Train Trip Diary: Philadelphia and New York


I chose Philadelphia (May 5-6) as the stop because of all the large cities in the U.S., Philly is one that I’d never been to. Still, it was a very short trip, basically one day sightseeing in the rain since I spent the second day on a day trip to New York, and only slept in Philadelphia before leaving the following morning.

The AirBnB was on N. 3rd Street in Old City Philadelphia, just a couple of blocks, literally, from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

After settling into the lovely studio apartment (huge, btw: bigger than my entire apartment here square footage-wise; plus there was a lovely deck for use in back, which I could not use because it was pouring rain!) (see photo below)I had to decide on just a couple of things to do since I had merely one day to see the sights.

My choices were Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, The Philadelphia Art Museum, and the scary Eastern State Penitentiary (the exterior of that building only). I also walked to the Delaware River and out onto the Race Street Pier. This pier might also have been cruisy, or maybe I was just reading that into something that wasn’t there.  There were a couple of guys I thought might be cruising there, but did not pay much attention to it as I was out of my element and certainly not ready to act on anything there (most certainly not!). It was a working dock area previously,  now restaurants and lofts, art spaces, things like that, reminded me of the Embarcadero in SF, and it also has a massive, very impressive bridge (the Benjamin Franklin Bridge) over the river right there (to Camden, NJ).

My dinner restaurant was the Race Street Café, recommended by Dan, the AirBnB owner. It was a bar with food, but very good food. Being a Friday, at the time I went there was also some after work cocktail hour thing going on, but it was OK for me since the food arrived quickly. I did feel a bit odd being by myself at this happy hour location. Anyway.

Second Day was NYC — I took the Regional Amtrak and then the subway downtown to meet friends Wayne/Mark/Neil for lunch/brunch at French Roast on 11th and 6th.

Afterward, we all walked over to the new Whitney Museum and I toured it with Neil Greenberg, some of their Biennial Exhibit. We then walked the High Line but it was cold and windy down there, and Neil had to go home to take a nap before his performances later that night. I went uptown to Central Park and walked around and sat on a bench taking in the city (on Central Park West) for awhile. I walked back to Penn Station and took train back to Philly for the overnight.

Worthwhile to note that although Philly has a gayborhood, I did not get a chance to see it. I think it’s also part of the Center City area but I didn’t get over there. As opposed to my last trip like this at age 40 or so, when seeing it would have been the first priority. Now, not so much. Again, a time and energy thing. Maybe next time. As it was, I only got a rainy glimpse of the city and would have liked more.


Train Trip Diary: Miami and the Silver Meteor


When I left NOLA, I took a one-way Southwest flight to Ft. Lauderdale. I would’ve taken the train, the extension of the Amtrak Sunset Limited, but service post-Katrina still hasn’t resumed east of New Orleans. I know they’ve repaired the tracks and have made test runs; perhaps in 2018 service will return? (This was the only portion of this around-the-country trip not done on trains.)

My friend Paul Lamb picked me up at FLL. Since his two brothers from New Jersey were also arriving that afternoon, we went to lunch in the area, in the gayborhood part of Fort Lauderdale. I was there before, in the 90s, but at night so it was different. It didn’t really seem very gay during the day, it seemed yuppie-ish/boomer. As so many bland things do. Still, the food was good!

We then picked up Paul’s older brother (was it Joe?) who is the guardian of Tim, his brother of around 50, who has Down’s Syndrome. Joe typically drops Tim off with Paul for a week or so a couple times a year and then has a little Florida vacation while Paul cares for Tim. So we dropped Joe at his hotel and took Tim (and myself!) back to Paul’s home in Miami Shores, a close-in suburb just northwest of Miami Beach.

The first night, we had dinner there. He made it. Do I remember what it was? I don’t think I do. Whatever it was, it was edible and probably quite good. Both Paul and my friend John in Washington are good cooks.

The second day in Miami, I went for a walk around Miami Shores in the morning, to a Starbucks which was about two blocks away. I have pictures. There was a nice little park along the way (see below). It was a pleasant and quiet walk, nice neighborhood for that. Once back, we hung out and then went to the beach (Miami Beach) for awhile. We didn’t stay long, I went in the water briefly, the other two did not. It was a more subdued kind of beach experience. Paul was very attentive to his brother, constantly rubbing Tim with sunblock, and to my recollection, Tim seemed happy just to sit there, though they did walk along the beach and I have pictures of that, too.

That night we went to a generic Italian (name escapes me) but really nice restaurant to celebrate Tim’s belated birthday. Paul also insisted on paying for that, which was so nice. The food was good, not fantastic but certainly passable. I was scheduled to leave the next morning but Paul wanted to give me shirts and pants. None of the pants fit, but I took four shirts and a pale blue cashmere sweater. It was like Christmas! We have close to the same coloring and he has exquisite taste.

The Silver Meteor – This is the train that went from Miami to Philadelphia (it actually goes all the way to Boston, I just got off in Philly). Most of the first day was through flat inland Florida, not terribly interesting, mostly flat land, farm land, some lakes, some ocean view but not even much of that. Once out of the Sunshine State, the train did stop in some interesting other places like Savannah and Charleston, but either the stations were not in the city center or it was already dark so there wasn’t much to see. Note – both for this trip and the previous one (The Crescent, which I took from NYC to NOLA a few years ago) the Carolinas portion of the trip was after dark – so still have not seen much of either of those two states from the train (though on my road trip back in ’96 I drove through both states and stayed overnight in each).

The Silver Meteor then goes through Virginia to D.C. First city I remember after dawn (it was a rainy day) was Richmond. Then it took a great (though stormy!) route along the Chesapeake Bay up to Washington, then into Maryland and Delaware (Baltimore and Wilmington) before heading into Philadelphia, where I arrived about 9:30 am.

Train Trip Diary #2: New Orleans


Train trip continues – first leg of my monthly pass was Los Angeles-New Orleans, where I got off the Sunset Limited. My sister and brother-in-law (Kate and Dave) picked me up at the station.

Here’s the train near dusk entering Morgan City, Louisiana:

Most of the days there were filled with family catching up. They live in the Uptown neighborhood, about a block from the Mississippi River levee, in a very quiet little corner of NOLA that Dave has called a “quiet small Southern town.”

I have to agree. Love being there, I love the quiet and the pace. So so different from Los Angeles. And everywhere the divine decadence of the old city collapsing, almost: the streets are unbelievably uneven with potholes everywhere; the sidewalks are cracked and chipped or non-existent. The songs of cicadas rise and fall as you walk, the Spanish Moss hangs from the trees and often buildings sport saplings or other plants from their own facade cracks.

Here’s me walking to coffee in Uptown:

I’ve been there often enough now to have pretty much seen most of the tourist spots and now my favorite activity is just to walk and absorb the city: its people, architecture, culture — which of course includes music, and I was there for Jazz Fest activities.

We didn’t go to the Jazz Fest grounds, but a lot of the musicians play in clubs around town during the event, and we did get to see one of my favorite NOLA musicians, Jon Cleary.

Here’s some rain porn for a parched Southern Californian:

Sex notes — I’m not having any here, but I do have thoughts/opinions on it — On looking for sex so far – it’s the apps, it’s all about the apps, it’s Adam4Adam. The same thing I typically get at home – headless or totally photo-less guys emailing me asking me if I’m interested in sex. I don’t even bother answering anymore. Especially on that site Adam for Adam – the only reason I keep it is that I still would like to meet this one L.A. guy some day and so far as I’ve seen, he’s not on Grindr or Scruff. And of course, I would never run into him in the real world, because who goes out anymore? How we’ve changed, in such a short time.

I thought about writing this last night and this morning, and decided maybe I should try cruising, you know street cruising, again, which I’ve largely avoided since prostate cancer surgery for a number of reasons. There’s also the part about being old. It usually doesn’t happen anymore, that instant eyeball connection that was made in public so often in the younger years. But sometimes it still does happen.

It’s still fraught with danger, somewhat, in that you never know if you’re cruising a straight guy who will be offended and possibly violent. Or, if you cruise a younger guy—and at this stage, they’re ALL younger—you risk coming off as a creeper. So I usually don’t – make initial eye contact, or do the 1-2-3 turn-around-and-look dance.

One of the days we went up to City Park to look at the sculpture garden and have coffee and beignets. At least I did. Some pictures of that park below.

One sculpture in particular caught my fancy, it was for the Resistance Fighters. Obviously super relevant in the age of Trump.

Here’s some pix from the NOLA portion of the trip:

What I’m Reading: “Grief” — Andrew Holleran


So I did love this little description, found in Andrew Holleran’s “Grief.”

I can relate to this, not saying it’s every day, but I can relate. Let’s just say things in that realm are different than they were when I was 30 years younger than I am now. Quite a bit different!

Highly recommend the book, however. It’s about a man taking a summer temp job teaching in Washington, D.C. after the death of his mother and how he moves through that grief. It also involves the people he meets along this way, principally his landlord who is used as kind of a sounding board or foil, even for the protagonist. It’s not maudlin at all, despite the title. In fact, it’s quite funny in parts. All of us have gone through grief and also, increasingly aging, and I think there’s something there for any reader, no matter which gender or orientation. We can all relate, can we not?

It’s also short!

2017 Train Trip #1: Los Angeles – NOLA, Sunset Limited


HOW SOCIAL MEDIA REALLY CHANGED THE TRIP, i.e., So much of the time I was looking at the scenery from the train not with my eyes, but as it looked through the lens of my smartphone (for this trip, that was the Samsung Galaxy 3, way out of date, but that’s another story). It was almost as if I didn’t post it, it wasn’t valid or wasn’t worth looking at.

Sunday April 23. The day I left. Or, the evening I left. Nice thing, the Sunset Limited leaves Los Angeles on its eastward journey at 10 p.m. This is civilized. This gives you all day, literally, to pack and get downtown to the station. And, even better, when I got there, they told me the train was already available to board. So there it was, no hassle, no lines, relaxed and likely a half hour ahead of departure time. Here’s a picture from the train while it was waiting to depart Union Station in Los Angeles.

In the Sunset Limited in LA’s Union Station, waiting for the train to leave.

So, as you can see, it was dark.

It was a dark but clean train. The photo belies that it was surprisingly full — did I say I was in coach? Well, I was, Yes I was — all the passes are for coach. If you want to upgrade to a roomette you can, but it’s not included so you have to pay for it. I did, later in the trip, so see further dispatch posts (look for the Empire Builder).

I sat next to a nervous anxious woman, close to my age, who was visiting her son in Tucson. I think she said she was going to her grandson’s graduation from high school? Seemed kind of early in the year for that, but it’s what I remember. She’s surprisingly candid to me, a total stranger. Maybe this is what comes in the dark as we are propelled hypnotically, rhythmically down the tracks toward the east. She fears there’s a family rift there, but wants to be closer to them. I’m not much help; I offer the usual bromides of “family things can be difficult, I know.” She said she lived in South Pasadena. I say I lived in the valley but nothing beyond that; I didn’t want to really engage her in conversation because she seemed a bit dizzy and who knows what could come of that.

She did not sleep well on the train either (I was a wide awake not-happy camper) and she sighed a lot. Nervous, sad and anxious! When we got to Tucson in the early morning (but late enough to be light out) she almost missed her stop because she didn’t know it was Tucson, even though the announcement said it was, multiple times, and of course there were signs at the depot if you just looked out the window. I finally reminded her: “Didn’t you say you were going to Tucson? We’re here.”

Interior of an Amtrak coach car at night, in station (not moving)

April 24, Monday. On the train roughly from Tucson to Del Rio, Texas. Author notes: I’m not a happy camper as I really can’t sleep on the train. I’m in coach, remember, with the lady that’s fretting.

At Tucson after the lady gets off, and a young guy gets on and has the seat next to me. Weird kind of Mohawk he’s got. Likely early 30s, tattoos, average-looking. I’m thinking ex-con or something but probably just not from a huge city somewhere. BUT — When I got back from the lounge car he had taken my window seat AND he was using my pillow, the pillow that I bought as a camping accessory decades ago which is inflatable. I asked for it back (the pillow that is, not the seat, I moved to an empty seat as there were lots) his excuse was he thought maybe the pillow “was something they gave out on the train.” Um, not likely, not in this universe.

Yet here I had some fun taking videos of the border wall/fence/whatever in El Paso and again as we sped through Marfa, TX, setting for such movies/tv as Giant, The Last Picture Show, and I Love Dick.

El Paso/Juarez


Tuesday, April 25

Author note: Wishing the train trip to NOLA was over. It’s a two-day train ride. My ass hurts, my back hurts, my sciatica is acting up and there’s literally no place on this train where I can stretch.

Long layover in San Antonio with no announcements as to why we’re delayed, although I did ask a conductor and got an answer right away: Tech problems with the toilets, he tells me! We certainly do want them operational.

My mind wanders to sexual realm: Has anyone on the train been fuckable in a traditional sense, like from my past sex life? Why yes — there was kind of a jock/college type on for part of the initial journey. I think he got off at Tucson, probably a U of A student. (As a matter of fact, a tremendous amount of the train pop got off at Tucson.) That day (Monday) was a week after Easter so maybe they were coming back from break? Anyway, he possessed that young manly beauty where it’s effortless, and this guy seemed self-effacing, so that he didn’t even realize how attractive (and really, stunning) he was to an older gay man like me. Or maybe he does, who knows? We had no interaction. We did not exchange looks. I have no reason to think he was either gay or straight or anything.

One thing definitely different on this trip (than the last train ride, I guess) is I’m more invisible. I feel this. There is less slack given to an older person, and not just in the sexual realm but everywhere. People are just not willing to put up with older people and I can really feel a difference, although it’s not like I’m saying it’s terrible, it’s just different. Cuteness won’t get you anywhere, i.e., because you’re no longer cute and they don’t look at you the way they used to. Or maybe it’s just that I’m crabby. From lack of sleep?

Question for the blogger: When was the last time I was actually cruised, as in real life, and not on an “app?” I will have to think about that one.

But I did take some stills, so here’s a few for you.



Parting Shot, World AIDS Day 2017: Remembering


Parting shot for today, World AIDS Day. December 1. I linked to my “list” earlier (originally a Facebook post). Lists have power, showing the enormity of a thing like a plague. But on those lists are individual lives, of course. So I wanted to talk about one of them and the Basic Instinct scarf, the Hermes scarf that murderous femme fatale Catherine Trammell (Sharon Stone) uses to tie up her BF for a little kinky sex in that movie.

I have one, not an actual Hermes, but a knockoff, a gag souvenir (although it is a real scarf) which was given to video reporter Marc Berman for the press event on the VHS launch of that movie, probably sometime in 1992.

He gave it to me at a lunch we had; I think it was Farfalla on La Brea. Perhaps he’d just come from the event. He obviously thought I required a white BDSM scarf.

The job I had at the time was corporate PR for a movie studio, and we were encouraged to go out to lunch with reporters from the trades. Marc worked for Daily Variety and he was my favorite reporter to eat with. Why? Because he was my age, he was gay, he was brilliant and cute and flirty and fun. We had much more fun telling stories about this person or that person than anything substantive about video business.

He was also a playwright; also an activist. He was one of the founders of the Entertainment AIDS Alliance, and was on the Board of APLA and worked with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Most of all, he was that kind of a person who just lit up a room when he walked in.

So all these years since, I’ve kept the white scarf in my drawer, occasionally taking it out. Perhaps I’ll wear it someday. Perhaps I’ll tie somebody up with it one day. Perhaps I’ll just always keep it to remind myself of the gentle soul who made so many lives a little bit brighter.

From the LA Times in 1993:

Marc Berman, 39, playwright, Variety columnist and AIDS activist. A native of Ohio who was educated at Boston University, Berman began his career as an actor in regional theater and went on to write such critically acclaimed plays as “The Wolf Patrol,” “River Downs” and “The Day Andy Warhol Got Shot.” He moved to Los Angeles in 1986 as West Coast bureau chief for TWICE magazine, an acronym for This Week in Consumer Electronics. In 1990, he joined Video Business and then became a staff writer for Daily Variety, doing reviews and covering home video and film and AIDS in the entertainment industry. For the past year, he also wrote a column for the weekly Variety. In 1989, Berman co-founded the fund-raising Video Industry AIDS Action Committee. He also served on the board of AIDS Project Los Angeles and was active in the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. On Nov. 6 in Sherman Oaks of AIDS.

Blogger with “Hermes” scarf

Marc Berman


It’s been 54 years, but I still remember that day


Anyone else you can think of who might benefit from this sentiment? Reminds you what a real statesman is like, and the kinds of thing a real statesman says.

I still wonder what kind of president Kennedy would have really turned out to be, had he lived. Something we’ll never know.

From the memory archives: Third grade, Sister Monica/Mrs. Pederson’s class. One taught morning, the other afternoon, go figure. I think because Sister Monica was really ancient. Whatever. It’s about 12:45 pm, I’m rushing back to school from lunch at home, a couple of blocks away. I’m late and it’s raining and cold in Milwaukee.

Unannounced, the PA system comes on and we hear the scratchy radio reports. It’s kind of unintelligible. Teacher leaves to find out WTF. She comes back, maybe announces that the president has been shot, I don’t really remember that. Virginia, the fat kid in the class, starts crying. Kids then herded into the adjacent Catholic church for a service – was it Mass, or just a Benediction or a blessing of some kind, not sure. Mass seems a little long and drastic for preteens, but then I would not doubt it, they liked to torture children there. Sent us home. Mom and Dad on the couch, both crying. It was so awful. Then a whole long weekend of horror, over and over on the black and white television.