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December 9th, 2018

Train Ride!

By this time next Sunday, if all goes well, I should be in my Viewliner roomette on The Cardinal, now past DC Union Station and the engine swap (electric to diesel) and somewhere in Virginia, heading to Chicago by a circuitous route through Charlottesville, then to Charleston West Virginia, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. A friend will be house sitting and cat sitting while I’m away. It’s a strange route but it gives me a roomette the moment I step on the train in Baltimore, all the way to Chicago. They say when the leaves turn in autumn it’s one of Amtrak’s most scenic routes.

I’ll have a five and a half hour layover in Chicago, which given how nice Chicago Union Station is it won’t be a hardship at all. And I’d rather have a buffer of many hours between trains than the less than an hour I have in LA to get off the Southwest Chief and onto the Pacific Surfliner. A late train could make me miss that connection. I’d still have options, but I really want to take that train just to watch the California coastline pass by. Also, that line runs right past the ancient ancestral Garrett homeland so it’s a nostalgia thing too.

Really looking forward to it. On the two night two day trip on the Southwest Chief I sprang for a full sized bedroom compartment with its own bathroom and shower. I did that at the last minute on the trip back last year and it’s the only way to go on a multi night journey. But last minute tickets are at the max price. This year I bought mine back in April and that put the cost over a roomette at half, or in other words I get it round trip for the one way price I paid last year.

Below is the layout of the Superliner sleeper cars. The difference between Viewliner and Superliner is the Superliners are double deck cars whereas the Viewliners are single level. Viewliners are used between Boston and Washington DC because the double height Superliner cars won’t fit through the tunnels in the northeast corridor. This is why the Cardinal, which runs from New York to Chicago, is a Viewliner. Nice thing about the older Viewliner sleepers is the roomettes all have their own private toilets and sinks. But that is awkward for couples traveling together so the next generation of Viewliner cars won’t have toilets anymore, but I’ve heard they still have their sinks. I’m hoping my car on the way to Chicago next week is one of the older ones. It’s a pain in the neck to have to get dressed in a tiny roomette to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. This is why I’m paying extra for the full size bedroom on the two night trip from Chicago to LA. That and my own shower. Plus the beds are a bit wider.


The train is still Very pricey if you get a sleeper, versus just riding coach. But overnight in coach is not fun and the sleeper cost is about what I’d be paying for a road trip anyway. It’s the motels mostly that drive up the cost. On the train I’m carrying my room with me and meals in the dining car are included in the sleeper price. Plus I’m not doing any of the work (and neither is my car). I can relax and watch the scenery go by. I still love the road trip, and want to do more of that when I get a chance, probably not until after JWST launch and commissioning. Maybe. But if I’m just wanting to get from point a to point b and it’s a vacation the train is now my preferred way to travel.

Until at least, the current Amtrak CEO makes travel by passenger train just as miserable as he made it for the passengers on the airlines he used to be CEO of.

I did this last year, more or less, and it was Wonderful. Last year I took a local from Baltimore to Washington DC Union Station, and from their picked up the Capitol Limited to Chicago, and there I got the Southwest Chief. The Chief runs the same route as the legendary Santa Fe Super Chief and it is the fastest route from Chicago to California. Hanging out in the lounge car with a drink and snacks and watching the southwest scenery go by was definitely the way to go. Like Biergarten in Epcot Germany you get communal seating in the Amtrak dining cars, and as a solitary traveler I’m basically filler so it’s never hard to seat me. And just like Biergarten now I have fellow travelers I can chat with and trade travel stories with. When you’ve been single most or all of your life, you tend to treasure those modes of travel and dining that give you opportunities to socialize, which a table for one does not.

It’s not for everyone, especially if you get motion sickness. But mom used to take me on the train when we went on vacations to Florida and it brings back memories and the motion of the train at night actually helps me sleep. Except I can’t because I am always looking out the window at the passing scenery.


by Bruce | Link | React!
July 24th, 2018


I was having a conversation with a fellow guest at Walt Disney World a few years ago. He was a middle aged man there with his wife and kids and we were sitting at the Tune-In Lounge bar. I must have mentioned something about ticket prices, and how I keep renewing my annual pass simply because the cost of Disney without one is even more hugely expensive. He told me a joke that keeps coming to mind.

“They always talk about magic here,” he said. “You want to know how the magic works? It’s like this. You walk into the park with a hundred dollars in your pocket and maybe you walk back out with five. The magic is they make you want to do it again the next day.”

So it is. I just renewed my annual pass, yet again, because pricy as it is, because of the way they structure ticket prices it’s still way less than what only two three day weekends would cost if you bought the tickets alone. I know this because I keep doing the math. Renewing is less than starting fresh. Plus the discount I get for being a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) member takes another 200 off. It’s still expensive, but I get another year to wander all around Walt Disney World and not stress over where and when and for how long.

I have a birthday week at Boardwalk coming in September I’m really looking forward to. I’ve enough DVC points I can go and stay in the nice top tier hotels whose rooms have built in kitchens and your own balcony twice a year. I can do Boardwalk in September which gives me walking access to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and then I can do Saratoga Springs in March which gives me walking access to Disney Springs. I keep forgetting what a mouseketeer I was way back when, and then I get these little flyers and magazines from both my annual pass and DVC memberships and it all comes back for a little while as I flip through the pages and I start thinking about my next visit.

After I got off the phone with DVC with a confirmation number I felt a bit like a kid again without a care in the world. I’d just spent several hundred bucks. The magic is they’ll make me want to do it again next year.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Magic
April 12th, 2018

Next Big Train Adventure

Bought my tickets for another train ride to the land of my birth and my brother’s house therein for Christmas. And as experience is the great teacher I’ve sprung for the full bedroom on the two night two and a half day trip from Chicago to Los Angles so I can have my own bathroom and shower, and that lovely extra space and that lovely wider bed to sleep in. If you buy your tickets this far in advance you get the best price, and since I’m over 62 I get an additional senior discount.

Below is a better, if somewhat distorted view of an Amtrak full bedroom. It’s a bigger, nicer room, but there isn’t a lot of space to maneuver a camera to get a good shot of the inside. There is no place to back up and take a shot, so you need a super wide angle, or in this case, a fisheye…


The curtains on the right are over the door to the room. There is a small closet to the right of it, where you can hang coats. Above it the second bunk bed is folded up against the ceiling. To the left is a sink, mirror and cabinet for holding your shaving stuff. There are electrical outlets against the wall. The doors below it are service access that don’t open for passengers, and in the middle a trash can flap. The door further to the right opens into your own private bathroom and shower. The mirror and the chair in front of it are hanging on a door that Amtrak personnel can open to make two bedrooms into one larger room for families. It’s the one weak spot in the whole affair: that door is flimsy and if your neighbors are even slightly loud you will hear everything. So I will take my ear plugs and white noise maker, just in case. 

For an overnight, a basic roomette is just fine for me, a solitary traveler. But the two night trip from Chicago to Los Angles on the Southwest Chief is more than I want to spend in a roomette without its own sink and toilet like the Viewliner roomettes have. So I spend the extra money. The saving grace of it is I can probably have it paid off by the time I actually take the ride this December.


by Bruce | Link | React! (1)
October 30th, 2016

Can you paint with all the colors of love…?

Back from another much needed Walt Disney World vacation. Guess which Mickey pin you can’t find at Walt Disney World anymore…


And no, they’re not gone because I bought every one…although it may look like that here. After the Pulse shootings they were everywhere around Walt Disney World. They had a giant sized one near the entrance to the pin trader’s hutch in Disney Springs last July, but you couldn’t find any of the pins. I figured they were just out of stock. But no, they’re not selling them anymore.

Granted, this isn’t the gay rights movement rainbow. That’s a different set of colors. I knew that when I first set eyes on one of these. It’s called the Peace Rainbow. But it’s close enough that many of us just started wearing it, particularly around Gay Days. Nobody expected Disney, in it’s nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean, relationship with its LGBT guests to actually produce a rainbow flag Mickey. But it was close enough that if you wore one, everyone pretty much knew what it meant. I wore mine back in July, after Pulse, and got a lot of sympathetic comments from the cast members.

This time around I mostly wore my Tomorrowland pin (and got some friendly comments about that too). But on my last day I wore a rainbow Mickey and as I was being checked into Epcot the security lady who went through my camera bag said “I like your pin…I have one at home”. This is how we wave to each other.

So…the reason I have so many of these is I would go to Walt Disney World and forget my rainbow Mickey and just buy a new one while I was there. They were that ubiquitous. Now that they’re not selling them anymore (I asked, and was told I might be able to find one on eBay…(sigh)) I might have some collectibles now. I’m guessing the reason is ever since Pulse and the sudden explosions of rainbow Mickey’s all over the parks the jig was up and now Disney can’t sell them anymore because…well…

And it’s not even the LGBT rainbow. Be nice if they actually did produce an actual rainbow flag Mickey. They make them for other nations and ethnic groups after all. But you can just hear people bellyaching about Disney bringing sex into a Family Friendly theme park, sexualizing Mickey, a children’s cartoon character forever ruined, if they did. That relentless dehumanization of gay people is another topic, for another day. It’s the reason why you can see images of Disney lovers everywhere in the parks, in all the shops and character meets…and they’re all exclusively opposite sex pairs. Opposite sex coupling is love. Aren’t they so adorable? 

A rainbow Mickey couldn’t be about all the colors of love. Because homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Can you paint with all the colors of love…?
June 14th, 2012

Every Time I Try To Get Out, They Pull Me Back In.

I figured I wouldn’t, because I just don’t see myself going back to Disney World as often in the coming year as I have in recent years (Hi Tico!). But then I did the nefarious Disney math.

They say if you do a couple weeks or more you’ve paid for your annual pass. But tickets to the Disney Parks are on a sliding scale and that’s taking into account the longer stay tickets. Base single day single park ticket is $89. Lets say you do a week, seven days, which (as of my writing this) is $41.14 a day or $287.98. Twice in a year that’s $575.96. The annual pass is $611.31, but if you’re renewing it’s only $574.00 so that’s a break even for returning guests. But that’s the standard ticket price and there are options.

The base ticket gets you into one park for one day. But let’s say you want to visit one park in the morning, and a different one in the afternoon. Then you need the Park Hopper option, which for one day is $35.00 or (again the sliding scale) $8.14 a day for seven days. That brings you up to $344.96 for seven days and if you do that twice it’s $689.92 for that year. When I first bought my annual pass I could add the park hopper option for a little more, but it seems now you have to get the Premium Annual Pass to get that (which I upgraded to last year to get the water park option…I’ll go into that in a bit…). The Premium Annual Pass is $744.44 or $649 to renew. That’s still close to break even for new purchasers, better then break even for renewers. But then there is one more option. The water parks and Disney Quest.

Disney Quest is an arcade like thing located in Downtown Disney. I don’t bother with it because it seems more a kid thing. But I like doing the water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Water park tickets are $55.38 a day and there is no sliding scale for those I can find apart from being an option on the park tickets. Let’s say you want to do a water park some afternoons and wander one or more of the parks others. Three days out of seven if you buy the tickets separately and it’s $166.14 you add to the bill. Or you can just add the water park option to a seven day park ticket and it’s $8.14 a day which is only another $56.98…just a tad more then a single day ticket. Of course you want to add the water park option.

Dizzy yet? Oh but there’s more!

Transportation to the Disney Parks is very well organized along bus routes into and out of and within the parks, and there are monorail routes you can use depending on where you stay and where you go. In theory you won’t be needing a car once you enter Disney World. But if you bring a car along like I do, and you’d rather keep to your own schedule then the bus schedule, then you will need to pay for parking. Parking is free for all annual pass holders of all types. Otherwise that’s $14 a day but it gets you parking at all the parks for that one price for that one day. So seven days of parking is another $98. Parking at the water parks is free, so it’s possible to just do one day or more at a water park for $55.38 a day and get fewer days on the park tickets otherwise. But that sliding scale means fewer consecutive days cost more each. And you can’t get by with saving some of the days on your ticket for a later visit. The tickets expire unless you add the “No Expiration Date” option. I am not even here going to go into that one, but it isn’t cheap. In fact it’s the only ticket option that gets more expensive per day the more days you buy. Otherwise the tickets expire 14 days after first use. You buy a seven day ticket, you have two weeks to use it all.

Now…add it all up (not counting the “no expiration” option) and you are looking at something like $499.94 just for one week if you do the park hopper option, the water parks option and the parking fees. Twice in a year and it’s very nearly a thousand bucks you’ve spent and that’s not even getting you the hotel and your food. Now the premium annual pass seems like an outright bargain. Plus, annual pass holders get discounts on in park hotels.

Now let’s cost out one measly three day weekend shall we? The base three day ticket is $80.67 a day or $242.01 total (notice how close that is to the cost of the seven day ticket). Add the park hopper for three days at $19 a day and it’s another $57 which brings us to $299.01. Add the water parks, also at $19 a day for three days and it’s $356.01. Add parking for three days and it’s $398.01. Do that long three day weekend twice in a year and you’ve spent $796.02.

Verses $649 to simply renew my pass for an entire year.

Okay…whatever…I renewed the pass. It’s actually cheaper to get the pass even if you don’t go that often. And of course, having a year of access to the Disney World Parks means I might just go more often then not…and spend more once I’m there. If I didn’t so thoroughly enjoy being in Disney World so much I might get a tad pissed at how expertly they manage to get my wallet to open up. But I do love being there, so…

Bear in mind the ticket price gets you not just into the park but also onto all the park rides and attractions (some special seasonal attractions, like the Halloween party in Magic Kingdom for instance, are extra however). You don’t buy separate tickets per ride like in the old days. Once you’re inside you just go get on all the rides you want, as often as you can, if that’s your thing (I did the new Star Tours ride in Hollywood Studios about a dozen times in a row one night). Should you question the ticket prices in spite of that I strongly recommend taking the backstage tour. Trust me, when you get even a small glimpse of how much goes into the operation and maintenance of Disney World, and it is a massive operation, absolutely massive, you will wonder that the tickets aren’t lots more costly then they are.

[Edited a tad…the renew price on my Premium Annual Pass was $649…the price I originally quoted $691.19 was the price plus Maryland state sales tax. All other prices come directly off the Disney World ticket pages.]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Every Time I Try To Get Out, They Pull Me Back In.
November 26th, 2010

Some Places Are Better Left Unbuilt Upon

No human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because the face of Hill House seemed awake, with a watchfulness from the blank windows

This house, which seemed somehow to have formed itself, flying together into its own powerful pattern under the hands of its builders, fitting itself into its own construction of lines and angles, reared its great head back against the sky without concession to humanity. It was a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope. Exorcism cannot alter the countenance of a house; Hill House would stay as it was until it was destroyed.

Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

I am not a superstitious person, but this abandoned office building has been creeping me out now since I first laid eyes on it last year on one of my trips down here to Disney World.  It’s located right next to the Holiday Inn I’m staying at.  A sign in front of it suggests that it was due to be converted into a resort/spa opening sometime in the spring of 2009. I’m guessing the money ran out and it’s just been sitting here ever since.

Ever notice those lost little spots in the commercial strips..the ones that never seem to make a go of it and repeatedly close, open again under new management, only to close again and repeat the cycle over and over until they’re finally torn down.  Often the new place doesn’t do much better.  It’s as though some earthly places are just bad spots to build on.

This was one of the intriguing concepts in Shirley Jackson’s haunted house story that really captured my imagination so many years ago.  See…Hill House wasn’t a disturbed place because there were ghosts walking in it.  The ghosts were there because the house was disturbed.  The house was, as Jackson wrote, insane. Old Hugh Crain didn’t create an evil house, so much as unwittingly cause an evil house to be built.  Perhaps I wondered, it had just been built on a very wrong spot.  Maybe old Hugh, because he was such a wicked man, had been unwittingly drawn to it.  But as Jackson wrote, the house had formed itself.

I am not a superstitious person, and yet like all of us I sometimes wonder.  I see a house that, as Jackson wrote, is never off guard, always seeming to be watching, and it creeps me out.  I let my imagination give it an appropriately despairing past, and fill its spaces with lonely ghosts to walk inside. I am human…I read a quote somewhere to the effect that ghosts were born the day the first human opened their eyes.  It had never occurred to me before now, that a modern spandrel glass and concrete aggregate office building could give birth to a good ghost story. But there is one here to be written by someone.

It was a quiet out of the way spot on a road just starting to attract the attention of developers and big money financiers.  Hotels were rising, strip shopping centers, discount stores, office parks.  Somehow it had remained untouched in the rush to cash in.  Eventually a particularly slimy developer laid his eyes on the spot and saw a quick fortune to be made.  Financing was hastily arranged via his reliable network of equally slimy bankers.  A magnificent office building was planned and pre-sold to an equally slimy corporation, whose board of directors were even more degenerate then the bankers and developer.  It was dedicated in a glittering grand opening ceremony costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Within weeks of settling into their new office space, the CEO announced a sudden change of plans and moved his company out in a hurry.  Suits and counter suits ensued.  The building was put up for sale.  Nobody who leased it ever occupied it for more then a few days. Turnover in the security guards hired to keep vandalism in check was high.  Reports that vandals broke in at night, stealing some things and wreaking others, could never be verified because nothing ever seemed to be missing the next day. When questioned, former tenants all swore they had never, and would never enter the building at night to take things…or for any other reason.

Somebody needs to write this.  I know a good place to go for inspiration.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Some Places Are Better Left Unbuilt Upon
September 13th, 2010

Eating At The MacDonalds In London…

Atrios wonders about something I’ve been shaking my head at since chain store and restaurant shopping took over America…

I certainly don’t claim to have my finger on the pulse of the American consumer, but recession issues aside I’m puzzled by the apparent belief by developers and retail experts that when people travel to tourist locations what they really want to do, most of all, is visit the same shops that they can visit in any high end mall all over the country. Maybe they’re right. What do I know?

They’re right, but here’s what you know: if all you want from travel is what you already have at home, then all you’re doing is spending money, running out the clock on your life, and getting nothing at all out of it.

Back in 2002 in a post of travel notes I wrote, “You didn’t come all this way for another Big Mac.” Apparently a lot of people do however.   They’re not just wasting their vacations, they’re wasting their lives.  Several years ago some friends of mine took me on my first ever trip outside the country, to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and I will be forever grateful that they decided on staying in the old part of town and not the newer touristy one.  Swear to god on the way into town from the airport I saw a Chili’s and my jaw dropped a little.  What the hell does Mexico want with one of those??? But of course, it was the Yankee tourists who wanted it there.  We ate at the Chili’s in Puerto Vallarta…it felt So Authentic!


Puerto Vallarta was Beautiful…

Just Beautiful…

Very Beautiful…


Just imagine all the fun I could have had, shopping at all the same stores I can shop in at home, and eating out in all the same restaurants I can eat at in the Towson Town Mall.

There should be an international convention that bars chain restaurants and stores from crossing boarders.  I would be in favor of  a constitutional amendment banning them from crossing state lines too.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Eating At The MacDonalds In London…
April 7th, 2010

Accepting Yourself For What You Are

So I went to Key West a few weeks ago, for a little vacation with some friends.  I love Key West.  I absolutely love the climate (at least the winter climate…I hear the summer swelter is a bit much…).  Even more, I love its laid back live and let live attitude.  It’s a place where people go, creative people, intelligent people, non-conformists, go to live lives away from the mainland mainstream.  The t-shirts on sale everywhere there celebrate sex, drinking, cigars, smuggling, toking, Harleys, growing old and not giving a damn, being poor and not giving a damn, drinking, drinking, and sex.  Levittown it ain’t.   It’s San Francisco and New Orleans but more laid back.  It’s Taos but instead of mountains it’s surrounded by a beautiful turquoise tropical sea and never gets below freezing.

The old town part of the island shelters dozens of historical landmarks and structures with history going back to the first Americans, embracing pirates, salvagers, smugglers, shipwrecked settlers, writers, artists, actors and presidents.  Hemingway, Truman, Hunter S. Thompson, Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost and Thomas Edison called it home at one point or another.  The locals call themselves Conchs and call their island home a nice little drinking place with a tourist problem.

In 1982 the U.S. Border Patrol put up a roadblock between Miami and Key West, and vehicles were searched for narcotics and illegals.  The roadblock put a huge dent in tourism.  The city council complained to the Feds and got nowhere.  So Key West declared itself The Conch Republic, seceded from the Union, declared war on the United States (by way of the mayor breaking a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of someone dressed in a military uniform…), then immediately surrendered and asked for a billion dollars in foreign aid and war relief.

Well they didn’t get their billion, but the roadblock came down.

I love Key West.  Ever since my first visit, I’ve thought often about moving there someday.  I love its laid back, away from the mainland mainstream attitude.  And it is a party town, at least around Duval Street.  You practically can’t spit in any direction without hitting a bar, at least one of which, The Garden of Eden, is clothing optional.  There are strip clubs, gay and straight and the dancers will walk over to customers to negotiate commerce, barely legal and possibly otherwise as well.  A blind eye is turned to a lot of things as long as no one causes any trouble.  For all its open sexuality and drinking, there is actually very little rowdiness.

You have to love a place where all this can be going on and yet it stays laid back about it all.  I could love to live in a place like that.  The ironic thing is, this trip to Key West really emphasized it for me that I am not that.

I have this love/hate relationship with my Baptist upbringing.  Sometimes I feel like it made me grow up entirely too inhibited.  Sometimes I am deeply grateful for it.  There are values, moral values, I still hold to, and find ever more vital as I grow older, and see more and more of what a world without them looks like.  Honesty.  Prudence in ones financial matters.  Earning your keep, and the trust of others.  A regard for social justice, tempered by a little humility every now and then, when the urge to thump your pulpit strikes.  But for every positive, I can find a negative.

I was never allowed to think of myself as beautiful or desirable.  That was vanity and it was a deadly sin.  Once when I was in my middle teens, mom, grandma, and a few other family members were at the beach.  I had decided to wear the new swim suit I’d bought, which I knew might raise some eyebrows but I thought I’d dare it.  It wasn’t terribly sexy by today’s standards, but it was colorful and showed my body off at a time when I definitely had one to show.  I strolled out onto the beach with it feeling beautiful for one of the rare times in my life, and just loud enough for me to hear some of the folks made a few off color cracks about it…precisely aimed to embarrass the hell out of me.  I must have blushed fifty shades of red and went back to the hotel.  I never wore it again.

I’ve had trouble my entire life with being sexually inhibited, and it isn’t just the beating my psyche took being a gay adolescent.  But there is inhibited, and there is reserved and it’s taken me the better part of adulthood to discover that my sexual reticence isn’t all the result of having the bible beaten over my head all throughout my childhood.  It’s been like carving out a hunk of marble to find the shape within that is really me, and not the stone cast around me from an early age.  I think I’m about down to it now, and swear I’d have thought the inner uninhibited me was a tad more footloose and fancy free then this.  But…no.

My friends stayed in “Big Ruby’s”…a gay “clothing optional” bed and breakfast.  I stayed at the Coco Palm, just around the corner.  Let me tell you about that.  Two of the guys I went down with are a couple.  The other is a party kind of guy, and not to put too fine a point on it, he went down there for the sex.   So this guy makes some arrangements for rooms at Big Ruby’s and the night before, he sends me an email asking if I wanted to share a room with him.  I had a pretty good idea what he was going to be getting into down there and I didn’t want to be sharing a room with him if he was going to be bringing guys back to it.  So I made a polite excuse…told him I’m an “only child” who always had his own room and I like my privacy…blah, blah, blah…   The next day I learn he’d made arrangements for himself and my two friends at Big Ruby’s, but not me.  So I guess “yes” was the right answer.  But…NO.

In retrospect I’m glad I didn’t stay there.  My two friends got themselves a nice apartment room with a kitchen that we all used as a headquarters.  We used the kitchen for making lunch and sometimes dinner too, and we all relaxed around the pool during Big Ruby’s happy hour.  Since I wasn’t a guest there I couldn’t drink their booze, but the landlord was fine with my bringing my own liquor and sharing with the others.  And as I walked in and out of Big Ruby’s, I got an eyeful of the stuff going on there and sometimes it was embarrassing.  They had a hot tub…   Walking past it was a real challenge.  Part of me would be deeply embarrassed while that damn logical/analytical part of my brain was absolutely fascinated, full of questions.   Don’t they have lovers…???

I watched several naked guys rise from the hot tub at full attention and I was not only unaroused, but actually turned off by the whole thing, and I swear the thought crossed my mind right at that moment that maybe I’m not gay after all.  Later I tried to think of a situation where I would be aroused.  Immediately one came to mind, but it involved not a group of guys but one…one special one…just him and me in the tub all by ourselves.  The plus side of having the high intensity imagination I do is I can make myself all hot and bothered pretty easily.

Yeah, I’m gay all right.  Just not the kind of gay guy who goes for casual hooking up in the hot tub with a bunch of strangers regardless of how gorgeous they are.  While reading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley I came across this saying: Cold Feet, Warm Heart. At the age I read it I kinda thought I knew what it meant, but it took years of growing up and passing through adolescence to really understand it.  Yeah.  That’s me.  Cold feet, warm heart.

So I wandered for a time amongst the party crowd at Key West, enjoying myself very much, but coming to an understanding, finally, that I am not that.  I am a quiet little romantic, who feels suffocated wherever people have to stifle themselves in order to survive.  I’m a shy little homebody looking for his soulmate, who despises people who impose particular gender and sexual roles on others.  I’m a gay man who understands intimately well how conformity kills the soul.  I’ve watched it happen.  I will not willingly live in that world.  Even if I could pass for normal in that environment…I couldn’t.  But I am not that.

by Bruce | Link | React! (4)
June 10th, 2009

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig…Goooood Evening J.R….

So…I’ve been on the road for a few weeks.  And I’ve not been updating my blog very much.  And there’s a reason for that and it isn’t that I’m not talkative anymore.  I’ve actually been very active on my Facebook account while on the road.  And the reason for that is there is a handy little Facebook application for the iPhone that works…sorta kinda.  There’s a lot it’s missing, but for basically updating your status, sending Facebook email and posting photos off your iPhone it works okay.

There is a WordPress app for the iPhone too, but I need to upgrade my WordPress software to enable it and as I have some customization in amongst my php files that isn’t a simple chore.  I need to set aside some time for it.  I could also enable email posting too I suppose…but again I need to set aside some time to experiment with it.

Anyway…I’m back at Casa del Garrett again, and I have lots to talk about in the coming days.  But for now I need a rest.  Here’s some quick stats from Traveler’s trip computer…

6753 Miles
29.6 Miles Per Gallon Average
61 Miles Per Hour Average
111:04 Hours Driving

30.7 Miles Per Gallon Averaged Today (6-10-2009)

That last figure is from the time I started the car this morning in Vandalia Illinois to shutting it down just now in front of Casa del Garrett in Baltimore.  That’s almost entirely highway driving with the cruise control on, which I did more to keep me safe from speed traps then for gas milage. 

I’ll total up the money this weekend.  I didn’t buy as much turquoise this trip as I usually do when driving through the southwest.  But I got a couple of really nice pieces, and one very nice amber bracelet in Chinatown.  Brother-Mine has promised me a custom jewelry box to finally give all this turquoise a nice home.

I’ve got tons of photos, which I’ll work on over the weekend too.

I love my native state, California.  I often dream of living out there.  That was the plan, once upon a time.  But then I got the job of my dreams, and a nice little Baltimore rowhouse to go with it, and so Maryland is probably where I’ll spend the rest of my life too.  But…it’s good to be home.  I love to travel…I love the open road.  But…it felt so nice to walk into my house a few hours ago.  So very, very nice…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig…Goooood Evening J.R….
May 29th, 2009

Western Light

Yes…I haven’t been very talkative here lately.  I’m on vacation and these days I try to keep the world at arm’s length when I am trying to rest and relax.  I’m at my brother’s house in Oceano for a bit…then on to San Francisco and the Java One developer’s conference.  At the moment, I just don’t want to deal with the world.

Here’s some images for you, until the talking feather comes back my way again…








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May 24th, 2009

Mercedes Love…


…still in it…



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In Grand Junction…The Rain In Maryland Has Apparently Followed Me…

I decided to abandon my plan to go into lower Kansas and from there into the Rockies and take a small scenic side road though them up to I-70.  The weather here in the four corners states is horrible…all socked in with clouds and rain.  And it looks like it will be that way for days to come.  I suppose in some of the desert areas they appreciate getting rain, but this seems a tad much and the Colorado river is all floody now.  I drive over it and it’s almost up to the bottom of the road deck on some bridges now.  This throws my plans into some chaos since it means some of the scenic side roads I wanted to travel down might get washed out.  I don’t want to get stuck driving down a small side road in the Utah canyon lands only to have to turn around and drive hundreds of miles back the way I came because the road in front of me got washed out.  Or worse, get stuck because now the road behind me is washed out too.

So when I got to Oakley Kansas I drove US 40 for a while in the plains and then just let it take me back to I-70.  Now I’m here in Grand Junction after going through some serious elevation changes that seriously stressed my out of shape 55 year old body.  Around ten thousand feet I started noticing my heart pounding and my face getting all flushed out.  I stopped at a rest stop at ten thousand six hundred feet and tried to get myself stabilized and just kept being on the edge of too dizzy to drive.  Crap. I guess I my sitting down all the friggin’ time job has left my circulatory system a tad weakened.  Or maybe I just have my mom’s side of the family’s bad heart gene.  So I guess going up the volcano to see Keck is out of the question now… 

It’s memorial day weekend, which I wasn’t aware of when I planned this thing out (I’m a software engineer…I am oblivious to the regular work week of most folks…), so I’ve been watching warily the parking lots of the motels I pass along the way, trying to judge how full they’re getting.  I don’t normally make reservations on these road trips because I want the freedom to adjust my travel plans as I see things along the way.  But this puts me at risk of entering a town tired at the end of the day and wanting to stop now, and all the motels are full and then I have to keep driving and hope the next town over isn’t full too.  That’s happened to me. 

So I freaked when I drove past Rifle Colorado and saw all the motel lots jammed full.  When I got to Parachute I hit the first little motel I saw and asked for a room and they gladly gave it to me, which should have set my alarm bells off.  But I was just releaved to have a room for the night.  The room was around back and while it was nice the neighborhood behind the room was scary.  I sat in the room for a while looking out the window and thinking I’m driving a Mercedes-Benz and it’s going to stick out like a neon sign around here telling everyone who looks at it that there are probably things worth busting out a window in that car for…and breaking into the room it’s in front of…

So I freaked and got back in the car hoping that Grand Junction wouldn’t be full when I got there.  I shouldn’t have worried.  But once I got here I made a reservatin online via Travelocity for Kayenta, my favorite place to stay near Monument Valley.

I’m off now to try and see what I can see in the Utah canyon lands.  Given propsition 8 I’ll try not to spend much money while I’m there (Kayenta is in Arizona).  But the weather may make my trip through here a bust this year and that’s really bringing me down today because I don’t think the price of gasoline is going to allow me to do this for many more years.  This may be my last trip through the four corners area for a long, long time.  And it’s getting rained out.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on In Grand Junction…The Rain In Maryland Has Apparently Followed Me…
May 22nd, 2009

On The Road…Topeka, Kansas

Truckhinge – Topeka, Kansas

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May 19th, 2009

Road Trip!

Tomorrow morning around now, bright eyed and bushy tailed, I should be on I-70 headed west.  The Institute is sending me to the Java One conference in San Fransisco the first week in June, and I am taking vacation time to do another small road trip across the great plains, and the Rockies, and a little of the southwest.  I want to do this while the price of gasoline still makes it possible.  Last year at four dollars a gallon plus I simply could not do it.

Lane Wallace, posting on Sullivan’s blog yesterday, put up this image from a current MOMA exhibit titled, "Into the Sunset: Photography’s Image of the American West".  I have a similar image of my own that I’ll post later today for comparison, taken on at the northern approach to Monument Valley down Utah highway 163.  Images like these capture the allure of the road trip for me perfectly…

Dorothea Lange, The Road West, New Mexico, 1938


Escaping The Gravity Of Home

There’s a moment in every long distance road trip that I think of as escaping the gravity of home. Like the Apollo astronauts who escaped the earth’s gravity to go to the moon…there is a threshold you cross on a long distance drive where heading back home to your own comfortable bed is no longer possible, even if you push it bleary eyed into the night.  You must bed down somewhere else.  Keep going and its two nights.  Then three.  You’ve left the safe comfortable orbit of home.  Now you’re traveling among the planets.  At some point, and for me it’s usually the middle of the second day, comes the awareness that no matter what happens, you’re not getting back home any time soon.  You and your car are a self contained capsule, scooting down the highway, looking for whatever it is ahead of you that you’ve never seen before…

Friday May 24, 2003

To really get to know planet Earth you have to travel across it.  Not over it in an airplane.  A train comes closer. But you need a personal, private mode of transit to really get to know it, see its many different faces.  You have to have your hands on the steering wheel, your feet on the pedals, feel your vehicle respond to the road.  Then you are one with the land you’re traveling across.  You should feel the sun and wind on your skin, be completely free, untethered.  Then you can stop whenever, wherever.  Get out of your car.  Feel the land under your feet.  The wind plays with your hair.  It came from over that horizon.  Look.  It’s telling you that there is something over there you should go see.


by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Road Trip!
April 1st, 2009

The Kid I Used To Be…Who I’d Forgotten About…

I was wandering through Disney-MGM Hollywood Studios yesterday when I saw him again for the first time in years. I almost didn’t recognize him.  Then I knelt down and gave him a great big hug and told him it was all okay…

The Hollywood Studios park entrance way is playfully similar to the Main Street U.S.A. walkway everyone must pass though on entrance to the Magic Kingdom…only this is Main Street Hollywood, circa 1930s and it is as if you’d traveled back in time to when everything was art deco.  For someone like me who adores the art deco style, in part I am sure because in my early childhood there were still a lot of buildings standing that were like that, it was like a kind of paradise.  For like, the upteenth time here in Disney World, I could only just wander around with my jaw hanging open.




There’s a plaque in central park that explains what they were trying to accomplish with Hollywood Studios, but by the time I had walked up to it, I already knew…


This is similar in kind to the poster for Tomorrowland which reads: The Future That Never Was Has Finally Arrived.

I entered a replica of Gorman’s Chinese Theater and took a ride through the movies.  You get on in a old sound stage set and a cast member dressed up as a 1940s stereotypical Hollywood talent scout hops on and informs you that you’ll not only be taking a tour through the great Hollywood films, but actually go inside them.  And then you’re off…first through a Busby Berkeley dance film and then into Hollywood gangster land where the talent scout is chased off the ride by a gangster who informs you that he’s taking over the ride and oh by the way, please had over all your valuables.  It goes on like that for a while and I won’t give it all away…there were the usual Disney animatronics, but of a better quality then the older Magic Kingdom rides…there was a trip through the Alien movie and for a moment you’re completely socked in a fog bank waiting for the beast to jump out at you.  Eventually you end up back at the soundstage where a voice yells "Cut…that’s a wrap…" and you get off the ride and go back out into Disney Hollywood…which is not all that different from Disney Tomorrowland.  It isn’t real.  And yet, for the moment anyway…it is.

I am not one to be easily amused, and yet the whole time I am thoroughly enjoying myself…and I find my whole attitude is different here.  I’m smiling at people.  I’m patient with idiots.  Small screaming children don’t irritate me.  Morons who block the road as if they own it don’t bother me (When did America get so goddamned fat?) I just walk around them and the happy little smile never leaves my face.  I’m living in a world that never was, that’s finally here. I can be a happy little nerdy kid here and It’s Okay.  In fact, it’s Expected of you.  All those relentlessly cheerful Disney cast members who are nowhere and everywhere with their perpetual smiles and earnest desire to make sure you "have a magical day" aren’t annoying me nearly as much as I was afraid they would.  In fact they are a blessing.  They’re my barrier between me and the world not two feet from the gates here, that voted last November to cut my ring finger off.  They’re here to keep it off me for a little while.  I wish I could give them all a great big hug.

And now the kid I used to be long ago, the one who smiled at everyone, the one with the big imagination, who wore his heart on his sleeve never thinking that people would take that as an invitation to cut it to ribbons, who trusted the world and in the goodness of people, has come back out of me.  At least for a while.  I thought he’d been beaten out of me in junior high school.


by Bruce | Link | React! (3)
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