Off to Charlotte this morning, as Mom and Dad dropped me off with my friend Duncan. Mom and Dad like Duncan, and I sometimes think they’re as happy to see him as I am.

After a little time in Charlotte, where I lived through 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989, eating great food, hanging around in Duncan’s great (and cheap by SF standards) house, and hitting a few bars which were less objectionable than I remembered, I thought briefly that living here again might not be so bad. Fortunately, I remembered some of the reasons I left, however, and came back to my senses.


Charlotte is perhaps the symbol of the “new south”: rapidly urbanizing and becoming more cosmopolitan and diverse. However, the Republican banker mentality is just as strong, as is the oppressive religious sentiment. The current gag in SF surrounds the ubiquitous “WWJD” (“What would Jesus do?”) stickers and buttons around the new Bank of America headquarters in Charlotte. I’m not sure how much of this is true and how much is sour grapes from a city pissed off about losing one of its major institutions, but I did catch a “WWJD” bumper sticker or two.

The original plan called for a side trip to Atlanta, but an ice storm made this unwise, so we sample Charlotte nightlife, ate some really great food, and watched “Rock and Roll Jeopardy”. and I installed an revamped web site at one of the TV stations I work for, thus makig the whole trip deductible. All in all, not a bad trip.

Charlotte and Ice


Ice, ice, baby. Ice all day. We didn’t get out much. We definitely didn’t risk Atlanta. I actually got to watch the TV stations I do web sites for. Big breakfast at home. Big dinner at Gus’ Sir Beef (the name doesn’t really fit). We braved the rapidly thawing ice to hit the nightlife again a little after 11.

The Charlotte bars seem a lot more pleasant than I remember them, although it could be the “change of scenery” factor. Oleen’s was as odd as ever. Chaser’s was a tad creepy, with a really small crowd, really flooded bathrooms, and a bartender who resembled a prepubescent junkie. Guess it’s feeling the competition from the new bar across the street. The Masquerade features strippers too and is without flooded bathrooms.

Had a great time at the always “hit or miss” Brass Rail, drinking cheap, playing “Shiny Shiny” on the jukebox, and getting cruised by a couple (only one of whom I was interested in). Then there was this strange game of “surrogate strip pool” in the back. As I have respect for the Brass Rail’s liquor license, I’ll skip the details.

All in all, though, it’s annoying as hell bar-hopping in Charlotte. That southern queer bar tradition of “always a cover” can easily result in spending more at the door than at the actual bar.

Late night food at Athens. I love Athens. I loved it even more when I only lived a block away.

Charlotte and Greensboro


Charlotte has definitely grown. We saw a good bit of it today after a most incredible gumbo at the Bayou Kitchen. There’s construction everywhere and a new freeway has completely obliterated one of my favorite old strips (as well as one of my former homes). A second 70-story phallic symbol is about to be built downtown, the next round in the Bank of America vs. First Union “mine’s bigger than yours” competition. Walgreen’s is back in town after about a 50-year absence.

We drove by my old apartments and my old store. The apartments look pretty much the same, but my old surf/skate shop is now somebody’s middle-eastern market. The massive mall across the street is on the skids; Charlotte has finally hit that point where its postwar suburbs are becoming its inner city.

Took the train back to Greensboro. Travelling by rail absolutely rules. If I could manage never to fly again, I’d be truly happy.

Big Band Night

Why is the Winston-Salem paper so very much better than the Greensboro paper, even though Greensboro’s the bigger city? I guess it’s sort of like San Jose’s paper being so much better than either of San Francisco’s, even though SF is the “dominant” city.

I visited some friends at Greensboro’s brand new Kinko’s today. I saw Anne and Jeana and Tim, all of whom I knew from my years working at the old Greensboro store. And I saw Maggie, who I know from San Francisco (long story there…) Greensboro’s now a “two ways to office” town. Imagine.

Tonight, I hit “Big Band Night” at a local club with Mom and Dad. I was a little apprehensive about this, but it turned out to be fairly interesting. Apparently, it happens the first Monday of every month. There’s an orchestra and food. The crowd was pretty much 60-plus, but they were a pretty lively bunch. It was most definitely not a depressing “old folks night”.

Of course, most people who know me well are aware that, despite my rock and roll exterior, I have a certain affinity for this music, and I didn’t hear a single song I didn’t recognize. It was sort of nice, too, talking with people outside my normal age bracket, and watching my aunt and her new beau take to the floor. Mom and Dad were out there a few times too.

I was impressed with one couple in particular. The wife had emphysema and carried a rolling oxygen cannister. I imagine that even walking does not come easy to this lady, but she loves to dance, and two or three times, she rolled that tank right out on the floor and did all she could. You have to admire that.

Stopped by the Border’s on High Point Road on the way home. It’s kinda cruisy there late in the evening…

iMac Watch ’99

This afternoon, I watched a lot of TV with the folks. We were waiting for Steve Jobs to spill the beans about the new iMacs, since my mom was planning to buy one. We must have looked like an odd neo-techno version of the Waltons, huddled around the radio waiting for FDR to give a Fireside Chat. Or at least it seemed that way to me at the time.

After the announcement, I took pictures of abandoned motels. Why should this be any different from any other road trip, after all?


Drag and Nostalgia

Lunch today with Mom at Libby Hill. ‘Twas a nice thing eating the real southern version of fried fish. It’s one of the things I miss most. We hit the branch on Summitt Avenue, which used to be a Hot Shoppes drive-in (the chain from DC which evolved into Marriott Corporation).


Tonight, I did the nightlife thing with Jeff again. We met at Babylon, fled the perky Swing Night crowd as quickly as we could, and headed for College Hill Sundries and New York Pizza, two of my old UNCG hangouts. Then it was off to the Palms, where Jeff was working, and the ever-wondrous Marilyn Rivers was on stage.


Every time I come home, I get progressively more and more nostalgic. In my warm and comfy bed, with all that free Mom and Dad food, I start thinking “Greensboro is not such a bad place”. Eventually, I have a revelation and come back to my senses. This revelation usually happens at the Palms. Tonight was that night. All of a sudden the “I gotta get the hell out of here” light started flashing. I fled.

Another day and half and I’d flee town altogether.



I stayed an extra day because the flights were tight and because there were one or two more relatives to visit. Instead of the relatives, though, we took the back road to Winston-Salem (NC’s own Route 66) to see some urban decay and a mall.


Mall first. We shopped. We looked around. I watched more scary redneck kids. Security stopped me (with Mom and Dad) and told me I was not allowed to videotape in the mall. I told the rent-a-cop that was fine because I was through anyway. She didn’t look pleased. I didn’t look like I cared. We left. See the “concept shots” which so threatened the sanctity of the mall above.

Then we headed downtown to the factory district. This was the area where R.J. Reynolds used to make Winstons and Salems and Camels, until they moved to a new plant on the edge of town. The area is threatening to develop into a high-tech office and loft condo area, but a major fire a few months ago delayed some of the plans.


Parts of this area resemble Detroit. Lots of abandoned and boarded-up buildings are surrounded by large open areas, the result of unsuccessful urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s. If I lived in Winston-Salem, this would be my neighborhood.

Winston-Salem is kind of an interesting place. As one might guess, it was formed when the towns of Winston and Salem merged. Until the 1920s, it was North Carolina’s largest city, and it still retains an older and more urban feel than Greensboro, even though Greensboro is now a much larger city.

Last Day

Had the traditional late night “last night at home” talk with Dad last night. I miss having my parents nearby. The older I get, the more I find that I really like them (not that I doubted it before). I think it’s time to move back to someplace which is at least a little closer to home. Not Greensboro, probably not even North Carolina, but maybe Richmond or Atlanta, or Baltimore, or Philadelphia. Who knows? This brings up the same old “what am I going to do with my life” anxiety which I’m not in the mood to deal with right now.

Everything just seems so much saner away from San Francisco. The stress level is so much lower. People live in actual houses, with big rooms and porches and heat that works. No one feels trapped at home by the fact that leaving the house means giving up your parking space. Gas is cheaper. Cigarettes are cheaper. Food is cheaper (and better). Rent is cheaper. Everything is cheaper.

I’m sitting in Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. I spent an hour checking in and almost had a heart attack running to the gate with five minutes to spare, only to find my flight delayed 90 minutes. Now they’ve added another half hour on top of that.

I just spent $3.00 and ended up with five sticks of gum, a newspaper, and a cheap Bic pen. Then I shelled out $2.50 for a Coke at the bar so could smoke. I hate airports. I hate flying.

I’m going home to San Francisco. For a while, anyway…


Back in San Francisco. Woopty-do. Less than a day back in town and I’m already smoking more and eating junk food again.

I may never again travel over the Christmas holidays. I really shouldn’t complain. I didn’t get stranded under eighteen inches of snow in Chicago like so many people did. I didn’t get stuck in Las Vegas without benefit of a hotel room like my roomie almost did. I didn’t have to rent a car and drive from Memphis like another friend did.

Actually, I had a great time at home in the land of Mom, Dad, and assorted friends and relatives. Details and some really bitchin’ pictures coming soon.

But I hate traveling at Christmas all the same. There were lines. There were delayed flights. There was ice. There were 13 degree nights. And I didn’t find myself in a single redeneck love nest.

Thanks to everyone who sent Christmas cards, email, etc. while I was gone. And thanks in advance to everyone who will continue to wait patiently while I catch up on answering said email. Give me a couple of days.

Random Stuff

Between all the leftover work I avoided over Christmas and all and the fact that I’ve been sleeping off a really nasty bug all day, I am neither caught up on the website nor the email. I have, at least, managed to upload the first part of the North Carolina trip.

Other things I could be writing about but I’m not (just yet) might include whining about whatever this bug is that I’ve managed to pick up. I could discuss how pissed I am that I can’t get ADSL, even here in San Francisco’s most “wired” neighborhood.

I could include the fact that I got email from Strange de Jim (of Herb Caen fame). I could write about how I’m really starting to get serious about leaving San Francisco. I could tell the story of the disturbing graffiti which appeared on my front door this weekend.

I could even talk about that Leif Garrett documentary from Sunday night.

But I’m not going to get into any of this right now. I’m going back to bed.

Collards and Websites

So who would have thought you could find fresh collards in California in January. And at someplace as generic as Safeway yet? This bodes well for Sunday dinner, a belated New Year’s Day “good luck” meal at a friend’s house.

Web work makes for strange bedfellows. It seems there will be a Wintel machine in my house this weekend. I’m getting it ready to serve up a database for one of my sites. Until now I’ve managed never to have a Windozer in my home.

I’ll have to keep it away from all the good computers lest they become contaminated by it. I’d hate for my Mac to start displaying everything with big ugly fonts and for it to start calling itself “My Computer”. Sounds a little too much like a Fisher-Price toy.

Long weekend ahead.

Saturday Morning

I’m spending my Sunday morning cooking collard greens.

I remember when Sunday mornings used to be about hangovers and trying to get rid of whatever trash I’d picked up on Saturday night. Today, however, I got up at 9, went out for some breakfast, stopped by the bank (where I had to stand in LINE behind annoyingly perky yupsters in jogging drag), and came home to the pot, the greens, the salt pork (why can’t you buy fatback in California?), and “In the Heat of the Night” re-runs on TNT.

Yer humble host is feeling pretty damned domesticated this week, although there’s no danger of wedded bliss or a house in the suburbs. The thought of being coupled and having to spend every waking moment with someone else in close proximity is no more appealing now than it ever was, although the house part doesn’t sound too bad. But not in the suburbs, thank you. Maybe in Minnesota or Detroit.

Maybe this is all just leftovers from my trip home. Who knows?

To Have and to Hold

Many gay activists seem to believe that “gay marriage” is the single most important issue facing gay people today. I’m not inclined to agree. While I do believe that same-sex couples in committed relationships should have the same benefits as opposite-sex couples, I’m convinced that a far more important issue is the recognition of the freedom NOT to couple.

Here’s a bold statement: being paired off with a “life partner” or a “soulmate” ot whatever is not the end-all and be-all for everyone on the planet. Coupling is not the right option for everyone at evry phase of life. It’s not even the right option for some people at ANY phase of life.

I’m not sure why this is such a radical notion for some people. Our whole society seems to be designed for cute little pigeon-holed Noah’s Ark pairs, all the way from junior high dances to tandem burial plots. The tax laws favor married heterosexuals (preferably with children). The gay press is increasingly obsessed either with finding a mate or with what to do with one once you succeed. Singles are made to feel uncomfortable when they dine alone, go to movies alone, or when they just want to sit a home alone.

If the entire”gay movement” is about our right to choose our own partners, shouldn’t it naturally follow that we also have a right not to choose anyone? Is this not a valid viewpoint?

I want to make it clear that I’m not against coupling. I know many happy couples, and the happiest seem to be those where each partner has his or her own life. I’m not even averse to the idea of coupling myself at some point. But this notion that “finding the right mate” will somehow be the end of all one’s problems is just plain stupid.

Suppose, say, that my problem is that I’m trying to figure out who I am and who I want to be — not an uncommon problem, I might add. How will having a husband help? If I want emotional support, I go to my friends. Frankly, bringing somene else into this situation would only make things worse.

Once again, I may indeed “couple” at some point. It will obviously not be because I need 24-hour companionship, because I’m usually more happy by myself. It will not be for the tax breaks, because there aren’t any. It will not be beacuse I need a date for the movies or dinner or parties; I’m a big boy and I can do these things by myself. It will not be for sex; that’s why there are sex clubs. It will not be to please Mom and Dad, or (God forbid) to have children.

And it will most definitely not be because “I’m supposed to” or because “that’s what people do”. It will be because I’ve met someone I enjoy being with…someone who doesn’t want to spend every waking moment with me…someone who understands that the first person plural needn’t supercede the first person singular.

I’m not so cynical as to think that most people are in relationships for the aforementioned suspect reasons. I just wish all the “we” people would stop trying to get ME into one for those reasons.

The Streets of San Francisco

Yer humble host has now managed to collect a grand total of 93 episodes of “The Streets of San Francisco” on tape. Should make for a strange weekend-long marathon party. Ot at least for an interesting page of video captures soon.

Thanks to Mark for lunch yesterday, and to Jay for the amazing Chick-fil-A calendar (with coupons yet). More thanks to Grant for the 1972-era urban planning textbook aimed at third graders (look for copyright infringements soon on this page).

While I’m at it, post-Christmas thanks to Mom and Dad for the care package which included two boxes of Count Chocula. Thanks to Sarah for the cool Sid and Marty Kroft book and to Dan for the Quisp T-shirt. Am I forgetting anyone?

By the way, you too could be mentioned here. Just give me cool stuff. I have no ethics.

Here’s today’s link du jour. They didn’t give me anything.

22 January 1999

So my first-ever mention in the San Francisco Chronicle would have to be for a typographical error in an email message to Strange de Jim, wouldn’t it? I dunno…I kind of like the idea of “lonks”. I just wish it had generated a little more traffic…

Last night: visit from my friend Matthew (from DC). We hit the corner sexbar for a beer or two. Didn’t have any sex, but I watched some. Pity there was no “fast forward” button…

Plans for the weekend: a little work for the freelance clients and even more work on the revamping of Planet SOMA. There’s a party Saturday night for a departing co-worker. And, of course, the Sunday morning “In the Heat of the Night” marathon on TNT…

There are currently no collards scheduled to be cooked, but one never knows…

Of course I’m always open to other suggestions. Anyone need a cheap date with loose morals? I’m craving affection. Aah, the hell with that. I’m craving cheap sex…

27 January 1999

Busy weekend, busy week. About the only calm moment in the past few days was on Saturday, when I hit a collection of Sonoma County used bookstores with Larry-bob and betrothed. Somehow, all I ended up with was two sets of Underdog action figures.

So I bought my first pack of post-tax cigarettes today. My stockpile from Reno and North Carolina finally ran out and I was forced into a pack purchase fo the first time in two months. The going rate in SF is about $4.25 a pack now, so I was pretty pleased to find Camels for $2.60. And no, I’m not saying where. I don’t want to jinx it.

A few changes in the site today, as I’m doing a little moving and pruning and remodeling, so please bear with me if some links aren’t working quite right. If it gets you too bitter, Bringdown #3 hit the web late last night. Go visit.

Or check out today’s link du jour

28 January 1999

Score one for the SF Weekly. I usually have no patience with this paper as it’s little more than a Guardian wannabe with a badly-designed website. In the past two weeks, though, the Weekly has risked alienating its core yuppie audience with George Cothran’s columns on San Francisco’s loftominum invasion.

Last week’s column focused mostly on the insensitive architecture and scale of the new developments. This week’s report talks about the loss of jobs and institutions thanks to the complaints of yuppie crybabies who get pissed off because they were too fucking stupid to check out what their new neighborhoods were like before shelling out that half a million bucks.

Too bad the battle’s already pretty much been lost in my own neighborhood, although I realize the issues are are a little more complex here.


As if I needed another reason not to buy a Wintel machine…

Hands down, the superlative award-winning idiots of the month have to be the fine folks at Intel. What the hell were they thinking? Did someone in the boardroom suddenly get the idea that people would be just silly happy to have a computer which identifies its user all over the web? Did this idiot have some sort of revelation which convinced him (it HAD to be a “him”) that people were just itching to give up their privacy and reveal their identities to anyone with a website?

Of course not. Someone with actual intelligence realized that corporations might pay big bucks for the ability to collect this sort of data on unsuspecting potential customers. The idiot in this scenario is the marketing fool who thought that a positive spin (security, my ass…) would keep anyone from noticing what was going on. They were wrong.

This is the same sort of marketing idiocy that makes banks babble on about how destroying competition through mergers will unltimately benefit customers and bring down fees.

I Just Don’t Understand:

I was talking with someone the other day about the irony of the fact that there’s a Taco Bell right in the middle of San Francisco’s Mission District and that it always looks crowded. Surrounded by some of the cheapest and best Mexican food in the country, I have to wonder just who the fuck eats there? And why?

More collards this weekend. Saw an ex at the supermarket tonight. Life is very busy this week. This and more will come later, if at all. Right now, another link I’ve been promising for two months.

And I’m going to bed.

Site Updates

I got a full, eight-hour good night’s sleep last night. I was starting to forget how nice that is. It’s been a long week…

Somehow during everything else that was going on this week, I managed to finish a big chunk of pruning and retooling on Planet SOMA. About 35 pages are no longer here, and several have been moved or consolidated. Most people won’t notice the difference. Also, just about all pages now have the blue background and the convenient “you are here” navaigation links at the top.

Still in progress: all those pages from US Tour 1997, and Planet SOMA in the 70’s, which is way overdue for some work.

If you run into any broken links or missing graphics, please let me know. I’m planning to have everything in order by Planet SOMA’s “official” third anniversary in a month or so.

Quote from yer humble host, fifteen years ago today: “I guess one never knows how depressed one is until extremely drunk.”

Super What?

I heard a rumor that today was Super Bowl Sunday. Never having been much of a baseball fan, I wouldn’t know for sure.

I just never “got” professional sports. I can tolerate a little college basketball (which is, of course, a bit of a religion in North Carolina). I can sit through a soccer match if forced. Pro skateboarding has an entertaining aesthetic side. But the excitement of spending three-plus hours watching a good 15-20 minutes of actual activity just eludes me.

I shan’t even start on the politics of team owners who blackmail cities in search of new stadiums while making it damned near impossibe for most citizens to actually attend games. And don’t get me started on the annual salaries which are larger than the economies of some third world countries.

But some people might find some of my obsessions a little odd too. Who knows…

Anyway, I’m off to cook another pot of collards now.