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2003-02-13 6:46 p.m.

For some reason, a Thai parade was being staged on the street in front of our hotel. Our block was the only block that was closed to traffic. There were only three floats, too. Emmett took some fun pics of me posing with some other people trying to take pictures of people.

So, our trip to LA was over just as quickly as it started. We woke up, got a juice on Melrose, then hit the road. Destination: Coastal route!

Stupid tourists, Mexican families on vacation, and patriotically obese Americans: Welcome to Solvang!

Our first real stop was Solvang, a tiny tourist town between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Solvang is supposed to be a Dutch colony. But, it looks more like a awkward mutt of shops based on every possible Northern European country. You can buy clogs, cardamom bread, Danish pork steak, and Norwegian flags.

Through the streets, shops, and restaurants, there exists this strange hint of Minnesota in the air. Let me explain.

Hooray for Solvang! This was a great chance for me to show Andie some of the bland and uninteresting Swedish delicacies. I made sure to have her try the cardemom bread. It's not bad. It's not great. It's merely average. I am posing with the loaf of bread under the pharmacy sign.

The Scandinavian presence throughout Solvang is not a direct translation from the original. Instead it is a very specific caricature of Scandinavia—a caricature that exists only in Minnesota. This time–worn image is a complex structure built from the eroded—and sometimes absurd or flat out false—memories of third or fourth–generation Swedish and Norwegian immigrants. But, the thing is that this only really makes sense if you have visited both rural Minnesota and Scandinavia. I realized that Solvang was the third point of the Minnesota–Scandinavia–Solvang Triangle of Mystery. I definitely need to write more about this Triangle of Mystery—as soon as I understand it.

We couldnt linger as much as I wanted to in Tourist Land. We had a long drive ahead of us. So, we hopped back into the X1/9 and headed north again. Of course, we stopped occasionally to enjoy a local beach or take a few pictures.

It felt majestic to bathe in the warm, yellow light of afternoon, the Pacific Ocean spreading out in front of me. Not that I could see it, since the sun was shining in my eyes and burning giant holes through what used to be my retinas. But still. It ruled.

I love her.

I love her even more now than I did when I typed the last caption.

We stopped in some beach town to refuel the car. I loved this sign. But, what about LUBE? Or, what about 10 inches of raw chicken innards on the ground? I think they need to really rethink this warning sign—make it more all–encompassing.

I had such a beautiful view, so I made sure to take lots of pictures of my favorite parts.

In Atascadero I visited my uncle Jerry and his wife Mary. I had not seen Jerry in almost 15 years, and I would not have recognized him if I was alone with him in a room and he had a sign above his head that said "UNCLE JERRY". He turned out to be much cooler than I ever remembered him.

Uncle Jerry used to be famous in my mind for giving me what he called the Atomic Wedgie—I hated him during those years when he was much bigger than me. But, now he has turned out to be a kind and funny man. Best of all, he remodeled his bathroom and added a real, institution–style urinal! Hooray for being a man!

By this time it was dark, so I stopped taking pictures. But, the great moments kept coming one after another. It was a great spur of the moment weekend spent with the most wonderful person on Earth.