Working for the weekend

Random thoughts on Canada, my new old neighborhood, food, etc.:

  • CanCon: The only reason any radio station still plays Loverboy.
  • The City of Vancouver Archives never disappoints me.
  • I’m warming to my newly rediscovered childhood neighborhood. It’s still not my dream ‘hood and I really hate the giant yard BUT I find that I actually have more useful stuff within easy walking distance here than I did in Winston-Salem–or maybe even South of Market, for that matter. I can walk to several decent restaurants and a supermarket (even if it is just an Aldi), and dropping my car off for its annual checkup this morning was dreamy. There’s hope, I suppose. And contractors next week…
  • Happy occurrence of the week: Buying jeans of a size that I haven’t purchased in fifteen years.
  • In case you were wondering, there is at least one German restaurant in the world that doesn’t sell beer and this is it. And yes, my friends and I were also amused by the idea of a German and Italian restaurant. Adding a few Japanese dishes would probably get it firebombed by Asheboro’s remaining WWII vets.
  • Cool thing of the week: This, via here.
  • Taking a four-day weekend next week. Destination suggestions? Anybody out there?

Best roadtrip(s) ever

Twenty-five years ago this week, I was embarking upon what was at that time the most epic roadtrip I’d ever made. My friend Jeff and I ventured northward to New York and ultimately to Boston on a on-week urban odyssey that in many ways changed the way I looked at life and was the start of my urban transformation. Thinking about that trip as I plan a more modest one for this weekend, I decided it was time for a “top five best and most life-changing road trips ever” list. And here they are in chronological order:

New York and Boston (August 1988)

This is the trip outlined above. Jeff and I left in the evening, stopped outside Richmond, and arrived in New York the next day for three or four days at the Hotel Chelsea, which was at the time a quite inexpensive and wonderful option. Then we did three or four more nights in Boston with my friend Margo, after which we drove home with an overnight stop in DC.

Significant aspects:

This was my first non-family trip to New York so it was my first crack at urban nightlife. It was also the trip that made me realize I was a thoroughly urban sort and that my current home in Charlotte didn’t qualify.

Highlights and strong memories:

  • The pre-gentrification Hotel Chelsea.
  • The Tompkins Square Riots and the way we didn’t quite “get” what was going on at the time.
  • My first encounter with the Cross-Bronx Expressway, which was to become something of an obsession in later years.
  • Stifling heat in both cities and the way Jeff and I went to the drugstore and bought my college kid pals in Boston a fan because it had apparently never occurred to them to do so.
  • A very long, drunk conversation with a male prostitute in the Boston Ramrod.
  • The Pyramid Club, King Tut’s Wa-wa Hut, Ground Zero, Axis/DV8…
  • “Peek-a-Boo” by Siouxsie and the Banshees playing everywhere.

San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego (July/August 1991)

A two-week trip to visit friends on the West Coast resulted in my first quick visit to Los Angeles, a place with which my lifelong obsession was just beginning and in a surprising appreciation for San Francisco. I spent several days with Steve and Todd in SF, drove south to San Diego to see Stan for a few days, and then came back to SF for a few more days.

Significant aspects:

This is the trip that resulted in my move to the West Coast a year later and my decision to move to San Francisco rather that Los Angeles, which had been the plan up to that point.

Highlights and strong memories:

  • My first ever (and last ever) trip to a bathhouse in San Diego.
  • The Dore Alley Fair.
  • The Market Street Safeway in San Francisco. And the Cala Foods at Hyde and California.
  • Jack in the Box.
  • Queer Nation T-shirts.
  • The Detour, the End-up, the Overpass, some bar in San Diego whose name escapes me.

Planet SOMA US Tour (September/October 1997)

Well-documented itinerary. This was a five-week trip with real-time online updates from the road (no small trick in 1997) and accommodations with random strangers who were fans f what this website used to be.

Significant aspects:

This was sort of “web history” for me but more importantly it also signaled the beginning of the end of my monogamous relationship with San Francisco. I began to realize there was a whole country out there that was in most ways the equal (or better) of Sodom by the Bay.

Highlights and strong memories:

  • My first look at Detroit after a several-year fascination.
  • Walking into a Windsor bar and seeing very naked strippers on the tables.
  • Flat tire in Gallup.
  • Dad’s kidney stone.
  • Going unexpectedly batshit crazy over Pittsburgh.
  • Mark’s Powerbook.

Seattle and Portland (April 2002)

About three days in Portland and four days in Seattle with my new boyfriend Mark. Since my first visit at age ten, I’ve never been able to get enough of Seattle and still long to visit again.

Significant aspects:

This was Mark’s and my test drive for cohabitation. We also made some semi-serious plans to relocate to the Northwest afterward.

Highlights and strong memories:

  • Beth’s Cafe.
  • The fucking Fremont Troll that we were never able to find.
  • A moderately embarrassing late-night trip to Walgreens in Seattle.
  • A very exhausted and late dinner in Redding.
  • Underground Seattle.
  • Powell’s Books in Portland.

Toronto and Ottawa (October 2011)

Four nights in Toronto and four more in Ottawa, as I recall, with stops in Cleveland, Buffalo, and Schenectady. I visited Sarah and Brad in Buffalo, Robin in Ottawa, and Duncan and Rick in Schenectady.

Significant aspects:

This was really one of my favorite trips of all time. It was my first big vacation after splitting with Mark and the last one before all the drama with my parents. I fell (more) in love with Canada, communed with urbanity in a way I hadn’t in years, and became obsessed with francophone alt-rock.

Highlights and strong memories:

  • Quatre-vingt-seize-cinq: Capitale Rock!
  • Beef on Weck.
  • Kensington Market.
  • Poutine in Gatineau.
  • Queen Street West. All of it.
  • CBC Broadcast Centre.
  • Unnecessary Canadian immigration paranoia.

Honorable mentions:

  • Cross-country Move (September/October 1992)
    Hard to beat this one for “life changing” and as my first introduction to…well…the whole middle of the country. Funniest memory: Ditching a boy in a Kansas City bar only to run into him again four nights later in Salt Lake City.
  • Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, and Pittsburgh (October 2006)
    Maybe the most urban vacation ever, with Mark. We were both sick in Toronto. I was impressed that this didn’t sour me on the place. Toronto is a wonderful place.
  • Los Angeles and San Diego (July 2012)
    Following ALA, I was able to spend significant time alone in SoCal for the first time ever. It was heavenly. The fact that this was my first ever trip to California that in no way involved San Francisco had a certain charm as well. Great trip. Perfect timing.

DC photos

From this past weekend:


I just want to say that I’ve had enough doctors and contractors to last a lifetime this summer. And for the record, there’s no big health issue; both the doctors and the contractors are primarily handling assorted deferred maintenance, and I really rather like all the new practitioners I’ve added to the mix. I’m just tired of keeping up with so fucking many appointments.

Unrelated: Lovely time in DC last weekend. Film at 11.

Videolog: My Number

My Number (2013)

At a time when I’m finding lots of early- and mid-1980s music virtually unlistenable (maybe due to burnout after thirty years of near constant exposure) I’m really finding I like a lot of this neo-1980s stuff–both in English and French. Go figure…

This, on the other hand, is crap. Twenty-seven years and a Kickstarter campaign and this is the best they could do? Really?

Why yes…

It was a band I’m familiar with through my unusual status as an anglophone American guy with a strange affection for francophone Canadian alt-rock.

Other random Monday stuff:

  • Students are back along with free print copies of the New York Times, part of a “newspapers in education” program that’s meant to get students reading newspapers but realistically is probably more about giving faculty and staff free ones.
  • A good weekend, all in all, highlighted by another batch of my Pollo Vindaloo (recipe upon request) in all its Tex-Mex-Indian deliciousness and some of someone else’s leftover birthday cake since I purposefully didn’t have one of my own last weekend.
  • Had a nice time at Westerwood and College Hill Saturday night…as long as you don’t count the part where someone slashed one of my tires. That part kind of sucked.
  • I should (finally) have a new toilet and bathroom floor by the end of the day. That’s pretty exciting. Fortunately it’s a two-bathroom house so I haven’t been having to run down to the Texaco station at the corner while I waited.
  • No, we no longer have Texaco stations here, but it flowed better than “Shell station” so I rolled with it anyway.
  • Anyone need a really nice 2011 Buick Regal? I have one for sale if you want to match what they offered me at Carmax.

Faith in humanity restored (somewhat)

So the slashed tire was a drag, but the reaction of the guy at the tire dealership (which will remain nameless because I think he sort of broke the rules for me and I don’t want to get hm in trouble) was really great. He replaced my two-week-old tire at no charge even though the road hazard warranty really doesn’t cover idiots with knives. Points for both good customer service and being a generally nice guy.

And then when I got home today, I found a note from the guy who’s working on my bathrooms. On top of that note was my mom’s engagement ring, which we’d been looking for since she went into the nursing home. He found it in a floor crack in the bathroom where I’m guessing my mom had probably hidden it and then forgotten about it. Points for being incredibly honest.

Decent people. What a concept…

The stupid– as ever–hurts

A friend posted this on Facebook today, joking that it was time to get rid of his e-cigs. So here’s my take: I’ll stipulate that smoking pot is almost certainly less of a health risk than smoking tobacco. It very well may not cause lung cancer. But can any rational human being really believe that intentionally and directly inhaling any kind of smoke could ever be a healthy–or even neutral–thing to do to your lungs?

Maybe I’m just being a self-righteous ex-smoker but “it probably doesn’t cause lung cancer” is not a ringing endorsement. Neither do heroin, booze, Chicken McNuggets, and Nickelback records, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good for you. Should icky, annoying vices be criminalized just because they’re potentially harmful? Of course not. But believing that smoking pot is a free ride healthwise is pretty much just delusional.

Sanity. Somehow.

To say that the last three years have been really tough on me would be a pretty colossal understatement. Don’t believe me? Try losing three of the most important people in your life (two of them are technically still around but in a much altered format) while simultaneously trying to build a new career and pretty much rewrite all the rules of your life. It’s not easy. There were many times–more than I let on even to my closest friends–when my thoughts got pretty fucking dark.

I probably should have sought help earlier than I did. In retrospect, though, I think I handled it all pretty goddamned well. Did I spend a lot of nights curled up in a little ball on the couch barely able to move? Yes. Were there entire weekends when I felt completely paralyzed by everything I needed to do and instead just ate pizza and watched “Adam-12” reruns on Netflix? Damn straight. Was I incredibly angry and resentful about how my life had been so negatively impacted by other people, all of whom I loved but none of whom had given me any say in the matter? Oh yeah. In fact, I still am sometimes.

But you know what?

  • I could have lost my sense of humor. Somehow, I didn’t.
  • I could have gotten really self-destructive and lapsed into all sorts of bad habits and really stupid behavior. Somehow, I didn’t.
  • I could have just given up and said “the hell with it.” Somehow, I didn’t.

All of which makes me realize that I’m pretty fucking incredible and pretty fucking sane–at least in relative terms. I somehow managed to do some incredible things at work, to begin eating healthier and lose weight, to find some new things that make me happy, and to reconnect with some old friends. I still wouldn’t say I’m especially happy. I continue to feel a little overwhelmed by life. The next steps for me involve letting go of the past, finding more things that make me happy, eliminating things that make me unhappy, understanding my strengths and limitations, and regaining control. Oh yeah…and seeking help when needed.

Or that’s this week’s plan, at least.

Videolog: I Really Wanna Know You

Gary Wright
I Really Wanna Know You (1981)

Oh god, what a train wreck. This is one of those songs I’d (mercifully) forgotten about until I heard it this afternoon on an XM Top 40 countdown from August of 1981. The perpetrator is Gary Wright, better known for “Dream Weaver.”

This was the summer between my junior and senior years in high school and was the last time I ever really paid much attention to the whole Top 40 thing in any real way…most likely because of crap like this. This was the summer of Kenny Rogers and Alabama and “Elvira” and “Endless Love,” all of which fueled my ongoing conversion (begun two years earlier) into the alterna-boy you know today.

There are eight million stories

My new obsession this week is Naked City. I’ve been recording it off MeTV and now I have this (probably ill-advised) urge to buy the complete series on DVD in November.

It’s no big secret that I’m a sucker for old cop shows, specifically the ones that were shot on location in interesting urban areas, like The Streets of San Francisco (probably the best of the genre), Adam-12, Homicide, Cagney and Lacey, etc. Aside from being entertaining of their own accord, I love that they provide such a time capsule of what these cities really looked like at a specific time in the past, with diners and neon signs and dumpy furniture stores…and not an artisinal cronut stand in sight. It also helps that Naked City seems pretty consistent in its geographical accuracy; when they say they’re at Second Avenue and East Fourth Street, they really are. It’s always kind of a crap shoot on other shows.

Naked City is especially interesting, though, because it aired a good ten years earlier than most of my favorites and during a time when filimg on location was really unusual for a weekly TV series. It also has a sophistication that was lacking in most dramatic series of the time (it shared a creator with Route 66). All of this is making me wonder if it might actually be worth owning. I know you’ll be on the edge of your seats till November so I’ll let you know my decision as soon as possible.

Friday night

Happy, full of schnitzel, and ready for a three-day weekend. I was to finally able to make some significant progress on a project that’s been causing me much stress at work this week. The side effects of my new medication have largely subsided. I have a great birthday present from Sarah to watch. And I have very few pressing commitments. I may even take some time to work on the other site. Looks like the makings of a good holiday weekend.