Posted in San Francisco, Travel on June 6th, 2005 by Дмитрий

It will take a while for me to forgive San Francisco for the horrible goodbye it’s given me. My last day will be consumed with more moving drudgery: numerous trips to the goodwill, paying exhorbiant fees to get still-useful furniture carted away, multiple trips to random trash-dumping facilities, avoiding the asshole downstairs and his vindictive schizophrenia, walking through the apartment with the nit-picky landlords and praying they don’t make us fix anything which was probably already broken 13 years ago when the lease was signed…

I haven’t had a chance to “enjoy” my home or the city it’s in for several weeks now. Tomorrow we leave for our 13-day trek to Charlotte. I can’t say I have any reasons to stay here any longer - I already feel like a battered wife just staying home that one extra day to round up the kids in order to flee my abuser with them in tow. It would have been nice to leave with something verging on a pleasant memory of this place, but all I feel now is severe, jaded fatigue. I’d like to trade notes with Bosnian refugees to see what parallels our experiences share.

After three years of taking it up the ass dry from this city, I say, “fuck you, too!” I don’t think I’ll miss you or anything about you for a long time.

Desert Winds

Posted in Travel on June 7th, 2005 by Дмитрий

In the midst of a whirlwind tour of the desert, some quick notes on the experiences so far…

Final packing and departure was tainted by one last bitch fight with the asshole downstairs, followed by a final visit to the FedEx station to send yet another cache of belongings ahead of us to David’s parents, as the true capacity of our tiny Carolla became all too clear.

We stopped in Cupertino to lunch with Dan at Cafe Mac, and I pondered the wonders of working for a wealthy, profitable, interesting company. I’m good with small, limited organizations - I’ve proven it - but damned if I don’t think working for a company with some actual available cash wouldn’t be nice. At least somewhere that can afford proper dining and toilet facilities…

The ride into Fresno was uneventful, until the second we arrived in the Red Roof parking lot, at which time the car decided it wanted a new exhaust system. Paranoia set in as we pondered the costs, all while preparing for David’s first formal quality time with my parents.

The latter actually went incredibly well. Both mom and dad minded their manners and in most cases were thoroughly pleasant. Perhaps the fact that their son now had a credible excuse for being unable to visit made them eager to send me off with a positive atitude. Either way, breakfast together was also planned for the following morning. Family bond forged, David finally has proper in-laws, I think.

Morning came and we dropped the car off at Midas for an exhaust inspection, trying to keep a cool head about the fact that we needed to make it accross the country and find jobs in Charlotte with this car, and we only had limited funds to achieve it all with. Luckily, my parents continued to be jovial and pleasant and even offered the use of their vacant house for the evening since we would now need an extra day in Fresno to get the car fixed.

When the call came from Midas, it was a mixed bag. A little more money than we wanted to spend, but the car was fixed and we’d only lost a day. We decided to alter the itinerary to include only one more night in California, with hopes that the future might hold an opportunity for an extended vacation in the Southland.

We finished off our stay in Fresno with a visit to Me-n-Ed’s Pizza, which I maintain is still the best Pizza in the world. Then it was off to the Riverside Motel 6, where we arrived in the late afternoon Sunday.

A whirlwind trek back across the Southland was made after touching down in Riverside in order to enjoy a special dinner at Saddle Peak Lodge, which a cursory search of LA-area restaurants had yielded. It was amazing. The decor was convincing as a hunting lodge of the snotty Californian variety, and the food started with tasy breads and sweet cream butter with kosher rock salt. This was followed by an enormous pile of mixed baby greens with a simple tossing of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, which allowed the flavors of the actual greens to really come out. The main course was elk on a bed of bacon-wrapped salsify and baby spinach in a butter sauce. The elk was incredibly tender and tasted almost buttery even without a dip in the sauce beneath it. David had the buffalo, which I found tasted somewhat sweet, but much more mild than beef. This was accompanied by a goat cheese custard which I couldn’t finish once the meat was gone. A very successful foray into the fine dining world for me.

We headed back to Riverside for the evening, taking a cursory trip down Ventura Blvd and reminding ourselves how slobbery and horney LA makes us. LA is sort of a microcosm of everything I love about cities. It’s trashy, it’s full of money, it’s bright and shiney and sleazy and dense, yet sprawls across hundreds of miles in all directions. “Sprawliing Density” is how I described it. It’s unlike any other city and it totally fascinates me in every way. I doubt I could successfully live there, but I would love to spend a couple quality months thoroughly getting to know it.

The next morning we made a quick pass through the Inland Empire before bidding the greater-LA area a final goodbye for the foreseeable future. We wound our way along I-10 through the Palm Desert. I was somewhat impressed with Palm Springs, as I’m sure all fags are, and made a mental note to revisit the place someday. We crossed the border into Arizona in the late afternoon and remarked at how suddenly the huge phallic cacti seemed to emerge from the desert rock. Soon the Phoenix skyline was in view.

Today was devoted to getting to know Phoenix. It wasn’t hard - not because Phoenix is by any stretch borning, but because the city is so damn easy to get around in. Like Fresno, it exists in a utopian world where everythig is flat and square. Every street is a through street and if you find yourself in an undesireable neighborhood, two or three right turns will quickly deliver you out. Phoenix felt very much like ‘home’, with it’s relentless grid and solid suburban aura. The freeways seem almost superfluous, since you can easily charge your way through any part of the city even during rush hour on the friendly and high-capacity surface streets. I was even hard-pressed to find any areas of town which really frightened me. The real estate market seemed a little inverted - property seemed relatively cheap whilst rents were only about what I’d see as average for a suburban city. But damned if I didn’t feel incredibly comfortable in Phoenix. I could live here if given the right occupational inducements - something I’d be hard-pressed to say about anywhere in California anymore.

Tomorrow we head for El Paso for an evening, followed by Austin for a couple nights. I’ll try to get in another update or two.

Car 2, Us 0.

Posted in Travel on June 10th, 2005 by Дмитрий

After a brutal drive through the desert to El Paso, we found ourselves wishing that we could have spent more time in that particular border town. It was a rather charming city of about half a million, perched on the other side of the border from Juarez, a city of some 2 million. I yeared desperately to see Juarez, which is as close as the US-Mexico border has to something akin to the Detroit-Windsor metro or Niagara-Buffalo metro. But alas, with the longest drive of the trip looming and no passports in hand, we settled for a spin through El Paso and a promise to return someday.

West Texas sucks ass. There is nothing there. It’s hot as hell. 10 dull, boring hours after leaving El Paso, we finally started to see green again, and civilization’s rudiments were appearing on the horizon. We passed through charming Fredericksburg on the 290 as we approached Austin, then the car decided to die. After waiting in a field on the side of the highway for an hour, the AAA tow arrived and was kind enough to deposit our car at the local auto wrecker and us at the Motel 8.

A restless night later, and we’re in Fredericksburg for another day to await arrival of the title to the car, which we now are eager to have in-hand should we choose to offload the thing before we arrive at our final destination. For now, the car is running at its usual bitchiness. We’re taking it to Austin tomorrow where we’ll get it checked out again, after which we’ll decide where we go from here…

Almost There?

Posted in Travel on June 12th, 2005 by Дмитрий

The car is tentatively working, despite burning some oil and running a bit too hot in the super-humid gulf daylight air. We had to scuttle plans for a stay in Austin and a leisurely few days in New Orleans in favor of zipping home to Charlotte as quickly as possible. We should be there by Tuesday night.

In the meantime, we overnighted Saturday in Houston. Massive city, massive heat, massive humidity. I experienced quite possibly the hottest environment of my life - upper 90s and a swealtering heat index which surpassed anything I experienced in the western deserts during my upbringing in Fresno. The Gulf Coast in June is like being trapped in someone else’s mouth.

But despite the weather, Houston was a beautiful city which bears a repeat visit, when we have real time to really explore.

This morning it was on to New Orleans. Rather than an extended stay to explore and enjoy, we settled for a single night - enough time to attend tonight’s Prime party and see my favorite author Poppy.

Louisiana has some vendetta against our suspension system. As soon as we crossed the state line out of Texas, the road started lurching as if every second freeway section was sinking - which may well it may have been - except for some reason Texas seemed capable of treating the problem and preventing it from repeatedly launching us into low-altitude orbit.

Just a couple more paranoid hours of Louisiana driving remaining before we make our way northeastwards to our new home. Tomorrow we’ll take a turn around New Orleans with promises to return. This trip has, if anything, become a lesson in where we need to revist. The current short list (only including the places touched the past week): LA/SoCA, El Paso/Juarez, Houston, New Orleans.

Tomorrow night we overnight in Montgomery and I get to add 3 more states to my List, then on to Greensboro to pick up our stuff from David’s parents before landing at our new home in Charlotte on Tuesday. Next vacation: new car, new home, new job, smaller itinerary.


Posted in Charlotte, Travel on June 16th, 2005 by Дмитрий

Finally in the new home and wondering what we’re going to sit on before we get jobs and can afford a new couch.

From New Orleans we made our way to Montgomery for one evening and then on to Greensboro to meet up with all of our 30-something FedEx boxes at David’s parents’. Two late nights later we have an apartment full of boxes and a lot of work to do.

Next week we look for that new car. Oh, yeah, and jobs.

Still Alive

Posted in Charlotte on June 21st, 2005 by Дмитрий

Yes, I did make it to Charlotte alive. Yes, we’ve moved in and the new place is just peachy. Yes, every telecoms provider in the world sucks horse’s ass, which is why I’m not updating. Still awaiting a reliable internet connection, at which time I may return to my normal updating self.

My Impressions and Experiences in Charlotte Thus Far:

Posted in Charlotte on June 23rd, 2005 by Дмитрий

It feels like home. I grew up in Fresno, which shares Charlotte’s “big city aspirations” whilst also being undeniably mid-sized and suburban. Fresno, sandwiched between LA and SF, and not being a state capital or transit hub, has a lot going against it as far as growth and importance, but still manages to consistently chalk up some of the swiftest growth in California. Charlotte is similar: sandwiched between Atlanta and DC, not a capital, but obviously a clear ssuccess in establishing itself and maintaining swift growth.

Dayahm, the houses are cheap (compared to the West Coast). I must get me one. I predict it will be a year or two before I’m on solid enough financial feet to do so, however. Meanwhile, Ug’s still buying the ugly houses and creating that infamous false scarcity which continues to push up real estate prices. Once again, I implore my solidly middle-class readers: do not fall for it! Get yourself one home that you feel is a good value and which you would like to live in for the long haul. The real estate market is going to crash and burn in the next mild recession, and I don’t want to be one of the unlucky speculators. With the high probability that I’ll be working in the financial services sector, I’m exposed enough to real estate market swings as it is…

Food, food, food. We live in the south-east tip of Charlotte (or the north-west tip of Matthews, depending on whether you believe the county cartographers or the postal service). Within 2 miles of our apartment we have about 15 big-box retail options, including a Wal Mart Supercenter, and about 50 inexpensive but tasty food options (about 75 percent of which are chains). We have eaten about half our meals out since we arrived, and no two have been at the same place. Despite the horror which is Independence Blvd at rush hour, our neighborhood is incredibly convenient for all our needs. There are few things we need that can’t be had within above said 2-mile radius. I could NEVER have said this about our last neighborhood in SF.

To beat that dead horse yet again, I ask: what were the advantages/ conveniences of living in SF? No one has answered this in the two years or so that I’ve been asking…

Sparkley-shiny: Perhaps no “place” is necessarily better simply as a “place”, but Charlotte seems to work very well - similar to the way I felt Fresno and Phoenix worked well: the transit/road network is designed in such a way that it doesn’t necessarily seem entirely sensible or efficient, but it all works well and is incredibly conducive to helping one find things and settle in. Only one week on and I’ve already got my bearings, I’m finally remembering where things are and how to get to them, despite how alien the non-grid thing is to my west-coast-flat-lander self. Also, the various shopping and services seem well-placed and evenly spaced, and there is an abundance of integration and diversity - both of land use and of people.

Basically, I’ve not been disappointed one bit by Charlotte. If anything, my expectations (admittedly lowered to the southernmost reaches of the sewar by life in SF) have been vastly exceeded. There were those little matters of Bellsouth selling us DSL which was not available in our area, Timewarner losing our connection order several days later, and the landlord failing to even show up to repair our DOA laundry facility to date, but these are pretty paltry - I expect very little from telecoms: I think they all suck. Despite the fact that having our own laundry room was one of the vital reasons we moved into this particular place, the laundromats in Charlotte actually work, and don’t feel like the Gulag they resembled in the Bay Area.

Finally, a bit of oddness to throw into the mix: my mom called me last weekend and offered me her car. The one in their garage in California. Since we were preparing ourselves to buy a new car for the commuting Charlotte’s job market will demand, this is an opportunity to hang onto our limited funds a bit longer - buying a reliable used car we figured would run us 8k-9k. A flight home a 5 nights of road boarding will run us about 1500 bucks. Thus, I’ll be taking a ride to California on the 4th of July to pick up said car and do that transcontinental drive one more time. This will be a solo flight, and I’m still trying to decide whether to take a bit longer and enjoy a few more unseen sights, or just fly through as fast as possible. Once I decide, I’ll post the itinerary.

Once I return with my own set of wheels, the real fun of finding a job, making a few friends and doing some networking, and taking someone up on their Sushi Tour of Charlotte offer can finally get off the ground.

PS: My birthday is next week (Thu 30 Jun). If you’re feeling generous, I’ve updated my wishlist


Posted in Travel on June 27th, 2005 by Дмитрий

David’s trip journal of our I-10 journey is up. His is much better than mine, so even if you’ve been keeping up here, you should still take a looksie at his. It has all the pictures and stuff…


Another bit of interestingness: I may be doing a short consulting job in SF for my old employer whilst visiting CA next week. This will mean I’ll be on the road longer, but it should be interesting and generate some needed cash if it comes through. Update when I know for sure.


In the meantime, assuming it does happen, the following will be my stops on my way (once again) from SF to Charlotte…


  • Barstow, CA

  • Gallup, NM

  • Amarillo, TX

  • Little Rock, AR

  • Nashville, TN


    I assume these will be one-night-per situations, and that I’ll be leaving SF sometime between 6 and 8 July. If you have any ideas for something I can do during the 2-3 hours per day that I won’t be driving, please feel free to drop an e.

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