Reflections on home

I guess my two-plus weeks in North Carolina could best be described as “restful”, which may be just what I needed following my newfound umeloyment. I spent a lot of time with mom and dad, not much time going out, only minimal times shopping and cruising, and I slept a lot. Good things included seeing the family at Christmas, spending time with Jeff and Duncan, and much excellent food. Less good were the fact that I was half sick for my whole visit (not used tp places with heat, I guess…), I didn’t get to visit my friend Dawn in Charlotte, and really heinous airline food.

A few things which come to mind after this visit:

  • The preppy look never goes out of style in North Carolina, especially among gay men. I’ve never seen so many oxford shirts “tastefully” layered over polo shirts all tucked into khakis or acid-washed jeans anywhere else.
  • People on airplanes flying home for the hoildays look as if they’re going to a funeral. Guess the stress level is a bit much, huh? Maybe it’s even more intense on flights out of San Francisco, where it seems everyone is running away from something.
  • There should be a law against going to “retro” nights at clubs in cities where you grew up and no longer live. Major emotional roller coaster.
  • The last call rush is much more intense in North Carolina than in California, maybe because state law in NC gives you a very civilized half hour to finish drinks bought at 2AM.
  • Why is it that in an intense place like San Francisco, speed is the drug of choice, while in a laid back (OK…boring) place like Greensboro, it seems to be all about heroin. You’d think the reverse would be true.
  • Newspaper stories in North Carolina still tell you what to do with an Internet address: “if you have Internet access, take a web browser, such as Netscape, and type in…”
  • Why is it so intensely unpleasant to be in a gay bar alone in the South? Here, it’s pretty standard for me, but everything is so damned clannish and cliquish there, it just seems really uncomfortable. It doesn’t help that absolutely NO ONE would dare appraoch an “outsider”.
  • A few things which will always happen when I visit mom and dad: meals at the K&W cafeteria, a trip to the Virginia line to play the lottery (NC doesn’t have one yet), and a tour of every new suburban development within 30 miles. Fortunately, I enjoy this…
  • In the Charlotte airport, it is cheaper to go to a bar for a Coke than to one of the fastfood places. Plus, you get free refills and can smoke! Of course, in the Greensboro airoprt, you can smoke everywhere, so it’s not even an issue.
  • Southern friendliness and hospitality are often overrated. If you don’t “look right”, you’ll see what I mean.

Home for the Holidays

  

Aah…Christmas morning. This is the first one I’d spent at home since 1991. It wasn’t quite the same as when I was a kid, but it had its certain charms. We had breakfast with my aunt and her family next door, and dinner with my dad’s relatives in Reidsville. I’ve reached the point in life where few of my family members know enough about me to give me anything other than money, which is fine.

It was a foggy Christmas, and the weather for my whole trip was unseasonably warm (until the day I left when the ice came). I had a bit of a hard time getting used to the fact that places are actually heated in North Carolina. This is sadly not the case in San Francisco, where no one admits that it ever gets cold. Of course, Christopher in Minneapolis tells me “you don’t know the meaning of cold.” Jeff had to work Christmas night; he tends bar many nights. Not a good thing for him, but it was very nice for me…

  

Greensboro bars are even more depressing than I remember, with the exception of Babylon, which is really happening despite the overabundent and annoying rave children on certain nights.Suffice to say, I didn’t get laid the whole time I was in NC, and never even felt really inspired to attempt it. There was a cute boy named Brian at the Palms one night (pictured above) but our association never got near the point of sex. Todd (above right) supplied his boyfriend for my “amusement” last visit, but only took pictures of Brian for me this time.

 

Believe it or not, I spent New Year’s Eve at home with mom and dad, despite the festive decorations at the Palms. It seemed the sanest thing to do in a town where (a) cars are the only mode of transport and there are all of three cabs in the whole city, (b) I was stationed in the ‘burbs, and (c) concealed weapons are legal.

  

I made the annual pilgrimage to the trailer park to visit Anthony, Jeff, and Jeff’s new beau Dave and trade Christmas presents and drink beer. Jeff showed me his affection for Dave’s size 17 (?) boots, Dave worked on a model of something I can’t remember, and hideous pictures were taken of me. The we left, ‘cuz the cat was giving me fits.

 

There were the usual tours of the city, “what’s new”, “looks ‘big city’, doesn’t it?”, the trip to Virginia to buy lottery tickets, a jaunt to Winston Salem, where I found this sign which was of interest to a certain fiendishly cute webmaster. I saw the old schools, all the buildings which had been torn down, the monster malls, etc. And food at all my favorie places. Then it beacme time to rent a car and leave my real home town for my adopted home town, the land of all night diners, the Hornets, the Panthers, NationsBank, First Union, and other world class attractions.

 

In Charlotte, I stayed at the nifty new home of my nifty old friend Duncan. We did lunch at Gus’ Sir Beef, always a damn near religious experience, and sampled other Charlotte food as well. Tours of the thrift stores, aimless driving through the city (always a favorite pastime when Duncan and I convene), and more. Friday night started late, but we still hit a few bars (and Duncan got hit on by an adorable boy, while alas I didn’t). Saturday night, we made the trek to Columbia (and back), always one of my favorite road trips when I lived there.

  

On Sunday, much to the chagrin of bigger sports fans than myself, I got to see the Panthers/Cowboys playoff at the new Erickson Stadium. We tailgated next to the most beautiful redneck boy in the world (or at least in the parking lot). Good game, great stadium, cute boys, no tearoom scene (inside joke). Alas, Green Bay kept the Panthers out of the Super Bowl the following Sunday.

Sunday night took me to Oleen’s and back to Scorpio, and Monday morning took me back to Greensboro for one more day. Now I’m home. While it’s good to visit my family and friends, and while I miss having them nearby, I’m not itching to move back. If only they’d come out here…

Reflections on Leaving Kinko’s

It’s all over: the party, the final day, everything. After seven years, four months (to the day, incidentally), I am no longer empoyed. It feels, I must say, really fucking strange. No more voice mail, no more stessed-out whiny yuppie babies, no more lines and corporate double-talk.

To its credit, I was always treated well. I never really felt “fucked over”, I advanced pretty far before complete burnout hit, and my last boss was great for letting me (a) do my job with minimal second-guessing and (b) supporting me in the pursuit my own interests. I’ve made friends from coast to coast.

Neither our regional manager nor our owner bothered to call me and wish me well after seven years of working together very closely. On the other hand, my Payroll administrator, who I’ve met one time and who I love, called the day before I left. Hooray for the rank and file!

Last Day at Kinko’s

On the coldest day of the year so far, I joined the ranks of the unemployed. Of course, there was no chance that it would be an easy day. Staffing was a tad short, due to vacations, training of the “replacement team”, etc., so I got a chance to alternate beteween moments of extreme stress and the perspective that — no matter what — this scene really had no further impact on my life. I closed out the voice mail, emptied out my folder on the network hard drive, and — as my last administrative duties — completed a review and promoted someone.

I did get the pleasure of one last run-in with an obnoxious yuppie shitbag. As I came into the confrontation, related to something which was about five minutes late, the rabid bitch was standing at the counter snapping her fingers yelling “Chop chop…let’s go. I want it now.” No matter what preceded it, this was tremendously inappropriate and unprofessional and I let her know that. Didn’t phase her or affect her exaggerated sense of self-importance, but it felt good…

There was a great cake and Sarah brought pastries. After about 2PM, I was essentially useless, except for Brendan’s review. Lots of last minute details and pass downs and quick hugs. I announced the promotion, started saying goodbye (a long process which began to get a bit teary), and by 4:15, it was all over. Rae and I punched out for the last time, and we were gone.

Once outside, it was so surreal. After all these years, I’m unemployed. All the stress was over and I wasn’t sure exactly where it went. The fact that we would no longer be seeing these people we both love dearly seemed very real. Rae and I just looked at each other with this sort of “what the fuck?” expression. I lit a cigarette. We went to the bank to get cash. We went straight to the corner bar. We began drinking. Things got better. Ray, Angela, and Mark eventually joined us. They felt better too.

Tomorrow is my first day of unemployment. I sense the unusual sensations are just beginning. If this is so strange, getting fired must be really weird…

Farewell Party

I think it was originally supposed to be a surprise party and was originally just for me, but neither component quite happened. I had to be informed (in order to get me there) and Rae’s announcement that she too was leaving added to the festivities. Appropriately enough, it was held at Harrington’s on Front Street, our offcial “what a crappy day” bar. I had a few big realizations. The first was that I’m really going to miss seeing all these people on a daily basis because I’ve developed some real friendships here. The second is that my camcorder is not great in low-light situations.

 

The loot: Rae got a “classic disco” CD, as well as her very own copy of the “Macarena”. In a big rash of appropriateness, I received “Television’s Greatest Hits” and “Tube Tunes”. There was much food, much beer (thanks again, Clinton) and hours of good Christian fellowship, despite the fact that a fair number of us were pretty damned hungover from the Christmas party the night before. It was a very good thing.

Vacation Plans and Drugs

Just by way of an update, I’m almost over the nasty bronchitis thing, thanks to antibiotics, the inhaler, and codeine — the happy drug. I was really amazed at how many people wrote to ask how I was doing. It’s almost tempted me to believe that people are nice, which — given my experience with the public at Kinko’s — is hard for me to admit. Anyway, thanks a lot. It made me feel good to know people actually knew and cared.

So what’s up, you ask? Got a job yet? That answer would be “no”. I am starting to feel a little nervous, given that my current one ends in a couple of weeks. I find myself walking around saying “what the fuck am I thinking?” Of course, I then go back to work, have a couple of days like the last two, and realize that I’m not making a mistake.

Right now the plan calls for a few weeks in scenic North Carolina around Christmas, with side trips to Atlanta and maybe D.C. I suddenly realized the other night that for the first time in my life, there’s no real hurry to come back off a vacation and I can really take just about as much time as I want. kinda cool, actually. Plus mom and dad will feed me for free, and Jeff and Duncan can show me all the newest decadent hot spots in return for their Planet SOMA tours!

Seeing “Beavis and Butthead Do America” while in North Carolina holds a strange thrill for me somehow…Sorry, got sidetracked by a commercial.

May have a visit from Christopher some time this rainy season.

Had a very entertaining evening out and about with Rob (picture soon, I promise) last night. He’s coming along quite nicely, is passing most of the major “tests” (except the music quiz…Pet Shop Boys…bleccchh…) and he looks much younger than his 107 years too. And he has a room with a view…

On my mind in a major way lately: drugs.

I’m really getting tired of going out and seeing that my neighborhood local bars look like (unsuccessful) drug rehab centers. There’s always been a lot of speed South of Market, but it’s seemed a lot worse lately. At Hole in the Wall especially, the scene used to be about smoking pot and drinking to excess. Even though I stopped smoking pot about 1981 and don’t foresee returning to the habit anytime soon, I can understand these drugs. Pot heads may be annoying at times, and may show all the motivation of a coma victim (there are, I admit, exceptions), but at least they’re not doing major damage and killing themselves. Same for your average drinker, although excess in this area has its fatality factor too.

Now it’s all about speed and X (and heroin and even crack, to a lesser degree). A whole fashion culture is developing; it’s not hard to tell who’s dealing or tweaking even from a distance. And it really bugs the shit out of me that this whole scene is overtaking places I like to hang out. One of the main reasons I don’t do the dance club scene is to avoid this crowd (of course the fact that I don’t dance figures into it too…) and now I can’t even escape it in the corner bar.

Maybe I’m just more sensitive now that a few close friends have allowed their own addictions to render them homeless and essentially useless. Maybe I’ve just brought home one too many boys who couldn’t muster an erection if their lives depended on it and just want to sit around watching porn and calling the sex line at 4AM. Who knows?

I’ve always tried to let people do their own thing in peace as long as they (a) go outside to smoke pot, (b) shut up about it after the first time I say “no, I don’t want to join you” and (c) don’t allow their drug drama — including endless conversations about how good it is, how much it cost, and how much trouble it was to obtain — to impact my life in any way. But I’m now declaring Planet SOMA, the “little apartment that could” and all areas within a five-foot radius of my person a “tweaker free zone”. What this essentially means is that if you’re on the amphetamine train, stay away. Period. If you manage to get into my house, you’ll be asked to leave as soon as I clue in. I do not trust you. Actually, I may trust you, but I don’t trust your chemicals.

End drug rant.

Maybe It Wasn’t a Cold

It was most definitely a restful holiday. Much of that, unfortunately, had to do with the fact that I couldn’t drag my ass out of bed except for the few hours of the wonderful Thanksgiving feast Chez Rae (pictured) and Michael. I was planning to include pictures, but two things stopped me. First, my energy level didn’t allow me to do it. Second, I decided to take a holiday break from chronicling and preserving every aspect of life. So there.

Spending the holidays far from “home” has never been as disorienting or as unpleasant for me as it’s supposed to be. In four years in San Francisco, I’ve spent one Thanksgiving back in north Carolina and this year’s Christmas will be the first one I’ve spent there. By and large, I’ve had some pretty good holidays here. The big difference, of course, is that in the absence of a family, with whom you’re “supposed” to spend the holidays, you get to actually choose your companions. It’s pretty cool, actually. This is not to say that I don’t like my family. I’d just prefer, given the choice, to be with them at times other than the insane holiday season.

Anyway…today was a good Thanksgiving, spent mostly among disenfranchised Kinkoids. Food was great, company was good, and the football game was not the main focus of attention! The only problem was the nasty bronchitis which has overtaken my lungs and is doomed to make me a miserable whiny wretch throughout the holiday weekend. And I thought I just had a cold. Y’know, I thought strep was bad, but this bronchitis shit is the most unpleasant malady I think I’ve ever experienced. It’s made me damn near useless for almost two weeks now. Oh well…thank God(dess)(es) for Codeine.

I have decided that Friday will be the day that I become a functioning human being again. Wish me luck.

The Rainy Season and a Cold

The rainy season arrived this weekend. Specifically, it arrived as I was walking around Union Square Saturday morning without anything resembling a raincoat or an umbrella. Happens to me that way almost every year. The opening of the rainy season is a new West Coast ritual I’ve had to adjust to since being here. On the East Coast, of course, rain is something that happens on and off throughout the year. In California, it’s pretty much confined to a four-month period. And there’s always one thoroughly soggy, gray weekend which — although it may not be the first rain of the year — is always a dramatic introduction to the months to come.

You can always tell when this weekend hits by the volume of e-mail. Saturdays and Sundays are usually pretty low-volume for me, but this weekend I was flooded. When it’s raining in Internet Central, it shows.

As luck would have it, the beginning of the rainy season was accompanied by my first really nasty winter cold (thanks, Mr. “I’m Not Contagious”). It’s one of those really knockout ones; I feel like I’ve been run over by a freight train. I’m on my second day out of work and I’m BORED!! Aside from Lucille Ball in the remake of “Auntie Mame”, which I’m watching right now, TV has sucked. Even if I felt like leaving the house, I’d be worried that work would call the second I left (OK…not that worried…)

A few ideas for how to spend time home alone and sick:

  • Make a Kleenex sculpture.
  • Answer all the e-mail you’ve been avoiding like the plague.
  • Start working your way through that Quark book, even though your “borrowed” copy of Quark has become corrupted, making it hard to follow along.
  • Scan the Sunday paper for jobs you aren’t qualified for.
  • Organize and catalog your pornography by fetish.
  • Identify and label the stuff in the back of the refrigerator by species and creation date.
  • Alka-Seltzer Plus cocktails at 10 and 3.
  • Write another long essay about the nature of sex, love, and relationships. Or don’t, and save yourself lots of pointed questions…

Random Updates

Just for today, I’m not going to rant or rave about much of anything! The only thing on the agenda is an update of what’s going on in my life at this point in time, in case anyone cares…

A few carefully lit fires — no pun intended — have started getting a bit of reaction out of my insurance company in relation to the pile of ashes which used to be my car. I’m expecting a settlement any day now. I think informing them that they’d be paying for a rental repalcement of my choosing until I have a check in hand may have helped a bit.

No job yet, but so far I’m pretty much convinced that giving Kinko’s the heave-ho was quite the right thing to do. Today was especially convincing; the yuppie slimebags were as annoying as usual. Yesterday I taught an Internet class at one of the outlying San Francisco stores. I was amazed at how different the neighborhood atmosphere was. People were actaully smiling and walking down the street at a normal pace. No one had the perpetually constipated look of the Financial Distrist corporate automatons. It was really nice. It’s a sad thing that so many people let work rule their lives to the point of making them such unbearable substitutes for human beings. Note to the Financial District crowd: take a Valium or at least take a break once in a while!

Side note: a rumor is floating about that Kinko’s is advertising on Pat Robertson’s Family Channel (formerly the Christian Broadcasting Network). I cannot confirm this rumor. Has anyone seen commercials on this highly offensive, rabidly anti-gay and pro-enforced childbirth network? If so, please let me know, and I’ll keep you informed of how my complaints are received.

Had dinner last night with my ex David at the new IHOP South of Market. It is, without question, the creepiest IHOP atmosphere I’ve ever seen. It’s in the basement of an old commercial building and is just too damned well-lit and pastel-tinted. It’s located next to Moscone Convention Center, but the crowd seems to be more “downtown drug dealer” than “conventioneer executive”, although one middle-class mother with teen-age son was inside and looked a little horrified when David and I began discussing watersports. Denny’s is scheduled to open a few doors down very soon. Should be fun to watch.

Ran into Ron, a guy I “went out” with a few times, at lunch today and found out that his band (which was one of two whose debuts I attended recently, the other being Lucifag) is fizzling. We did the “lost your number…give me a call” routine. I never know when that’s meant sincerely or not (sometimes I really DO mean it); we did have fun…

Speaking of bands, I’ll be seeing The Third Sex at Faster Pussycat tonight. It’ll be kinda cool seeing a band on the midwestern end of a tour and then at home on the same tour. Love them…they’re great. (Note: missed ’em…the show moved…found out too late…hate life…)

As for the weekend, I’m geeting back together with this guy named Rob who I recently met in a dark back corner somewhere. He’s terminally cute, fun, shares some of my perversions, and is a pretty danged OK kinda guy, despite being from L.A. He follows orders well, and he scores major points for suggesting — without prompting — Jack in the Box as a food stop on the way back to his apartment Sunday night. More points added for being suitably worshipful about Planet SOMA…I’ll work on pictures soon.

Mom and Dad’s anniversary yesterday. Forty-seven years. Scary. I somehow doubt I’ll have a relationship last quite that long.

Gotta run now…food calls.

Thanks for checking in…