Tag Archives: Portland

How I Broke My Ribs With a Can of Soup.

30 Jan

Up until this point, I have never broken a bone.  I managed to get through a pre-teen track phase, cheerleading phase, a teenage angsty skateboarding phase, into becoming a full-blown workaholic under sometimes questionable business practices.   Ones that led me to dragging 30-pound shipment boxes up a 12-foot ladder without breaking anything.  I’m accident prone, for sure.  There have been bruises, concussions, stitches and sprains… but never a broken bone.  I can’t say that this happening when I’m near 40-years old is the most ideal time to break one.  It would have been way more ideal for this to happen when I was in my vivacious teens or 20’s, where my body would have probably snapped back within a week or two with no problems.  Now I’m probably looking at a life-long injury.  Lots of people break bones.  After this experience, I’ve discovered a lot of people I know have broken their ribs, in particular.  Me breaking my ribs isn’t really anything interesting.  How I did it might be.  I broke my ribs on a can of soup.

Me, 1994. Full of teenaged-angst.

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I suppose Canned Campbell’s soup is one of the ultimate comfort foods for me.  I mean, of course it isn’t as yummy as a simmering crock-pot full of pot roast or a plate of my aunt’s melt-in-your mouth gnocchi…but it is comforting to me in the respect that I may have eaten more Campbell’s condensed soup cans than anyone else in my age group. Probably not, but I dare say I’ve eaten more than most.

My mom was a working mother, and took no joy in the art of cooking.  She had a hot, prepared meal on the table most nights of my childhood.  If not, there was drive-through.  Always pizza on friday nights for my dad, wich was his favorite.  She had no passion for cooking.  Most of the meals were gleaned from the Betty Crocker’s Cookbook or from recipes on the backs of pre-packaged foods.  I think a lot of us ate that way back then in the 70’s and 80’s. Not to say those meals weren’t tasty for a kid.  Some of my favorites included an enchilada casserole from the afore-mentioned cookbook, taco night which consisted of pre-packaged taco shells and ground beef seasoned with a Lawry’s seasoning packet, and steak night complete with Velveeta Shells and Cheese and canned green beans.  All of which was of course served with a big, tall glass of milk.  I fucking shudder to think about all that milk I drank, but that was what was believed to be good for kids at the time.  We also believed a can of soft and mushy green beans were nutritious.  That brings us to canned, condensed soup.

My favorite lunch on the weekends when I was a kid was a bowl of soup with a grilled cheese sandwich.  I had favorites:  Chicken and stars, chicken alphabet, vegetable beef.  In the 80’s the licensing of products exploded, so there would also be  Star Wars-shaped chicken noodle, Teenage mutant Ninja Turtles, Smurfs… you name it.  Those didn’t always taste as good but they were magical.  Getting to eat a bowl of soup featuring your favorite characters always somehow made it seem way more exciting.   Sometimes, you could cut the label off of those special character-themed cans and behind it would reveal a game such as a maze or a connect-the-dots.  Those were the best.  A meal and a prize all in one.   I ate so much condensed soup in my house that all of our 70’s era Tupperware plastic bowls had a permanent ring burnt in them at the exact level as one can of soup and one can of water would leave after being in the microwave for 2.5 minutes.  The grilled cheese would be two pieces of white bread, with kraft singles in the middle toasted in the oven on the broil setting with the door propped slightly open.  Nothing fancy, but I still have a very real, and very gross attraction to shitty-ass American cheese slices. The sandwich would always come out perfectly brown, and cut diagonally.  I would sit at the coffee table and watch MTV, eat soup and a sandwich, then go back out to play in my backyard.  My mom passed away in 2001, which still surprises me about how long ago that was.  Those were good memories.

My childhood.

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It wasn’t just my mom that would serve this to me.  Both my grandmothers would as well.  Grandma Heeley would mostly make me the classic chicken noodle or chicken and stars.  She also would serve me what is now my ultimate favorite and the hardest to find Campbell’s soup of them all:  Old Fashioned Vegetable.  Old Fashioned Vegetable, with its strange broth, little button-shaped noodles and diced carrots and peas…it still remains my favorite.  It is so hard to find.  When I do find it, I buy 10 at a time.  Its the best soup I’ve ever had…inexplicably so.  As a kid I fucking hated it.  I mean, it literally looks like something served in a hospital cafeteria.  The broth is watery, slightly green-tinted and remotely beef bouillon-esque.  No little kid wants to eat that vs Chicken and Stars.  Grandma Heeley always had it, and it reminds me of days spent at her house after feeding the ducks at the park scraps of bread and trips to Kmart where I was given $10 and free-reign in the toy department.  Dessert would be cups of lime jello she made in anticipation of my visit with canned peaches in the bottom in her amazing cut-crystal champagne glasses.  The afternoons would be filled with playing cards with my grandpa, watching prime time shows he taped on the VCR that were on after he went to bed, eating roasted peanuts in the shell and clipping coupons.  Her grilled cheeses were more complex.  She always had bagels, and she would toast me one with Velveeta melted on both halves in her toaster oven.  The cheese would melt down into the hole of the bagel and get all crispy and brown.  It was delicious.  I still own that very same toaster oven to this day.  Whenever I make something in it I can’t help but think of how many times meals have been made in it, as well as how many treats I’ve eaten from it in my lifetime.  It is probably one of my most prized possessions.

 

                         There she is.  In all her glory.

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As an adult, I still keep plenty of cans of soup on hand.  Sometimes I buy the fancier kinds…but I always want to revert back to the Campbell’s I know and love.  These days it tends to be vegetable, minestrone, chicken alphabet (still), Old-Fashioned Vegetable if I can find it, and Chicken and Rice.  I know its garbage-food, but it’s just so comforting.  More so than anything else. That brings us to present day.  How did my most beloved food break my fucking ribs?

I work a lot.  I mentioned before that I consider myself a work-a-holic.  I’ve been this way since highschool.  Back then I was in school, took AP classes, was a member of 3 choirs, sang in a ska band, was a journalist for a local paper, authored a zine, photographed for a different local paper, as well as volunteered for endangered LGBTQ youths.  This behavior of having an over-full plate did not stop into my adult life.  I have to keep busy.  If I don’t, I fall into a deep depression.  I can’t just do nothing.  If I’m not filling my time with activities, I feel like its time wasted.  As I get older, I realize I can’t keep going like this.  I need to slow down and enjoy life.  This accident definitely made me see the insanity of my workload.   I have 3 bartending jobs, working 6 days a week total.  This leaves me very little time to do many things such as grocery shop, laundry, running errands…you know normal person shit.  I get very tired of eating the food at all three places that I work at.  Nothing against any of the menus, but you can only eat the same few things for so many years before you start to feel insane…and disgusted.  Not to mention, unhealthy.  Bar food isn’t necessarily there for nourishment.  It’s there to soak up the booze so you can get home or continue to drink.  Eating the food at my work lead me to gain 20 pounds over the last year.  Across the three menus of the 3 establishments I work at we offer nachos, quesadillas, pizza, burgers, and onion rings.  Fuck.  I now carry a can of soup in my purse at all times. it’s an option that’s always there.  No matter what, there’s soup.  Light, vegetables, satiating and most important…not work food.

Me, circa 1997.  Getting ready to go on-stage with my ska band.

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Like I’ve probably hammered home by now, I work a LOT.  This means I never see my friends.  The odds of their schedule just happening to line up with mine is impossible.  I felt like a hermit.  I decided to make plans for lunch with my friend Kyle on a Monday no matter what.  I hadn’t seen him since Christmas.  Unfortunately, Monday was met with a blizzard and an ice storm.  In fact, this is the coldest winter in Portland history since the 30’s.  Even that wouldn’t stop me.  Kyle and I live 4 blocks from each other.  No excuses.  We decided to meet somewhere on our street.  He picked the place.  I would need to walk 6 blocks.  I suited up and headed out.

This snow storm was bad for everyone.  The city didn’t know how to handle it.  Even though it seems to snow here once a year, every time its like the weather has never been seen before.  The city of Portland had to borrow 12 snow plows from seattle to combat the pile up on the roads.  Also, the sidewalks.  No one salts or shovels their walks here.  The salt is frowned upon as its viewed as an environmental hazard by Oregon’s overly- liberal populous.  The shoveling lack would be due to sheer laziness or, perhaps ignorance?  Either way, the sidewalks and roads became death traps as the Trimet derailed, buses slid into snow banks, dozens of car accidents occurred as well as people being so terrified of road conditions vehicles were abandoned on the side of the highway.   I’ve lived in Portland for some time now, so I’ve learned to adapt to best of my ability to the conditions.  Slips and falls are common no matter how careful you are. I was being very prudent as I toddled my way to meet Kyle for lunch.  I never took my eyes off the ground.  I was taking careful baby-steps and doing the recommended “penguin waddle”, and was avoiding the ominous-looking slick areas.  I was going at a snail’s pace.

This is a very familiar walk for me.  I’ve lived on Alberta street for over 3 years now.  I passed Petite Provance (who had a sidewalk line to get in, even in this weather), and began to pass in front of Trade Up Music.  This is where it happened.  There was a massive patch of glimmering sidewalk stretched out in front of the length of the building.  I took a chance and stepped on to it.  I immediately started to slip.  My feet slid back and forth underneath me and I couldn’t get control of them.  I continued to slide and slip of what felt like a very long time.  My feet skidding out from under me, every which way like a Looney Tunes character.  There was no where for me to go and nothing to hang on to.  I knew I was going to fall.

I have very severe Scoliosis.  I was diagnosed when I was 14 years old. They told me back then that I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 25 if I didn’t have a series of invasive back surgeries, including a metal rod fused to my spine.  They told me once it was done, I wouldn’t be able to curl my back anymore.    I would be in a permanent, upright position and would have to continue to have surgeries for the rest of my life.  Doesn’t that sound appealing?  Especially as a teenage girl?  At 16, I decided that wasn’t the life I wanted to have.  I made the decision to go as long as I could without any operations and hope technology would advance on this matter in the future to something more livable for the patient.  My parents supported my choice, although reluctantly.  My mom was very worried about what my future would look like but didn’t force me to go ahead with the procedures.  I believe I made the right choice.  I am not in a wheelchair, however I have to be extra careful of what I do if I want to preserve this back and live a normal life.  When I started to fall, instinct was to protect my delicate, curved spine.  I twisted, and fell on my left side.  My purse swung underneath me as I made impact, the entire contents of  it forced between my ribs and the concrete.  Those contents including one can of Campbell’s Chicken noodle soup.  Imagine the force of your body weight slamming a can of soup into your rib cage.  I felt it when it went in.  A white-hot sharp pain went through my chest and straight to my heart.   I was fucked.  There was no question in that moment that I had broken something.  I yelled out in pain, splayed out on the ice and couldn’t move.  Never in my life did I believe I could have a fall this devastating when alcohol was in no way involved.

I’m not sure how long I actually was lying there.  It felt like 10 minutes, but I’m sure it wasn’t.  No one came to help me up, and people heading to get brunch or fucking Salt & Straw stepped around me as I lay face down groaning.  I’m not sure why I was surprised.  When I finally did attempt to push myself up, my chest lit up with horrible pain and I fell down again.  I managed to roll over on my uninsured side and drag myself with my right arm across the ice until I got to the end of the patch to the actual street and pushed myself up.  Once I got upright, the pain wasn’t as bad.  I had hopes that it was just bruised badly.  Bruises suck, but t hey heal a hell of a lot faster than broken bones.  I met up with Kyle to get a stupid burger at goddammed Little Big Burger.

The burgers are whatever, but damn…those truffle fries.

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Sitting down was excruciating.  Breathing was excruciating .  Kyle making me laugh hurt so bad, I wanted to throw up.  Halfway through this meal I knew for sure that this was no bruise.  I was riding the glorious adrenaline wave your body provides you when you hurt yourself, but it was quickly wearing off.  This was serious.  Lucky for me, I had to be to work in 3 hours.  There was no time to get anyone to cover my shift at that point.  What’s worse, I worked the next 4 days across 3 different bars.  That’s what I mean about my workload being insane.  It’s already a crazy amount of work and a schedule no one in their right mind would want.  If I get sick, or in this instance break a fucking bone, getting emergency shifts off effects so many people and schedules it’s near impossible.  Not to mention, that ice storm that landed me here in the first place (pun intended).  People were struggling to get to work.  No public transit, no cabs, no Lyfts or Über, unsafe road conditions.  I had to just suck it up and go to work.

I did one full shift and one partial before I could take some medical leave.  All of my coworkers were really understanding and made sure I did as little lifting as possible those days I was there.  Those shifts were so hard.  Probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I made it, though.  The fucked up thing about breaking your ribs is there’s literally nothing they can really do for you.  All they can do is give you pain meds and tell you what you shouldn’t do.  That’s it.  They don’t even want you to wrap it, as it may heal incorrectly with compression.  All you can do is not overextend yourself and wait.  It will take about 3 months for it to fully heal, and that’s only if I manage to not further injure myself in the meantime.

This fall could have been way worse.  I shudder to think what would have happened if I fell on my back.  I’m grateful it wasn’t worse…but it still sucks. I’d like to say every day its feeling better, but as of now it still hurts just the same.  I wake up several times in the night in horrible, icky pain.  Laying down is surprisingly the worst, sitting is a close second.  Weirdly enough, standing is the most comfortable.  That made returning to work possible even though my movements have to be limited.  After my bed-rest I realized I have to give up one of these jobs.  No one should work 6 days a week, not have two days off in a row, and I’ve been doing it for nearly a year.  I’ve been missing out on life, experiences, people I love and hobbies I used to be passionate about.  At the end of the day I chose to miss out on some money and live a little of the life I have instead.

So what do I do with this can of soup?  Friends have suggested I eat that fucker and show it who’s boss around here.  In reality, that can of soup is who’s boss because that  shit didn’t even dent.  No, it dented me instead.  For now, It sits on a shelf on a makeshift shrine as a constant reminder of how fragile I really am and that I need to take care of myself already.  

The actual can.  On its very dusty shrine.  It is physically stronger than me.  Humbling.

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Epilogue

Four days after I broke the ribs, I woke up with a head-cold.  As if I thought it couldn’t get worse, it then did.  Sneezing and coughing with broken ribs is a hell I cannot describe.  My biggest fear was breaking them further every time I had to sneeze.  I normally don’t take a lot of medications, but in this scenario I drugged myself up on any over the counter thing I could find to stop the symptoms. This also lead me to discover a new, fresh hell:  Barfing with broken ribs.  Turns out, eating a ton of pills and then taking your shift drink at the end of the night will not go well.  I do not recommend.  I bought myself health insurance.  I’ll figure out how to pay for it somehow, even though I chose to leave a job.  I can’t do this shit anymore.  I’m too old to be gambling with no insurance.

In writing this blog, I wanted to include a picture of my grandmother’s toaster oven that I’ve been clinging to all these years.  It survived 5 moves across 2 states and still worked like a champ.  While looking for it, I learned that during my house’s kitchen remodel, it got mistaken for garbage and thrown away.  It’s not my roommates fault.  This toaster oven looked absolutely terrible.  I mean, the thing was around before I was born.  The inside was nearly black, the little swinging door was permanently smoked-over dark brown.  I don’t blame them at all for mistaking this as garbage.  I was working too much and didn’t get a chance to go through everything thoroughly before the purge and it got missed.  I became incredibly sad that I let this happen.  I felt devastated and began crying.  I have so few things left of any of my deceased relatives.   Sometimes I feel like my past and my memories of my childhood are slipping away as easy as it was for that toaster oven to get accidentally sent to the dump.  Through writing this piece, I found comfort.  I don’t need to have the physical toaster oven in my kitchen to remind myself of all the meals my grandma made for me in it.  I still remember her, the time we spent together and her essence as a person.  As the years pass, the details fade.  I still remember her.  

R.I.P. Toaster oven.  I will truly miss you.

The Curious Case of Bobby Buckets

14 Nov

Life’s reset button

I’ve always had a difficult time with change. Such a difficult time that even the smallest decisions like getting a haircut will send me into anxiety for weeks. Due to this unfortunate personality flaw, I’ll tend to maroon myself in things that probably needed to change a long time ago. This goes for jobs, relationships, habits, and so on. A little over six months ago, I had what I considered a comfortable life. I wasn’t happy, but I would do nothing to change any aspect of what surrounded me. I was going on the seventh year of a rocky relationship, entering the 18th year of a career that was completely unsatisfying, and living my 3rd year in an apartment that I hated with an inconvenient location. When I look back on it now, there were many simple things that I could have done to make things better for myself. I didn’t see any of it at the time. It wouldn’t matter, because in the span of one week every aspect of my life changed. Life pulled the fucking rug out from under me and I could no longer unhappily sleepwalk through my existance.

It was a chain reaction, beginning with my relationship being destroyed. It had come out that he had cheated, and he no longer wanted to be my partner. I was devastated. I didn’t want to believe that he had given up on us after so many years together. I spent a lot of time not accepting it, and thinking that he would change his mind. This was the worst thing I could have put myself through, and it nearly destroyed me. He was my whole world, and now it was gone. I couldn’t function on any level. I stopped eating and dropped down to 98 pounds. I didn’t sleep. All I could do was blame myself and wallow in my own self-loathing. This state I was in led to the next phase of my life falling apart.

During this horrific breakup, I was on year 3 of a very high-stress job. I had been recently promoted, and the expectations and responsibilities were extreme. When the break up happened, I let the higher-ups know that I was going through personal hardship and I would try my best to not let it affect my work performance. They were sympathetic for about a week. They wouldn’t allow me to take any vacation time or leave, as it was a peak time for us and the business simply couldn’t run in my absence. They began to lose patience with me after I waasn’t back to my old self quickly enough. My work quality was slipping and I was distracted. I didn’t look good due to the weight loss and lack of sleep, and my co-workers and the people who worked for me were visibly uncomfortable to be around me. I was making mistakes, and I knew that it would be only a matter of time that I would be terminated. I’ve never been fired from a job in my life. Work has always been the most important thing to me, and I have built an excellent resume and refrences. I did not want a black mark on my career. I made the choice to quit without anything else lined up. Something I have never done before in my life. Hands-down the riskiest move I’ve ever done. It was the only option at the time, and I knew it. When I took my store keys and handed them in, the fear of the unknown was overwhelming. Underneath that, complete relief. I realized at that moment how much I hated working there. Truly hated it, and it consumed 45-50 hours a week of my time. The thousands of things and the hoards of people I was responsible for suddenly werent my fucking problem any more. What a wonderful relief.

The scramble to find work was immediate. Because I electively chose to leave my job, I couldn’t draw unemployment. I got paid out my last checks with that fucking vacation time they wouldn’t let me take, so that bought me a little time. All this time, I was still living in our small apartment with my now x that already had a girlfriend. He wanted me out. I needed to start working again. Through mutual friends, I found out a guy I knew owned a coffee shop/bar and might be needing someone. At different points in my life, I had been a barista and bartended. After some networking, I was hired. I was officially unemployed for exactly 52 hours. I would be brought on part-time, and at minumum wage. Obviously, not enough to live on but it would be some income coming in until I found another job in my usual carreer. I thanked my friend for helping me out, and promised to be the best damned worker he’d ever had.

There I was, 35 years old. Single, working in a coffee shop, essentially homeless. Definitely not how I envisioned my life at that point. Some days, I felt like a fucking loser. Others I tried to tell myself that I should enjoy the liberation of having no adult responsibilities. One of my customers offered me a room to rent in his house. I moved in, and my x and I stopped living together. That was both necessary and sad. The final nail in the coffin of our relationship. Although I felt like a personal failure, I honestly liked the job. It had been so long since I had worked with zero responsiblilty I had fogotten what it was like. My mind was completely clear while I was there, and I actually smiled while working. Not that fake corporate smile you learn to plaster on your face from years of conditioning. I could wear beat up sneakers to work. That alone was a blessing. I was used to living in staunch corporate dress which included 9 hours in high heels. I liked the customers, and was happy to see them. Even more wonderful, they were happy to see me. In my last career, I was upper management so any person I had to deal with was usually very upset and I would need to find a way to appease them which at that point was near impossible. I could play whatever music I wanted, and put whatever I wanted on the television. It was like an adult fantasy camp. I knew it couldn’t last. I’d have to make some actual money in order to put an actual roof over my head. Thats when I started tracking what I made at the new gig. With my minimum wage and tips, I nearly made as much as I was making in my last career. After taxes, insurance, and other bullshit taken out of my checks…shit. It wasnt quite the same, but it was damn close. That’s when I had to come to terms with the fact that I had been slaving away for the last 18 years, getting my fucking ass handed to me, killing myself with stress and I never had to. I had convinced myself that I should stay with that career because I had built a certain resume that afforded me a decent salary and I would be crazy to leave and go with something else. Now I could work less hours, with no stress and make almost the same amount of money. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I was sick with the thought of devoting my late teens, twenties, and early thirties to a soul-crushing carreer for no fucking reason and with no yeild. Life’s reset button forced me into leaving a career I hated, and showed me there could be something else. Better late than never, I suppose.

The black cat cafe

The cafe itself is weird. It sits on the head of Alberta street, which is a “destination” area for tourists. It has a long history of being a shady place for neighborhood folks to buy and sell drugs and for underage kids to get drunk. By the time I was hired, the business had been bought out and was in the process of re-branding into something else. The building had been there for so long and had been such a notorious institution in the neighborhood, the change-over was difficult. Many of the old regulars stopped coming in as an act of protest. Those that still came in still called it by the old name of “The Black Cat” and refused to aknowledge that it has a new name and was under new ownership. My first weeks working there nearly every customer that came in would ask those same qusetions in hostile tones:

“This isn’t the Black Cat any more?”

“Why did it change?”

“It sucks here now. Why would I come here?”

“Do you guys still sell cigaretttes?”

The neighborhood was resistant to accept any change, and the purchasing of the Black Cat pissed a lot of folks off. I didn’t mind feilding the angry crust punks’ questions. Still better than any one person I had to deal with in my old carrer. I would still get the occasional shady dude who would breeze past me with a backpack on heading straight to the back patio just to dart out again once realizing that either his dealer or his clientele is no longer posted up there. Some of the old customers continued to come in. Despite the name change and the lack of cigarettes, the place was mostly the same. The food menu remained, the coffee got better, and we still served the cheapest booze and beer on the street. I started to get attatched to the place, and the regulars that frequent it. I would notice if I didn’t see someone come in for a few days, and worry about them. I became the only full time employee, and essentially the manager as there are just some things you cant turn off even if you want to.

 

The way it was

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Bobby Buckets

It was a slow afternoon. I was working the mid shift, and I hadn’t seen a customer in at least an hour. That was typical in those days. Back then all of our business would be in the morning, then stagnate in the afternoons. I would keep busy. There was always something to clean or organize. Shit, just getting to pick my own music to listen to while I was working was still such a treat for me I could care less how slow the time was going. My shifts were 5 hours long. I was used to working 9-12. Total fantasy camp. My friend Kyle came in to hang out and chat with me. He did that often, as he lived 3 or 4 blocks up from the cafe and was always a welcome distration for me on those slow afternoons. He and I were alone in the cafe for about an hour before the next customers walked in.

A woman in her 40’s came to the counter accompanied by a guy that looked like he was in his early 20’s. They both ordered screwdrivers. I asked to see the guy’s id. He scoffed at me and started copping an attitude. He let me know that he used to work here, and the fact that I didn’t know that is rediculous. I told him that I’d never seen him before, therefore I would need to check his id. He finally gave it to me. I poured their drinks. He asked me those usual “why isn’t this the Black Cat any more” questions. I patiently answered them. I also patiently listened to how much he hated that it’s under new ownership and how badass the place used to be when he worked there. Former employees were always the worst to deal with by far. They have a weird sense of entitlement over the place, like they own it in some sense and almost always cause large amounts of problems when they decide to visit. The woman that was with him quietly hung back as he was going off on his tngent, smiling at me apologetically. She eventually cut him off and urged him on to the back patio.

By that time a few more customers had trickled in. All were regulars that I recognized, there to get a few cheap tall cans after clocking off from work. Kyle was still there hanging out. I had about 2 hours left in my shift. The uppity kid from the patio came in and ordered another round for himself and his companion. He asked me to make them “extra strong” and he’d “tip me well” wink wink nudge nudge. I told him I pour all drinks the same. He got pissy and said that he would tip me double. I again told him that I pour all drinks the exact same. He again expresed that he wanted his drink to taste “strong”. I said I could put in less orange juice, if thats what he wanted. He agreed. I poured the drinks and he went outside.

After about a half hour, the woman and the kid appeared at the counter, half-drunk drinks in hand. She starts chatting with me about the music I have playing. She is tall and blonde, in a fashionable coat and beyond pleasant. I can’t help but wonder what her relationship is to the much younger, and much shittier kid she’s hanging out with. She asks me if I wouldn’t mind putting a song on that she’s really been wanting to hear. Normally I wouldnt do something like that, but the cafe was slow and I couldnt’ think of any good reason to tell her no. I found the song and played it. It was some blues song from the 60’s. She sat and sang along, eyes closed and swaying to the beat. The kid and Kyle began chatting. We discovered that his name was Bobby, he had just moved back to portland after a brief stint in New York, and he was a homosexual. These were the three things he kept telling kyle over and over. It was also clear he was drunk. Way drunker than a cocktail and a half should make a person. Kyle has a way of engaging people, and kept trying to entice a conversation out of Bobby. He was stuck on that skipping record of the drunk where they just keep repating the same things over and over with more and more urgent tones. The blonde’s song ended. I put my playlist back on. They finished their drinks.

The blonde lady began to put her coat back on and was gesturing for boby to leave with her. He started to get up out of his bar seat and then snapped to attention. “I want to hear a song now. She got to hear one, now I want one.” I asked him what he’d like to hear. He took a long time deciding, and I just wanted him to leave. He was drunk, and getting louder and more difficult. He finally blurted out a song. I bent over the house ipad, busyng myself with try to find this song and artist I’ve never heard of on yotube. As I was still searching, I heard a loud crash. I turn around and see Bobby standing up on top of the bar, staring right at me. He had chucked his empty cocktail glass at the wall of liquor bottles. Thankfully, nothing broke. Not even the empty bucket glass now spinning on the ground.

Get off the counter.

The blonde and Kyle both stared at Bobby, frozen with mouths hanging open.  He jumped down behind the bar with me.  He swayed back and forth, looking dead in my eyes.

I used to work here.  I’m from New York.

I told him to get out from behind the counter.  The blonde grabbed his arm and yanked him hard out from around the counter.  She said “Bobby, I thought we were going to have a nice day together but I guess we aren’t now.  That’s a shame because I was having a really nice time with these nice folks.  Now we have to go because you did a bad thing.  you understand?’

Bobby looked at his feet in a moment of shame.  Again she told him that they had to go.  She apologized to me, and said they would be leaving.  She pulled on his arm and he went completely rag doll-limp and fell to the ground.  He remained lying on the floor of the cafe, spread out like a gingerbread man and refusing to get up.  He then emitted a loud scream, mouth hanging wide open with eyes staring straight up at the ceiling.  The customers in the cafe looked on.  I told the blonde that he had to go or I’d call the police.  She got him up off the floor.  I let him know he was 86’d, and no longer allowed in this establishment. At this point he appeared to suddenly have a very difficult time walking.  She had to help him to the door and they both exited and lumbered on down Alberta, arm-in-arm.

Kyle and I both looked at each other in a general “what the fuck was that” kind of moment.  The regulars talked amongst themselves and discussed what the hell must have been wrong with that guy.  I had only seved him two drinks.  Why was he so fucked up?  I could only guess one of three scenarios:  a)  He was really drunk when he got there and I didn’t notice b)  He drank his friend’s drinks as well as his when I wasn’t looking c)  He was on drugs.  Pobabaly all three.

Bout ten minutes later, he was back.  He appeared in the doorway, without his friend and swaing back and forth with that drunk-eyed expression.  I want my bag.

His friend had clearly ditched him.  I did not blame her.  He was back, looking for some mysterious bag he supposedly had when he came in there that contained his cell phone.  I did not remember him having a bag when he came in.  I helped him look all over the cafe and the patio.  He was unable to describe to me what this bag looked like, so I had no idea what he was looking for.  There was no abandoned bag.  He roamed around in circles and then gradually wandered out.

Ten minutes later, he was back. Bitch, stop hiding my bag. I’m from New York.
You’re going to have to leave. Your bag isn’t here. I didn’t even see you come in with one. You have to leave. If you come in again, I will call the police. Got it?
I used to work here. I’m from New York. Fuck you.

Get. Out.

He swayed defiantly, looking at me for more than a few minutes. A few of the regulars got up out of their seats to back me up, in case this dude was going to try anything. He eventually turned around and left.

Thirty minutes later, I was told by a customer coming in the cafe that Bobby Buckets was sleeping on the sidewalk outside of the cafe. And by sleeping, they meant passed the fuck out. Customers continued to come in, and I worked in the cafe alone leaving me unable to go and access the situation outside. Kyle went out to check it out for me. Sure enough, there he was right outside the building. He was passed out, face up and right on the sidewalk. He looked like he literally fell backwards onto the pavement, and it was under no mistake that he was fucked up.

Oregon has really strict laws when it comes to booze. Much different than when I poured liquor in California. For starts, anyone serving alcohol has to take an educational course and hold a permit and register with the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission). This education course includes everything from the legalities in which a bartender or establishment can be held to, how to identify and handle a visibly intoxicated person, how to check and identify fake ID cards, to the rules and regulations of personal conduct while serving alcohol to customers. The course is followed by a test, and you must pass with a certain percentage to get a license. You may not work as a bartender without one. When I started pouring booze in this state, I was told by friends that the OLCC does not fuck around. If they catch you violating any policy whatsoever, they could not only take your permit but will personally fine you. That means not only will you need to find another career, you’d better find one quick because now you’re heading towards bankruptcy. I was new to dealing with the OLCC, and was mindful of the horror stories that people had told me. This made me very concerned that I had a guy passed out in the front of the bar I was working at. This also made me afraid to call the cops. What if they took my license for over-serving? This was my only means for the moment. If they took my license, I could never do this type of work again and I had just started in this town. Now I know that I had nothing to be afraid of. I should have called the cops immediately. I didn’t know that then. This fear of the OLCC is the reason why everything happened the way it did. I asked Kyle to try and get him up off the ground and away from the building. I continued to help customers.

After a long while, Kyle returned. He said that he was able to wake him up and offered him a ride home to his house, wherever it was. He said he refused, and ended up running off down the street. Good. Gone.

Business continued on. A regular came in and told me that there was a guy on the side of the building who had ripped a tree branch down and was hitting cars with it.
No.

Kyle and 3 regulars went out to look as I helplessly stood behind the counter serving the line of waiting customers. What the fuck was going on outside? Literally nothing I could do. I sweated nervously, waiting for Kyle to come back in and tell me what was going on. Eventually, the group came back in. I was told the following happened:

He ripped our drainage pipe off the side of the building and was stabbing parked cars with it like a medieval jouster

He pulled an 8ft long tree branch down, leaves and all and was wielding it over his head like a fucked up flag as he was marching in the street screaming “bitch has my bag” and occasionally bringing it down on car hoods.

Laying down in the street, arms and legs spread akimbo while emitting various squeals and guttural noises.

Kyle and the regulars explained to me that several times they explained to him that if he just left this area and went somewhere else, there would be no trouble and everything would be fine. He refused. He had waged war upon me and the surrounding area, as I had stolen his bag. The gang assured him that I, in fact, did not have said bag and he needed to just go away. At one point, the argument between my regular (I’ll call “Eric”) became heated and Bobby spit in his face. Eric clocked him, and amazingly Bobby did not go down. After that, they came in to report what had happened. Bobby remained outside, dragging the branch through the street.

This is when the cops definitely should have been called. They should have been called the minute this fool took a booze-snooze on the concrete mattress. I know that now. Back then, I didn’t know that the cops side with the drinking establishments in situations such as these. I also worked for a privately-owned business. One of which where I personally knew the owners, and who were friends of mine. I didn’t want to bring any unnecessary problems, fines, or black marks onto their establishment. What if I got their liquor license taken away? What then? I also don’t trust cops in general, and prefer not to deal with them at all costs. Growing up in Fresno you learn that cops are not your friends, they don’t take your side, and dealing with them will almost always cost you a lot of money and even sometimes your freedom. I continued to try to control the situation. If this dude would just fucking leave, there would be no problem.

Customers came in. I had to serve them. Kyle went to see what was going on now. Bobby had abandoned the branch in the middle of the road, and snapped the windshield wipers off 3 of the parked cars and was throwing them like footballs at the side of the building. I dropped what I was doing and went outside.

I was fucking pissed. I ran up to him and started yelling.

What the fuck are you doing?

Give. Me. My. Bag.

You think if I had your bag, I wouldn’t just fucking give it to you so you’d leave? I don’t have it. It’s not here. You left it somewhere else. You need to leave. I’m going to call the cops. You will be arrested. You don’t want to go to jail. All you have to do is leave.

I’m not leaving without my bag.

What’s in this bag that’s worth more than going to jail?

My phone.

Buy a new one. You’ve vandalized property. At this point, a phone will cost far less than what you’ll be facing. Just leave. Do it. I’m giving you a chance of a lifetime.

By this point the cafe regulars had come to join me outside. They told him to go as well. He still stood there, defiant. He started arguing Eric again. It looked like it was going to turn into a brawl.

What happened next occurred so quickly, it’s almost hard to describe. Bobby ran from the side of the building to the front, which is on a very busy street lined with popular shops and restaurants. We have a very heavy, blackboard sandwich sign that sits on the sidewalk. Somehow, this scrawny kid picked it up and flung it in a huge arc right into the street. A speeding sedan plied the brakes, laying smoking rubber to a keep it from coming down on their hood and windshield. The car behind it had to swerve into the oncoming lane to avoid the suddenly stopped car. Miraculously, no one was hurt. Everyone stood, stunned. I needed to get to a phone and call the cops. I drug the sign out of the road so the cars would stop piling up. I ran inside to get my cell phone. We had a house phone, but it was an ancient piece of shit that barely worked and you couldn’t hear much more than static out of. Plus, my phone was closer. I ran around the bar and snatched it up.

Incredulously, two customers were queued up at the register waiting to be served. As I ran behind the bar, they tried to shout their order at me. I ignored them, and ran outside. One of my regulars was already on his cell with the cops. I called one of my owners. Bobby was screaming and yelling, flailing his arms and legs around like he was having a mental break in front of the store. My owner picked up. I shouted into the phone as best I could over the phone what was happening over the chaos. He said he was coming.

Bobby stopped flailing and suddenly darted in full sprint into the store. I pushed everyone out of the way and followed him in. He’d sprinted to the back patio. I grabbed the first weapon-like object I could find: a broom. I chased him in a circle off the patio and back into the store. He suddenly stopped dead in his tracks and faced me. Eric was next to me.

I don’t like you. You are mean, and you wear way too much makeup.

He reached over and grabbed a bottle of French’s yellow mustard from the nearby counter. I knew what was going to happen. I yelled no and threw my hand up in defense. Eric did not foresee, unfortunately. Bobby began squirting the mustard. First, all over Eric. In his face, his hair. Eric fell away, trying to wipe mustard out of his eyes. Bobby then began squirting the windows, the walls, the floor…. I ran at him to get it away from him. He emptied the rest of the bottle down onto my face and hair, then chucked the it down as hard and fast as he could onto my cheekbone and nose. My eyes instantly watered up and I couldn’t see. I staggered, trying to recover. By the time I could see again, the cops were there and arresting him. I wiped off my face with a bar towel and went outside.

The minute the cops touched him, bobby began to scream and wail at the top of his lungs. He didn’t stop. To say it was a spectacle would be an understatement. By this time, everyone from those stores and restaurants had come out and were lining the street to watch the show. Two cops and an OLCC representative wanted to interview me. I was completely freaked out. They asked me what happened. I told them everything from the moment he first walked in. They asked me several times how many drinks I served him. I told them, and also mentioned that he had paid with a debit card, and could show them the receipt as proof that he was only served two drinks. They asked to see it as well as my ID and liquor license. I took them inside and provided it for them. They looked at those as well as the mustard mess all over the inside of the building. My hair was matted against the side of my cheek, coated and reeking of mustard. I wanted to puke. Bobby was still screaming outside, bent over the cop car hood with his hands handcuffed behind his back. They took my information and thanked me for calling them. That was it.

I stood outside and watched as bobby decided to put a nail in his coffin by suddenly spazzing out and resisting arrest as the cops tried to guide him into the cop car. The largest, most terrifying wall of a man eased himself out of one of the back up cars and slowly walked over to Bobby that was flailing like a fish. With one beefy arm, he drug bobby up like a rag doll and popped him in the car. Bobby fell in silent amazement as the car door slammed. He began beating his head on the window in a rhythmic pattern. His current charges now included vandalism, assault (because of the spitting), public intoxication, trespassing (as I was later to find out, he had along ago been 86’d from this establishment) as well as resisting arrest. All he had to do was walk away. Hell, Kyle even offered to give him a ride home.   You want to feel sorry for someone like that.  Someone with a clear problem with either substace abuse, mental illnss or perhaps both.  You want to, but you just cant.  I had given him so many chances to avoid this outcome. The cops drove off. The owner showed up as I was mopping the mustard off of the windows. Eric was in the bathroom rinsing his hair and beard in the sink. I started to try and tell him what happened.

After

It turns out bobby is a notorious character in these parts, and had been 86’d at most establishments for similar erratic behavior. Apparently, he’s a deeply disturbed individual with a drug habit. That may be why he was so reluctant to take off without his bag that day. I also found out his nickname: Bobby Buckets. That wasn’t his real name, but what everyone called him. Not sure why. No one could say. At the Black Cat alone, he was 86’d previously for spazzing out, becoming violent, stealing, etc. Also, bizarre behavior such as pulling the bus tub down off of the counter and squatting in it while meowing like a cat. I felt like such a jackass for not just calling the cops when shit started to go south that day. Valuable lesson learned.

The cops and the OLCC came by two more times to interview me after the incident. They informed me that all charges were going to be pressed that were up against him. All of the people who’s wipers got snapped off of their cars were suing for property damage. My owner chose not to press any charges, as well as myself. Eric declined to press assault charges, as he had pending warrants and didn’t want anything to do with talking to the cops. Kyle and I were both subpoenaed to testify in court.

No one took a video of anything that happened. It all happened so fast and everything was so dramatic, I suppose no one thought to. I know I didn’t. No record of anything that happened….save one pic. Kyle got one glorious pic of bobby passed out on the sidewalk. The day after it all happened, he posted this to my Facebook wall:

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That night, I took the picture he sent me and decided to memorialize bobby in the proper way. I give you the Black Cat employee of the month:

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Bagby Hot Springs

1 Dec

There are many stark contrasts between living in Portland vs living in Fresno.  That, in and of itself could be its own essay. For this story, I’ll focus on just one of these differences.  Portland is surrounded by beautiful nature, and for the most part those that live here make efforts to get out and enjoy it.  Especially true in the summer months.  After being here for over 3 years now, I have discovered that the very best thing you can possibly do with a summer day is organize a group of friends and head to the river.  Any of them.  Friends and acquaintances are eager to join in, especially if you have a car to get there.  When I lived in Fresno, I rarely heard of friends heading out to do outdoorsy things.  The summers were unbearably hot, spring lasted about 5 days, and everyone hibernated for the winter.  Summer days in Fresno were best spent driving the two + hours to the gorgeous California coast.  If not that, then you could drag yourself to the mall or the movie theatre and enjoy some free air conditioning.  After moving to Portland, I slowly adjusted to the idea of nature activities.  Friends did them rain, shine, summer or dead of winter.  Certain activities are on a “must do ” list if you live here, such as Multnomah Falls, The Gorge, a summer day spent at the Bluffs, floating down the Sandy river, etc.  I’ve been slowly checking these off my bucket list as time allows.  Each one of these attractions have lived up to the hype and have been beautiful and memorable.  This story is about the one thing that everyone said I must do, that turned out to be the most bizarre and uncomfortable experiences of my life.  How can nature possibly be uncomfortable?  Read on.

Most of my friends who live here have mentioned going to the hot springs.  It was apparently a quick day trip from Portland, and was a relaxing and rejuvenating thing to do with friends.  I had never been to a natural hot springs before. I’ve never seen one, much less heard of anyone who went to one regularly.  It sounded really nice.  It also sounded like getting to Bagby Hot springs was relatively easy and not too far away.  One night I was out with a group of friends at a bar, having a few cocktails.  It was about last call, and a friend and his boyfriend left to go to the hot springs at 2 am to round out their night.  Especially in the light of that I figured it was probably right off the freeway and very easily accessible.  Even though a lot of my friends have been/go frequently no one really had anything to say about it except to try not to at night because the scene gets a little “nude” after dark.  I also heard that the water is piped into tubs for bathing, rather than it just being an open body of water.  I didn’t really know what that meant, but whatever.  still sounded interesting.

Ross and I had the day off, which was rare.  It was a surprisingly sunny November Sunday.  One in which a coat isn’t necessary.  That alone is a miracle.  We took our time around the house, went to brunch on a Groupon, then decided to finally do Bagby.  It was a gorgeous day, probably the last one we’d see in at least 6 months.   The weather was that magical mix of not too cold, yet crisp enough that a hot spring would be perfect.  Well, from what I could guess.  I didn’t really know how warm the spring would actually be.  They call it a hot spring, not a warm spring so I guessed it would be warm enough to hang out in.  We brought Ham, not really putting in any thought about weather or not dogs were necessarily “allowed”.  Considering the warnings of what goes on there after dark, I assumed it was an unmonitored area and bringing a dog would be completely okay.  Leaving her at home on a day such as this while we were embarking on outdoors activities seemed like dog abuse anyway.

I hate the tradition of “Portland brunch”, but I like the liquid part
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The directions to Bagby are vague.  This is pulled from the official website:

Bagby Hot Springs is located about 45 minutes South East of Estacada, Oregon. After the beautiful drive up the Clackamas River Basin on Hwy 224, you turn South and follow the Collawash River. There is a parking lot and campground located at the trailhead bearing the name “Bagby Trailhead”. The campground is to the left when entering the parking lot and is commonly known as “Nohorn Campground”. The only services at the trailhead are two outhouses.
“Follow the river”.  It doesn’t say for how long.  In fact, it makes it seem like its right off the 224.  Sounds simple enough.  We left Portland at about 2:30pm.  We hit Estacada at about 3:30.  If the town Estacada sounds familiar to you, its because I have a previous post from this town called “The greatest bar EVER”.  Sadly, the Safari Club has since shut its doors.    We drove by its former shell and looked at its current state.  Across the road there was a second-hand store that was open.  Since the sun was still championing on and not a cloud in site, we reasoned we had time to stop in.  30 minutes of picking though the owner’s impressive and bizarre collection of crap and were back on the road, turning South to follow the river.

This is the picture of the hot springs taken from the website. Looks magical.
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Had we known, we would have surely purchased a map.  A good, old fashioned, GPS doesn’t disappear, paper map made by Cartologists.  I had brought up directions on my phone, and “following the river” was for miles.  Miles upon miles.  There were also turns.  Ones definitely NOT mentioned on the website.  As we travelled along the river, I lost phone service.  I had the route plotted on the virtual map on my screen, but lost the dot to know where we were, precisely.  Also, I couldn’t zoom in to see details or markers.  When I did, the phone glitched.  We just kept driving, all the while feeling like we’d passed it.  How much farther?  When do we start looking for these turns?  Before I had a smart phone, I would always use paper maps, and I had this overwhelming sense of their timeless value at that moment.  After a few wrong turns, guessing where to go based on where other cars were going, and dumb luck we eventually approached a 8×10 wooden sign pointing to the parking lot of the camp.

Ham was absolutely dying to get out of that car.  The sun was setting.  There were a lot of other cars there, as well as a hand full of people getting out of their cars at the same time.  It was oddly comforting to see that this many other people found it completely reasonable to go to the hot springs at 5 pm on a Sunday.  With the sun slipping down, however I couldn’t help but look around at these people and wonder if in a few short minutes I’d be forced to see them naked.  We got out our supply bag that consisted of bathing suits, towels, bottled water, wine (important), and poop bags (dog, not human-related).  We did not have a flashlight.  In our defense, we thought this would be day trip.

From the parking lot to the campsite is about a 2 mile hike.  I know this now.  At the time. I had no idea.  No one mentioned the hike.  As we walked down the trail the sun slipped further and further down behind the tree line of the forest.  It was getting dark.  There was no getting around it.  There was no turning round at this point.  We had come so far.  We travelled on, Ham leading us with no flashlight.  Two miles isn’t really that far.  I’ve easily walked that running errands around town in no time.  There’s a sort of illusion in regards to time.  The way to something always seems longer than the way back.  This is especially true if you have no idea when or where your end point is.  It could be in 2 yards, or two more miles.  There were no markers or indications.  Occasional groups of people passed by going the opposite direction.  Everything about this seemed so strange and completely out of my character.  One of those situations where you are fully aware that this is a bad idea, but things are already too far set in motion.  The sun finally set, and we were in darkness.  Thankfully, Ross had previously put a flashlight App on his phone. Mine was useless.  The faint glow of the iphone screen did nothing.     We used the app for the last leg of our hike.  The scope of the light coming from the phone yeilded a small spotlight to guide us.  I tripped and stumbled along on the uneven ground.  We passed two guys going the opposite way, and out of desperation I asked them how much farther.  They said it was right over this hill.  Thank fucking god.

The campsite had an official park sign, and a low wood fence lining it.  There were no lights provided.  Not only that, after shining our tiny pin light around the area it was evident that no one else had any light source either.  Not one person.  No flashlight, no lantern, not shit.  we entered though the opening in the fence, and walked toward the lone structure standing in the darkness.  As we approached, I was taken aback with how many people were here.  There were 50, if not more.  Again, Not one of them with a light, all of them wandering around in complete darkness in the middle of a dense forest.

My eyes might as well had been closed for this entire experience.  That’s exactly how much visibility I had.  Ross led the way with the phone light, I stumbled and tripped along behind him, holding on to the back of his sweatshirt in one hand and Ham’s leash in the other.  For how many fucking people there were, it was oddly quiet.  People were murmuring in hushed tones, or passing by us in complete silence.  We reached the main destination, which was 3 wooden steps that I nearly face-planted on leading up to a wooden shack.  There were people milling all about, and it was very confusing to make out what the hell was going on.  The shack had multiple doors that lead to individual rooms.  On the porch was a picnic table, with people sitting on it.  As we approached the first door, five people were leaving the room and told us we could have it because it was too small for them.  We had no idea what they meant, but we took the room.

The 12 x12 room was made entirely of wood, and was completely wet on all four walls and floor.  There was a long tub carved out of a tree trunk lining the wall, a narrow bench coming out of the opposite to sit on.  The door to the room was a swinging wooden one, saloon style.  The roof was open to the night sky.  We stood in the middle of this room, wondering what the hell we were supposed to do next.  The tub was empty.  There was a spout coming out of the wall made of bamboo aimed into the tub.  A small trickle of hot water was dribbling out.   We shined the light into the tub, and saw that someone had shoved a pink and black striped sock with a knot tied in the middle into a hole in the bottom that served as a drain.  We stood there, looking at this with question marks over our heads for a good 5 minutes trying to piece together what to do.  Surely we aren’t to wait for the tub to fill up from this trickle.  It would take all night at that rate, if not longer.  People kept opening our swinging door to see if our room was occupied.  it became clear that we lucked out on getting this room.  All those people sitting on that picnic bench were actually in line waiting for rooms, and we essentially cut without knowing.  Ross told me to stay with the room.  He was going to take the light and see what other people were doing as far as getting water into their tubs.

The room, in all its glory.
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The pipe system leading into the tub.
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I stood in darkness in the center of this room.  Ham was in complete distress.  Before too long, I realized that she felt wetness, saw a giant tub, and thought she was going to get a bath.  Ham hates baths.  She won’t enter the bathroom at home unless carried in.  She could not be calm, and kept trying to run under the gap of the swinging door.  I couldn’t see anything, now that the light was gone.  I kept feeling Ham pulling at the leash and her nails scraping against the wood.  It was cold.  Fuck that.  It was Oregon, in the winter, high altitude cold.  Ross came back to the room.  He said people were hauling water to their tubs with buckets, but the water source he saw everyone going to was ice cold.  We stood in silence for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do.  Ice cold water?  Fuck that bullshit.  I was cold, uncomfortable, and tired.  I was ready to just say fuck it and go home.  Ham was still in a frenzy, and could not be consoled.

A man swung open our door.  He asked if he could come in and show his daughter what our room looked like.  Without our consent, he came right on in, holding the hand of a terrified-looking teenage girl.  They stood in the center of our room in silence for a good 5 minutes.  They eventually left, still holding hands.  Right after them, another man came in asking us if we were getting any water in our tub.  We said that we weren’t and with the aid of our light, he set in to investigate.  At first I though maybe he was park maintenance, but soon I deduced that he was just a regular.  The guy determined that there was a clog in the piping system.  The way its supposed to work, is water flows freely into the tubs.  We came on an unlucky day where shit wasn’t working.  He said the other side of the shack was getting water, but not this one.  The regular left our room and went about investigating the plumbing system.  A group of kids threw open our door and asked if we were sticking around.  This shit was surreal.

The door.
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Two buckets were sitting outside our swinging door.  I touched one of them and felt that the plastic was warm.  They are getting hot water from somewhere.  I had ross feel it.  He left me in the room to go try and discover where we could get the hot water from.  I sat in the darkness again.  The ledge to sit on protruded from the wall about 4 inches.  I balanced one butt cheek on it and crouched on the wet wood.  Over the wall in one of the other mysterious cabins came the sounds of a man having sex.  Long, guttural moans with the occasional  oh yeah wafted into my room.  There was no sounds of any partner, so I’m only to assume he was enjoying himself solo.  Ham continued to try and run out of the room.

Ross returned with two buckets full of piping hot water.  After traipsing in the dark and getting lost, he found an open hot spring near the shack that people were dipping their buckets into and filling from.  He decided he was going to do this.  Carrying two 10 gallon buckets in either hand full of water up a hill is hard-ass labor.  He would have to do all the work, as I have scoliosis and have a difficult time carrying a sack of potatoes these days.  He was on a mission, however.  We came all this way.  I sat with the light on his phone in the room and waited.   I could finally have a look around.  There was graffiti on every inch of the walls.  That, combined with the cold and the wet made me feel like I was in a serial killer’s tool shed, awaiting my slaughter.  The sex man was crescendoing.  I decided to put on some music from the phone.

The walls, from what I could see.
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This is fun.
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With the light and music on in our room, people stopped coming in.  Ham was shivering and terrified.  I pulled out one of the towels we brought and wadded it up for her to lay on.  she ran to it gratefully and finally settled down a tiny bit.  Ross was making trip after trip with buckets of water, but the tub was slow to fill.  I shivered.  I pulled out the bottle of wine I brought and started chugging to keep warm.  Elliot Smith came on the playlist and I could hear someone a couple of rooms over singing along.  Between trips, Ross said there was a woman in her late 50’s walking around outside completely nude and smoking a joint.  I peeked out my door and indeed saw a nude figure wandering around, talking to strangers passing by.  It was 27 degrees.  Ross kept referring to her as “The shining” lady.  I asked if it was the lady coming out of the bathtub before or after Jack Nicholson  makes out with her.  He said “What do you think?”  After nearly an hour, the tub was a little over half full.  He was tired.  I said lets just get in.

dog abuse.
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We had brought our suits.  The thought of hauling freezing, wet garments with us for the two miles back to the car seemed unbearable.  we decided to just get in naked.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever experienced “nude in the Oregon forest” cold before.  Ham’s towel she was laying on had soaked though from the moisture on the ground.  I wadded up my coat for her and she happily settled in on that.  I felt so bad for bringing her.

I got in the tub.  It was warm enough.  Almost too warm.  Its amazing how hot the water was.  We now realized why there was cold AND hot water.  You’re supposed to mix it.  Ross got dressed again and decided to go get more water to fill the tub.  I sat there, naked and pretty fucking vulnerable.  Anyone could push the door open.  Not that nudity here seemed to be a huge concern.  I’ve never been one of those “proud of my body” people.  I drew my knees up to my chest, watched the door, and chugged the wine.  There were little kids running around, families, naked women, sex dudes, and lord knows what else here all mixing it up with each other.  What kind of fucking place is this?  What if some fucking wierdo comes in this room right now and refuses to leave?  What if another creepy daddy/daughter duo wants to “tour my room”?  There is no reason in the world I should be involved in a scenario such as this.  I am not this person.  After 30 more minutes of filling and the door swinging open and shut the tub was a little more full and Ross finally got in.

I’m just going to say this and get it out of the way.  There was nothing sexy, romantic or comfortable about this experience.  This is not a sexy time, in any stretch of the imagination.  Thank goodness I was here with someone I have been with for years.  I would be absolutely mortified if I had come here on a date with someone.  In fact, I think if I had had this experience with someone I had even been dating as long as a year it would mark the end of the relationship.  The tub was narrow and long.  Long enough that we were able to lay in it on opposite ends and our feet didn’t touch.  The inside of the tub was rough and twigs and branches snarled out of the bottom surface making for a rather uncomfortable seat.  I also had the pleasure of the stranger’s sock smashed into my right butt cheek.  Lord knows where that sock has been, how long its been here or what organisms are growing within it.  Best not to think about it.  The water was NOT rejuvenating.  It stank of sulfur, and had a murky quality to it that left a film on your skin and stung in any cuts you may have.  I was afraid to rub my face with my wet hands.  Frankly, I was concerned about my various orifices being submerged in this liquid.  We tried to lay back and enjoy the night sky overhead.  My legs began to itch. The water was filled with unknown “floaties” that I couldn’t see but could feel. Something squishy passed through my fingers.  We looked at each other, and without so much as a word got out of the tub after a maximum of 5 minutes of soaking.

A picture to commemorate the first and very LAST time I will be nude in public.

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There are few things as cold as ” step out of the piping hot tub into 20-something degree weather wet and naked” cold.  We only had one dry towel now, so we had to share it.  I don’t think I’ve ever dressed that fast in my life.  My coat was completely soaked from being on the ground, but It was worth it for Ham to be comfortable.  I put that on, gathered our things and we left our room.  A couple was standing outside our door.  We told them they could have it, and the water was just put in.  Fucking gross, dude.  Communal stank water that people may or may not have just fucked in.   As we left, the crowd of people hanging out there seemed to double.  How and why?   And still not one person had a proper light.  We escaped this weird scene and began the long hike back to the car.

After about halfway into the walk back, the inevitable happened:  Ross’ phone died.  The light app as wellthe music playing to muffle out our neighbor’s sex-sounds really drained the battery.  We stood in complete darkness.  To the right was the sound of the river, above that we knew there was a cliff and a drop off down to it.  The trail was marked with an edging of rocks and sticks.  I’ve heard dogs can see in the dark…  our choices were a) allow ham to lead us in pitch blackness with the possibility of us wandering the wrong way off a cliff (not to mention tripping and falling) or b) crawling on our hands and knees for the next mile, using the rock and sticks on the edge of the trail as our guide.  We stood in silence.  I stooped down to test the crawling theory.  The sound of the river below was so loud at that moment, and all I could think of was tumbling down it to my death.  This is how we fucking die.  This is no fucking joke and we are fucked.

Moments before disaster struck.
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Before we could even speak to each other and begin to formulate our next move, off in the distance a blue LCD  light was bobbing in the trees.   It approached, and with it a group of 10 or so people quickly walking single-file down the trail in the direction of the parking lot.  Can we walk with you?   Our light died.  We followed this group that marched in silence.  We are so god dammed lucky.  As we neared the parking lot, we discovered that our entire group was made up of people who didn’t bring a flashlight/light source died that the leader with the LCD light had picked up along the trail.  That guy must have thought we were all a bunch of fucking idiots. We WERE a bunch of fucking idiots.  Who heads in to the deep woods after dark without a fucking light source?  Apparently everyone.

We got back to Portland at near 10pm.  Starving, stinky, cold, wet.  I’ve relayed this story to a few friends, and they are completely shocked by my experience..  Not one person had a negative story to share with me and all described everything as nothing short as “magical”.  For me, Bagby was about as magical as squatting nude in a trench in winter, while being forced to be intimate with strangers.  It will take a lot of convincing to give this another try. It was like everything I hate converged in one experience: Hippies, naked people, strangers having sex, dirt, cold, and blindness. I’m not sure who this experience if for, actually. Apparently the 50+ folks waiting in the freezing cold and darkness at all hours. I failed in getting a picture of The Shining lady for you guys. Apologies.

Y’all want to smoke a doobie?
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FEAR.

23 Jul

Most people out there don’t ever have to face or confront what real fear is.  I would say the average person deals with feelings of discomfort or mild panic, at most.  I was one of those people. That is, up until 5 years ago.  Five years ago, everything changed and my brain allowed me a glimpse in to what real fear is and can truly be like. In case you haven’t read any of my other posts, I’ll briefly explain that I lost my mother, and then in turn my father under unexpected and sad circumstances.  When I lost dad, it was a particularly tragic event, as he was the last member of my living family.  This left me completely on my own and I was still in my 20’s.  These events changed my life forever.  After dad died, life was just too complicated for me to handle any more.  I knew I needed to get my ass to therapy, quickly. I chose a woman out of a directory and took the first appointment I could get as soon as the funeral had been arranged and the other details were settled.  I had never really been to therapy before, I didn’t know what to expect.  All I knew is that I was going to be completely honest with her, and not shield or misrepresent anything I said in any way.  I sincerely wanted help, and I knew the only way to get it was to be a complete open book.  In total I attended 11 sessions.  At the end of the last session, she let me know that she felt I was handling everything quite healthily, and said that she really didn’t feel that I needed to continue therapy unless I felt like I needed to.  That’s right everyone, I graduated therapy.  Despite what my x-boyfriends have told you, I’m definitely NOT crazy.  That was a huge relief to hear, as at the time I felt like my life and my mind were completely out of control.  I was, however, diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the stress of the loss I’d experienced.  She explained to me all the different things that I could experience and expect from having this affliction.  She also said that for most people, PTSD is temporary.  I did, in fact temporarily experience many of the symptoms she had described to me most of which disappeared after a few years.  One of the symptoms I’m still am dealing with is the irrational phobias. Before “The Event” I had exactly zero phobias.  Not one.  My life now consists of me doing a completely normal activity that I have done my entire life, like swimming for example, only to be met with a crippling anxiety attack the minute I see the water that I completely wasn’t expecting and have no idea how to deal with.  After discovering I am now afraid of what ever thing I was just confronted with, I then am left with months of reoccurring nightmares night after night of whatever thing I saw or did until the very thought of seeing it or doing it again makes me want to vomit and curl up in a ball. Here are a list of my new, known phobias.  Keeping in mind, any day I could discover a new one:

Public Speaking
(I host party busses as well host regular zine and independent publishing night on a stage with a spotlight. FUCK)

Talking to strangers
(I am a retail manager of a multi-million dollar store. Double fuck)

Swimming
(At least I live in Oregon now)

Driving
(I get a panic attack every time I drive. Always. At any given time. That’s why you’ll see me in the passanger seat or on the MAX 99% of the time)

Taking medications/pills
(I won’t take pills, even when I’m very sick and absolutely need them)

Enclosed spaces (claustrophobia)
(I used to sit for hours in my childhood closet and read. I loved small, cozy spaces. Now the thought of it makes me panic!)

Heights 
(Dude. This one turns out to be the grandaddy of the list. One night, I re-watched the old Stephen King movie Cat’s Eye. It consists of 3 stories. I remember the first one being really boring the first time I saw it. The plot consists of a man who is forced out on a sky scraper and is told to shuffle on a ledge no wider than his feet the complete circumference, or they’ll kill his wife whom was being held hostage. Just typing this description is making my hands and feet tingle. I panicked the entire time I watched the 15 minute short. I periodically wake up from nightmares about watching the man on that ledge. Really? REALLY? What in the actual fuck? How could I fear something I just saw on a tv? Its like my brain got switched with someone else’s)

These are just to name a few that I’m comfortable with sharing.  The last two combine to introduce me to the ultimate in my own personal terror.  The Boss-level of anxiety.  The thing that fills me with such dread, I’d do nearly anything to not have to face it.  I am referring to what is, at least as of right now, my worst fear:

Flying.

Just the very thought of being on an airplane makes my feet tingle and I begin to feel nervous.  Its definitely not the crashing and dying that wigs me out.  I mean, of course no one likes the thought of that.  That’s not where my fear and anxiety is coming from. Its this unique combination of the extreme height combined with the knowledge of no matter what I do, I can’t get off the plane.  It wasn’t always like this for me.  I’ve flown quite a few times in my life, and never felt any hesitation.  Just a normal person, doing a normal thing like traveling.  It wasn’t until I flew to Mexico about 2 years after my dad died that I realized this was now my worst fear.

Chapter One:  The Cabo Flight

I arrived at the airport, ready to fly to a different country for the first time.  I had to get a passport, pass through customs, everything.  I was getting to spend a week in one of the world’s most amazing vacation spots.  I was excited.  While we were waiting in the customs line, I began to notice that my right arm had gone completely numb.  From shoulder to fingertips.  I began pressing my finger tips with my thumb and felt the familiar feeling of the adrenaline working through my body of a panic attack.  My body was having a reaction, even though my mind was completely calm and free from worry.  I found it to be really weird, but I just tried to ignore it.  We boarded the plane.  By the time we were all seated, I began hyperventilating.  As the stewardess was going through her routine for the cabin, I was sweating and the horrible numbness spread to both arms and down both legs.  By the time we began the takeoff, I bit my tongue so hard it was bleeding to stop myself from screaming.  We flew out from San Jose, California to Phoenix for a layover.  The flight was about an hour an a half.  I spent the entire time sweating, panting, with my head down.  My body was convulsing without control.  The cart came around, and Ross asked for a water for me.  I tried to drink it but I had lost control of my muscles to the point that I felt like I couldn’t swallow without swallowing my own tongue.  This was the longest, most tortuous 90 minutes of my life.  We finally landed.  I ran off the plane, in a full on panic.  Our connecting flight was to take off in about 2 hours.  I told Ross I couldn’t do it and I was going to rent a car and drive back home.  I broke down, sat up against a wall in the airport and started crying.

I called a friend and she tried to talk me down.  She and Ross both suggested the bar.  I was skeptical.

I sat down at the bar and had a few vodka-sodas.  The adrenaline calmed.  I had two more.  This was the first time I had ever tried to “cure” anxiety with anything.  It worked very well.  Almost as easy as flipping a switch.  I agreed to get back on the plane.

The second flight was better.  I went from a level 10 anxiety to about a 7.  I made it to Mexico.  I had a magical time, but I had the flight home constantly looming like a dark cloud over my vacation.

I attempted the first part of the flight home without any booze.  We had a layover in Vegas.  I had to have the bartender line up 5 shots of pure vodka for me, in which I took back-to-back with no chase.  She said she had never seen a woman drink like that, not in 20 year of bartending in las Vegas.  My fear was that real.  After all that, I didn’t even feel drunk.  The anxiety was more powerful.  I gripped Ross’ hand so hard the way home, I put grooves from my fingernails in his skin that lasted for days.  I avoided flying after that trip.  I had a chance to go to New York, but passed when I saw the 8+ hour flight knowing that for me, it would be impossible.  When I’d go back to Fresno to visit, I’d drive the grueling 15 hours rather than face the 45 minute flight.  Finally, after about 3 years after that Mexico flight I decided to face my fear.

Chapter Two:  Fresno

It really took a lot to convince me to fly home for a visit.  I only agreed because I was hoping that maybe the PTSD had worn off.  I really wanted to be rid of this phobia.  I wanted to be able to travel, which I love more than anything.  Plus, its a huge inconvenience to fear such a thing.  What if my job asks me to fly somewhere?  I couldn’t show up reeking of booze.  I decided that I had probably built it up way worse in my head and it wouldn’t actually be that bad once I did it.  About a week before the trip, the panic attacks started in.  I couldn’t focus on work that entire week.  The anticipation was killing me, and I walked around in a constant state of worry.  It was like I was waiting to get some risky surgery that I had a 50/50 chance of surviving or something.  It made no logical sense.  I talked to anyone and everyone who would listen about my dread:  Co-workers, friends, strangers sitting next to me at the bar…

You’re probably thinking why don’t you just take a xanax like the rest of the normal population and be done with it?  If you were paying attention in the intro of this story, you’ll remember me referencing the fact that I absolutely fear taking pills. Like, its a very serious phobia.  After that terrible Cabo flight, I did, in fact, purchase 70 xanax to try in attempt to treat my anxiety.  the thought of taking one gave me just as much anxiety as what it was trying to treat.  I ended up giving them to friends and never took a single one of them.

The night before the flight, I couldn’t sleep.  I tried to pack my suitcase, but I couldn’t focus.  I was unable to plan what it was I would need for the week.  I worked at 7 am the next day, and we flew out at 8 pm after my shift.  I couldn’t focus at work, and ended up leaving at 11:30.  The time between 11:30 and 8pm were the longest hours I think I ever spent.  I continued to try and pack.  I just basically ended up roaming around my suitcase in circles, dropping strange and random articles of clothing in it.  I tried to eat, but my stomach was so upset I could only manage to shove a few forkfuls of  rice in my mouth and swallow.   Kyle was picking us up to take us to the airport at about 5:30.  At 3, I popped a bottle of champagne.  I was too full of panic to swallow. My dog came and pitifully put her head on my shoulder.  I was sweating.  Not from the heat, but from the fear.  Once it started, it wouldn’t stop.  My hair became so wet, I had to put it up in a bun.  I changed my clothes twice, my underwear 3 times.  The champagne had no effect.  Suddenly, Kyle was here.

I don’t remember the drive to the airport at all.  I was so in a panic, all I could do was stare out the window and worry.  The drive was way too short, and before I knew it I was wheeling my bag though PDX international.  I stood, glassy-eyed though the entire  ticket/bag process.  I just kept looking around at all the other people there to travel and I couldn’t get over how relaxed and calm everyone looked.  I had this horrible problem, and no-one else could relate.  The minute we got our bags though the scanner, I demanded for us to find a goddamned bar.  NOW.  I didn’t care what they were charging.  I was due for take off in an hour and a half and my dress was so wet with fear-sweat it was stuck to all sides of me.  I was in trouble.  There was no fucking way I could get on a plane.

Ross having a cigarette before the flight. Not shown: Me doubled over, about to puke.
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None of these people have this problem. None of them.
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The nearest bar to us was packed.  I found the only table available and sat down.  We waited for nearly 20 minutes, no servers.  The menu was suspiciously void of prices of any kind.  Not on food, not on drink, not on anything.  Two women sitting next to us received their bill for 2 salads and 2 waters.  Their bill was $40 dollars.  I mean, sure they could have ordered other things besides what I saw on the table.  Considering the speed of service I observed, swiftly-bused tables seemed unlikely.  I know I said I didn’t care what they were charging before.  Seeing that, though and taking in to account the time we decided to find another bar.  PDX is pretty big.  According to the directory, the next nearest dispensary was a mexican cantina pretty far down from our gate.  Ross was obsessively watching the time, I was obsessively trying to get drunk.  We arrived at the cantina, and it too was packed.  I DID NOT GIVE TWO SHITS.  I was due to be at the gate in less than an hour at that point.  I pushed my way to the front of the bar and made very intense eye-contact with the man pouring.  Within minutes he wanted my order.  I asked for a shot of Fernet and a glass of Cabernet.  He raised an eyebrow at my order, and asked for my i.d.  I reached for my wallet.  No purse.  I left that shit on the chair at that last bar.  FUCK ME.

Ross had managed to get the only table free in the entire establishment and was surrounded by our carry-on bags.  I told him I had to get back to that other bar.  He looked at the time and gave me a face.  I shit you not, I ran in a full sprint down the length of that airport in stiletto heels with everyone looking on.  It actually felt good to run off my nervous energy.  People think I’m really late for my plane, in actuality I just really needed to flip this switch.  In keeping with the poor service I observed earlier, my purse sat untouched on my chair.  I snatched it, and sprinted back the opposite direction to the bar.  Again, I bullied my way to the bar and wedged myself between patrons.  Two guys ogled me, making the she’s rude face.  I plainly told them that I really, REALLY wasn’t a good flyer.  The bartender saw me and served me.  The minute I had my drink in my hand, I relaxed just a tiny bit.  I sucked down the shot, and took big gulps of the wine.  My stomach curdled from the lack of food, but championed on.  The sweating began to slow.  I wanted one more glass, but time didn’t allow.  I had to get back to the gate.  I definitely wasn’t ready.

We got to the gate 10 minutes before boarding. I went pee (so I wouldn’t have to get out of my seat after take off) and popped in to a little store to get a crossword to distract myself with.  I sat at the crowded gate, staring at the planes waiting to take off.  I looked at the one that was waiting for us to board.  It was a lot smaller than the one I took to mexico.  My pulse began to race.  I stood up and began pacing in the window.  There was an announcement.  Our flight was  delayed.  It would board in about 45 minutes. I should have gone and had another glass of wine.  Instead, I sat and started a crossword, thinking I would be ok and paranoid that I would smell too much like booze and wouldn’t be admitted on the flight.  This was a bad choice.

FUCK.
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These people are completely relaxed. I’m about to have a psychological break.
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Even this fucking dog is more relaxed.
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I don’t even know if I’m putting in correct answers at this point.
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By the time I entered the plane and found my seat, I was at a full panic.  I was supposed to sit in the window, but I made Ross take that seat and shut the blind.  I sat in the middle and clipped my seatbelt.  The man on my left side was studying a large manual about anesthetics.  The pages were filled with medical jargon and complicated chemical equations.  A doctor.  I’m sitting next to a doctor.  Somehow that made me feel a little bit better.  I’m not sure why that should matter.  The stewardess began to go through her pre-flight routine.

Fuck that window.
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I chose to wear a nice dress, heels, and a full face of makeup. Somehow I thought if I were overly dressed, I’d be less likely to have a freakout or make a public display. Dress like a lady, must act like a lady. Notice the sensory deprivation: glasses and headphones.
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I gotta get off the plane.  I gotta get off the plane.  I gotta get off the plane.  

I took a really deep breath and tried to not freak out.  Those seats and the fuselage couldn’t have been any fucking smaller.  I just kept telling myself that I would just have to make it to the drink service, and I’d be cool.  I told Ross to order vodka, that way I’d be able to have 2.  I was panting at this point and digging my nails into my legs.  The man sitting next to me kept looking at me sideways.  I told him  that I wasn’t a good flyer.  Damn, whatta fucking understatement.  He nodded an understanding nod.  I rambled on to him asking him if he was a doctor.  he told me he was a dentist.  A dentist?  I started to bite my tongue.  We taxied and began takeoff.

Takeoff in an airplane is some fucked up, unnatural shit.  I mean, The entirety of takeoff and how physically uncomfortable it is should be a clear sign that people were not meant to fly.  I looked down the whole time, staring at my crossword.  The feeling of flying in the air terrified me.  The moments ticked by so slowly, I was counting my breaths.  I kept darting my eyes up to check the center isle, looking for that blessed cart to come down.  I continued to try and relax.  It was impossible.  The feeling was so uncomfortable I couldn’t possibly not be aware of exactly what was happening and that I was indeed facing my worst fear.  I kept trying to find words to fill in the boxes in front of me.

Finally, that fucking cart started rolling down the isle.  It took forever.  By the time it got to me, I was nearly jumping out of my seat.  Ross and I both ordered vodka, the dentist ordered a whiskey and coke.  I drank the entire thing in one gulp.  I clutched the barf bag in fear it would come back up again.  I spent the next 5 minutes convincing myself I didn’t need to puke.  Blessedly, by this time it was time to land.  I put Ross’s  mini-vodka in my purse for later.  It was ending.  Thank fucking god it was nearly over.

Please lord, do not let me puke in this bag.
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Landing is the complete opposite for me than takeoff.  Its the home stretch.  Every second we descend, I’m closer to the ground.  I love landing.  I don’t car how turbulent, how rocky, or how fast it happens.  By the time we touched down at SFO, I was crying with relief.  It was over.

Chapter Three:  Getting home

The trip home consisted of 2 days in Monterrey, 3 days in Fresno, 2 days in San Francisco.  The fucking flight back was seriously wigging me out.  I felt like I couldn’t relax or enjoy myself the entire trip because I knew that flight was immanent.  I kept in the back of my mind as I re-visited home and the beautiful surrounding areas.  Fresno passed by in a blur, and soon I found myself checking in the hotel in San Fran for my last night before having to get back on the plane.  The hotel was gorgeous, as usual.  Ross’ dad travels for his job, and gets points for hotels.  Whenever we travel with them, we always get to stay in really nice places.  We checked in to our suite, established our beds and luggage.  We opened a bottle of wine, and I pulled the curtains back on our large bay window.  This was the view:  

A VIEW OF THE FUCKING TERMINAL RUNWAY AT SFO AIRPORT. Are you shitting me?
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Here I am, in a beautiful hotel, sipping on a nice wine from a Napa vineyard (way better than the $2-$4 swill I usually buy for myself) whilst enjoying a front row view at my worst fear taking off over and over again. I stared at it in disbelief for over an hour.   I was also in disbelief of the contents of my suitcase.  I was in such a state of panic during the packing process, I failed to bring any one of the following:

A jacket
Anything with long sleeves of any kind
Pants
Any kind of leg cover save one pair of tights with holes in them
Normal shoes (2 pairs of heels and a pair of platforms)

I had to get incredibly creative and also look like a crazy-person the entire trip. It was in the low 50’s at night in both Monterrey and San Fran, and here I was with only tank-tops and shorts. What the fuck, man?

San Fran is one of my all-time favorite places in the world. Visiting flew by in a flash. Before I knew it, it was about an hour before I had to get on the plane. Ross’ parents drove me to a nearby bar. They knew my problem, but of course didn’t really understand. I had a glass of wine. I didn’t want to suck back the booze too hardcore in front of them. In my mind I wanted to take shot after shot until I didn’t care what was happening to me. After a few wines, I snuck in to the bar bathroom and made a video:

How many can I get away with having before I start making people feel concerned?
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We were dropped off at SFO amd we said our goodbyes. I was nervous, anxious, felt sick. I fucked up last time, WAY underestimated how much liquor I needed to ingest in order to counteract the adrenaline. I refused to face that mental torture again. After checking in and all that crap I headed to a bar and drank a few, very fast.

Taking your shoes off, putting them in a plastic tub, and standing in line does not seem like real life.
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The good news is, by the time I was boarding the plane I was good and drunk. Not slurring my words and stumbling drunk, but not sweating through my knickers and panting. Perfect. My arms and legs felt like jelly and I found my seat with a smile. Even as the plane began to taxi, my heart rate didn’t jump.

Check out the righteous sax-art.
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Heading home.
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Sitting in my seat, not freaking out yet. That’s a good sign.
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It spooked me a little bit that my seat was in the isle. I ended up making Ross switch me. I like to be really boxed in.
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I did not have my pre-flight usual extreme panic where I feel like I have to run off the plane. I actually felt slightly relaxed. After my seat-swap I was sitting next to an elderly japanese man. As we began our take-off, he closed his eyes and squeezed a little braided rope he had in his hands. I looked up from him, and saw a couple diagonal from me clutching hands with their eyes closed. I saw a man with both arms wrapped around the woman sitting next to him who had her hands over her face and was bending over into her lap. I sighed a very deep breath. Other people are afraid of flying too.

In addition to being able to actually pick my head up and look around me, I actually looked out the window of the plane. Something I haven’t been able to do in a very long time.

I was able to take this picture at the time, but even looking at it now I feel anxiety and fear.
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I was elated. maybe I had beat my phobia. Maybe next time I fly I wouldn’t be afraid to do it at all and wouldn’t need a single drop of booze. Maybe my PTSD is finally going away and I could have my life back. I felt like a thousand-pound weight had been lifted from me and was, for the first time in a long time hopeful for the future.
I took this victory picture. Smiling and not about to scream.
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I also took this drunk-ass video. I have never watched this. I played it for a few seconds and had to turn it off because the sound of the airplane motor made me feel sick.

Epilogue

The morning after my flight, I woke up to one of the worst panic attacks I’ve ever had.  It did not stop and continued over the course of two days.  I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and every time I tried to close my eyes I would picture myself on the plane.  Over the last month, I’ve woken up in a sweat from nightmares about being on a plane.  I absolutely did NOT conquer my phobia that day.  I may have made it worse.  I feel like I took two steps backwards in my fight to be a “normal” person again.  Christine:  Zero Plane:  1,000.

I realize the dangers of treating anxiety with alcohol, so no need to leave your comments and messages in regards to that.  I understand the dangerous cycle it can, and usually does lead to.  I only use the booze to stop the panic in the plane-scenario.  Other times I try the bullshit breathing and meditation techniques my therapist taught me.  They don’t always work, but I happily choose that over being one of those poor souls perma-stoned on their anxiety prescriptions.  Its a choice, and I made mine.  

I’m not sure if, and when I’ll be facing an airplane ride again.  I am still having plane-related nightmares and just looking at the pictures for this very blog triggered a panic attack.  Maybe its okay that I have these random phobias now.  Life is a journey, and we have to change to adapt.  Either way, at least for now the phobias are who I am for now.

Alpaca-fest 2013 (Mother’s Day Edition)

15 May

Mother’s day.  Even when my mom was still alive, I always felt like certain holidays were made up simply to sell shit.  Even still, you can’t really boycott these holidays if you have any friends or loved-ones in your life without looking like a stuck-up, pretentious asshole.  Even now, with my mom gone I still have other moms in my life that need to be celebrated on their special day.  There’s my friends that have become moms, Ross’ mom, co-worker moms, etc.  Its inevitable that you must celebrate it.  Its also inevitable that the holiday will make me feel like a bag of emotional garbage.  It honestly shouldn’t.  Its just another day.  I suppose if social media weren’t a factor, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  Its really hard to log on to your Facebook and see everyone’s pictures of themselves and their moms celebrating in various ways.  You can’t help but reflect on the lack of your own mother, and to think about how much you miss her.  This year was no exception.

Ross had to work, as well as all of my close friends.  That left me to my own devices for the day.  I had no idea what would make me feel better.  I walked Ham, sent texts to all of my mom-friends wishing them a happy day, then sat down on the couch to watch a Dateline mystery.  It hit me then that I was pretty fucking sad.  I had to get out of the house.  I checked the paper to see if there was anything interesting going on.  Of course there was.  The CAPA Classic was in full swing.  For those who don’t know, its a show where they judge and award prizes for the best Alpacas and Alpaca fleece.  It was free.  I guess I’ll go do that.

Although the event was free, parking at the Expo Center is not.  Its a flat $8 fee to park.  You could do that, or you can park your car at a park n ride, take the MAX one stop up for $2.50, and get dropped off right at the center’s doorstep.  Sure, it may be cheap to care about saving $5.50.  My point to you is would you rather pay $8 to see Alpaca Fest, or pay $8 to see Alpaca Fest AND have a glass of wine?  See?

The MAX is interesting.  I take it electively to work a lot because I a) hate to drive downtown and b) can’t afford the $12 a day parking fee at the garage near my work.  I feel lucky to even have it as an option.  My hometown of Fresno had one bus line that went to limited places and was an absolute dangerous chariot of shit.  Seriously.  You’re completely fucked without a car in Fresno.  The few times I was forced to ride the bus were the most uncomfortable and scary minutes of my life.  The Portland MAX is clean and safe, runs often, and goes nearly everywhere.  Even the busses aren’t bad.   Oh sure, you get the homeless rambling to themselves, Oogle kids yelling and stinking, ratchet kids playing their “music” on speaker for all to enjoy, creepy guys leering and sitting uncomfortably close but considering how large the city is it really isn’t that bad.  I find the train oddly soothing, even though I’m claustrophobic, and find it to be a nice beginning or end to my day.  I pulled into the parking lot, parked the car and waited for the train to arrive.

I always have this irrational fear that when I’m walking by the tracks, someone will run up behind me and push me into an on-coming train. Why? Is this normal?
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This day was gloomy, and broke a lovely streak of gorgeous weather we had been enjoying.  I supposed it matched my mood.  I sat at the train stop alone, which wasn’t that odd considering the stop I was at was the second-to last one.  The Expo Center being the end of the yellow line.  I wondered if anyone would even be at this alpaca thing.  I mean, it was Sunday and Mother’s Day.  Who’s going to the Alpaca-Fest except lonely, sad-bastards such as myself?  Actually, I’m sure most sad-bastards would be at the bar today.  Trust me, I considered it but knew it would only make me feel worse.  In my experience, misery does not enjoy company.  My train arrived, I boarded.  There were only 4 other people on the train with me.  We rode the short distance to the Expo Center and all got off.

The sad-bastard express.
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The parking lot was absolutely packed.  As I walked to the entrance, I noticed a lot of parents and grandparents with children coming and going.  I guess little kids would like to see alpacas.  As I approached I saw a massive line of people inside the lobby.  Holy shit!  This event is fucking popular!  Then I noticed that in the main building, there was some sort of badass dinosaur thing going on.  That’s what the line was for, as well as all the little kids.  To the right was the alpaca show, in the smaller building.  Oh.     I asked about the dinosaur show.  It was $10.  Alpacas it is.

Yep.
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I walked in and I saw no-one in the lobby.  I began to feel sad.  This is really depressing and pathetic.  To the left of the entrance was a bar.  I decided to have a glass of wine first.  The bar was empty, save one employee.  I took my glass and sat and stared out the window.  Predictably, it began to rain.  ‘Tis a very bleak picture, I know.  I finished my glass quickly.

Depression’s best and worst company.
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When you first enter, you are greeted by vendors selling their various wares.  They have these at every animal show I’ve been to, regardless of breed.  Some items are for other people who breed and show alpacas such as feed, shearing tools, harnesses, etc.  Some items are for fans of the animals such as t-shirts with alpacas on them and wacky mugs.  These two types of merch I totally get.  There was a third type of vendor there that I didn’t understand at all.  There were booths of completely unrelated items such as African woven baskets, heavy farm equipment, and gifts from Peru.  I perused all the booths and headed in to the main area to see what an Alpaca beauty contest looked like.

This does NOT look comfortable.
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Harnesses of various size and color.
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Peruvian clothing?
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Take a picture with your favorite dead celebrity! why? Why the hell not?
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There were pen after pen of Alpacas, holding anywhere from 4 to 10 animals each.  Some had curly hair like a poodle, others had long hair like dreads, others had long ear hair, and some looked like teddy bears.  Most of them had little harnesses on their mouths, presumably because they spit.  I don’t know anything about alpacas, but they seem like llamas and I know those fuckers spit.  The walls of the pens were low, and you could look at them all face-to-face.  They were all very curious about people.  When you walked up to them, they would come and investigate you but did not like to be touched.  They were skittish, and if you reached your hand out to pet them, they would immediately duck away.  They were friendly with their owners, though.  they must just need to get used to you.  I walked up and down the isles.  They all looked different.  They would often throw themselves on the ground and roll around in their hay like a dog would.  There weren’t a lot of people there.  Interestingly, children seemed afraid of them.  I saw more than a few little kids that were being picked up and held so that they could get a closer look at an alpaca scream and cry.

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Alpaca selfie.
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Alpaca rolling on the ground like a kitty.
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Dude. You know that’s cute.
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These guys were grand-prize winners. Why? I have no idea.

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This guy is rare. Usually alpacas are shades of brown, black or beige. He looks like Ham.
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This guy really, really liked his fan. photo AL21_zpsc4a38053.jpg

Teddy bear!!  Or Ewok. photo AL5_zpsca5f9f56.jpg

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So alpacas make a noise. Its like when a dog whines. They seemed to make this noise when other alpacas walked by or when their owners left.

At the back of the room was the judging arena.  There was actual grass laid out, with alpacas being judged.  Judged for what?  I’m not sure.  Because they don’t like to be touched, there was the hilarious moment when the judge would have to run his hands down the alpacas to check their frames and said alpacas would spazz the fuck out as the handler tried to hold them still.  I took a folding chair and watched that for a while, audibly laughing at this otherwise stoic and serious event.  After judging, I walked around some more.  They were pretty interesting and funny animals.  I felt a little better.  I had seen on the website that there were fleece awards too.  The site showed pictures of piles of hair with various awards underneath them such as “best luster”.  I wanted to see that.  As I meandered, I noticed things were getting packed up.  I looked at the time.  2:30.  The event was supposed to go until 4.  Well fuck you too.  I was at Alpaca-Fest 2013 for all of 30 minutes.

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I’m not sure if I saw this grand-champion.  Note the fleece stats. photo AL27_zps2c000de4.jpg

When I say things were getting packed up, I mean it was like a tornado was coming.  Alpacas were suddenly being hearded out by the dozens, folding tables getting broken down.  Damn.  I guess I’m done here.  I was really pissed off I didn’t get to see the piles of hair with awards.

‘Bye assholes.

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I left not feeling that cheered.  I walked back to the Max station and got back on.  5 minutes later I was back at my car.  I got in, and drove around in circles for about 15 minutes trying to decide what to do.  I eventually found myself heading home.  I went inside and put on all my Tom Jones records, one after another.  My mom was a huge fan of his.  When I say huge fan of his, I mean she was a member of his official fan club and had seen him live over 20 times.  I grew up listening to his music so much, I know every song the man has ever recorded and all they lyrics backwards and forwards.  If there was some sort of contest where you had to name that Tom Jones song, I would own that shit.  We played Tom Jones at my mom’s funeral, and for 10 years after it I couldn’t hear a song of his without crying.  Only recently have I been able to listen again, and remember my mom singing and dancing to his music while vacuuming like she used to when I was a kid.  I sat down on the couch and cried.  The next thing I knew, the needle was skipping gently on the center label of my LP and it was time to pick ross up from work.

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I have a tradition I do every birthday and father’s/mother’s day in remembrance of my parents.  I go to a bar and drink one of their drinks in their honor.  For my dad, I like to pick a bar that looks like the one he frequented in my old neighborhood.  A cozy dive filled with older regulars.  The other requirement is it has to serve Kessler.  Few bars do.  Its during these two days a year you’ll see me drink whiskey.  For mom, I choose a fancy bar.  One that resembles one you would see in a Vegas Casino, which was her favorite place to escape.  Here I order a Baileys, which was the only drink I ever saw her touch on the very rare occasion I ever saw her drink.  After picking up Ross, we went to the fanciest bar in St. Johns.  I sat and sipped my Baileys, and reflected.  I thought about those things you can start forgetting about someone, if you’re not careful.  I tried to remember how her laugh sounded, what her hair smelled like, and what her hands looked like.  Sometimes when I do this tradition, I cry silently in the corner while I drink my drink.  Sometimes I laugh.  Sometimes I talk to the bartender about my tradition.  Sometimes I do none of these things and feel nothing.  After my cry on the couch, this year was the latter.  I drank my drink and didn’t really feel anything.

Mom passed away in September of 2001.  Even though its been 12 years, it still hurts.  I suppose it always will.  Sometimes attempting to pet alpacas will cheer you up, and sometimes it won’t.  Sometimes being completely alone is exactly what you need, other times not.  Next mother’s day I’m hoping there will be a wolf-fest or a sloth-fest in town I can go to.  I think maybe either of those two things could do the trick.  Maybe even a pizza-fest, or champange-fest.  I mean, I do live in Portland so any of those things technically are possible.  Maybe next year will be the year it finally stops hurting.  Fingers crossed.

This is my mom, circa 1988.  Note my rad side-pony sneaking through.  She liked chain-smoking Winstons, Stephen King, slot machines, and Pepsi.  She always wore just jeans and a t-shirt.  When things got difficult, she would escape to Vegas.  She had extreme road-rage, sometimes told inappropriate stories and was a staunch athiest.  She told it like it was, and people either liked it or they didn’t.  She raised me to be tough, and taught me that intelligence would be my greatest tool.  We grew apart towards the end of her life.  Something I deeply regret.  

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This was my mom’s favorite Tom Jones song.  Enjoy.

Live, Professional Wrestling!

17 Feb

I live in one of the least-gentrified areas of this town.  Called St. Johns, its a small burrow in the North part of the city, mostly undisturbed by the great hipster insurgence.  Here you will find watering holes offering no frills, filled with grizzled locals pouring no sort of liquors with “infusions” and don’t have any manner of “ambiance” or “philosophy”.*  The eateries are few, but reliable.  Nothing fancy.*  The entire stretch of it is about the size of the Tower District in Fresno, but even less hip than that.  With this lack of progression in this area, there exists a ton of weirdness, quirkiness, and plain out oddities.  There is a diner that hasn’t been updated since the 60’s that is one half eatery, one half ancient thrift store packed with dusty knitting sets and faded Avon products.  Down the street is a bar where its not uncommon to see the homeless gathered inside-shopping carts and all.  Its also somehow home to the best pizza cart in town, as well as a mostly-undiscovered great record store.

Most people know St. Johns by Cathedral Park.  For lack of better words, its fucking beautiful.  You can walk along the edge of the Willamatte river underneath one of the most visually-striking bridges ever built.  There is not one Portlander that owns an iphone that doesn’t have a picture of that bridge on it.  There is something really magical about walking though that park.

A shot of the bridge that doesn’t do it justice.
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A magical day with friends and dogs.  Its safe to say my back-yard may be better than yours.
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I’ve grown to love my neighborhood, and will miss it terribly the day I move.  Unfortunately, moving is nearly inevitable as I plan on working toward a lifestyle of using my car as least as possible.  The one flaw of living in St. Johns is its cut off from the convenient MAX line, and pretty much anyone we know.  No friends ever want to come out and visit.  My dream of living here is to be in walking-distance of things and live on the MAX so I can take it to work daily and also take it out on drinking nights.  Yes, there are two bus lines that run regularly through the neighborhood.  Its not bad, but the most frequent line makes so many stops, it takes an hour and a half to get to downtown where I work.  Shit, its something but living near a MAX would be the most ideal.  I’m completely out of my comfort zone here in Portland, and I hate to drive in this town.  If I had the option of walking or driving, I choose walk.  I hate the idea of driving somewhere within a mile, rather than just walking there which was so often the norm in California.  Also, like most larger cities, finding parking is a real bitch.  To free myself from the burden of a car is my ultimate goal.  I should probably mention that I don’t know how to ride a bike.  I grew up in the ghetto, and it wasn’t safe to let children ride bikes around, or play in their front yards for that matter.  I never learned, and now as an adult its a difficult task to take on.  I’ve made a few attempts, but without success.  Its ironic that I should end up living in one of the most  bike-friendliest cities and not be able to partake.  Its probably for the best.  I’m accident prone, clumsy, and generally lack street-smarts, so putting me out there in traffic with cars is probably not the best idea anyway.

On the outskirts of St. Johns is an Eagles Lodge.  If you’ve never heard of a “Lodge” and what it is, it can pretty much be likened to The Boy Scouts but for men. Usually war veterans. well, maybe more accurately described as a frat house for seniors. My dad and grandpa both belonged to a “Moose Lodge”.  I remember going to a family dinner night at one when I was about 6.  It was dark, scary, and confusing as a child.  I suppose its a dying thing, a relic of our past. Even so, they still exist. The one in my hood sits prominently on Lombard, the road that leads into St. Johns. Its one of those buildings I would have never noticed, save they host a really interesting rummage sale in their parking lot on good weather days. In addition, there is a sign they place out on Sundays advertising “Live Pro Wrestling-Here!  Tonight!”  After two years of passing this sign, I eventually became really, really curious.  I’ve never been to a wrestling match, professional or otherwise.  I know a lot of people get really, really in to it.  I also knew that if it was in St. Johns, it would probably be very weird.  Also probably very white-trash.  No need to be offended.  I’m white-trash myself.  Well, maybe you could say I have strong white-trash roots.  We had always talked about checking it out one night, my friends and I, but we never really had any particular reason to go. Finally, we had that reason.  We were at a bar in St. Johns for a birthday, and on the tv screen was a live television broadcast of the match.  It was EPIC.  Fake wrestling moves, trashy round-card girls, toothless audience members in attendance…everything I dreamed it would be.  We watched in awe for about a half hour, and made a pact then and there to go to one of the matches as soon as possible.

That day rapidly approached.  I had a Sunday off.  I started trying to do some internet research to see what time it started and how much it cost.  There was absolutely nothing online about it.  NOTHING.  I mean, I suppose it makes sense. I couldn’t imagine the event coordinator of the lodge to be on the cutting edge of internet technology. I’d be surprised if I saw a cordless phone inside one. The week leading up to that Sunday I didn’t work, I took to asking strangers in the street about it as I walked Ham. Everyone I asked had heard of it, they just didn’t know when or how much. I supposed I could just show up at 7 and hope for the best. Finally, one day I found a flier at that diner I mentioned before, with all the weird thrift store crap in the back of it for the wrestling.

It did, in fact start at 7. It also cost $10. That was actually, a little more expensive than I was thinking it would be. I couldn’t back out now. I had already built this event up in my mind to be the most interesting adventure I could ever get in to in my neighborhood. I tried to rally the friends, but all became instantly disinterested when I mentioned the cost. I suppose I didn’t blame them. No matter, Ross and Zach were still down.

Ross was off that night at 7, Zach and I had the day off. It would be perfect. We would pick him up, head straight there and arrive with it in full swing. Zach and I resolved that we would get drunk. I mean, how else do you view a Sunday night Wrestling match in an Eagle’s Lodge? We also weren’t 100% sure they would be serving liquor when we got there.  I can’t speak for the guys, but this is one event I don’t think I could enjoy on any level without a few drinks in me. We went to the Burrito House, and had about 2 too many drinks a piece. By the time Ross walked over, we were ready to wrestle.

We arrived, and the lot was full. We walked the perimeter of the building and couldn’t determine an entrance. Two girls smoking beneath the light from an overhead lamp eyed us very suspiciously. I asked them how to get in, and they reluctantly pointed out the entrance. We entered though an unmarked steel door, propped open by a metal folding chair.

So many promises inside.
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We entered, and I had to blink a few times to take it all in. It was similar to an elementary school gym. There was a ring in the center, ropes and all. Situated in a large square around the edge of the ring were long folding tables and cafeteria chairs. At the back of the room was a snack bar, complete with workers donning plastic gloves and shower caps. In the ring there were two men, semi-costumed performing a laughable dance of choreographed “wrestling” while a full house of patrons looked on. It was better than I could have even imagined.  

What does one wear to a professional wrestling match? That’s a good question. Like with most events I attend, the perfect outfit for the occasion is very important. I think tonight’s choice was spot-on.

Eye of the tiger.
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It was now time for me to size up the event. I did a slow walk around the edge of the seats, taking everything and everyone in. In the background, men with mullets and wifebeaters with permanent marker sprawled across them tossed each other around at a comically leisurely pace. The floor of the ring itself was made of some sort of material that made a very loud smack when struck.  Designed to make body slams and suck more dramatic, it actually made the obviously bad choreography look sillier.  The crowd appeared…bored for a lack of a better word. There was very little talking, just blank stares at the ring. More children than I expected were here. Like, I could liken it to a Wal-Mart on Saturday afternoon. Kids tore by me, completely uninterested in the match and absorbed in their own entertainments. After a girl in a Garfield nightgown stomped on my foot as she galloped past me, chasing a boy with an impressive rat-tail I knew it was time to determine if this joint was dry or not. I looked around and saw no adult holding any cups. Fuck. A silver-haired man standing alone noticed me looking around. He smiled at me, inviting me to ask him a question, should I need to with his open expression. I asked if there were booze. He smiled a mischievous smile and assured me that they in fact do. He pointed to a doorway I hadn’t seen before, on account of the men with capes fashioned from Glad bags obstructing my view.

I made my way through the door, and discovered it was where the “performers” (athletes?) warmed up and entered into the arena to “fight”. Men in leotards were doing deep stretches in the corner, and working out routines to do with one another when they got out there. Children were also crawling on the floors, seemingly unattended. Well, that’s not fair. They could have been children of the performers. A girl sat alone at a table, coloring. Indeed there was a full bar. Behind it, was the most comically sweet little old lady.

I was wrong! There’s a cordless phone right there!
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Normally, I’d be ordering a Greyhound or a glass of wine. I was feeling a bit sluggish(on account of all the margaritas and shots of Fireball consumed earlier), and since they had a gigantic Red Bull case I figured I go with that unlikely choice tonight. I ordered a Vodka-Red Bull. My bartender cocked one eye at me, and turned to get my drink. She turned back around, placed a can of Red Bull and a pour of vodka in a shot glass next to it on the bar. Still skeptical, she said I owed her $2.50. I stifled a laugh, and asked for a glass of ice. She obliged, and watched as I mixed the two. She apologized and said she didn’t realize I wanted them together. I told her not to worry about it all, especially since you can’t even get out of a dive bar with that drink for less than $7. She said she had never heard of it. I was incredulous, but charmed. About that time, Zach appeared at my side impressed that I had found the bar so fast. Ross was apparently wandering around, sober. Poor guy. I asked our bartender what time the wresting went until. She let me know 8:30. That’s right, this shit only went on for an hour and a half. I looked at my phone. We had 40 minutes.

After Zach got his beer, we turned around to take in the backstage performers. We both spied a pair of what looked like bumblebee- costumed gentlemen stretching out. We decided that we needed to take a picture with them. I approached them and asked. They told me “not right now”. We walked away insulted. Who the hell do they think they are? We decided to leave the area, after being rejected, and go find Ross. As we crossed the threshold into the arena, the two men that we had just approached burst past us into the crowd in a fake fight to the ring. We then realized that were distracting them from the act. We laughed and watched the action, no longer offended.

We had a lot to see, in a short amount of time. I put the guys on taking pictures as well. We split up and tried to get into it. It was hard to fit in. It was about this time, there was a raffle. I have to mention this raffle. We did not receive tickets, as I’m guessing they were handed out early and before we showed up. That sort of made me mad, as you may know by now that I love to win shit. That being said, it was hilarious to watch. A child came out to hold up each prize as they were announced. As the winner was called, she would run them to the person and collect their tickets. The prizes consisted of coffee cups, dish towels, and the best prize of all-an apple pie furnished by that diner with the thrift crap and the dusty Avon products in it. It was a pretty good-looking pie.

We had about 20 minutes left, after the raffle. We spent it watching a match where apparently some sort of winner was announced (based on what, I have no damned clue), and a belt awarded. After, there were mini matches and the wrestlers came to mingle with the crowd. They took pictures with fans and signed autographs. It was the liveliest part of the night.

The grand prize, in all its glory.
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Behold! The champion!
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I call him “Duck Fire”!
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This guy was a really cool.
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Fun for the whole family.
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YUP.
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The bar as you walk in. Complete with feral child.
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Crowd and haircut.
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The announcer in his slick-ass suit.
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I’m not sure who this guy was. He didn’t wrestle. I asked if I could take a picture with him and he said it would cost $25. Ok, Vin Diesel. He was about 4″5, BTW.
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Merch booth.
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Me and the champion. He really was the nicest guy.
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We weren’t the only ones memorializing the event.
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Drama.
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Thugin’
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The day-care center.
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Sweet pants.
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And now, some fight scenes…
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The A.V. Department.
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Rallying the crowd.
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The snack bar.
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Round card girl.
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Just a man’s ass in a thong getting flipped in the air…
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This kid gave zero fucks.
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Mingling with the crowd.
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Paparazzi.
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Playing independently, apparently
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Drop-kick in a leather coat.
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This pretty much sums up the experience.

Some shots of the action, at a clear distance. Also, Zach.

With 8:30 upon us, the night was at a close. People were gathering their children, Raiders jackets, and Rascal scooters. I couldn’t help but wonder about the lives of the wrestlers and how this whole thing worked. Were the same guys here every week, or would a new group come into town and this group go on to the next? Since I could find no information about the event online, it was impossible to research. I knew I’d probably never come to another one, so I wouldn’t be able to see if the characters were familiar or not. Was it entertaining? Yes, but not in the way it was supposed to be. I enjoyed watching the crowd more than the actual match. $10 was a bit steep, but I suppose the money goes toward the travel expenses if they do indeed have to travel.

I left not being any more a fan of the sport than when I arrived. I actually was left with more questions. Who are these men? Is this their only source of income or are they Radio Shack Assistant Managers by day? Do the round-card girls travel with them, or do they source them locally? Why was the building packed, yet no one seemed to enjoy the match? Why was an 8 year-old girl announcing the raffle? Why were there so many kids unattended by the liquor? Seriously, no one has ever ordered a vodka-red bull there before? Why is there no internet info, when the church thrift store down the street ran by old ladies manages to have a Facebook page? Do they have groupies and if so, can you point them out to me? How do people become fans of certain wrestlers, when there again is no online info? It was all so bizarre, and I was no closer in understanding the culture as I had been before I entered it. All I can leave with is Damn live professional wrestling, you even out white-trashed me.

*Since writing this, a new bar has opened up in my hood.  Its an upscale cocktail bar with drinks that take a good 6 minutes to craft and they even offer the artisan ice program that has been all the rage as of late (in short, cubes hand cut from blocks of ice that are designed to not water down your drink.  Yes, this is a thing here).  Its actually kind of cool having this new bar here, but its also a ominous sign.  The least gentrified area is coming to an end as we know it.  With a destination cocktail bar, a new eatery that is on every foodie blog as a “must eat”, as well as the best pizza cart in town…the writing is on the wall.  Soon the rent will jump, and the fixies will appear.  Its not a bad thing.  I moved here for all that crap.  Its only sad to say goodbye to the one area of town that reminds me most of home.

The Most Un-Traditional Xmas Eve

14 Nov

Prologue

If you happen to find yourself on Xmas eve, as an adult, without any family, nor a spouse and/or children such as myself your holiday may be a little non-traditional.  My holiday began to be less about family dinner and gifts the year after my mom died.  My family has always been small.  It was just me, my dad and my mom.  We were estranged from many of our extended family, for good reasons.  The bad thing about having such a small home is that you can find yourself losing it all so much easier.   Mom passed away in September of ’01.  I was 22 years old.  Clearly not a child anymore.  My father’s heart was permanently broken, and couldn’t bear to face the holidays any longer.  Rather than face both Thanksgiving and Christmas, he chose to leave for Reno on a gambling trip with a friend of his who was also without family.  He never asked me if I was okay with this, but I suppose I was.

Mom died in September of that year, and Thanksgiving was right around the corner.  I went to our usual gathering at my mom’s best friend’s house.  This group of people were not blood related to me, but I knew this group as family.  I had known them my entire life.  I called members of it “aunt” and “uncle”, “cousin”, etc.  I showed up for Thanksgiving dinner, like I always would with my boyfriend in tow.  It was awkward.  Mostly because I was awkward.  Also because no one knew what to say to me or how to act.  This is a normal reaction.  I don’t blame anyone for not knowing how to interact with me.  If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t know either.  Most asked me how I was doing, and all wanted to share stories about my mom and how much she’d be missed.  It was too much for me.  To be in this very familiar setting I’ve known my entire childhood made her absence and my loss all the more obvious.  I felt strangled by everyone’s sympathy and the ghost of my mother clinging right behind me.  I pretended to take a phone call and left without a word.  It was all too much, too soon.

Soon after, Xmas rolled around.  Dad appeared in my doorway the first week of December and told me he would be out of town for the holiday.  He was near tears when he told me this, and I knew he was dealing with his own journey with grief, one I couldn’t possibly understand.  He went out of town every year after that for both Thanksgiving and Xmas until he died too.  I began my own traditions. My favorites are doing anything non-traditional like seeing a horror movie and chinese food with a friend.  Any time a boyfriend would talk me in to doing a traditional xmas with his family, it would nearly make me sick.  Of course its unavoidable, but personally I prefer to skip those holidays all together.

Xmas-Eve Pool Party

Ross is very much all about the traditional holiday.  He misses his family and home, and he especially feels it on those holidays in which one would normally be amongst both.  Through this relationship I have been forced to concede and celebrate these before blacklisted holidays.  I do so half-heartedly, but I do it nonetheless.  On this last Christmas, I would be cooking my usual “transplant dinner” on the afternoon of.  Every Christmas and Thanksgiving since I’ve lived in Portland, I cook a large and traditional dinner for all of us living here that are away from family to attend and enjoy.  I do it for everyone else, not because I particularly require it or enjoy the ritual.  I also do it for the challenge.  I love cooking and pushing myself to my very best culinary ability.  There’s also something really fucking satisfying about pulling off a gorgeous holiday feast that can feed 20 all by myself (or maybe thats years of domestic brainwashing talking).  Christmas eve, ross was depressed.  His family wanted us to come home for the holiday, but of course I couldn’t, being a retail manager.  We didn’t have a lot of extra money at this time, so we couldn’t afford a tree.  He was very sad about this.  I was personally relieved.  Not only am I incredibly allergic to xmas trees, I find the entire tradition strange and wasteful.  I really didn’t want to acquire one, vacuum up the needles, then have to dispose of it.

Ross was clearly in a funk, and I couldn’t help but have sympathy.  I can see how hard it must be to be away from your family on the holidays.  I wanted to cheer him up.  We didn’t have any money for a tree, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t be festive.  I spent $5 at Dollar tree and created a tree.

Push-pins, fishing line, box of ornaments.
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Of course it didn’t really cheer him up.  That shit took me FOREVER, though.  His parents had sent us gifts, and I positioned them under our “tree”.

It took quite a bit of convincing, but I finally talked him in to going out on Xmas Eve.  Portland is a town a lot of people move to, therefore many won’t be doing anything for Christmas day, so tons of people go out on the eve and drink.  I was excited to experience this.  There were actually quite a few events going on around town that sounded interesting and it was going to be hard to choose the right one.  I also had to pick something that Ross would even be in to joining.  Most of our friends that we’ve made since moving here are actually from Portland (rare) and have family activities to attend.  This means I would not only have to convince him to a) go out when he’s depressed  b) go out without the incentive of hanging out with our friends.   Challenging.  Finally, I saw it: Christmas Eve Pool Party.  It was perfect for me.  Completely non-holiday related.  no fucking Santa hats, no damned stockings, probably no Xmas tree.  Even better, a newly-acquired friend of ours was hosting the event.  After much convincing, he agreed to go.

It was free to get in, but you were supposed to wear bathing suits.  It was snowing in Portland at the time.  Also, when you move to the Pacific Northwest your body changes.  I achieved a new shade of pale that year.  I was literally as white as a glass of milk.  You also spend about 99% of your time here covered from neck to toe in usually many layers.  The thought of being in no more than a bathing suit is bizarre.  Still, I was determined to enjoy my non-traditional Christmas in the company of like-minded individuals for once.  This would be no depressing Christmas!  I refused to spend it crying in bed.  Not this year!  This year would be fun, silly, and hopefully drunk.  Ross was skeptical of the dress code.  He brought up a good point:  What if we show up and no one else is dressed up?  What if we go and we’re not having fun and want to go somewhere else?  he opted to wear normal clothes, but bring his trunks to change in to.  I was in a quandary.  How was I going to feel okay about being in a bathing suit?  I CERTAINLY wouldn’t be putting on a fucking bikini.  NO WAY.  I had recently purchased a size large, gold lame one-piece at a yard sale.  I decided that this would be my best option, as it wasn’t too clingy and provided a lot of coverage.  It was backless, though.  This means, I couldn’t wear a bra, reasonably.  I tried it on with one on, just to see.  I looked like I was doing Momma’s Family cosplay.  I opted for two sets of 5 band aids in a Red Hot Chili Pepper logo pattern.  That’ll have to do.  Now there was the issue with my legs.  They were so pale, they were see-thru.  I decided I needed to wear a pair of tights with my suit.  Trouble is, all of my hose had those shorts built in (women will know what I’m talking about).  None were sheer to the hip except a pair of flesh-toned patterned ones I got on clearance and never wore.  They were weird, but my only viable option.  I eyed myself in the mirror.  I knew full-well that the weird tights would appear to look like some sort of psoriasis in bar-lighting.  Fuck it.  I didn’t want to be sexualized anyway.  That’s right creepers, I have scaly-skinned legs.  I threw a dress on over this combo and we headed out.

The streets were deserted and dusted with snow.  It was unavoidable to realize that is was Christmas.  Ross drove us in silence.  The event was held at a venue in a location that I passed regularly, yet had never been to.  it was called The Grand, and sat right on the corner of a busy intersection.  We parked and saw people standing out front, having a cigarette in beach attire whilst donning leis.  I smiled.  Ross got into his trunks in the car, I ditched my dress and we headed in.

When you enter The Grand, there is sort of a hallway, leading to a podium where the doorman will check your ID.  Tonight, said doorman had on nothing but a speedo and intense back-tattoos.  This put me way at ease.  Clearly, I will be conservatively dressed if this is the standard inside.  He let me know that all ladies in bathing suits tonight get free vodka-soaked gummy bears all night.  Hell yes. We checked our coats and walked in.

The door guy.
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Best use of a speedo to hold a cell phone.
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Upon entering, it wasn’t very crowded. There were maybe 15 people inside. There were 3 women in the building wearing bathing suits that included myself, and two other girls. They looked a LOT different in their suits than I did. I ran to the bar to get a drink and claim my bears. Dudes at the bar were fucking leering.  This was clearly one of those things that sounded way better in theory than actually doing it.  I sped from the bar with my drinks and was glad to see Ross chose to sit at a back booth far from anyone or anything.

There were guys in various versions of suits.  The only bad thing was they could easily throw a coat over it and look completely normal and covered.  It really wasn’t that big of a deal.  I wasn’t exposed at the booth with the large table in front of me in the dark corner.  The gummy bears were surprisingly good, and considering there were only three of us that showed up in the theme dress, they would need me to eat more than my fair share of them.  Our friend, Paul came over and hung out with some of his friends.  Everyone was friendly, and having a good time. Ross was actually having fun.

Me, Paul, and a new friend. Horrible tights and all.
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A lighter shade of pale.
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There turned out to be musical performances. First up were the girls in the suits. They had a little two-person band, and were really funny. All their songs were comedy-themed and totally crass. They were enjoyable to watch and kept us laughing the entire time. During their act, we saw the crowd growing. I noticed that there was a stairwell leading down to a basement. There was a sign above it that said Andrea’s Cha Cha Club. Apparently this large space held a second venue, that was having its own event down below. It must have been “creepy old man” night down there, as within 15 minutes of Paris and Delaney hitting the stage the floor was filled with straight-up creepers. Dudes sipping their beers slowly, while eyeing the stage like they were at a sex-show. I shuddered. It was when the girls were singing their last song, charmingly about venereal diseases, I had to pee. I had felt like I needed to go for a while now, but it was becoming urgent. I knew I was going to have to stand up and use the restroom. My coat was inaccessible, therefore I would have to just march across the room and find the bathroom. Let ’em stare. The absolute worst they could do to me is leer. Yes, Ross should have escorted me to the bathroom. Those of you that know Ross, however know that he is far from knowing what the proper thing to do is. I stood up to go.

Cute.
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As if I were wearing a spotlight around my neck, all of those creepy dudes turned their heads to look at me the minute I stood up. I looked around the space. I couldn’t see any obvious area for the restroom. I sure as hell didn’t want to walk around and look for it. I darted to the bar, leaving my gold lame ass completely exposed to the crowd. I asked for the bathroom. The bartender explained it was actually downstairs, in the “Cha Cha Club”. FUCK ME.

Sleazy.
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I walked to the stairway. It lead into complete darkness. This may be the only basement I’ve ever ACTUALLY feared in my entire life. I made my way down the stairs. I could hardly see what was in front of me, and I was clinging to the rail to not take a header down and crack open my skull.  Two black dudes in their mid-40’s passed me en route. I heard a remnant of their conversation. One guy said to the other that he heard “bitches in bathing suits are upstairs”. They looked at me, shocked. Then instantly fanned out to block my passage down the stairwell. They started picking up on me, clearly so drunk they were swaying back and forth. I was vulnerable. Suddenly, a male voice came booming up the hallway for the guys to “get the fuck out of my way”. The guys jumped to march single-file the rest of the way up the stairs, craning their necks to look and leer back at me the entire way. After they cleared the stairs, I saw a second doorman, sitting on a stool and the base of the stairs. Oh thank God.  

“You okay?”  he asked as I descended the last few steps.

I let him know I was fine, but also let him know I was relieved to see him there.  I looked into the entrance of the Cha Cha.  It was absolutely packed with what appeared to be mostly middle-aged men.  Salsa music was blaring.  The few women that I saw in there were in tight, tacky dresses bumping and grinding against various men while the crowd watched.  Yikes.  I went to the bathroom and made my way back up the stairs.  I would make it a point to not need to go again.

Paris and Delaney had just left the stage, and the upstairs was still filled with the overspill creepers.  I wanted another drink, but refused to cross the floor to the bar.  I sat back down with Ross and made him go.  The next act was two white guys spewing really good hip-hop.  It was ironic, and funny.  Thankfully, this act managed to clear out all the weird creepers and force them back down to the basement.

Can’t imagine why the pervs weren’t into this act too.
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Ater this act, it was karaoke time. How fun. Ross absolutely loves doing karaoke. I like watching, not doing. I helped myself to more booze-bears and watched folks belt out their best Steve perrys and Stevie Nicks. There were a few kiddie-pools sitting in the middle of the dance floor filled with balloons. I wondered what these were going to be eventually filled with and when that part of the night was going to happen.

The crowd was definitly loosening up at this point.  Folks were running up on stage and singing in groups, as well as dancing and cavorting around the swimming pools.  Ross and I decided we needed to kick the party in high-gear by getting up and doing a little R. Kelly.  Don’t worry guys, I set up the video camera right before going on stage:

Clearly, I’m just up there as the “hype-man”.  Ross was asked to stay on stage after that and sing whatever he wanted.  This ranged from Luniz to Neil Diamond.  I took pictures, danced with whomever, ate gummy bears.  I’m lucky I didn’t barf in the pool.

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Finally, the pool got used. No liquid required.
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We covorted until last-call. As the evening wound down, I was pleased that it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. It was so nice to not have to think about it for even a minute. We sat, finishing our last drinks with our friends in the back booth. I was reviewing pictures on my camera memory. One picture caught my eye. Somehow, I had taken a picture of someone’s vagina. At one point, I was shooting a picture of a crowd of people dancing on the stage. Some girl was bent over, not wearing underwear, and I caught a perfect shot of her bare vagina. I showed to Ross. The other members at the table looked on. One of the girls at the table asked to see the picture. I handed her the camera. After looking at it for a minute, the handed the camera back to me. She had deleted the picture. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to do anything with it anyway.  It was just funny that it happened.  Perhaps I missed my calling as one of those sleazy paparazzi trying to catch crotch-shots of celebrities climbing out of their cars.

We payed up and headed off into the night. Tomorrow, it would be Christmas. I would have to open gifts and cook a traditional meal for our friends. I would do my best to not feel sad. I would try and not think about painful memories and drink too much.  This night was weird, the right kind of weird.  Not sure what this year will hold.  I am certainly NOT making another one of those ghost trees again.  EVER.