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January 29th, 2017

Heaven Is…

I keep wanting to do a riff on those drawings that say “Heaven is where every (Dog/Cat/Pet) you ever loved comes to greet you”. But mine will say Heaven is where every car you ever loved lets you drive it again. And sign it with a nod to Seanan McGuire.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Heaven Is…

July 30th, 2016

Flashback: Topeka Car Wash Voguing

I didn’t buy Spirit, my Mercedes-Benz diesel sedan because I wanted a status symbol. What I wanted was a Mercedes-Benz, because I believe them to be the best built, best engineered cars made, and I like having solid things in my life. It’s a pattern that runs all through my life. When I was a teenager and I needed a new tool I bought Craftsman. I couldn’t afford the entire sets so I bought the individual tools one at a time. When I turned 40 and I finally was able to afford an apartment of my own and I needed a vacuum cleaner, I bought a Kirby. That was back in 1993 and I still have it, it still does its job without complaint, and all I’ve ever needed to replace on it besides the bags is the roller brush and some belts.

When I was a teenager, the saying was the first hundred-thousand miles on a Mercedes diesel is just for breaking it in. I was looking at a news article a couple months back about a man somewhere on the Mediterranean coast, a taxi cab driver, still plying his trade with the Mercedes diesel sedan he bought new in the 1970s, that had nearly two million miles on it. And it was no junker; there was a photo of the proud owner standing next to it, and from the look of the car and with the old Mediterranean buildings behind them you’d have thought it was taken in the 70s. Building a car, building anything, to that level of quality and durability (provided you take care of it) costs money, which is why they’re expensive.

The essential idea behind the Mercedes-Benz philosophy is this: if the car is properly cared for, it will work out to be cheaper in the long run. While Mercedes-Benz is rightly associated with luxury, its cars are also built to stay on the road for as long as you care to drive them. -From the article, Why Does Mercedes-Benz Require OEM?

I appreciate that the purchase price makes them status symbols in the eyes of some. They have no art in their souls.

I posted this to my Facebook page while on the road last month…

mercedes_love_topeka

Gave Spirit a run through the best car wash in town. They did an excellent job inside and out. Because while the driver may accumulate road dust as the miles go by, the car must always look its best.

And so it did. The car wash wasn’t all that far from my motel, and when I got there I could see it was as popular with the locals as the Auto Spa is here. And like Auto Spa, the run through the wash was only a first step. After the cars came out, they were parked out front and attended to by a bunch of energetic youngsters, with portable vacuums, electric buffing tools, spray on tire treatment, and so forth. People brought their cars there to give them the works. I didn’t see a single car while I was there just roll out of the wash and drive off. Nobody was getting the budget wash, at least not that day.

We all sat in the Please Wait Here section, outfitted with vending machines and places to set and watch the finish work being done on our cars. It was an impressive operation. I glanced around at the faces among us, all watching the process raptly, even as they were chatting with their neighbors. Every one of those cars was its owner’s baby. I chatted briefly with a young lady who’s mini SUV came out just before mine. She’d just bought it and was the happy new car owner. A new model Mustang convertible came out after mine and I glanced around to see which face lit up. It was a middle aged guy who had more the serious minded businessman’s look about him than a Mustang owner. It’s not unconditionally true, but if you see a car that’s being meticulously taken care of, it’s the owner’s inner self. Yes, I am a Mercedes diesel sedan kind of guy…

“The Mercedes-Benz diesel-powered mid-size sedan is as durable a notion as you’ll find in autodom. Mercedes created the world’s first production diesel-powered passenger car in 1935 and began putting oil burners in its mid-sizers (a.k.a. Pontons) in 1955. The very words “Mercedes diesel” conjure all kinds of associations, from college professors who have forsaken their Peugeots, to wiry German mechanics, to cab drivers in Kabul. It’s an archetype; a 911 Turbo for meerschaum-smoking squares, a Shelby Mustang for people who got beat up in high school…” –Eddie Alterman, Car and Driver.

Just before they finished with Spirit, an absolutely huge pimped out pickup truck came out of the wash. I was surprised it even fit. Jacked up, oversize tires, painted in a gaudy two-tone orange and red, spotlights on the front, on the top, blue sideboard running lights…you get the picture. I looked around. Next to me a thirty-something young guy in khakis and a polo shirt smiles at me. “You like it?” he asks. “It’s mine.”

“Impressive” says I, smiling back, trying to be polite. Insulting someone’s car is on a par with insulting their mother. And really, whatever floats your boat is fine with me if I can see you’re really into taking care of it.

“It’s for sale.” he says.  Ah, thinks I, this is why he’s here…to make it look nice for the classifieds. For a moment I feel sad for the pickup. It’s one of the big GMCs. Under all that makeup there’s probably a pretty solid American made truck in there. But he’s found another love and needs some money. But I am not a potential sale.

I point to the lovely metallic blue four door Mercedes-Benz in the lot. “That’s mine” says I. Mr. Pimped Out Pickup’s smile kinda freezes on his face.

“It’s got just over ninety-four thousand on it,” I add. “Almost broken in.”

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Flashback: Topeka Car Wash Voguing

July 3rd, 2016

Gunshots That Echo Forever

Wandering the all new Disney Springs today. Almost the entire area that was once Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island has been massively redone. The old maps in my head are half wrong now. But staying at a nearby hotel makes it possible to get it out of my system without having to deal with the new parking garages and street changes. Tuesday I go to my DVC room at Boardwalk for a few days. I reckon I’ll hit the water parks in the morning and the theme parks in the evenings. Maybe. Boardwalk is nice enough I can just hang out there all day too. This makes for a nice respite from travelling the great plains last week, and my cameras being mostly disappointed this trip. But I got a few good ones. Tell you more later.

Disney Springs is crowded this holiday weekend. That’s to be expected. Normally I hate crowds. But every now and then they bring me nice things. Like beautiful young visiting latinos who still wear briefs, out of style though they seem to be in this country, and silken athletic shorts over them that, long and baggy though they may be, make that fact clearly evident, and let you see the seams move as they walk along in front of you…

I made reservations for the dining room at Wolfgang Puck’s tonight since it’s holiday crowded here and I wasn’t sure I could sit at the bar downstairs. Turns out that was no problem, but there was a bar upstairs too so I sat there. It’s not that I have to drink Every Night. But sitting at the bar makes it easier for the single traveler to talk with his fellow diners. And if the bar is empty, as it was this night for some reason, there’s always the bartender.

I was wearing my rainbow Mickey pin and the bartender noticed. He began telling me about his friends who were at Pulse the night of the shooting. Three guys, two of which were on the fence about going that night, and the third who really wanted to go, so the others went along with him, and they died and he lived, and now he can’t forgive himself…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Gunshots That Echo Forever

June 15th, 2013

Mercedes Love…

“The Mercedes-Benz diesel-powered mid-size sedan is as durable a notion as you’ll find in autodom. Mercedes created the world’s first production diesel-powered passenger car in 1935 and began putting oil burners in its mid-sizers (a.k.a. Pontons) in 1955. The very words “Mercedes diesel” conjure all kinds of associations, from college professors who have forsaken their Peugeots, to wiry German mechanics, to cab drivers in Kabul. It’s an archetype; a 911 Turbo for meerschaum-smoking squares, a Shelby Mustang for people who got beat up in high school…” –Eddie Alterman, Car and Driver.

“One thing I feel most passionately about: love of invention will never die.” –Karl Benz

“The best or nothing.” –Gottlieb Daimler

“When you get into the car and time stands still for a second – that’s my dream car.” –unknown

…still in it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Mercedes Love…

April 12th, 2013

A Wee Vacation

I’m just back from a brief, ad-hoc Disney World trip.  This week was going to be a stay-at-home vacation. I’m helping finance a place to live for my niece for her last semester at college, so until July I have no money for big vacation trips.  But pity me not.  I have no kids of my own so it isn’t like I’m mortgaging the house to put any through school.  I’m just helping out.  So this was going to be a staycation but I made the fatal mistake of checking the weather in Florida and then I was off. Spring was darn cold here in Charm City.

I had to do it on the cheap.  But I had some advantages.  First, I have an annual pass.  So I didn’t need to have spare cash for tickets into the parks.  Then, passholders get discount offers.  So I hit the Disney web site and looked in the passholder’s section to see if there were any specials.  There were.  I got a really nice price on one of their “value hotels” for three nights.  Then I had just over a hundred bucks worth of reward points on my Disney card, which paid for half my eats and drinks in the parks for two and a half days.  Then I had accumulated enough Holiday Inn reward points for one free night, so that helped out with motel charges on the trip down and back.

And then…there is my Mercedes diesel.  Here’s a few notes from my trip computer, plus fuel chits. This was from Baltimore City to Walt Disney World and back.

Miles: 1980
Hours (actually driving the car): 32.34
MPH (average): 61
MPG (average): 40.1

That’s a tad over forty miles per gallon in a mid-sized German luxury sedan, and this trip my trip computer registered the best mileage ever, on the stretch from Baltimore to Richmond, Virginia: 44.9. Once I got on the higher speed limit stretches of I-95 my mileage went down a tad. But still. Forty miles per gallon in a car as big and nice as a Mercedes-Benz ‘E’ class is not bad.

Total cost of diesel fuel: $195.57. That’s the highway trip plus farting around in Disney World. The annual pass gets you free parking at all the parks, so having the car with me means I can go when and where I want and it’s not an extra expense. I started out from Baltimore on a full tank. Just over the South Carolina border is Dillon. In Dillon they have the best prices on diesel on I-95 between Baltimore and Key West. Half a tank gets me from Baltimore to Dillon. Another 2/3 tank gets me to Disney World. There are reasonably priced Hess stations in the park, one of which (the one on the way out of Magic Kingdom) sells diesel. So I fill up before coming back, hit Dillon again, and that gets me home.

Even though you don’t have to stop as often for fuel, when it’s bug season you still have to pull up to the pumps just as often to clean off your windshield. But that’s fine because it’s good to take a break. I have a Flying-J loyalty card that gets me breaks on coffee and snacks. So whenever I have to make a Clean The Glass stop I refill my coffee mug and hit the bathrooms, which are usually cleaner at the Flying-J travel plazas than the highway rest stops are.

So a short trip to Walt Disney World was do-able.  And now that I’m back and all the housework I’d been planning to do with my stay-at-home vacation is still staring me in the face it was worth it.  Sometime later this summer, after my niece graduates, I’ll do a longer stay at a nicer in park hotel.  It’ll be dead of summer then…just right for fun in the water parks.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Wee Vacation

January 6th, 2013

Notes On The Road This Time

I’m just back from one of my semi-annual road trips to California, in case anyone reading this blog was wondering where the heck I went. My job at Space Telescope came with a wonderful vacation benefit, but the workload now on JWST is pretty steady and taking a couple weeks off at one go is getting harder and harder to schedule. I figured the Christmas/New Year’s break would be a good time to take a road trip to California and see my brother and give the Mercedes its first taste of the great plains and the southwest. As we get closer and closer to launch it will become very hard to schedule a long road trip west.

Time was I’d take everyone who reads this blog along with me for the ride.  But these days it probably isn’t the smartest thing to let the whole world know you’re away from your house.  So the blog went silent.  But I’m back now…I have pictures to develop and post…I have stories to tell.  But I also have unpacking to do and some settling back in to my little Baltimore rowhouse.  So for now let me just jot down a few notes while the road is still fresh in my thoughts…

First, a few statistics from my car’s trip computer:

  • Total Miles: 6,420
  • Average Miles Per Gallon: 36.8
  • Average Speed: 60 mph
  • Total Driving Time: 105.59 hours
  • 2917.4 miles from my brother’s house to mine, mostly along I-40.

I’ll total up the fuel chits later.  West of the Mississippi you get highway speed limits higher than 70mph and sometimes higher than 80. You cover distance faster, but mileage suffers. Still, this is absolutely the most fuel efficient car I have ever owned and that’s saying something.  My first car was a 1973 Ford Pinto with the little 1600cc engine and one barrel carburetor.  It did 35mpg tops. The little Geo Prism got high 30s and so did the Honda Accord. For a car this size and this sumptuous the fuel economy is just amazing. At the end of some days on the road this trip I was pushing 39mpg. But when I hit the high mountain passages my averages went down into the low 30s.

Bio-diesel was not a major problem. First bio-diesel pump I saw on the way west was at a Love’s just west of Little Rock. I’d put a tad over a gallon in the tank before I noticed this little sticker…

…and quickly shut off the pump. That sticker, which I saw on every pump selling bio-diesel, is not helpful. But next to it (usually) is a bigger green sticker that does specify the grade you’re pumping. I never saw anything lower than B10 on the road, and nothing higher than B15. Mostly it was B10.

So there I was with a half tank of regular diesel left, plus I’d driven from Maryland with a full five gallon spare diesel can as insurance…that it eventually turned out I didn’t need. The Pilot truck stop across the highway had the same set of stickers on it. But across from the Pilot was a Petro and it had a Chevron station attached to it that had regular diesel pumps and I was able to fill up.

That was pretty much how it went all the way to California and back. Wherever I ran into bio-diesel I was always able to find a station nearby that had regular. But it was completely random as to which brand was a problem. Most often it was the Love’s. But I ran into it at all of the truck stop chains at least once. Usually it was the Shell or Chevron stations that had usable diesel, but I ran into it there too occasionally.  But wherever I ran into it I nearly always found usable diesel right across the street.  Just once in Arizona I had to drive to the next exit.

And there was no noticeable price break on the bio. If anything, the regular was usually cheaper, and sometimes by a lot. At one location in New Mexico there were two big truck stops, a Love’s and a Pilot, both selling bio at $3.95 a gallon. An independent travel center nearby was selling regular diesel at $3.73 a gallon.

My path this time took me well south of I-70. I have no idea how bad it is further north in corn state territory. But for now at any rate, I can drive my car from the East Coast to the West. How long that remains the case remains to be seen.

Truck Stops Are Now “Travel Plazas”. There are five big chains you see all the time on the road, Travel Centers of America, Love’s, Flying J, Pilot and Petro and while the truckers are their bread and butter business, they’re all vying for the long distance passenger car market and some like Flying J/Pilot are even offering us “loyalty cards” now.  Flying J/Pilot is the chain that seems the most determined to remake itself as a general purpose highway “travel center” with a clean, uncluttered common floor plan and mini food/coffee court. I could walk into any Flying J or Pilot from Maryland to California and see pretty much the same layout and after a while you knew where everything was when you walked in the door.  Their coffee bar was especially handy and the coffee was very good, with half to a dozen or so coffee dispensers all lined up with various blends in them.  By the time I got to California I was making it a point to stop at one of these and I ended up getting a “Flying J/Pilot” loyalty card because I was stopping there so often for their coffee and breakfast muffins.

Rest rooms in the big chain truck stops are often Much cleaner than the state run highway rest stops. You need a high tolerance for country music though.

When stopping for the night, make sure your cell phone network isn’t crappy before checking in. Unless you really want to be disconnected from email and the web. I bought into the iPhone when the first one came out and that was an AT&T device only. Since then they’ve added other better carriers, but the one with the best network, Verizon, uses a digital signal that prevents their iPhone from doing both voice and data at the same time. So I stick with AT&T. But its network in the out of the way spots is crappy. The nice thing about cell phone technology is you aren’t dependent on your motel for internet service. But you need to remember to check your signal before you check in.

Almost any cheap motel room can be a good night’s sleep if you bring your own pillow and a sleeping bag that can double as a comforter. During winter travel you should always carry a good sleeping bag with you anyway, in case of breakdown. Also food and water. Take some good ear plugs (I use silicon ones) and I also bring along one of these white noise generators, because screaming dysfunctional family of five, or selfish TV volume up full jackass will probably be given the room next to yours. Note that these amenities can be found in expensive motels too, so if you aren’t as willing as I am to go with the cheap room you still need ear plugs at least and I strongly recommend the white noise generator too.With these four things, pillow, sleeping bag/comforter, ear plugs and white noise generator, all you really need to care about is is the room clean and the mattress reasonable.

Check the ersatz Continental Breakfast on your way out to see if there’s anything worth taking on the road with you. It’s included after all. Occasionally I am able to make a good breakfast muffin out of the sausage and egg servings. But it’s rare the cheap motels serve meat and eggs in the morning.

And…no matter how tired and irritable you are when you get off the road an into a room, smile and be nice to your desk clerk. I’ve worked late night and over night shifts a time or two in my life. They are not fun. And depending on how far into the sticks you are, that clerk checking you in may be desperately wanting to go with you when you leave the next morning.  Once in a very small town in southern Utah, I was checked in by a young girl who chatted with me for a bit about her dream of getting onto American Idol.  It was going to be her ticket out of there. I tried to suggest and tactfully as I could that her ticket out of there was to just get up and go.  But the Unknown is a very frightening ball and chain on a person…I know this from personal experience, I suppose everyone does to some degree.  Be nice to your desk clerk.  Also everyone who serves you on the road. Especially in the sticks. Notice how they sometimes look at you like you are nuts when you tell them you’d love to move out of the city someday, into some nice quiet out of the way place in the country Just Like This One.

Don’t drive long into the night.  Shift your schedule forward instead.  Get off the highway early, early…like around six or seven. Then get back on the road next morning early. That way you have no trouble at the end of a long day on the road, getting a good room on the ground floor you can back your car up to. And early in the morning traffic will be very light to non-existent, which is a better way to start your day (obviously that does not apply in Washington D.C. or L.A.).  And speaking of traffic…

Truck traffic was very heavy this trip actually.  Which is good, because it means the economy is picking up. My own private economic indicator is train whistles. Here in Baltimore, when I hear them often I know heavy bulk goods are on the move, which is good. Whenever I am stopped for the night in Kingman Arizona (it usually works out that way somehow), I go watch the BNSF main line for a while. When times are good the trains are about fifteen minutes apart. When they’re not so good you maybe see or hear only one or two in a night.  This trip the trains were running pretty constantly through Kingman, but not at fifteen minute intervals.

The new Mercedes loves the open road as much as its driver. 19 degree gale force winds in Virginia and crappy Arkansas highways barely rate its notice. And there is nothing more satisfying than hearing that muscular diesel engine sound in the morning as you repack the trunk, as though the next seven or eight hundred miles ahead of you that day are but a mere trifle on the way to its first hundred thousand miles. I chatted briefly at a diesel pump in Arroyo Grande with a couple young guys driving a very beat up old 240D. It had lost both its bumpers and its paint job was worn almost to the primer and its owner had bought it for $600 dollars and was absolutely in love with it.  Tattered and worn as it looked he said it was the most solid and reliable car he’d ever owned.  His friends he said, told him it was more like a piece of farm equipment than an automobile. But to a Mercedes aficionado, that is a complement. What most Americans don’t know unless they travel abroad, is Daimler is the world’s biggest maker of heavy trucks and buses, and the Mercedes diesel sedan is often seen doing taxi duty in other countries.

To make an automobile that is that heavy duty and substantial, yet also agile, comfortable and beautiful, is a serious work of engineering art. This is the car I’ve been dreaming of exploring the open road with all my life. I’ve owned it for just over a year now and put nearly 30k miles on it. But that was mostly on several drives down to Florida…three to Disney World and one to Key West…which were acceptable to it I suppose.  Most days it’s just sitting in front of my little Baltimore rowhouse.  I can walk to work, and to the grocery store and The Avenue and Cafe’ Hon in Hampden, and I absolutely hate city traffic. For a year now it may have been sitting there wondering if the slovenly pointless life of a computer geek’s status symbol was its fate after all.

No dear…I love you better than that…

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Notes On The Road This Time

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Western Light

May 24th, 2009

Mercedes Love…

 

…still in it…

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Mercedes Love…


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

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on On The Road…Topeka, Kansas

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!

March 30th, 2009

Lite To No Posting This Week…(Updated)

I’m in Orlando, visiting Disney World, and the damn Comfort Inn here charges for Internet which I refuse to pay (I’m posting this on my iPhone right now). So, expect very little posting here until I get back.

I’m already having a great time here in the park…but some journies are worth the trip, just to see someone smile.

[Update…] My bad…   There seems to be no charge for the Internet after all.  At any rate…I’m using the Motel wireless now and I didn’t have to plug in a credit card number like you usually do for Internet access when they’re charging.  Just for kicks and grins I plugged in to see what the charge was, and instead of being taken to a buy it now page I got my Internet right away.  Nice.

But posting will still be infrequent, because I am on vacation and I am trying to tune out the world for a while.  Also, Motel Internet is seldom reliable.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

March 28th, 2009

Off To Tomorrowland And Beyond…

It’s raining here in Charm City and I’m packing my car and heading for what would have been the Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow had Walt Disney not been a cigarette smoker.  But what’s there now is still very nice, and so is the rest of it.  Disney World is Huge, and the first time I went there last November I spent most of my time just gawking at the immensity of it.  Now I have a better idea of what I want to do, and more time to do it.  I also want to wave ‘hi’ to a certain someone, and maybe see him smile one more time.

I’m spending a week, but not in the park this time, which will make it harder to just tune out the entire world like I did last time.  But the hotels inside the park are way too expensive…even the so-called "value" hotels.  There are so many other nice hotels and motels crowding around the entrances to the park that it’s not hard to find something even nicer then the mid priced Disney hotels at, I kind you not, about a third of the cost.  But then you are not in the park the entire time, and being wrapped completely inside that park almost makes it worthwhile.  You really can just leave the world behind for a while, and live in a place where it really is a small world after all, and there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day, and find yourself believing that dreams really do come true.

Once upon a time I viewed all that as nothing more then cheap escapism.  But the world, and my life, just stresses me out too much now.  I’m single, I’m desperately lonely, and I’m living in a world that never seems to let any chance go by to tell me it hates my guts.  And there is still that sense in the land of Walt, of all those things I thought the world was, and the future would be.  You can see it slowly fading as Disney’s handiwork is overlaid with newer things, some of which I doubt he would have liked, and some which just don’t hit the mark he would have.  But even as it fades, it lifts the spirit.  At least in someone of my generation.

You have to experience the parks to realize, again if you’re my age and remember watching him on television, how wide Walt Disney’s imagination ranged.  People think of Disneyland and they think of the part of the park called Fantasyland.  But there was Tomorrowland and Frontierland and Adventureland.  There was the little Main Street where everyone entered the park.  There was the hall of presidents, and the river boat and the monorail and the people movers.  There was the ground breaking animation, but also tons of live action film, and nature series and documentaries. Look a little deeper, beyond all the eye candy and the rides and the exhibits, and you see, astonished, a park infrastructure that is still held in awe by architects.  This operation is Huge and yet it runs smoothly.  And Disney World in Orlando is several orders of magnitude bigger, and it Still runs smoothly.  Chuck Jones once told Disney he wanted his job (Disney told him that position was already filled), and Jones was himself an fantastically creative animator.  But there was no city of tomorrow in Chuck Jones, let alone a World.

Last time I walked through the parks down in Disney World, it all came back to me…that it’s a small world after all…that the search for knowledge is a great adventure…that tomorrow was something to look forward to with a smile.  People told me after I came back home last November, how much better I looked, how more at ease I seemed.  One person insisted I must have gotten laid.  I hadn’t of course…but it was almost like that in terms of how good life seemed again.  For a little while…

So now I’m packing the Mercedes for another trip south.  Before I leave I briefly scan the web.  I see Andrew Sullivan reporting the Rod Dreher has replied to Damon Linker, who has in turn replied back.  Linker, you may recall, asked Dreher if he had something, anything, besides The Bible Says So to justify his obsession with the Homosexual Menace.  Dreher gives the expected answer back…

If homosexuality is legitimized — as distinct from being tolerated, which I generally support — then it represents the culmination of the sexual revolution, the goal of which was to make individual desire the sole legitimate arbiter in defining sexual truth. It is to lock in, and, on a legal front, to codify, a purely contractual, nihilistic view of human sexuality. I believe this would be a profound distortion of what it means to be fully human. And I fully expect to lose this argument in the main, because even most conservatives today don’t fully grasp how the logic of what we’ve already conceded as a result of being modern leads to this end.

Note the hyperbole.  The horror of individual desire being seen as more legitimate then his cheapshit barstool prejudices.  The knee jerk slandering of that desire as essentially nihilistic.  But what Dreher is afraid of here isn’t that the human heart is nothing, but that he is.  In the end, the Homosexual Monster, like the Dangerous Black Man and The Greedy Jew represents nothing more then the abyss he stares into every morning in the bathroom mirror.

This is why I am going back to Disney World.  I want to spend some more time in a place where I can have that vision of the world and tomorrow I had as a kid back again.  Where it’s a small world after all.  Where I can return a stranger’s smile and not wonder if they want to cut my ring finger off and stick a knife in my heart, so they can go to heaven.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Off To Tomorrowland And Beyond…

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