1000 Acres

One English Lab named George.

+

One Silver Fox

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Grumpy Old Man

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A Saturday morning adventure with several mosquito bites as a remainder.

When I first was invited to go along to the dog park with The Fox and G, I was skeptical. Remember the mean old trope about “taking a dog for a ride” where the dog gets abandoned?

I worried I was the “dog” in this scenario.

If I wasn’t being abandoned, I was at least worried that my looks were being somehow maligned…

But I said yes. What could possibly go wrong?

I mentioned mosquito bites, right?

No?!?

The park in question, the Sandy River Delta Park, is nicknamed 1000 Acres because of its size I suppose. It’s just under 20 miles from town at the intersection of the Sandy River and the Columbia.

Hence, the mosquitos.

It’s an off leash playground for your hound and The Fox likes to take George out there to wear him out and get him some water time. I like to hike, and a change of scenery from Forest Park is never a bad thing. Even though I knew this was more of a walk, given the absence of hills on the waterfront.

The Fox is retired and I’m not working, so how we ended up going on a Saturday beats me. I wasn’t worried there’d be a lot of people or at least crowds due to the overall size, but a parking lot only holds so many vehicles, right? Surely, we could have managed a midweek trip. Then again, Portland has such a large service industry employee base that even weekdays are crowded because of their alternative work schedules.

My misgivings were confirmed when we pulled into the parking lot, passing several cars already parked along the roadside. This is The Silverest of Foxes, though, and his game is good. We pulled into the proper lot and were rewarded with a couple of spots opening up after just one loop. The space we took was one we were actually invited into by the person leaving with a friendly wave of the arm.

Dog people are pretty darned nice. I think it’s the influence of their dogs…I have long said that dogs are the best people, even though I’m a pretty conditional fan of dogs.

We parked, George barking impatiently to get on with it since he knew exactly where we were and what was in store.

No one seems to bother with this rule, but The Fox did at least leash G from the car to the trail’s official entry point to keep him from totally running amok. Funnily enough, on the way out, he was way too tired to do anything but barely make the jump back into the car, so no need to worry about leashing him up for the return.

I’d been here once before, so I knew that the park was a mix of paths, wide open fields and water for the fur babies to play and socialize in.

There’s also a huge antenna-slash-powerline contraption that I believe is used for broadcasting pure canine joy into the world.

Speaking of power…what neither The Fox nor I anticipated – despite my initial Saturday hesitation – was the power of the interwebs. Specifically, MeetUp.

The Fox is a huge dog person. Specifically, Aussie Shepherds.

He’s had several during his lifetime and I know when we are together and one comes near that I will need to entertain myself for a while. George is an English Lab, but he can’t read, so I doubt he’ll be offended by this information.

Still, more unique dog breeds – either truly rare or just less frequently seen because of our urban area – get his attention. Such was the case with the Burmese Mountain Dog that ran by us.

“Oh, a burner!”, he exclaimed. But I swore he said “burMer”, which set us off on a good 15 minute conversation clarifying his enunciation. Interrupted by “There he is again!” and “Wait, there’s another!” and “Wow! Another one!”, of course.

I left the conversation feeling like my whole life was a lie after being assured that the breed was actually Burmese Mountain Dog. It made sense, I suppose, because of the python and cat.

Still…I’d always thought it was “Burnese”. Well, since the Dog Park isn’t the best environment to get a clear shot of a dog, I went to The Google for the above pic.

Guess what?!?

He’ll deny it, of course. But I know…now.

It turns out that all these big sexy dogs weren’t here by accident. There’s a Burnese Mountain Dog group on MeetUp and we’d just happened to pick their get together date to run George ragged at the park.

It certainly aided in the effort. Halfway to the water he was already dragging dog ass, but clearly loving it!

Don’t worry, we made it to the water. With a few thousand Burnese Mountain Dog friends.

This was the closest I came to a decent pictorial example of the breed myself.

I mean, it’s not terrible. But the google pic also shows off their good nature, don’t ya think? Plus, my best pic was of a wet dog so it wasn’t his best pic.

George was in dog heaven. Just running and swimming and playing with his new best friends.

It was fun to watch.

Still, as I tried to avoid the frequent post swim shakes, I had plenty of time to amuse myself by taking pics.

And consider the dog logic that would explain why they are so willing to spend their time and energy digging for seemingly nothing.

And wonder what future paleontologist will think of us based on the fossilized tracks at sites such as this.

I couldn’t get any great pics of the dried out puddles with similar paw prints in a preserved state, but we certainly passed enough to make me certain that when civilization is wiped out or driven from this area, the last visitors to this park will give these future explorers plenty to consider about our time here.

Were dogs in charge?

Were they wild and this was their territory?

Were they <gasp> livestock?!?

They’ll probably figure it out.

Obviously, dogs were in charge and we were here to serve them by taking them out to the river to play, since they couldn’t drive themselves.

Also, I noticed in the tracks that there were hoof prints from deer. That allowed me to wonder what happened at night when the dogs weren’t around.

And whether any of those dog paw prints belonged to non-dogs!

Yikes!

But, even though we wouldn’t encounter any actual deer, we did see other wildlife on our 4.5 mile walk around the acreage.

I probably could’ve cropped the top pic to highlight Mr Frog a little better. Consider it a life lesson in dealing with adversity.

A frog and a slug. Perhaps not so much wildlife as it is mildlife.

Speaking of wildlife, though, our walk took us through some woods toward the previously hinted at bird watching area. There’s a bird blind closer to the actual delta of the two rivers. We took off in that direction – I think mostly for my benefit.

Somewhere along the line, G led us off the big path to investigate more water. We ended up staying on a single track type trail that The Fox told me was actually the way to the delta. Off the main path, there was some interesting growth. Most of which was probably the result of past severe weather, but I’m sure some was just natural weirdness.

It is Portland, after all.

Eventually, we reached the bird blind at the delta.

The Fox commented that it must have been built before the trees grew because it truly is surrounded. We’d seen some raptors flying over a stand of trees across the water earlier. From where I stood now, I couldn’t see how they would be remotely visible from the bird blind.

It was so overgrown.

I went in to investigate the view. The slats of the blind are so close together that from the entrance, I really couldn’t see through to the outside.

Probably the point.

I moved into the space and pressed my face up to the slats.

Foliage.

What do I know, though? I’m no chaser or ornithologist.

But in getting my up close view of the structure, I noticed that the slats of the enclosure had bird names and other – hopefully not necessarily indigenous animals…rattlesnake?!? – stamped into them.

It was overall a cool effect, though…what a great detail. It must have taken a lot of work!

Of course, I had to make it dirty and give myself a good giggle.

Poor Clark.

We wound our way out and back to the main path through another single track type trail. This one had modern features like…stairs!

1000 Acres has it all!

Back on the main path, The Fox starts talking about his other visits with his dog owner friends. Casually, he lets it slip that one time he’d gotten lost on the single track paths we’d just come off of after George and one of his dog buddies had taken off running.

Thanks for sitting on that little detail until the end of our walk.

Good news, though…I escaped with nary a scratch. Aside from the aforementioned mosquito bites.

Those little bastards, though! They are either super starved or super aggressive.

They went right for the jugular. Of the four bites I emerged from the park with, three were on either side of my neck.

Right.

Along.

The.

Jugular.

Well, it was hardly a Red Shirt Diaries moment. But resisting the urge to itch is a bit of a killer.

The fourth, by the way, was on my ring finger, but it’s not like I’m using that anyway.

1000 Acres

Holman Lane Hike

Ok, first off: NEVER HIKE THIS TRAIL!

After ending up on this trail a few times by accident or happenstance, I intentionally set out on it this afternoon. Well, it was my Plan B after getting to my trailhead and realizing that my trail to Pittock Mansion was closed.

It was cloudy, anyway…no mountain view.

So, I took off on the Wildwood Trail in the opposite direction. I know after my accidental 15 mile hike that you cannot hike any distance in this direction and end up at Pittock, as I had imagined until just recently.

However, I was faced with a different struggle this time: branch out on Holman Lane and face the climb or attempt an equally challenging descent to finish my circular hike by staying on Wildwood.

Knowing how my knees feel after a 10 mile hike – and seriously, I stupidly keep thinking this will change the more I get out on the trail – I decided coming down Holman Lane would end with a near-certain fail. No…fall.

I now know that Holman Lane is 6/10 of a mile of straight-up-enough-hill. I’m pretty sure I left a sweaty water slide behind me as I wheezed my way up the trail. But unlike last time, I managed to haul my keg of a belly (I cannot make fat ass statements because: no ass) up to the top without doubling over midway to catch my breath.

So there’s that.

Actually, adding insult to injury on that last hike was seeing a rather fit petite woman running down the path as I climbed upward.

“Sure, take the easy way”, I thought, only to be corrected ten minutes later when she passed me from behind.

My life really is just an exercise in chagrin.

Oooh…right here, right meow, I’m being tickled by inspiration to try out a new Chrisism: chagrinagins.

Shenanigans that lead to humiliation…thoughts?

Anyway, this petite jogger got hers when I stopped at the shoe brush that you’re supposed to use entering and exiting the forest to prevent plant contamination. I had just used it – mostly as an excuse to catch my breath again – and as I turned around, she was blowing by me.

Without using the brush.

I know she felt the burn of my grumpy old man glare as she padded away.

From my prior visits, I know Holman Lane ends at Cornell Road up in Portland’s West Hills. There’s a 130 yard road surface walk to the Birch Trail, which will then take you back to the Wildwood.

I’m learning, Little Buddy!

I also know that there’s a creeper house between the shoe brush station and Cornell. I realize now that I don’t have a friggin’ pic of it, but it was seriously a Red Shirt Diaries moment for me when I first encountered it last year.

I’d spontaneously decided to take on the Holman Lane hill. Midway up, I realized I was following a couple of guys hiking the same trail in a meandering manner. I shifted into inspiration mode, like I did back when I was racing.

Basically, find a nice butt and let it pull you along like a tractor beam.

Once I was closer, I decided they were on a date, because: two guys in the woods not talking about sports is obviously gay. After I passed by them, I overheard their conversation turning to Grindr and Scruff. I presumed this is where they met and they had decided on a hike for their real life meet up.

I thought it was sweet that their real life meet up was an actual date and didn’t take place between someone’s sheets.

<ignores obvious Bush Bunnies potential>

Anyway, for some reason, I began to wonder if they had changed their conversation to asocial media just to mess with me after they saw and profiled me. I talked myself out of this brief panic, they were dressed too nice to be thrill murderers.

I think.

When I passed this house, with its No Trespassing sign and significant brush coverage, I started to doubt my judgment. Maybe they were baiting me…seriously, only the roof line of this house was visible.

As I’m writing this now, you know nothing happened, however, I swear I heard Dueling Banjos in my head as I panic-walked past the drive. The boys actually caught up to me as I stood at the Cornell Road trailhead wondering which way to run away – this is a pivotal moment in horror films and wrong decision results in someone hanging on a meat hook.

They were nice!

I was offered directions to what I now know is a relatively close reentry point to the Forest Park trailways.

Also, a ride back to town.

No, thank you.

Obviously.

Plus, if it was a date, I didn’t want to become a third wheel. Or a third

Anyway, this creepy house and leaving the trail for a street walk are both the icing on the cake for this too uphill of a hike. I try to avoid it, usually, but yesterday my hand was kind of situationally forced.

I used that as an excuse to have myself an exploratory lil adventure!

Now that I’m getting to know the paths and where they generally head, I decided to take off on this single track footpath prior to reaching the Creeper House.

This was a mistake.

I had figured, knowing how Holman ends and picks up 130 yards to the NW at the Birch trailhead, I decided to take it as a shortcut. Assuming, of course, that I would come off this little deer track on the Birch Trail in about a quarter mile.

This was wrong.

What I did find about 1/10 of a mile in was a park bench at a widening of the trail. It was right across from this

and I figured that some extras from Grimm had been living here since the show ended. The bench looked about 30 years old, based on style, but looked to have been “freshly” painted black sometime within the last few years.

I was somewhere – generously speaking – in the backyard of Creepy House. Maybe this was a fort their kids were making.

As I was wondering why that explanation should make me feel better, I kept walking. The narrow path became occasionally overgrown, but I could still make out my destination.

I worried slightly about spiders and critters as I walked. That changed to concern over being scratched by occasional blackberry brambles that protruded into the path. Next up was worrying that I’d lose my footing on a small descent or trip over a fallen branch and twist my ankle.

Ultimately, my concern should have been how far in I would have to go I order to connect with the Birch. I felt that I’d missed it and would actually end up on the Wildwood again.

That’s fine.

Except

Now I was starting to hear the noises of nature and tickling the back of my mind was the thought that a lot of extras on Grimm were supernatural creatures…

I was at a quarter mile off path. I decided to give it a little more time. My optimism was rewarded at the next bend in the trail with…no more trail! I thought I could barely make out where it picked up again and debated wading through the plants in that general direction.

No, there it was!

Ok, not playing that game. I turned around and made a hasty, totally not cool retreat to the main trail, half expecting to be confronted by the Predator.

But, obviously I made it. I proceeded toward Cornell Road, mentally tipping my hat to the Creepy House as I walked by and my panicked breathing returned to normal.

Comparatively speaking, the rest of my hike went without incident. I ended a little differently this time

calming my nerves with a beer at the closest bar to the trailhead I could find.

Then I wake up this morning to the suggestion from the Silver Fox that we see a movie. He suggests Leave No Trace – which is about a father who takes his daughter to live off grid in Forest Park.

Hard pass after yesterday…

Holman Lane Hike

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

The Red Shirt Diaries #20

I get random texts from friends when something reminds them of me. That’s sweet, right? Until you factor in that what usually makes them think of me is usually something Siegfried and Roy would slowly back away from.

My friends know my feline relationship.

Read: peril.

I get asked every couple of months why I keep her if she’s that crazy-slash-mean-slash-bloodthirsty.

The answer is pretty easy, I chose her. That’s a commitment. It’s one that her first three homes failed to honor in the first 18 months of her life and part of why I think she’s so…weird.

The other part is just tortitude…torties are fairly famous for their antisocial behaviors.

Well, and then there’s the other other part: I think I can fix broken things.

That’s on me.

Still, she has mellowed over the last two and a half years.

Who can resist a lap nap with a sweet kitty? Even if it’s just a temporary state of sweetness.

My friends get this.

Hence the pictures.

I get a good chuckle out of them.

But, still…I won’t be surprised if I end up dying in a Myrtle Related Incident.

Whether it’s one of her ankle hunting strikes like the above near miss two years ago or a new, unexpected development remains to be seen.

Right meow, my money is on a bathroom mishap.

I moved into a new unit in my building at the first of the year. The old bathroom was shotgun style, long and deep…everything one after the other from the door.

Sink.

Tub.

Toilet.

The new situation is more of a side-by-side deal. Myrtle is usually sitting on the counter, sweetly when I finish showering. She’s like a stoner, staring in amazement at the swirling steam mixed with airborne cat hair riding the heatwaves my shower generates.

In my old bathroom, she did the same, but from the floor since the bathroom counter didn’t offer the same view of this kitty mesmerizing awesome phenomenon. Myrtle thinks it’s the best thing I’ve ever done…moving to give her a better view from her sink top perch.

Still, she catches me off guard: a month or so ago, I was removing some uninvited follicular guests by leaning over the counter toward the mirror. She usually rubs up against my belly and chest, adding hair to my shirt as I’m tweezing. This time, I was wrapped in a towel at my waist.

Little bitch bit my nipple.

I’m so not into that.

So, I try to be wary while being realistic. If Myrtle wants to be on the counter, she’s gonna be. Making an issue of it will just piss her off and she’ll still do it…just not while I’m around.

Cats, right?

So, here’s how that wariness manifested into a Red Shirt situation and I potentially end up dead:

Mistress Myrtle used to rub up against my ankles when I got out of my old shower. My friends all pretty much agree that she’s just reapplying her stank.

In the new place, she upgraded.

I was bent at the waist, drying my legs and Myrtle started rubbing her head on my towel dried hair. It rather caught me off guard and I jerked my head up, just missing the counter.

Here’s how this looks:

This has been a daily ritual ever since. I open the shower curtain and she’s sitting there waiting eagerly.

Personally, I think this is a hygiene upgrade for her. She’ll rub her head on mine and then scrub up against the slate style countertops.

It’s cute.

But about once a week, she’ll try to use her claws to tease my hair up into a better rubbing surface for her favorite cat.

Knowing that jerking upward will result in a bleeding scalp, I quickly duck in order to get away from the claws.

Yup.

More near misses, courtesy of the Mistress.

I really see this being some sort of Rube Goldberg type elaborate death.

Myrtle grabs my scalp with her claws.

I duck to avoid, smacking my head on the counter’s edge.

This causes me to jerk upright suddenly.

I lose my balance and overcorrect to remain on my feet.

…and fall backward into the tub.

Maybe the fall kills me, maybe it just paralyzes me and I end up laying there until I expire.

More than likely, I’m immobilized in the tub until Myrtle the Merciful decides ten minutes later that it’s a lost cause and she begins to eat my face.

No use letting a good meal spoil, right Myrt?

The Red Shirt Diaries #20

The Red Shirt Diaries #21

The Big One edition.

I just got back from a quick escape to the coast with The Fox.  This is an important point, only because we specifically discussed potential caffeination strategies simply because of the beach house’s remote location.

Coffee wasn’t going to come handily.  Either you have to make the dreaded drip at the house, prepare to trek into town for whatever offerings you find or take some with.  

It’s a worthwhile trade off for this view, though.

The Fox is a Stok fanatic, which is a pre-made cold brew that you can buy in the store.  So, he was taking a bottle of that to get him through and offered to take a second for me.  I told him that I would likely just grab some Monsters to get me by.  I used to have a daily habit, but weaned myself off when I moved back to Portland and found worthy cold brew that was accessible on the daily.

Still, I spent the next several days listening to facts about how bad Monsters are and how they were named as one of the 10 worst things you can buy at the grocery.

Our route home from the coast was atypical for The Fox.  Normally, he will stop off in the hinterlands of Portland at the Costcos and Wincos to stock up for Armageddon. However, this time we stopped by the Fox Family Homestead to pick up Sallory – who is off on another family world tour and in need of a lift into the city and the airport.

No better reason to change the usual routine than that!

So, the usual Costco stock up and Winco Stok up run was put off a day.  I was asked if I needed anything and really could only think of hamburger.  Later, as we all played a pick up game of Where I Hurt – it’s a mental poker game I play when a group of us complain about our respective maladies – and my losing hand consisted solely of nightly calf cramps, I added magnesium.

The Fox rolls up to my front door with the ground beef and magnesium later as well as some back up lasagnes and a flat of Monsters.

Enabler.

I can find a place in my pantry for those!

However, it did prompt this question about our usual coffee date this morning:

My Earthquake Kit.

Of course, the big one is nigh.  There’s scarcely a month that passes without at least one of the weekly rags publishing some sort of article about life after certain death.  Most recently, it was a Dr Know entry about whether houseboats were the next big housing craze in Portland – after RVs and ADUs – particularly as a potential way to survive and ride out the aftermath of The Big One.  The response, I will leave to your sleuthing.

Because

This morning’s quandary for the Red Shirt was, “Would I want to survive?”

Even with the Monsters The Fox provided and the cash stash my parents taught me to have, I imagine Portland will quickly de-volve into some sort of post-apocalyptic knock-off version of itself.

Zoo Bombers will run the looter gangs.

Vegans will become cannibals before the first aftershock.

Yard chickens will become prophets – because it is still Portland.

And, somehow, I think all the little things about humanity that bother me will survive…even becoming amplified.

My inner optimist wants to believe that survivors will band together to create a better tomorrow.  Focused on making a community out of the ruins of our hipster culture.  But realistically, I think sacrificing myself by running into my crumbling building to rescue my neighbor’s (completely fictional, but give it time) balcony chicken will be the better move.

“All hail the prophet Cluckerella!” will be my last words as I fling my neighbor’s (again, completely fictional) balcony chicken off the balcony to freedom from our collectively crumbling roost.

The Red Shirt Diaries #21

The Red Shirt Diaries #19

Portland’s Got Stabby edition.

I admit that walking through Old Town on dark or early mornings gives me more pause than I’d like to acknowledge.  It’s always been a little dodgy.  When I would drive into town back before the turn of the century – yes, we had cars back then – to go to the downtown bars, it was with the knowledge that there were strangely high odds that my windows could be punched out when I returned.

Luckily, I had a Jeep ragtop.  

Leaving the bars and heading back to my car, I could count on seeing a couple of cars that had been broken into along the way.

You could discourage this by locking up stuff in your trunk versus leaving it on the seat in plain sight.

No need to beg for it like a dumbass.

Over the decades since, Portland’s Old Town has gotten increasingly developed.  Mostly, or firstly, by Central City Concern…an organization that has used its property to provide affordable short or long term housing for the disenfranchised.

The disabled.

The recently out of rehab.

Some battered spouses.

And the mentally questionable.

In addition to providing low – like sometimes free low – housing, these places provide resources for the residents to get back on track.

For those willing.

Portland is famously liberal, pretty much single-handedly turning a would-be red state blue.  Low to no cost healthcare, a police force that is more tolerant of homelessness than it is our Little Beirut liberal protests…and they are pretty tolerant of those, outside of a few notable exceptions.

All of this has led other cities with less tolerant officials to sometimes remedy their own homeless problems – er, situations – with bus tickets to Portland.  The last report I read said we had about 30k homeless residents.

Most living or killing – sometimes literally – time in Old Town.

Not to lay this stabby streak on the homeless, they only get partial credit.  However, the dozen or so Urban Campers that I walk by during the pedestrian portion of my commute put me a little on edge when they rustle the wrong way.

Sue me.

The stabbing seems to happen once a month or so anymore.  Most don’t reach my consciousness unless I happen upon them shortly after or during the investigation.

That’s a pretty sad realization, but in my defense, I don’t watch much news.

The ones that tend to hit my radar are the incidents involving my community like the local nightclub DJ who was stabbed and later died in what was presented in a manner that easily suggested a hookup gone wrong.

Thanks for that, Main Stream Media.

Of course, there was the MAX stabbing last year that had the whole city running cold for weeks afterward.  A man had been harassing two young women on a train, one wearing a hijab, when three cool portland types came to their defense and ended up stabbed for their efforts.  

Two died.

The three named murderer said, “That’s what you get for your liberalism” or something along those lines.

Great, our mentally ill population is woke.

No, the ones that get my attention aren’t those truly horrendous incidents or the white trash brawls and domestic disputes.

Those I notice are the true Portland-weird fashioned occurrences.

Like last weekend’s apparent workplace dispute…with a kukri.

Oh, good…you can pick this up on Amazon.  I wonder if there is free shipping.

Really, Portland?

Or this one.

Pink Bunny suit…let that sink in.

Pink

Bunny

Suit

Unless the victim was Ralphie from A Christmas Story or Donnie Darko or even Glenn Close, then I can’t even guess what the fuck this was all about.

It was a couple months before the Onesie Party

So, just…really, Portland?

Really?

But, at this point, I could reasonably see “Really?!?” being one of my last words as I’m chased by a samurai wielding bear dressed up as an Oops. I Did It Again Brittney Spears…

The Red Shirt Diaries #19

Birthday: Food

My birthday was a week ago.

There may be (there is) a cake and fork situation in my refrigerator.  Only just barely, now, though…

But that cake is just the icing on a fantastic birthday celebration.

This is my big landmark birthday and it fell on a weekend.  The perfect recipe for breaking those diet resolutions I never bothered to make.

So.

Much.

Food.

Plus a secret gold star that I survived…but might be too big a shock for people who know me to survive.

The food started on Saturday with a solid four dozen peanut butter cookies that a couple of my co-workers made.  They were taking up too much desk space so I pared them down by a good half dozen in the first half hour.  

A full third were gone by day’s end.

At which point, I had to run out to get ready for my surprise party.

God bless The Silver Fox, but when Little Buddy called dibs for Saturday night, I knew something was brewing.  For his part, he kept the bond of trust, never admitting there was a jig, up with which to be.

And I threw out some doozy theories in the week leading up to the big day.  Seriously, I had the whole thing being filmed by any surviving Zapruder.

Little Buddy had told me she was inviting The Fox, who then made his apologies in advance for missing the get together because he had tickets to a play with Sallory.

“Like you won’t be changing those plans!”, I taunted.

I went on through the week with scenarios like, “The big surprise will be when I show up and announce that I’m only 40”.  

The Fox invited me to join he and Sallory at the hotel bar next door – he and I are…regulars – and kept changing the time.  I teased him with accusatory questions like, “How long does Little Buddy need to sneak in and decorate my place?!?”

It’s not that big and there’s nowhere really to hide.  But if that was the plan…I’m fortunate to have folks who would be bothered to go out of their way  for me.

He insisted that wasn’t the case, but when he had casually suggested the day before that we stop and get his Key Buddy key made for my new place…well, c’mon.  You don’t have to be an Olympic caliber conclusion jumper to arrive at the too easily drawn…conclusion.

All my scenarios be damned, though.

I show up at Tanner Creek Tavern and it’s just The Fox and Sallory.

We have a beer, they ordered food because somehow they hadn’t changed their tickets. There is only one opening night!  Even at The Armory.

I’ve been wrong a lot in my life, so I rallied pretty easily.  Plus, Sallory had brought me a present!

Presents: that which I secretly love but publicly play it cool.

This was still a nice upgrade from last year, though, when The Fox had bothered to be out of the country for my birthday.  I just love busting his chops.  He could light me on fire and he’d still be the best friend I’ve ever known.

This year, Rib and his new boyfriend had taken a page out of The Fox’s birthday playbook and gone to watch the Australian Open live, which inconveniently occurs around my birthday.

So, there we are, us three.  Beer and wine raised to toast the eve.  I’m happy to have them for even a little while.

And while I’m enjoying a simple moment with dear friends, I find myself following four eyes across the bar, focused on black balloons parading from the door and headed in our general direction,

Ok, that one I did not see coming.

Little Buddy.

2.0.

Breitbarb.

The good and getting better friend…he really will need a blog name at some point.

All parading toward our table.

Well, that can’t be a coincidence.

Wires having been crossed, I was expelled from the bar and left to cool my heels in the hotel lobby so our table could be staged with all the required fiftieth birthday party accoutrements.

You know, I’m lucky to have people I love in my life who also tolerate me.  Less surprising to me, but perhaps me alone, is that there’s a bar in my life that doesn’t mind setting aside a table for my friends to mark my pickled ass’ birthday.

On a damned Saturday.

In downtown Portland.

On the Onesie Pub Crawl weekend.

Whatever.  I was here first.

When I returned from my lobby exile, the Filipina Fox and her husband had joined the birthday melee.  So had a new instant friend that I’d met at LB’s and 2.0’s wedding last summer (more on that in a later blog, promise) and her younger, better looking and more Asian blooded version of my doppelgänger boyfriend.  Little Buddy had rallied quite a bar busting group for this lil surprise shindig.  

I was pleased.

So, Little Buddy had made this cake.

It was glorious, but also a shituation, as I learned.

She had been aiming to do a cake-homage to both my Star Trek fandom and my Red Shirt Diaries blog theme.  The red fondant hadn’t cooperated and she’d scratched it and taken it back to the drawing board for a slam dunk of subtlety that bumped the overt Enterprise shaped 30th birthday cake to second place in the Best Ever Cake category,

Sorry, not sorry, Sacha.

It was a Tribble Cake.

I mean, I ate a bunch of those tribbles and a healthy slice of cake.

And a second beer, duh.

Happy as I was, I learned that this party was portable.  There was a table waiting for us at Nostrana.

It’s a tres she-she Italian restaurant that I’d never been to.  I’ve eaten several times at the Pearl District sibling restaurant, but that’s just a front for $50 pizza.  Nostrana is a mother lode restaurant.

We ate the pants off that place.

Remember, I was full from beer and cake.  

Let that stop me, I did not.

2.0 started us off with a charcuterie plate that featured typical sliced cheeses and cured meats as well as a few terrine options and fucking lengua.

Yeah, that’s beef tongue.

It.

Is.

So.

Good.

Little Buddy corralled the Som for some wine.

We were also downing bread like Dr Atkins was heading our way in slo-mo with a scale.

Then.

Then…the pasta main course.

The plan had been to take my Michael Douglas ass out to a bar after dinner but the trifecta of the Onesie Bar Crawl, 2.0 comfort considerations (in a gay bar) and my grumpy old man refusal to pay cover to be ignored in a bar landed us back at my place drinking The Fox’s wine.

It was perfect.

But the weekend wasn’t yet done with my belly.

Sunday morning was brunch with The Fox. No doubt penance for not canceling his opening night plans the night before.

No.

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

Obviously!

I mean… he knows how extra I pretend to not be.  It’s like we had never even met.

But a one on one brunch with my NSLP – Non Sexual Life Partner – was beautiful.  What a delightful way to usher in day one of my 50th.

It’s surreal to type that.

Post brunch plans included a pre-family dinner nap…and I kind of needed it.  One big meal left in my weekend and I was already ready for my food coma.

We were eight for dinner.  I definitely didn’t get too hungry for dinner with eight.  But I nearly ate my weight with those eight.  If only our table had been at 8:00, that could have been a seizure inducing alliteration.

Alas, my family all traveled the 20-30 miles into town to join me at the newest Pok Pok. This is a Portland “It” restaurant from years past.  I’d never been, so they had opened a new place “ten” blocks from my place to tempt me.  I’ve been meaning to get there for months since they opened.

This was the perfect excuse.

I think we split nine entrees between the eight of us.  They recommend an entree for two people to share, so we were a little over that ratio given our census.  But best safe versus sorry, right?  Plus, I think I forgot a few in my tally.

Here’s my gold star moment:

My whole life, I’ve been a picky eater.  My list of “No’s” for food looks – and probably is – longer than any single person’s list of disqualifies for potential mates.

And yet, I don’t starve.

Because in my years I have learned to think of others, I made sure that our order included the mushroom salad for my mother, who may have single-handedly in life made mushroom farming a viable vocation.  

Seriously.  She loses it for mushrooms.

One of my favorite mom/son bonding stories is of our family table growing up.  At our pre-Chuck family dinner table on La Cour, I had a side of our six top table to myself.  My sporty siblings sat across from me and I sat next to my mother on my side of the table, obvious gay son dinner table placement, right?

Me being the petsnickety culinarian and my mother making her food budget pennies scream to feed her Galby Five, there were a lot of what I would call lesser filler ingredients.

Onions.

The Peppers Bell.

Mushrooms.

My awesome mom would sit next to me and eat these Xtopher-only deemed lesser ingredients off my plate.  Right out of their individual and separate piles I’d created for each at the perimeter of my plate.

Talk about a Niles Crane worthy OCD moment.

Talk about symbiosis!

Obviously, I stipulated that this Xtopher anathema of a mushroom salad be placed at the end of the table nearest Mom-Donna, furthest from me.  You know that bitch mushroom salad ended up getting passed to everyone and ended up at my corner.

It was my personal hell.

Me, being both a newly minted legitimately grumpy old man and a dick, I quietly engaged in the dinner table conversation with my family while quietly – and for attention only – eating off the mushroom salad plate.

No,

One.

Noticed.

Goddamnit.

I even casually and without irony said things like, “I think there are mushrooms in this” and yet…nothing.

I’d only had a glass of wine and a complimentary glass of champers at Thelonious Wines before dinner and a cocktail with, so I wasn’t even buzzed when I made the decision to choke down some mushroom salad, defiantly.

And no one noticed.

So I went home and ate some of Little Buddy’s bday cake…planting a fork in it for future and what turned out to be frequent use!

I’m still full a week later.

And that’s my birthday.

Of course, with so many people I hold dear in my life turning out to celebrate, my grinchy old heart might just be so full that it’s pushing down on my stomach, making me feel that I’ve over eaten.  

Toss up, eh?

For your amusement, the song Pandora barfed out as I’m wrapping this up was Knocking On Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan…you can’t make this shit up.  It’s my life!

Birthday: Food