War of the Roses

I’ve been to Portland (Oregon) on occasion and I have to say it has become one of my most beloved places to visit. It has decent public transit, a lot of character for a smaller city, and a lively art scene.

It’s also billed as “The City of Roses” due to a long association with growing the flower and a large test garden on the western edge of the municipality. I was there in 2011, and on that trip I noticed that even the police cars were decorated with roses. This really made me wonder: can anyone take the police force seriously with such dainty imagery? I mean really, I look at it and the first scenario that comes to my head is:

“Drop your weapon and come out with your hands up!
Or, we are sending in a florist.”

Portland Po-Po: Offering Hostage Crisis Resolution and Floral Delivery 24-7.

Portland Po-Po: Offering Hostage Crisis Resolution and Floral Delivery 24-7.

In The Company of Donuts

This morning, I sought emotional solace in a complimentary, office donut.

For whatever reason, I had a mood swing last night about being single and nearing 40 faster than a bowling ball toward so many standing pins. The feeling lingered well into my morning commute. And as I now stood there in the break room, I stared at this maple-iced confection knowing it would never reject my surly advances. It would remain inert to my bad jokes. Yet if only it could engage me in a fierce political debate, make a wisecrack about vehicular decapitation, or critique science fiction movies with swift and ruthless judgment – I would have found “The One”.

But alas, it was just a donut.

And I destroyed it with my digestive juices like so many that had come before it.


Reunited And It Feels So Good

I traveled back to Iowa this past week to attend my 20 year high school reunion. It was preceded by feelings of both dread and excitement, but those hot and cold systems joined to form a most interesting weather pattern within my psyche when all was said and done.

"Cereal Mascot Reunion" by Rob Sheridan

“Cereal Mascot Reunion” by Rob Sheridan

Upon my arrival in the Hawkeye State, I dropped in on my mother – who was working at a retail outlet – to surprise her. The first thing she said to me wasn’t an exclamation of surprise or joy, but rather a subdued:

“Let me measure your neck.”

She then pulled out a tape measure from an adjacent cashier’s drawer and did just that. There was some rhyme to her reason, however, as she does work in a mens’ clothing store and wants to fit me for that damn suit I have to be buried in. The hugs and happiness came after the business transaction. How could anyone not love this woman?

After that abrupt but hilarious welcome, I proceeded to plot my strategy for the weekend gathering of old, but memorable, faces: Would there be the same bullshit from back in the day? Should I prepare for the inevitable tip-toeing around my sexuality? Would people have matured at all? Would anyone be dead or on their fourth marriage? My inquiring mind wanted to know.

As it turns out, pretty much all of the above, minus the death and marriage part.

I met up with a handful of my peeps the night before the reunion. We sort of came together organically at the high school Homecoming football game and then flocked to a bonfire afterward. Libations were had and in the chill of not knowing what to expect, I found a very warm group of people. Open and interesting. Jokes were told, histories revealed and a sense of belonging (at least from my perspective) formed a shield around us. I had a very enjoyable time and I looked forward to the real reunion the next night.

In the expanded group of the actual reunion, there was a little more formality and slightly more posturing. However, I still found the evening to be time well spent. I do not think that feeling was shared by some people and I felt bad that some of them were not finding a connection to the night’s glistening bath of memories. A few left early and I barely had a chance to catch up with them. I was certainly lucky to have a built-in portion of the crowd in my corner pocket – as I see them every time I return to the Iowa prairie. It reminded me how fortunate I was to have those solid friendships in place.

The night closed with a friend requesting Prince’s “Pussy Control” from our born-again-Christian classmate who was the DJ. He accepted our song choice good-naturedly, and we danced……badly.

The subsequent day was dichotomously emotional as I reflected on how grateful I was to have escaped the Midwest for a better life, but also have known such unique, and gifted people. I suspect we will not be doing another reunion as this was our first one in two decades. However, I will attempt to remain optimistic that I will see more than a handful before my ultimate demise from vodka and honey mustard.

The Silent Fury of a Secret Crush

There is something uniquely painful and delicious about a secret crush. I’ve been harboring one for the better part of two years with no signs of abatement.

"The Ecstasy" (2011) by Martin Wittfooth

“The Ecstasy” (2011) by Martin Wittfooth

I have never been the bold and brash type to throw myself at people and brush it off if they reject me. I am usually quite cautious – like a medical professional – gauging the temperature of the situation, feeling for a pulse of reciprocal attention, and then making an educated assessment on the survival outcome.  I guess you can say that I’m not one to dance in the spotlight of public humiliation (although I have done it on occasion for comedic effect).

Last spring, I made some subtle overtures toward this quiet gentleman to see if there was any interest in the shallow tides of our interactions, but my net returned nothing of substance. But still, to this day, when I see him in passing or when he responds to my random greetings or casual conversations, I experience nothing short of the 4th of July in my cardiovascular system. My synapses align and fire like a 21-gun salute. I am happy for almost 3 full hours simply because he acknowledged me.

He’s not Gerard Butler or anything, but he’s got a quiet power about him. A solid, slightly introverted, state of mind. Hair like crushed coal and mischievous eyes. Regal but with a hint of darkness, like an old Victorian clock or a wounded soldier still keeping watch at the checkpoint. He wreaks of responsibility and work ethic – the cologne of a good man. And trust me, this is truly a rare aura for someone in their late 20’s.

But at the end of the day, he’s beyond my reach for whatever reason. Perhaps he is with someone or not interested in me. Perhaps he’s not looking. Perhaps he’s not “playing for my team”. I may never have the answer, and so I have to swallow my hope. It feels like a grenade gift-wrapped in a cactus. But better that than follow the bread crumbs up the mountain of expectations that I’ve constructed, over the peak of my own hype, and off the cliff into oblivion.

There is no pain greater than that of suppressed elation.

Ok, maybe dental pain.

Mother/Son Bonding Over Deadly Aliens and Burning People Alive

I have a very unique relationship with my mother when it comes to film. We have nearly identical taste in science fiction and horror movies.

I can remember when I was but a wee child, maybe 8 or 9, and the the film Alien was being shown on network television for the first time. Granted, most of the scariest stuff was cut from the film for obvious reasons, but I remember my father being mortified that I planned to watch it. My mother actually defied my dad and said, “My son and I are watching this movie whether you like it or not.” I think he just walked away saying, “You deal with his nightmares then.” So we gleefully made popcorn and wrapped up in blankets on the couch to watch Lt. Ellen Ripley run for her life on a claustrophobic space freighter.


“Alien” (1979)

Of course I was completely terrified, even by an edited version. However, in my later years I came to appreciate what a fantastic film Alien was and how it has stood the test of time. It feels so visceral and real. It’s gritty and unpolished, and the obsidian alien itself is truly a cinematic virus of nightmares.

Tonight, I called my mom and in our discussion I mentioned I would probably be seeing the film Riddick this weekend. We saw the first film of that character’s anthology, Pitch Black, before I moved to Seattle years ago, and we both loved it. And from that mnemonic lily pad she made the leap back to the Alien film where our mutual love of dark, twisted sci-fi was first born. “Wasn’t that a great movie?” she asked, and then added, “Did you ever see the special edition with all the scenes that were cut…like when Ripley finds that captain cocooned and he asks her to kill him so she burns him up with that flamethrower? That was so creepy.”

“Yes, mom, it was creepy.”

But in that moment of reflection with her, the memory didn’t feel creepy at all. It felt like being wrapped up in blankets with your mother experiencing terror together but knowing it’s not real. Just a moment that you got to share together, and one I will no doubt continue to cherish after she’s gone. And as strange or twisted as it sounds, it is curated in my brain like a valuable artifact.

Run Don’t Walk

There are many things that frustrate me about driving in Seattle, however a large number of the pedestrians and cyclists are quite possibly the most foul of these irritants.

Natalia Goncharova. "Cyclist", 1913.

Natalia Goncharova. “Cyclist”, 1913.

Before I rip into these bastards, let me just say that I do admire people who walk or bike for exercise or environmental reasons. If I lived a reasonable distance from my place of employment, no doubt I would be one of them. Nonetheless, I would like to think that using my feet rather than a combustion engine wouldn’t give me delusions of superiority or an attitude of “Oh, they’ll stop for me”.  People always remind me that “Pedestrians have the right of way!” and I agree that they should; they are people and not lumbering machines…but a “right of way” does not equate to a cloak of invincibility or exemption from the law.

I cannot tell you how many times I have stopped at an intersection with a green light because people expect the cars to come screeching to a halt due to their divine presence on the concrete. It’s like they don’t even think they need to wait for the WALK sign to appear. Just today, a light went from red to green and I sat there while an able-bodied gentleman basically strolled slowly across the street as if someone had paved his path with rose petals and his naked feet were enjoying their silky, generous touch. When I cross an intersection (ahem, when I have a WALK signal), I try to do so with ample speed as I know I am basically crossing “The Pathway of Death” and at any moment an out of control vehicle could come barreling down on my position. The only exceptions I make here are for the elderly, small children and the handicapped.  Anyone else strolling through my green light clearly has a death wish.

As for a select number of cyclists, it’s a similar story. I was always under the impression that if you are on a bike, it’s the same as being on a motorcycle: you signal when turning, you stop at red lights, you allow faster-moving traffic to pass you (when possible). Well, apparently I was living in a dreamworld this whole time. The other day I was WALKING to a restaurant in my neighborhood and I stopped at an empty intersection (save for 1 bicyclist coming down the street). Since he was nearly a block away, I assumed he’d see me arriving at the corner (where there was a lovely scarlet STOP sign waiting for his ass) and slow his momentum. Well, needless to say he didn’t stop at all (or slow down), and he damn near hit me at top speed. As he ran the stop sign he just shouted, “Sorry bro!” and sailed past.

It was so close, I felt a brush of wind that I imagined was just your standard rudeness at high velocity.