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

TIL 7: Early Bird Special

It was coming on to 3 AM when I started this Blog Post several weeks ago. I had realized that my 50 year every day experience is defying the stereotypes that I grew up with.

Well, beginning to…

I thought I had it figured out. I am by no means ready to start joining the elders’ dinner at 4 PM, frankly the reasoning there eludes me.

Here’s why: no, wait…here’s why not.

The older I get, the less time I want to spend in a crowded bar, late at night, struggling to hear what people are trying to say to me. Likewise, I’m not dying to face the struggle of functioning within normal parameters the next morning.

So, I get it!

I traded in my dance shoes for a Happy Hour menu and I couldn’t be more satisfied.

I stop off – when I’m working – on my way home for a drink or two to wash the day down and I’m likely home by 6:00 for Mistress Myrtle’s dinner time. Occasionally, I’m late, but generally have her settled by 7:00.

Other times, like when I’m not working, the Silver Fox and I might head out for a beer or glass of wine around 3:00. Still others, well grab a bottle of wine and head to his rooftop in the late afternoon for some RNR – Rose oN the Roof.

The key here is that the evenings socializing is generally wrapped up well before any young ‘uns would even consider beginning their pre-funk.

Sidebar: when I was a kid, we wanted to get to the bars around 10:00, maybe a little earlier depending on how broke we were and when they started charging cover. Nowadays, the pre-funk seems to start around 10:00 with 11:00 being the target barrival time. I’ve got one younger friend – one of my Bachelors – who doesn’t even seem to plan anything for a Saturday night until around 10:00. That manifest as a Facebook post along the lines of “Anyone going out tonight?”

Kids.

Nevertheless, I figure that I’m figuring this whole early bird thing out in true TIL style.

Except

I can’t quite reconcile the eating dinner at 4:00 PM thing.

Lately, The Fox and I have both kind of changed our eating habits. Occasionally, well grab a breakfast sandwich at coffee, but more often than not, we both seem to be pushing through to lunch around noon or 1:00. Then we might have something at HH or go to our respective homes after for a post-happy meal.

Even more recently, I’ve found myself powering through to about 3:00 – after a handful of almonds or dried mango in the morning – and then eating one big meal for the day.

Oddly, I’ve gained about 15 lbs in the last few months.

Hint: It’s the beer! Don’t tell me, though, let it be a surprise.

Anyway, I’m almost into the Early Bird routine, but just not quite nailing it. It’s a bummer, too, since it would be nice to include my parents in these adventures and still have them be able to get home before dark.

However, something about the whole concept has been bugging me. Here in the Pearl District, we’ve a bevy of boutique-y restaurants. Walking in for dinner around 4:00 might give you a slight Happy Hour crowd in a bar, but in a real restaurant it’s still largely a pretty solitary dining room. Needless to say, Portland – or any urban area – would probably never successfully claim to be the birthplace of the Early Bird special.

My money here would be on someplace like Clearwater, Florida. I’ve lived there…trust me.

Regardless of where it started, it spread pretty quickly. Likely due to both local restaurant competition but also a slightly viral nationwide spread from snowbirds taking the practice back home with them to middle America in the off season.

And you can bet that it was quick casual or cafeteria style chains that nurtured this Early Bird dinner phenomenon.

Ruby’s, Sayler’s, Sizzler (RIP), Old Country Buffet, Cracker Barrel…probably some Applebee’s, Olive Garden and Cheesecake Factory type joints, too, could probably all be relied upon to have some sort of Early Bird menu or well known and heavily trafficked seniors discount.

But like I mentioned, that seems counter intuitive to me.

Assuming for the moment that I’m – ahem – normal in going out early in an effort to avoid crowds.

These chain style restaurants are going to be packed early with seniors taking the marketing bait…that seems like something that would irritate me. Sure, I’ll get my own table and no worries there, but if the kitchen is overwhelmed by a generally crowded dining room?

Well, some poor server is going to be dealing with a specifically grumpy Xtopher.

Clearly, I still have a few lessons to master before I can claim to fully understand the brilliance of the Early Bird routine. But between the Silver Fox and my parents, I’ve got some good resources – and reasons – to figure it out.

Well, them and the cast of Grace & Frankie, so

Okay?!?

Plus, I’m really more of a Grace-type, anyway.

So what’s the hurry?

TIL 7: Early Bird Special

TIL #4: Tech Cheat

So, I’m sitting here at Big Legrowlski – alone, again…naturally – trying to figure out how to make a story on the Instagram. Well, making a story in and of itself isn’t terribly difficult. It’s the extras: adding additional pics to it and enhancing it with text…oy.

And links?

Fugeddabowdit.

It’s one of many situations that make me scream – sometimes in my head, sometimes in real, live technicolor – “I need a twenty-something!

Notice that I didn’t say “one of many recent situations”…gentle readers, this has been going on since I exited my own 20s.

Mind you, I’ve only vomited out about 5000 words into the WordPress Abyss today, why not keep going. FYI, that’s a lot of words and there was plenty of emotional heavy lifting between brain and keyboard…so, yeah. A little millennial vs old timer levity was required!

This phenomenon I mention…it is not one that I alone seem to struggle with, either. Witness this random post from a friend on the Facebook.

Not that I don’t enjoy my friends’ equal discomfiture, here in the techno-wilderness.

On the flip side, it’s nice to encounter situations that let you know that – somehow – it goes both ways.

Surrealiously…it takes 5 million years to make a goddamn rock. You’re only a millennial so where’s the disconnect? Sending a FAX should still be current events.

Situationally speaking, of course.

So, between those two generational extremes…what is it that I’m learning today, exactly?

Jesus, not to get myself into any situation that somehow evolves into me brokering peace in the Middle East, but I’ve learned today that this isn’t just a grumpy old Xtopher peccadillo, this tech frustration.

It really does go both ways.

Here I am, the perfect example of that statement: sometimes screaming to be helped by an assuredly more tech-comfortable younger person, other times the actual younger person being asked to help the Silver Fox figure out why his phone shows a music app running on his phone that he swears he’s never installed.

I’ve learned that, regardless of one’s chronological accomplishments on this galactic rock, technology is the great leveling device. You might think you’ve got your shit dialed in and your figurative water fowl aligned…you just haven’t met your technological undoing yet.

It might be the next it app that proves a boondoggle for your supposed savviness. Then again, it could be the old school alarm system at your kids’ house that keeps you huddled on their porch in a rainstorm as you wait for them after failing to gain entry, defeated by a keypad and four-digit passcode.

One never knows, do one?

In an abundance of flip sides leading up to this entry, I’ve also learned not to downplay expertise from surprising resources. I have this blog-buddy, Phil, that read of one of my storage issues with Apple.

Having grown weary of their too-frequent “Storage Almost Full” push notifications that really seemed to just be a squeeze play for an extra $.99/month from poor old Xtopher, I tossed off a whiny blog post.

What does the universe provide me in return?

A recommendation from Phil in my comments that I simply get a flash drive, onto which I could save my photos, music and anything else that congests my cloud storage situation. That would leave my cloud space free for apps and other shit…shit literally being “I don’t know what”.

Phil and I have bonded over many things: humor, beer storage, saddle rash. We’ve clashed over more important, serious issues along the lines of writing – in a strictly helpful, mentor-y manner. We’re not arguing Oxford Comma here, folks.

Phil is a grandparent.

Setting aside the reality that I could be, too, in a bizarrely alternate reality, Phil has subtly led me to believe that he’s got a few more laps around the sun than I have managed.

And here he is throwing me tech pro tips.

I’m sitting on my couch, reading this comment of his and resisting the urge to look over my shoulder at the Apple G4 Tower that I’ve had since the early aughts that has all of my music stored on it – stuff I transferred from CD into the drive after getting tired of dusting my CD cases.

A drive I moved from Portland to Seattle and back again – five households in all – to preserve my music library.

“Oh…just get an external drive?” – Me

Jesus.

I need a twenty year old. Stat!

TIL #4: Tech Cheat

Indigo Girls

“Well, that can’t be a coincidence”, I thought as a CD title caught my eye in my local Long Beach music store. The album in question was simply titled Indigo Girls. It was on sale, so being a newly-ish minted gay, I bought the CD in a show of solidarity.

My rationale?

Cyndi Lauper talks about it in her 1983 song She Bop…

“Well, I see them every night in tight blue jeans.

On the pages of Blue Boy magazine.”

Blue Boy magazine was a glossy tribute to twink pulchritude. A gay porn magazine, in other words.

Indigo is a shade of blue.

I’ve apparently been jaded forever. But just the right amount. Maybe it’s just in my head that a gender pronoun and shade of blue equals some gay code – indeed, to hear them tell it, they went shopping through the dictionary for words that resonated…indigo struck gold for them for whatever reason – but in my music store, this CD priced at $7 resonated with me.

I’ve been a fan ever since.

I’ve owned every album.

Committed more song lyrics to memory than I thought I had the capacity for.

Lost my shit in the theater when they showed up as extras in Boys On The Side…embarrassing my friends by frantically whispering, “That’s the Indigo Girls!” in the darkened theater.

Seen them in concert in a half dozen cities on two continents..

My favorite performances being their zoo concerts. I’ve seen five zoo shows here in Portland and two more at the zoo in Seattle. The crowds at the concerts used to skew heavily lesbian, given their sexual identities. Once Lilith Fair took the music world by storm and sent female singer/songwriter types on a never before seen trajectory of success, those crowds started to straighten out.

My concert attendance started to fall off then, too. Where I’d always loved the live music experience Indigo Girls concerts provided, it was also a safe environment for me as a gay man…to flirt. Safe, because other guys there were like minded, both in bed and in musical tastes. It was as good a starting point as any for selecting a mate, right?

Never happened.

Matter of fact, the closest I got to an Indigo Girls concert love connection was attending shows for a few years with Sacha. You’d have thought that the Valentines Day show we saw at the Aladdin Theater would have put me off their concerts, but I was a super fan and after that show where Sacha and I argued through the entire thing…well, I started going mostly alone or with girlfriends.

No, what put me off was the intrusion of straight men at the shows. I’d loved the strong female vibe I encountered at their live shows. It was such a safe feeling.

A generous space.

When I looked up at one concert and saw my handful of musically like minded gay men replaced with straight guys who were canoodling through the concert until fuck time…I was done.

Until

A few years back, IG got together with a symphony.

It was crazy.

Rib and I went down to Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle and saw this show. Indigo Girls backed by the Seattle Symphony.

By “crazy”, I mean AWESOME.

Their music lends itself to the process. It’s always featured eclectic instruments, so switching to classic orchestral instruments wasn’t a huge stretch.

The Girls are storytellers, so watching their show always included an intimate glimpse into their music and personalities. My favorite story of this night was the story about the symphony performance itself.

The symphony had been practicing their set independently. The Indigo Girls, of course, had the material down. But they never practiced together until the day of the show!

The Indigo Girls roll into town – I am pretty sure this was before Amy married a girl from Seattle, so she wasn’t a randomly occurring celebrity in town yet – do a couple numbers with the orchestra and then peace out until showtime, hoping for the best.

Why is this anything important to know?

Well, Today I Learned on the Facebook that there was a symphony album coming out. Twenty-two songs, with a video of Galileo to kick it all off.

I.

Was.

Excited.

I watched the video a couple of times. It’s not their best live performance, but I can only take their word for it when they talk about the humbling experience of putting your voice in front of a giant machine like a symphony orchestra.

Viewed through that filter? This is incredible. If nothing else, it elevates the majesty of the stories their songs have always told.

From almost 1990 to almost 2020…these ladies have been and have made an enormous impact on my life. I jokingly say that at the end of my life, my relationship with my cell phone carrier will be the enduring relationship of my lifetime.

Compared to my musical relationship with Indigo Girls (they prefer no article in their band name) and Melissa Etheridge, the more accurate statement would be that the relationship with these two acts shaped the adult gay man that I became and one of the significant relationships of my life.

Interesting recipe, equal parts family, catholic school and music subculture equals…me. What an arc it’s been for us both.

And I can’t wait to hear this album!

Indigo Girls

TIL #2: Gross Out

Sacha’s mom used to call it The Rotten Food Store.

When I worked briefly in grocery, I heard one of my co-workers refer to it as The Gross Out. This one stuck with me.

It’s actually the Grocery Outlet, and when The Fox mentioned that Sallory shopped there I almost fell over.

The optics didn’t work for me: I’d always attributed shopping at The Gross Out as a poor person’s prerogative, I consider Sallory anything but.

I think I actually said, “What is she, suddenly poor?!?” while mentally picking myself up. Maybe it’s that she lives in a small town and there aren’t a lot of other options. Certainly no New Seasons or Whole Foods.

It was one of these “small town” options that she’d first found Stok at, and that was a good find so it wasn’t hard to find my rationale to trust this statement at face value.

But, still…The Gross Out?!?

I admit it, I struggled a little.

This was tough to get my mind around.

I mentioned it to her personally while we were having wine on one of her trips to the city.

Looking at me straight on, with all earnestness, she says to me, “You’ve got to go check out the wine selection. It’s unbelievable!”

My liver clicked into place.

She went on to tell me that her preferred Gross Out is on the coast in Lincoln City – if I’m recalling this right, because: wine – and that their wine manager was all about great tips on what was drinking well. Oh, and it’s all so cheap! She swore that Trader Joe’s had nothing on them.

I was intrigued and The Fox and I giddily planned a trip to our local.

“Go up and down every aisle, there’s some great buys”, Sallory insists.

Our closest outlet is in the Hollywood District and we walked in past racks of outdoor plants. That was unexpected.

Equally unexpected was the entire front quarter of the store being taken up by the wine department.

I’m barely exaggerating.

There’s were case stacks everywhere. It was an oenophilliacacious – yeah, that’s a made up word – sprawl. Signs everywhere pointed to what Manny was recommending or drinking.

Hopefully, this Manny fella was the wine manager and not some bum with cardstock and a nice marker.

The Fox and I scooped up bottles and bottles. In reality, I think I only nabbed a half case…testing the waters. But, hey…old vine Zins and Paso Robles Sauvignon for $5-15? I didn’t really feel like I could make a mistake here.

It was hard to resist.

TJ’s would always be there for cheap table wines if this failed to live up to the hype.

It, um…didn’t.

I left there – after walking up and down every aisle, as advised – with bags of pasta, frozen pizzas and veggies, some frozen meals that I thought would make a good lazy lunch, bags of food to stick my freezer and pantry. Oh, and wine!

All for $127…

I’m not going to lie, suddenly, I couldn’t wait to try some of these other whackadoodle stores that I’d written off years ago. If Gross Out could surprise me, what else was out there to blow my mind?

The next week, The Fox took me along to the Costco. There’s always a few things I need there, so I was glad to tag along. On the way out, he asked me if I would mind hitting the WinCo across the way.

Initially, I balked…then I remembered.

Let’s GO!

Oh, my hell.

La Croix was a buck less than anywhere near me.

Myrtle’s wet food was $.57/can and my normal market sells it for $.95/can.

I got to the checkout with a half cart of bounty thinking, “Welp, here goes another $100”. But it was all stuff that had a shelf life, either in the pantry or freezer.

I left feeling like I’d been living life wrong all these years.

When I was bragging to a co-worker a few days later, she immediately jumped in with her own news: she and her husband had just gone to Cash & Carry, the Costco and WinCo and stocked up for less than $300 for their family of three for the next three months.

Shut the front door.

Trader Joe’s will always be on my shopping rotation, there’s just too many tasty things that you can only get there. Including delicious Spanish wines on the cheap.

But I learned to root out a good value during this little adventure and can’t believe it took me so long to come to the damn table. Come to think of it, Mistress Myrtle is nearly out of food, so I’ll have to plan a trip in the next week-ish to see what’s new at The Gross Out and WinCo.

Listen to your elders…find a Gross Out and go!

TIL #2: Gross Out