Galby’s Grow Op

No, mom…I’m not growing pot!

She’d totally turn me in, too.

No, my grow op is my lil patio pot garden.

Mom totally endorses this type of grow op. Out in “the wilds” surrounding my family’s homes in Columbia County, there are three Galby Gardens. One for each of my parents’ and siblings’ yards. Having a hopefully lush patio is the least I could do to try to blend in from my urban abode.

Mom even made a contribution at our lunch this week, trucking this lil baby in with her and Dad.

Let there be salsa! Er…tomatoes. I know there’s no such thing as a salsa bush.

Most surprising to me after planting my initial garden over in 3C last year was how Myrtle left the plants alone. She had killed most of my indoor plants, Christmas Cactus barely survived. There are still leaves with Myrtle’s bite marks scarred into them, so I was surprised she hadn’t tried to kill last year’s or even this year’s patio plants.

Sure enough, she’s content to sit peacefully amongst the greenery.

Well, she was sitting peacefully until I went to snap a pic, then she went on high alert.

Crazy cat.

To further nurture my yard-ly yield, my absentee takeaway from last year’s white elephant family Christmas celebration was an AeroGarden, which I just decommissioned today after what I hope will be a successful transition from hydro to soil.

Wish me – and these lil babies – luck.

The mini-countertop garden kit came with basil, dill and parsley. I was most excited about the basil, since I grow tired of buying mine. However, this plant got monstrous on my counter and dwarfed the other two in the aeroponic setup. Probably, I should have done this weeks ago. I fear the poor thing is too top heavy at the moment to successfully support itself, hence the alley oop from the deck railing.

The basil is still that big and heavy after taking 1/3 of the plant off…fingers crossed.

After planting the three victims – er – herbs, I think the parsley is the prettiest. Being in the creative couple’s project pot that Sacha and I each painted half of certainly enhances the delicate beauty of the plant itself.

I love that damn pot.

Again, not pot-pot. The one that survived the end of our relationship, ten years of condo living with no deck after moving to Seattle and then the return move to Portland. I rather like having a tangible reminder of that relationship. What better reminder than something we created together?

Regardless of how the new additions take to their soil surroundings, I’ve still got the perennials that I added this Spring as well as my personal favorite – don’t tell the others! My olive tree.

The Silver Fox was over the other day and remarked that it was really taking off. That’s a big improvement over his earlier observation as Winter began to give way when he said it didn’t look like it was doing too well. He’s some sort of master gardener, so I usually pay attention to his advice and admonishments…even when he ends up being wrong!

Anyway, last night he was over to watch some TV and I took the opportunity to passive-aggressively ask his advice on the olive tree and how to/when to prune it. I think it’s getting a little shrubby looking.

“Google ‘how to prune an olive tree'”, he offered.

Touché, Fox. Touché.

Should I name my olive tree?

“Olive” would be too obvious, right?

How about “Carl”? “Carl the Olive Tree”, no one would expect that…

Galby’s Grow Op

Let’s Bring It In

“C’mon, now. Give us a hug.” – Not Me

Ok, big news in the Silver Fox family from this past weekend: Number One Son has returned to Portland with his family after living away for just about ever. They weren’t far away, just a few hours of driving.

The Fox and Sallory, though are looking forward to having the grandbebe available in real life versus FaceTime, so it was quite an exciting weekend!

In related news, The Fox abandoned me for the weekend again to help with the move.

To make up for it, The Fox bought his son a “Welcome to the ‘Hood” beer at Big Legrowlski after they arrived in town.

Oh, and invited me along to say “Hi!”…that was the “making up for it” part.

Fortunately for me, this just happened to be the weekend that a couple of friends came into town for the weekend. That was well played, indeed, Universe.

What do these events have in common?

Beer.

Obviously.

Lots.

But, also, hugs.

Lots and unexpectedly lots of hugs.

I haven’t seen my visiting friends or The Fox’s son in person in years. But it was when I walked up to find Fox & Son outside the BL (as we call it), tossing back already in progress, that I started thinking about hugs as a communication device.

This is a big deal for me, since I don’t come from what I’d call a hug culture.

Well, apart from trees, that is.

I remember the family send off at my sister’s wedding as she and her husband took off for their honeymoon. We all stood in a receiving type line as she hugged her way to the car. It was all pretty standard rite of passage stuff until she gets to Black Sheep Bro and they hug. Gradually, he raises one leg and slowly wraps it around her hip. It was a pretty funny moment as well as a commentary on how little our family hugged, since he blurred the lines between platonic and intimate with his.

Although, I’m sure that meaning was hidden from him at the moment.

Regardless, we all got a good chuckle.

Maybe it’s just me and my shoddy memory. Then again, maybe my memory is correct this time around and my family was actually hug naive.

I don’t really care.

However, as an adult, I don’t really remember hugging to be part of a normal family greeting or farewell past the wedding hug until Sacha came into the pic. Then again, maybe we were re-traumatized by that wedding incident. Who knows?

Say what you will about Sacha – and if you ask him, I’m only ever barfing negative and embarrassing shit about him into the universe – but I remember hugging becoming a part of my family experience during his visits to our family gatherings.

It was kinda weird to see him hug my mom goodbye while I just chucked her on the shoulder with a casual, “Take care of yourself, Old Girl”. At first I managed no better than a one-armed side hug. Gradually, I was able to work my way up to a full frontal two-armed job because: growth.

So, when my Seattle friends arrived in town on Friday, it was the usual quick “gay friend w/a peck” greeting for us all and we were off. Honestly, not my favorite part of the gay culture, but given the expression I am happy bending to the cultural norms with my close friends who are so inclined. Casual acquaintances don’t get the same courtesy, they can make due with my normal not at all awkward typical greeting…

I didn’t think about those quick, off the cuff greetings that are the usual until I got to the BL yesterday and told Number One Son not to get up since he had his pup on his lap. He gave me an “oh, nonsense!” type response and got up to hug me.

That was when it dawned on me.

Well, 10 seconds later it dawned on me as I dropped my arms but couldn’t move away because I was still being hugged. The length of my embrace was just about the same amount of time it took to silently congratulate myself for not gay-smooch-greeting my best friend’s straight son – hey, nobody’s perfect. But that’s where I’m still newish to this whole hugging thing.

I’m assuming NOS was raised in a hugging environment. The Fox will confirm my suspicion soon enough. And it shows, because he’s got some serious hug game.

In my spare time while he wrapped things up, I started thinking about how sincere the greeting was. Not casual, like I’m used to with those carefree gay greetings where I find myself doling my casual greetings out only to significant people in my life.

Reread that.

How fucked up is that statement? Rationing out a throw away gesture to people I care about.

Now, back to NOS. As I’m standing there recanting my earlier silent congratulatory “attaboy” and chastising myself for blowing the appropriate hug duration. Then I relax into it and can feel the subtext of his hug.

It’s genuine.

Sincere.

Like I said, he had some good hug game and he’s happy to see me.

Me.

Miserable, old, grumpy Xtopher.

But that sharing of a physical connection as a greeting. Well, I started to ponder when that dropped out of our human or American cultural norm – I’m betting on the latter – and whether, no…how that impacted how we treat one another present day. I admit that I am one to harrumph at demonstrations of our discarding of social graces and niceties. I am also one to call myself out when maybe I’m part of the problem.

Potentially.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we spend 15 minutes hugging ourselves into and out of each family or social gathering, who has that kind of time? But let me tell you, after yesterday’s hug? I’m good for a while. I only wanted one beer as we sat chatting…but I fully admit that it could have been more a product of me being both cold – since we were sitting outside and it was 56 degrees – or my dinner nachos making me full.

But why not a combination of all three?

I like when something so seemingly innocent provides me the chance to think about how I interact with others and what I can learn from exposing myself – not like that – to other people.

It inspires me.

To be a better son.

And friend.

And person.

So, I can add Number One Son to the too short roster of truly great huggers in my life. It’s good to have him in town. I’m looking forward to seeing how The Fox adjusts to having family close by, I know his people mean a lot to him and the poor guy is usually stuck with this grumpy old bastard.

I apologize for the lack of media for your viewing pleasure in this post. I had a couple of fun hug gifs to enhance the theme, but WordPress was being wonky and would let me add them in.

And people wonder why I’m grumpy…now I need another hug.

Let’s Bring It In

I’m (Not) A Survivor

It’s Sacha Story Time!

We were together for six years, which is a long time for a broken relationship.  While I’d say neither of our needs were optimally met, we both drew something or some things out of the relationship along the way.  

I’m not going to speculate as to what his takeaways were, but as my birthday draws nearer, I’m drawn back to this draft I originally thought of about last Spring when reading about the TV show Survivor.

You see, Sacha was a creative type and a person that approached his faith in humanity from a busted up, scientific method standpoint.

Pro: He generally gave great, all-in gifts to his loved ones.

Con: He required significant proof that you loved him.

That last one is pretty easy to dispatch with.  

Also, tricky.

Suffice it to say, tokens went a long way with him.  He called them symbols.  Not at all problematic.

Except…100 people surveyed, top 1 answer on the board.  “Name something that symbolizes a commitment in a relationship”.

“Uh, ring?”

<BING!>

So, you just know that came up way too early in the relationship.  And me being a long-game, “what’s next?” type of guy looked at this simple fix as an opportunity to ask what the next fix would be.

Yeah, no ring.

But we did end up with new cars about every other year – that’s every year for him and every other year I got a new car for a week or two until he decided he liked mine better and I got his hand-me-down.

Oh, and three dogs.

So, I was proving as hard as I could, without capitulating, of course.

That’s the con.

The pro?  

Man, there’s a lot of great stuff to talk about.  He was creative, so when he put his mind to it, he nailed gift giving.  Besides being elaborate, they were usually fairly unique and personal.

Take my 30th birthday.  He reserved the back room at this place called The Alibi. 

It was a disintegrating tiki bar in NoPo that we’d go to occasionally with friends.  I called it “the gayest straight bar in Portland”.

This was before the hipsters resurrected it a decade ago when Interstate Ave got its urban renewal shot in the arm.

So, we were just going there to hang out a bit with Black Sheep Bro and his current girlfriend, Jackie Jack Ass.

Everyone I knew was there.

And, Sacha – not a baker, by any means – had made a gigantic cake in the shape of the starship Enterprise-A.  It was, if memory serves, two half-sheet cakes and two tiers of a round cake.  It was pretty fucking amazing, indeed a unique and memorable way to usher in my 30s.

There were the trip-gifts he gave us.  Sure, I usually ended up funding them.  He always earmarked his annual freelance project money for these trip-gifts, but it never fully funded them.  But, it was ok.  We were making memories.  Again, he usually tried to keep them a surprise, requesting time off with my boss behind my back.

It was special.

I’ve been to Italy, France and Holland thanks to these little experience gifts he gave us.

Oh, and climbed a – y’know – volcano.

But even gifts that weren’t extravagant still demonstrated a lot of imagination and thought, making them uniquely personal experiences.

That’s where Survivor comes in.

For one of my birthdays, Sacha came up with this Great Race themed scavenger hunt or Survivor immunity challenge thingy.  He gave me a clue to start me off and then planted subsequent clues and gifts throughout the house.  Behind the TV, in the dryer, in our gazebo-thing…all over the place.  Once again, Black Sheep Bro and Jackie Jack Ass were on hand, following my progress.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t all on board. He kept kinda having to prompt me along.  Maybe it was because this was where I officially began getting old and grumpy.  Maybe the clues were actually more obscure than I could bet my head around in the moment.  Maybe it’s because I was inwardly terrified that he’d somehow actually submitted me to be a contestant on Survivor or Great Race.  

Maybe I just don’t like being propelled into the center of attention.  I can get there quite nicely, thank you.

On the one hand, even though I may not have demonstrated much enthusiasm in the moment, this example of Sacha gift giving also helped get me to the point I’m at today, where experiences are better than actual gifts.

On the other hand, I still carry the relationship wariness from that moment with me.  That I might get caught up as the Ethel to my boyfriend’s Lucy in some crazy harebrained scheme like submitting me as a contestant in a reality show against my will where I have to pretend to be excited about something I’m not. 

at. 

all. 

excited. 

about.

Let’s call that Why I’m Single #50 – turns out, I’m actually a reluctant participant.

But, I’m going with the pro: experience gifts > things.

So, there.

My birthday is in two weeks.

I’m not registered…go figure.

Your gift to me?  I’m turning 40.

Go with it.

I’m (Not) A Survivor

Boudoir Art

Alrighty.  Take Two, WordPress.

This morning I read a blog post by a writer I follow about an art show he’d recently attended.  He talked about the unwritten rules around art shows, how depending on the degree of friendquaintanceship with the artist, you may be socially obligated to buy.  He went on to mention that this particular artist’s creations were more bedroom fare than living room pieces, and I thought, “Yup.  Been there!”

I was reminded of a time…

Sacha had broken up with me and I’d come out of my breakup funk, but The Wallpaper had not yet moved in.

The Silver Fox and I were new friends.

Among other things he did to remain too busy, was sit on the board of a gay men and abused women’s health resource organization.  He was helping with an art auction and I went along with him.  

Something outside my norm, for sure.

He wasn’t certain of the outcome or attendance and asked me to make some bids in the silent auction to grease the wheels while he made his rounds, assuring me that I wouldn’t win anything this early but appreciating me helping to build some momentum.

Charities are so rigged.  Lol. 

Of course, I won four items.

Luckily, after saving my home post-Sacha by cleaning out one of my 401k accounts, I had a little scratch left.  Even after treating myself to this lil guy…

I still had the $2k to cover my competitive wheel greasing.  Here’s a couple of pieces I walked with that night:

The B&W was kind of a “meh” moment of bidding as I thought the starkness of the medium and actual barrenness of the scenery matched my emotional self pretty well at the time.  Since then, it’s become a unique piece among my other B&W art, most of the others being drawing or photos of buildings.  

Incidentally, the drawings I own were both done by former employees of mine, further demonstrating the social rules of art shows.  I picked these up back in 2015 when one of my employees at Green Zebra was opening her gallery.  Seriously, the only two pieces I was drawn to ended up being works by two of my other employees.  Crazy.

So, back to that first art show…in – what? – 2005?  No, I think it was 2004.  The second piece I won that night was actually a twin piece.  It’s the burnt orange dot pattern pictured above on the right.  I can’t say it was the only piece I was interested in winning, because it was actually half of a pair.  I loved the set and bid silently on both.  Unfortunately, a German couple was taken with the other half and bid only in it.  

Thanks to my competitive streak, the wheel greasing went a little wild as Otto von Ruining My Life kept trying to outbid me.  I thought I had him as I snuck up to bid again in the final minute.  He was a few feet away and facing the other direction as I scurried behind him and made my winning bid.

As they announced the clip boards were being picked up, I congratulated myself on my win.  When the volunteer got to the table with the twin set, Otto calmly turned, scribbled a bid, looked directly at me and then turned back around.

My inner congratulatory celebration turned in an instant to a slow motion scream of “Noooooooo!”

Fucking Germans.

But, at least I had one the piece with the best story.  Also a piece a normal person would never display conspicuously.

Naturally, I hung it in my hallway in Seattle for a decade, ensuring everyone who visited my condo saw it.

So, here’s the story.

When I saw this piece, my first thought was, “Boy, that sure looks familiar…”

Turns out, it was painted from a profile pic on one of the earliest asocial media platforms, Adam4Adam.  That’s where I’d seen it.

Further, the artist was known as Father John, an actual priest.

That’s a pretty depraved story, right there.  But to further make owning this more personal to me, Father John and his long term partner – while now living in Portland – had been part of the model for the “A Gays” characters in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.  By far my favorite books.

I heard this story, looked at this dick and thought, “I’ve gotta have it!”  You all enjoy that.

I guess I have one final art show tale.

When I was with Rib, one of his co-workers was an artist.  Aung was the epitome of struggling and working on finding her identity as an artist.  We went to several of her shows.  The pieces I bought ranged from “fun” like this Monty Python evoking piece.

To the piece I picked up at a “Rent Show”.

Hey, it fit perfectly in a blank space in my kitchen.  So there’s that.  Neither of these is displayed too prominently, if at all.  But then there is my favorite piece by Aung.

Obviously, I have a thing for pieces with bold colors.

I loved watching Aung mature as an artist.  Even more rewarding was visiting Rib’s flat after we’d broken up and seeing it filled with a bunch of Aung’s work that he’s bought at her “Moving Show” when she left Seattle.

He had learned the rules too well!

Boudoir Art

The Red Shirt Diaries #18

I’m back from coffee with the Silver Fox, our normal Thursday/Friday ritual, where I announced undramatically that I thought I had colon cancer.  It’s a legit back-of-mind concern as I enter the year of the colonoscopy, but The Fox downplayed my announcement.

Oddly, cancer came up again later when I mentioned my stomach had been a little wonky since our beer date last night.  We were at our favorite watering hole, The Big Legrowlski, enjoying a new IPA option from our collective favorite brewery, Barley Brown.  It was an unfiltered IPA called Feast From the Yeast, or something thereabouts.

Anywho, that yeast was doing a number on me.  In addition to feeling tipsy after just a few sips, my stomach just began feeling fluttery as I quaffed.  Not a general flutter, a focused flutter, which is what made it weird.  

Of course, I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying a second pint!

But when I told The Fox about my 14 hour strong stomach flutter, he put me at ease by diagnosing me with pancreatic cancer.  It’s like we were playing hypochondriac poker.

Fortunately, the acid from the two cups of coffee pretty much killed – and then escorted out – whatever it was that was funking up my gut.

Instead of thinking about how cancer or heart disease will probably be my ultimate undoing, I thought I would share another of my less-likely-lethal ends while I sat here uncomfortably on my couch with Mistress Myrtle, who is in an uncharacteristically cuddly mood.

Sacha once corrected my comment about one of my irrational fears by telling me that all fears are irrational.  I disagree, I think my fear of heights and falling a distance is a healthy fear.  Darwin would be proud.

My fear of sharks is irrational.

Fully.

It’s not that I’m a frequent diver off the Australian Great Barrier Reef or South African Coast or even off Hawaii…then, perhaps, a fear of sharks would be quasi-reasonable.

I’m afraid of a shark attack in any body of water.

Ocean.

River.

Swimming pool.

Jacuzzi.

Bathtub.

Irrational.

I blame the Jaws movies.  Well, watching them at an impressionable age, at least.

Seriously, how cute is this?

So, after seeing those films, I became aware of a reluctance to put my head underwater in a swimming pool.  It was a discomfort that remained a fairly stagnant dis-ease as I rarely swam.

However, after Sacha left me and I came out of my post-breakup funk and dipped my toe back into the dating pool, I met this guy who called himself frigginfantastic online and we went on a few dates.  He lived on Hayden Island here in Portland and invited me to go kayaking with him on the Columbia River.

I went.

It was cool.

And disgusting.

Sitting in a kayak, you’re only a few inches from the filth that floats atop the river’s surface.  Discarded styrofoam from a decade ago, plastic, that gross foam and natural debris like twigs and leaves all combing to create a stinky, frothy, disgusting barrier that is quite un-see-through-able.

That lack of visibility awakened my fear of being caught off guard and general vulnerability.  I vascilated mentally between being grabbed by Jason from Friday the 13th and pulled under or just being attacked by a shark.

This was not too long after a news story of a confused shark swimming upriver, so…y’know, top of mind.

Not too long after this, The Fox and I became friends.  We took a trip to his family beach house about a year after meeting and spent a night there as well as at his ex-wife’s house about an hour inland.  I remember standing on the bluff at the beach, watching the surfers bob idly on their boards, waiting for a rideable wave.  Their feet dangling off their boards into the water…I shudder just thinking about it, a shark grabbing their lower leg.

When we got to Sallory’s place the next night, I was confronted by a more tangible challenge to this runaway fear of mine: a drink in the hot tub.  

At night.

The view of the night sky in this rural part of Oregon was awe-inspiring.  Leaning my head back against the side of the tub allowed me to enjoy the celestial view while also completely freaking out about my entire body being underwater and a potential target.  Mentally, I envisioned being bitten in half by a mammoth great white, legs and shoulders being all that was left, bobbing in the hot, frothy, bloody hot tub waters.

I felt the same discomfort last year sitting in my gym’s jacuzzi.  Because I’m obviously deranged.

The apex of this personal terror came during a vacation with Rib.  We’d rented a yurt on an island in the San Juans.  He was all jazzed about renting sea kayaks and paddling out to a nearby island, oblivious to his own mortality like only a 26 year old can be.

Irrational fear of sharks plus kayaking in legit Orca territory equals fuck me.  My heart was pounding so hard the entire time that I’m quite surprised that I didn’t end up with fractured actual ribs.

But, survive, I did.  Fear:  confronted.

Speaking of actual fractures, this was a couple of years before I fractured my tibia running.  The first occurrence.  My doctor decreed that I was retired from running and suggested a less stressful form of exercise, like swimming.

Yeah…no.

The Red Shirt Diaries #18

Embers

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

Last night’s entry had lit in its title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colloquially-speaking.

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

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

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

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

My socializing quickly began to include Embers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The good old days…yeah.

Ten years later, I moved away.

Ten years later, I moved home.

Again.

Embers was still there.

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

Literally, dead, as it came to pass.

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

Some familiar bartenders and staff.

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

Some drag queens.

But the crowd was hard to find.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s an outcome I can appreciate.

RIP Embers.  And thanks for the mEmberies.

Embers

Stupid Americans

Re-read the title of this post in a French accent.  That’s how I typed it.

Pretty much any European accent will work.

It’s a phrase that randomly trots through my head when confronted with how non-global our educational focus is as a country.

After all, how many languages do you speak?

I was confronted by this twice yesterday.  

Once, innocently on the Facebook when a friend shared a kindness of strangers travel story.  The first comment was “Threat all people with respect”.  

Obviously, meaning “treat”, right?

I got a good chuckle out of the concept of threatening someone with respect.  It was like that old dry rejoinder, “Don’t threaten me with a good time!”

Well, my comment was something about an awkward H.

The OP cautioned me that the comment was made by a French friend of hers.  That was perfect, really, since the first time I heard “Stupid Americans” go through my head was about an hour after getting off a plane in Paris.  Sacha had insisted I learn a few <ahem> key phrases on the plane. 

Whatever, it’ll help kill 10 hours…but you couldn’t insist on this before we got in the plane?  It’s not like I was gonna master French somewhere over the Atlantic.

“Puis-je avoir ma cle, sil vous plait?”, I vomited at the hotel’s front desk, attempting to ask for my – wait for it – key.

Get it?  Key phrases.

Ok.  Sorry.

“Speak English”, was the response that came with the key.

A derisively toned “Stupid Americans” is what I heard in my head.

So, now I’m trying to helpfully point out a typo to someone on Facebook that is communicating – in writing – in what is likely one of three of four languages she knows.

She gets points!

And here I am, still just a Stupid American.

Case in – ugh – point, while my original imagined occurrence of hearing “Stupid Americans” was while traveling in France, now I work in travel retail.

While giving a break at work yesterday, a young Spanish man (fans self…woo) approached me to ask how much a set of headphones cost.  He struggled.  I was just finishing up with a customer and another Manager was nearby talking to the Sales Associate returning from her break – who emigrated from Russia and frequently apologizes for her accent/English – so I asked them to help.

“I’m not sure what he wants…”

Based on his gestures and non-verbals, her confusion was understandable.

Get ready for some misplaced maternal pride, Mom.

“Cuanto questo?” I said, gesturing to the headphones.  And, no, I’m not sure at all that I spelled that correctly.  Every finger on my body reached for the Q key while typing “cuanto”.

“Si!  Si, si, si.” he replied with relief.

“Son – uh – trente dolares”, I told him while trying to remember if I could pull the old “Trente faltan uno centavo” our of my hat to communicate $29.99 instead of just telling him $30 like you can say “Seis faltan cuarto minutos” to indicate it’s a quarter to six.

Or something like that.

I couldn’t remember for the life of me, so I just ended up handing a penny back to this confused, hot Spaniard.

I walked out of the store with the other Manager and she was praising me for doing a good job with that customer.

All I heard was, “Stupid American”.  

I also shared the thought running through my head about what that scene would have been like if our broken English Russian associate had been helping the pigeon English Spaniard.

It’s pretty funny in my head, but pretty sad in reality, since one of the people is living in a country that requires her to speak a foreign language every day in order to feed herself and I could barely translate $30 from English to Spanish after taking five years of the language in High School and College.

The other guy was basically me 20 years ago, bless his little corazon.

Fine.

30 years ago.

Or, as they say in Spanish…trente.

Stupid Americans