugging my way into the room. As I’m finishing, people start shifting their comments toward birthday beers.

It’s not that they are out of Pallet Jack, it’s that in order to ensure they have Peej for the party, they’ve been sitting on a keg for the past two weeks! Owl X and I had even discussed it the prior week as I was leaving, neither palleted nor jacked and she said, “See you soon!”

You got any Pallet Jack on order?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure. Brendan” – the owner and Dude enthusiast – “said he wanted to keep it on tap always, so probably?”

Sneaky.

Joey takes me into the walk-in and I’m resisting saying anything about Three Minutes in Heaven. Somehow we manage to get about five people into the walk-in to document the transition. Several of us are lecturing Joey on how tapping a keg used to be a lot harder than what he talked me through…when we were your age.

I’d actually seen the new tap mechanisms back in my grocery working days a few Great-Job-Hunts-ago.

The Fox was talking about Rent Parties that we would have in college. Get a keg for $35 and invite your friends over for a $5 all-you-can-drink night!

I was telling Joey how we would have to manually pump the taps at those keg nights.

My sister was angling for a good pic. Hint: I no longer have a “good side”!

But here ya go…

Birthday Boy with his birthday beer!

A little later someone rectified the situation on the tap list, too.

That eventually – after we got booted from the rug room three hours later so the band could set up – evolved into having a Secret Tap “for the regulars”. A few of them stopped by over the course of the afternoon and evening and shared a pint with the party. Owl X had been a little late arriving and missed the tap moment, but she found the light controls and smoke machine! Karaoke was briefly discussed and abandoned.

I think we’d held the festivities – and the bar side – hostage with our sheer number of people for another hour before people started heading off into the cloudy evening. No Blood Wolf Moon viewing here in Portland!

Diezel and his date – the stranger was his. I mean, geez, D, it’s my birthday…you gotta let me unwrap something! – had another birthday party to go to and we’re the first to leave. I got to chat with them a while and I have to say, I’m glad Diezel may have found himself a good old keeper.

Not to jinx anything. Since I’m not involved, I think it’s safe…

Little Buddy took her guys and headed off toward the ‘Couv. She has a kiddo at home to think of feeding. I forgot to ask how the Power Point Improv was, but in retrospect, I think it may have even been a red herring!

My family was the next to go, but almost the last to leave besides The Fox, Owl X and I. Mom was “taking one for the team” as my sister put it and acting as the family DD. Still, having her driving after dark on a cloudy night was a little hard for me to be 100% comfortable with.

On the other hand, I hadn’t been drunk with my siblings since…I dunno. Maybe my sister’s wedding? But I don’t think we were out of control for that. My brother rarely has a beer, let alone what we decided was four for him that night. My sister shocked me by jumping in head first with her first beer. Since Peej was not yet available, she had a Notorious Triple IPA…just an 11.2% alcohol by volume concoction.

Hats off, sis!

My dad took a break from his canned water of choice (Coors Light, which I heard they were giving away in Flint for hydration, j/s dad!) and enjoyed some of Oregon’s Finest.

Tastes a little apricot-y.

My favorite moment of the night!

I’d said the exact same words to Little Buddy the first time her, 2.0 and I had gotten together for beers. LB and I were working together again, her and 2.0 had just decided to give the dating thing another go and I’d been convinced to try an IPA. I’d notoriously hated them for 20 years, opting instead for Ambers and Reds.

They were surprised by my statement.

Well, it’s definitely got a stone fruit note to it.

They humored me. Well, maybe they agreed that I had a weird mouth and I agreed to ignore their assessment.

“It must just be a weird palate thing with your family”, Little Buddy said.

This is why we’re friends.

Joey’s shift had ended and my other favorite bartendress had reported for duty, sneaking a crowler of the good stuff into my goodie bag.

Linda Belcher was the last non-regular to leave. Although, since she passes the bar on her way rom her office to the bus stop, she’s known to wander in looking for me on occasion.

Sometimes she sees me and joins me.

Other times I’m not there.

Still others, she doesn’t see me.

I think I enjoy the times she sees me and joins me most, but those times she doesn’t see me are pretty friggin hilarious.

We got to sit in the Rug Room and chat a little. The band was really good, just a him & her type duo. Not too loud, so we could enjoy both the music and some talk. Her husband – Bob Belcher of Bob’s Burger fame, obviously – is in Nepal for several months and I’ve been meaning to check in on Linda Belcher for a couple weeks…just…life.

There were some folks I’d have loved to see present. Some – like Filipina Fox and her husband – were out of town for the weekend. Others, the Silver Fox just couldn’t contact because he didn’t have their contact info. He’s not on social media, so he couldn’t use Messenger as a tool to reach out to my other known associates.

The biggest shocker wasn’t how well he pulled this off – starting with hiding the keg weeks ago. No, it was that he kept it a secret. That’s truly impressive. He’s always accidentally giving away the twist in a movie or show. I think the years that we’ve been friends have caused some of my sneakiness to accidentally rub off on him.

I woke myself up on my actual birthday morning because I’d been smiling so hard in my sleep that I think I couldn’t actually be unconscious and simultaneously that happy.

There’s worse ways to wake up.

We finally got to watch some Grace & Frankie last night. I know you were worried.

Birthday breakfast.

Birthday lunch.

And then the bottle of wine The Fox got me last year at my birthday to round out the birthday proper while we binged on Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s old-age misadventures.

I was exhausted after four days of friendly camaraderie and about a month’s worth of alcohol in that same timeframe.

My low key day today brought all the feels back just by opening Facebook. I’ve been doing a good job of only checking in once a day. Actually, I’ll miss days now and then.

Yesterday was one of those days.

That big old birthday smile came back. For some, maybe it’s not a big deal…but to me, having over 100 folks take time out of their day to wish me well is a big deal.

Touching.

Even Portland’s former mayor dropped me a note.

Replying to these messages is what made me think to blog about my birthday in detail. Plus, this gave me a chance to prove that I didn’t drink too much!

I remembered!

It started out about like this blog…

Then got sweet…

I didn’t even know I had birthday wishes! Outside of the lottery win that refused to comply…

Actually, there was a little WTF moment when I started responding. Check out the background…

Hmmm. <unfriend>? Actually, it fits my personality. Well, not the “god” part. But, it’s the thought, right?

And speaking of my personality. One of The Fabulous Baker Sisters has to weigh in!

And, I’m case you worried, we had more than a few Myrtle mentions…

So, here’s to another year of surviving Myrtle’s Gulag, life and the occasional happy surprise.

Thanks for reading, every one of you!

Tappa-Kegga-Day

MNSC: Escalation Edition

16 hours ago, I was gifted-slash-bequeathed a 5L bottle of wine by the Silver Fox’s Son.

If you need some forced perspective hyperbole for scale, it’s blocking out my fridge in that picture…

Of course, I joked that I wasn’t sharing it. Secretly, I wondered when I would have occasion to polish it off.

Monday Night Supper Club has died. A victim of its own purpose.

Our foursome became a threesome when the one couple broke up.

Then a five-some, when the third embraced the meal’s mission and invited a couple into the mix.

Then a sixth was added, I think just to prevent the couple from being able to become a voting bloc. Or is it block? Who cares.

But then our numbers crushed us under the weight of scheduling – which I was the gateway for, with my stupid retail schedule. I can’t decide fully if I miss that or not. Anyway, we moved from Mondays to Saturdays to Fridays to delays for travel or moving house.

Our group spanned from the west side to northwest, initially. Then from the far east side of town to inner east side and northwest, The Fox and I being the stalwart downtowners that we are. Then we added in a mix of north Portland, just to prove that for all its reputation as a small town, Portland covers a fair amount of territory.

But back to that bottle. This morning, I was staring at it while I got some water from the tap.

“You…what the hell am I going to do with you?”

Returning to bed to read the early morning email deliveries, I cam across a recipe from Alex Delany and Bon Appetit, he likes to send me little ideas that he’s kicking around.Most of the time, I don’t do anything with them, because these Rent Week notions he has are usually something soup or stew oriented, and I’m saving that entire culinary oeuvre for my 60s.

But leeks? C’mon. Who could not? Truly one of the most undervalued alliums/roots there is, in my opinion.

Add in the scariest ingredient ever – wanna guess? I’ll wait…
Ooh, I’m sorry…we were looking for Anchovies!Good guess, though.

But leeks and anchovies? I’m in.

I text The Fox and ask what he’s doing for dinner.

Nothing.

Drinks with one of our bartendresses – which I’d forgotten to invite myself to, but rectified immediately – at 5:30 and then nothing.

Dinner was cooking!

So, I started procrastinating immediately. Naturally.

All I needed to do was go to the store and buy a lemon, three leeks and a tin of anchovies. Everything else was on hand: pasta, white wine and parm.

It’s a Rent Week recipe, it’s supposed to be simple. If you’re curious, here’s the recipe.

Actually, I think I’ll pick up some more parm while I’m out…can’t ever have not enough of that!

My procrastinating took the form of finishing my pizza from last night while watching a few episodes of West Wing.

Oops, missed my noon spin class.

As I was hefting my bulk off the couch to start finishing a blog entry from last year that I planned to post tomorrow, I get a text from the Filipina Fox, telling me her plans had changed and our 8:30 meet up was now a go for earlier if I was available.

Ok, before you start thinking that my life is super exciting and that I have 5:30 drinks, followed by a 6:30 dinner and then back out for 8:30 drinks…slow down. This was nothing but a calendar fail.

Not that I couldn’t stack shit like that, mind you. It’s just that I don’t want to.

Simple Solution: mea culpa for all I’m worth and invite the Filipina Fox to join.

What’s better than a meal with all my Foxes, after all?

Dinner with all my Foxes and the Filipina Fox’s hubster, that’s what.

I start looking around my little abode of humility and think it looks more like Myrtle’s home than mine and that maybe I should bother to clean up and de-fur the joint a little. Friendship only gets one so far in one’s good graces, if you ask me. Sending the Filipina Fox and her hubby home to their Citra Hop Cat with more Myrtle on them than they left home with of her is probably an politically poor idea, in feline politics, at least. I’d hate to get them in cat trouble.

But now, in addition to a little cleaning – very little…just dusting, wiping down the leather, mopping, washing my shower curtain liner, booking some chamber music and polishing my wood furnishings, no big deal, I’m not even cleaning my windows or making my bed – I was left curious as to whether I should double the recipe.

I normally cook a pound of pasta when I cook, otherwise it’s not worth it. Of course, I usually cook a pound of pasta for myself and make two meals of it. When I made carbonara for the six Supper Club boys, I made two pounds.

So, let’s enjoy me being crippled by that neurotic thought for a moment, entertaining and then rejecting the idea of making a fucking salad to go with dinner.

Forget that, I’ll just get bread.

And more wine…problem solved, right?

But then I remember my morning’s quandary.

Suddenly, I know what I’m doing with that gift from the Silver Fox’s son. I think he and his wife have held onto it for years – its a 2005, but I don’t think they’ve had it that long. I will have had it for less than 24 hours before dispatching it.

That.

Escalated.

Quickly.

Now, I only need a 5L decanter…

PS: For you judgy folk, you better believe I’m serving red wine with a white wine sauce!

MNSC: Escalation Edition

Bar of the God

The New Old Lompoc has closed.

The Filipina Fox – best wishes as you enter your fifth decade, love! – checked in on the Instagram at The New Old Lompoc up on Northwest 23rd Street last month with the caption that this was the last Miser Monday. I know that the Filipina Fox and her hubby aren’t moving away, so I figured maybe The New Old Lompoc was changing up their marketing and doing away with their popular $5 beer night.

Nope.

Closing.

Forever, it seemed.

This shiny new incarnation of one of my old haunts was shutting down. Overextended and unable to keep up with rising commercial costs in hipster Portland.

Sometimes I feel like life has passed so quickly, I can’t possibly be this old already. Others, like now, it’s as if I’ve lived through a couple of ice ages.

Back before the turn of the century, Trendy-Third, as it’s referred to, was kind of at the upper fringe of Portland’s Alphabet District. The Pearl District wasn’t even a real sub-neighborhood in Portland’s NW quadrant. Twenty-Third was a burgeoning street of retail shops and restaurants that ran from B – Burnside – down to about L – Lovejoy Streets. The hospital I was born in kind of broke things up from there with J – Johnson – to V – Vaughn – kind of becoming known as the ass-end of the street. There wasn’t much going on there other than the McMenamin’s Pub and a now relocated and replaced breakfast joint called Besaw’s that kind of helped start the idiotic Portland culture of standing in line for 45 minutes for a waffle.

But at Savior Street there was a dumpy old building that was home to my favorite dive bar, The Old Lompoc.

No new here.

My Black Sheep Bro and I used to hang out there on occasion. Other times, I’d take my best friend, Becky Boobalini…go ahead, guess how she got her nickname.

Still other times?

I’d go alone.

Why?

What made this dive bar so worth the near 30 block commute from my place on the waterfront?

The bartender, of course.

Richard was one of those guys that you look at and you can pretty much figure out: notba lot of words, no ambition, no plan, not a care in the fucking world.

I adored him.

Sometimes his motorcycle would break down and that was about the most emotion you ever got out of him. Then it was like his spouse of a half century was sick. They had quite a bond, this boy and his bike. I have no clue about motorcycles, aside from the time one of my college roommates tried to teach me to ride hers. But if he was talking about it while I was bellied up to the bar, I’d listen to his bad-ass boy talk about it all night.

He had shoulder length straight brown hair that never looked clean but was never on the verge of becoming dreads, either and a face that struggled to grow hair, but was always well beyond a simple stubble. He wore straight hipped, loose fitting blue jeans and biker boots every day. A mixture of black or white undershirts rounded out his uniform, and those shirts just never quite fit his frame perfectly. He was a little too tall for the shirt to cover his waist when he squatted or bent down. And when he raised his arms to brush his hair back I’d either get a peek at his stomach or a flash of underarm…sometimes both.

<swoon>

He was an Adonis from the wrong side of the tracks, to be sure.

Yeah, Richard was what the place had going for it. For me, anyway. Some of the other clientele looked like they were waiting for a fight or for a sucker to roll to walk in…which should have been me, but I’d already paid that toll at this point a half my life ago and wasn’t afraid of them. I’d wander in in my preppy work clothes after closing my store or meet Black Sheep Bro there to shoot some pool on my day off wearing a pastel polo that treated my waist like Richard’s tee shirt treated his.

I didn’t care.

Frankly, I think I established myself as both harmless and untouchable early on by being a much better tipper than the biker crowd. Back in the twilight of the 20th century, a buck a beer was a great tip. My party always did way better than that. So I personally thought that Richard had put the word out to leave me alone. It was either that or somehow Black Sheep Bro had put out the warning…but he’s not the type that can convincingly pull off menacing.

I think it was Richard.

Still another, more ridiculous than normal part of me is screaming at the back of my mind that Richard adored me back. Even as a young man, I had old man fantasies.

My early onset lech world came crumbling down when Richard mentioned one night that he was taking a job on the other side of the river. Turns out, that old bike of his was done for and he needed a place closer to home.

It’s called Bar of the Gods, over on Hawthorne.

“That tracks”, I’d said under my breath as I slowly nodded my head and pursed my lips at the impending loss of my Adonis of a bartender.

You’ll have to come over and check it out.

I convinced myself that he was – once again – hitting on me in that confusing low key manner of his. Pleats were still in, which was good, because when he talked like this…woo, sometimes I miss being in my mid 20s.

“I hang out at the Galaxy Room every now and then”, I told him. “I’ll definitely make a point of dropping in on you!”

But inside, I was dying…crying big pathetic sloppy tears of woe.

Yeah! That’s just up the street a ways. Come see me!

It was the end of an era. I still went to The Old Lompoc with friends, but never solo after that. I started going to Embers – a gay dance bar that happened to be the closest gay bar to my apartment – for my solo drinking. My friends weren’t that upset when they ended up tagging along, it was quite a fun place. It’s here that I met Sacha, so…thanks for that, Richard.

The Old Lompoc sold a while after Richard left. The new owners made some minor changes, including the yellow paint job shown above from its earlier neglected shade of white. They started brewing their own beer under The Old Lompoc label, and this was before small batch breweries took over as a legit industry in Oregon. I’m not sure if it was a brewing mishap or something else, but allegedly, The old Old Lompoc ended up burning down at one point. At least that’s the legend.

All I know is that when I moved back to town – heck…when work started bringing me down monthly in 2014, even – The Silver Fox and his then boyfriend, Casey Adler, would take me up there to the shiny new bar in the street space of a six floor apartment building for their Miser Monday. Same place in the block as the old clapboard building, but so different.

The old Old Lompoc never did Miser Monday. Then again, I doubt beer was more than $3.00 a pint back then, either.

It was nice, this new joint; good company and good beer…it just wasn’t the same as The original Old Lompoc. After Casey and The Silver Fox split up, the Filipina Fox and her hubby moved into the building that now housed the tavern and discovered it for themselves. My life was so horrible that the universe just wouldn’t let this place that was a source of comfort for me for so long fall out of my social orbit. And it kept putting important people in my life conveniently nearby so that I’d have company that mattered to me to share new experiences with there.

I can definitely muster some gratitude for my Foxes – who are both such important pieces of my life – being the tether that kept The Lompoc, in any incarnation, in my life. Alas, now, I’ll have to journey to Portland’s fifth quadrant of town to visit my Lompoc memories since that outpost is the closest I’ll be able to come to the real deal.

Bar of the God

I Guess It Looks Worse Than It Is…

About three weeks ago, I was out running some errands and after being mildly inconvenienced by a couple of reroutes found myself close to Washington Park. I had planned to take a hike to Forest Park that afternoon anyway, before it got too hot. Since I was probably less than ten blocks – that’s for you, mom! – from the entrance, I decided to just carry on since the temperature was already tending toward balmy.

I know from a similar errand-running excursion earlier this week that the my house<the Safeway<Freddy’s<home loop runs about three miles. Well, 3.4 with a coffee reward after Freddy’s. Factoring that out, I’m calling it an even three.

Freddy’s is only a block away from my personal google maps nemesis

So I had to successfully avoid that obstacle in order for my plan to succeed.

Figure that when I got to the entrance to Washington Park that I was about 1.5 miles into my errands plus another 3/4 mile from Freddy’s to the entrance, right?

It’s that last three quarters of a mile that’s the real killer. In addition to avoiding Taco Bell, there are also pretty steep streets up toward the park. What upset me when I got to the top of the hill was how out of breath I felt and how excessively sweaty I was.

Super not cool.

“Well, that’s probably just diabetes and coronary disease knocking on the door”, I pessimistically told myself. I opened up my MINDBODY app and bought a spin package.

I was also talking via messenger with the Filipina Fox, who is an obnoxiously fit friend and fitness instructor at not only my spin gym, RevoCycle, but two other studios in my neighborhood as well. Those are her second, third and fourth jobs in addition to her primary full time job. Then there’s the gym she belongs to for her personal workouts.

I dunno how she finds the time or the energy, but hats off to her! However, if I hadn’t been chatting with her, I probably wouldn’t have pulled the trigger on buying a spin package.

Nevertheless, there she was, providing me unintentional inspiration in my return to gym-centric exercise. She joked about the gym having an AED, just in case and I made another about having a DNR tattoo on my chest.

Then it was off into the park. I’ll write more about my walk through Washington Park in another post, it also is home to the Japanese Garden, which the Silver Fox took me to as a guest a few months ago. I want to share my beautiful pics from both visits.

For now, though, my point is that during my less than record breaking hike the temp went up 10% to 80 degrees at the end but I was just spent: I’d sweated through my clothes and was sucking air like a fish out of water.

No bueno!

The next day, I was at RevoCycle for my noon class. They call it Power Lunch and it’s just 30 minutes, designed to allow worker bees to get a ride in during their lunch hour. I wasn’t sure I could actually pull off a full “hour long” class, which usually runs 50 minutes. The half hour class allowed me to dip my toe back in the water.

I’d discussed my concerns – and reasons for my absence – with the owner and leader of the lunch class, Michael.

While I had been cycling and hiking pretty regularly through mid-June, my knees bothered me during and after the activities. Then, the powers that be had closed down my entrance to the Springwater Trail, which took away half of my exercise options anyway, since that was a major part of my cycling route.

The goal was to get salmon back to the Oaks Bottom Wildlife refuge by replacing a 70s era salmon culvert.

The culvert allows salmon to move protected from the Willamette River through the underground culvert and into the wildlife refuge.

It’s just a small project.

That completely closes down my access to my preferred cycling route.

And my back up route.

FML.

But, three months and $9 million later and at least the salmon will have a safe place to get their spawn on.

Meanwhile, that plus my persistent unemployment afforded me an option to gain 20 lbs. Most of which seemed to arrive in about an eight week period.

See the above FML.

So, Tuesday three weeks ago, I’m back at spin for a Tuesday and Thursday routine and I’m happy to say that I’ve only missed one class on the ensuing three weeks. I’ve also managed at least one hike per week and even one interval run!

Of course, after that, I couldn’t walk right for three days, but I’m happy that I accomplished it…proving to myself that what my acupuncturist has been working on – paired with running right for my body – has paid off.

The good news is that I’m down 8 pounds in three weeks and feel better, too! I’m not leaving a pool of sweat behind after my half hour class anymore and my knees are tolerating the intensity well!

Of course, since I’m kind of mean to myself, I have chosen a gym conveniently located two blocks away from the modeling agency I worked for in my late 20s. And, since it’s on my way home from the gym, I stopped off last week for a selfie.

Already looking better than I did halfway through my five mile hike to Washington Park two weeks prior to taking this! Still in no danger of anyone from my old agency chasing after me.

Plus, it helps to have a sweat towel…

In my conversations with Michael over the past few weeks, I’ve become aware of a few things:

First, the smoke and ash in the air recently has likely been mostly to blame for my wheezing and excessive sweat, especially on that Washington Park outing.

Second, the mental benefits from regular exercise are more immediate than the physical results. And the mental benefits feel great!

Third, it looks worse than it is. Yesterday, I faced a personal fear: being the only person in a class. Michael likes to focus on being present with your body during a spin class – it’s like the focus on mindfulness and breathing you experience in a yoga class – and usually checks in with the heart monitor wearers in class to see how they’re doing. I don’t wear one, but he kept asking me how I was doing, “How’s your breathing, pretty heavy?” or “How many words could you say right now?” types of things. When he asked me if I was at my max heart rate after one sprint and got a palms up response from me, he taught me this easy little formula.

220 – a person’s age = max heart rate

“So where is your heart rate at?”, he asked after timing off a pulse check in.

178

“What’s your max, I dunno how old you are…how does that compare?”

My max is 170.

“Great! That’s fantastic…you’re probably in better shape than you were worried about!”

I guess it looks worse than it is.

But I’m still ecstatic that I’m doing something physical that ties me to a routine!

I Guess It Looks Worse Than It Is…

The Avengers: Redux

I’m sure I’ll be asking myself why I did this to myself again in abut 3 hours. But, in reality, I’m interested not only in finding out if this movie treats my heart like a speed bag the second time around, but also in figuring out why I feel it so strongly.

It’s not just the movie.

We’ll see…give me a few hours and I’ll finish this up.

I like to answer the question, “How was the movie?” by responding, “They all died at the end.”

But holy shit!

By my count, 13 of our beloved superheroes bite it in Infinity War, 15 if you count the superhero “extras” that ash out during the credits. I don’t, since they don’t actually possess super powers or qualify as gods in the Marvel universe. Still, 13…

Holy shit.

The first time seeing this was a late night date night with the Filipina Fox on the Thursday that this movie opened. You can imagine the nerd quotient of the crowd, but she insisted. I joked that she was the only chick in the crowd, which was very nearly true.

Even though I walked out stunned at the movie’s death toll – not just the 13 lost superheroes, but half the population of the universe – I was glad that she insisted!

The exiting crowd was talking about how Marvel could walk back what they’d just witnessed. How some of the ashed supers had sequels with release dates – valid point – and how “Thanos Will Return” at the end of the credits pointed out the sequel/Avengers 4 that would be needed in order to make either of those last two points happen.

Facebook was having a mild meltdown as people started vaguebooking their reaction to the movie.

I knew the feeling. Two days later, I was still stunned as I walked into Thelonious Wines. One of the owners asked what I’d been up to as I sipped my wine and I told her I’d seen the movie. She told me that her friend was in the movie and I thought “extra” until she went on to say that her friend’s Instafeed had been all about the movie for the last few weeks.

“Who is this friend?”, I asked, reassessing my earlier assumption.

As if running one small business wasn’t enough to guarantee that one doesn’t have time to see a movie, the owners of TW were in the endgame of opening a restaurant just a few blocks away, so I was absolutely unsurprised to hear her say that she wasn’t sure what character her friend played, but that her name is Elizabeth Olsen in real life.

Mentally, I took her hand in mine and patted her shoulder with a look of deep sadness.

Outwardly, I just showed her the whites of my eyes all the way around my irises and said, “Oh, yeah…well, I’m not saying anything about anything!”…which is quite out of character for me.

The nerd stampede at the end of the movie was also chock a block full of blaming characters for what happened in the movie, and they were all pretty right with the coulda/woulda/shoulda talk, but that didn’t change anything. It was kinda fun to listen to as we escalated down to street level from the top story theater.

That said, I left the theater today with my own versions of those scenarios. It wasn’t that I was re-writing what I’d just seen out of denial, but was very amused to catch myself thinking, “What was going through Doctor Strange’s mind when he traded his Infinity Stone for Tony Stark’s life?!? I’d only be hadn…”

Who’s the nerd now, Xtopher?

Let’s just call them obvious plot holes, suspend our disbelief and move on, shall we?

I felt like I was able to really follow the 2D version of this second viewing better than the 3D format that I saw originally. While the 3D version gave me an extra jolt during some of the exceptional action scenes, I lost a lot of the minute details in the non-action scenes.

Amusingly, one of those details was Black Panther’s codpiece. Sweet Jesus, I’m not aroused by men who can be described as blessed, but watching Black Panther and his decidedly not little friend kick ass, I found myself thinking, “That right there is why Wakanda needed a protective shield. I know several people who would have stopped at nothing to tame that beast.

By comparison, Thanos – who is a titan, btw – sports a modest package that doesn’t have enough gravity to drag your eyes to it from the actual movie. No wonder he’s so pissed off.

Then again, you know how I enjoy pointing out stereotypes, good or bad. Let’s just say that the stereotypes involving black men (Black Panther) and body builders (Thanos) were both borne out in this case.

When all is said and done, I’m glad I went to see this again. Definitely a good use of my Regal reward points…way better than throwing them away on I Feel Pretty. But I had to face the reality that when my imaginary boyfriend ashed out, I still nearly walked out in protest.

But, back to the original point…why did it affect me so harshly?!?

Here’s what I came up with:

America.

Also, politics.

Why?

Well, in the beginning, we see Loki die. Seriously, like five minutes in. It was shocking and pretty unexpected, but I moved on quickly because even though this character occasionally does the right thing…still, he’s basically a self-serving shitheel so he got what was coming to him.

Then the movie goes about assembling the cast of superheroes for an hour and a half until suddenly, Gomorrah gets killed. Ok, let this sum up how I felt about that little plot development.

I spend the next hour thinking about how it’s so wrong to kill off a good character like that – not to mention a diversity double whammy of an actress since she’s both black and a she – and then wondering if it was a plot point hate crime or equal rights in action…because I live in 2018 Portland, Oregon and we overthink shit like that.

That kept me busy until the last ten minutes of the film where the amount of shit they threw at the fan shorted the fan out.

It was like the 2016 election.

Bernie goes down.

Hillary gets defeated.

Trump wins…and no one can believe it.

And then, when Spidey dies, he improvises everything that Americans felt at the end of the last election cycle. We kinda knew what was ahead of us, something didn’t feel right, we were scared, and we didn’t want to accept the surreality of what lay ahead for us.

That’s why I felt it so hard.

Parallels.

Leaving the theater, I was in denial about the massive devastation I had basically witnessed. It wasn’t the type of parallel that helped reinforce why I enjoy going to movies: the escape from reality that they offer. Listening to the Nerd Squad hypothesize what Avengers 4 would bring us was a lot like listening to the American electorate blaming candidates for the outcome of the last election and then looking forward to how the situation will resolve itself.

My bet?

Avengers 4 shows Thanos getting defeated by Oprah.

Roll credits.

The Avengers: Redux

Fitfy 49:45

Well, it’s getting on to tic-toc time, eh?

The last 7 weeks of this journey toward my big 5-oh.

It’s been interesting.  I started out convincing myself that I was doing similar things but with a different mindset I called intent.

Yeah, that was bullshit.

I was doing the same things and expecting a different outcome because I was being honest with myself about my actions.

Turns out, motivation is quite the bitch.  If you don’t have motivation, you get no results.  If you’re motivated toward the wrong goals or for the wrong reasons, you end up failing.  

I wasn’t looking for a pre-fifty phyrric victory.

I was looking to find a balance between my self care – diet, exercise – and the reality of living in an aging vessel.  In an effort to change my mindset around what constituted successfully defining a healthy lifestyle, I had to extract the mental vision I had of a 30-something robust male physique as the definition of success.  

That mental imagery was holding me back and shaping my decisions as well as informing my actions.

No bueno.

A guy pushing 50 shouldn’t be chasing that reality.  Well, maybe in pursuit of a bedmate, but not in a reflection from the mirror.  With that realization, I admitted that I was really at square one in my journey.  I’d made strides toward eating better and exercising differently, but all with the picture of myself with a ripped torso laughing as he drank as much as he wanted.

How depressing.

So I dialed it back.  I began working out at home, no one to compare myself to except that reflection I hated.  That helped.  

Suddenly, I was finding motivation to not get home with a drinking plan in place:  run in, feed the Mistress, change, run out to meet friends.  Now I was selectively coordinating my detox drinking with the Silver Fox, who’s much more disciplined than I am.  He’ll have one beer, two when he’s getting crazy, and then stop.  I needed that example and company to reign me in.  So, we’d have three beers or a bottle of wine between us when we met up, I’d stop occasionally on the way home and get a six pack that would last me close to a week and eat something, have one or two more and Bob was indeed my dietary uncle.

Getting my drinking consumption-to-frequency ratio in line was helpful.

The Filipina Fox was also helpful.  She gets me to a spin class occasionally, but at $18/class, less than she’d like.  

Less than I’d like, too.  

I appreciate that she forwards me deals from ClassPass, but I found a studio I like with equipment that is good for my body and that’s the studio I want to go to.  I’ll go when I can, but at this point I don’t want to compromise and end up on equipment that hurts my body.  It’s just as delititerious to my goal as surrounding myself with people who are at an age where they can achieve results that I can’t while living the lifestyle I want to.

So there it was.  The challenge to accept that I can socially live like an urban 30-something, but I had to forgive myself for looking like a middle-aged man in the process.

Being left with the option of working out in isolation has helped.

Tremendously.

My gut is tightening up, but I’m not looking for signs of abs.  I know they are there, I can feel them…I have to forget that other people may judge me on their personal inability to verify their existence.

Their problem, not mine.  If there were visible abs in my future, those same people would find something else on which to judge me negatively.

I gotta do me.

So, I’ve embraced my FUPA – Fat Upper Penis Area.  See, now I’m gonna be in trouble with the big girls for stealing their acronym.  

Middle-Aged White Guys ruin everything.

Now, instead of catching myself absent-mindedly juggling my chesticles I catch myself poking or bouncing my little belly.

And chuckling at myself when I catch it happening.  I’ve changed my belly perception from rejection to acceptance.  

It’s here, queer, get used to it.

That said, I’ve got to get some remedies in place for lower body exercises at home.

Right now, my belly fat detente is in a physical stalemate that I can appreciate:  it’s there but it’s not too heavy so that it pushes my pants down. 

Some of my shorter torso shirts raise up when I put on a coat or lift my arms past shoulder height, exposing my little “butt in front”.  That has gotten to…not a comfortable space, but a conscious space.  I’m mindful of it and move accordingly to prevent showing it off in public, but I don’t run past the mirror to avoid seeing it.

If I’m gonna drink, I’m gonna have a butt in front.  Instead of denying that reality, I’m looking for ways to alter the reality of the butt in back.  Shifting the focus to something I not only can change, but want to change.

Taking the stairs whenever practical is one thing, but not enough.  I think I’m ready to cautiously add squats into the home workout mix.

This shift to working out at home has taken me back to my days of participating on the Golf Team in High School – yeah, I fucking lettered in golf!  Golf is a solo sport, much like running.  

You compete against yourself.  

Focusing on – dwelling, really – on my inability to run any longer had lent itself to my disabled mental state and contributed to my lack of physical motivation.  Comparing my home workout results to my past performance like I did with prior golfing performances has allowed me to find a balance between efforts versus results while also factoring out my habit of comparing myself to others.  That behavior fuels the unhealthy motivations that led to excessive use of metabolic enhancers in my 30s and early 40s.  It also led to exercising too frequently and not allowing my body enough time to recover between workouts. Those are both factors that contributed to my arrival at 49 after two decades of my cavalierly undisciplined approach to exercise.

Coming out of this year with that balance and perspective to carry forward into the next two decades of my physical fitness life is the other half of the equation needed to get there healthily instead of crippling myself further along the way.

Fitfy 49:45

Black & White

A while back, I was challenged on the Facebook to participate in this Black & White Challenge thingy.

The rules were to post one black and white photo each day for seven days, no commentary, no people.  Just photos.

I suspected it was just some elaborate ruse to get me to shut the hell up for a week and considered ignoring the challenge.  But, since my inner child is very much alive and well, I simply couldn’t resist the dare.

So I did it.

Mostly.

The final part of the challenge was to pass it on to one of your Facebook friends each day, but I’m lucky enough to have the friends I do…best not risk pushing them away any more than my sparkling personality (read:  EOG) already does.

Plus, it took me nine days to post my seven photos.  

Needless to say, it’s been bugging me ever since, the lack of context or comment on these posts.  Fortunately, I have a forum where I can basically say and do just about anything I want.

Take that, everybody else!

Now let’s see if I can not only recall these in order but also remember what struck me about them enough to include them in the first place.

Day One:  I go to work too damned early.  Sure, we had recently survived the idiotic annual shift to Daylight Savings Time once again, but seeing street lights on when I leave for work in the morning is a little much.

I think this was my Sunday shift, so I’m up at 3:45 and out the door by 4:30.  On my way to the MAX stop in Old Town I pass a gentleman’s club that’s still open, further reinforcing my belief that it’s not actuall morning.

Day Two:  This is where I do it, Portland International Airport.

Not “do it” like a wide-stanced senator, I actually work at PDX.  I love the environment and the carpet makes me happy.  This is version two of the world famous PDX carpet.  It was replaced two years ago after a couple decades of wear and tear.  And at about 50,000 travelers a day, that’s a lot of wear and tear over 20 years!

Day Three:  After a couple of days at the old Salt Mine, I’m ready for a drink to blow off a little midweek steam.  I actually stopped on the way home at a shitty little Old Town restaurant with good beer called Silver Dollar Pizza II.  I have no idea how this is related to Silver Dollar Pizza on NW 21st, but I do know that this is owned by the same jag off that formerly owned one of the three second-worst gay bars in Portland.  He sold it s while back and suddenly its not a gay bar anymore.  I guess you could say, <poof!> no poofs.

So, there I am, having a couple of beers and when I walk out, darkness.  Goddamned Daylight Savings.  But I walk around the corner and here’s this sign to brighten my night!  Nothing like blowing a few bucks in quarters and blowing away your day’s frustration with some Galaga!

Day Four:  This building.

I always lament my move to Shittatle by saying, “If the Pearl would have looked then like it does now, I never would have left”.  Truly, I would have taken the severance being offered and suffered through the remaining years of the W presidency in the happiness of my hometown.

When I left, the Pearl District was just starting it’s redevelopment phase and there were blocks of in-redeveloped warehouse space and abandoned buildings.  There were lots of galleries, a few co-ops and some new high rise buildings.

This is one of the co-ops. It’s someplace I could never afford to live, but a place that’s always been one of my Pearl aspirations.

C’mon lottery…

Day Five:  I’m pretty sure this was one of the days I missed posting because I was traveling, sue me.  I took off for my company’s annual leadership seminar midweek and took a little light reading for the trip.  Of course, if I’d forgotten it, the hotel had me covered with its own good book.  

I love the act of holding an actual book while I read.  It’s such an analog feeling.  The weight of the book in my hands, the smell of ink and paper.  Imagination engaged and senses engaged…I was off on an adventure that was simultaneously futuristic and nostalgic.  If you have a chance to read this before the movie comes out, do.  If not, the movie will be pretty good, I’m sure.  Spielberg at the helm?  Pretty good indicator, right?

Day Six:  And then I missed another day.  But it got me back home where I was greeted by some wet foliage when I walked through the park in front of my building.

Actually, I was pretty impressed that I didn’t slip on this leaf as I traversed these sometimes treacherous bricks.

Day Seven:  It’s my weekend!  And I was lucky enough to meet up with the Filipina Fox for a drink while her hubby was traveling for work.  Also, she got me into this challenge, so it’s only fair that she was with me when I snapped my last entry.

It’s a statue of a giant whisk.  Because: Portland.

And then there’s this gem.  I snapped this selfie in my elevator afterwards.  All this black and white nonsense made me nostalgic for the work of Herb Ritts or one of those super gritty Rolling Stone covers with the pop culture icon viewed through a haze of exhales cigarette smoke.

Obviously, I’m missing the smoke.

And some professional lighting.

And the pro photog.

Gawd.  What if this is what I really look like?!?

Black & White