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2003-12-19

IMPORTANT NEW NOTES FROM JUSTIN:

Ah yes, I am finally back in Florida after 16 days home for the holidays. I'd been itching to get traveling again, and it feels good to be out here. Plus, it's WARM!

So, is there no end to this journey? There definitely seems to be no end in sight. There are so many people to meet and enjoy, so many places to fall in love with, and so much to share and learn. So I continue to move with the winds; I continue to entice the winds to follow me.

So, one of the things about this experiment in love and motion and travel is that I have—against my will—assumed the challenging variable I like to call 'being broke'. So, that means I am doing this crazy trip while living, ahem, very frugally. For example, my slutty pants that used to be tight aren't tight anymore—that kind of frugal, you know?

So, what does this mean? Well, staying in a hotel every night is out of the question. I am looking for nice, fun people who can put me up for a few nights and really host me. This would involve me staying at your house for a few days, showing me a good time (since I like good times), feeding my stupid mouth (in an attempt to make my pants fit me again), and whatever general mischief we can get into. And, the best part is that I get to learn about your life and write about our times together! That is part of the experiment, see. I am meeting with people I've never met before and living some life with them. 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 in your email to me so I can be in touch!

I am especially looking for places to stay in the southeast USA and everywhere on the East Coast. I will be traveling all over the USA, though, so email me no matter where you are because I will probably come visit! Here are the places I will be in the next few weeks that I am still looking for a place to stay at:

• Alabama
• Florida
• Tennessee
• North/South Carolina
• Georgia
• Virginia

Please contact me ASAP if you want to hang out!



US Tour Day 96: Welcome to Florida

I woke up in some truck stop motel in the northwest of Florida. As dull as it was—and let me assure you it was dull—this microscopic trucker oasis did have three interesting characteristics.

First of all, the night clerk was listening to BBC News on the radio when I arrived sometime around midnight. I noticed and said, "Wow. BBC News. How...how...how cerebral." The obese forty–something woman behind the counter replied, "Just because I work in a truck stop doesn't mean I don't have a brain." Her response made me smile, and I put a quarter in the don't–judge–a–book–by–it's–cover jar.

Second: Did you know that there are prostitutes that focus their efforts exclusively on cross–country truckers? Known as lot lizards, these working women will knock on the doors of truckers sleeping in their cabs and ask if they can 'come in for a while'.


Many truckers are happy for the opportunity to trade a few bucks for riding the old fleshy slip–and–slide, there are those who want nothing to do with these women. So, for the ones who are faithful to their families or simply want a night where they aren't funding a methamphetamine–crazed amateur hooker with stringy hair and shabby dentition, there are stickers you can purchase to put on your big rig that deter the vaginas for hire. A lizard–like lady with the standard circle with a line through it tells the lot lizards that you aren't interested in their goods or services. And they're a deal at only a buck or two. I bought a few as keepsakes and wondered which window of my little Fiat I should put them on.


Last but not least, this one–horse truck–stop town had a statue of a white trash fool in ragged pants drinking coffee and eating a doughnut on the road near the truckstop/hotel. At over twenty feet tall, it was a beacon of welcome and understanding to all twenty–foot–tall, trashy coffee and doughnut consumers that happened to stumble upon this nowhere place off of that endless ribbon we call Interstate Route 10.

Florida surprised me. For a place that was so fueled by the "older and wiser" and the international tourist industry, I was surprised at the proliferation of low–brow Christian billboards lining the interstate. Between Tallahassee and Tampa I must have seen nearly twenty billboards condemning the evils of abortion, declaring that we should put the Christ back in Christmas, or reminding drivers about the horrors of hell that they will soon discover if they don't subscribe to some specific flavor of Christianity only available at one church in this one tiny town. Of course, if you are a Christian that goes to another church in another town you are royally fucked in the ass for eternity.

And, there were no hills to be seen. None. Florida was like an thirteen year old girl—beautiful, but flat. I felt far from home, that western place where mountains mingle with the heavens and canyons plummet deep like depression. A euclidian plane stretched out to my left and right as I headed south at ninety miles per hour. It occurred to me that I'd never met a person from Florida before. I felt even farther from home, something which I hadn't thought possible a few minutes earlier.

My first stop of the day was St. Petersburg. Just south of Tampa, this growing metropolis had one thing which brought me hours off my path to Orlando: the Salvador Dalí Museum. Home to over sixty Dalí originals and prints, this museum was my chance to reunite myself with Dalí after my two failed attempts to visit his home in Spain. It happened that both times I went to his house in Spain it just happened to be closed for some reason—a private party or some holiday which American's don't understand.


A bench outside the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Dalí's work bent my mind and stretched my superlatives like rubber. His large–scale later works—measuring almost twelve by eight feet—forced me to redefine my concept of mastery. I didn't even know that there were paintings of this caliber in existence. I'd seen an expansive collection of the artist's works in Torino, Italy in 1996, but that paled in comparison to this permanent collection.

Salvador Dalí's commitment to his artistic career got me to thinking about my own life as one who strives to create. Would I continue to share beauty with the world for as long as he did? Could I touch that dark, hidden place in my subconscious like he did? Would I ever reach a level of mastery anywhere near his? Of course, the answer is neither relevant nor tangible. What is important is the asking of the questions.

After drinking in paints of oil and water into my parched eyes and mind, I crawled back into that unnatural pod I call my car and headed for Orlando. I had a long night of talking and drinking and fun ahead of me and life is short and soon we all die and all that is left if our art in a room with people who pretend to find meaning in something which they could never grasp. So I slammed my right foot on the gas and brought myself closer and closer to my home for the evening in that home to the world's greatest mouse, that place of citrus globes and tourists swarms and traffic, that place we call Orlando.


My host in Orlando, the brilliant Jen Baldwin. Here we see her holding an empty bottle of that legal intoxicant known as Smirnoff Triple Black.


Guess who got drunk on coconut rum that his godfather gave him and decided to take a bunch of clumsy self–portraits while leaning helplessly against Jen's bed?




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