Go Climb a Mountain

So last week, I climbed a mountain.

Impressive achievement? I dunno. It wasn’t this mountain…

P1030949It was this one.

TDHBut I got a great view of the mountain I didn’t climb from the top of the mountain I did climb.

unnamedAnd besides, a 1700′ elevation gain is nothing to sneeze at! The 90-minute hike was basically all uphill. Which meant, at least, that the ensuing 90-minute return segment was all downhill. In any case, I took advantage of my free day off from work by scaling a 5,066′ peak in the Cascades. Considering I was half tempted to just sit on my ass and watch Barney Miller and Shark Tank all day, I’m calling that a pretty decent achievement.

Especially with views like these…

I even got to make a snowball. Laugh it up, east coasters, but we got screwed out of winter this year!

unnamedAll in all, not a bad day!

 

100? Yes, Please.

“My new goal is to live to be 100,” I announced to my family yesterday.

“Why?” Tara asked.

“So I can knit tiny sweaters for penguins,” I replied. “Duh.”

By now, my wife and daughter were looking at me as if I’d lost my marbles. But the joke’s on them! I’d need to have marbles to begin with in order for that to happen.

“What are you talking about?” they asked in unison.

s-OLDEST-MAN-KNITS-PENGUIN-SWEATER-480x360What I was talking about – or more accurately, who I was talking about – was Alfred Date, the oldest man in Australia. He is 109 years old, and his passion in life is knitting sweaters for penguins. Following an oil spill in 2013, the Phillip Island Nature Park in Australia put out a call for knitters to craft tiny sweaters for their colony of penguins to wear, in order to prevent them from ingesting oil while preening themselves. The oil also causes their feathers to stick together, making the penguins cold (irony alert!) and preventing them from hunting effectively. Alfie, as he is called, got down with his bad self and began knitting like crazy. As a result, he’s got a newfound purpose in life. When asked about his secret to longevity, Alfie replied, “waking up every morning.”

I like this guy.

Who wouldn’t want to live to be 100? I mean, c’mon…the alternative sucks. “I don’t want to be old and infirm,” Tara said.

“Trust me,” I countered. “I plan to stay firm. Err…you know what I mean.”

I’d better. When I reach the century mark, the lil’ lady will be a spry 92 years old. Talk about robbing the cradle. Also, I have to live that long, because by then Alfie will be 163 and probably won’t be able to churn out quite as many penguin sweaters as he does nowadays. We can’t let these little guys go cold now, can we?

penguin sweaterI figure, the odds are in my favor. Well, not really. Actually, the opposite is true. The odds are against me. But that doesn’t sound nearly as optimistic as the first phrase!

Statistically speaking, my diabetes puts me at risk of dying at a younger age. But my family tends to stick around. My grandmother is 97, another relative is 92, and a third is 90. And a great-grandmother lived to 100, while another hit 90. I like these trends. True, all of them are/were women. Also true, one of my grandfathers passed away at 47. But he probably never knitted a sweater for a penguin, so you know, it was kind of inevitable. Keep the body and the mind active, and the sky’s the limit. Also, f!ck you, diabetes.

Today, I used my 8 hours of free PTO and took the day off. Hello, instant three-day weekend! I am driving up to Mount Hood and taking advantage of a gorgeous spring day with a nice, long hike. Provided I don’t fall off the side of a cliff, I should be well on my way to reaching my goal of becoming a centenarian.

How long would you like to live?

Armadillos in Our Trousers

Saturday evening was weird, but fun.

Weird because we went back to our old condominium complex, a year after moving away. It was remarkable how little things had changed. It’s still next to impossible to find parking, because the residents all use the guest spots, so we ended up parking roughly eight miles away. Fun because we met up with our old neighbors, David and Andrea, for the first time since our impromptu drunken Super Bowl party in 2014. They recently learned that Tara and I had never seen This Is Spinal Tap and declared this a grievous cultural omission that must be corrected. So they invited us over for dinner and the movie.

After our long hike to their front door (in which I had to force myself to turn left when I reached their front porch rather than right, where my old door is located), we rang their bell and quickly commenced on catching up. There isn’t much I miss about the townhouse (especially after hearing that the HOA fees have gone up to $250/month), but D & A are good people and I do miss having them as neighbors. And, well, the covered back porch was nice. But that is it. Ironically, this was the first time they’d ever had us over for dinner. It only took us moving away and a year to pass before it finally happened.

This pretentious ponderous collection of religious rock psalms is enough to prompt the question: ‘What day did the Lord create Spinal Tap and couldn’t he have rested on that day, too?’

Dinner was awesome. Andrea showed off by whipping up a spinach salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, a Moroccan chicken with garbanzo beans and quinoa, and fresh berries for dessert. Man, if I knew she could cook like that, I’d have invited myself over years ago. And the movie? Loved it. It’s very Christopher Guest-ish, which is a good thing, especially if you’re into Best In Show. Funny stuff, and very quotable. The movie does for rock ‘n roll what The Sound of Music did for hills. We had a great evening.

Friday wasn’t too shabby, either. Tara and I had tickets to see Pigs On The Wing, a Pink Floyd cover band we had seen perform Dark Side of the Rainbow soon after she moved out here. The show as at the Doug Fir Lounge, a favorite Portland venue, which gave us an excuse to grab a few drinks and settle in for a fun night of rock ‘n roll. They played the Animals album in its entirety (my favorite – awesome!) and followed that up with tracks from Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, and Wish You Were Here. There’s nothing like a great rock ‘n roll show to set the tone for the weekend.

dougfir

Not Quite a Pot o’ Gold…But Close

A few days ago, I received the following email.

Dear [first name],

Once again we will be hosting a customer appreciation event with a focus on Social Seciurity and helping you prepare when it comes time to retire.

Call me crazy, but if you’re holding a customer appreciation event, shouldn’t you make said customer feel, you know, appreciated? My name is not [first name]. If you appreciated me, you would know that. Don’t even get me started on the bludgeoning of the word Security. This email from my insurance agent doesn’t exactly instill confidence. How can they help me prepare for my retirement when they couldn’t even prepare to send out a properly formatted and error-free email?

I think I’ll sit this one out, thanks.

What I did not sit out was today’s potluck at work. We had an authentic Irish feast which included Italian wedding soup, Rice Krispies treats, deviled eggs, artichoke dip, and cupcakes. You know…original recipes from the old country. In all fairness, somebody brought in a “Dublin Coddle” – basically sausage, bacon, onions and potatoes. In other words, pretty much the entire Irish food pyramid. I love potlucks, but they’re hard to enjoy when you’re on a special diet. Because I won’t touch sugar and limit my carbs, 2/3 of the dishes were off-limits. Kind of a bummer…damn if those cookies didn’t look good…but my body thanks me for it. And there were still some really good dishes I did not shy away from.

The real draw of the potluck was the raffle prize: everybody who brought in a dish was automatically entered to win 8 hours of PTO. I didn’t expect to win, but earlier in the day I found one of three hidden clovers scattered around the office and earned the following prize:

lemons

That’s a 5-lb. bag of fresh lemons. Score! Ironically, just yesterday I was talking with a coworker about how much I love lemons, so my win was fortuitous. I had a quick text exchange with Tara in which we debated how to use said lemons. Fresh lemonade, vodka sodas, and Hollandaise sauce are our top three picks. Hell, I like to add a slice or two to a glass of ice water. I’m not the only one who likes a twist of lemon in his drink, either.

I was still basking in the glow of my newfound lemonness, when the winning raffle number was called.

“Three, seven,” McKenzie said. An air of excitement filled the room, until she announced that everybody’s ticket began with 37.

“Six,” she said. Groans erupted, but not from me. I had a 6. I was still in the running. Then again, I never win these things. I held my breath anyway.

“One,” she finished. Potluck

OK, I can no longer say I never win these things, because damn if that wasn’t my number. Today was a very lucky day for me at work. I came home with five pounds of lemons and a free day off, which I plan to redeem soon. I really ought to buy a lottery ticket, huh?

Hope your St. Patrick’s Day was as lucky as mine!

Squeaky Shoes

I recently picked up a new pair of walking shoes. With as many miles as I’m logging lately, the Vans – fashionable as they are – were no longer cutting it. Even without a fancy little swoosh, these new shoes offer an improved walking experience.

Except at work. Because every time I walk across the bare concrete floor, they squeak.

Jenny was the first one to bring this to my attention. And by “bring this to my attention,” I mean, tease me mercilessly. ‘Cause that’s what she proceeded to do, giving me a complex about my footwear. When I posted about what a big meanie she was being on my Facebook page, did I get sympathy from my friends? Nope. But I did get a brand new nickname.

“Squeaky Shoes Petruska.”

This, courtesy of my mother-in-law. Thanks a lot, Tracy. Should I consider it an early birthday gift?

As far as nicknames go, this one did not appeal to me much. It kind of sounds like the world’s worst mob nickname. But then my sister-in-law came to the rescue with the following comment.

You could always say you got that name because “even though they can hear you comin it don’t mean sh*t.” But you have to say that very “thug -like” while making a gun gesture with your hand.

Which made the nickname not-so-bad. Thanks, Esther. But it did nothing to alleviate the constant squeaking occurring with every step. Fortunately, I’m good at thinking outside of the box. Or in this case, outside of the shoebox. The next day, I showed up at work wearing slippers.

slippersOne thing about Squeaky Shoes Petruska: the guy’s a problem solver. And he don’t take no shit.

About those slippers, by the way…

When I was in the hospital, I brought them along with me. And I am not kidding when I say how badly all the male employees coveted them. Doctors, nurses, you name it – they all really liked those slippers. Even when I’m on my deathbed (ever-so-slight exaggeration), I’m apparently a fashion icon. Good to know. They are pretty cool slippers, as far as slippers go. I’ve had ‘em for years and couldn’t tell you where I bought them to save my life. But they put an end to all the squeaky shoe talk in real short order.

Have you ever had shoes that squeaked? How’d you solve the problem? And do you, or have you ever, had a nickname that you either loved or loathed? Feel free to bare all in the comments!

A Tree Stump By a Lake

There’s an unassuming tree stump in a park I like to visit on my lunch hour. It’s situated by a picturesque lake, surrounded by red cedars and Douglas firs. There is nothing special about this tree stump…except for the fact that it once served as the backdrop to a family Christmas card photo, many years ago.

stump

Because of this, the tree stump and I are inexorably linked forever. It’s a physical reminder of a past life, one that I would like to forget. But try as I might, I can’t forget. Every time I see it, I remember.

It’s amazing how objects – and places – can do that.

I recently blogged about my history with women, most of it bad. I should point out that it wasn’t all bad. I met a couple of really cool women and actually had a few good dates, too. Enough to whet my appetite and keep me optimistic, I suppose. For one reason or another, those dates never led to anything serious. Actually, there’s a very good reason, but it’s impolite to speak ill of the dead – even if that person took glee in sabotaging every chance of happiness that came my way. Bygones, though. If it had gone any other way, Tara and I might not be together.

And there is one glaring omission from my history, without whom there would be no Audrey or Rusty. I am speaking about my ex-wife, of course. Or not speaking about her, as the case may be. It’s a tricky subject, with family reading…and possibly the ex herself. But the completist in me says go for it anyway. So I will attempt to do so, with subtlety.

When you have kids together, it’s impossible to completely distance yourself from your former spouse. And when you work right down the street from where she lives, there is always the possibility of a chance encounter. In fact, just last week I walked right past her and she had no clue. I was walking by her townhouse and she picked that exact moment to check the mail. Fortunately, she was really engrossed in the contents of her mailbox and never glanced up, or she would have spotted me immediately. It’s strange because we do not have the type of relationship where we see each other or are even very cordial to one another. I’ve only actually seen her, from a distance, one other time in the past couple of years. All thanks to her second husband, who was the catalyst for our divorce and my daughter living with us full-time, but I don’t dare touch that topic. Read between the lines all you want.

We met in the 12th grade and were “high school sweethearts,” as much as I have grown to despise the term. Hearing that always made people gush, but while the notion is romantic, the reality of the situation is far different. There is no way you will be the same person at 37 as you were at 17, and therein lies the problem. I’m sure there are many success stories involving people who met as teenagers and stayed together ’til death did they part, but the ex and I simply drifted apart over the years, our interests diverging wildly. During our marriage, I was not true to myself, suppressing many of my interests – indeed,  my very identity – to maintain a harmonious union. This weighed heavily on me, and ended up breeding a combination of resentment and discontent years before we ever considered parting ways. When I first started blogging in 2001, I wrote about my growing unhappiness. Despite that, I was “all in” once our kids were born, and probably would have been forever had events not forced my hand. And why not? We were living the American dream in 2006. House in the suburbs, cushy jobs, two cars parked in the garage, weekend barbecues on the deck. There was a certain comfort in the norm, as staid and humdrum as I often found it.

I am not bitter over this “forcing of the hand,” though. Turns out it was the best thing that ever happened to me. As hard as it was standing before a judge on a bitterly cold and rainy December afternoon and admitting our marriage was irretrievably broken, doing so gave me the freedom my heart had long yearned for and allowed me to live the life I was meant to. I am by no means an advocate for divorce – dammit, marry the right person the first time, people! – but for me, it was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. My ex would probably say the same thing. I know Tara would, pertaining to her own situation. Sometimes, it really is for the best.

Were there good times? Of course there were. You don’t stay married 14 years if it’s all a big, miserable blur. At one time, we were the best of friends. But time has a funny way of chipping apart at that, as ceaselessly as the tides eventually erode granite. Yes, we met at a young age, and maybe that doomed us. But had we met later, we’d have been incompatible. And there would be no Audrey or Rusty. Meaning, it’s hard to regret a single thing. I was happy once. Then I wasn’t for a while, but now I am again. Bottom line, that’s all that really matters.

I’ll remember all that the next time I walk past the tree stump by the lake…

You Can Fight City Hall

A couple of days ago, this meeting invite showed up in my In Box.

City Hall

Best Outlook invite ever. Took me all of five seconds to accept.

Maybe you can fight City Hall, after all. Our request for information on any zoning restrictions pertaining to the “No Parking” signs we wanted to put up had gone ignored for two weeks, and we were just itching for a fight.

“We can’t let The Man keep us down!” I shouted. “It’s time to rise up. We shall overcome!”

“What exactly are you overcoming?” a coworker asked.

“Injustices,” I answered, hoping this vague refrain would not prompt further questions. Fortunately, it did not. Maybe Ferguson is still fresh on everybody’s minds. Or Damian Lillard’s All-Star snub. In any case, there are enough generic injustices in the world to make my march on City Hall seem much more exciting than asking for permission to put up a sign.

The actual storming of City Hall was sort of anti-climactic. Once we threw open the door and barged in, we kind of stood around politely until the woman behind the counter asked us how she might be of assistance. And when we reminded her we’d stopped by a couple of weeks earlier and had yet to hear back from The Powers That Be, she disappeared down the hall and returned a few minutes later, telling us we were free to put up our sign. All thoughts of staging a Be-In were quickly dashed.

Good thing. I wouldn’t know where or how to be-gin a Be-In. Truth is, I don’t even know what a Be-In is. But it sounds exciting.

Our ideals may not have been as lofty as “rejecting middle-class morality,” but at least we came back with answers, not to mention a great story about the day we tangled with local government…and won.

I don’t know why Tara says I have a tendency for over-exaggeration, by the way.

In other news, I had a doctor’s appointment last week and it went really well. My commitment to a healthy diet and exercise are paying off in spades; my blood sugars are way down, in the low-to-normal range, so my doctor took me off insulin. This means I am taking no medications to treat my diabetes. I consider that a big WIN because only 16% of patients are able to control their diabetes through lifestyle changes alone. And it also validates my insistence that I had Type 2 diabetes. My doctor suspected I was Type 1 because very few T2 patients develop diabetic ketoacidosis, the life-threatening condition I was admitted to the hospital for in December. I countered with the fact that very few adults develop T1 diabetes. Either way, I was a medical anomaly. He ran lab tests, and sure enough, my intuition was correct. Thankfully, because T2 is definitely more manageable. I’m living proof of that.

As of this morning, I have lost 23.5 lbs. since leaving the hospital. Ironically, this may be the healthiest I’ve ever been my entire life. It turns out watching your carbs and eliminating sugar really do work wonders for your body! Who knew? Walking every single day, anywhere from 30-90 minutes, doesn’t hurt, either. The first few weeks after I was discharged I was craving those things like crazy, but now I don’t miss them at all. The positive comments I am receiving from my coworkers are added motivation to keep up the hard work, too. They tell me I look like a different person. I certainly feel like one.

Happy weekending, y’all.

 

My Bad Luck With Women: A Brief History

I had not planned on spending more than one post on my past dating woes, but there was some interest in hearing more, so what the hell? Maybe my bad luck in the past will help somebody else avoid a disastrous relationship in the future.

Either that, or you’ll all laugh at me. Things are great nowadays, but there was a five-year stretch where my love life resembled a black comedy. “You don’t have the best track record with women,” my daughter told me recently, and that’s putting it mildly. I don’t know if they were all crazy or I was naive. It’s probably a combination of both.

After my date from hell with the tattooed grandma, I was gun shy about dating again, but there’s the old adage about getting back up on the bicycle once you’ve fallen off, and mama didn’t raise no quitters.

She did raise a cliche-spoutin’ son, though.

In any case, a couple of years earlier I had worked with a woman who’d admitted to having a crush on me. I wonder if she still does, I thought. So I called her up. She still did. We decided to get together and do what adults do when there are crushes involved. She was older and a staunch conservative. The perfect foil to my bleeding heart liberalness, I told myself! At least I knew what she looked like.diet root beer

Because I’m a gentleman, I figured she deserved a little wining and dining first. Big mistake. She sent me a list of demands before we even got together: she wanted pizza for dinner, but it must have ham and black olives only. There had to be diet root beer in the fridge. Coffee in the morning, but Folger’s only, taken black. And she wanted to go out for karaoke.

Worst evening of my life. I wrote about it in detail here. She slithered around onstage pretending to be Britney Spears, when in reality she was more like Bette Midler. Sure, she slept over that night, and that was great, but I ended up faking an illness the next morning because I just couldn’t take any more. Not my proudest moment.

This casual dating stuff is for the birds, I told myself. What I need is a relationship. 

What I didn’t need was a relationship filled with deceit and a side trip to Crazy Town, but that’s what I got. Much like with Tara, I met this woman through blogging. She lived in another state but moved here to be near me after ostensibly separating from her husband. Funny word, ostensibly.

os·ten·si·bly
äˈstensiblē,əˈstensiblē
adverb
apparently or purportedly, but perhaps not actually.

liarOur relationship was a strange one involving numerous break-ups and reconciliations. Furtive phone calls out of earshot. Lots of trips to visit her parents in California that never involved me because she kept our relationship a secret from them. It turns out she had lied to me about divorcing her husband, a fact I learned only after reading her obituary. She was seeing him the entire time, and stringing us both along. Several times I ended things and tried dating other women, but she pulled out all the stops to win me back, including faking not one but two pregnancies (and even doctoring up a home test when I demanded proof). We were on-again and off-again for several years before I finally had enough. A year and a half after our final breakup, I learned she had died unexpectedly at the age of 37 from cancer. Some things are just never meant to be, you know?

Well, that was a fluke, I thought. Surely her craziness is the exception to the rule. Let me find a new relationship!

The new relationship involved a single mother who brought new meaning to the word “theatrics.” After we had dated for three days, she got furious at me for wanting to spend a Saturday with my dad at the movies. Flew into a rage once after I’d taken a day off work so we could have breakfast, see a movie, and spend time together because 4:00 rolled around and I had to pick up my kids. Got mad at me once in the middle of the night for no apparent reason and asked me to drive her home at 3 AM. When I pulled on a pair of jeans and grabbed my keys, she asked what I was doing. “Driving you home like you asked,” I said, too tired to argue. For some reason the fact that I was doing exactly what she wanted set her off again. The night I broke up with her, she curled into a fetal position on her bedroom floor and bawled her eyes out in front of her daughter. Man, I’m not a hard ass, but I finally had to just walk away from that, her high-pitched wails trailing me across the parking lot of her apartment complex.

madwoman

Hmm, I thought. Maybe a relationship ISN’T the way to go. 

So, there was this girl who lived in Australia. Considering she was an entire hemisphere away, I figured it was safe enough to flirt with her. Hell, there was a 15-hour time difference, so if she ever got mad at me in the middle of the night it would be late afternoon here. Problem solved! Until she latched onto three little words I said one time in the heat of the moment.

No, not I love you. Do you think I’m stupid? They were far more innocent. I simply said, Marry me, then.

Her dad was an American citizen and was planning on moving back to the U.S. for a job opportunity, only this girl was having trouble getting a visa because she was Australian, had a different mom, blah, blah, blah. That’s when I said it.

But here’s the thing: I was joking.

She saw it as her ticket to paradise, though. Suddenly she was looking into flights. “We should at least meet in person before doing this,” she said. There was no LOL attached to those words, and I knew I was in trouble. She wanted me to pick a weekend. My birthday was coming up. How about then? Umm…

I stalled. That was my fatal error. I should have immediately said ha-ha, just kidding, you wouldn’t be able to find any decent vegemite around here anyway. Instead, because I suck at making clean breaks, the charade dragged itself on for weeks. She finally realized I had no intention of following through and extricated herself from the situation by bombarding me with a few choice words. They may or may not have been deserved – years later, I still have trouble figuring that out. For what it’s worth, I am sorry for that whole misunderstanding.

Vegemite

After international relations became strained as a result of my terrible luck with women, I decided I would instead remain single the rest of my life.

The next month Tara and I met up for one date, and the rest is history.

The Old Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

This story has been making the rounds for years, at least among my friends (both IRL and online). I’ve been hesitant to post it on my blog because it contains “adult themes” and, well, hi, mom! But I’ve been listening to a podcast called Risk! lately, and its tagline is “true tales boldly told.” This has given me the courage to finally come clean and share my story. It’s a doozy, but is nowhere near as bad as some of the stories on Risk!. Because I do have family reading my blog I feel some obligation to be a little discrete, so I am substituting the euphemism “managing her stock portfolio” to keep this in PG-13 rated territory.

This is the story of my first date in 20 years, and it takes place in 2006. It’s on the long side, but trust me – it’s entertaining. And every word is true.

In November of that year, I was separated from the woman I had been married to for 14 years. We had been high school sweethearts, but had been separated about two months, had each purchased townhouses, and our divorce was taking place in a few weeks. It was time to explore the dating world, only I was scared to death. At the ripe old age of 37, I felt like a fish out of water. I was not into the bar scene and didn’t have any friends or coworkers attractive enough (or single enough) to date, so naturally I turned to the Internet.

Popular sites like Match.com and eHarmony cost money and I personally do not believe one can put a price on love…okay, that’s bullshit. I was really just a cheap bastard. In any case, OK Cupid was getting a lot of attention and it was free, so I created an account, posted an online profile, and sat back to see what would happen.

A woman named Jennifer happened. She read my profile, messaged me and said I was “cute.” Game on, baby.

I had no idea what the dating rules because the last time I had been out with somebody new, Mr. Mister was all the rage. I was definitely surprised by how forward Jennifer was. She was quite the aggressor, and boasted that she managed her stock portfolio really well. I asked her how she could be sure, and she replied, “One guy went into a seizure when I finished. And he wasn’t even epileptic.”

Naturally, I was intrigued. My own stock portfolio had not been managed in quite some time, so we arranged to meet up. Taking the advice of a friend, we decided to get together at a Starbucks in the mall. It was a public location and would make for a short, no-obligation date if things went south. The evening of our date was rainy. Very rainy, even by our already-soggy standards Pacific Northwest standards. Keep this in mind, because it’s important later.

Right off the bat, things started going wrong. I should’ve called the whole thing off right then and there, but I was curious to see whether the Dow Jones would close up that day, so I didn’t bail. We had agreed to meet at 7:00, and because the mall was just a few miles away, I hit the road at 6:40, allowing myself some extra time since it was dark and pouring rain and, truth be told, I was looking forward to meeting her. The concept of dating was both terrifying and exciting, and I was ready to plunge in. The minute I arrived, she texted me, letting me know she was stuck in traffic and running late, so could we make it 8:00 instead? I was already standing outside The Gap and didn’t want to go back home only to have to navigate through the autumn storm all over again in another hour, so I decided to kill time by wandering the mall instead. This made me feel awkward, because it was a Friday evening and the place was teeming with packs of teenagers. Being the older guy in their midst shuffling past Bath & Body Works and Cinnabon while they goofed off just felt weird. Finally, mercifully, Jen texted me letting me know she had arrived, so I made my way to Starbucks.

“So, have I aged much?” were the first words out of my date’s mouth when she pulled up a chair beside me.

Has the Colosseum aged much?! I was tempted to reply, but bit my tongue instead. Her online profile had included a photo, but she had warned me in advance it was ten years old. I don’t know why that didn’t set off any warning bells, but remember, I was brand new to dating and a little naïve. In reality, her photo was probably twenty years old. The girl on my monitor had been fresh-faced and reasonably pretty, but the one staring back at me now had a face so wrinkled it resembled a roadmap. Destination? Old Town. I was learning – on the fly – the Rules of Dating in the 21st Century.

Rule #1: Make sure you have a current picture of your date.

Colosseum

As she leaned in close, I caught a whiff of her scent. Perfume? Nope – cigarettes. She reeked of tobacco smoke, which was a major turn-off. Under the word Smokes? on her profile, she had written N/A. Apparently, that meant Nicotine Addict.

Rule #2: Learn all you can about your date’s personal habits beforehand.

By now I had to fight off the instinct to bolt for the nearest exit, but Jen had just spent 90 minutes on the road driving through a torrential downpour, so I figured I owed her an hour of my time. Plus, she had paid for our drinks. I’m not even sure how that happened but I’m all for women’s lib, so I didn’t put up too much of a fight. I prayed instead that my phone would ring and I could fake an emergency.

Rule #3: Always have an escape plan.

Our initial topic of conversation? The fact that she had lost 300 pounds. Honestly, she looked like she had another 200 to go. I have nothing against women with a little meat on their bones, but when Jen mentioned that she’d contemplated buying an electric wheelchair to get around, I think I recoiled in horror. Attempting to steer the conversation toward more comfortable territory, I asked her where she lived, expecting to hear something like “an apartment” or “Taylor Street.” Instead, she replied, “with my parents.”

Rule #4: Find out your date’s living arrangements before meeting up. Anybody still shacking up with their parents when they’re pushing 40 has issues.

dragon-tattoo-legShe told me about her 21-year old son and 14-year old daughter, all living together under one roof with her folks. To make matters worse, she dropped another bomb by informing me that she was a grandmother, delivering this blow with what sounded like pride. I was in my 30s and had no desire to date a grandma! Suddenly, she was rolling up her pant leg. Why? What was happening now?? OK, she was just showing me her tattoo. No big deal. I like tattoos. But this was no tiny butterfly on the ankle; it was a sprawling dragon tattoo that wound around most of her leg (which was quite ample to begin with). I’d had enough, so I tried to courteously wrap things up with some half-baked excuse about getting up early the next day, never mind that it was Saturday. Ever the polite guy, I walked my date – this chain-smoking, obese, heavily wrinkled, tattoo-sporting, still-sponging-off-her-parents grandma – to her car.

Only, her car was nowhere to be found.

We scoured the parking lot for what felt like an eternity, getting drenched thanks to this deluge of epic proportions, searching for a car that wasn’t there. “Oh, shit,” she kept saying, over and over again, a broken record. Oh, shit, I kept thinking. I envisioned a long, wet, cold night spent talking to the police and filling out paperwork. I’d be obligated to drive her home, too. To her parents’ house.

“Are you sure you didn’t park on the other side of Macy’s?” I asked.

“Oh,” she said in response. “There’s another side of Macy’s?”

Of course, this was exactly what she had done. But I wasn’t angry; instead, relief washed over me as we finally located her car, which happened to be a purple Trans-Am I’m pretty sure you could have spotted from the moon. She offered to drive me to the other side of the mall “so you won’t get wet,” which was laughable considering I was already soaked to the bone, but again, I’m a polite guy so I hopped in. When we got to my car I thanked her for the fun evening (I am apparently also a liar), gave her a quick hug, told her we should keep in touch, and took off.

purple trans am

Ten minutes later, she was texting me.

Is it just me, or is a hug and “keep in touch” the kiss of death?

Overly dramatic much? I politely responded that I’d enjoyed the conversation but hadn’t felt a connection. And straight up asked if she’d been hoping for a goodnight kiss.

When a person says she doesn’t have to work the next day, Jen responded, it means she could have kept you up VERY LATE.

Reading those words, I nearly swerved off the wet road. The text was accompanied by a little smiley face emoticon with devil’s horns, making the implication clear. This self-professed stock portfolio expert would have managed my stocks and bonds all night long if I’d given her the chance, and probably would have diversified my holdings while she was at it.portfolio_watch

I figured I was more content keeping my money under the mattress instead (these analogies are getting weirder by the minute), and bid her adieu. Aside from a quick email exchange the day before Thanksgiving, I never heard from Jen again. Soon after, I deleted my OK Cupid profile. Within a couple of months, I began dating a woman who was both childless and grandchild-less, and completely free of tattoos. Whew! Right?

Wrong. She was batshit crazy. And married. And faked two pregnancies just so I would stick around.

But that’s another story…

Because, What Winter?!

Spring Blossoms

February in Portland does not usually look like this.

But in stark contrast to the eastern half of the country, winter in the Pacific Northwest was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair this year. Month after month, we have set records for warm temperatures, and snow has been nonexistent. Even in the Cascades, where it is sorely needed. The snowpack is sitting at about 10% of normal, which could mean drought this summer – only time will tell.

So when we took a walk along the Willamette River in downtown Portland last weekend, we weren’t at all surprised to see blossoms popping up on trees, three weeks ahead of schedule.

Forget what the calendar says. Welcome, spring.