Planet SOMA US Tour 1998

Last year I spent five weeks doing the ultimate tour of the US, covering 8000 miles, 33 states, and 2 countries. It was a pretty amazing thing, and I met a lot of really great people in the process. Since I’d already done several other really big road trips that year too, I swore I’d never drive anywhere again (or at least for a year or so). It’s been a year. I’ve headed out again. I love being on the road.

This year, the tour was scaled back a bit, and the invasion victims were Detroit, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and a few one-nighters. Along the way, I added two more states to my “collection” (Nebraska and Iowa). And I added over 7000 miles to the odometer.

Sunday 10/18: San Francisco to Wells NV
This will be boring.

Monday 10/19: Wells to Cheyenne WY
So will this.

Tuesday 10/20: Cheyenne to Des Moines

Wednesday 10/21: Des Moines to Indianapolis IN
This is a good opportunity to rest up and visit Bob and Cody. And eat well.

Thursday 10/22: Indianapolis
Still visiting. Still eating. Still resting.


Friday 10/23: Indianapolis to Detroit MI
The calm before the storm.

Saturday 10/24-Sunday 10/25: Detroit
Lots of plans in Detroit, led by the demolition of the former Hudson’s Department Store on Saturday. I’ll be lurking about with Scott and Mike, and other plans include touring various aspects of urban decay and automotive history, as well as a run to Canada and to this incredible used bookstore I’ve heard about.


Monday 10/26: Detroit to Milwaukee WI
I may skip Chicago this time due to time and budget constraints. I’m not sure yet. An evening of drinking with David in Milwaukee is in the cards. This part of the trip may run an extra day.

Tuesday 10/27: Milwaukee to Madison WI
Unplanned stop.

Wednesday 10/28: Madison to Minneapolis MN


Thursday 10/29 – Tuesday 11/3: Minneapolis
I’ll be here for a week. Lots on the agenda, from carnal knowlege to visiting several old friends. Possible side trips to Fargo and Duluth. Maybe even LaCroix…who knows?

Wednesady 11/4: Minneapolis to Kansas City MO
I know people in KC. I haven’t contacted them yet, because this was a recent addition. We’ll see what happens.

Thursday 11/5: Kansas City to Oklahoma City OK
I won’t have a lot more time than I did last year, but maybe this time I’ll figure out how to cruise the Habana Inn. Or maybe not…

Friday 11/6: Oklahoma City to Albuquerque NM
I trust the balloon people will be gone.

Saturday 11/7: Albuquerque NM to Needles CA
Nuff said

Sunday 11/8: Barstow to San Francisco

SF to Wells NV

 Odometer: 83835


Long day. Minimal sleep from the night before. I actually managed to get on the road relatively early, fueled by the excitement of spending a night in Wells NV. OK, I’m lying. I was fueled by nothing but full-strength, high-caffeine Coca Cola Classic.

There is absolutely nothing exciting about Wells, and not too much exciting about northern Nevada in general. Once you pass Reno, all civilization pretty much ends, and the scenery is not exciting enough to compensate.

I did, however, come to two realizations on I-80. The first was that”Starry Eyes” by the Records may well be the most classically perfect pop song of the past twenty years. The second was that the vibrations in my car were probably not due to my 90MPH speed.

The second realization proved costlier than the first. Two new tires in Wells. This completed the set I started on the way back from Vegas in the spring. What is it about Nevada highways?

Dinner at a very sad-looking casino, which actually had a pretty passable cafe. The TV news from Salt Lake City featured THREE stories from North Carolina, solidifying my opinion that Utah is pretty much interchangeable with my home state.

Wells NV to Cheyenne WY

Odometer: 84407


Up at 6:30. On the road by 8 after breakfast and two new tires at Les Schwab. Today was all about distance. Minimal stops. Minimal sightseeing. I barely stopped in Salt Lake City, although I managed to hear no less than four Rush songs while in radio range. The proliferation of headbanger stations had begun most dramatically with Ozzy Osbourne as I crossed the Great Salt Desert. It pretty much never ended through the entire trip.

Lunch at the KFC “all you can eat” buffet in Evanston WY. Passed the Continental Divide at the 100-mile mark.

And then there was snow. It wasn’t falling from the sky, nor piled up on the road. It had, however, accumulated on the ground and I started to worry that maybe I was travelling a little late in the season. As it turned out, I continued to “ourun” the weather for the next two weeks.

I bypassed Laramie, where Matthew Shepard’s funeral had taken place two days before, and made my way to a bed at the Motel 6 in Cheyenne. The Motel 6 on the west side of town. The Motel 6 next to the train tracks. The Motel 6 next to the very noisy train tracks.

Dinner at a Chick-Fil-A in a very frightening mall. All the customers were white. All the kids had severe acne. The sandwich was great. The waffle fries sucked, as usual.

Cheyenne WY to Des Moines IA

Odometer: 85056


I’d never been In Nebraska or Iowa before. I’d imagined that they’d both look a lot like Kansas. I was pretty much right. I flew through Nebraska at 85-90MPH. This day was all about speed and distance too: over 650 miles in one day. My biggest impression of the state were of the cute boys in all the rest areas (alas, none of them cruising). Of course, cruising these rest areas would be difficult, thanks to the perpetual noise of the weather radio. Sounds just like a police radio. Smart move, huh?

Another big Nebraska memory would be of the strange yellow liquid sprayed on my car from the back of some truck. It came out in a big stream. There were horses in the truck. What am I to assume?

Crossing over into Iowa, I was pretty pissed to find the speed limit reduced to 65MPH for no apparent reason. I was amused by the rest areas described as “undeveloped” (no toilets) and “modern” (several toilets). I was astounded to find a 100KW college radio staion in Council Bluffs (trust me…this is a strange thing…)


And then there was Des Moines. The Bob Damron guide lists Border’s as the town’s “gay bookstore”. The newspaper still prints the addresses of people who write letters to the editor. Gas is 85 cents a gallon.

Actually, large parts of Des Moines looked almost seedy. There’s something about those midwestern grid cities that I really love. They have a certain grit which is all but impossible to find here in Disneyland. They grew really big in a really short period of time and had peaked by the 1950s; this history makes a pretty interesting looking city in my view. Plus there’s good neon.


There are apparently four or five queer bars here. Only one of them, Blazing Saddles, appeared to be open. It was scary: a huge collection of retail queens (CK this, Tommy Hilfiger that, Ralph Lauren something else) and the smell of cologne was vomit-inducing. Blecch…

Motley Crue was scheduled to appear on Wednesday. The tempatation to stay was great.

Des Moines IA to Indianapolis IN

Odometer: 85758


Minimal sleep. Hit a few thrift stores on the way out of town. And then I was off through the wilds of eastern Iowa and central Illinois, onward through Peoria and Champaign/Urbana. I had another Chick-Fil-A moment in Moline IL.

Finally I hit Indiana, where I had no idea what time it was (Indiana does not recognize Daylight Savings Time). Bob and Cody were waiting, as was my suite at the Renaissance Tower. There was TV Land on cable, White Castle a few blocks away and things were about to start getting more interesting with less driving and more things to see.

Never again will I drive from San Francisco to Indianapolis with only three stops.

Indianapolis IN and Cincinatti OH


Indianapolis was something of a homecoming. It was the first stop where I’d spent any significant time previously. It’s also the home of my friend Bob, on whose shoulders I place the blame for these annual mega-trips. Thus, I had some perspective (and lots of pictures from last year) so I could actually look at things with my eyes rather than with the camera.

I miss fall. It was always my favorite time of year when I used to live in places with discernible seasons. So it was pretty cool to see (a) trees and (b) trees with multi-colored leaves. It takes so little to make me happy. Sometimes.

After a couple of thrift stores (including Bull Winkle’s where I managed to find the missing link in my set of Flintstones mugs from McDonald’s) and a pretty decent used bookstore, we did the southeastern Indiana tour along US52…


…which led ultimately to Cincinatti. I’d never been to Cincinatti. It brings to mind images of a really repressive social climate and of scrappy little AM radio stations. Actually, it seemed a fairly interesting place with a sort of seedy urban aesthetic I really liked. Reminded me a little of Pittsburgh. Definitely worth a longer look next year.


The evening brought a quick trip to a bar or too. At the 501 Tavern, I had a brief conversation with a crowd of lightweights who thought I was completely nuts for dribing around the country when I could have spetmy vacation flying to really “fabulous” places. They were pretty much irredeeemable and I moved on to this strangely endearing sort of mega-club (whose name I forget) where I spent a few minutes chasing a boy who looked completely out of his mind. I didn’t catch him. In retrospect, I think I’m glad…

Indianapolis IN to Detroit MI

Odometer: 86283

A few productive thrift store moments in the morning after saying goodbye to Bob, and I was off through northeastern Indiana and southern Ohio. This was the shortest drive of the trip so far, which was a good thing since I got such a late start. The drive was not particularly exciting. The only big amusement was the sign in a rest area outside Fort Wayne:

“We have urinals for men, not stool seats.”

Thing is, if “stool seats” is supposed to mean “commodes”, the sign was wrong. There were three. All the same, I opted for a urinal, feeling a bit skittish about doing my busness in something which might not really be there. Could be messy, after all…


I hit Detroit about 7. At least I think it was 7. Coming into or out of Indiana is always a confusing thing, since Daylight Savings Time is not spoken there. I checked into my trusty Motel 6 and set about getting in touch with Scott, my tourguide for the weekend. Scott had offered me lodgings with his friends Don and Kristen, but I felt bad about impacting to many lives at once, so I figured I’d opt for the room and see what happened.

Anyhow, I headed over to the house after a while. It’s always an odd thing to walk into a house ful of people you don’t really know. It’s always a great thing whe they make you feel like a long-lost friend and you actually believe you ARE a long-lost friend after about five minutes. This was one of those nights. I was happy.

I felt like I was really missing the point last year when I hit Detroit, because I had no one to show me around, no one to tell me where I should or should not drive, etc. All the same, I was obsessed with the place then and I’m obsessed with it still. If ever there was a polar opposite to the theme park known as San Francisco, this is it. Detroit is not pretty, at least not in ways that most people recognize. Gentrification is not an issue. Detroit is starkly real.

And it’s hard to write about it without sounding really pompous, so I’ll save the deep analysis for another time.

Friday night’s entertainment consisted of White Castle (what a great icebreaker!) and a trip to a very strange goth club in the grand ballroom of what seemed to be a soon-to-be-abandoned Ramada Inn downtown. This was the sort of place where you realize the decay in the club is probably not just a “pretty goths dressed in black” affectation. It was pretty cool, actually.

Then it was off to bed, as I prepared for Saturday’s demolition downtown and the kids got ready to confront the God Squad at an abortion protest the next morning.

Building Fall Down Go Boom

Have you ever sat through the Saturday morning teenybopper shows on NBC? All of them seem like warmed-over “Saved by the Bell” wannabes, each with exactly one stylishly-attired member of each major ethnic group (although some have two or three stylishly-attired white kids…audience demographics, y’know…). I can’t imagine watching this crap even when I was a kid. However, I did sit through it on Saturday morning in Detroit.

I should have been visiting the boy in the room next door: the one Scott and I had (mistakenly, it seems) pegged as a straight high school kid throwing a homecoming party or something. More about him later.

Instead, I waited for the abortion protest to end and tried to get in touch with Mike, another email correspondent who was planning to show me around a little. Unfortunately, we never could connect (a problem exacerbated by the fact that the message light on my phone wasn’t working).


Soon enough I was off with Scott to downtown Detroit for the demolition of what used to be Hudson’s Department Store, second largest building of its kind in the United States. This is the event around which my entire trip was oriented, and frankly I was pretty amazed that there wasn’t a bigger crowd assembled to see it. All the same, I’m told, there were more people downtown on a Saturday afternoon this day than there had been in years. Specifically, there were more WHITE people. Maybe they felt safer knowing their suburban counterparts were there to protect them.

There was definitely a crowd at Jacoby’s, a cool bar nearby, with a tasty bartender and a good beer selection.

Demolitions of old buildings are always disturbing to me, and since I’m just barely old enough to remember when big downtown departent stores were the rule rather than the exception, I could identify with the old-timers who were sad to see it go. On the other hand, this building could never really have been re-used and its vacant shell was a big slap in the face to residents forced to see it everyday…a constant reminder of what Detroit used to be and would probably never be again. So I could also understand that many people were glad to see it go.


After a few delays, we heard the first blasts. Nothing happened. I wasn’t worried, having watched the Hotel Charlotte in North Carolina demolished in similar fashion about ten years before. Eventually, wings started collapsing, the crowd started cheering, and the whole thing was over in a few more seconds.


And then came this horrendous dust cloud. I was prepared for this as well, having been caught in it at my last implosion. We even brought masks and offered the extras to a few kids so they could propagate the species. Once the building came down, I grabbed Scott and we ducked into a corner bar (which locked its doors against the dust a few minutes later). When the dust settled, it looked like a gray blizzard had hit.


After drinking a toast to Hudson’s, there was time to roam around downtown Detroit (which was now relatively dust-free) for a while. This was a good excuse for food at Lafayette Coney Island, which came highly recommended by my friend Rae. Coney islands (hot dogs) seem to be a pretty high art form in Detroit. This place was incredible. Thanks Rae.


I took lots of pictures. Downtown Detroit is such an amazing place, with blocks and blocks of early 20th century commercial buildings and skyscrapers, many of them alarmingly vacant and abandoned, standing like testosterone-deficient phallic symbols (did I really write that?). There is life downtown. You just have to look for it.


There was another beer or two later, of course, at Steve’s, this very strange old bar run by the same marginally bitter couple for about 50 years or so. Huge place. Nothing on the walls. Bathroom from the 30’s. Cheap beer. I love hanging out with locals. Afterwards, we retired to the Motel 6 for what was supposed to be a nap (no…I’m not offering any details thank you…) and then off to more Detroit nightlife.


We hit a leather bar called the R&R (I think), which allegedly has some backroom action some nights (but not this night) and then a beautiful, huge, new club on Michigan Avenue. This place was your basic top-notch dance club. At 1AM on Saturday night, we were the only customers. I don’t understand…

Detroit Still


Seems the Detroiters I was lurking with are not at all sentimental about the place but are still fiercely loyal to it in a certain way. San Franciscans seem to have no discernible sense of humor about themselves, perhaps due to absolute terror that someone might get offended and deem them “unworthy” of living here. On the other hand, it is quite acceptable for residents to make wry and sarcastic comments about Detroit without being branded traitors. A refreshing quality indeed…


A few idiosyncracies I noted:

  • Major intersections do not have left turn lanes. They have built-in U-turn zones at mid-block. An interesting experiment which really doesn’t work.
  • It’s hard to see much of Detroit’s decay from the freeways. This must be very comforting to the commuting suburban residents who rea most responsible for this decay.
  • Grosse Point is very aptly named.
  • Hamtramck, described by the Utne Reader as one of the ten coolest urban neighbrhoods in America, vaguely resembles an urban version of a trailer park. Apparently, many of the residents are not totally out of place in this environment, given the large racist skinhead presence, etc.


Scott and I spent Sunday afternoon driving around the city taking pictures and discussing what had happened. We toured Grand River Avenue, a once fashionable area of large houses, which now features neat and well-kept homes interspersed with bombed-out shells and vacant lots. Near Woodward Avenue, the headquarters of General Motors, one of the world’s largest corporations, fittingly presides over the decay. The irony is apparently not lost on GM; they’re in the process of moving to the Rennaissance Center.


We visited a large pile of rubble which had once been the Cadillac factory which employed Scott’s father and the adjacent neighborod which went to hell when the factory closed. We visited the west side and some suburbs where a midde class still exists. We played “White Castle or White Tower”, where the object is to guess which chain an abandoned white porcelain building used to belong to.



It’s a strangely emotional thing for me to drive through Detroit, a place which dramatically illustrates the end result of of racism and corpoarate greed. I realized that the Hudson’s building was in some ways a metaphor for the entire city: abandoned, neglected, and a little too big and cumbersome for real adaptive re-use. The massive and majestic train station pictured above is perhaps an even more striking metaphor. It’s a beautiful building which sits on the outskirts of downtown, completely abandoned and gutted, almost begging to be put out of its misery because it will never be restored.


I don’t mean to suggest that Detroit is begging to be destroyed. There’s still life here, despite popular opinion. Scott summed up the city very well with one single statement he kept repeating: there’s absolutely no place else like Detroit. And I’m still drawn to the place. Every minute I spend in Detroit makes me crave ten more.

From Windsor ON, downtown looks completely different. The view from the hideous new casino reveals no trace of the dark side of the faded jewel across the river. What it does reveal is just how bad the Detroit waterfront could look in a few years when the casinos open there. Casinos are a really misguided plan for revitalizing a city, methinks. Look what they did for Atlantic City, after all. Thy’re insulated environments which feed of the city and give nothing back.

Sort of like the Renaissance Center. And sort of like General Motors, its new tenant.


Time to move on. Scott had to start a new job on Monday and I had to be on my way after another morning drive through a downtown which ones had chain and people and now had one less abandoned department store across the street from the boarded-up Lerner Shop.

Detroit MI to Milwaukee WI

Odometer: 86376

I made it out pretty early. Would have been even earlier, but there was cruising to be done at the motel. Seems the “high school/homecoming kid” we’d noticed earlier was (a) a couple of years older than originally pegged, and (b) cruising me really hard. Unfortunately, we never completely connected and we didn’t get to fuck to a background of Judge Judy. Pity…


Southern Michigan is not the most exciting place in the world. There’s Ann Arbor, the cute college town, Battle Creek, the depressed cereal town, and Kalamazoo, the town where I couldn’t stop singing that song about “I got a gal…”

I made it through pretty fast, ate somewhere, and all of a sudden I was in Indiana again. There was cheap gas. There were cheap cigarettes. And I made my way through Gary, the dowdy gateway to Chicagoland just a little too close to rush hour for comfort.

Logistics (OK…money…) kept me from spending any time at all in Chicago. I didn’t even drive through the city since I arrived so late in the afternoon. I flew through the far western suburbs on I-294 and didn’t stop ’til I was in Wisconsin.

Somewhere along the way, I realized I was running a day early, and I was hoping this wouldn’t screw up my chance to meet up with Dave in Milwaukee. Fortunately, it didn’t. We met up at the bookstore where he works part time and were soon joined by boyfriend Doug and roomie Davee. At this point, there were far too many Davids in one room. We survived.


I’m told Milwaukee has more queer bars per capita than any other city in the country. This is a pretty reasonable notion since Milwaukee is traditionally “Beer City USA”. Strange thing is, all of the bars we hit were tiny sleazy little corner bars. Of course, I liked this aspect of the place. There was This Is It, with the big booth an the strange man who wanted to escort me to the bathroom. At C’est La Vie, Dave and Doug won a lovely porn video playing pob-ball. At the Ballgame, there was wood panelling, strange statuary, and a security camera. And there was also this straight bar which I really loved. Cheap beer all around. I really loved that too…


And (again) it was really cool to meet people and instantly feel like old friends. We hung out. We drank beer. We watched demolition video. I was in awe of all the techno toys in the house. I was in awe of all the HOUSE in the house. After Detroit (where I lurked in a house being purchased for an obscenely low price) and Milwaukee, was becoming increasigly impatient with the walk-in closet I call home.

Milwaukee WI to Madison WI

Odometer: 87217


A mildly hungover moring in Milwaukee, cured by a big lunch at a great old-school Italian restaurant. This place was really incredible, with the kind of Italian food I grew up eating (in other words, none of your foofy “light trendy pasta of the month” bullshit…). The host was a classic “mama” of the sort who pinches your cheeks at the table and asks why you didn’t finish everything. Great.


In addition to a tour of the city, I met the neighbor kid, a very out 14-year-old queer who was about to give a class presentation on Truman Capote. I saw the “Laverne and Shirley” building. I saw what used to be the Schlitz brewery. We drove by some Milwaukee resident’s own personal version of the Cadillac Ranch. Pretty interesting place. Milwaukee. I should have given it more time.

It was almost 4:00 by the time I left. I was worn out from too little sleep and too much lasagne. It was starting to rain. I was offered crash space for the night, but I was determined to make it to Minneapolis, so I hit the road.

I got as far as Madison. That big indention in my butt was the result of kicking myself (hard) for being so stupid.

I didn’t even go out in Madison. I checked into the Motel 6 from hell (this place was REALLY bad), got dinner from the sub shop across the street and settled in for some strange voodoo incest movie on HBO, followed by a PBS documentary on the history of the ACLU. All in all, I guess it was a pretty good low-impact rest break. All in all, that’s a pretty good descrition of Madison in general.

Madison WI to Minneapolis MN

Odometer: 87313

Woke up. Visited a couple of thrift stores. Got gas at station near the freeway and wondered at the fact that (other than California and North Carolina), this part of Wisconsin has the odd distinction of being the only place I’ve spent time in each of the past three years.

Finally, I headed west through Eau Claire (more thrift stores) toward Minneapolis and Erik. Of course, I arrived right at rush hour. Minneapolis at rush hour is an ugly thing. Inadequate and badly designed freeways full of incompetent drivers produce really nasty headaches. And Minnesotans, despite being some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet, are as a group the worst drivers I’ve ever encountered. Anywhere…

Finally, though I arrived at Erik’s office. It was good to see him for the first time since Vegas. He took me home, where I was immediately accosted by a psycho neighbor who wondered if I knew who’d smashed her jack-o-lanterns. Mind you she was not at all concerned that a perfect stranger was walking into the apartment unescorted, but she was pissed about her pumpkins.

Soon we were off to First Avenue to see Meat Beat Manifesto. I was very happy to find an escape in the form of the “annex” next door where the beer was cheaper and the music was better.

Afterward, it was off to the Saloon, and home. There was sex. There was sleep. Boy did I need sleep.



On my morning jaunt to the bank, I was a little alarmed that I couldn’t withdraw money from my checking account even though I should have had plenty of money (OK…”plenty” is too strong a word…) Fortunately, the situation rectified itself by evening. Not being able to get money when you’re almost 2000 miles from home is a bit disconcerting.

Good thing White castle is really cheap…

I managed to nap most of the day after not sleeping too well the night before. I was starting to get reacquainted with that Minnesota allergy thing. Jeez it was nasty. I was stuffy enough to begin with, but the mess increased exponentially every time I got near someone who’d been in contact with a cat in the past, say, three months or so. Of course any first-hand contact wth an actual cat might have proven catastrophic.


Got in touch with Carroll (one of my best friends since 1982) and Bil (an ex-boyfriend, sort of, and friend since 1994). Bil and I drove around a bit, and Carroll and I made plans for Friday.

Erik and I ventured out for a bit of drinking, first at a nice enough neighborhood bar in Loring Park, and then at the Minneapolis Eagle. Interesting place, the Eagle. It’s definitely the “nicest” leather bar I’ve ever seen, that in the sense that it looks like a yuppie sports bar: wood panelling, plush carpet, booths, etc. I couldn’t imagine anything nasty happening (or even being arranged) in this place.

Afterward, there was food at the late-night rock and roll Mexican place. Cute rivethead boy. Free Tootsie Rolls. Not bad…

Minneapolis and Northfield


Headed to Northfield in the afternoon to pick up Carroll and bring her back to Minneapolis. This was the first time we’d seen each other in seven or eight years, but (as usual) we were able to pick up as if no time at all had passed. You can do this with your best friends and not even be surpised by it. This is a good thing.

Back in the city, Carroll checked into the Marriott and did some shopping while I napped on her bed. And then drinking ensued…good old-fashioned hotel room drinking, with eight years worth of collected conversation and an incredible view. Afterward, we fought our way through the strange collection of corridors connecting the hotel, the skyway mall, and the parking garage (oops…I mean parking RAMP).


Dinner at The King and I, a surprisingly good Thai place. Afterward, a little Mastercard-financed Telnetting at the hotel kiosk (Carroll and I having become major nerds since last encounter) and home to bed.


Hallowe’en in Northfield

Erik was planning to spend Halloween night seeing Xymox. Thus, it was decided that this would be a great night for me to hang out with Carroll in Northfield. I’ve never been much on Halloween or Xymox. All involved parties seemed relieved.


Actually, we spent the morning in the city, checking out some bookstores and thrift stores, and wishing we had time to visit Murray’s (home of the butterknife steak). Minneapolis and Saint Paul were both victimized pretty badly by urban renewal in the 60’s and 70’s, but a few old sights, like Murray’s, the incredible Foshay Tower, and Dayton’s Department Store can still be seen downtown.


Then it was off to the ‘burbs for some quality time at Target and at the most obscenely huge (and crowded) supermarket I’ve ever seen. I had a car. Carroll needed stuff. I have this strange obsession with grocery stores and have to visit a few everywhere I go. It worked. Trust me. For an afternoon of entertainment, there are few things better than a Minnesota supermarket. With a huge aisle full of cheese. And Count Chocula. And a cute produce clerk giving me the eye…


Back in Northfield, we had dinner at a cool resturant in the basement of an even cooler hotel (neither of whose names I can remember). What I do remember is pretty good food, French dressing (damned near impossible to find in California), and a waitron who wore jeans very well and who reassured us that yes, it was OK to smoke in the smoking section.

Afterwards, there was a quick tour of the stunningly safe (even on Halloween) streets and a stop by the local grocerteria in search for a very special product:

Frank’s Kraut Juice. Contains 100% kraut juice. Ingredients: cabbage juice and salt. Serving suggestion: “chill well and serve icy cold, or blend with equal parts of tomato juice and a squeeze of lemon”. It’s “just naturally good”. I wouldn’t know. I was afraid to try it. But there’s some in my kitchen right now. Maybe on New Year’s Eve…


I also stocked up on Count Chocula and Grape Pop-tarts (also impossible to find in California). We skipped the economy size chocolate pudding. Figured it might keep us awake.

Minnesota Some More

A good night’s sleep is a wonderful thing. You might say I found paradise. Or you might say I was looking for a good way to tie in that picture above…


What to do on a Sunday afternoon in Northfield MN? We opted for a trip down the road to bustling Faribault, where one can find a good breakfast buffet as well as scope out locations used in the movie “Grumpy Old Men”. Neither of us really knew about the “Grumpy Old Men” part until these bikers drove up next to us on the main street. Just as we were freaking out wondering what they wanted with us (urban paranoia, y’know…), they proceeded to put on their “Minnesota nice” and tell us about the historic ground on which we walked. Note to self: appearances can be deceiving.

We hit a cool thrift store/antique mall/flea market thing in an old Kresge store downtown, got shakes at the A&W (after admiring the “A&W Man” out front), and then headed back to Northfield to tour the Carleton campus. Carroll showed me the new computer labs where she works and we played with the T1 line for a while. What unrepentant nerds we have become…


Back in Minneapolis, Erik was still in Bob Vila mode, sanding cabinets, stripping hinges, and other harshly butch crap like that. I couldn’t stand it anymore, so we had sex on the couch for a while, and were interrupted (why yes, just at that pivotal moment) by Bil, who showed up to take me on a sleazy bar tour. Erik, being a tad hungover after a trying Halloween, as well as a tad sticky, opted for sleep.

Unfortunately, all the sleazy bars we tried to hit were closed, and we ended up at this strangely endearing Chinese restaurant and bar called the Red Dragon. I had a beer. Bil had some disturbing-looking orange thing in a fishbowl.

Back home, Erik hadn’t managed to get to sleep. We finished the “project” we’d started earlier. Then we both slept.


Bob Vila remained at home today while Bil and I toured the wilds of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, missing no White Castle, neon motel, nor thrift store which crossed our path. This was one of those mindless driving days, with no particular destination in mind. I love those.


We hit the ghost mall in Saint Paul (not as ghostly as it was a few years back, apparently). We visited this strange surplus store with funny signs. Bil bought used toys at the thrift store, so we went to K-mart for batteries. And then we ventured to the State Fair. Of course there was no fair in progress, so the crowds were a bit sparse, but the gopher was there in all his (her?) glory.


Monday night brought crappy pizza and Goth/Industrial Night at the Saloon. The Saloon was better. The Minneapolis version of this scene is not nearly as annoying as the versions on the coasts. These people actually seem to have senses of humor. And personalities. And lives. I even got hit on. Sort of.

More late food at the rock and roll Mexican place.

Jesse Ventura and Drag Shows


Dealt with some banking emergencies and last-minute thrift store runs in the morning and a few purchases in the early afternoon. Spent most of the afternoon and evening gazing at the four very purple chairs (my three favorites pictured above) which were delivered to Erik in the morning.

In the evening, Erik and I did the Saint Paul bar tour, including Trikks (stupid name but an OK place) and the Town House (unbelievably frightening place, especially since we were the only two customers). Election returns were coming in. Pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura was slowly but surely being elected governor. I felt like I was in the middle of a Simpsons episode.

I understand in some ways why many voters, particularly younger ones, opted for Jesse. He’s a complete outsider, and provided a unique opportunity to make a statement about the stagnant two-party system. A vote for Jesse Ventura was essentially a “fuck you” to the Democratic and Republican parties, a means of expressing dissatisfaction with their collective moral bankruptcy and lack of new ideas. But the fact remains that he’s basically an idiot. It will be interesting to see what happens now.

Anyway, we finished off the night at the always sedate Eagle and the Brass Rail. I am reminded that I don’t really miss drag shows.

Minneapolis MN – Kansas City MO

Odometer: 88061

Random “pro” thoughts on leaving Minneapolis:

  • It’s nice parking directly in front of your house.
  • Rents are cheap, people are nice, and there are neighborhoods with a pedestrian scale.
  • Surprisingly good local newspapers, which cover planning and urban social/economic issues well. Of course ANYTHING would look good after six years of the Chronicle and Examiner, perhaps the worst pair of “big city” newspapers in America.

And the “con” list:

  • Minnesotans are horrible drivers (among the worst I’ve ever seen) and the freeways are badly designed too.
  • It’s damn cold.
  • The queer bars suck, and they close at 1 (which might actually be a GOOD thing).
  • Not a decent burrito to be found in the entire city.

I managed to leave at a fairly reasonable hour and just in time to miss the predicted snowfall. I’m heading south, I thought, so it will surely get warmer. Yeah…right… By the time I hit the Iowa state line at noon, it was five degrees colder than in Minneapolis. But I was moving to the hot polka beat of 920AM in Faribault, so I was OK.


Iowa was no less boring from north to south than from east to west. I got through it as fast as the ridiculously low speed limit (and the proliferation of roadkill) would allow. Missouri was a welcome sight.

Until I got to Kansas City.

I had a great time in Kansas City last year. History did not repeat itself. I was never able to get in touch with the friend in whose house I was to stay. It’s my own fault for not getting in touch by phone first. I’m an idiot and I hated not being able to catch up with old friends. I decided to get a room. Two hours and about 50 miles later, I found a really skanky one which smelled bad. I was not in a good mood by this point.

When I went out for food, I realized I was in the absolute suburb from hell. There was no visible fast food. All the roads went to nowhere. I finally found a Burger King. Inside, five teenage stud wannabes were in line, talking on their cell phones as they ordered. One of them paid with a check. I now know what hell looks like.

Going out again was out of the question.