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2003-10-05

Hi again! I am traveling around the US and writing about it, and there seems to be no end in sight.

I am looking for nice, fun people who can put me up for a few nights and feed me and pay my way (since I am broke) and show me a good time (since I like good times). If you think it might be fun to host me for a day or two or three, email me at justingrace AT mac DOT com. Please make sure to include your address and phone number. I am especially looking for places to stay in the southeast USA and the East Coast.

I will be traveling all over the USA, though, so email me no matter what! Here are the places I will be in the next few weeks that I am still looking for a place to stay at:

Texas: Between Austin, TX and Louisiana (Houston, for example)
Louisiana
Mississippi
Alabama
Florida
Tennessee
North/South Carolina
Georgia


I am in Austin. It is both rad and cool. Please contact me ASAP if you are in or around Austin and want to hang out!

Thanks in advance for your help! And now, more of my banter...



US Tour Day 19, Part2: Semi–Random Intersections


White Sands, New Mexico. Imagine sand dunes, right out of the Sahara Desert. But, instead of that sweet apricot color that spreads across the breast of Africa, the White Sands dunes are, well, white. Made from gypsum, the fine white powder glows under the desert sun in a way which seems too rich to be true, a caricature of sand—what the desert would look like in heaven.


A scene of recursion, a snapshot of Brandi, my wonderful host in Las Cruces, taking snapshots.

The beauty doesn't end there. As if god really wanted to show off how cool she was on the day she made this place, the scene is elegantly flanked by an abrupt set of peaks reaching into the sky. The Organ Mountains—possibly named for the way their formations look like pipes from a pipe organ—are the only mountains for countless miles, framed almost to infinity by the flat desert space. Standing on the waves of dunes with the mountains towering above is already too much beauty for one place. The bleached, pillowy clouds and blinding blue sky push it all over the top to the level of obscenity.


I was awestruck with the beauty. I looked at my friends and said, rather inelegantly, "It's official, this place totally rules."


We arrived at the park at about 5:30 PM, which was just in time to take the Sunset Stroll, a guided one–hour walk where tourists take pictures and the docent tries not to get irritated answering the same questions that very average Americans with very strong American accents surely ask every day on that tour.


Our tour leader's name was Holly. I noticed that somehow even her plain, brown National Park Service uniform couldn't obscure her loveliness. This is a big deal, as the garb of park rangers is specifically designed to hide any cuteness or sexual attractiveness. This is probably for practical reasons. The rangers have so much work to do and get paid so little. Holly, a volunteer, got paid nothing at all. The last thing that management needs is to have their workers distracted by sexual advances and flirting. If rangers were to realize how cute they were they would surely leave their jobs to be underwear models or sex–slaves or something. Then who would run this nation's parks?


Holly was lovely, her luster radiated out from her exposed face and neck, the only skin not hidden by her dull, brown ranger hat and shirt. Tiny yet still barely perceptible molecules of lovely even snuck out through her button holes and the tiny gaps in the textiles she wore. Her wide mouth made me shiver. Her professionalism and brown uniform couldn't obscure the smell of her charm that filled the warm, afternoon air.


I normally find myself physically attracted to girls who are more funny–looking and not so classically beautiful. I tend to favor the underdogs. This discrimination is a shortcoming of mine—a reverse discrimination based on my stupid idea that people who are beautiful get enough attention as it is and have been favored their whole lives and no way am I going to play into that any more than everyone they come into contact with already does.


My tour group.

But, this isn't fair of me, though. They didn't ask to be born beautiful. They didn't ask the world to lavish them with special treatment. And, they deserve compassion and love and attention as much as we all do. I know this intellectually, but sometimes it's hard for me to get over my tend to discriminate against them and remind myself that they're just people with their own unique insecurities and issues.


Me as sundial in a labyrinth drawn in the sands.

I hadn't planned on flirting with her. It's just that she said that if there was anything we needed or wanted during the tour that we should ask her. So, I asked her if she would give me a piggy back ride. I was kidding, just spouting out with my usual silliness and making my own day a little more fun with my stupid banter. Don't get me wrong, though. I wouldn't have turned anyone down for a piggy back ride if they said yes.

I expected her to just laugh and think that I was another stupid tourist who says stupid things to cute girls. She probably got asked for piggy back rides like fifty times a day and goes home each night to her other ranger buddies and they trade stories about all the weird people who asked them about piggy back rides that day on their nature walks, at the gift shop, while patrolling trails, and so on.


But, instead she smiled and said, "Maybe after the tour?" And, her smirk made it very clear she wasn't kidding. Wait, was she flirting with me?

See, flirting with the tour leader is the same as flirting with the stripper, the cute waitress, the singer in the band, or anyone who's the center of attention in a social or performance setting. Hit on them all you want. But, understand that it's not exactly an original idea and they probably get it all the time from millions of people who are cuter, smarter, and smell better than you. Or, at least that's what I assume.


I tend to want to be the buddy of these sorts of girls, asking them about their day and letting them vent about the millions of gross people that hit on them that day. I guess I take myself out of the running without even trying. But, I'm not exactly looking for dates. I guess I want to live in a world where people want to be friends to one another before anything else. And, I'd rather walk away knowing that I might be a safe harbor in a world of sexual predators.



The tour ended with the sun committing acts of furious arson on the desert horizon, a mind–bending sunset of purple and orange and colors unspeakable. I took a picture of the beautiful tour leader and I together and asked her what else she did out there in the barren outskirts of Alamogordo. I guess I was surprised when she said nothing. I continued timidly, tiptoeing baby steps on the path to actually asking her to hang out with me. Well, what are you going to do after you are off work? Nothing. Did you want to maybe do something? Yes. With me? Yes. Really? Yes.


Hm, I thought. That's weird. She said yes. Note to self: erase stereotypes, start thinking differently, brush teeth before date tonight. That last one was especially important. I had forgotten to brush them for at least a day at that point, maybe more.

Both of us were foreigners to the area and had no idea where else to meet, so we met at an intersection that was completely random save for the fact that we decided to meet there. We had no plans. But, I figured that once we met up we'd surely figure something out—two adventurous people could cook up something fun in that weird desert kitchen. She called when she arrived and told me the names of the two streets that meant nothing to me. I got directions off the internet and went to go find her. The mystery of a spontaneous rendezvous point reminded me of going to an underground rave—it was very seat–of–my–pants and exciting.

After driving us around town in my little car and assessing our resources—closed shops, bars that would close in 20 minutes, closed restaurants, deserted streets, locals with no useful suggestions—I decided that we ought to do what I assume locals do in towns like that all over the universe: get drunk in a park like teenagers. And, we did.

And we talked and talked for hours about all sorts of things—goals for life, why we were on Earth, changing the world, music, the rhythm of words. I can only speak for myself, but I was having a great time getting to know this new person, a person who thought it would be a good idea to leave their old life behind and spend some time volunteering at a national park thousands of miles away. I wanted to know what sort of person did something so un–American, because I had a hunch that this information would shed some light on my own life.

And, at one point in the evening she put on my cowboy hat, hiding her eyes and nose under the bent down brim of the tired, black hat. All I could see were her lips, and I couldn't tell what I wanted more, to kiss them or to have such beautiful lips for my own. Wide and puffy, I figured they probably would be too big for me anyway, and wondered during a brief pause in the conversation whether they would taste as good as they looked. For an instant my mind wandered to this one green pear I ate recently. During my stay in Los Angeles I ate this pear that looked perfect but left my mouth disappointed—it was bland and dry. But the pregnant moment of silence between sentences ended, we started to talk again, and those thoughts evaporated as quickly as they appeared. It was probably better, as such idle thoughts help nothing.

The conversation flowed like a river in spring, pretty cool for someone who I had only just met for a few minutes with a score of other tourists atop some white dunes in New Mexico. I almost forgot about kissing her lips. But, only almost, though.

The details from that point on aren't the sort of thing I just go spouting out in public. That is, unless you get a few drinks in me. The important part was that her lips somehow tasted and felt better than they looked—a fortunate surprise rivaling the evening's heavenly sunset. Her skin was hot and velvety under my fingertips. And, her mouth made every sweet pear—and most other fruits—I've eaten in my few years on Earth seem like a cruel disappointment.


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