TIL #9: Picking Your Battles

Having a strategy is a good thing. It sure beats careening around from one day to the next. But I’m not talking about those long game strategies: school, career, relationships, kids…picket fences along the way as you will.

No, I’m talking about those short game strategies that ice your life cake.

Think of these smaller strategies as if they are putting in a game of golf. You may get on the green in three on a par 5 hole, but if your short game is weak – or worse yet, sucks – you’ll be lucky to make it off the green with a par, probably a bogie.

But if you’ve got a good short game, maybe you come in with an eagle, at 1 under.

Now, Oldie Hawns have been openly indulging in this short strategy for decades – much to the enjoyment of more recent generations.

Namely, the early bird special. Dinner at 4:00? Trading cocktail hour for a food happy hour…that’s a good strategy. Home in time for a Wheel of Fortune binge before bed time.

Right

See? That’s what we do instead of learn from the professional lifers, we make fun of the situation.

Maybe it’s cute.

Witty.

Maybe they’re sitting there watching Wheel making fun of us stiffs that are still struggling with a homeward commute while they have a Dove Bar for dessert at 6:00. Yeah, who’s the sucker?

But, as most of us are living that Synchronicity nightmare while our shrinking senior citizens are settling up at Old Town Buffet – trapped like lemmings in our shining metal boxes – it’s not a great example of a viable short game strategy, right?

Well, here’s a few better ideas. Some I’ve learned by watching, others by doing, and others by trial and error.

Sidenote: now that I’ve gotten all wound up, each of the ideas I wanted to talk about…<pffft!> Gone. Let’s see if I can mind palace my way to the end of this entry…

Of course, the Silver Fox has inadvertently mentored me. He recently had an unusual experience at the doctors office. He had a 10:00 appointment and figured he’d be home for coffee at around 10:40, not 10:45…10:40. The man has routine down.

Except

His normal routine is to snag the first appointment after the office opens. Of course, because he’s a slave to what I call Fox Time, he’s usually – I imagine – sitting in his car 15 minutes before the doors are unlocked.

His claim: get in and out before they have a chance to fall behind.

I get that, I do. It makes sense…except as a worker bee, I don’t want to get up an hour early so I can go to the doctor before work, I want to build in a short day with an afternoon appointment! If it takes longer than expected, so much the better…I don’t feel so guilty about not going back to work, right?

But here he is, one of my favorite retirees: up and at it early when he has literally all the time in the world.

It is a sound strategy, though. He surprised me by not having an early appointment the other day. When I tried to get to our cafe on Fox Time, it backfired on us both. I sent him a pic of my coffee at 10:45 and he replied that he was still in the waiting room…45 minutes after his appointment time!

Proving his point…

One of my favorite strategies is Thursday night movie releases in DT Portland. Turns out, downtown theaters are empty on a “school” night!

Getting a jump on blockbuster weekends, the studios usually do a 7-ish and 10-ish Thursday night showing. That’s their strategy to boost release weekend ticket sales without cutting all the way back to Wednesday releases, like they used to.

Me, loving large crowds like I don’t, used to wait until Monday or Tuesday after the release and just avoid water coolers until I saw whatever I wanted to see. Now, I can be the first to see a new movie and there’s maybe two dozen people in the theater with me.

Captain Marvel.

Avengers: Endgame

Spiderman: Far From Home

You know where I’ll be on the Thursday night before their official release! It’s worth missing out on half price popcorn Tuesdays.

Hell, who am I kidding? I’ll probably see two shows those weeks…I’d hate to miss a sale.

However, if I were a patient person that didn’t have any hint of FOMO, I’d just wait a few weeks and catch the flick on a Tuesday as it’s box office stay wound down, right? Nah…you know I’ll double dip if it’s any good. I’ll probably see Captain Marvel on Tuesday before I see Avengers; likewise a second fix of Avengers before I get my Peter Parker European Vacation on Thursday.

I tell you one thing, if Marvel didn’t manage a Chevy Chase/Beverly d’Angelo cameo, I will be slightly bummed.

The dwindling crowds at movie theaters as a movie’s run winds down is one thing. I’ve learned through trial and error, though, that the same does not follow for theater.

Closing night/day performances at Portland Center Stage are just packed…definitely not my favorite thing. But theater dates with Little Buddy and JOrtis are my thing, so it’s a tough call.

Nah, it’s not really.

Theater with some of my favorite peeps is a no brainer. Especially when they cry earlier and more than me.

I know that theater is packed because they have a finite run. Movie theaters don’t have a Leaving Soon campaign. Movies will just start showing less frequently, going from a showing every hour to a showing every three hours and then two shows a day…and then <poof!> they are just gone.

And these last play performances really feel different. It’s like the last chance for actors to deliver in these roles and they tend to leave everything on the stage.

Which makes the waterworks with me and my theater compatriots even more dramatic. We joke about having theater scarves to blot our eyes. Maybe we’ve just figured out why scarves are such an accessory at the theater.

Oh, gawd…what if my friends and I are slow?!?

Probably PCS just needs to change the filters in their HVAC system so shit stops blowing in our eyes…

So, what are your strategic life hacks? Sharing is caring…unless it’s an STD, that is.

TIL #9: Picking Your Battles

Today I Learned #13

Flashback Edition

Since I’m procrastinating finishing up a draft or two during my Publish Every Day January initiative, and just killing time before an interview…here’s some food for thought. More like food for grossing you out, but I’m not here to add idioms to our lexicon.

Oh, wait…Chrisisms.

But this isn’t that type of thing.

When I was in college, I guess I learned some things. However, 25 years later, what do I remember? I studied history, yet every time the Silver Fox starts a story with, “You were a History Major…” my mind utterly blanks.

Here’s what I remember from college:

1) 1066. That was the year of the last Norman invasion of England.

2) How to ride a motorcycle. Or, not. Let’s say that I learned that it was not a skill I naturally possessed.

3) Household toilets have a 6 foot spray radius.

Those last two things were both courtesy of one of my college roommates, Cindy.

She was pretty tough. A compact and stout girl a couple years older than me, but that didn’t stop me from calling her Cynthia just to annoy her. Come to think of it, the number of times she put me on the floor for being a wiseacre might have something to do with why I remember so little of what I learned in college.

Also, alcohol.

Anyway, yeah…just remember, water droplets are dispersed into the air every time you do this

without closing your toilet lid.

Cindy was a design major, so she shared this with me when she was studying bathrooms. Ever since, I’ve accepted that I’ve been brushing my teeth with poop in most of the places I’ve lived.

But, you know how I am…my mind doesn’t stop there.

I’m also aware that I store my towels and spare crapping paper on the shelves over my toilet. Even if I closed the lid every time I used the bathroom (I don’t) there’s no way that my guests will.

Basically, I just live with the knowledge that every time I bathe, I’m massaging poo splatter all over my clean body and whenever I use TP to blow my nose, I’m shoving shit into my nostrils.

Probably explains why my nose hair grows so well…fertilizer.

Today I Learned #13

Today I Learned #12

Calculated Risks

I don’t want anyone to mistake this entry for something serious.

Like wine.

I mean, I take wine seriously enough to not abuse it. I mean, waste it…I’m sure anything I do that could be described as wine abuse is actually closer to self-abuse or self-medication, depending on the circumstance.

That said, I feel like we should discuss decanting.

Sidebar: Autocorrect just changed “decanting” into “decaying” and I literally decant even.

Decanting a sure thing bottle is convenient for aerating the wine and opening it up do the acidic notes can mellow versus overwhelming the rest of the flavors when you…sip. So I’ve generally made a habit of decanting a bottle anytime I have company over, but switching to a by-glass aerator if that second bottle tries to get popular.

My logic? Maybe that second bottle doesn’t get finished, right?

What? I’ve heard of that happening…

Here’s what I’ve learned.

Wine is much like friends vs dating later in life.

You get to know the quality peeps in your life that deserve and have earned decanting rights. Then there are the new unknowns that are best taken on a by-glass basis.

As I’ve managed to overcome my desire for a relationship and remain a Singleton this past year, I’ve engaged in a little thought exercise. I examined my urge to open or order what I consider great bottles of wine on a first date. Was I simply indulging my tastes and myself as I did something I’m not super comfortable doing?

Sidenote: Roller Coasters should have wine stands at the beginning of the line.

Or, was I trying to show off?

Ugh.

I’m going to skip over the grisly details. Suffice it to say, hearing an attractive man say that my wine was really good as he leaves are perhaps the least validating final words to hear from someone.

In case that needed to be mentioned.

The last time someone came over for wine in a dating capacity, I legitimately caught myself thinking – as I reached up for my decanter – “Am I prepared to try and switch bottles because ‘This doesn’t taste right, let’s try something else’ if this guy doesn’t seem worth the rest of the bottle?” More importantly, am I cool enough to pull off that switch to a bottle of TJ’s finest?!?

But, like I said, this isn’t a post about wine.

Exclusively

It’s about any variety of risks we take. Moreover, it’s about how our own opinions of those risks change over time. And how we assess and prioritize those opinions.

A fairly blue case study – oh, I should write about Gee sometime – to illustrate my point:

Yesterday, I had a solo lunch date with dad. Mom had gone shopping with my sister and his usual Friday lunch with his own dad was rescheduled for a doctor’s appointment.

Usually when mom, dad and I go to lunch, I can bank on each of them making use of the facility’s facilities. Occasionally it’s all three of us, which affords my dad and I the opportunity for a rather humorous take on what frequently happens at Portland intersections.

Yesterday, as our departure from the restaurant became imminent, I caved and asked dad if he wanted you use the restroom before we left.

He passed.

I raised my eyebrows.

When we got to my place, I asked if he wanted to come up and talk for a while longer. I wasn’t sure if he wanted to more kill time while my mom and sister were out. He said no, so we sat in the car and chatted a while before I got out of the car and chatted more while standing at the door.

When he drove off, I crossed the street, fobbed into my building and then tapped my toe impatiently while waiting for the world’s slowest elevator to return to the main floor.

Then I did a full on pee-pee dance in the elevator as we made our glacial ascent to the building’s fourth floor.

Seriously…it is so slow. I’m tempted right now to go take a ride and count off the “thousands” it takes to climb from the Ground floor to 3. Sadly, I have to meet friends in two hours and nine minutes, so I’m afraid there isn’t time.

By the time we reached my floor, I was straining so hard to keep my bladder sealed that I accidentally let a fart fly.

That felt better!

But I consciously tightened everything up again as I prepared to engage my legs and leave the lift. My concern? Was that just gas or was it a…warning?!?

I farted out a few letters of the alphabet on the way to my door and while I was fumbling to get my door unlocked. Fortunately, neither of the other two residents on my floor chose that time to leave their units!

There I was, sitting victorious upon my throne. The contents of my bladder successfully vanquished, I reflected upon the Battle of the Bladder.

Were my check-ins with dad legitimate concern or projection on my part?

I want to say legitimate concern, since he drives about 35 miles home after he visits.

But the reality was that this was my second elevator dance of the week, so…

Either I need to move to a building with a faster elevator – or, better yet, a turbo lift! – or I need to stop projecting and openly check-in with my own plumbing to calculate risk vs transit time between cans.

So far, I’m not there. I have only gotten as far as calculating the height of a curb as it relates to chances of a fart in my body’s state of misadventures. Maybe it’s time to up that game.

Bet you wished this had only been about wine now, right?

Wine and poop. I’m a real enigma, aren’t I?

Maybe this whole Calculated Risks thing is more about food and drink, now that I think about it. The last example that popped into my head was about coffee. While that folds nicely into the bathroom urgency risk, it’s more about heartburn!

I’ve long maintained that I only need one good cup of coffee to satisfy my craving.

And the occasional need for a jump start.

The end of that saying of mine is that I’ll drink diner coffee all morning and still not feel satisfied. But I will end up with a banger of a case of heartburn. But I understood the risk and how my body worked.

Now, since I haven’t been working, I’ve sat at f&b for a second cup of their cold brew while chatting-ish with the Silver Fox. As my unemployment has dragged on, though, I’ve had to re-examine that habit.

The cold brew at f&b is brewed using the Japanese method for iced coffee.

Cold brew, iced coffee, Japanese iced coffee; three very different things. At least inasmuch as acidity is concerned.

Cold brew has very little acid, meaning I can drink it all day. That it’s made with good, medium roast beans means I really can sip it all day, but feel satisfied after a single cup.

Iced coffee, Japanese brew method or not, medium roast bean or not…has all the regular acidity of coffee.

When I have that second cup, I’m weighing the risk factors. Usually, with The Fox, the calculations come out in his – and mine, by extension – favor. When I’m alone, I’ll stop at one cup, go somewhere else or skip it altogether.

The cost/benefit calculated risk exercise I go through when it comes to the debate over taking a shower and getting presentable just to go out for a cup of coffee are a little…embarrassing.

How about some interaction? Surely, I’m not the only one that does this type of calculating…although, maybe I’m the only one that admits to it.

Tell me in the comments, what are your Calculated Risks?

Today I Learned #12

TIL #8: Coded Language

So, I’m trying to get through January with a post a day. I was challenged – by two followers! – after yesterday’s peek into my mental whirlpool to not cop out. There goes my Joke Monday crutch – er…idea. But I took an inventory in my Draft Hopper and there are 20 posts chilling in limbo there.

This is one of them.

No promises, though, that this is any less of a mental whirlpool. But, as my first year of the second half century of my life closes, maybe it’s time to mothball the Today I Learned theme.

So, here’s the first. We’ll see whether the others end up bearing fruit or going into the WordPress compost!

Several weeks ago, the Silver Fox and I had the good fortune to walk behind a couple of nice looking young men while on our way to see Bohemian Rhapsody.

It’s important to say “walk behind” versus “follow”. I learned that living in SoCal in the 90s.

But this TIL theme isn’t about what I learned ~20 years ago. No, on this particular day I learned something else.

I was reminded that my best friend is a better person than he is a cool person. While we crossed Couch St on Park Ave (I know…) a few blocks from our homes, these nice looking men rounded onto Park a few yards ahead of us.

There was no doubt they were each genetically gifted in their own right. Neither trying too hard in their casual clothes. One shorter and more compact, the other taller and a little more lithe.

As far as generic tastes in men go, I bemusedly noted that there was one each for the The Fox and I to enjoy.

Not that anything besides an appreciative glance was going on here.

Speaking of glances, I glanced over at my dearest friend after a few feet and was met with crazy eyes and Linda Blair caliber above the shoulder happenings.

Apparently, these young men hadn’t escaped his notice, either. I used my inconsiderable power of mental telepathy to send him a message to be cool.

We dropped back a couple paces and laughed at how they had pinged both of our gaydar at the same time. They were coming up on Burnside – the busiest East/West street in the downtown area and the divider between the NW and SW quadrants of town.

We were still talking about them, The Fox was commenting as I did above that there was one of each of our usual tastes. Obviously, I agreed with him, but both were just so easy on the eyes. They actually put off a nice vibe. As we’d passed the door to f&b cafe – our default coffee shop – the one on the inside of the sidewalk had looked to make sure no one was coming out through the door.

Just nice.

Someone raised these guys.

Actually, it’s quite a Sophie’s Choice, eh?

I found myself thinking I really would not mind sitting across from either of these fine young lads on one of my $20 first dates. Of course, we were only a week off of my most recent dating failure, so potential return on a $20 investment was top of mind.

Speaking of guys I wouldn’t mind sitting across the table from, I mentioned we were on our way to see Rami Malek as Freddie, right? The Fox is coming over in a bit to watch the Golden Globes and I’m rooting for this fella.

I had intentionally used obscure words to describe my indecisiveness over which guy I found more appealing between the two of these gents. It struck me that neither of the guys ahead of us were alive when the movie I referenced was released.

Nor had they probably ever had an opportunity to be exposed to it. No matter how well they were raised…

Perhaps my caution to prevent them from realizing we were talking about them was unnecessary, but better safe than sorry. Fortunately, our Sophie’s Choice was just a thought exercise for a couple old men versus something with potential real life trauma as described in the movie/book.

But the occurrence got me thinking about how making generational references was pretty much a coded language, allowing overt subtlety, if that makes sense. I enjoy making statements like “back before the turn of the century” that tend to invite young people to stop paying attention, but using references with a time stamp prior to their birthdate applies some extra security to conversations. Beyond

…ABBA and early Madonna music, I’m not sure guys in their 30s would get 80s pop culture reference. Forget guys in their 20s.

Actually, forget most guys in their 20s knowing anything but Drag Race or “thank u, next” until Miley or whoever drops their next single/video/what-have-you.

Heaven forbid I should refer to someone as a Mary or a Rhoda. Talk about an unbreakable code!

While two decades ago, people would go to the mattresses about whether they were the Mary or the Rhoda, the Patsy or the Edina or the Will, The Grace, the Jack or the Karen of their group; nowadays you’re likely to get a blank stare if you mention it now.

You might get some traction if you call someone a Carrie or a Miranda or a Charlotte or a – what most gays seem to aspire to – Samantha. Sadly, after seeing a friend on the Facebook complain that someone missed a Will & Grace reference – rightfully ending the date early – I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Hell, I’d be impressed to meet an industrious person who would Google an overheard something and then respond appropriately.

Let’s face it, though, being (well) over 30, the Silver Fox and I are both Gay Invisible. I’m sure the other senses of younger gays are not heightened in this particular case if blindness. Add to that shituation that we both have the audacity to exist strictly in reality versus in someone’s phone universe, and I can virtually guarantee our anonymity, regardless of our chosen conversational topic.

But good manners are good manners and if you’re going to engage in potentially unwelcome conversation about someone in your vicinity, a whispered tone and some coded lingo are a nice courtesy.

Plus, The Fox’s whisper is hilariously not quiet.

I get after him about it in the moment, but it always makes me laugh afterward.

As I’ve kicked this around, it’s made me curious about older people I’ve known and whether they engaged in such conversational subterfuge.

Looking at younger generations, I’m not confident that there’s a substance to create a generational code. Again, there’s a great communal enthusiasm for all things RuPaul, Kardashian and pop diva…outside of that all I can think of is “yeet“, which for all my inquiring only makes me want to develop a nuke that targets people who use “yeet” conversationally.

For my part as a former younger person, any time my grandmother brought up her family – whom I’d met only a fraction of and then maybe only once or twice – I considered myself free to do some mental wandering. And just about anytime my grandfather mentioned “bits” I would lose track of the conversation because in my head I was screaming

It’s a quarter or fifty cents, not two-bits or four bits!

For all that internalized resistance, though, now I do the same damn thing. Usually at my aforementioned coffee house where a refill is fourbits.

That’s a very reasonable price for a cup of coffee in this day and age.

Who knows, maybe my attempt at using supposedly coded language when I want my conversation to be semi-private is just my way of having fun with the reality that – regardless of what generation we belong to – we all be a little attention centric toward our particular age group.

But that’s just my two-bits.

TIL #8: Coded Language

Maybe I Can’t Blame Lack Of Sleep…

I was talking to the Silver Fox over a beer last night at Big Legrowlski. It was kind of touch and go for us last week when he floated the notion of not drinking any more. I’m fine with not drinking any more, of course, it was the realization that he meant that maybe he should drink less.

Like zero.

He was trying to blame his acid reflux on beer and wine. I – unsurprisingly – was not having it.

Of course, my not sleep deprived brain got weird with it and made it into a song, a la Duran Duran’s song The Reflex.

The Reflux.

Flux.

Flux.

Flu-flu-flu-flu-flux.

I distracted myself from this ear worm with a story about my mother’s new contact info.

Yeah. I’m one of those guys. With just a hint of this guy, but only for comedic effect. Swearsies.

My contact info is separated out into three solid categories with a couple of fringe elements:

Nicknames: people I love

Names: friends I regularly associate with

Numbers: people I don’t know whether I like yet or not

These unsaved numbers used to just get a first name, but then I ended up with a whole bunch of people saved by first name only – and really, how many Mikes and Peters does one phone list need? Also, there were a lot of people with the surnames Scruff and Hookup.

So I did a clean sweep and deleted all those one name wonders. Haven’t missed them since. Now, I don’t save a contact until I know the person’s first and last name and they prove they aren’t a flake.

There are exceptions, of course.

The Fox taught me his best practice for eliminating phone clutter. Consider this a bonus Today I Learned: if someone calls from an unrecognized number and doesn’t leave a message, he blocks the number. I had been saving the number to a contact called Likely Scam. I just changed all that. Now I do as the Silver Fox do!

The other exception actually occurred last Thursday when I got a lot of attention – and a special freebie – from a very bored stripper. I was texting The Fox (and by texting, I mean accidentally waking up at 1:30) and this stripper came back from his set. In a fit of pay attention to me-ness, he took my phone out of my hands and then texted himself and created his own contact.

So, now I’ve got a stripper’s phone number. Again.

Oh, well.

He’ll either upgrade of get deleted.

And unless I’ve been sleep deprived my whole life, I can’t blame any of that nonsense on lack of sleep.

Because of evidence like this, which is years old.

Look, ma…no asocial media apps!

I dunno. Maybe I’m just weird. I am a native Portlander.

Maybe I Can’t Blame Lack Of Sleep…

TIL #11

Appreciate the Little Gifts

Someone from friggin’ Appalachia won a billion dollar lottery.

I’m pretty sure you can buy a good chunk of Kentucky with that chunk of change. Probably all of Mississippi and Alabama…if you’re not opposed to relocation.

I wasn’t surprised that the ticket The Fox and I split wasn’t the winner. I wasn’t even mad. As my uncle once said after I teased that he couldn’t win the lottery without playing the lottery, “The odds are only slightly worse.”

Fact.

But it’s those theoretical losses, the ones that don’t cost me anything for which I’m really grateful. I’d much rather remember to be grateful with the most inconsequential of prompts than suffer a literal wake up call, have to grieve or recover and then find gratitude.

So, gimme those little gifts.

Jack Nicholson has a line in the movie Bucket List that folds well into this lesson.

Never pass up a bathroom, never waste a hard on and never trust a fart.

I get it. I really get it.

But even within that quote, there’s room to drill down. Never passing a bathroom is a good call, but once you’re there, there’s still a lot of variables. Give me the satisfaction of that really nice long pee versus the cursed stop and start pee…I much prefer knowing I’m done when the flow stops versus the cursed “not so fast, there pal!” sneaker pee.

The thrill of bending down to pick up a penny and appreciating that your eyes didn’t send you bending down to the sidewalk for what turned out to be gum. Hey, it’s still a penny, and you know what you can’t buy back regardless of how much you’re willing to pay? Your dignity when you stop and squat down for nothing.

And while we’re talking about getting to ground level, something I learned at least a decade ago was a gift from a personal trainer. It didn’t apply to me then, but I tucked it away for future use. Since I quit the gym, I have been looking for a workaround, but what he told me was that whatever I do with my exercise regimen that I should always protect the thin little muscles that run up my shin.

It’s interesting that it turned out to be my shin bones that were the first to fail me as I aged, but it turns out those little muscles still need to be ready to fire. They are responsible for lifting your toes as you walk. As people age and become less physical, those little muscles that never get trained specifically stop benefitting from whatever you do physically. Whether it’s a targeted leg day or spin or yoga or just walks in the park; you start to do less and they fail faster.

You can probably think of a specific person you know who shuffles when they walk or that walks mostly on their toes, like walking for them is more an act of just not falling forward. Well, those folks know what I’m talking about. And it’s those folks that are gonna get tripped up on an uneven sidewalk as they shamble along. Down they go and then <poof> hip replacement.

There are so many people that just never fully recover after a fall, it’s the beginning of the end for them because they’re just never the same.

So, I’m always on guard to do something that keeps my toes pointing upward. (Shush, Diezel) Plus, I’ve got Myrtle trying to trip me, I don’t need toes that cooperate with her efforts.

So, forgive me if I occasionally forget to complain about the big things I might be missing in life: a lottery win, a job…a relationship. I’m probably wryly appreciating the fact that I didn’t piss myself or get gum – or worse yet, dog poo – on my fingers because my original parts are showing their miles.

Remember, I’m not worried that the glass is half empty or half full. It’s refillable and at least I’ve got a friggin’ glass!

TIL #11

TFW

For those who don’t know, TFW translates from text shorthand to English as: That Feeling When.

It’s generally followed by some awkward inanity, for instance…

TFW: you manage to pluck that unseen ear hair – the one you can feel and hear but just. can’t. see.

This, my friends, is the glamour of aging!

Personally, I’m celebrating with a beer.

TFW