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.

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.



OK…the queer bar scene in Portland SUCKS. The string of bars on Stark Street have been overrun by heterosexuals. I am not a separatist, and I have no problem with straight people in gay bars, buth the invaders in Portland don’t seem interested in co-existing; they appear to intent on taking over.

That said, however, there is some interesting nightlife in Portland all the same. The beer is good (even in the gay bars, which is a rarity) and there are non-bar options as well. Portland is home to perhaps the most thriving independent film scene in America, possibly due to the weather, the “Gus” factor, or the fact that there are more second-run and repertory cinemas here than anywhere else in the country. Coffee achievement is also big here.

I was also pleaantly surprised that I was able to pick up (get picked up by?) a very cute guy right on the street in a not tremendously gay area. He was fun, but we were unable to reconnect. We’ll see how the email aspect works out.

So about that nightlife: The Eagle PDX was the only queer bar in the city I sort of liked. Dark and moderately cruisy. Music was OK, when it didn’t veer into techo-crap. Two levels, porn videos, good beer, and EXTREMELY surly bartenders.

Portland Some More

Aaah Portland…biggest city in the land of no sales tax, no self service gas, and beautiful scruffy boys. A few mentionables:


Fred Meyer: A Portland tradition, combining Target, Safeway, and various other stores in one. It’s esay to trace Portland’s development through the location of these stores. Early innovations included rooftop parking and suburban shopping.

Plaid Pantry: Portland’s entry into the “strange names for conveience stores” sweepstakes. This one really seems to fit its market, however.

Waddle’s: Early 60’s coffee shop mecca. This place inspired me, and was every restaurant I used to eat at on the road with mom and dad. Do not try to have dinner there on Monday or Tuesday nights, however.


Still in Portland

This was the day Christopher arrived from Minneapolis, but this fact didn’t impact my world much as he pretty much slept all day. Working graveyard, then getting on a plane and flying cross-country, and expecting to be alert and wake when you arrive is not realistic. Period.

I spent part of the afternoon with Laura and Pagan (the wonder dog), watching soap operas. It’s amazing how quickly everything comes back to you, even after fifteen years away from them. Laura and Pagan have noe relocated to Santa Cruz and owe me a visit. If you ever meet them, remember to say “Lassie” and see what happens. We were also visited by the neighbor, Baby Evan.


What visit to Portland would be complete without a tribute to Gus Van Sant? In honor of the director of “My Own Private Idaho” and “Drugstore Cowboy”, I felt compelled to visit a few of the locations contained therein:

I saw the first drug store robbed in “Drugstore Cowboy” and the bookstore from “My Own Private Idaho” where all the porn magazines came to life:


I also saw Matt Dillon’s (and William Burroughs’) hotel from “Drugstore” and Bob’s hotel from “Idaho”:


Drinking with Rae and Micheal finally happened, as did dinner with Rae and Brian, although not at Waddle’s. Leave it to my contacts to know where the best (and cheapest) beer is to be found. Christopher finaly woke up and the final night was topped off by a return to the dismal queer bar scene. He was even less impressed than I was.


All in all, though, I really liked Portland. It’s a very comfortable city, and a very manageable one. The weather was great during my time there; although it was “supposed” to rain, it never did. Of course, I wouldn’t have minded the rain anyway. Potential? Maybe…

In Seattle


Seattle has changed a bit since the last time I was there, in 1974. But the Space Needle and monorail remain constant. And as chance would have it, the first motel we stopped at happened to be the very same one I’d stayed in as a kid on the first visit.

God, I love Seattle. I haven’t been this excited by anyplace since the first time I visited San Francisco. My childhood memories were right; it’s incredible. A beutiful city in a beautiful setting, with a good mixture of old and new. It looks exactly like I want a city to look.

I could’ve spent days here. Even had a place to stay arranged, courtesy of Patrick and Tad. But when travelling with another person, one makes these certain compromises and sacrificies (translated: Christopher got whiny…) and the trip was limited to one night.

But it was a pretty damned eventful night. After checking into a suitably seedy motel on Aurora Avenue (old US 99), Christopher and I had dinner at an Indian place in the University district (okra massala…yumm…) and met Patrick and Tad for a beer at Cuff’s. Afterward, Christopher stayed home and pouted, so I ventured out on my own.

A few bars I had reactions to: The Cuff was pretty much a standard leather bar. Good bartender, good beer. Not my favorite spot in the city, but not bad either. I’d been warned against R Place, but I liked it. Great beer selection. Tasty bartender downstairs. Good jukebox and darts upsatirs. Not severely cruisy, but there was potential. Seemed friendly.

I loved the Seattle Eagle. Van Halen was playing as I entered. Two levels, dark and cruisy, and (again) a good beer selection. Thanks to the state of Washingtom for making liquor licenses damn near impossible to get and for promoting good beer bars in the process!

I also loved Sit & Spin, a laundromat-cafe-live music venue. I saw Orbit for a $1.00 cover, with a Pike Place beer at my side. Great crowd. There were queers here, actually watching the band. An integrated rock and roll club…imagine that…

Hmmm…I like the city, the bars are fun and serve real beer, rent’s cheaper than in SF,and the sky looks really cool when it rains at night. What could all this mean?

Seattle Continued


Up fairly early and off to the Denny’s on Mercer Street for a grand slam breakfast. It was a cool Denny’s, which had not yet been renovated into a pastel nightmare. Then off to Seattle Center, site of the 1962 World’s Fair. Site of the Pacific Science Center. Site of the monorail. Site of the Space Needle! I have a strange fascination with tis place and its early 1960’s version of modernism. Not a lot remains, but you can get a feel for what was there. It’s a very contradictory place, promoting high culture and a theme park at the asme time. It’s also strangely seedy, beacuse most of the fair buildings were designed to last six months and they haven’t been maintained particularly well. But I like it. How could I NOT like it?


Alas, this was the bulk of our Seattle tourism, given the limited stay. I really wanted to do the Undersground tour. I remeber it from last time, and I figured I’d be even more excited this time. Oh well…there my be plenty of time for me to experience Seattle in the future. But I’m being cryptic again…



From Seattle to Grant’s Pass was an…ummm…interesting drive. I don’t mind driving in the rain. Or in the mountains. Or at night. But all three at the same time was a bit much. Especially in a car which has not yet gotten used to my driving habits and thus hasn’t devloped “automatic pilot”.

At Grant’s Pass, sleep had to happen. And what a great place. Old motels for miles. The one I chose featured arched doorways,and the room had the remnants of a kitchenette. My guess as to construction date would be about 1940. Great spot. And it had cable…


Driving down the California coast on US 101 was a good idea, despite the additional time required. Given the choice, I always take the old road, along the old strips through town. We hit the Redwoods, Eureka, Ukiah, and more. And boy, was I worn out as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. I was also strangely unexcited to be home, but that’s another story…


Without a Plan

Upon my return to San Francisco from the Northwest tour, I realized that I was not terribly excited to be home. This is pretty major; I’ve always been amazed at how excited, even relieved, I was to see the SF skyline when returning from a trip. I’ve never felt that way about any other place I’ve lived. In Greensboro and Charlotte, my returns were always accompanied by a sense of sadness and dread.

Could this mean that my four-year love affair with San Francisco (the longest romantic entanglement of my life) is nearing an end? It’s been something I’ve been considering for several months.

I have no idea what I want to do for a living. I’m not sure I want to continue living in San Francisco. I’m not even real clear on what I want to spend a given evening doing lately. What’s up here?

Three and a half months of voluntary and planned unemployment have convinced me that I’m no closer to having a plan than I was in December when I quit my job. This is a little scary, because at some point the money will run out. My vision of a life which is not dominated by career only extends so far, and it does not include fasting, sleeping on the streets, or giving up cable TV.

Not that any of these things are a pressing danger, but they remind me that I need to decide what I want to be when I grow up pretty soon.

Writing would be a good choice, but I don’t see being able to support myself that way for about a decade (if ever). But suggestions are welcome.I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should just get a low-impact job which allows me to survive while doing what I want to do. It is a given that the new “low-impact” career will in NO WAY involve working with the public in a retail-type environment.