The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive

I am not at a loss for weaknesses.

And I don't mean that in the emotional sense (this one particular time, anyway). I mean that if I was a superhero, it wouldn't just be ONE thing that could render me powerless. Which would, all told, probably make me a pretty crummy superhero.


Come to think of it, I think my mutant power is that my entire body is made of Achilles' Heels. I'm Josh A. Cagan, aka, The Man Of Heel. And the softest, most yielding one is this: Portland Hotel Showers.

I don't know what it is about the hospitality industry in Portland, but they seem to be under the misguided impression that I want to engage in complicated problem solving first thing in the morning. That I want to roll out of bed, zip past the coffee maker, duff my bathrobes, and then spend the better part of an hour figuring out how to wash away yesterday's craft-beer and fried pie-funk without needing to go to a burn ward or losing half of my body to frostbite.

The worst offender in this department is the Ace Hotel. While it's a lovely place to stay, it is also sort of like that one guy at the park who has a parrot on his shoulder. And they're both wearing top hats. And he's on a unicycle. The Ace Hotel isn't just content to be an eccentric counterpoint to Old Uncle Stuffypants' hotel. (Which, by the way, is also a perfectly lovely place to stay, as long as you don't mind the smell of old cigars, blackberry brandy, and liniment.)

No, the Ace Hotel wants to physically open your mouth, and stuff you so full of whimsey, childlike wonder, and kitschy delight, that you would literally shit random Etsy products for a week. "Hang on, guys, gotta hit the head. I gotta go drop a day-glo paperweight with a picture of Fluttershy high-fiving Mr. Snuffleupagus dressed as Ebenezer Scrooge."

And this is coming from a guy who has a DVR full of Tiny Toons and Animaniacs reruns, and shares, along with his wife, 30-40 stuffed animals, each with their own unique voices and catchphrases. In other words, I fucks with whimsey. And yet, the Ace Hotel fucks with me.

Nowhere is that more apparent than their shower setup, which I wish I could describe to you without getting a spontaneous nosebleed. Ideally, and this is just me, a shower should have one to two knobs that control the water pressure and temperature, TOPS, and one little whatsit on the bath spigot that transfers the water from said spigot to the shower head.

This is not the case at the artisanal cannonball of frivolity aimed directly at your throat that is Portland, Oregon's Ace Hotel, however! No, their shower setup consists of so many different pipes, knobs, levers, dials, switches and (probably) counterweights, that it is like taking a shower inside the Tin Man's lower GI tract. And once one factors in the fact that if I am waking up in a Portland hotel, I am ASSUREDLY hung over, it all adds up to me washing my various filth areas in the sink, and then going back to bed.

So, I don't stay there anymore. And it's too bad, because I heard they just recently added a bedtime story and hot milk sommelier. Awww.

I thought by staying in a different hotel, I could put all of this behind me. I was wrong. So wrong that I nearly died. Take a minute to wrap your head around this, because I certainly still am. My inability to figure out a Portland Hotel Shower almost killed me.

This morning, I trudged into the bathroom, and was happy to see that the shower that Old Uncle Stuffypants provided me had one simple handle. I exhaled deeply. At last, my own personal national nightmare was over. I could take a shower without having to do an day of internet research, flash cards, and a tutor armed with hand puppets and gold stars.

Unbeknownst to me, lurking behind that deceptively simple setup was a universe of infinite Ace Hotel showers, each more capricious than the last. Turn the handle to the right, you get freezing cold water at full blast. Turn it a micrometer back to the left, you get a trickle of acceptably temperatured water. Turn it another micrometer to the left, and actual fire comes out. And while actual fire would totally cleanse your body of any impurities it might be harboring, it would also cleanse you of your skin, which most doctors agree you need.

Now, I don't know if you would be able to tell this by just looking at my giant, awkward, galumphing shambling mound of a body, or hearing my excruciatingly loud voice, but I am not, for lack of a better phrase, a "finesse" guy. I am not a "build a ship in a bottle" kind of guy. I am a "throw the ship against the wall, fill the bottle with a nice IPA, drink it, and smash the bottle over my head" kind of guy.

So my solution this morning was to just start turning the handle back and forth it until something happened. And happen, something did. I was hit with an arctic assault of water so cold, that were a polar bear standing next to me, they would be like, "Jesus fucking Christ, this is UNTENABLE! I am headed to the sauna, HOLD MY CALLS."

(A brief note about the rubber mats with the suction cup dealies on the bottom hotels provide you. Use them. Like, seriously. Use them. I didn't, because I was under the impression that at the age of 40, I had this "taking a shower" jazz down pat. But I didn't take into account two things: 1. I was in a Portland hotel, and 2. I'm a goddamn moron.)

I lunged towards the handle, to try to turn it in any direction BUT the one that shot actual icicles through every Achilles Heel on my body. That's when one of my feet gave out from under me.

I don't know why I thought that attempting to swing it immediately in the other direction, assuring that my other foot would also give out from under me, but after a lifetime of being me, I can only surmise that I don't have my best interests at heart. I'm my own best frenemy.

So now, neither of my feet were on the ground, and although I'm no physicist, I put together pretty quickly that I was going to fall. Specifically, I was going to fall over the side of the bathtub, and onto the bathroom floor.

I'm sure that if we were to watch a playback of this inevitable process, you all, while laughing yourselves into anaphylactic shock, would be impressed by how quickly this occurred. One second I was standing up, the next second, I was doing the polar opposite.

This was not so in the moment. In the moment, the whole thing seemed to take about 20 to 45 minutes. I had time to file my nails, read a few chapters of Redshirts, write goodbye letters to my loved ones, explaining to them that they should tell everyone I died saving my wife, dog and stuffed animals from a Sharknado, and when I crossed a few more things off of my To-Do list, figure out how I was going to break my fall, and not my skull.

It turns out, the one thing on my body that is not made of Achilles Heel is my right elbow. Apparently, my right elbow is made of Adamantium. My right elbow is the current MVP of my body right now, for damn sure. It took the hit for the team, while my right temple merely grazed, nee, butterfly kissed the cold, hard, wet floor.

And there I laid. Thinking to myself, "I almost had an actual BEHIND THE MUSIC death. I almost died alone in a hotel bathroom." And then I realized because there were no hookers, blow, livestock or hookers doing blow off of livestock, it wasn't EVEN A BEHIND THE MUSIC death. It was like, a 4am Biography Channel death, right before they switch over to their all-catheter infomercial format.

But I did not die. Or, if I did, this is a VERY protracted "Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge" scenario. Either way, Portland Showers, you have won. From herein, this Man Of Heel With An Elbow Of Steel is throwing in the towel, washing his various filth areas in the sink, and going back to bed. Goodnight.