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Justin's US Tour Day 1: Genesis

I wasn't sure where I would end up at the end of today, so I prepared as well as I could for anything. This isn't so easy with a car as small as mine. And not only is it small, but it's also not very reliable. So, first you start with a tiny car with minimal storage space. Then fill up a third of that already limited space with tools, jumper cables, spare parts, a box of mechanic's rubber gloves, coveralls, and an assortment of bottles of the sorts of fluids that cars enjoy.

By the time I was done packing tools and car remedies I realized that I had only enough room to bring either a pack of gum or one of those little travel–sized packages of facial tissues. But not both. Not unless I was going to bend the laws of physics to my will.

But, it turned out today was the day I was going to have to turn physics on its ear. See, the original reason for this trip is to be in Los Angeles by Monday morning for a photo shoot with Glenn Campbell. Glenn has become a solid friend to me over the last few years—I always look forward to any time we can spend together. He is an inspiring and inspired person—the sort of strong character that makes an lasting impression on everyone he comes in contact with. On top of that, he is my favorite photographer in the world these days. So, I was honored when he asked if I wanted him to 'shoot me' for my new album. I was giddy and doing everything I could to keep myself from breaking my face from smiling so widely, so I gave him the most clever, elegant answer I could conjure at that moment, "Yes."

He told me to gather magazines with art direction that related somehow to my vision for my album's art. I was to cut out the photos that inspired me from each magazine, and then write on them with a marker, explaining how they speak to me. He said we would spread these around the studio for inspiration. I was also to bring a collection of music, including my album, in order to bring us into the artistic space I envision. "Oh, one more thing," he continued, "you should bring your entire wardrobe. You have great clothes. Bring them all."

I agreed, keeping to myself the obvious impossibility of being able to fit anything else in my car except the kleenex or a pack of chewing gum. I figured it was best not to argue, since this is a dream–come–true photo shoot with an artistic hero. I thought, "hey, I've surely done crazier things than defying the laws of physics by forcing two bodies of matter (or countless articles of clothing) into the same place at the same time, haven't I? And if I haven't, should I let that stop me?" Of course I shouldn't!

So, this morning I woke up and thumbed my nose at physics teachers everywhere as I managed to fit almost all the clothes I own, plus four pairs of shoes, a pillow, a sleeping bag, my computer, my camera, my cowboy hat, a bag of snacks, my button making machine, my huge mug, and myself into my car. And this is with all my stupid tools already in there. I even had room left over. It reminded me of Jesus and the miraculous abundance in that one loaves and fishes episode—my pants nearly exploded from my massive, messianic packing abilities.

I was packed and ready to go! There was no time to shave, I had to be in Oakland to meet Absinthia for our mid–day absinthe tasting event!

Last weekend at C. & Sons I mentioned to her that I had never been intoxicated on absinthe and that I wanted to know if it felt different than alcohol. She manufactures the best absinthe I had ever tasted, although I had never imbibed enough to really feel anything. She suggested I come over and break into her stash and find out for myself. So, we decided to make a decadent day of it—easy since Abs is a stay–at–home mom and I am now living la vida jobless.

So we sat and talked all day, drinking the same cloudy green liquid that brought laughter and intoxication, madness and inspiration to so many artists and poets teeter–tottering on the turn of the century. I observed the effects. At first I felt warm and tipsy. As the haze of the grain alcohol subsided, the dull feeling of drunkenness was eclipsed by a bright, visual clarity. Colors looked better, more vivid. Flowers seemed to be putting on their best for me. Daylight was a caricature of itself—maybe acting a bit more daylightish than it would under other circumstances. Wormwood, oh wormwood! Why had we not met sooner?

There is a word in Swedish for which there is no translation in English. It is a word which describes the state of having just the right amount of something—not more, not less. You use it to answer the question of how much sugar you want in your coffee or how short you want the barber to cut your hair or how much brown sauce your mom should pour on your potatoes. Lagom, you would say. And lagom would also be the perfect word to describe that perfect amount of time I spent in the sunny mansion in Oakland—drinking and talking and laughing and observing.

And then I continued south. Next stop: San Jose. I stopped by my mom's house in East San Jose to pick up some mail and hang out and chat over another one of her miraculous dinners—she is blessed with the magical ability to transform leftovers into an old–world Mexican meal in three beats of a hummingbird's heart. To say that I ate too much and felt clumsy and almost drunk from the spicy, heavy food should go without saying, implied simply by the setting—much the same way that a car careening off a cliff implies a gory death, or how East Coast college frat parties imply beer and vomiting and date rape.

The sun was low in the sky, barely balancing on the horizon and doing all in it's power to disappear behind a row of run–down houses that cried out for a new coat of paint. I dilly–dallied, and the sun slipped out of the party before I could get into my car and start driving. I had to plug in my iBook and my phone into their special car chargers and then situate my headphone mic and my mug and my facial tissue and the truth is that I have never made a trip like this before so I had a lot to figure out before I could start driving. But, the sun makes the same trip every day, so I should have known it would have left San Jose before I did. You have to wake up pretty early if you want to beat an old pro like the sun.

Instead I chased the moon, southwards through deep–black landscapes—past farms and fields of asparagus and artichokes. Although shrouded by night's heavy blanket, familiar smells reminded me of their presence, spreading out to my left and to my right for miles—like massive wings flanking either side of California Route 101.

And the wings flew me here, to Paso Robles. I have never visited this city in the day, so I can only make observations about how quiet and dark it is—I've really only seen one half of the picture, and it looks like the blank back half. But, this is where my uncle Jerry and his wife live, and they were kind enough to offer me their couch and a fridge full of food and a dander–covered cat to help me sneeze myself to sleep. It's time for that good old cat–sneezing sleep—bring it to me, bring it on little kitties.

If you hadn't noticed, I am traveling around the US. I am looking for nice, fun people who can put me up for a few nights and feed me (since I am broke) and show me a good time (since I like good times). If this sounds like fun for you, email me at justingrace AT mac DOT com with your info and address and phone number. I am especially looking for places to stay in the southwest, between Los Angeles and New Mexico...from there I will likely head through Texas and onwards!