The Cafeteria

I’ve eaten at an awful lot of cafeterias on this trip. Cafeterias are a phenomenon relatively unfamiliar outside the south, it seems. They’re far too inexpensive and unpretentious ever to really succeed in California, even though SF had a big one in years past (now replaced, appropriately enough, by a Gap and an Urban Outfitters, two peas in a pod).

In southern cities, whole cultures develop around them. Older couples (“empty nesters”) often seem to take most of their meals there, and actually know many of the other patrons. Families congregate there, as well as college students looking for a cheap feed. The food is good and cheap, the vegetables are fresh and often make a complete meal in themselves, and there’s no tipping. Someone should do a study of Southern cafeteria culture.

I continued the tradition of New Year’s Eve at home with Mom and Dad and was spared hearing “1999” even once.

On the Town

A drought in Greensboro. Everyone’s conserving water, which is surprising given the lack of patience people here have with environmental issues. It was a little disturbing to hear my dad recite that Califonia mantra I first heard at aHaight Street restaurant in SF in 1991: “If it’s yellow, please be mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

Of course, the water problems are largely due to overdevelopment on the west side of town, which has also led to a disorienting anti-development mentality in Greensboro, where growth has traditionally been viewed as a good thing and chain store expansions are usually greeted with near-universal excitement. Perhaps there’s hope after all.

Met Jeff at Babylon tonight. It was “swing night”, which made for an annoyingly happy and peppy crowd, all of whom were nerve-rackingly chipper and many of whom would burst into dance almost anyplace (usually right where I was trying to walk). We left pretty quickly.

First stop was the “N” Club, a new nightclub opened in an old downtown theater. Pretty place with an alarmingly white, straight, young crowd. The door people were assholes with the charm and demeanor of street pimps. There was a metal detector. We didn’t stay long.

At the Palms, still my favorite Greensboro queer bar, there was a drag show and the same two ex-fucks who seem to be there every time I visit. I picked up each of these major mistakes in the Palms right before I moved west in 1992 and it seems as if they’ve never left the bar since. At one point, I found myself sandwiched between the two of them at the bar. Fortunately, at least one of them didn’t recognize me.

Myrtle Beach


We left really early this morning for a day trip to Myrtle Beach, on “Future Interstate 73”, which is basically the same collection of back roads (most of them two-lane) I used to take during that unfortunate summer of 1986 when I lived there.

This was my first trip back to the Grand Strand since about 1987. It’s changed, and it’s really creepy to think I lived in this unnatural, surreal environment, even if only for three or four months. I guess it will always hold memories for me as the first place I lived away from home. My old 2-bedroom townhouse with dishwaher is still there, renting for $525 now. The surf/skate shop I managed has been bulldozed.

I have a long histoy with Myrtle Beach. In addition to living there, it was also the first place I went for a booze-soaked road trip without Mom and Dad in 1981. The next year on my post-graduation trip, it became the site where I came out to a guy I had a major crush on.


The “strip” and the area around the Pavilion seem pretty intact in all their seedy charms, although the crowds were nowhere to be seen, given that it was a foggy December day with a temperature of about 45F (7C). The Gay Dolphin Gift Cove (no…not THAT kind of “gay”…) was open and fully stocked with T-shirts, license plates, and postcards datng to the mid 1970s. A few of the arcades were even open.


Aside from the summer mix of high school kids, where rednecks, preppies, and stoners co-exist with relative ease, Myrtle Beach now also attracts the older crowd with golf, outlet stores, and lots of strip malls. There’s even a Hard Rock Cafe and a Planet Hollywood. And, of course, a Kinko’s. I was really a little creeped out by the theme malls. And I’ve decided that outlet malls are really ugly and completely without any bargains to speak of. I don’t get it.

It’s gotten pretty intense since I left. We hit traffic jams. In December. Odd…


We left Myrtle Beach about 5. By 6:30, we’d hit the magical place known as South of the Border. This place is classic roadside, opened in the early 1950s near Dillon SC, just south of the North Carolina border with a semi-Mexican theme. It’s known worldwide for its billboards and their bad puns (“Pedro’s Weather Forecast: Chili Today, Hot Tamale”).

The place just gets bigger and bigger. There are motels, coffee shops, and various kitsch emporiums. This was my first night visit. I’d expected neon, but jeez…

The Mall

Visited the mall today. I never really go to malls in San Francisco (unless you count the Castro, but I never really go there either). My old neighborhood mall, Four Seasons Town Centre, is a 3-level monster which still seems bigger than just about any mall I’ve seen. I grew up in this mall. I learned how to drink, do drugs, and have sex at this mall. My first three jobs were here. And now it seems so foreign.

Security (and security cameras) are everywhere, so cruising is out of the question. All the kids look like some redneck parody of the gangster baggy look, with a sort of over the top feel which was probably out of style three or four years ago (if this version was ever IN style). Only the black kids got the look right. All the white kids looked like inbred trailer trash with really silly haircuts. But they didn’t even get the trailer trash look right. Visualize Vanilla Ice crossed with Cletus the Slack-jawed Yokel.

Weekend in Greensboro

I really didn’t do much all weekend other than watch TV and hang out with Mom and Dad. For some reason, I always feel really sleepy and lethargic when I’m at home. Maybe I’m bored, but it’s more likely due to the caffeine deprivation (less Coke, more Sprite and Fresca) and to the fact that I don’t smoke as much. I also feel a little funny not having a car.