No Regrets

Writing about my good old times at The Old and The New Old Lompocs yesterday reminded me of this little nugget of a story languishing in draft-land from waaaaay back.

I’d like to say it was from a few months back, when I was working at the airport – PDX…maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s the best airport in the universe, at least according to travelers in the United States.

Six years running…no big deal.

They’ve got, like, carpet…and a clock.

Anyway, today – because this is my life and this is the way it always “just so happens” in my life – just so happens to be my 7 month anniversary of telling the company I worked for at PDX that it wasn’t me, it was them. So, this story probably starts a full year back.

Well, the draft starts a year back. The story itself? Yup, a century ago.

You see, when I wasn’t hanging out, wiling away my free time lusting over Richard, I was usually hanging out with my buddy No Regrets. Even then, I was a social prowler versus staying home. I didn’t even have a health hazard of a cat to keep me away from home. It’s kind of just how I’m built.

No Regrets was the manager of the store next to mine, so we became acquainted fairly easily. Eventually, we bonded over shared stories of I-5 shoplifting rings and after that, became friends.

Well, last year, I was in the B concourse store doing something – something that was likely Captain Can’t’s responsibility…but he, y’know…couldn’t – and who should happen by but my old pal!

Why do I call him No Regrets? Well, it’s a riff on his last name, mainly. But also, this guy was idling through or just out of so many programs when we met. These programs have a great benefit for participants – many, obviously – but for No Regrets, the main takeaway seemed to be overcoming the shame and stigma around his various struggles and being able to normalize the impulses he experienced in recovery.

Y’know, he had no regrets. Without the problems he’d overcome, he wouldn’t have become the fuller functioning person I met.

I know. Anyone in recovery hates how I just short handed that, but…here we are.

The result for me was bearing witness to private thoughts – or what many people would keep private – and stories of how he got to where he got before entering recovery. Oddly, they were rather entertaining, in a cautionary tale type of way. No Regrets’ story telling style was just rather engaging, too. He had a story teller’s voice.

Anyway, we chatted at the airport for a few, just caught up ever so briefly before he had to catch his plane. But that brief download was still so chockablock full of nostalgia for our time together a couple decades ago.

Because when I wasn’t at The Old Lompoc swilling beer, I was probably with No Regrets a few blocks away for some totally unneeded late night caffeine. Let’s see, if Lompoc was at 23rd and Savior, our hangout – CoffeeTime – was at…21st and Irving?

Yeah. 21st and Irving. I just remembered that my crashpad after moving back to PDX was right around the corner at 19th and Irving…that was a nice, warm welcome home! So when I say these hangouts were a few blocks away, 8 over, 2 up…yeah, not too far at all. Gotta love how small town-y Portland can feel!

One of his many Anons being the big A, we met at his favorite nighttime hangout. It was new to me and reminded me of the subterranean Catskeller below the student union in college, so many little twisty corners that created books for a small study table or old sofa for reading and chatting in semi-soon-to-be-necking privacy.

I loved it immediately.

Plus, there were a lot of cute, young, student body types. Guy Candy, if you will. Of course, one of No Regrets’ other Anons was S – Sex, if you didn’t get that one – he openly commented on the guy candy we were immersed in.

Look at that guy. You know he’s not wearing any underwear under his sweats, when he gets up again you can totally see his big dick flipping around.

Or,

Check out the size of those Chucks. You know that scrawny guy is packing a big, floppy dick.

A lot of his therapeutic appreciations involved genitals of the big, floppy type.

Like I complained. He amused me.

Anyway, it was here, at this time in my life – these late night chats with No Regrets – that I really learned to be self reflective. It was pre-Sacha – because he shut friendship with other gay guys down right quick – and I was new to town, not dating.

The way he talked about his struggles led me to ask questions like, “How does Sex Addiction work with dating?”

Poorly, mostly.

Was his humorous response to let me know I didn’t have to be scared to ask personal questions.

No, but seriously…not that well. But once you get into the program, they don’t want you dating anyone for at least the first year. No distractions. After the first steps are accomplished, the guideline is “If you can keep a plant alive for a year, you can date”.

“Oooh…I’m not sure I get the plant thing, but you’re…”

On my second plant.

He was only kidding, but this self-effacing wit definitely resonated with me. It was similar to my own style.

So one night, I whacked him over the head with the big, floppy part of a passerby and buried him in Forest Park.

I just love that place.

I joke.

If I recall the details of the program correctly, keeping a plant alive for a year served the dual purpose of putting someone else’s needs above your own and not letting your personal issues derail a relationship and actually being able to provide the essential support they need to thrive.

Dead plant = fail, right?

But it made sense. It got that it was a big leap from watering and fertilizing a plant to having a relationship, but the whole focus on knowing yourself before you get to know someone else and become a part of their well being was quite a takeaway from these talks.

Again, making enemies of any reader that is in any recovery program.

But thinking on these inadvertent nuggets of wisdom he brought to CoffeeTime helped me to formulate my own code when it came to dating. Namely: taking time between relationships.

I’d moved to Portland with only two relationships of any length under my belt – at 28…how pathetic, right? Let’s ignore the fact that I’ve only doubled that result in the next half-ish of my life, shall we? But I had a natural reluctance to just swing from one relationship to the next, as a monkey does with tree branches.

This helped me to define that habit or ritual of mine.

For the record, not all of his stories were about shoplifters or his life in Whatever Anonymous. Sometimes he’d tell stories about his completely strange family and growing up surrounded by mentally unwell or abusive people.

His brother was textbook crazy…I want to say schizophrenia+. But the poor kid was terrified from the inside everyday. It had to be hell being him and it didn’t sound like being around him was any picnic, either.

But, lemonade, right?

No Regrets told me about this conversation he’d had with his brother one day. He’d asked him how his day was. Surprisingly, the day had been relatively uneventful, which was a rare occasion for his brother.

Until I was walking home from the bus and the man across the street started shooting his Sex Rays at me.

…and then he just calmly continued on with telling the events of his day.

No Regrets sees my eyebrows shoot up and my mouth form a tight little circle. In response, he pulls his head down and to the left as he raises that shoulder to meet it in his version of a shrug, mimics my eyebrow rockets and half lets out a guffaw as if to say, “That’s bound to happen if you walk around long enough”.

Sex Rays?!?”, I demand.

Yup. I mean, what are ya gonna do? And it didn’t even register as more than a nuisance!

“Like a footnote in his day?”

Basically. I mean, this kid loses it over toilet paper being hung the wrong way,

“Shut up.”

but Sex Rays don’t bother him at all.

We chuckled at that for quite a while that night while I grilled him on details, knowing that he’d want to make sure his bro was truly ok. I wish I could remember the conversation better, suffice it to say, there was some frustration on his bother’s part, I just can’t remember it.

But we did get some miles out of that turned phrase. Instead of worrying about what was big and/or floppy, we’d say something like,

I’d like to shoot my Sex Rays at that!

Y’know, lighthearted nonsense.

Anyway, flash forward a year or two, Sacha is in the picture, No Regrets is out. We’d still managed occasional coffees while we worked next door to each other, but eventually, I got transferred across town and then he moved to NorCal and we completely lost touch in the pre-LinkedIn world we were trapped in.

Flash forward another few years and Sacha took off on me. I fell apart and then I fell back on the introspection I had learned from No Regrets and settled in to figuring out who I was as a single person again so that I didn’t subject a potential new mate to the damage of Sacha.

I’m sorry, not damage. Trauma? Scars? It’s just not quite right…ideally, anything that makes him sound the least bit responsible for his actions in a relationship makes him want to burn the world down, so let’s give his “At Least I Have A Friggin Glass” Google alert a treat and call it the Wrath of Sacha.

Anyway, I didn’t want to subject a new boyfriend to that particular STD, so I was single for a long damn time.

So long that I was living in Seattle the next time I found myself dating. Either work transferred me or I was single so long, the subduction zone I live in has crushed the distance between Portland and Seattle.

Who’s to really say for sure?

But a funny thing happened in between relationships.

My one job moved me to Seattle and then ended altogether a year-ish later. I’d gone to work in a crashpad of a job at Bed, Bath and Beyond. About 18 months later, I was recruited away by a customer who worked for Sur la Table.

When I was talking to some of my team about where I was going to, one of my associates – who never said anything – chimes in with,

Oh, yeah…my uncle is a District Manager for them in California.

Foreshadowing

“Well, there’s a big manager’s meeting here in Seattle (the company’s corporate HQ) so maybe I’ll meet him!”

Yup.

His uncle was No friggin Regrets.

I’m on the left, obviously.

It had been ten years since we’d first met. But we fell into an amazing and immediately comfortable rapport.

Turns out that was a good thing, since a couple years later, he got promoted and became my boss’ boss. I liked him, her…I was gonna enjoy watching this. In his many Anon learning experiences, he’d become a fan of being his genuine self. My boss…a jackhammer couldn’t reach an authentic level in her.

She was so bad that when I was with her and she’d introduce me to someone, she’d always work in an, “Oh, I love your scarf!” type compliment. I’d just stand behind her and make these little gestures

So, that was therapeutic to watch, but eventually I got recruited away and at some point – after our company sold itself into a Venture Capital form of sex slavery – he got sacrificed and we lost touch again.

Let’s see…this started in ’96. We met up again in ’06 and this last airport meeting was either in late ’16 or ’17…I really think it was ’17, but now that I type that out, I really hope this draft was older than I think.

I think it was actually. It was waaaaay down there.

But it’s funny, regardless. People come into your life for a reason. You may never know what that reason is, or that reason might simply be some low grade companionship.

But every now and then – especially if you’re an introspective S.O.B. like me that can go down for days on the couch – you realize that people you met 20 years ago and lost touch with long ago are still informing your decisions today with the fingerprint they left on you.

OK, see? I tried to just organically wrap this up with something uplifting and I typed that “.” and my inner lech whispered, “Yeah, you tell us about the fingerprint that Sex Addict left on you…”

I swear, Hannibal Lecter must have been my nanny.

Now that I realize my mistake, I know I should have tried to throw my introspection about No Regrets back to my Highlander reference earlier…because

Nonetheless, fingerprint analogy notwithstanding, you just never know who you’re going to meet that going to give you strength or joy later in life. When they show up – mentally or physically – it’s a fantastic leveling device against the daily onslaught of crushing minutia. You gotta take a second to enjoy that and toss out a thank you to the mysterious universe that keeps these people drifting through your consciousness.

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe I should reach out and see where he landed after Sur la Table. Maybe this time I could intentionally hitch my work wagon to him.

Hmmm…standby.

No Regrets

The Great Job Hunt 3.1

PaMiDa Edition

I spend a lot of time reflecting on my past. Because: neurotic. But I also spend a lot of time recently wondering if this is what it’s like from here on out.

Reliving the glory days.

Although, humorous as my stories can be, surely one life shouldn’t provide so much schadenfreude. That being the case, perhaps gory days is a better way to describe my life of one bumbling mishap after another.

It really has been fun being me, so I hope there are new misadventures in store for me yet!

Maybe I’m just noticing my tendency to reflect more with my extra free time since quitting my job. When I go back to work, things might change.

Until then, maybe it’s an escape? Don’t bother asking what. Before I get into the fun stories from this PaMiDa outfit, I’ll tell ya what from what I require escape:

1) Honestly, I think I give a job search in retail management the attention it deserves. There aren’t a lot of appropriate jobs out there. As a matter of fact, many of the positions I’m interested in end up frustrating me. Sometimes the posts are for companies I’d like to work for that don’t actually have the opening for which they are advertising. Whether this is the unlikely scenario of looking to fill a job before “at willing” the person currently in the job or just a – more likely – way to pad their EEOC coffers, just in case. Since I have never gotten a call from someone that wanted to talk to me about a job I applied for six months earlier, I’m thinking that whole “keep your Application on file for future openings” schtick is a bunch of BS and don’t see the value of this practice…other than to tick me off.

Another frustrating thing about my current search is employers demonstrating their incompetence up front. That’s really kind of them, but frustrating since I see a position I’m qualified for with a company I’d like to work for and then I see something like this when I click on the link to apply

or, better yet, a link to a job in another city instead of a post for the specific city where this job search is occurring. I know it’s hard to believe, but I live in Portland, Oregon and would rather not move to Auburn-friggin’-Washington to work. Little known fact, the landfill in Auburn gives the place an aroma that makes me wish I was at a dinner party with rotting corpses, versus anywhere near that dump of a city.

One of the most aggravating things about being unemployed – even by choice – is seeing incompetent people with jobs that they do poorly.

2) Thinking about funny good times from “the old days” is an effective offset from the uglier parts of your past.

Case in pointing saw this as I was heading to bed the other night.

Sacha has never liked the idea that he gets mentioned in my blog occasionally.

At first, I was surprised he read the damn thing since we aren’t in contact these days. He insists that our mutual friends inform him about his occasional mentions. This kinda tracks, since he takes exception to entries he appears in in what I would consider a positive manner.

Because it’s not like our relationship was six years of bad times, I challenged his assertion to react based on what our mutual friends were allegedly telling him about his starring role in the blog with the idea that if they were feeding him negative information, maybe they weren’t as good a friend as he was thinking…cuz like I said, I don’t set out to write negatively about him. Today aside, virtually all of his mentions are from over a decade ago and from my perspective not terrible.

And he still cares…or our mutual friends do, as he’d have me believe.

But, I could see him having a reasonable objection to his original blog name since it was quasi unflattering…unless you actually read the blog post, then it’s just awkwardly cheeky. Still, to spare his ego – er, feelings – I shortened his blog name to Sacha as a sort of acronym for his original moniker.

Plus, Sacha is a lot easier on my fingertips.

He tried commenting early on in my blog some petulant BS, but he wasn’t a wordpresser, so publishing his comment would have ruined his anonymity by broadcasting his email – and, ergo his name – to any reader who cared to check my comment threads. I explained this to him in a text after he accused me of being “too scared” to post his comment but just got more bluster for my attempt to shield his identity from his own spin control.

His comment the other day was breathtaking. It takes a special kind of bastard to kick a guy when he’s down – he was commenting on my entry about basically being punished at my last job for being a whistleblower – but add to that the extra layer of bother he went to by creating a wordpress profile just to be able to make a petty, vitriolic comment “anonymously”.

And that’s all I’m saying about that, because I try to keep my stories about him and our relationship about that time in my life. I know nothing about his present day life, aside from these occasional and unwelcomed glimpses of his present day efforts at charm.

I dunno…maybe if I’d changed his blog name to Huge Dick, he’d have been happier. He was generally pretty proud of being a show-er. Maybe that hint at flattery would have blinded him to the double entendres. Or maybe apologizing for his original moniker – Sucks At Cheating Ex – since he seemingly didn’t get the cheeky entendres behind that name.

<ahem>

Let me try that now…Sacha, you don’t suck at cheating.

What kind of sociopath is proud of that skill? If any of us are going to cheat, I would hope we suck at it just to speed shit along.

I guess I did have a little more to say about that…

However, onto the fun stuff!

I was originally wanting to share some memories of one of my first jobs.

That was the point of this entry, although a little context had seemed appropriate to demonstrate the allure of my visit to Memory Ln.

I had had jobs before, picking berries in the summer, delivering papers, shagging balls – shut up, Diezel – at a driving range – still shut up, Diezel – but my first real job was at a place called PaMiDa.

I started working here shortly after my family moved to Atchison, Kansas. PaMiDa is/was a big box discount retailer, much like Target or Walmart and it was close enough to home at the time to walk to, a perfect commute for me in my sophomore – no, wait…junior? – year of high school, since I didn’t always have wheels at my disposal.

Legend had it that the owner had named the outfit after his three kids, Pat, Mike and Dan…Dave? It’s been 35 years, I forget.

My department manager there was a nice enough curmudgeonly greaseball of a guy named Doug.

(Hidden irony)

Hygiene was not high on his daily to do list. I could usually depend on seeing him in the same short sleeve button down shirt with pit stains and ring around the collar, black clip on tie and his red PaMiDa vest lurking around the department. I say lurking, but he was usually making the rounds, creating a to do list for us as he monitored the goings on with his trademark heavy lidded, shifty gaze. For his caricature-making hygiene and habits, he was a pretty fair and respectful supervisor. I have learned through many years of trials and tribulations that there are worse bosses.

Atchison wasn’t the least diverse of towns, but it certainly wasn’t in any danger of being called a melting pot. I had one black co-worker, Sheila, who lived on the other side of Division St, if you get my drift.

I loved her!

She had one of these full body laughs that no one could not enjoy. She was the jocular offset personality to Doug’s outward schlub. I was glad she was in my department but simultaneously sad, since it meant we usually worked opposite shifts and I didn’t get to see her much.

Which is why she was probably caught off guard when I walked around the corner of the aisle she was working in to find her muttering to herself. I’d heard Doug’s voice and needed him for some reason or another.

Sheila, for her part, did not. At least that’s how it seemed since she was muttering something about how he should get his “day old sex smelling ass” out of her face as he left from the other end of the aisle.

That’s certainly a graphic statement.

She turned to me as I asked her what she’d said, thinking she was talking to me. I was a teenager, I assumed everything was about me.

(And still may…)

When she realized she was caught, she laughed one of her longer full body laughs. It was so loud that I think it may still be echoing though the building. She nearly fell off the ladder she was working on as she tried to dismount it, still laughing. She supported herself on my shoulder, holding herself up as she doubled over…still laughing.

As she began to regain control, she wiped away tears, apologized for speaking her thoughts aloud and said, “I’m so embarrassed. If I was white, I’d be red right now!” in a demonstration of self-effacing reverse racist humor that made me laugh nervously at the time.

Now? I think it’s hilarious. I wish I’d understood the humor as well at the time so I could have enjoyed the moment less awkwardly with her, but two people laughing uncontrollably at our department manager’s expense would have just drawn unnecessary attention.

Oh, Shiela…

While I am pretty sure that the store manager interviewed and hired me, Doug introduced me to him during my store tour on the first day of work. It was something along the mumbled lines of, “This is Mr Stickler, the store manager…” as we were speeding by on our little tour.

Stickler.

I was young enough – and naive enough – to accept what my ears told my brain at face value. Therefore, despite what my eyes screamed at me on the daily, I spent the next three months greeting and responding to him with a “Good morning” or “Hi!” or a simple, “Yes, sir”, Mr Stickler.

Much to the terror or utter amusement of my co-workers and head scratching chagrin of my store manager, Mr Strickler.

Missed it by one very important letter.

Nonetheless, fate placed him right in front of me to enjoy the look on my embarrassed teenage face when that omitted “r” finally clicked into place for me.

I was white, so I was red!

Fate being a bitch, this had to occur right after my closest encounter with a tornado. Of course, that obviously turned out ok for me, but had the tornado happened after my embarrassing realization, I might have hoped for a more shituationally merciful outcome.

Of course, I’m happy with the way things turned out…near miss with a funnel cloud. At the time, i has seen several tornadoes. However, I’d never really seen a funnel cloud or understood its connection to a tornado, so this was quite the educational moment for me…

I was covering a break at the front registers and was staring hypnotically at the parking lot out of the 60-feet of plate glass windows when the associate returned. Following my gaze skyward to the gray and black clouds coalescing into a shallow swirl over our store parking lot, she advised that probably we should move away from the window. This happened just about the time the city’s tornado warning sirens went off and other associates ran to the front from their respective departments.

We mostly ended up watching the slow moving swirl pass over our parking lot like a bunch of Darwin Award honorable mentions. We were ready to duck behind the cash wraps, should the funnel look like it was going to touch down. For all the good that would do.

At some point in my senior year, Mr Strickler quit. He had apparently bought the…I wanna say, Taco Time franchise across the street from us and was working there as an owner/operator. I didn’t understand going from working in a store like PaMiDa to fast food, even if you were the owner.

At the time, PaMiDa was the best job in the world! Definitely gets a good bit of credit for me starting down my retail career path. Of course, at the time I was gonna go to college and then law school, so the wrap lawyers had in the 80s for being basic shit-heel people didn’t hurt the eventual lure of retail’s sense of immediate career gratification…

The Great Job Hunt 3.1

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