Welcome to 1998

New Year’s Day. Free black-eyed peas at the J&S Cafeteria. Spent the late part of the evening at the Palms with Jeff and an exceedingly frightening crowd. We watched “Family Affair”. Buffy and Jody were far cuter than any of the bar patrons.


Or Maybe Not

This fucking hospital has the smallest emergency waiting room I’ve ever seen. And I’m getting pretty experienced with emergency rooms as it seems I get to visit one every time I come home lately. This time it’s my mom who’s being examined. She tripped over a boat displayed in a mall in Fort Mill SC, while we were en route to the airport in Charlotte. Busted her nose, lip, and teeth. Litigation may beckon. Needless to say I missed my plane.

  … …

Jeez it sucks in this suburban nightmare hospital. Sick people are sitting on the floor because there are only about 16 seats. What the hell were they thinking? Guess I’ll just get a little cozier with the potted plant I’m suing as an armrest. Charlotte NC, the city that wishes it knew how…

Of course in keeping with the size of the waiting room, there’s only one phone which is perpetually in use. This place sucks. We’ve been here over two hours; they say it will be at least another hours before she can be seen. After all, she’s only bleeding profusely.

Four hours have now passed. I’m watching “X Files” and the cutest boy who ever lived across the room. I’d peg him as 18 or so, shoulder length stringy black hair. He’s a South Charlotte rich kid who doesn’t want to look the part. Dirty brown hiking boots, grass-stained slightly baggy jeans which still reveal a great butt. He hurt his arm playing football, I heard. Stunning. It was hard to concentrate on my mom with him in the room.

Turns out the delay is due to a five-car accident caused by a drunk speeding 15-year-old redneck kid who was running from the cops. It’s now five hours and counting.

Smoke break outside. I talked to the boy. I now crave him even more. He actually hurt his arm on his motorcycle (which his parents don’t know he owns). He’s 20 and goes to NC State. we shook hands. It was cool. Why is it that that (mainly in the south), straight boys are so much more interesting and appealing than fags?

My dad’s pissed about the accident and the wait at the hospital. They’re finally looking at my mom now. Time for a another cigarette. Less cute boy this time, but still adequate. I like these little suburban South Charlotte boys.

While talking to the obese 45-year-old repo man who showed me the scars from his five bypass operations, I noticed a woman in a wheelchair begin to scream and moan in pain. Maybe it’ll only take two or three hours for them to see her.

The good news is Mom’s nose probably isn’t broken. the bad news is that the treatment is the same whether it is or isn’t.

At the Airport

Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. After several false starts, I’d estimate that I now have about a 75% chance of getting on the next plane headed for San Francisco. And I am definitely ready to get home. I hate that I had to leave my mom feeling so bad. She was in worse shape this morning than yesterday. I also hate that I never caught up with my friends Duncan or Daniel in the strange and surreal crush.


I’m home again. I’m tired. I hate flying. I hate airplane food. I hate that I didn’t bring home any Cheerwine or barbecue. I hate that I have to go back to work tomorrow. I love that I got so much great mail while I was gone. I hate that it most likely won’t be answered for several days.

And I really love this article in MacWorld, only partially because it mentions me. But I’ll cease with the self-promotion and go to sleep now.

All in all. seeing Mom and Dad and the few friends I managed to hook up with was great. But (surprise) I still can’t recommend Greensboro as the happening vacation destination of the year…

Still plugging along working part time as an Administrative Assistant. It pays the rent while the freelance stuff begins to trickle in and while I continue trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.

Nicotine Fits, Part 2

So I finally ventured into one of the nifty new California smoke-free bars Friday night. I’d been putting it off since returning from the holiday trip because I wasn’t sure I’d know how to behave and also because I was a little worried about just how a smoke-free bar might SMELL.

As it happened, I ended up coping in much the same way everyone else seemed to be doing so. I just went ahead and smoked. It was very simple. Of course there were no ashtrays or cigarette machines. One bar even featured a prominent “no smoking” sign. No one — patron or staffer — seemed to care.

At first I was a little timid, cupping the offending cigarette in my closed hand like a joint or something. I guess I was afraid the principal would walk by and catch me. It all felt so very junior high; I feared a month’s detention.

By the end of the night, with several beers in my belly and a cute little clubkid on his knees in front of me, however, I felt much more secure. I was pushing his head down on me with one hand while puffing away with the other. Somehow the opinion of the State of California mattered very little to me at this point.

So I guess I’m a desperate outlaw now, darn it…

I hear rumors that the Castro bars are actually observing the smoking ban and enforcing it. I’m not surprised; they’re just so much more sensitive over there. I’m surprised though that no one seems worried about whether or not the noisy smoking drunks on the sidewalk will affect property values.

Of course, there is the issue of workers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Once again, I would state that no one, to my knowledge, has ever been forced to work in a bar. When you take a job, you understand that there are some occupational risks. In bars, these risks include loud music, smoke, and having to cope with obnoxious drunks. Obviously, many people have decided that the rewards outweigh the risks.

Consider this: dealing with rude assholes is detrimental to my psychological health. That’s why I don’t work in retail customer service anymore. I never requested a law stating that it be illegal to act like an asshole in a retail establishment. I knew the risks when I took the job. I was prepared to take them. When I no longer wanted to take these risks, I quit.

But as long as we’re “protecting” people, may I suggest the following:

  • I guess we’ll have to get rid of conversation first. Too many hurt feelings and broken promises. Civil liberties can’t be considered an issue if someone might be offended.
  • Let’s ban on techno and house music in bars because they kills brain cells and make me homicidal, thus putting other patrons at considerable risk.
  • A ban on being horny in bars is probably in order because horniness might lead to unsafe sex.
  • We should eliminate attractive people in cruise bars. Seeing these people could make some less attractive people become victims of reduced self-esteem levels, causing them to drink too much or (gasp) crave cigarettes. Come to think of it, we’d better ban anyone who’s ever been attracted to an attractive person too…
  • No more TV. Radiation, y’know?

Who was it who said that people who are willing to give up civil liberties to obtain a sense of “security” are deserving of neither? I’m off to have a cigarette and see if I can remember…

The Poll

I’ve been working on Planet SOMA for over two years now, believe it or not, even though the “official” grand opening date was 2 March 1996. One of these days, I guess it will be ready…

Actually, at the two year point, I’ve decided that things have gotten a bit cumbersome and that a bit of spring cleaning might be in order. The site now has well over 400 pages, some of which are glanced at no more than three or four times a week. I’m thinking it may be time to prune them back just a bit, since I’ve been a pretty major packrat over the past two years and have kept damn near everything available in some form.

The first 100 surveys are in. Why did it take two months for this to happen? Your guess is as good as mine, but here are the results:

Site Rating:

  • You rule: 64%
  • Pretty good: 35%
  • Average: 1%
  • You suck: 0%

Speed of Access:

  • Blistering: 39%
  • Pretty Fast: 46%
  • Adequate: 15%
  • Slow: 0%

I’d like to see more of:

  • 1. Rants (58%)
  • 2. San Francisco Information (44%)
  • 3. Yer Humble Host and Friends (43%)
  • 3. Dirty Pictures (43%)
  • 5. History-related (36%)
  • 6. Travel-related and Route SOMA (34%)

These results were pretty encouraging, although I realize that survey respondents tend to answer favorably in general, and on this site specifically they also tend to be those who spent a lot of time and looked around the site more than the average reader. The positive reaction to the rants and the relatively lukewarm reaction to the pictures were especially promising.

Thanks to all who have participated so far.

The Year 2000 and Random Notes

As editor of the website Planet SOMA, I am tremendously worried about the phenomenon known as the “year 2000 problem”. I have been continually worried since at least the year 1990 or so. My worry is unrelated to the issues surrounding incorrect dates, etc. I’m more concerned about how we are to address the year 2000 once we hit the years 1999 or 2001.

Upto this point, we have treated the year 2000 with a certain reverence not extended to other years. After all, how often do you hear someone referring to “the year 1998” or “the year 1964” for example. I am concerned that once we hit the year 2000, we may become sloppy and start referring to it as simply “2000”. This, in my opinion, would be tragic.

Henceforth, I propose that (to be fair and consistent) all years be given their proper antecedents. No longer will the year 1998 be known as simply “1998”; we must be careful always to use the grammatically correct phrase “the year 1998”. Of course, we may still refer to past years as “the year formerly known as 1997” if we wish.

I ask for your help in this matter. The concept grammar is at stake.

Random notes du jour:

  • Chewing gum is exempt from sales tax in California as it is considered a “food”. Coca-Cola, on the other hand, is not. Clued into this tonight at Safeway.
  • It is now possible to get free beers from bartenders in California by offering them a drag off the cigarette you’re not supposed to be smoking at the bar to begin with.
  • Patty Duke playing Patty Duke in the last half hour of “The Patty Duke Story” on Lifetime is a pretty gosh-darn frightening thing. And I taped it just so I wouldn’t miss the ending. Which is even more frightening…
  • The body-piercing industry is not exempt from power-hungry shitbags. The decision this week by employees of Gauntlet to unionize is evidence of this fact. Five year “non-compete” clauses and “hole quotas” indeed…
  • Planet SOMA readers who go to the effort of meeting me face to face are damned fine people. Two instances this week have reminded me of this.
  • I really like the new comic strip “Zits”. Lately, I even like it more than “Dilbert”. This is sad.

Survey results:

The first 100 surveys are in, and these psychoSOMAtic rants are the number one “I’d like to see more of…” request. Color me honored. And color me impressed that the damn dirty pictures finished in a relatively lukewarm tie for third place, along side “Yer Humble Host and friends” and behind “SF information”. More results soon. Thanks to everyone who has already participated, especially the “you rule” voters.

Off to sleep now…

Instant Retro

I imagine that any day now I should start seeing flyers for retro-mid-90’s-rave nights at the local clubs. Maybe nostalgia nights featuring early episodes of “Friends” or special showings of “The Crow”? Or maybe the ultimate in retro: a web site which is completely compliant with Netscape 1.2?

What’s with this idea that a certain period in time becomes “retro kitsch” before some people have even finished experiencing it? This seems to be a pretty recent thing. Somehow, I don’t think that my mom was fantasizing about the mid 1950’s when she was my age (in 1963).

No, the whole “retro” thing seems to be more or less a product of the 80’s and 90’s. Before the decade was even over there were “New Wave Nights” featuring oldies from about 1981 or so at clubs in bigger cities.

Of course, in many ways New Wave itself was a bit of a “retro” phenomenon — a backward glance at the girl groups, garage rock, and bubblegum of the 60’s. But at least a few decades passed before this particular appropriation of the past took place.

Why are we (post-boomers) such a nostalgic generation? And why are we so nostalgic for things which didn’t really happen very long ago? A Love and Rockets record from ten years ago is not exactly the stuff history is made of, after all. A Nirvana song from 1991 doesn’t even come close.

Are we crying out to the world “our generation DOES have an identity”? Or is our creativity just so thoroughly stifled that we can’t come up with anything new? Maybe our grasp of history is so limited that we just don’t realize that five or ten years is not a tremendously long time in the overall scheme of things. Is our collective attention span THAT short?

Perhaps it’s more of the Peter Pan syndrome; by repeatedly listening to music or watching TV shows from a few years back, we can continue to pretend we never grew up.

Maybe it’s just because so much of the media seems so incredibly bland in the corporate era in which we now live. But that’s a cop-out; there was a lot of crap in the eras we’re now romanticizing too. Break out those Survivor and MC Hammer records and you’ll remember.

Could be it’s just a vengeful reaction to the fact that all through the 80’s, we were forced to listen to crappy retread “classic rock” from the 70’s, because commercial radio by and large ignored anything new. Hmmm…maybe this “instant retro” thing DIDN’T start with us…

My parents listened to several decades worth of music before deciding what to get nostalgic about. They didn’t think of five-year-old songs as particularly nostalgic; they were just part of the repertoire. Kind of a nice perspective, don’t you think?

So how soon do the Spice Girls become “retro”? I’m just not hearing nearly enough of them lately…