That Moment When…

Do you ever start telling a story about “the old days” or “a classic” movie/song/what-have-you only to have your brain catch up with your mouth halfway through and realize the story you’re nostalgically telling doesn’t pass current PC muster?

Of course this happened to me.

So, I suppose this should be titled “That awkward moment when”…

There I was, at Nossa – hey, it’s Sunday…it’s what I do. Anyway, I was talking to my barista boyfriend while he made my drink and the Silver Fox found the perfect table – y’know, one that looks perfect but spills my drink when he innocently adjusts his foot. Our conversation started after The Fox asked if the tables outside were reserved for the brunch the bar downstairs hosts on the patio on Sundays.

It’s a shared space, so sit wherever you want!

I heard a chipper and enthusiastic statement but his body language had an edge to it, so naturally that was the conversational thread I chose to pull. I commented that they sure put a lot of effort into their brunch service, since they start serving at 10 and I’d been there at 8 before to see them beginning their set up.

Yeah, they don’t even open the downstairs space, they just use the patio until their regular hours.

That was kind of surprising, since Portland weather is kind of…unreliable. But on top of two-plus hours of four people setting up the patio – which I assume is mirrored on the back end for clean up – with a bar cart, racks of tableware staged at the edge of the building and a music set up – which is usually a live band; they are spending money on extras as well.

Well, like all that isn’t extra.

But they are either buying extra pub height tables and chairs to supplement the regular patio furnishing the landlord provides or they are emptying out the bar below to provide seating. On top of that, Nossa has a couple of umbrellas they usually put out to shade the tables – I think there’s eight tables normally. The first time I witnessed this brunch endeavor, the restaurant added in some orange umbrellas. Today, the umbrellas were all a nice, dark green. No red Nossa umbrellas in the mix at all.

I don’t mind, really. It brings people in…

“Yeah, but with those green umbrellas, you’re probably gonna end up with not just your customers or their customers…you’ll probably get some Starbucks customers coming in to add a really confusing third leg to your customer barstool.”

Bring ’em on!

“Oh, really…you think you can rehabilitate Starbucks customer’s palates with your good coffee?”

He looks like he makes a real effort at thinking about it for a second, then says,

Well, maybe some of them…

We both laugh at that and that’s when it happened. I was thinking about that aha moment of a Starbucks drinker experiencing good coffee and instantly questioning their previous life choices.

That was the scene that popped into my crazy head, which made me laugh even harder. I asked my Fake Boyfriend if he’d ever seen Young Frankenstein.

I think I watched it a couple of years ago at my parents’ place one Christmas.

“Of course. It’s the perfect holiday movie! Do you remember when Madeline Kahn meets The Monster?”

Yeah. Hehe. Wait, I think I do…

So, naturally I go on to describe the scene and he’s giving me, “Yeah. Yeah!” as he listens along and remembers.

Except as I’m talking, I’m starting to remember this part of the scene

Where The Monster kidnaps Madeline and how the whole “Sweet mystery of life” moment occurs while The Monster is forcing himself on her.

I’m beginning to simultaneously try and gauge the people standing nearby – because were in Portland, for crying out loud…the wrong combo of AntiFa and Feminista overhearing this could get me in real trouble – and figure out how to get out of this conversation.

And then a third thing happened.

I got mad.

This was the part that did it…

I was suddenly disgusted with the notion of framing a rape as the woman being wrong about what she wanted and coming out the other side of her assault fulfilled and awakened.

Ruined.

So, I’ve been running a B-reel argument about how “times have changed” and “it’s a comedy” with myself to help figure out whether my nostalgic feelings about this movie can survive in this woke #MeToo day and age. I told myself,

Just watch it again and make sure you’re not misremembering the context…

Nope. Can’t fall for that argument. I’m not planning on running for office, but still…can’t have Jeff Bezos tattling on me if he sees Young Frankenstein in my viewed queue.

Now I’ve given myself a headache.

That Moment When…

This Must Be Foodie Hell

What you see above is all that’s left of Portland’s biggest – and my personal favorite – food cart pod.

It’s fate has been known for the last year or so, since the owner of the lot it sat upon announced future development plans. What remained unknown was the timing as the local business press kept the curious up to speed on the plans for the site.

What came to pass was design approval for Portland’s fifth tallest building and first five-star hotel.

So, on this past May 31st the business owners at the 10th & Washington food cart pod were notified that their last day of occupancy would be June 30th.

30 friggin’ days!

What a crushing bit of news for the thousands of folk that made a meal at this pod a part of their routine.

Bad news for the businesses, too, one would imagine.

That said, there were a couple of really big unknowns accompanying the announcement.

A) who exactly this five-star tenant would be. It’s not that it wasn’t announced, it’s that no five-star hotel has expressed interest in or accepted the opportunity to partner in the finances involved in a project of this scope.

Yup, the owners of the land evicted the tenants without financing for the project. Which brings me to the larger issue here,

2) where are the displaced food carts to go?

Thirty days isn’t much time to secure a place in any of the other pods – even though Portland is crawling with pods. The thing that made this pod so successful, aside from location, was the following its carts engendered. I can’t tell you the number of times I took friends to my personal fave, Bing Mi, or recommended it to visitors from out of town.

As a matter of fact, that was how I heard of the cart in the first place!

Anyway, a few carts had used the vaguely looming deadline as a chance to find a new place and move on their own terms. The former square of outward facing food windows had started to show a few gaps, but it was far from looking like a hillbilly smile.

The end result was the same, though – come July 1st…no more pod.

During our last coffee klatch or two of June, the Silver Fox and I had discussed the rumored future for the displaced carts. It was exciting to consider since it would directly benefit us, even though the chance of happening without disruption to business as usual was exactly zero percent.

The rumor was that the city had proposed moving the pod into the Couch and Davis side streets of the North Park Blocks. Remember, the northwest quadrant of the city that I live in is called the Alphabet District because the street names are in alphabetical order. For context, The Fox and I live on opposite sides of the Park Blocks between Everett and Flanders.

Yup, the proposal from the city would land the pod one to two blocks from our homes.

The shit thing for the businesses affected is that with more harmonious planning, the city could have laid out the minimal infrastructure changes – power and traffic flow – needed beforehand while the carts were simultaneously able to notify their loyal customers of their new location.

Actually, I misspoke earlier – the city was proposing lining the actual park blocks with the carts by placing them in the parking spaces on the park side of the street facing the park itself.

The plus side here was that it would drive foot traffic into the urban park blocks, which the city considers to be underutilized. I swear, that’s bureaucratic-speak for “an increase in regular citizen traffic would probably create a decrease in urban campers”…aka: Portland’s much maligned homeless.

The side street idea was mine. It came from a couple of issues, of both my own making as well as reporting on the potential project.

The city spends a lot of money each year on planting and replanting grass in the park blocks. No sooner does the initial reseeding effort bear grass than the summer parade/festival season begin, starting with Pride and the International Beer Festival in June and ending with Art In The Park in late August. Lining the blocks with park-facing carts is just going to cause more damage to the parks.

For its part, the city seemed concerned about a loss of parking meter revenue – and parking ticket revenue, I’m sure!

For my part, I don’t care about parking revenue. I do care about where I can get my Bing Mi!

Gimme regular, uninterrupted access to a Bing Mi and nobody gets hurt.

My plan of using side streets for the carts might do nothing to reduce any parking revenue impact this proposition creates, but it has another positive impact. Namely, eliminating traffic trauma for drivers unfamiliar with Portland downtown traffic.

You see, the North Park Blocks are bordered by 8th – a one way street that runs southward – and Park – another one way street that runs northward. Most of the side streets are two way. For whatever reason, this confuses drivers and The Fox and I spend a lot of time watching drivers go the wrong way down one way streets.

It’s really quite surprising, the frequency. More so, the number of times someone realizes their mistake and corrects it by turning the wrong way onto another one way street in order to make things right.

People.

Anyway, both Couch and Davis are two way streets. Lining those blocks with carts and making them one way would allow the city to make the approach blocks one way in a manner that allowed only right hand turns onto or off of the park blocks, eliminating confusion. Looking at you, Vantucky Drivers.

Where’s my damn Nobel Prize?

But this is all in the planning stage still. A phase I’m sure will outlast the displaced carts’ ability to remain out of business. Oh, and it’s worth repeating that these carts were displaced by construction and that half of the block between Burnside and Couch is due for demolition (an old Bridgestone service center) for construction of a new apartment building in the next year-ish.

So, where are the carts in the interim?

I don’t know, exactly, however I did discover this little hiding place the other day one a walk.

We’ll get to the markup in that photo in a second. First, this…

That mural says Market of the Future. It’s decorating the street side of the parking lot those food carts are parked on.

The lot itself is the backlot of the downtown US Post Office’s sorting facility. For context you’ll need soon enough, the Post Office complex runs three blocks wide from Hoyt Street to Lovejoy Street, enveloping Irving, Johnson and Kearney Streets.

The back story there is that the city decided not to renew the government’s lease on the nine square blocks between Hoyt/Lovejoy and Broadway/9th in favor of development for housing and retail space.

Oh, and an extension of the North Park Blocks!

The US government – as a result of this eviction – proactively moved its sort facility to a new industrial development out by the airport. Now the former urban sort facility sits empty except for the walk up customer service counter and PO Boxes which basically occupies the storefront space on Hoyt between Broadway and 8th Street.

This has been the only functional part of the business for quite some time.

Long enough, actually, that one day while accompanying me on a trip to my PO Box, The Fox decided to go up to the counter and demand of the poor associate an explanation for the delay in development.

He returned with an actual explanation, stopping my smug chuckling at the futility of his mission.

It turns out, the crafty US government had written into its contract a provision which I’m sure was meant to discourage eviction by the city. Namely, if the city sought to terminate its lease, they needed to find a similar sized customer service store front with 25 parking spaces within ten blocks of the current site.

Well played, US government…well played.

Maybe 20 years ago the city could have pulled this off, including on my very block. Unfortunately, now the three abandoned warehouses on my block have been replaced with a Hampton hotel.

Most other blocks within that pre-ordained 10 block radius have already been developed. Indeed, the nine square block parcel the Post Office complex is on is the largest and nearly only undeveloped parcel within the Pearl District.

But now that the sort facility has moved, most of that parcel is derelict. There’s signs of the city trying to repurpose the space in the interim, but keep in mind that about six of the nine blocks are occupied by empty structures. The remaining three are abandoned employee and truck parking.

Cleverly, to that end:

But that is only one of the three blocks of parking. The food carts are on one of the other blocks at the far end of the parcel. From the looks of that mural, one (me) could reasonably assume that perhaps the city is planning some sort of urban market that would incorporate food carts into it.

The wrinkle here?

The mural says, “Coming summer 2019” and its approaching mid-July.

Also, Portland’s Saturday Market is practically blocks away on the waterfront. Sure, maybe this Market if the Future would be open every day…still.

Never fear, Galby is here to save the day by solving everyone’s problems.

So, back to the markup…

That “separate back building” is on the back third of the nine block parcel between Kearney and Lovejoy streets.

There’s only the teensiest little overlap of the main building with this back third of the parcel. Methinks that could be demolished and closed off with minimal impact to the remaining customer service windows located on the first third.

The paid parking in the middle block could remain operational and likely have plenty of customers on the construction crew.

Developing that back third would allow for planning a building with a ground floor retail footprint that included with it the required parking spaces so the Post Office could move, allowing development of the remaining two thirds of the parcel.

The thing is that the city didn’t know know what it wanted to do with the area. Sure, they know they needed housing solutions within the downtown core. Then the whole Amazon HQ2 thing came along.

To its credit, the city seemed to know it didn’t want that…yet knew it was expected to throw a proposal in the ring. So they did, but with tax breaks so bad they were like garlic to the tax-dodging vampire that is Amazon, ensuring we were never a serious contender.

Since then, the city has begun posting plans around the parcel – sorry for the tightness of this shot, but it’s a picture of a nine block development plan on a piece of 8×11 copy paper…

For placement context, that dark black structure is the Broadway Bridge and it’s at the northeast corner of the parcel. Broadway itself runs on the east side of the Post Office, but the bridge actually ends with Broadway forking off onto Lovejoy Street as well, which borders the north side of the parcel, or the back third that I was talking about developing first to move the whole project forward.

From the perspective of a person with virtually zero knowledge of either urban planning or construction – ignorance is so liberating! – it seems doable. Further to the upside, that back third is the only part of the project that has buildings on all three blocks. The remaining two thirds will have buildings on their outer blocks, but the center blocks will be the extension of the North Park Blocks I mentioned earlier.

The potential benefit there is that starting with the back third would mean that three of the seven blocks with buildings planned on them would be done first. That’s 43% of the construction, meaning that work would progress away from the most labor intense phase. Somehow in my mind this means less whining about construction noise from the new buildings’ residents but I’m having trouble quantifying my argument.

Something about the remaining 57% of the project being divided into fourths for the impact of the two blocks adjacent to the Lovejoy blocks and then in half again for the development of the Irving blocks in the final third phase…but I’m so distracted by my craving for a Bing Mi right now that I can’t get there.

Meanwhile, in the interim I’ve got no Bing, thousands of others are missing out on their favorite carts from the 10th & Wa pod and were in a holding pattern on both the development of the Post Office blocks and the new five star hotel.

Lose, lose, lose…how is it that when we lose things – like my favorite food cart pod – it happens quickly yet when we gain things, it comes so slowly? Rhetorical questions aside, though, with so little happening so slowly, the positives that we gain will likely feel like winning the lottery when they do finally happen.

This Must Be Foodie Hell

Can Evolution Go Backward?

That’s a thought that’s been on my mind lately.

The impetus for that little question? The appearance on the streets of Portland of the “next” generation of e-scooters…and evolution, so to speak.

Yup. It’s like an e-scooter and a bike had a baby.

A hybrid for people who are too lazy to pedal a bike and/or too lazy to stand up.

For fuck sake, humanity.

At some point, someone on a design team had to say, “This is a pretty lame idea”. But they forged onward with production. Probably the argument for was something along the lines of, “But we can make a buck”…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the few that isn’t outraged by e-scooters whizzing through the streets of my hometown. Whizzing down sidewalks and through our parks is a little aggravating, sure. But I’ve adopted a respectfully proactive approach to that frustration. When I can, I say in as neutral tone as possible, “That’s – sub out that pronoun with park or sidewalk as appropriate – not allowed”.

People are surprisingly ok with that tactic. I’ve only had one person yell at me and try to give chase. He broke off after turning his scooter around. It’s not that I outpaced him with my lanky gait, I think he just saw plenty of witnesses and thought better. Good for him.

But that takes me to my second inspiration for this devolution post. This text exchange from yesterday between my mom and me:

There was not one, not two, but three separate protest marches in the streets of downtown yesterday. And I was working right in the middle of them.

Police in heavy duty troop transport vehicles driving by the front of my store.

Cops in tactical riot gear stopping in for a soda or snack while they waited for the potential melee.

Awkward moments of me staring at a customer’s tattoos or tee shirt trying to figure out if they were aligned with any particular group while the police PA blasted out an eerily Big Brother-esque warning to disband the un-permited and therefore illegal march.

Proud Boys.

AntiFa.

And a new group – at least to me – called #HimToo.

If pressed, I’d bet that last group wasn’t a legitimately harassed or assaulted group of men. I’d go one step further and posit there was a barely discernible Venn Diagram of that group’s members and those folks who’ve spent the last four weeks wonder why they couldn’t have a Straight Pride parade all over social media.

Backward Evolution, I say!

It reminds me of a magnet I bought about a quarter century ago.

Hold on. I’m debating going through a couple of boxes I have packed away in a closet to find it and take a picture for you all…the Silver Fox pointed out last night – because I have plenty of dumb moments, too – that the reason my fridge magnets are packed away unlike his which are plastering the front of his fridge is because his is faced with quality stainless steel and mine is a lesser caliber metal.

Shit faced, if you will.

Ok, I’m not going to go find it. Not because I’m too lazy. Rather, because of this situation:

How dare I disturb Myrtle’s blissful slumber? The poor dear barely gets 20 hours of sleep a day!

Back to the magnet.

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

It’s a quote attributed to George Carlin. Boy, was he ahead of the curve with that observation!

Congress.

Gimme all that money!

White People.

Everybody gets a trophy.

Scooter Designers.

We want all the money, too!

Portlanders.

Did someone say trophies?

Stupid Americans…

Here’s hoping that whole Crispr thing works out if only so whoever ends up controlling the technology can finish Hitler’s work…if only to prove the point that evolving forward is about inclusion not so-called refinement.

Sure, I guess that means a certain grumpy old man is going to have to learn to accept those who choose to neither stand nor pedal on an e-scooter.

As another wise, old friend used to say,

Life is lumpy.

Can Evolution Go Backward?

Welp, That’s Enough FaceBook For Today…

Not to cause whomever owns The Beattles library rights any grief, but they sure nailed it:

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…

Indeed, yesterday was a day of idle pursuits, a down day after a night of restlessness. I snapped a slump that was bothering me simply because it wasn’t bothering me.

I complained to a friend that training a new Sonos station is hard.

Seriously, that whole music genome project has some explaining to do. I set up an Aimee Mann station a few months back and it’s been an interesting journey.

I get that Fiona Apple is going to pop up on this station. But not more than Aimee’s music. Natalie Merchant and Joni Mitchell are welcome guests. Cranberries? Bring ’em on.

Still, it’s strange that more of these female artists are doing covers of music originally performed by male singers. It seems strange, anyway.

Then there are the actual male artists that pop in for too frequent visits. That’s where I’m really ruffled and thumbs-downing for all I’m worth. Until I’m tempted to switch the music to another station for a bit because I’ve reached my skip limit just trying to do right by Aimee.

But, I digress. Those were my big challenges yesterday:

New music and some boy nookie.

Oh, and trying to decide whether or not to eat dinner after The Fox and I went to Tanner Creek for a couple of beers and split an order of Bar Fries – seriously, why is that not a menu item in every tap house? It’s punny. And I had been complaining to our Birthday Boy-Bartender that they needed to put poutine on the menu, but Bar Fries would satisfy my desire for something savory atop my pile of French fried potatoes.

Anyway, on that last front, I decided not to make any food and then after watching three episodes of The Widow on Amazon TV, I was suddenly trying to find a Thai restaurant that was still open at 10 PM on a Friday night.

These were my challenges.

Frivolous.

Gluttonous.

Libidinous.

Flash forward to this morning while I’m laying in bed trying to convince myself at 6:30 that I can still fall back to sleep. Seriously, why is it that for the last two days, I’ve been sleeping past 10 AM and missing coffee but on the day that f&b opens at 9 instead of 7, I wake up at dawn?!?

Resigned and not realizing it, I pick up the phone and open up the Facebook.

Nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

But I still “liked” all of the posts that I scrolled past, just to let my friends know that I appreciate their virtual presence in my life and that I saw them.

Then, a post about a friend dying suddenly last week.

Well, shit-fuck-damn.

The friend’s post that clued me in to this sad fact said that he’d had a lengthy illness, and suddenly his move from our beloved adopted city of Long Beach, California to his home in Iowa a couple years back made some sense. Or, my brain was rushing to fill in the vacuum of facts with my most rational leaps of logic.

Naturally, I dug in a little to his FaceBook page and was amazed at the amount of shared memories from friends. One of his closest, it seems, had stated that she hadn’t heard from him for a couple of days and went by his house to check on him, but found him dead instead.

Because: <poof>. one day you just wake up dead. Surprise.

Don’t start checking on me every 36 hours, mom.

But he was ~6 months younger than me.

That similarity in ages hit me pretty hard, but when I thought about it, it wasn’t what hit me hardest. He’s a friend – one of many – that came along with my first good boyfriend. It was when I was still trying to figure out myself as a newly minted gay, and there was comfort there with these other young men going through the same growth and identity experiences.

We learned about relationships together. How to balance being fabulous and responsible; ie: balancing bar hopping five nights a week and working full-time and going to school. And taking advantage of the beach as often as possible.

Oh, and flying off to Mardi Gras on a whim for five years straight. How it ended up being a whim every damn year is still a mystery to me, but my foggy memory suggests that each year ended with “I’m never doing that again!” But it turned out to be nothing that 11 months of recovery couldn’t cure.

Those years in Long Beach were a fantastic time in my life. My core group from the LBC has been fractured by deaths in the decades since and scattered to the far corners of the country by life, but every time I’m lucky enough to get to talk or “talk” with one of those friends, it’s a reward of instant comfort and quality catching up. Except for one guy from back then who was always a little snotty and better-than for no real reason. But I did see him chime in first on the thread with “What was the cause of death?” because that’s appropriate.

He got really fat, though. I enjoyed seeing that. Then I walked by my mirror. Oh, yeah…

But this morning? As of 7 AM, I’ve had enough of real life for the day. And the FaceBook is taking the blame.

Welp, That’s Enough FaceBook For Today…

I Got In Trouble On FB

Big surprise, right?

At least it wasn’t the type of trouble some of my friends get into. They go to FaceBook Jail and no one hears from them for a few days…or a month.

Nope. My trouble was mild by comparison:

The post that started the brouhaha? Just this lil nugget of a story:

It was that darned hashtag:

#shittatle

I call it that situationally. Sometimes I try to spin it, a la George Costanza:

That goes something like this:

It’s a portmanteau of Seattle and Shittakes…

But everyone knows I don’t like mushrooms, so that compliment is backhanded at best. And, truth be told, I like Seattle! I think it’s a great city.

To visit.

Heck, I even got my favorite pot holders there at that place…whatever they call their version of Saturday Market.

Pike Place Market!

I knew I’d remember.

Can you tell they are my favorite? No telling why. I got them at a little place called Heavens To Betsy! I had to buy something with a cute name like that!

I should have seen the FB callout coming when the little hang-y up-y thing-y broke this morning. It made me sad at the time, but now I see that it was clearly an omen.

But here’s the deal, I like Seattle – like I said. I just didn’t love living there. More and more often I see people with normal incomes talking about how much it’s changed and how overcompensated tech bros have ruined everything for regular folks.

I get that.

PS: by “talking”, I mean whining.

Occasionally, I’ll see a regular person get their hackles up over those treacherous comments and respond with a variant of,

If you don’t like it, leave!

Which, you’ll notice…I have.

So I come by my little pleasure of watching Portland frequently outpace the Emerald City in national Best Of type rankings honestly.

I’ll go visit Seattle again.

Someday.

For now, I just enjoy watching people I know from Seattle come to Portland to get away from it all.

Bitches, I’m away…and it feels great to live somewhere again that I don’t need to escape from. When the Silver Fox asks if I want to go to the beach house, my response is usually “Meh. I guess so?” or something close. It’s never,

Oh, gawd yes! I gotta get out of here!

I recently observed a friend of mine from Seattle was in town for a weekend. When I called him on it, his response was,

We’re just in town to buy our wedding rings.

Because you can pay for a hotel room and two nights of bar hopping with the damn sales tax you save. Clearly, he thinks that Seattle is great enough without his tax money to fix their numerous problems.

He also thinks nothing of coming to town and checking in at a bar that is literally a block from my place…which is kinda part of what I didn’t like about Seattle.

Actually, those two examples are pretty much my gripes. I don’t care that things are expensive there. I live in Portland – things are expensive here. Although we are more affordable, so there!

It’s that there was no sense of community. It’s just my decade-long observation.

But that bugged me.

People putting themselves above their city, culture or, y’know…other humans.

I could do without that behavior.

Back in the Seinfeld days, Seattle was indeed the pesto of cities. Since then, it’s like Basil or Pine Nuts have gone extinct and they are selling the last batch. Or – and this would seem more likely – some enterprising Seattle-ite (I mean, transplant) has bought all the Basil ranches in the country, trademarked the term “Pesto” and is now selling it as a monopolized commodity.

Those are the folks who come to town and don’t try and get together, friendquaintances. The handful of genuine friendships I established there give me the opportunity a few times a year to hang out with someone when they visit town and enjoy my city while we talk about the good old days in Seattle. Those fine folks are outnumbered by the influx of Seattle transplants and friendquaintance-type people who don’t act in the interest of the greater good to keep Seattle the city that made it so pesto in the first place…and that’s why I enjoy Seattle from afar and in small doses.

And to sarcastically call out the schadenfreude. It’s petty…but we all need someone there to point out when we think we’re hot shittake but really, we’re just toadstools.

No charge, Seattle. You’re welcome.

I Got In Trouble On FB

A Week For The Books…

Literally, now that I’ve typed out that title.

But the meaning behind it is simple: I had an opportunity this week to sign the first autographs on both of my books.

Quite spontaneously, I assure you. The first was my school friend, MMK. She sent me a text early in the week after reading last weekend’s blog entries. She was suggesting that it had been entirely too long since we last had a coffee date.

It really had!

I think our last coffee date had been at Sister’s Coffee House, which in the interim has essentially burned down and been rebuilt.

Essentially.

So, yeah…it had been too long.

She told me that I could sign her book. I thought she was kidding and just went along with it.

Imagine my surprise when she whipped out her copy of Dating Into Oblivion! We just happened to be meeting on the one month anniversary of DIO going live on Amazon, so it was rather amazing timing, this impromptu signing.

Fortunately, I’d been thinking of what I’d possibly write on an inscription for her.

I came up with nothing.

But as we sat there and chatted, it dawned on me how special this friendship is. I’ve been fortunate to maintain connections with school chums, thanks to social media. But I’ve known MMK since the second grade.

And we still see each other!

It really reinforced how unique that friendship really is.

We’re coming up on three years since my high school class had their 30 year booze cruise here in Portland. I was an honorary invite since I ended up going to high school in Kansas. That environment lent itself to easy chatting, alcohol seemingly having a strangely relaxing effect on social inhibitions.

I’m not sure if you ever noticed that…

But that event was really a little bit of catch up and a lot of glory days. With MMK, it’s usually the opposite – although, I must also admit that she’s a very generous conversationalist. She asks a lot of questions that allow me to talk about my favorite topic.

So I’m kind of double lucky.

It was what I suspected would be my only highlight in a fairly sad week. I’ll probably write about that tomorrow. The Silver Fox was out of town, so you can’t imagine how restorative my time together with MMK was.

But I ended up being wrong. That’s a strange sensation, let me tell you.

The Silver Fox came back to town late yesterday and we got to meet for coffee this morning. I had told him I planned our usual coffee activity of writing, but then showed up without my computer because I chose to update my laptop when I got in the shower.

When I was ready to go, the damn thing still had 43 minutes remaining.

Oh, well…I think The Fox and I have only gone longer than five days without a hangout three times in the last five years, this being the fourth. Not having my laptop with me allowed for more actual conversation.

When I show up, he asks about my laptop and I tell him.

Oh, well did you bring a pen?

And he starts digging around in his bag. I’m thinking it’s for a pad of paper and I think, “Aw. How sweet! He’s gone help me keep writing!”

I was half right.

He pulls out the copy of No One Of Consequence pictured above and plops it down in front of me.

Boy, I really don’t think I see him happier or prouder than when he pulls one over on me! Counting my surprise birthday party, this is twice this year and it’s still only April, so it’s quite a roll he’s on!

People who know my friendship with The Fox will know he’s more likely than not to need to run to the store for bananas on any given errand day. I swear, sometimes he goes twice a week.

For bananas.

You know what that is?

Yup…bananas.

So for his inscription, I referenced the cover of the book and said now he’d always have at least one banana.

And, no…that’s not why the banana is on the cover! Although I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with letting him think that.

So, my week ended up having two delightful highlights.

Imagine my surprise as I’m writing this to – shocker, procrastinate about completing the damn thing by opening the Twitter. In looking at my profile page, I realized that in the last week I’ve tripled my followers. That’s a big deal, to me, anyway. I’m not saying I now have Kardashian or influencer-level followers, but the followers themselves are significant.

They are other independent writers, editors and bloggers. That’s a network I’d like to be social in, so I’m a week on unexpected surprises…that little occurrence ices my cake. I should go hang out with them a bit now.

PS: I’m filing this under “work”, that’s me manifesting a solid side gig as an author. So, there.

A Week For The Books…

I Got Bursitis!

Ok, it’s not the right “itis”, but still…ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!

Anyway, a day after a birthday bowling party where one of my favorite bartendresses, Owl X, turned 30, I woke up broken. It was a perfectly themed idea, since Owl X slings the good stuff at Big Legrowlski, Portland’s Big Lebowski themed beer bar.

Bowling, of course, is a recurring theme of The Dude, Walter and shut-the-hell-up Donnie.

They also have this poster hanging up there

That made me wonder, as I hobbled around the next day, if Nixon was older than he looked during his White House bowling days.

Nope.

He took office at 56, which didn’t make me feel that great, being only five years behind Tricky Dick.

Maybe his hips were just used to the abuse, since he was an avid bowler…

That Silver Fox, always earning his best friend badge. Alas, it’s sadly just more likely that this 6th – possible 7th – decade of life President was more active in general than I have been lately.

What’s most important to remember here is that I came in second in both games I played. This is impressive – or palliative, in my case – since any two of the combined ages of my team mates was still younger than me.

The entire situation made me want a beer. That’s exactly what I did the following afternoon.

Plus, Pallet Jack was back on tap.

While I was there, another regular came in and we were talking about Owl X’s bowling birthday, since he couldn’t make it. Conveniently, he’s a doctor. Sure, it’s of the mind, but when it comes to my aches and pains, I’m open to embracing hypochondria as an explanation.

I told him that now I was gonna need a new hip to go with what I’m sure is my impending need for a new shoulder and knee. I even went so far as to make a joke about maybe finding a deal on Groupon.

Nah, it’s probably just trochlear bursitis.

Like that’s nothing to worry about…

I Got Bursitis!

Oh, You…Universe, You!

It’s a wily cosmos out there, that’s for sure. The last couple of weeks have proved that to me in spades.

Whether you believe it’s the Universe, the Lord, Karma or some other idiomatic dark horse…behold my recent story. I’ll try and make it as follow-able as possible.

So, y’all know that I self- published my first two books – one nonfiction and fiction work each – in March. I consciously chose self-publishing since my research showed that writers lucky enough to get a publishing contract got dropped as soon as the contract ended if they didn’t turn out to be the next James Patterson.

The differences here – aside from the looming publisher break up – were that self publishing pays royalties monthly versus twice annually but there’s no up front money. So I might get a monthly payout, but it was gonna be ~$500 on average versus an advance of anywhere from $5-25k that you may never make back, hence the writers I talked to getting dumped.

I opted for the slow burn even though so far my earned royalties aren’t even what I made in a day when I worked at Macy’s.

God, I miss Macy’s money.

Anyway, I just pushed publish and silently hoped that some industrious producer discovered me.

So, while all that’s going on, I’m wandering around the Pearl and see this sign in the window of a store that I managed for three months four years ago.

Now, I could have called that outcome when I left there. I’m actually surprised that they lasted this long. I came on right after the founder retired and promoted the Vice President/Buyer to run things. He was grooming the District Manager to take over his role and I was brought on as a DM in training to run the store in the Pearl District until that change occurred.

It quickly became apparent to me that the dipshits in charge couldn’t manage their way out of a wet paper bag…so, like I said – I’m surprised they made it this long.

Still, I feel bad for the employees. Sorta.

Anyway.

Things are getting pretty tight at Casa de Xtopher. In February, my unemployment was suspended because they think I’ve been working and not reporting my income. This stems from a quarterly report from my temp job at Amazon – irony alert: that’s who I self-published with – that indicates a status change in my employment with them.

I wasn’t surprised at this, the timing the unemployment office described to me put this blip as a termination for not meeting my one shift a month commitment as a temporary employee.

Of course, the brainiacs at the unemployment office completely melt down and don’t know what to do, so they pause my benefit without telling me.

Seriously, how these people have jobs and I don’t…?

My question to them was

“So y’all require employers to report quarterly employment changes but you can’t differentiate between a new hire and a termination on those reports?”

Idiots.

We straighten that out and then – before a single benefit week is paid, some troll in their office comes up with, “Yeah, but his waiting week in October was paid. He has to pay that back.” To which I replied,

“I worked with your own clowns to figure out the correct timing and claimed earnings as I should have. Go pull the tapes.”

Sure enough. That was right, but by that time, the state had already withheld the week and a half of benefits from me for the payback.

Whatever.

I figure that will just extend my claim by a week and since I’m already over the hump of not having that week of benefits, I let it lie. So naturally, the next week I claim, I get an error message that my claim has run out or expired.

What fresh hell is this?

“Oh, yeah. You contested the original ineligibility decision back in April of last year.”

“And?!?”

“Oh, and that means your benefit may be reduced by eight weeks. We sent you a letter. Lemme find it…ah, here we are!”

And this very nice, surprisingly competent sounding woman reads the letter they sent me verbatim. “Blah, blah, blah may cause a benefit reduction of eight weeks blah, blah…”

“Right. ‘May cause’ not ‘will cause’, please allow me to explain the English language to you…”

“Oh, well we don’t right the letters ourselves…”

Because, of course not. If I had patience with incompetence and a lack of accountability, I’d just be leaving my job at Storables. That means that I’d never have gone to work at the airport, but if I had…I would have loved it there since competence and accountability are their scariest boogey men.

I count back eight weeks from my original claim on April 6th of last year to my last benefit payment…yup. They nailed it.

At least I come out of that experience knowing that the unemployment office is as good at stopping benefits as I am at not working for poorly run companies. What I did learn from this last contact, though, was that my claim can be renewed on April 7th, but at just over half of the original amount.

Not that I’ll believe that until I see a check.

Naturally, I’m panicking. I think my rent is paid through May, but my other meager bills will be dicey.

By The Way

Too subtle?

But, then…

I see on the Facebook – of all friggin’ places – that The Container Store is hiring for an Ops Manager. Of course, I apply!The Container Store and I have a long peripheral history. Way back in the 90s, the store I worked at – for a decade, lest you think I just can’t hold a job – carried a modular storage brand called Elfa. The Container Store eventually bought Elfa.

I was their customer after buying my condo in Seattle in the aughts. I outfitted my closet with their Elfa system. When I was looking for work up there, I got to the final round of interviews with them, but ended up missing out on the offer.

Then I went to work for Storables – which I nicknamed Regrettables – and learn that the owner had been aligned with the owners at TCS but the partnership disintegrated and he struck out on his own.

So, here I am. Still applying for jobs, wherever I can and at any level from janitor to manager.

Nothing.

I get a call. Turns out it’s from the owner of a chain of convenience stores here in Portland with a terrible reputation. I once saw a six pack of craft beer that’s $12 at the she-she brodega across the street from me for sale there for $19!

He pretty much offers me a cashier job on the spot for $12/hr, which according to him, “Is pretty good pay.”

It’s literally minimum wage in Portland.

Nevertheless, I’m freaking out about how to buy cat food for the meanest cat in history. I also think,

“Well, between this, the book royalties and maybe my unemployment – if someone there finally manages to get an answer right on the first try – I can pay my June rent. That’s something.

I’m really good at covering up my urges to leap from tall structures these days.

Incidentally…

Naturally, since my belly is now full of swallowed pride (shut up, Diezel) on the last day in the year since my last day at my nightmare airport job, I score an interview with the Area Manager for TCS. It goes great. I’m not just optimistic for the opportunity, I’m motivated by the conversation. She says she’s passing me down the chain of command to her local manager for a face to face.

Then, nothing happens.

No call yesterday.

Except today on the anniversary of my first day off work after quitting my job at the airport, I get a call from the local guy at TCS!

He wants to talk Monday, before he leaves for a week, but he wants “to get this rolling”.

That’s a good sign, right?!?

Naturally – since this is my life, here – Monday is my first day of work at the crappy, humbling convenience store job. So here’s what Monday looks like:

5:30 – wake up!

6:30 – start work at the convenience store.

2:30 – get off work at the convenience store (I hope!)

4:00 – interview with The Container Store.

Basically, I have 90 minutes to hoof it home to change, steal the Silver Fox’s car and drive 12 miles in Monday rush hour traffic.

The most heartbreaking thing is that I will have to walk right by my favorite dive bar – Kelly’s – on my way home from the convenience store.

But you best believe I’m fucking doing it. All of it.

And I’m getting that job!

Oh, but still…

Oh, You…Universe, You!

My Fake Boyfriend Is Straight…

And not in the “straight to bed” way that I used to appreciate in my younger, more capricious days.

The Silver Fox invited me along for a walk this morning with him and his pooch, George. This is different than our usual morning routine of sitting in the coffee shop, reading the news like a couple of old men. But, hey, it’s a beautiful day and our regular coffee shop is closed, so…hi, Uncle Bob.

The Fox assured me that we could swing up and grab me a coffee, regardless at Nossa Familia. Noting his verbiage, I assumed he didn’t want a coffee – George is a handful – and passed. The day is still warming up and it’s not yet at it’s high of 50 degrees, but I put on a quarter zip and a light tech jacket that I’ve had for about 15 years, grabbed my sunglasses and we were off.

We went through the Pearl, toward the “new construction” and eventually found ourselves at the North end, where there’s an off leash park for the dogs. It. Was. Packed. So we just walked around the perimeter and left, me noting that we actually have all week to come here when it’s not so crowded.

We chatted comfortably about how crazy George was – likely overwhelmed by all the scents and pup-dates that have been laid down by the local dogs since his last really long urban walk. Last night’s SNL. How many of the new buildings we could name. Just casual good friend stuff.

All while George tried to accidentally kill me by zig-zagging like a crazy animal in front of us, behind us, around us as if his leash wasn’t creating a dangerous Xtopher trap with each erratic response to new stimuli only he could detect.

Eventually, we ended up coming down NW 13th, which is a historically preserved alley way. No sidewalks, but a lot of raised walks in front of the newer construction that compliment the truly historic boardwalks in front of shops new and old. As we came closer to our regular part of the Pearl District, we noted that the Bridgeport Brewery still seemed to be open, even though last night was supposedly its last night in operation. We agreed that maybe last night was just the end of food service, but by that time, we had traversed another block and were in front of the Safeway, causing The Fox to realize that Samoa Cookies had been missing from his life.

Since I don’t need that temptation in my life, I went across to Nossa Familia and ordered myself a coffee.

And by “ordered myself a coffee”, I mean that I got my fix of the barista I’m currently in an imaginary relationship with. Last time I was in, he punched the last three beans on my coffee card so that I had a free coffee…OBVIOUSLY this is love.

I had finished with my ordering and was chatting with him and a woman who was around the corner working on something out of sight while I waited. I turned to see the Silver Fox standing outside with George and asked if he wanted anything. He declined and I noticed the cardboard Girl Scout box he was carrying,

How many cookies did you buy?

“Eight boxes!” and I couldn’t tell if he was excited to get that many or proud that he’d ONLY gotten that many.

Fat Pants

And I closed the cafe door and turned my affection – er – attention back to my barista. I’d lost the conversational thread, so I went to the young woman making my latte – iced, because: duh – and introduced myself, since I didn’t recognize her. She said she normally works the closing shift, so if I come in the morning, that’s why we haven’t met yet. But she has also only been there six months, which paired with my once a week visits explained a lot.

Her name is Tea. I imagine it’s spelled Ti, but still…her parents couldn’t have named her The Cure For Cancer?

I was distracted by George bursting into the cafe, pulling The Fox along behind him. He appeared to be uninjured. My Barista Boyfriend had offered him a treat, which is what caused George to learn how to operate doors. Now they were playing and George was getting a good affectionate scrubbing from my fake boyfriend.

I got my drink and we left.

The Silver Fox pointed out an odd sign on the plasticized wood tables that were clustered together, waiting for the 60 degree end of this week and next week’s 60+ degree days to be put into use.

It’ll probably snow, since the weather app thinks it will be in the 60s…

After getting virtually no snow here in town after weeks of having it either in the forecast or dominating the forecast, I’m not really trusting its predictions more than 20 minutes out at the moment.

“Yeah, but what do you think this means?” The Fox is pointing to a sticker that warns that using footed stemware may cause damage to the wood.

Not sure, I’ve never seen a warning label like that before.

I went on to theorize that the glass foot might magnify the sun and cause damage that way, “like burning ants”, I hypothesized. He agreed, as if he’d simply been gut checking his own theory against mine and I accused him of bullshit. Of course, he denied this allegation of mine, but by that time, we were outside the new wine bar that’s opening up soon and each making mental notes to check it out at some point…even though it is a block further than the last new wine bar to open up and three or four blocks further than our original little wine bar.

Choices.

Well, my Barista Boyfriend is straight.

The Silver Fox seemed unfazed by my devastating declaration, but humored me with a palms up gesture and a “How do you know that?” Like it wasn’t simply likely that he has been straight and misfiring kind gestures my way this whole time.

Boxers. When he bent over playing with George, I saw that he was wearing boxers.

Obviously.

Like I need to watch a cute guy play with a lovable dog. What I need is to verify where I’m investing my emotional capital before I start egregiously overtipping this guy.

My Fake Boyfriend Is Straight…

Joe With Joe

Last week I had coffee with my Home Owners Association President, Joe. Joe is around 75, give or take a year or two and spends part of his year here in Portland and the remainder in South Carolina. He owns homes in both places, but makes it clear that he never wanted to be a Portland resident. He is a South Carolinian.

He spends time here because of his daughter and grandchild. Maybe even a little bit for his son-in-law, too.

You know, I’m getting to that age where I’d probably enjoy being close to one of my kids.

Like that was not an unusual statement or sentiment…

We see each other every week or so when he’s here. He’s one for poking around the building to check in kind of like old southern ladies poke around restaurants, table hopping and talking their way out after their meal. Occasionally, he’ll knock on a door just to give an update or meet a new resident. In a building with only 5 residential floors totaling 18 units, that’s kind of a nice touch from the HOA prez.

Sometimes, I’m not wearing pants, so I don’t answer. Ok, once.

Outside of that, we have the best of intentions to get together formally for a coffee or a drink while he’s in residence.

Last week, we succeeded.

Joe with Joe, if you will.

And it was a true treat.

When Joe putters around the building, you can catch a conversation on a myriad of topics from him…about the building. Oftentimes, I end up catching him as I’m rushing out to something – late, only because the Silver Fox is early – or rushing home and urgently needing to hit the can. But when you are fortunate enough to get him out of the building, the conversation is going to tend toward lots of interesting topics and casual brilliance.

He can’t really help himself. He’s rather smart. A math fella, not sure if he’s a PhD, for sure, but that was his career, so I bet so. He wears pithy tee shirts like thiseuclid tee
Which I think is a great play on words, so it’s amusing to me. However, put a gun to my head and make me explain the principle behind it and it’s gonna be bad news for me. I kind of top out at hypotenuse-level brilliance with math.

He mentions to me that he’s read my blog a little, back when he was using the Facebook. I’m instantly self-conscious because: smart. But he goes on to say that he liked my stuff,

It’a better than a lot of the stuff you see on there.

That seems like a pretty low bar to clear, knowing what I usually see on social media. But then he moves on to a trip that he took with his wife and one of their daughters and the moment passes.

To Edinburgh.

Because they wanted to do the whole Ulysses tour-thing. Ok, I’m gonna admit, I’ve never made it through Ulysses. Here’s the thing, I tell him, “I muddled through Ayn Rand and hated every page of it.

Before we moved on to other books, we indulged in our mutual disdain for Ayn Rand.

Greenspan was a follower, you know.

Of course, I did not know this.

Once I picked up Ulysses and started choking on the text, I put it down and pretty much left it wherever it was that I set it down.

Oh, yeah. That stream-of-consciousness writing is garbage. I can’t stand that style of writing.

But, wait…stream-of-consciousness is my style of writing! But, once again, he’s moved on in the conversation.

I only went because I wanted to see Scotland, I let them do all the Ulysses crap. I didn’t care about that.

Somehow, we move from there to Economics and his appreciation of the subject, which isn’t surprising coming from a math guy.

Economics – invented in Edinburgh, btw.

Because, Edinburg is awesome, right? But you can clearly tell that Joe has absolutely zero Scottish heritage, too, I’m sure. He talks at legnth about the topic, referencing Wealth of Nations so enthusiastically that I’m suddenly dying to read it.

Books we actually like was a recurring theme in our talk. Women, Fire & Dangerous Things was a clear frontrunner for him. Ok, when I say “books we actually like”, I mean he was talking about some of his faves while I made a Powell’s shopping list.

No, literally a list!

Imagine my surprise when he turned the table on me. Tales of the City, of course, is a continual go-to for me, when I haven’t loaned it out.

<don’t you think I’ve forgotten, Mom!>

Anyway, I told him I could do without the goofy Scooby-Doo style mystery. For me, those books are all about people developing connections that endure. Regardless of age, race, gender or orientation. So, during this particular coffee klatch, I’m glad it came up.

The liquefaction of the Portland waterfront – one of the reasons he doesn’t want to call himself a resident – when the big one hits the cascade plate was another topic. Complete with a shout out to…you guessed it!

Geology was also created in Edinburgh…

I believe in the Big One more than I believe in the Second Coming of the Lord, but I’m not convinced either is likely to occur in my lifetime. If it does, I don’t want to live through it, so the Pearl District is a good place for me.

However, in a fit of turning my What Could Possibly Go Wrong mantra on itself, I’m sure Fate will spare me my Red Shirt Diaries demise.

Alas.

For his part, Joe is happy to know his daughter lives on a granite shelf, so no liquefaction for her. The child and grandchild – and yes, even the son in law – should be safe.

And with that, Joe must go. He’s taking some steaks to his daughter’s place for dinner. He wants to drop them off and then head over to the nearby Pickle Ball courts for a little play before dinner.

Because it’s Portland and we have public Pickle Ball courts, damn it. And because that’s only a little weird, our septuagenarian residents play pick up games at them.

So, good news for us, Joe…like it or not, you’re

Joe With Joe