Small urbans areas versus major metroes and a page from my diary.

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    Aug 05, 2007 6:07 PM GMT
    I thought I'd share a page from my diary about the conflicted struggles I have had about the ideal place to live:

    It is expected climb above 90 in Asheville today for the first time this summer. We'll see. The forecast was the same yesterday but it didn't quite make it. It was hot enough though. I was kayaking down a river with 50 degree water. I must have had beginners luck on my first run because this time the falls (just a class III) at the end trashed me and I had to wet exit. I was carried by the current about 100 yards and damn that water burns your skin.

    The last time I did the Nantahala I stayed in Bryson City. I went to the Tsali mountain biking trails around Fontana Lake. The lake is 40 miles long with the Smokey Mountains rising form one end. I met a young (26) cute guy in the parking lot and we ended up biking together. He’s ex-military, a fitness trainer and is training for a triathlon. I warned him that I would have to take it easy since I broke a finger that never healed. To my delight I was waiting for him at the top of every hill. We biked to a jagged peninsula towering over the lake. Then we scaled down one of the rocky cliffs, took off all our clothes and jumped in the crystal clear mountain water. The water temperature was perfect. Cool enough to feel refreshing but not so cold you couldn’t linger for sometime.

    If it weren’t for the occasional passing motor boat or jet sky, I would have been living my ultimate fantasy. Still, we swam to a point where the rock formation shaded us and sheltered us from three sides. When no boat was passing we took advantage of our seclusion. After we had our fill of bathing we climbed back up to our bikes and in the woods we finished what we had started in the water.

    We have spoken on the phone many times since that experience but I’ve yet to see him again. He never made it to Asheville last night. We spoke on the phone yesterday but I could tell from the conversation I should count on a visit. The truth is; I think he has a crush on his boss and believe the boss has the hots for him. He describes him as a guy in his late 30s, good-looking, excellent shape, never married. The only thing missing is he talks about girls but that is probably because he knows my friend has a girlfriend and probably thinks he's straight. I'm just sitting here listening to his stories and thinking how much time we gay/bi men waste.

    I think I'll bike and hike on this high elevation ridge in the PNF today. There is a special waterfall that with a trail so rarely traveled you could hike naked. When I reach my hidden waterfall, I'll strip down and jump in. The last time I was there it was 74 on the ridge while it was over 90 in Charlotte.

    The more I come here the more I like it. Asheville explodes with a creative energy that corporate culture seems to have sapped in most American cities. Last night I just walked around the town and watched the street performances. I passed a circus act where a guy was juggling fire but settled on listening to this great band in a courtyard where I bought some ice cream. The music was a fusion of mountain, country, folk and rock.

    This morning I discovered a very cool coffee shop. Everything in this establishment, from the paintings on the walls to the lay out, is original. When you’re not enjoying the outdoors, the town calls on you to write, paint, play music or engage in some other creative activity. I did not have that same feeling while living in Miami.

    If you're feeling lonely go sit at a bar or out on the picnic table in front of Jack in the Woods. There are plenty of people looking for a casual conversation. But of coarse there is something missing. In Miami when I wanted sex I knew just what to do to get it. Sometimes the sex led to a relationship of sorts. I travel around the world for work and make sure I get laid when I do because I know I won’t have many other opportunities. I’ve had some wonderfully romantic one-night-stands in my travels and I often return with a yearning to move to Europe or Australia where society is not being held captive by an overbearing righteous hypocrisy about sex.

    They have a number of gay bars in Asheville but when I checked them out a few years ago they all looked so depressing. I could best describe them as smoked-filled holes with a withering sad clientele. I have yet to find a small American city that is any different. I doubt it would be a whole lot different in the other Asheville-like cities: Santa Fe, Bolder, Burlington VM or Portland ME. Burlington at least has Montreal nearby and Portland is close to Boston but damn those winters are cold. Besides the whole reason I live in NC is to be near my aging parents. We almost lost my mom twice in the past year.

    My parents have a summer home in Bar Harbor ME that they no longer use due to my mom’s health. I use to visit them there regularly when I live in NYC. I met
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    Aug 06, 2007 2:19 AM GMT
    This sort of things has been on my mind a lot. It's lonely here in NYC, and I wonder if people in gay people in less populated areas (I used tio live in Durham, not small, but by NYC standards, um, less populated) stay together because they have to. The grass cannot be greener on the other side off 8th Avenue if there is no 8th Avenue (in which case there'd be no grass either, but anyway).

    Sometimes I think gay culure is collapsing under its own weight here. But then again I cannot imagine living as a gay man in America anywhere besides NYC or maybe LA (I don't know much about foregin places). And I wonder if that is sad and if I am really missing something?

    I think it's time for another walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to remind myself why this all makes sense.
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    Aug 06, 2007 2:32 AM GMT
    This is an interesting thread. I think many of us have contemplated similarly, for many of the same reasons you mention.

    I grew up in upstate NY, 8 miles outside a village of 4000 people. I've since been gradually creeping closer to major population centers, starting with college in a small city, the last 10 years in the CT suburbs of NYC, and just last month, making the much bigger leap to Brooklyn.

    I've had many discussions with both gay and straight friends, and most of my NYC friends (on both sides of the fence) say that NYC is one of the loneliest places a person can live. The romanticized allure of the city supposedly loses it's magic because, they tell me, people have more trouble dating because the sheer number of people inevitably makes them wonder if something better is out there.

    It's hard for me to project how things might be for me. I've lived my entire life within two hours of NYC, but haven't previously lived in the city.

    In the end, I will probably end up needing to do what my grandparents did - have a place in the city, and a place to escape to in the country. Small town folks tend to be more neighborly and friendly (though interestingly I am not sure if this applies to suburbanities), and I know I will miss the quiet after a while. I just hope to one day have someone to enjoy it with.
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    Aug 06, 2007 2:53 AM GMT
    Wow, that made me nostalgic. I used to go to Asheville a lot, but got tired of the four hour drive and we ended up buying a place in more convenient, cooler, wetter, incredibly boring Highlands.

    I haven't had the same experience in the bars there. There is a huge gay population in Asheville. (It has one of the largest lesbian populations in the nation, supposedly -- not that that will get you laid.) I've always had plenty of carnal fun there, but maybe I have no taste or standards. :)

    This is the first year since 1999 or so that I haven't read a paper at UNC's gay and lesbian studies conference there. I have met some really brilliant men, including locals, during that.
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    Aug 06, 2007 4:18 AM GMT
    Omaha is an intriguing place. It has an opera, a ballet, a great zoo, a great little art museum, a nifty downtown area, and is the home of Alexander Payne, the director, and Conor Oberst, the indie artist, and Saddle Creek Records.

    I don't really judge a place by it's gayness, but there's a gay theater group, a gay chorus, a Pride parade, several bars, and even a gay ghetto downtown. I've never been to any of them. Except a really great production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

    I think that the only place I'd rather live is NYC. But it's not an urgent desire.

    I think that in any city or town, you usually do most of your stuff within about 2 miles of where you live, anyway. My life is going to the grocery store, the bookstore, Starbucks, the movies, K-mart, and various restaurants. I would be doing the exact same thing in Chicago or Austin or Venice--I'm not sure I could even tell the difference. Maybe Venice--it would be wet.

    I don't there's any place better to live than where I am. I'm like Thoreau--I have travelled extensively in Concord--in my case, Nebraska and South Dakota.

    Along with the St. Benedict's counsel of chastity and poverty, both of which I excel at, I try to follow his counsel of stability. I think life is meant to be lived as much as possible in one place. If you do that, Kafka says, the universe will come to you. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
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    Aug 11, 2007 11:54 PM GMT
    I live in a small city : 7,000 pop. including cats and dogs. It's a nice place , quiet too but... there's nothing for gay people. And of course, there's always a bit of homophobia floating around in the air.

    It's hard to make friends even gay friends when you're not from the place... strangers. But we're making the best of it.
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    Aug 25, 2007 5:09 PM GMT
    But Corporal you're only an hour from Quebec City!
    Great City! I hope you at least enjoy the great outdoors where you are.

    Obscenewhish is right, Asheville is progressive a bit like a small version of Quebec City or similar to Burlington Vmt. My problem is I'm through with Bars anywhere. I even had this problem in NYC. You want to head out meet some great guys but you can't find a place with the right mix. Too much standing and staring; I'd rather meet guys doing outdoor sports like I did mountain biking.

    Yet if you found a mate and a tight circle of friends it seems like living in a place like Asheville would be far better than any big sprawling metro area.
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    Aug 25, 2007 5:53 PM GMT
    friendomate: "...Yet if you found a mate and a tight circle of friends it seems like living in a place like Asheville would be far better than any big sprawling metro area...."

    I want to point out that there is a big difference between being in a sprawling big city with no foci, and being in a large city that has neighborhoods that are like villages. For example, I live in Oakland, CA, which is essentially part of a megaopolosis with San Francisco. Yet, like San Francisco, there are smaller neighborhoods, each with a neighborhood cinema, coffee places, restaurants etc. to which to walk.

    Don't think of the SF Bay Area as the Castro. That is overcommercialized hyped area. On the other hand, there are many gay and lesbian people in other districts in San Francisco, or over here in Oakland and Berkeley, in which the sense of village and community is as alive here as what you describe in Asheville and the other places mentioned here.


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    Aug 25, 2007 6:27 PM GMT
    I don't know Oakland but I do know SF. The bay area is probably the best place to live in the States. It is the right size city to have the necessary critical mass and still has a high ratio of quality urban to lousy urban areas. It is also close to all kinds of fantastic outdoor posibilities.

    My parents live on the east coast and are in their final years. I'd never move to the west coast because as great as it is I like Europe more. Europe is just as close and I don't have to deal with the decaying US Airline infrastructure. There is a certain freedom I feel in Europe that I feel in very few places in the US.