Otherstream at 20: 2004

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I’m almost caught up from my vacation break and so I can return to one year a day soon The anniversary happens on 13 January.

In 2004, the trend toward daily updates with no substantial essays continued, making the site more of a journal than a reflective space. Thus it’s harder to pick “highlights” as such and the ones I chose don’t really show what was on my mind quite so well as in earlier years. Anyway, here are the ones I chose, such as they are.

January:

February:

March:

May:

July:

August:

October:

November:

Randomly Sunday afternoon

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No attention span. Latest stuff:

  • The house sale continues to be a nightmare, thanks to that fucking oil tank that we thought nine years ago would be “no big deal.” So far it’s probably cost me $15,000 and I still don’t have a clean bill of health. the buyers (and their lender) are getting nervous. So am I.
  • That said, the house is mostly cleared out. And the non-tank repairs came in at (slightly) under $6500, so there’s that. If I can keep expenses at this level, at least I won’t owe money at closing.
  • The chimney sweep was as cute as a bug’s ear. it was a lust connection.
  • After moving them yet again, I’m torn. Should I leave my records to someone I really like or to someone I really hate?
  • Finished my next article today, more or less. If I can get one or two of my librarian pals to give it a look tomorrow, I may actually get it submitted on time.
  • Pondering Pittsburgh for Labor Day weekend, as Toronto forĀ Thanksgiving in October is looking much less likely.
  • Someone who gets it.
  • Best news of the week? I am once again not at Burning Man. That fact may make up for all my other stress.

Post mortem

Statistics and superlatives:

  • Total distance traveled: 3505 km
  • States/provinces included: 6 (North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Ontario
  • Days: 12
  • Nights: 11
  • Most surprising lodging: Motel 6 in Burlington. It was actually quite nice, clean, and quiet. And everything worked. It’s not your average Motel 6.
  • Best shawarma: Falafel Queen in Toronto.
  • Cheapest sit-down breakfast: Skyway Diner in Burlington.
  • Cheapest gas (US): $2.979/gallon in Wytheville, Virginia.
  • Cheapest gas (Canada): $1.151/litre in Guelph, Ontario.
  • Most colossally bad idea I’m glad I didn’t act on: Driving to Thunder Bay to visit Canada’s easternmost Safeway store before it becomes a Sobeys.
  • Best mood elevator when I needed it most: The toll collector on the West Virginia Turnpike who was dressed up for Hallowe’en.
  • Second best: The random teenager who stepped away from his posse in Kensington Market to tell me he liked my jacket.
  • Honorable mention: The cashier at Loblaws who shared my giddy glee about Coffin Crisp, the Hallowe’en version of Coffee Crisp.
  • Biggest regret: being in the GTA on a weekend when they were doing several shows and still not seeing Sloan.

 

 

Day 3: Pittsburgh to Burlington

Coming to you from Canada, which always adds an extra layer of contentment to my life.

It was really cold this morning, especially after a short sleeves kind of day on Monday. Breakfast in Pittsburgh was followed by a relatively uneventful drive to visit my friend Sarah outside Buffalo. I’ve known Sarah for more than sixteen years now. It’s kind of cool that I’ve been doing this long enough that new friends I mentioned meeting via the site way back when have now become old friends I’ve now known on both ends of the country. It was great seeing Sarah; we had hot dogs at an incredible joint and just sort of hung out, if not for long enough.

Then came Canada. I’m always mildly tense at the border due to my strange immigration status, but there were no big issues other that a friendly warning that my residency obligations will become an issue soon if I’m to retain that status.

I’m staying in Burlington tonight and tomorrow so I can explore Hamllton and some of the other surrounding cities and towns. Upon checking into the hotel, I found myself acting as translator between the desk clerk (who spoke no French) and the couple in front of me (who spoke no English). That was kind of surreal and not really something I expected to be doing. I hope I didn’t misunderstand and that they really did want a double room with prostitute and a large order of fries.

Gonna read my paper and go to bed now.

Day 2: Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh just gives me the warm fuzzies. It feels strangely like home and it makes me happy being here. I was worried a one point that this might not be the case anymore and I’m very relieved that I didn’t turn out that way. It’s such a great and wonderful place, full of personality and wonder and actual nice people. Plus the cutest boys in the world go to Pitt; it must be an entrance requirement.

Today brought breakfast at Barb’s and lunch at Lindo’s, picture-taking in South Side and book purchases in Oakland. I didn’t sleep well last night so I’m being horizontal in my room for a while before heading to Squirrel Hill of dinner and my obligatory visit to the kosher Giant Eagle. I’ll probably drive around a bit more tonight and then hit the bed fairly early so I can get up, have breakfast at Ritter’s and head north to see Sarah in time for a late lunch. And then…Canada.

I envision a longer trip to Da Burgh soon.

And I’m pissed that I missed the giant rubber duck.

Day 1: Greensboro to Pittsburgh

After checking the weather, I decided to leave today rather than tomorrow so I’d have a sunny day in Pittsburgh. That meant I left at 4:00 and rolled into the Red Roof Inn just before 11:00. The drive, which I can still pretty much do in my sleep, was extra exhausting tonight and I’m actually a little sore. But the particularly dark part between Summersville and Clarksburg was made bearable by a really good set on CBC Radio 3 (streaming Canadian indie rock to the world).

I miss Pittsburgh. It always seemed really homey to me despite the baggage that came to be associated with it. I love the newspaper and the food and just the whole feel of the place. In many ways, it’s the antithesis of San Francisco. I’m excited to actually be spending some time here again.

Tomorrow will bring:

  • Breakfast at Barb’s Country Kitchen or Ritter’s.
  • Lunch or dinner at Smallman Street.
  • Maybe a stroll through South Side and Squirrel Hill.
  • A bookstore or two.

I’ll probably leave Tuesday morning for Buffalo and the border. Unless I don’t.

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.