A Thousand Words

Intro

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. These words are mine, but only when they're in this particular order. Let's pretend it's all fiction, because some of it is, and it won't matter that what isn't isn't.

A Hipster And A Hippopotomus

A hipster with a hippopotamus walks into a pub and orders a PBR.

...there's your setup. It's obvious where I'm going with this, but humor me and follow along anyway, ok? Thanks! As I was saying...

A hipster with a hippopotamus walks into a pub and orders a PBR. Never mind the fact that we're in Portland and the pub has plenty of world-class microbrews to choose from. The menu features locally brewed Porters and Stouts, ESB's more bitter than a second ex-wife who got nothing in the divorce, and even an Amber named after a neighborhood hottie who, curiously enough, isn't named Amber. He could have had any of these. Instead, he ordered a goddamn factory-made corporate-owned generic as all get-out glass of piss the rest of the world knows as Pabst. But hipsters are too anti-establishment to call it Pabst. That's why he ordered a fucking P-B-R.

...whatever.

The bartender rolled his eyes the same way you probably did as you read this. I mean, really... this particular hipster was as cliche as they come: skinny jeans, thick-framed glasses, an ironic T-shirt, oversize retro headphones, and hair that looked like he'd just rolled out of bed even though everyone KNOWS it took him at least a half hour to get it to look that way.

...whatever!

Truth be told, the hipster wasn't technically "in" the pub. He'd brought a hippopotamus, after all, and pubs tend to frown on that sort of thing. Thus, he was in the pub's pet-friendly outdoor seating. Luckily, it was a warm early summer afternoon. Not too hot, not too cool... perfect weather to be outside.

Since most of the people who pack the pub on weeknights were still at work, the place was pretty empty, so it didn't take long for the bartender to return with the beer PBR, which he sat on the table but did not let go of.

"Here's you go" the bartender said with his hand still on the glass. "But first, I've got to ask... uhm... where'd you get him?"

The hippopotamus replied: "Are you kidding? I picked him up in NOPO. Man, they're everywhere over there."

* * * * *

Are you ready for another joke? Great! Here we go:

A Hippie with a hamster walks into a hemp-hat shop... [grin] ...the hamster says: "Are you kidding? I picked him up on Hawthorne. You can't even step on the sidewalk without bumping into ten of 'em over there."

...guffaw.

Wait! One more... A libertarian with a lobster walks into a library... and the lobster says... wait.. wait... the lobster says...

...well, it said something about how a vote for a third party candidate isn't actually a wasted vote, but then he realized the librarian was wearing a "Yes We Can" t-shirt and that's when the scene got kind of awkward... which is fine, because the libertarian would have never voted to fund a library in the first place even though he certainly doesn't mind using it... but that's irrelevant because the joke isn't nearly as funny as the one about the homophobic family values preaching Christian conservative who walked into an undercover cop when he was looking for a restroom rim-job...

As If

As if by magic, the skies above downtown Portland turned from gray to blue at a quarter past two this afternoon. We'd thank Mother Nature, but we know better. High pressure overtakes low pressure, and the clouds get swept away, allowing the sun to shine down on this marvelous day.

As if by magic, she expects her luck to change. She dreams of love as she blocks her heart from what her eyes see. She blames fate, but I know better. Much like the sun that tried to shine down on our fair city before the clouds gave way, a man's good intentions cannot be seen through her fears so gray.

I could be her sunny day.

But not today.

Not until her weather patterns change.

As if.

Because There Wasn't A Year Zero

Do you think there was a guy born in the year 1 AD named Chuck who tried to convince people that B.C. stood for "Before Chuck"?

Do you think he tried to use a line like that to get laid?

Me too.

Bob

The first time I hit him with a coconut was an accident.

I wanted a drink and the man handed me a coconut. Can you believe that, Bob? Hell if I know exactly where we were at the time, bein' as how we got there on a rowboat. He said we were seekin' solitude.

Seekin' solitude? A man does not take his beautiful wife on holiday in the Caribbean to go seekin' solitude. It ain't right. I was seekin' to sun myself on a tropical beach with an exquisite tropical drink in my hand, preferably served by a younger tropical gentleman. Instead, I found myself sittin' on a desolate island with a coconut. And my soon-to-be ex-husband, of course.

I'm sure you can understand why I was not in the best of moods at that point in time.

My then-husband looked at me with those puppy-dog eyes of his and asked what I was thinkin'. I was so steamed, I said "I'll tell you what with this coconut!" as I slugged him with it. This was the second time I'd hit him with that particular coconut, as I mentioned the first time had been an accident. The second time, I meant it. Sometimes a lady doesn't know her own strength though, because I managed to knock him right off that cliff we were danglin' our legs from as we sat there in our newfound solitude.

Mamma always said you can count on a man to over-react in just about any situation, and she was right because he started actin' crazier than a sprayed roach... screamin' all kinds of nonsense and swingin' his arm. Truth be told, he was a lot better at fallin' than he was at landin', though he only fell maybe ten or twenty feet in this instance.

Even worse than over-reactin', Bob, I tell you, my ex was an indecisive man. One minute, he said he wanted solitude, and the next, he wanted a doctor. I told him "It's time you make up your mind, Addy, 'cause you can't have both!"

And, so, we got in the rowboat again and headed back to Saint whatever the hell the first island we came from was called. St. Lucia? St. Croix? Hell, I don't know. And, this time, because he happened to break his arm fallin' off the cliff due to me tellin' him what with a coconut... Somehow that meant I had to row.

Can you picture a delicate woman, such as myself, doin' manual labor, Bob? I tell you, it's undignified.

Bein' as how I was busy rowin' us back to Saint Whatever island to get him a doctor, I thought it only fair that my soon-to-be not-husband start tidyin' up the boat, especially since it was his blood makin' the mess. Oh, yeah, he was bleedin' a bit, on account of the rocks at the bottom of the cliff.

This is when I came to realize I'd married a man who was not only over-reactin' and indecisive... He was squeamish too. Honestly, you'd think he never saw blood before. I told him... I said "So what? I bleed once a month, just like clockwork!" Bleedin's not that big a deal, Bob, but apparently my ex thought otherwise, because he collapsed at the sight of one of his own natural fluids.

I didn't find that to be particularly helpful at all.

Now, I can accept a man with an over-reactin', indecisive and squeamish nature if he's at least got some common sense, but I came to find out my ex-husband was sorely lacking in that regard. I swear, he didn't even think to look at where it was he'd be faintin'. He just saw a pool of his own blood gatherin' at his feet and he passed right out, unintentionally flopping himself over the side of the boat in the process.

I was quite disturbed by this, as I'm sure you can imagine. I said "Addison P. Copeland, you better climb back into this boat right this very minute!" But did he listen? Of course not. My sister's second cousin-in-law's best friend Jenny-Sue says men never do, although, I declare, Bob, you seem to be an excellent listener. Did you notice how I went so far as to use my overboard-floppin' ex-husband's middle initial to make certain he knew how upset with him I was? Well, he must not have noticed at all because he just laid face down in that water, failin' to pay any mind to what I had to say.

And that's when I knew I was gonna have to find myself another man. God rest Addy's soul.

The whole incident put a damper on our honeymoon, sure enough, but I can't say all was for naught since I did learn somethin': always remove a man's wallet from his pants before you get in a rowboat with him because that man may drown, and then how the hell is he gonna pay for the damage his blood does to the wooden veneer? Assuming you're not in a metal rowboat, of course.

Clearly, my ex-husband did not think that through when he took a swim.

Good heavens, Bob, where are my manners? I didn't mean to be such a chatter-bug tonight. Do you want to tell me how your last relationship came to pass, or have we arrived at the point in the evenin' when we should start talkin' about us? ...bein' as how we're on our first date and all...

Can I ask you a question?

I could tell she had something on her mind, but I must say, I was impressed when halfway into her first drink she cut to the chase.

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Of course."

Through the years, I’ve learned a few things. Don’t eat the yellow snow. Never arm-wrestle a re-assigned priest. If you live alone and don’t remember putting something in the fridge, don’t eat it. And, when someone asks if they can ask a question, it means you have to let them.

"OK. I feel weird asking this, but... Uhm... Are you...?"

"...An undercover Caped-Crusader?"

"No... uhm..."

"...Am I the next John Travolta?"

"What? NO! Uhm..."

"What do you mean, NO! I might be. You don't know!!! Ask me about greased lightnin’!"

"WHAT?!?!?"

"I have no idea. You're the one with the damn question. Are you going to ask it, or what?"

"I’m trying to! I want to know if... if... you’re..."

"...if I’m a tiny man wearing a tall disguise that makes me average out to my average height?"

"NO!!!"

"...’cuz, seriously, I’m 5’10", which puts me right down the middle as far as averages go."

"Rob!!!!!"

"...Yes???"

"ARE YOU GAY!?"

Now that she finally found the strength to ask her question, she also answered mine. I was wondering if we were on a date. Clearly, we’re not.

"No," I said. "I’m straight."

"Oh."

NOW I KNOW WE’RE NOT ON A DATE. Damn, woman! Just because you don’t want a piece of this doesn’t mean you have to look so disappointed!

"I’m not disappointed. It’s just that..."

"Oh, shit! I said that out loud? That was supposed to be one of those 'just for me' comments."

"Haha! Yeah, well... it’s just that I know a great guy who’s new in town and I wanted to set you two up."

I completely understand why people think I might be gay. It’s all about the stereotype: I’m neat and tidy. I’m probably more stylish than your average guy, though let’s be honest, that’s not saying a lot. I’m not the most masculine dude in the world, but then again, most of the gay guys I know like to work out, which means they’re a hell of a lot tougher than I’ll ever be. That part of the stereotype makes no sense. Come to think of it, stereotyping makes no sense, period... though I do have a kickass stereo, and I swoon over vintage typewriters... but that’s beside the point. OK. The fact that I just used the word 'swoon' probably totally fits the stereotype. Fuck the stereotype!

I guess it's time to break the awkward silence. "So... let's see if I've got this right. I thought I was on a date with a woman who wants to hook me up with her friend... who happens to be a dude."

"Uhm... yeah. I guess so. Weird, right?"

"Well, are you going to tell me about him or aren’t you?"

"Huh? Why?"

"Friends are always good to have."

"No, I don’t think so."

"I don’t get it. You thought we'd click. Am I missing something here?"

"He’d still want to bang you."

"OH! You mean, like what's happening between me and you, right now?"

FACEPALM.

Yeah.

Don't Stop Believin'

I used to think of love as a destination. It was something to search for and to cherish once found. It was the end of dating. I used to think the potential to find love was the reason to go on dates in the first place. "She might be the one." There's always a chance, right?

Through time and experience, I realized I was wrong. There is no 'one.' In fact, I am the one. I always have been. And so have you.

And that's the point, isn't it?

Dating isn't a question of whether or not someone could be my one. It's a question of whether or not I'm willing to share my one - to share myself - because that's what it takes to be one for someone else.

All of it takes time.

When a first date becomes a second and a second becomes a third that leads to a fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh... When losing track of the number of dates leads to not wanting to count them anymore because you've found more than what you even thought you were looking for...

That's not an ending.

It's a beginning.

And love? Love isn't a destination at all.

It's the journey.

Every Day Is December 26th

Years ago, I dated a woman whose grandmother made a habit of giving her family the most peculiar gift each Christmas.

She gave everyone underwear.

I know what you're thinking, so go ahead... say it: "That's not so peculiar."

No, it isn't. One might say it's practical, thoughtful, or maybe even sweet... unless you were the boyfriend of her grand-daughter opening a new pack of tighty-whities in front of her entire family - including the extended family (most of whom you've just met)... and since they all know what will be in their grandmother's gift-boxes, they make a big show of having you open yours first.

"Uhm... [...grin...] ...I guess word gets around about what's in my dresser?"

For the record, I don't wear tighty-whities, but these weren't even close to being my size. They were a jumbo size of one of those overpriced brands of spectacularly drab underwear nobody actually buys.

...and that was the point.

It was basically a gift-card. Every year on the day after Christmas, my girlfriend's family goes to the mall to exchange the awful underwear for the skivvies of their choice. And so, the next day, off to the mall we went.

In the end, the gift was practical, thoughtful, oddly charming and definitely fun.

* * * * *     Returns     * * * * *

The only reason any of us exists is because, at some point roughly nine months before each of our birthdays, a woman gave a man the gift of her body, and hopefully not too shortly thereafter, he gave her baby-maker a few squirts of procreative booyah.

Life is a gift. That's what everyone says, right? Well then tell me what fucking store I get to take my childhood back to because I'd like to make an exchange.

"Hi. I'm sorry, but this 1988 isn't my size. It's a bitter, but I'm a happy. Oh, and here's a 1992. Geez, I don't even know what's wrong with it, but damn. Just look at it. It's just messed up."

The saleswoman replies: "I'm sorry sir, but I can't help you with that. You can only exchange unused years." And then, while holding up a battered 1984 she says "Maybe you can regift this? It's what everybody does, you know."

She's right.

Most people take their pasts and their problems and they pass it all on. A bad childhood becomes a white-elephant gift someone else gets stuck with. "Mommy did pills and that's why I do heroin." Fuck that. "Dad hit mom so now I hit you." Fuuuuck THAT!

Here's the one I've seen a few times too many: A bad relationship with some other guy becomes the gift a woman wants to give me. He didn't love her enough so now she won't be able to trust me enough. He couldn't commit to her, so now she won't be able to commit to me. He abused her so now she won't be comfortable with me even touching her.

Fuck. That. Too.

Every day, we have the opportunity to try on the future and ask "Do I like this? Does it fit?" If so... enjoy it. Cherish it. Celebrate it. If not, choose something else.

Every day is December 26th.

* * * * *     Receipts     * * * * *

The mantra of holiday shopping is "Would you like a gift receipt with that?"

"Yes, I would like a gift receipt" says the bad husband who doesn't know what to get his wife, so he chooses items based on price and labels. To him, giving a Christmas present is actually a form of gift-card lotto. "If she likes it, I'm a genius. If she doesn't, it's $75 worth of something else at her favorite store." Good enough, eh?

...not really.

I wonder if his wife would like a gift receipt for the next ten years with that shmuck. You can only exchange the years in advance - or so I am told.

For Me To Be

When I was a boy

They told me that someday
I'd grow to be something
because I was someone

but everything I heard
and everything I saw
and everything I was foolish enough to believe
became everything I knew I never wanted to be

And now I am not

In becoming not
I have become more
though there is still so much more

for me to be

Because I knew I didn't want to
Because I knew to choose not to

I choose because I can
I chose because I am

for me to be

Head, Hate, Heart And Hope

I'm surprised by the fear in this head of mine.
I'm surprised by the strength in this heart of mine.

I try to know one thing from the other, but I can be mistaken about the head and the heart and the feelings from each part, as well as the functions they serve. I know that both will someday cease.

I hope my head goes first.

I can't imagine experiencing even a moment after my heart stops beating. I can't imagine the horror of knowing the end had come with a certainty that I'd be powerless to prevent it. Death will find us all. I hope my head goes first.

I'm surprised by the hate in this head of mine.
I'm surprised by the joy in this heart of mine.

I hope my hate goes first.

I should learn to accept my flaws but I choose to hate them instead. I should learn to accept the flaws of others but I attempt to fix them instead. I hate myself when I foolishly try and fail but I hate myself more if I don't try at all. Failure will find us all. I hope my hate goes first.

I'm surprised by the doubt in this head of mine.
I'm surprised by the hope in this heart of mine.

My hope feels like a thirst.

I long for the honor of giving a woman my heart. I can't imagine the honor of giving a woman my name. My name is worthless. It is difficult as well, but it's all I have. In many ways it is all I am. Fate will find us all. My hope feels like a thirst.

I'm surprised by the angst in this head of mine.
I'm surprised by the love in this heart of mine.

My heart could easily burst.

I contain my angst as I contain any negative emotion: mostly concealed but rarely defeated. I contain my heart as I contain the sky, which is to say, not at all. But this defeat I gladly accept, knowing the atmosphere provides room to soar. Love will find us all. My heart could easily burst.

My head.
My hate.
My heart.
My hope.
I know they all will someday cease.

I hope my hate goes first.

Hey Jimmy, Do You Like Candy?

I see a day coming when a new form of child predator emerges.

"...Well officer, I didn't get a good look at the guy, but, as he lead the kid away, I heard him say something about needing the DNS on his router reconfigured. I bet he's got Jimmy backing up his MySQL database as we speak!!! Please officer, please find Jimmy before that bad man makes him do something really terrible!!! I think he's gonna try to make Jimmy convert table-based web pages to CSS!!!!"

I remember being young... and... y'know... able to figure stuff out.

By age eleven, while my father was still trying to figure out how to format a floppy disk, I already knew how to program in BASIC. Where have the years gone?

Every time I call webhosting tech support, I find myself talking to a teenager who speaks to me like I'm an idiot... most likely because, by comparison, I'm an idiot.

I honestly believe man would have landed on Mars by now if only child labor laws didn't prevent NASA from hiring fourteen year olds.

* * * * *

"Hey, Jimmy, do you like candy? Do you like doing IP tracerouts? What do you know about SSL Ports and IMAP Servers? How are you with upgrading MT 2.65 to 3.2? Can you program in PERL? Hey! Where are you going! NO no no... don't walk away!!! I've got candy!! CANDY I tell you!!! CANDY!!!"

Crap.

"I wasn't going to share my candy with you anyway!!!"

Fucking kids these days.

"Can you at least look over my CGI script?"

Dammit.

I Did Something Stupid. Bring Tools

There are three basic kinds of funny - chronologically speaking.

1. That which was funny.
2. That which is funny right now.
3. That which will someday be funny once one is done feeling like a total goddamn uberdoofus.

This story is about that last kind.

When I was living in Dallas, my apartment's rental agreement included a free carpet cleaning once a year.

The day mine were to be cleaned, I cleared away everything I could, stacking things in the kitchen, or on the balcony. And then, in a moment of sheer genius, I thought: "Hey, my sheets need to be washed anyway... why don't I pack up the bed too, so they can get the entire bedroom carpet?"

I tossed the sheets and comforter in the dirty wash, and proceeded to push the mattress and box-spring into the bathroom.

The box-spring had to be pushed in first, and then pivoted to leave enough room to maneuver the mattress around it.

Mattresses are floppy when stood up - which became apparent as I slid mine across the floor and into the bathroom. I had to maneuver it quite a bit just to get it in there. Wiggle wiggle, bend, floppy flop... aaaand... lean it against the sink.

As I exited the bathroom, I heard something...

"Fffffffffffwwwwwwwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!!!!"

...Oh god...

I spun around in an instant, but it was already too late.

WHAM!!!!

...the mattress had fallen over, catching the bathroom door as it went. The door smashed shut in my face, missing my nose by less than an inch.

OHGOD!!!!!!!!!

I reached for the doorknob, but it wouldn't turn. As the mattress fell, it managed to push in the little door-lock button, not that it would have mattered. Even if the door hadn't locked, the falling mattress knocked over the box-spring, which wedged itself between the door and the sink. Locked or unlocked, that door wasn't going to open.

CRAP.

[...dialing phone...]

"...hey, it's me... you busy?"
"Look, there's no way to say this that won't sound dumb."
"I did something stupid... bring tools."
"What?!? ...No, it's not funny..."
"Yeah, it probably will be - but it isn't funny yet..."

I Walked In On Them

I stood there and watched - frozen in my tracks, wondering...

"Am I seeing what I'm seeing?"

Had I walked in on a private moment that was intended for their eyes only? Was I intruding? Should I have left?

Yes, I had - but I didn't.

No, this wasn't meant for me to see. I was becoming a man of the world, living in two cities at the same time. Surely that gave me a broader perspective than most. It's not as if I was some sort of six year old...

...please...

I was seven, and a fine judge of what was and wasn't my business. This was clearly none of my business, yet I stood and I watched - silently.

As any seven year old boy can tell you, girls are icky, and boys touching girls is even icky-er. It's way icky. Beyond icky. It's just plain gross - and I knew it.

I KNEW IT.

But somehow, this wasn't gross. "Why isn't this gross?" I didn't understand what I was seeing, so I continued watching, hoping not to disturb them.

Her cheeks were red. I'd never seen my stepmother's cheeks so red. And her eyes... "Why is she looking at him like that? She's not sad, but why would she look like that if she's happy? She has a tear in her eye... but she looks happy?" It made no sense.

My father was holding her left hand with his right, while his left was behind her back. Her right hand was on his shoulder.

They were dancing - in the kitchen - and they were in love.

And I KNEW it.

It's Just A Light

It's just a light.

I know this. And yet, when I gaze out my windows to find it no longer there, I feel sad.

The feeling is irrational.

Again, I know this. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and my heart wants the light.

It's the little red light that shined from the window of an apartment in the building across the street. And the strings of lights that lined the trees throughout downtown. And all four of the lights that were perched atop Well's Fargo Tower. And the lights strung through the trees on Broadway.

Please, bring them back.

Bring back the reds, greens and whites that lit the nighttime sky through the end of November and December, because it gets so dark so early in this town, and we could all use a little more light.

Bring back the tree that glittered in the center of Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Bring back the red and white Santa hats that somehow seemed to make everyone smile.

Bring back the tinsel, and the boxes and bows. Bring back the wreaths of holly and evergreen.

Bring back the candy canes.

Bring back the peppermint mochas, the eggnog and the spicy ales, because there's always time to share one with a friend, and there is no better time than the present.

Any time is a fine time for a celebration.

So bring them back.

But, even more importantly, bring back the light.

* * * * *

"I love coming to your house grandma because we always have a huge dinner and I get to eat good stuff like turkey. I love turkey!"

As the words came out of my six year old mouth, my grandmother was silenced. I didn't know it at the time, but she didn't know what to say.

Any other adult might have explained that the family was spread out across the state, which meant we usually only saw each other on holidays - thus the huge meals.

But this was no holiday. I believe it was sometime in spring. And dinner was likely to have been simple. Spaghetti, maybe. Truth be told, it was probably coincidence that so many family members were in town on the same weekend.

It didn't matter.

"It's good to have everyone together, isn't it?" she said. "Get your shoes on because we're going to the store."

Hours later, when the aunts and uncles returned from doing whatever it is adults in a small town do, I saw my grandmother's silence again - except this time, it was on each of their faces.

One by one, they entered the dining room to find a Thanksgiving feast on the table, in the middle of spring.

* * * * *

Any time is a fine time for a celebration, so bring back the lights.

I realize they're intended to be a reminder of the spirit of the season, but what is the season, really? Jesus was born in the spring, yet we celebrate his birth on December 25th, and Thanksgiving didn't earn its place on the calendar as the fourth Thursday in November until 1939.

These dates, and these holidays, are as fabricated as the ToFurkey my ex used to eat. And I ate it too - with a generous helping of the real bird, of course.

So what if the calendar says January rather than November or December? Any time is a fine time to celebrate.

The light for me is the light in you. All of you.

I saw it twinkle in your eyes last November, and it sparkled through December, as did you. But when I looked today, your light was gone.

Bring it back.

It's Up To You

...to say hello.
...to say goodbye.
...to recognize the time for each.
...to cherish the time in between.
...to let go of the past.
...to have a future.
...to be in the now.
...to live.
...to learn.
...to look.
...to leap.
...to take a risk.
...to face your fears.
...to know that fear can be helpful.
...to know that times can be hard.
...to know the struggle is worth it.
...to hold on tight when you must.
...to be able to fail but not be a failure.
...to be hurt but not broken.
...to pick yourself back up.
...to dust yourself off.
...to cry if you need to.
...to then be ok because you are.
...to be strong.
...to be beautiful.
...to be imperfect.
...to be proud.
...to be who you are.
...to be what you want to.
...to give it when you need to.
...to take it when you have to.
...to get through it all somehow.
...to follow it through to the end.
...to not be through until you are done.
...to move on when you are done.
...to make a change when you're ready.
...to start again.
...to take that first step.
...to look someone in the eyes.
...to share a smile.
...to be a friend.
...to be befriended.
...to be ready for more if you find it.
...to find joy in someone else.
...to find peace in yourself.
...to let yourself be known.
...to let someone in.
...to let something happen.
...to let someone know.
...to let something grow.
...to see it.
...to feel it.
...to experience it.
...to touch.
...to be touched.
...to feel more than the touch.
...to feel passion.
...to be moved.
...to be inspired.
...to be ready.
...to love.
...to wipe that aloof smile off your fucking face if you can not, because you're wasting my time not to mention your own.

Get a dog.
Learn to knit.
Be alone.

Or make an effort
Do your part.
Meet me half way.

I'm the man sitting across the table from you now, and the night is no longer young.

It's up to you.

* * * * *

This is about a specific woman I met a few years ago. She liked being pursued, she said. In fact, for her, dating was more about validating her self worth than it was about enjoying the company of the person she was with.

"I like being chased" she said, sharing a sexy smile that did not mask the selfish sexism of her phrase. "It's a girl thing."

I wanted to say that I like being treated like a living breathing and potentially loving human being rather than treated like a greyhound meant to follow a rabbit at the track, adding that it's a decency thing.

Instead, I said I understood - though, honestly, I did not.

* * * * *

"Another round for you two?" asked the bartender, politely.

My gut told me to call it a night, but as I leaned towards my date, I spoke the four words that were the embodiment of everything I'd been thinking about this coy woman all night long.

"It's up to you."

One Step Back

He reaches forward, placing his right hand on my waist while extending his left. And much like everything else he offers freely while expecting so little in return, I take it. The music begins, and we dance.

Two steps forward, one step back, though not exactly to the beat of the music. It doesn't matter. He's doing the best he can.

"Go step, step, a step back and'a turn" shouts the little Italian dance instructor who he refers to as Mama Mia, because... "Well, she's going to say that a million times anyway."

"Dean'a, you must'a feel the musica! Ay, Mama Mia!"
"Dean'a, you supposed to lead'a, no follow! Ay, Mama Mia!"
"Dean'a, you dance'a like wet noodle on a stick! Ay, Mama Mia!"

Dean accepts these criticisms with a loving smile because he's not here to please Mama Mia. He's here for me. He'd never say it, but I know. I'm here because I have nowhere else to go. I guess that means I'm here for me too.

Two steps forward, one step back.

I used to date men with motorcycles, but Dean drives a Saab. I chased tattooed men with tabooed thoughts, and we'd fuck like olympic athletes going for the gold. But years pass and beauty fades. The tattooed men are probably still fucking beautiful girls while I sleep with Dean.

Dean does not fuck. He prefers to "make looooooooooooooooove," but unlike the men before him, Dean only wants to make love to me. That counts for something, right?

Two steps forward, one step back.

Dean and I met by accident. Literally. I was a broken down woman barreling down the road in a broken down car. I knew my brakes were shit. That was the point. When you've got nothing left to lose, you've got everything to gain. I gained a lot by rear-ending Dean's Saab. I hit him good and hard, but somehow, he thought he was at fault. His car was banged up but drivable. Mine was a total loss, and since my night was a total loss too... I figured, what the hell. I let him drive me home if he agreed to take me to dinner first. I got a free meal and a new car too. By the end of the night, Dean thought he found love.

Two steps forward, one step back.

"...and'a a TURN!"

Yes, Mama Mia. A step back, and a turn.

I tried. Honest to god, I tried to end it so many times, but no matter what I told him needed to change, he'd change. Friday nights with the guys from work: gone. His beige sofa: gone. Pleated goddamn khaki pants: gone. I pushed and he pulled. Is that how he pulled me in?

Two steps forward, one step back.

My friends say you can tell a lot about a man by the way he fucks, but I think you can tell more by the way he wakes up the next day. Max told me to go make him some coffee. Leo asked why I was still there and I heard him flip the lock as soon as I stormed out the door. Dean woke me with a kiss on the forehead and a homemade breakfast in bed. In fact, he made two completely different breakfasts because he didn't know if I'd want eggs and bacon or french toast with fruit. What I really wanted was for him to fuck me senseless, but he was holding the best looking omelette I'd ever seen, so I ate it. I ate the french toast too. And, best of all, Dean brought me coffee. I didn't get fucked though. Not that morning or any morning. Not since I met Dean.

Two steps forward, one step back.

I didn't mean for us to become a couple. It's just that I was broke and he sure wasn't. I lost my lease and he found a roommate. Well, OK, he found a girlfriend, but I'm a good goddamn girlfriend. Those tattooed men taught me things that now rock Dean's world. And I do. Every night.

Two steps forward, one step back. Ouch, that was my foot.

He tells me he's sorry, but he shouldn't be. He's a good man; handsome in a computer programmer sort of way with a soft touch and more genuine enthusiasm in a single day than I can muster up in a year. He hasn't raised a hand to me in anger even once, and he... well... he loves me. And besides, he paid for the shoe he just stepped on, so I really can't complain.

Two steps forward, one step back.

We're near the end of another private lesson and Mama Mia is losing hope. I lost hope a long time ago. That's why I'm here, learning to dance the mambo with Dean. He moves the same way he did last week when we were learning to Fox-Trot. We only need to look half-decent for one dance, so I'm not sure what the point of these lessons is. It's just one dance alone before everyone joins us, and by that point, the deed is done, so it doesn't really matter.

"I think I'm getting the hang of this one," Dean says as he steps on my foot again. "We've only got a few more weeks, but I think we'll be great!"

"Dean'a, you move like a jackalope on rollerskate! Next'a week, we try something else'a, OK? Ay, Mama Mia!"

Soon, we will be Dean and Gina Honeycutt. Two steps forward, one step back.

Said The Face

An old quarter, a new dime, four pennies and a silver dollar, handed to the woman in a red dress by one of the many nameless faces she interacts with each day.

"...and a dollar forty two back." said the face.

"No hello" she thought while watching him reach into the cash register drawer to fetch her change. "No greeting, no 'hi, how are ya'... nothing. It's straight from 'what'll you have' to 'here's your change now go away'."

* * * * *

"Have a nice day" he said with a smile after carefully counting an old quarter, a new dime, four pennies and a silver dollar. He placed the change into an open hand as yet another pair of eyes failed to look into his.

"You're so pretty, won't you ask my name? Won't you notice there's more to me than taking your order and counting out your change? Won't you once - just once - say hello, or even listen to a word I say?" He knew the answer was no before the woman in red took the coins and stepped to the side.

* * * * *

"I feel like I'm drowning" she thought as she ran her fingers through the change she'd been handed, casually counting them all before slipping them into her purse. "A dollar thirty nine. That won't even buy a plain coffee these days."

"...and five cents change" she heard the face say to the next person in line as she stood nearby, waiting for her drink to be served. "I swear to god I'm drowning" she thought again as she watched the face place a shiny dime into the outstretched hand. "This city's like a sea of people. I'm a spec of red in a sea of gray. And I'm drowning - not that anybody would notice. How can I be surrounded by so many people yet be so very alone...?"

* * * * *

He reached into the cash register drawer for a dime, handing it to another person who appeared to look straight through him, "or is she looking around me?" he wondered while saying "...and five cents change" to a woman in a blue blouse.

"Nobody pays attention. It's like I'm not even here."

Some Fridges Are Colder Than Others

Living next to a grocery store is rough on a fridge. Depending on the keeper of said fridge, it'll either be empty or stuffed beyond capacity.

I have a neighbor who considers the grocery store to be an endless source of culinary inspiration. I've caught her browsing for christ sake. Her fridge loves her dearly because she constantly brings it all sorts of fridgeable treats. It greets her with a soothing hum, as if to say "Store a wedge of cheese? And some sausage too? Don't mind if I do!"

My fridge makes more of a hubbubbubbub sound when I'm around because it's pretty much empty. Why would I collect all sorts of things to refrigerate when the grocery store across the street already does that for me? This logic is lost on my fridge.

"Hubbubbubbubbub..."

In case you haven't figured it out already, hubbubbubbub is fridge speak for "hhhhmmmpt!" I actually tried to teach it to say "hhmmmmpt!" since I thought that might sound more like an enthusiastic fridge-hum, but my GE Spacesaver saw right through that plan.

The beauty of moving to a new apartment is that I get to start a whole new relationship with a different set of kitchen appliances. Believe me, the next time I move, I won't make the mistakes I made with this fridge.

My first mistake was naming it Buck Rogers. "Get it? It's because you're a space-saver. A SPACE saver. Get it?"

"...hubbubbubbubbubbubbub."

"Your manual also says something about you being Low Profile. Does that mean you're supposed to be incognito? ...I ask because you're not."

"...HUBBUBBUBBUB!!!!"

That joke was mistake #2.

I realize refrigerators are cold by nature, but personality-wise, this one is particularly cold.

Something Other Than Dust In The Wind

I swear to god, I overheard a woman today describe herself as a gluten-free free-range former-vegan. Her companion said "You're a fromnivore? Me too!"

A moment later, a rustle of wind blew through the trees, which I can only assume was caused by the collective sighs of 583,776 people as the entire population of our fair city whispered, in unison, "Oh, Portland."

Somewhere Between The Moment And The Moon

I said the moon is so big. She said it's the sky that's small. And though she spent her day locked in the mall, she saved enough time to mock my satellite.

She said it gets too dark in this town at night. But it wasn't dark during the day. Not before she shopped it away.

Her pants-suit was on a clearance sale. It cost only a day. I've nothing more about that to say.

What does the moon see when it looks down on me? She said it's just a rock, but as it reflected the light that made her eyes sparkle, I knew there was something more.

Somewhere between the moment and the moon, we'd arrived at an impasse.

* * * * *

A few years ago, I went on a total of three dates with a spectacular woman, but it went nowhere because she had fear in her eyes. All I had to do was look at her and I could see it. We had so much in common, and so much chemistry, but it had no chance for even a beginning because she had hope for love but even stronger fear of loss.

"What if it all turns out to be for nothing? I've had my heart broken before."

Apparently, she'd forgotten that hope without effort is hopeless.

In contrast, I spent two years in a relationship with a woman with whom I had nothing in common, and yet, it was easy to be together. A little too easy in fact. All it took was effort.

Effort without hope can be dangerous.

* * * * *

Somewhere between the moment and the moon lies a new beginning.

Lay with me in a field of grass and you might end up with a wet ass, but as the sun goes, your worries can go with it. And your hopes can rise with the moon. All you have to do is let them.

What does the moon see when it looks down on me?

I've been told it's just a rock, but as it reflects the light that makes my eyes sparkle, I'll take a moment to notice something more.

The Captain

Most couples meet through work or friends, but an afternoon at the Humane Society made me wonder if there's a better way.

I was there to help a friend choose a new pet. She was looking for an adult cat, since it's harder for them to find homes as most people want to adopt kittens. I thought it was sweet of her to take that into consideration. We wandered along a long wall of cages, inspecting the cats inside. What a strange way to begin the search for a companion.

Attached to each cage was a sign with a description of the cat inside. One in particular caught my eye.

The cat's name was Captain Bluebeard, and his sign said: "The Captain is affectionate and social, giving headbutts to show his appreciation for being loved. Being enthusiastic, he would be an ideal companion."

I thought - Holy crap! That's me! ...minus the headbutts and cool title, of course.

"He is energetic and playful..." Me too!

"...enjoys affection and attention as well as some quiet downtime..." Me too!!!!!

"...and has had all of his shots" Me too!!!!!!!!

"Get to know him and you'll fall in love today!" Uh-oh.

And that's where The Captain's method of finding love would fail me. Although, secretly, there's a hopeless romantic in this heart of mine, I tend to prefer the casual approach. You know... going on a first date, and then a second, and so on. I dream of a relationship that slowly blooms, growing in strength and beauty through the passing of time. I guess The Captain is more of a Vegas Shotgun Wedding kind of guy.

After I helped my friend choose a really sweet cat named Blossom, I noticed that The Captain was headed home with two women (TWO?!? Duuuude!). I was really happy for him, and a little envious too, quite frankly. Oh, who am I kidding. The whole polyamorous thing would be too complicated for me.

Still... I can't help thinking I should have asked The Captain if I could have his sign now that he no longer needed it.

The Gal, The Guy, And The Grill

A true story about a friend of a friend, and assistance not given.

When in doubt, help somebody out.

* * * * *

Peering out her window into the afternoon sun, she spotted an old man pushing a huge grill down the street on a hot summer day. The day was very hot, in fact, and the man definitely looked like he was struggling. This, she understood. She and her roommate had recently purchased a grill much like the one the old man outside her window was pushing, and she vividly recalled the effort needed to move it.

"Those things are heavy!"

She wondered why no one was helping him. "Where are his friends? Where's his family? Why is he left to push that thing all by himself?" Being a sweet girl, she thought that if no one was going to help this poor old man, then she'd do it. After all, she'd want someone to help her... The golden rule... Do unto others, and so on and so forth.

But, just then, the phone rang and the moment was forgotten - until her roommate walked in and said...

"Where the FUCK is our GRILL?!?!"

* * * * *

This memory has been brought to you by today's unexpected burst of Portland sunshine.

Feeling blue?
The sky is too.
Maybe blue's not so bad.

The Leaves

Autumn is the time of our undoing.

The leaves beneath my feet,
well, they're you when we meet.
As they crunch and decay.
I know you'll go away.

Though you made my heart quiver,
you will make the trees shiver.

How I long for an evergreen.

The Look I Never Knew

God damn the internet.

I found your picture yesterday. It came up during a very random search, because, like it or not, you have a common name.

But you are not common.

'Common' is a swing set on a sunny day, but you are a seesaw in a storm, complete with thunder, wind and rain. In fact, you are the wind. And the rain. The thunder is yours as well. But when the storm has passed and clouds give way to reveal a sky of brilliant blue... that too, is you.

Your lows were among the lowest, but, oh, how your highs did soar. Do they still? It's been years.

God damn the internet.

God damn me.

I've looked into your eyes more times than I can recall, and I thought I knew them so well, but as I stared at your picture last night, I saw something new. And I was speechless.

There was a time when I knew how to make your eyes nearly jump out of their sockets. I've made your eyes close so tight your whole face would turn bright red. I knew the look in your eyes when they'd crinkle as you'd laugh. I've seen your eyes when you were sad. And happy. And angry. Every look from frustration to joy, I thought I'd seen them all.

But, as I stared at your photo, the look I saw was a look I never knew.

In the years that have passed since we saw each other last, you've married. I now realize that I never knew the look of love. Not from you. And though your look of love was not for me, it was just what I needed to see. It'll serve as a reminder that somewhere out there is a look of love, and it's meant for me.

Thank god for the internet.

Thank god for you.

The Man From Apartment 2B

yes I covet my neighbor's wife
but I don't covet my neighbor's life

he lies
he steals
I bet he clubs baby seals
but oh how I shiver when his girlfriend squeals

if only our walls were thicker, I wouldn't have to know

The Night That Won't

I can tell by the awkward silence that divides us, something in the blackness of this night isn't right.

Maybe it's me.
Maybe it's you.
I bet it's him.

It's probably a combination of all three, though the only thing above me is the moon.

Tonight's moon is the apostrophe in the contraction of my 'will' and your 'not'.

Ironic, isn't it?

The next lunar apostrophe will be yours and his.
The next lunar apostrophe will be a catastrophe.
Yours and his.

If only you could see that he will never be the one. Not your one. There's a reason why I am with you while he is with no one. That's his choice. It is no longer my concern, because in the darkness of this night, I've found clarity.

We are a we in this lunar cycle. Will we be in another?

I might.
You might.
We certainly won't.
You and he won't either.

I'm losing one, but you will lose two. I suppose my loss isn't so bad by comparison.

Despite this night, I will remember you fondly.

The Ottoman

Rob: "Psssst! Hey, you."

Friend: "Who are you talking to?"

Rob: "I'm talking to your ottoman."

Friend: "You're talking to my furniture?"

Rob: "Of course I am. ...Hey, Ottoman... Wanna hear a joke?"

Friend: "...?"

Ottoman: "..."

Rob: "Do you know why the Ottoman Empire was defeated?"

Friend: "...?"

Ottoman: "...?"

Rob: "They always had their feet up!"

Friend: FACEPALM.

Ottoman: "Donald J. Trump is president of the United States. You're in NO position to be mocking fallen empires."

Rob (to Friend): "You've GOT to stop watching the news in this room."

Needless to say, we spent the rest of the evening in stunned silence.

Then

I was in your life

then

I was in your head

then

I was in your heart

then

I was in your bed

then

I was in your doubts

then

I was in your fears

then

I was in your fights

then

I was in your tears

then

I was in your past

when

words cut like a knife

then

I was in a dream

when

I was in your life

back then

Tick Tock

You were holding on to me as if it was the only way to keep yourself from evaporating into thin air. As if that moment was everything that mattered. And for that moment, it certainly was.

But the clock ticked away the seconds that guide one moment into the next.

You couldn't lure me into your past and I couldn't lead you into my future.

Tick tock, and you were gone.

But I remember when you looked at me with the hope of seeing everything you'd ever see from that day on. And maybe that's what I've become. Maybe you've seen shades of me in every man that followed.

I suppose I'll never know.

You doubted your present due to your past. You were hoping I'd give you a future.

But I could only give you love.

To Pass Along

he meets women in the bars
then he fucks them in their cars
says it's written in the stars
but it smacks of hell not heaven

well, her past looks like a trough
at the good men she did scoff
she gets tied up to get off
here comes mister eighty seven

he does what he knows
she knows what she is
they are what they leave behind

though they said it wasn't good enough
and they knew it wasn't good enough
yet somehow it's still good enough
to pass along

old problems will linger
old patterns will linger
new hearts will linger too
from pain the others knew
and pain the others shared
and pain the others left behind
to pass along

now he goes to clubs not bars
and her makeup hides the scars
oh, their problems could be ours
should we keep our place in line

when in Rome we do as Roman
but it all felt like an omen
when I kissed the Oklahoman
no, her winds, they won't be mine

to pass along

Under A Streetlight

A black sky melts on another Portland night, but in the dark, there is no rain until you feel it. What am I to do as I'm walking here with you?

I let the rain wash over me, though it's less a choice than a reality of winter.

As you pause to enjoy the sight of the rain under a streetlight, I long to see the details that drop from your stories.

I bring the conversation into the light; a decision I will soon regret. The walk from park to pub is easier than the talk from present to past.

And I think words I would never say.

Hey Mary Ann, I don't know if I can. Though I see just what you need, I can see I'm not the man. The ex who deeply hurt you, well his deeds have hurt me too; I had no way of knowing till we spoke of something true.

The distance between two people isn't always measured in inches.

Where are you now?

I am here and all is well, but you're still lost in a private hell. I can see it all while under the light. The years have left you wounded more than makeup can disguise. You suspect you will be wounded by the deeds of future guys.

What am I to do?

I steer us clear of the streetlight, as the melting black sky returns to wash the details away.

I'd love to love you more than you've ever known. That's what I have to give; nothing more, but nothing less. Don't think I didn't feel that spark when you took my hand. But it's not the rain that so quickly washes your flame away.

Letting go.

Cold hands find warm pockets, but a cold heart lingers. Maybe someday you'll set it free. If that day comes, please look for me. I'll be standing under a streetlight, ready to show you how beautiful the here and now can be.