Medford to Portland

Early wake-up call at the Motel 6 and I was on my way, through the wilds of southern Oregon. I’d forgotten how much I both like and dislike mountain driving. But it was a most beautiful day, despite the prediction that rain might enter my world. Never happened.

First photo opportunity was Roseburg, a cute mountain town with what appeared to be a very homogenous population (that’s a polite way of saying “white rednecks”). Nice motel strip, cute downtown. Fifteen minutes covered it.

 

Onward through scenic Salem and Eugene, which were both very nice places and were vaguely reminiscent of North Carolina. Eugene screamed “major college town” and the downtown pedestrian mall had a fair share of offbeat characters (and tempting skate rats). I was pleased to see that Wells Fargo Bank was established all over the place , which meant no service charge at the ATM. This makes me forget about the major corporate greed aspect and the usurpation of Oregon culture by California. I’ve learned to cope.

Finally, I hit Portland, the “city of Roses”. I saw very few roses, but I liked it there instantly. The plan was for me to stay with my friends Michael and Brad and their roommate Laura — all expatriate North Carolinians. I was also here to visit Rae and Michael, my expatriate San Franciscan friends. Of course, I was also scoping Portland as a possible relocation site for Planet SOMA (oops…that’s a secret…)

 

Michael and Brad have a house and yard. I want a house and yard. Almost no one in San Francisco has a house or yard. They also have a guest room. Absolutely no one in San Francisco has a guest room. I want a guest room.

  

Rae and I had a hard time connecting for the first couple of days, as it seems yet another expatriate San Franciscan, my former boss Brian, was also on the scene. Actually, I did very little the first night in Portland, save for driving around and getting a “feel”.

The big discovery was Powell’s Books (1005 West Burside). It’s supposedly the largest bookstore in America. It’s independently owned, the new and used books are sold side by side, and it’s HUGE. I could move to Portland just for this bookstore. Used book prices are a trifle high, but I guess you pay for selection. Open till 11 most nights.

A great breakfast discovery: Shaker’s. I forget the address, but I had a killer black bean and avacado omelette here. Sort of like a burrito wrapped in an egg. Good call, Micheal.

San Francisco to Medford

A good thing to remember: never, ever leave San Francisco headed north on a Friday afternoon at 3PM and expect to get very far very fast. Once past Fairfield, though, and onto the 505, and everything sailed along nicely at 70MPH (OK, maybe 80…). Things got even better when I hit I-5, which pretty much follows the route of what used to be US 99. I loved the remains of 99 in Sacramento and Fresno, and I was not disappointed with the northern part either.

Didn’t make a lot of stops the first night, although I think I ate something in Redding. A big highlight was my first visit to Weed. I’d been intrigued by the idea of visiting this town with the funky name ever since moving to California, and it was now time. I found lots of good neon, some cool post cards, and not much else, but I was satisfied.

 

It’s hard to overstate how incredibly impressive the sight of Mount Shasta can be, even in the dark. It seems eerily illuminated and dominated the road. The mountains continued through Yreka and into southern Oregon. When I hit Medford, it was time to stop for the night.

 

Medford’s a strange place: one of those completely linear cities found along old US highway routes. Apparently, it’s always been a big stopover place, as can be seen by the many vintage motels and restaurants.

Medford was also the place where I learned, somewhat dramatically, that it’s illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon. The station attendant nearly had a heart attack — and nearly gave me one — when I walked upto the pump, inserted my credit card and proceeded to commit a misdemeanor with no apparent fear.

I drove around some downtown, found no “scene” to speak of, and then slept, vowing to wake up early and continue on.

Sociability

I’ve been meeting a lot of interesting people lately. In a way, I’m finding that I’m more social right now than I’ve been in a long time, despite my recent bouts of cynicism and “I’m bored with fags” attitude.

Friday night I was at the Hole in the Wall. First time I’d spent a really fun night in there in quite a while. It was as if all the tweaker trash had decided to go someplace else for the night, and people I knew and actually liked were lurking around every corner. It was a strange collection of people who — like me at the moment — used to go out a lot but seem to have developed a little perspective and are doing other things more frequently now. It was sort of nice.

It was also a collection of people I’d met in a number of ways, quite a few of them being people I’d met online. Not in chat areas or on IRC; I absolutely detest that whole online chat thing. It’s good for some, but it just doesn’t work for me.

Most of my online friends are people I’ve met as a result of the web site, or related to the occasional Usenet posting about whatever subject. I think it bodes well for the medium that a few people who I knew as text-only before I knew them in person have become some of my closest friends: a recent case in point being Sarah.

Yes, it is very true that I have slept with people I initially met online. That number is probably about 10-12 or so at this point. The really interesting thing, though, is that I’ve kept in touch with most of these people after the fact as well. Much better average than for those I’ve picked up in bars or sex clubs.

Many readers know I haven’t even walked into a sex club in over six months. It’s a little hard to maintain a web presence which promotes them without actually doing the…ummm..legwork, but I’m trying. This is because I still think sex clubs are a good and healthy thing. They’re just not the thing for me right now, for a number of reasons.

It is possible to have dialogues and actually “meet” people (not just their penises) in sex clubs. I met my longest-term “serious” boyfriend ever in one. The first time we had sex, fifteen people were watching and we found nothing particularly odd about that at the time or later. I used to be fairly known for having long conversations in the kitchen at Mike’s Night Gallery. Made a lot of observers really nervous; guess I wasn’t being “anonymous” enough for some. Fortunately, my conversation partners were no more bothered by it than me.

Maybe the fact that this stopped happening to me, even occasionally, is part of the reason I gradually just stopped going to sex clubs. I never consciously stopped; I just sort of realized one day that I wasn’t going anymore. I may start again just as unconsciously. Who knows?

The explanation of why I’m not going out to bars much now that I can go out any night I choose is no doubt more complicated, and I’m still working on it…

Anyway…Sunday night I did something I really haven’t done in a long time. I picked up someone at My Place, made out a bit there and brought him home. What’s odd about this? To start, I’ve had an annoying habit lately of only bringing home people I already know (repeat performances, so to speak). Also, most of my activity at My Place has been confined to the actual bar lately.

This turned out to be a special case, though. If there was even a “match made in heaven” for me, this was probably it. He was 31, casually employed, a smoker and a drinker and meat eater but not a drug freak, he liked fucking to Sonic Youth, his sweat tasted great, and it was REALLY fun sex, with an intensity level I haven’t experienced in a good while. And he was capable of having a conversation afterward. As luck would have it for me, I’ll probably never hear from him again, even though he seemed enthusiastic about the idea as he left.

The Gay Press: What I’m Not Reading This Week

The Advocate has been redesigned. Color me unimpressed. This magazine, which has been totally irrelevant to me since about 1983, now comes in a glossier, more graphically pleasing format. More in tune with the upscale professional lifestyle we urban gay men lead. The “heterosexual of the month” covers will have more shelf appeal. The marketing people have won. Note this announcement about news content from a recent editorial:

The Advocate has always been the leading source of in-depth analysis and original investigative reporting–the kind of forward-thinking news organization our discriminating readers demand. And now, beginning with this issue, in order to add new vibrancy to the way we do this, we’re pleased to debut a striking redesign…

The arts and media section has been expanded and integrated into the news section. Since gay arts and media stories can be significant political and social events, the new design does not draw conventional lines between news and entertainment. The most visible example of this philosophy is that The Buzz — where we report the inside scoop on the spiciest gay entertainment news — has been moved to the front of the magazine.

Isn’t that fabulous? At the Advocate, they know what’s really important. When we get tired of reading hard news, we can simply skip to the Madonna item on the next paragraph. Wow!! She’s REAL news. So is the White Party. And the latest dish on Ellen…

Not, of course, that this trend has been limited to the Advocate. Checked out your local news lately? Or better still, “Hard Copy”? OK…maybe O.J. Simpson really was the single most important news story of the past two years, but somehow I doubt it.

Lest I sound like I’m against the idea of a gay entertainment publication, I’m not. I more or less write one. What bugs me is that the Advocate has the audacity to call itself a NEWS magazine for the gay “community”, when essentially it has metamorphosized into a queer version of People or Entertainment Weekly, targeted at a very specific audience.

Which is all fine and dandy; that’s what today’s media marketing frenzy is all about. That’s the reason that instead of “rock” stations, “pop” stations, “country” stations, and “R&B” stations, we now have “alternative adult contemporary hits” stations (which translates to mellow “new wave” for those in their late 20’s and early 30’s) and “classic hits of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s with no be-bop or hard rock” stations. To question this would be to question all of advertising and demographic research.

But I digress. I was talking about news.

When I was a young fag, reading the Advocate was so much better than reading the local gay rags. The Advocate was real news, while the local papers were full of drag show reviews, bar openings, and tons of wire copy. The few local news stories were so biased and boosterish that they wouldn’t have passed muster in my junior high journalism class. A lot of the local gay press still is victim to this phenomenon — especially the “if it’s gay it has to be good no matter how bad it is” mentality.

The Advocate stood up for the “community” too. But it was different. It took more than 15 minutes to read a full issue. It said something.

No more, I guess.