South by southwest?

This makes me a little sad. Winston-Salem seems finally to be abandoning its never-much-used quadrant system. As street signs age, they are being replaced with new ones that lack the “NW/SW/NE/SE” indicators.



The quadrant system for identifying streets seems to have been introduced in the 1950s. Several North Carolina cities (Hickory and Concord for starters) implemented some version of the system over the years, and it was not a big success in most of them. In fact, it seems to have been largely ignored in Winston-Salem by the 1980s, no longer being used in published addresses even though the designations continued to be included on the street signs.

When the ex and I moved to Winston in 2006, we added the “SW” to the end of our address from day one, just because that’s the sort of geeks we were. I liked the the whole anachronistic nature of using this convention most people no longer observed, even though the city apparently still did. I believe the quadrants may even have still been part of the tax map database as recently as a few years ago.

I haven’t seen any official notice of the change anywhere (though I haven’t looked very much) but it’s pretty obvious that the signs they are a-changin’.

The 8th of November, eh?

With my passport fail now in the process of being corrected, I have decided that I will indeed make my autumn excursion to Canada, even though it will be later in the season than I prefer, resulting in a cooler and darker journey than usual.

It will also mean I will be outside the country on Election Day, which seems like a really safe and sane option.

Of course I will vote before I leave. But I will avoid the whole American scene the day and night of the election, and that makes me really happy. I can hear about the winner on the CBC, which makes things seem much more civilized. (You can rest assured that the Canadian media will cover the U.S. election far more completely than the U.S. media have ever covered a Canadian one.) And if the fires start, I’ll sit them out at a shawarma joint on Bloor Street somewhere.

Better still, if I’m in Canada and the unthinkable occurs, I will be better positioned to decide whether or not to come home.

So look for me in a Canada near you come early November.

Hard choices

The upcoming U.S. Presidential election is probably the most important vote most of us have faced in our lifetimes. The two candidates–and let’s be honest and admit that there are only two viable candidates–represent vastly different future paths for our country. If you want to have your say in which path we choose, making your choice is essential.

It is tempting for some people to vote for one of the alternate candidates (which in most states means Jill Stein or Gary Johnson) as a “protest” vote, or because of a sincere belief in their message. This is everyone’s right, but I would ask those of you who choose to exercise this right to be honest with yourselves. You are essentially choosing to abstain from the process. You are choosing not to make a choice at all until there is a “perfect” choice for you.

Let’s be honest here. Neither Gary Johnson nor Jill Stein will ever be elected President. Period. No matter how much you want it, no matter how much you complain about the structural inequities of the two-party system, no matter how much you blame the media, and no matter how unfair you think it is, it is not going to happen. If a third party ever emerges as a significant force in American politics, it will be because its builds support from the ground up through local and state elections, and not because it insists on pushing a spoiler Presidential candidate every four years. Do I hope this eventually happens? Yes. Has it happened yet? Clearly not.

Don’t want to limit yourself to a choice between the lesser or two evils? Tough. We all do it every day. We are all faced with choices where neither option is ideal. We either choose one or we don’t choose at all. The former requires some front-loaded effort and also carries the risk of being the wrong choice. The latter requires much less front-loaded effort and in most cases is always the wrong choice. “Benign neglect” is generally not the best option for most situations, and I argue that voting for a candidate with no chance of being elected is more or less a form of benign neglect. Except that it isn’t always so benign–by not making the choice between two electable candidates, you also cause damage to the one of these two who might be the best match for you.

A few years ago when my mom developed dementia and my dad was unable to care for her, we had several choices. The two realistic ones were that we could move her to a facility where she would be cared for or that we could get him some help to care for her at home. Neither choice was particularly palatable, both for financial and emotional reasons. But they were really the only two options that would effect any sort of result. That’s not to say there were no other options. We could, for example, have prayed and “put it in God’s hands.” A lot of people choose this option, and while it makes them feel morally satisfied that they’re “making a statement” of their faith, it generally does not produce any result at all, because it is a decision not to make a realistic choice.

We realized, however, that refusing to choose one of the viable options and waiting until there was some theoretical option we liked better would make things exponentially worse and would be a danger to all parties involved. So we chose from among two options that we didn’t like. We had to. We were not happy about it. But abstaining from this difficult decision was not a luxury we had.

If you’re being honest with yourself, a vote for Stein or Johnson is at best a statement that you are not satisfied with a flawed  process. Unfortunately, it is also a statement that you refuse to be a part of that flawed process by supporting whichever of the two electable candidates best matches your values. You essentially have chosen not to decide. Again, it’s your right, but I would argue that it is neither particularly courageous nor particularly principled. And it’s maybe just a little lazy because it involves making the easy choice that will have no effect rather than making the difficult choice that will have an effect one way or the other.

My perspective is, admittedly, that of someone who has made a choice between the two candidates and does not consider my choice “the lesser of two evils” in any way. Is my candidate a perfect match for me? No. Is any candidate ever a perfect match for anyone? Probably not, because that would pretty much require as many candidates as there are voters for each office. But I am happy with my choice and I know that my candidate also has a chance of actually being elected.

If you sincerely believe in you candidate, that’s great. It is your right to vote for whichever candidate you choose. But at least be honest enough to recognize and acknowledge the end result of your choice. Or lack thereof…

Hollywood holiday


I’ll probably get over the idea before I get around to booking, but some part of me really wants to flee these parts and spend the holiday break in Los Angeles, doing my own re-creation of Less Than Zero, but without the drugs or the money or the cars or the prostitution or Palm Springs.

Okay, it wouldn’t be anything at all like Less Than Zero, but that was the only LA Christmas reference I could come up with tonight.

Anyway, all my recent Groceteria research, as well as my continuing obsession with LA, perhaps the most fascinating American city there is, have made me anxious for another visit and the holidays would be kind of a great time to do that, I think.

This trip would, of course, depend on whether or not I fix my stupid passport fail in time for the traditional October in Canada. What? I forgot to mention my stupid passport fail? Oh well…

Videolog: Welcome to the Boomtown

David & David
Welcome to the Boomtown (1986)

Thirty years ago this week, I was 22 years old and moving to Charlotte, where I would be renting a flat in Elizabeth for $230/month, and (soon) opening a surf/skate shop across the street from Eastland Mall.

This was playing on the radio.

No fair

It’s been six years now since the chain of events that led to the collapse of my nine years of coupled bliss. It was an astoundingly difficult period, but I’m largely over it now and I’m pretty danged happy with my life as I’m now living it. I’ve let go of most of the little frustrations and resentments, I don’t hate my ex, and I have some perspective on the while thing, although I’m the first to admit that this perspective is a bit skewed in my own favor. But I’m pretty well past it.

There’s one nagging thing I can’t let go of, though. He ruined the fucking fair for me.

I always loved going to the the fair. It was one of the things I was most excited about when we moved back to North Carolina. The fairs here are in October, which is the only correct time of year for them. It’s cool out, and I always used to go at night, just like my family did when I was a kid. I loved it all, from the Methodist barbecue tent to the giant pumpkins to the midway to the weird booth-size dioramas in the exhibit hall. It was always my night to feel like a kid again.

I haven’t been to the fair since 2010. The ex and I were already confronting some big problems at that point and were trying to negotiate some compromises. Unfortunately, the ex chose “fair night” to do something that made me very sad in general, and also revealed to me that even though I was trying to make some compromises, a few of the lines I’d drawn were going to be crossed whether I liked it or not. It made me feel like my wants and requests were not really being acknowledged at all, which in turn made me suspect for the first time that our relationship was doomed.

This was something that probably needed to happen. I just wish it hadn’t happened at the fair, thus pretty much casting a pall on something I’ve always really kind of loved and making me associate it with one of the saddest nights of my life. It’s  like asking your spouse for a divorce on his birthday, or running over his puppy on Christmas morning. It sucks and I’ve never quite been able to forgive him this one thing. The whole night bothered me so much that I even deleted all my photos and videos of it so I wouldn’t run across them by accident…which is something that I just don’t do.

It’s funny the little sad things you hang on to even as you try eliminate most of them from your life: a song that reminds you of a failed romance when you were twenty, a note from your dad apologizing for something that both of you still remember vividly though you don’t want to admit it, your last photo of a friend before a fatal argument, etc. That this should be the one heartbreaking thing I take away from a failed long-term relationship is both surprising and completely appropriate. As a couple, we both felt and acted like big kids. This was the night that pretty much ended for me.

Calm the fuck down

Let me start by making it clear that I am absolutely terrified by the political climate in the US right now and by the fact that we are edging precariously close to electing a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic sociopath to the highest office in the land. I fully “get it” and recognize that this is probably the most important election of my lifetime…at all levels.

I also recognize that the whole country is on the verge of having a stroke. That worries me a little bit too.

There was a time when I spent the bigger part of my life being perpetually outraged and angry. Some people who knew me at the time might suggest that it was one of my defining characteristics. I had an opinion on everything and was not hesitant about sharing it, no matter how irrelevant or inappropriate the venue nor how serious the overreaction. If you’d tell me you were going for a beer, I’d make sure you knew just how much I hoped it wouldn’t be a Coors. If you were casually listening to Axl Rose or Donna Summer, I’d make damned sure you knew exactly what awful things either had said (or was believed to have said) in the past ten years. I’m sure I was pretty annoying. I’m also sure I changed vere few viewpoints.

I really began to recognize this behavior in others when I lived in San Francisco in the 1990s, where even the most innocuous comments (e.g. “I’m off to lunch” or “It’s nice out today”) would often elicit a shrill and politically programmed response on the evils of anything from factory farming to global warming to corporatism and average wages in the restaurant industry. If I mentioned I was hungry, I might get a lecture about world hunger and how Americans were fact, lazy, and overfed. A comment about my small apartment might get me very quickly schooled on homelessness or conspicuous consumption. Yes, I’m exaggerating–though not as much as you might imagine–and yes, I was guilty of doing some of the same things, albeit with what I thought was a little more humor.

The point, though, is that at some point I realized that it’s really fucking exhausting–both for me and for everyone around me–to be perpetually outraged and angry and complaining about everything all the time. I also realized it was making people tune out a lot of what I was saying.

Is there a lot to be angry and outraged about? Of course there is.

Will this fact change if you constantly make yourself and everyone else miserable because of it? Probably not.

Things have gotten a lot worse in the past few years with social media and the rise of clickbait journalism whose purpose is not to inform but to grab audience share by whipping everyone–left or right–into a frothy, outraged frenzy by appealing to emotion and righteous anger (and adding a “share this if you agree” chaser). That’s why I’ve been doing a judicious amount of social media muting and pruning lately.

I think I it’s pretty clear that I value irony, sarcasm, and snark, and that I have a pretty low tolerance for stupidity and injustice. But I don’t feel the need to talk about what’s wrong with the world every fucking minute of my life. That doesn’t mean that i don’t care. I do. I stay awake some nights caring so much. But being outraged and morally indignant is now how I want to spend my life.

I believe the key term here is “perspective.”

This weekend I did a semi-humorous Facebook post about how sometimes I think my life might better be lived in a 1950s film noir. Most of my friends took it for what it was. One relative seemed not quite to get it. And one friend followed up completely out of left field with a response about how horrible life would actually have been for me as a gay man in the 1950s. It was not just an overreaction that missed the point of a very lighthearted comment. It was also really condescending, suggesting that I don’t understand history, which really pissed me off, considering history is pretty much what i do.

This was an old friend so I held my tongue even though it really bugged me. The whole tone of the post just reminded me of that whole shrill, strident tendency to respond to everything with a political rant that made me hate initiating a conversation with some people in San Francisco. It’s like the “angry vegan” meme where there’s a vein popping in the guy’s neck because it’s been more than five minutes since he’s had the chance to tell anyone he’s a vegan.

If I ever become that person–vegan, carnivore, or otherwise–please smack my upside the head. Thanks.

Je ne comprends pas

So today I…

  • Made breakfast
  • Did exactly one load of laundry
  • Read for a while
  • Took the car to a drive-thru car wash
  • Bought groceries
  • Read for a while
  • Met a friend for dinner

Why am I so fucking exhausted?

Maybe I need a vacation.

Wait, I just got home from a vacation.