A fifth of October

Today is my alma mater’s 125th birthday.

It’s also the 25th anniversary of the day I took up residence in San Francisco. In another couple of months, I will also hit the point where I’ve been back on the East Coast as long as I was in California.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

And sometimes even when you’re not.

Fortunately there’s been much more of the former than the latter over the years.

Nine years. One waterfall. (OK…two waterfalls…)

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Almost nine years ago, the ex and I did a road trip to Charleston and Pittsburgh that ultimately had lots of implications, but for now, I’ll just mention that we took what was always my favorite “couple photo” on this trip, at a waterfall by the side of Highway 60 somewhere near Gauley Bridge, West Virginia. I’ve been threatening to do another weekend in Charleston ever since, and this was finally that weekend.

More pictures to follow, but yesterday, I happened to take that same back road home because I wanted to shoot a couple of old Kroger stores along the way (and because I fucking hate that stretch of the West Virginia Turnpike between Beckley and Charelston), and I happened upon that same waterfall. I thought it was time for a new photo. I think I’ve held up pretty well over the years. Almost no evidence at all of decomposition…

And for the record, I found a new waterfall I like even better, because the nature is kept at bay by the pair of creepy old buildings adjacent to it.

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Again, more pictures and thoughts on Charleston to follow…

Every five years

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I bought my first car in 1980 and I ended up driving it for about five years. Apparently, that seemed like a good amount of time for me to hang on to a car, because it’s become my average over the past thirty-seven years. I’ve had seven cars since 1980. (Actually I’ve owned ten cars, but three don’t count: the one I totaled a week after purchasing in 1992, the one my ex signed over to me so I could dispose of it in 2011, and the one I inherited from my dad and quickly sold in 2013.) The only time I was ever completely without a car was for about six months in 1996 and 1997 in San Francisco.

Of the seven that count, two died very violent deaths, one in a collision and one in a fire. All but one of the others I pretty much dove until they either died or would no longer pass inspection. I actually bought and paid for four of them and assumed custody of three from my mom. One of those I acquired from her, a 2009 Sonata, turned out to be the best car I ever owned. I haven’t actually bought a car myself since 1997, when I bought the Toyota I owned longer than any of the others. And I only ever bought one brand new; it turned out to be one of the worst of the bunch. The rest I bought used.

So yesterday, I bought car number eight. It’s a very slightly used 2017 Sonata. it’s pretty and roomy and has Apple Car Play and all sorts of fun things. I thought it might be nice to buy one before I had to for a change. It’s also the first car I’ve ever paid cash for. I’m hoping we’ll have a lovely relationship. In much the same way I no longer stay at Motel 6, I have also decided I’m allowed to have a slightly more comfortable car now. I’m never going to be a spendthrift (I spent way too long being way too poor) and I don’t care about high-end luxury, but I can afford to part with a little money at this point in my life.

An exciting slideshow of my history with cars follows:

It was thirty years ago today…

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So it was thirty years ago tonight that the legendary Pterodactyl Club in Charlotte opened. Damn.

That was also the night that I felt I really started making friends in Charlotte after a long and lonely first winter there. I ran into an acquaintance I’d known in Myrtle Beach at the opening and she introduced me to a whole new crowd that quickly became my crowd.

I miss that old run-down steakhouse on Freedom Drive. I saw some great bands there (everything from the Flaming Lips to They Might Be Giants to Iggy Pop, among others) plus the DJ nights were a very welcome alternative to the never-ending cycle of annoying disco and drag at the queer bar a few blocks down the street. As someone who even then really didn’t love gay clubs–and especially hated the shitty music one was forced to endure in them–this was a pretty important spot for me. it was also a passably good place to pick up boys of a sort who were also not as annoying as the ones at the queer bar.

Side note: The grand opening flyer I scanned so a friend could put it on his blog a few years ago must be the only remaining copy in the universe, based on how often I’ve seen it floating around the web.

The Pterodactyl is now a grassy field in a rapidly gentrifying area. At least there’s not an artisanal grits and okra bar there yet…

My Ella story

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One night in 1996, I picked up a very adorable boy at a bar in Sacramento (the Wreck Room, I believe) and we went back to his flat a few blocks away. All night long, we made out to the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, which made me like that adorable boy even more.

The next morning, as I was driving back to my room at the Motel 6 or wherever, I heard on the radio that Ella had died the previous night while we were curled up in bed listening to her. It made me very sad. I never heard from the boy again either, which also made me sad.

I loved Ella even as a child, and I have very sketchy memories of seeing her on the Ed Sullivan Show when I was really young (maybe this one?). In that proverbial game of dead celebrities you’d like to have at a dinner party, she makes my list every time.

Happy 100 and rest in peace, Ella.

Reading is good

For the record, by “reading” I mean “reading more than just the inflammatory headline and then sharing it to display your sense of moral outrage and to ‘prove’ your point.”

I came along at a particularly lucky time in American history. Despite the fact that i grew up in a small-to-medium city in a moderate-to-conservative region, I always had access to good reading material and usually took advantage of that fact. It’s what helped me survive my teen years and make it to my senior year in high school (1982), which was the point where I realized for the first time that I could successfully invent the person I wanted to be and that I deserved better than the losers I’d been hanging around with up to that point. By the semester I graduated, I’d finally seen that it was OK to be smart and to have friends who were smart too.

A decade or so later, when Borders and Barnes & Noble became major retail forces, to criticize the way these chain bookstores were destroying local, independent stores. I was very conflicted about this because I remembered growing up in a place that didn’t really even have viable independent stores that sold the kind of books i wanted to be reading. Most of the independent stores around here were either religious in nature or were of the “books and stationery” variety, which meant that they sold primarily inconsequential and uncontroversial titles.

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(Waldenbooks, Thomas Hawk, CC BY-NC 2.0)

In fact, it was the Waldenbooks branch at the mall where I found books about cities and about subcultures, and (gasp) books and magazines that told me it was OK to be the homosexual I was…ahem…practicing to be. Without the big chain store and its broader perspective, there’s no telling how long I would have had to wait to read messages that challenged the everyday bullshit of the early Reagan-era South. It’s all well and good to criticize the chain bookstores when you live in a big city located in a region with options. The chain were the only option here at the time, and I’d argue that stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble were extremely important in providing this function for the generation who came along in the pre-Internet 1990s.

Of course, the library was important as well. In the early 1980s, the Greensboro Public Library had a surprisingly large collection of titles from among the “gay liberation” classics of the early 1970s. When I look back at them now, I find a lot of this stuff sort of cringeworthy (though many of these books presented a much more open-minded and diverse notion of what a gay person could be than much pf the “gay culture” crap that followed) but it was precisely what I needed to be reading at the time. It goes without saying where this love for the library took me, although it was a rather long and circuitous route.

Reading (and realizing that doing so was a good thing) was also what prompted me to seek out used book stores like the original Browsery, which was on the second floor of a dumpy building near UNCG and only seemed to be open at night, and newsstands like the International in Charlotte, tucked away in the back of a mall hidden in an apartment complex off Providence Road. It was harder to find the things you needed then, but it was not impossible…assuming you cared enough to bother.

I’m sort of babbling and don’t really have much of a point here, I guess, other than to reiterate that I was luckier than a lot of people my age and older who grew up in less urban and bookish areas. My parents did not read a lot of books but did read a lot of everything else, so they were good role models. Being in a sort of college town (though not a college-dominated town) also helped. Having access, though, and the desire to seek things out, was the key.

There’s a lot of access now too, which is amazing and wonderful, but I wish there were more propensity to filter out the crap and be selective in a world with a major signal-to-noise deficit.

Ushering out the old

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This very nice girl was my New Year’s Eve date thirty-five years ago when I was a senior in high school. She holds the distinction of being the last date I had as a heterosexual impersonator.

I don’t think her heart was in it any more than mine was, really, as evidenced by the fact that the minor traffic accident we had earlier (not my fault and not alcohol-related) was the biggest excitement of the evening.

I guess it’s time…

This seems like the day to finally confess after all those years that the song (both times) was Careless Whisper.

I was not a big George Michael fan, but dang, that song sure did surface at some pivotal points for me.