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

TIL #3: Big Pours

Well, it’s been a long month for being literally the shortest month of the year.  But February is behind me, and I guess any February you can walk away from can’t have been that bad.

It was actually really, really awful.  Which has had some of my sister’s wisdom on my mind over the past couple of weeks.  So, today’s Golden Nugget is courtesy of my wise older – and only – sister.

We had been discussing wine, tangentially, while trading texts.  I was complaining about having to get a refill and she teased me about how she had trained my nephew to fetch, or something.

I was immediately jealous and found myself questioning my indirect and situational lack of progeny.  I teased my sister a little, but also praised developing a solid, gentlemanly skill like pouring wine at an early age.  I think the ‘Phew was 15 or 16 at the time.  And frankly, knowing a good pour is an important part of enjoying wine.

Here’s how to enjoy – truly, legitimately – wine:

Start with good wine.

Decant or aerate.

Serve in glassware that enhances the overall sensory experience.

Repeat step three.

Often.

A little known fact, or adhered to, as I’ve come to learn and experience – and practice – is that good wine glasses are made to hold a 3 ounce pour (I think it’s 3, might be 5…I’m old and get confused!) that allows the bowl to hold the wine and keep the bouquet from escaping so that you enjoy the wine and aroma as part of the same enhanced experience.

How precious, right?

Still, it’s a fact.

So, how do you know if you’ve got a good wine glass?  Here’s a fun tip:  filling your glass visually to the hip or curve of the bowl should be 3 ounces.  If you have a good wine glass, the bowl should be shaped so that you can lay the wine glass on its side and the 3 oz pour doesn’t spill out.

Try it.

Here’s another weird wine fact:  there are about five perfect pours in a bottle.  Five.  This is perfectly symbolic of my singlehood, reinforcing that there’s no one for me to share with.

My sister and her wisdom was, basically, “Fuck that” in teaching her boy to pour.  She taught him to pour with a heavy hand.  I was offended, me and my delicate sensibilities, but I got it.  There was no telling whether the boy would be around when she needed a refill versus playing a vidya game or just being out screwing around, like kids do.

Get it, sis.

Here’s the impact this wisdom has had on my life, I usually drink wine alone or with the Silver Fox.  Instead of arguing about the extra glass – which is mine, of course – we split the bottle into two servings each.

It works well.  Except on nights like the other night, where he says he can only have one glass.  You’d think that would throw off our delicate balance, until he comes out of the kitchen with a full glass.  The Fox is pretty low key, so when he does something so overtly hilarious, I really cherish it.

Personally?  Over the last couple of years, I’m down to three servings in a bottle.  

This works well for me.  Especially on nights where The Fox and I watch some TV and split a bottle.  He’ll leave after we finish our two glasses and a few shows so that I can, presumably, head to bed.

If I’m not ready for bed just yet, I’ll open a bottle and have another drink.

Sometimes I’ll even finish that second bottle.

But here’s where being me really pays off:

I had 2 glasses with the Silver Fox and 3 glasses by myself.

There are 5 glasses in a bottle of wine.

Despite what my recycling bin tries to tell me the next morning, I’ve had 1 bottle of wine.

Is it semantics or is it some antics?

With me, I think you know what you’re getting.

Never!

And, yes…this TIL was posted out of order.  The month called for this topic to move up the list.  TIL #2 will be along soon enough!

TIL #3: Big Pours