Reflections on the Central Valley

The major highways through Sacramento are I-5 and I-80, which more or less replaced US highways 40, 50, and 99. Highway 99 is a roadside architecture paradise, running through Lodi and Stockton as well as Fresno and Bakersfield. Highway 50 leads to the Sierra and passes through historic Placerville.

 

Lodi

Lodi is a small central valley agricultural town about ten miles north of Stockton. Cherokee Boulevard is the old route of Highway 99 through town, and there are some roadside gems to be seen. The Safeway below, alas, has been remodeled by its new owner.

  

Stockton

Stockton’s an interesting place. For the roadside effect, check out Wilson Way (old Highway 99). Wilson Way and its environs are also a good area for thrift stores, including Thrift Outlet (East Harding Way near Wilson Way) and Thrift Center (Wilson Way near Harding Way).

University of the Pacific is a good boy-watching spot on Pacific Avenue. There is a gay bar, Paradise (10100 Lower Sacramento Road), but I’ve never been brave enough to check it out.

Another interesting sight is the twin malls on Pacific Avenue. In most cities with two malls, they’re on opposite ends of town. Not in Stockton. Two unrelated malls were constructed next door to each other. There are even a couple of stores with branches in each. Strange…

 

Sacramento Still

Woke up early Sunday morning and called Mom to wish her a happy Mother’s Day. Then, in her absence, I proceeded to wolf down a breakfast big enough for both of us at the Pancake Circus on Broadway. Eggs, chicken-fried steak and four monster pancakes from hell for only $4.99. I avoided the line by sitting at the counter, which is what I usually do even when there’s no line. The coffee refills come quicker at the counter.

A quick cruise through the Tower District and North Sacramento:

Centered around the renovated Tower Theater on Broadway, the Tower District was also home to the very first Tower Records location. There’s also the Tower Cafe, Tower Liquors, and more. Worth a look. Do not miss breakfast at the Pancake Circus a few blocks north.

Del Pason Boulevard in North Sacramento is an excellent 1940’s suburban strip with cheap restaurants, a couple of old theaters and a classic ice skating rink. There’s also a growing art community here.

Then I got on the road for Placerville for some strange reason. I took the old route of Highway 50 (big surprise, right?) through Folsom, got the oil changed by a most attractive lad at Wal-Mart, and then slammed on the air conditioner again. The altitude adjustment was not lessening the heat in any discernible way.

Placerville proved pretty uneventful, although it’s quite pretty. The three used bookstores yielded nothing, and I was not in any sort of “antiquing” mood, so I headed back toward Sacramento. By this time, the temperature was 96, I was dehydrated, and I wanted nothing so much as fog and cool air, so I came home.

For approximately the fifteenth time, I didn’t stop at the Milk Farm in Dixon on the way back. Someday soon, I promise. The Mother’s Day traffic was from hell, and got so bad by the time I hit Berkeley that I actually got off the freeway and cut through Oakland to save time. Unless you live here, you don’t quite grasp the irony of that statement.

Once back in the city, it was off to “beer and a blowjob for $1.50” night at My Place, followed by a late-night adventure in the East Bay with my roommate which was even less exciting than the Sacramento trip and thus bears no mention here.

Sacramento

“Isn’t Sacramento the place where “Eight Is Enough” was set”?”

Well, yeah…but there’s other stuff there too. I have to admit that I really like Sacramento. It’s where I go when I need a little perspective after spending too much time in the loony bin which is San Francisco — kind of an adopted home town. Actually, it reminds me a lot of North Carolina. Tree-lined streets, houses with yards, queer bars that look like steak houses, etc. And the abundance of roadside architecture, especially in West Sacramento, is truly amazing. Sacramento is also a thrift store mecca.

To start, I must admit that I really love Sacramento, It’s a very comforting place — mainly, I guess, because it reminds me so much of the towns I knew in North Carolina: tree-lined streets, houses with yards and driveways, strip shopping centers, etc. Strangely enough, I actually even had sex with a charming couple in their trailer here a few years ago. It was a first time for me, despite my upbringing in the motherland of trailer parks.

On my last overnight trip here, I met a very cute boy who liked jazz and be-bop and we spent the night making love to the likes of Ella Fitzgerald. As I drove home the next day, I discovered that Ella had died that very same night. I was almost as depressed by her death as I was when I learned how much my host paid for his apartment. I’d sort of hoped we might run into each other by accident. We’d lost touch during the past year (OK…we’d never again talked after “the fact”…). Didn’t happen. Oh well…

I got up Saturday morning and decided to hit my adopted California hometown after the obligatory “Animaniacs” and “Pinky and the Brain”. I had a fairly late start, but it allowed me time to hit the Chick-fil-A in Farifield (the only one in the Bay Area). I also made it into Sacramento in time to obtain my traditional room at the Motel 6 and hit a few of my favorite thrift stores.

And damn, was it hot there; by 8PM, it was still 82 out. I had strange flashbacks to summer Saturday nights back home, sitting on the patio as the sun went down. I drove through the subdivisions and saw the families cooking out and socializing and I realized that growing up here was probably not unlike growing up where I did. I never get this feeling in the city. Maybe the difference is what attracted me to San Francisco…

Not much luck at the thrift stores, so I visited motel hell in West Sacramento.

Originally, two major cross-country highways, U.S.40 and U.S.50 met in Sacramento before dividing and reconverging in San Francisco. U.S.40 now ends somewhere in Nevada, replaced by I-80. U.S.50 now has its terminus in West Sacramento, its western leg having been replaced primarily by I-580. The old routes through Sacramento can still be traveled (Auburn Blvd. and West Capitol Ave. for U.S.40 and Folsom Blvd. and Stockton Blvd. for U.S.50).

 

West Capitol Avenue in West Sacramento is a virtual mecca of 1940’s and 50’s motel architecture. This area has a long-standing reputation as a “wide open” town with a tolerant attitude toward prostitution and other “vices”. West Sacramento and nearby Bryte were home to most of the area gay clubs in the late 60’s and early 70’s, when law enforcement in the central city forced them out.

  

I drove around the capitol building, and watched the prom kids posing for pictures and getting out of limousines on every corner. Dinner at Wienerschnitzel on Broadway (just because I could…).

Back to the Motel 6, where I stared at the lipstick on the bathroom wall and the burn marks from someone’s travel iron. This was not a showcase suite, despite the fact that this location got a “banner” in the new directory. I took a shower. It was painful. I watched a little TV, which was even more painful.

Then off to the nightlife, such as it was. The Wreck Room was not as much fun as usual, although I did meet a very interesting “healer” who bought me a beer and offered to come back to my room and “realign my spine and relax me…no strings attached”. I declined. I also visited the Mercantile (creepy as ever) and the new location of the Bolt ($3.25 for a Rolling Rock in a very unspectacular bar…gimme a break…). I was horrified to find a flyer for Colossus in San Francisco on my car after parking near Faces. By last call, I was back at the Wreck. Fortunately, since bar-hopping in Sacramento involves a lot of driving, I never had time to get drunk.

After last call, I decided to see if the river access at 10th and Vine was as cruisy by night as it was in the daytime. The traffic jam I found when I got there convinced me my instincts were correct. Not may takers, though. There was a Metallica marathon on the radio station, and for some reason this is not most fags’ idea of “appropriate cruising music”. Everyone looked at me a bit warily. I did meet one guy, but he seemed a bit too concerned with my car and occupation, as well as with stressing that he’d run a marathon this morning and worked out in the afternoon. He seemed miffed that I didn’t care.

Home to bed…alone… Slept with the air conditioner on. Big mistake.

Job Fair

I worked a job fair today. And my first interview was a real lulu. Very cute, very clueless straight boy. Excerpts:

Q: Define good customer service.

A: Well…maybe if there was a pretty girl behind the counter.

Q: Where do you see yourself in two years?

A: I was going to join the Air Force, but I have too many parking tickets. (I don’t think I want to know the connection.)

Q: Tell me about a time when you received good customer service.

A: Well…once when I was sitting around waiting for my friend to get off work at the store where he worked, all the employees were really nice to me.

The Ideal Personal Ad

An ideal personal ad I’d respond to (Spring 1997):

Cynical queer loner, 32, recently committed to polygamy and recreational sex, seeks individual to challenge my resolve. Thoroughly bored with bars and sex clubs, but be forewarned: I’m not convinced a monogamous relationship is the right move for me now. Interests: road trips, lowbrow culture, text-based communication, obscure pop music, The Simpsons, and more. Zero tolerance for drug drama, pretentiousness, career or gym addiction, or attitude. Understand that I will eat meat and smoke cigarettes in your presence, and that I will not be willing to spend every waking minute of my life with you. Do not expect adventures on the great outdoors or candlelit dinners. Do expect drive-in movies, noisy bands, and Pinky and the Brain on Saturday morning. Sexual creativity a plus. Ability to be happy eating at Denny’s and Burger King essential. If you’re “straight acting and appearing”, you need to go have an affair with a woman and leave me the fuck alone.

An ideal personal ad I’d respond to (Summer 1996):

Queer-acting, queer-appearing omnivorous male into sleazy bars, pop culture, road trips, and “The Simpsons”. Hate long walks in the park and the “great outdoors” means an alley off Folsom Street. Meet me for dinner at Denny’s. We’ll have sex first and then see if friendship develops. I’m sometimes moody but generally cheerful, feel love intensely when I feel it at all, and have no patience with one-sided relationships. No gym clones, granolas, fashion victims, or people who act their ages. If you need drugs to have a good time, please do so with someone else. Must understand the irony of MTV planning a new channel which actually plays music videos. Understanding irony in general is also nonnegotiable.

An actual personal ad I placed online (Fall 1995):

MY STATS: Sodomite WM 30 (look 29 1/2), 6’2″, 195#, brown hair/eyes, stubbly goatee and head, lousy housekeeper, employed and in no major financial difficulty (for a change)

LIKES: Fog, Dragnet reruns, sleazy bars, Target, the occasional sex club, fast food, almost any boy on a skateboard, Camel Lights, roadside culture, Henry Weinhardts Red, okra, offbeat music (KABL to KALX), Converse hightops, funny porn, long-haired boys, grits, stubble-headed boys, driving aimlessly, cartoons, group sex, old movies, and white trash.

DISLIKES: Nature, Republicans, severe potheads, the Castro, sushi, people who act their age, romantic candlelight dinners, country music recorded after 1965, the Dead (as in Grateful), rabid Vegans, overabundant sunshine, upwardly mobile persons employed in finance, most art galleries, little rat dogs, and white trash wannabes.

WILL NOT TOLERATE: “Straight acting/appearing”, speed freaks, Southern Baptists, and closets.

LOOKING FOR: Well…I’m not sure. Someone maybe to have adventures with, to explore San Francisco’s hidden alcohol subculture with, or even just sleep with on a regular, sporadic, or one-time basis. (You maybe figured out by now that a one-on-one monogamous thing is not exactly what I’m looking for, but it’s not entirely out of the question, I guess.) I would prefer that you be in the 22-32 age range, open to experimentation, and not full of yourself, but I’m willing to negotiate. If you’re intrigued, interested, or curious, e-mail me. If I’ve pissed you off with my dislikes and lack of tolerance and sensitivity, then DON’T, ‘cuz I don’t care.

An actual personal ad I placed (Fall 1989):

Slightly depraved GWM, 24, cynical, sedate, and relatively harmless, into unnerving music, shocking video, stimulating conversation, sleazy bars,and okra, seeks similar individual with whom to share these interests and perhaps others. Basic intelligence and political awareness a plus. Coke heads, Republicans, and other losers need not apply. Respond creatively.

Avoiding the Bars

OK…here’s how this rant started at 3PM:

Good weekend. The weather’s nice, I got laid, the roommate got laid, the boys are semi-naked and the tearooms are hopping in Central park (oops…wrong city), a friend in Georgia is emailing me some decent grits, the Tories lost control of Parliament, I saw a good movie with friends, and “Married With Children” finally ends tonight after an interminably long run on Fox. What more could I ask?

OK…things might be better if said roommate would get off the phone so I could go eat, but this is a minor thing…

By the time I got home from “happy hour” Sunday evening, this is how my mood had changed:

If San Francisco is such a fucking fabulous queer “mecca”, and is the “greatest place in the world to be gay”, why is it that so many of us feel such a need to perpetually anesthetize ourselves in order to enjoy it? Or would that be “to tolerate it”?

Kinda makes you wonder why I bother going out, doesn’t it? I think last night just presented me with one “drunken idiot” too many (with two of them being idiotic drunken ex-“boyfriends”, for lack of a better term). A few too many glassy eyes. Way too much reefer aroma. I’m even learning to ignore the tweakers. Again I ask, if it’s so wonderful, why does everyone have to get trashed and act like such complete slugs to deal with it?

And it’s not just the bars I’m talking about. Sometimes it seems like half the city is damn near catatonic for the bulk of the day. Everyone’s stoned here. Does this not suggest some slight problems with the reality of the city, causing people to try and esacpe it?

All this — combined with my current homophobic state of mind — has convinced me it’s time to take a little break from the neighborhood watering holes. And maybe from San Francisco. And DEFINITELY from the little ordered and segregated and self-destructive world of SF queerdom.

To clarify, I’m not speaking from an “I don’t drink” soapbox. In fact, the scariest thing about the whole evening was how much I actually DID drink as a reaction. OK, maybe even scarier was the desire I felt to throw and/or break things. This sensation, alas, subsided before I could drag myself to the Castro, where it might have been more productive.

Lest this start sounding like an “origins of punk”piece from 1976 or a Queer nation pamphlet from 1990 or an AA brochure, I’ll move on now…

As for Friday night’s sexcapades, all I’ll say is that when this boy (who looked a little too much like a club kid for comfort on first glance) put in the AC/DC CD first thing, I knew everything was gonna be OK.

And as to the Sunday night fiasco, don’t look for me to be drinking on Folsom Street for a while. Time to find a new hobby.

The Weekend

Strange weekend. Added flesh and blood to two more text-based friends, looked at art, drank a little, saw an old friend, tidied up the resume a bit, and went into a severe two-day funk from which I’m just now emerging.

Martin and David are two people I’ve been corresponding with for quite a while…one of them from Portland and one from San Francisco. Meeting both of them in one week was a good thing. I’ve decided that people who get to know each other via e-mail have a certain intelligence and sanity which is very refreshing. Neither of these meetings was of a sexual nature (although both scored well on the oh so superficial “appearance test”). It’s really nice, though, meeting someone face to face for the first time and feeling as if you already know them.

Friday: Dinner at Memphis Minnie’s, which is without question my new favorite scarfing ground in the city. Good and low-key. We celebrated my roommate’s return to the world of the semi-unemployed (by his choice). Realizing that jobs don’t have to suck is becoming a tradition on our street.

Out for a beer later on, solo. No one around. Was everyone in the city worried that the very mild “wet fog” would be a hairdo-deflater?

Saturday: Pinky and the Brain. Animaniacs. Met Sarah (speaking of text-based friendships come to life) and Martin for the new “Icons” exhibit at SFMOMA. Yer host at an art museum…imagine that… Actually, it was pretty interesting, although I remain unconvinced that lipsticks and a bar of soap from the Gap are really art. All in all, though, it was a good show.

Went to a brew pub in North Beach afterward for beers (them) and traditional Southern iced tea (me, feeling caffeine-deficient). Somehow the funk hit right around this point. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the caffeine or lack thereof.

Rotten night. Sat around the house. Read. Whined. Listened to depressing music. Moaned. Pondered going on. Passed. Went to bed hoping to sleep it off.

Sunday: Sleeping it off didn’t work, so I went to Oakland for the afternoon. I’m not entirely sure how the two are related, but Oakland always seems vaguely comforting. Bought newspapers (SF and Seattle). Flipped off a hippie in a microbus who didn’t know how to drive (or was too stoned to do so). Realized the funk wasn’t going away. Came home.

Off to the beer bust at My Place. Ran into someone who used to (a) be a really close friend and co-worker and (b) have a life. Neither is the case now, thanks to a little problem with speed. From $40,000 a year to homeless in six months. So much for harmless recreational drug use. Gave him a ride to the sofa he’s currently “surfing”.

At the beer bust. Light oral sex in the back area proved uninspiring. Ran into a recent “affair” who I’d also seen last week. Last Sunday, we had a really long and good talk and some “bonding”. I hadn’t really expected (or particularly wanted) a reconciliation. I also hadn’t expected that he’d leave with someone else while I was in the bathroom. Maybe it is possible for even a jaded slut like myself to occasionally get my feelings hurt. This week, we didn’t really even talk to each other. Probably better that way.

Missed the Simpsons. Decided to try and sleep off the funk one more time.

Went to sleep pondering the job that I don’t have (and probably am not qualified for), the romance that I don’t have in my life (I’m not referring to the one just mentioned), and the fact that things looked much more promising to me six months ago.

Monday: Resumes via e-mail. Finished moving the site to the new machine. Feeling a little better about life. The Christmas episode of the Andy Griffith Show was on this morning.

About jobs: I quit because I wanted to. I have not missed working at Kinko’s for one single minute since I left. I’ve had a pretty interesting time during my first long-term period of unemployment since 1985. I’ll get another job soon. It’s just time to get aggressive.

And on romance: I decided on my own several months ago that my most likely prospect of late was not “the one”. Our agendas were too dissimilar. Never really knew if he’d nominated himself for that position anyway. We’re still friends. And as always, I don’t want a realtionship; I want someone to have a relationship with.

Ultimately, I had responsibility for all the decisions I’m now reflecting on, and I’m now assuming responsibility for convincing myself I was right. Of course, any help is always appreciated…an email opportunity is a terrible thing to waste.

Pardon the downer. I plan to be cynically amusing again very soon.

Back to SF

 

Lots of sleep followed by Saturday morning cartoons, and I was off. This was the uneventful part of the trip, where I covered more familiar territory. I did see beautiful downtown San Luis Obispo as well as a really cool original A&W Drive-In in Paso Robles.

As luck would have it, traffic jams on every freeway slowed my approach to San Francisco and (once again) dampened my enthusiasm about the return. All in all, though, a great trip. Perspective will follow soon in the inevitable postmortem.

Thanks for coming along!

The Long Way Home

The trip home led me on the most convoluted route so far (on purpose, of course…). The original plan was to drive south to Kingman, Arizona and cross the desert on old Route 66, but this proved to be too much of a drive. I settled for hitting the “mother road” back at Barstow by way of Zzyzx Road and I-15. From there, I headed south through Victorville and across Cajon Pass to San Bernadino (site of the very first McDonald’s).

  

Route 66 runs across Foothill Boulevard, Alosta Avenue, and Huntington Drive as it winds its way through the “Inland Empire” toward Los Angeles. Unfortunately, a lot of what was once there has been replaced by strip mall nightmares, especially around Fontana and Cucamonga. There are still sights to be seen, however, including one of the original Wigwam Village Motels in Rialto.

In Rancho Cucamonga, a small sign caught my eye, directing me to the Route 66 Visitors Center (7965 Vineyard Avenue, off Foothill Blvd.), a museum and gift shop devoted to the road. Great place, and I spent a good half hour there poking around and talking to the “greeter”.

  

The next stop was LeRoy’s Restaurant in Monrovia. It’s been there since Route 66 was still the main highway, and still does a brisk local business. friendly, homey kind of place, with a counter (where I sat) and yet more waitresses who called me “honey” without fearing I might sue them for sexual harassment.

 

The drive through the north section of Los Angeles was daunting, but the scenery was good. It’s hard to trace a few original portions of the route, due to freeway construction. The alignment I followed was Mission Drive to Cesar Chavez Blvd. to Sunset Blvd. to Santa Monica Blvd. At this point, I left Route 66 for old Highway 101 (Ventura Blvd.) headed north. Eventually, I had to hit the freeway at the early end of rush hour. I was making better time on the surface road…

Before long, I was in the thrift store mecca of Ventura, also the headquarters site for Kinko’s. I’d spent time there before and didn’t feel the need to give it more than a half hour of my time.

Next stop was Santa Barbara, where I’d originally planned to stop for the night. I can’t adequately describe how much I hated this town. The place is nauseatingly cutesy and precious and white. There were no malls, except for a downtown which very much resembles one. The whole town was completely sanitized and reminiscent of Marin County. Nothing could have made me spend a night here.

Thus I continued on to San Luis Obispo, home of the Hearst Castle, the Madonna Inn, and Cal Poly. Definitely a little higher on the reality scale than Santa Barbara, although this was a most obvious college town. Since it was almost 10PM, and I’d been driving since 7AM, a stop was in order.

A beer or two was also in order, so I headed to the local queer bar, Breeze’s (11560 Los Osos Valley Road). Nice place, fairly generic music, and a couple of cute boys. I didn’t meet my first obsession. If anyone knows him, tell him to get in touch. I’m guessing age 25 or so, medium height and build, goatee, curly dark hair, and he won a T-shirt for knowing that ABC denied a lesbian cruise line the opportunity to advertise on “Ellen”. He drives a red car. I crave him.

I did, however, meet an off-duty DJ and fellow Mac supremacist named Glenn. He seemed a good person to pass last call with while sitting outside. I sat outside a lot; a city ordinance prohibits smoking inside bars in San Luis Obispo. I could never live there…