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Wow, I sure have been traveling for a long time. As I post today's installment I looked at my calendar and saw that I've been out here for 141 days! This is the longest I've ever traveled, and by far the most challenging trip I've ever taken. Sometimes I think about calling it quits and heading home—some days I'm just tired of never sleeping in the same bed, some days I'm tired of wondering what happens when the money runs out. I miss my friends and family.

Yet, there is something that compels me to continue. I know I have something great to find out here. And, I know I have something great to give out here. And, I'll know when it's time to go home. But, until then, you'll find me somewhere out there. I'm the one in the red car with the driver's side window that doesn't work anymore, the one with the rust spots all over it that speeds past you. I'm the one taking the pictures of the graffiti, the statue, the strange food.

I've been playing shows every day for the last few days. I even played TWO concerts the other night. I sell my buttons, CDs, and photos at these gigs. And, I've been consistently selling things every day. It's very exciting! So, I'm sure as hell not rich, but my finances are looking brighter. I am starting to realize that I can support myself entirely with my art. Onward and upward!

I am still 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, feeding me from time to time, and leading me into whatever general mischief we can get into. I'll get to learn about your life and write about our times together! I am meeting with people I've never met before and living some life with them. That could be you! 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 months that I am still looking for a place to stay at:

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

Please contact me ASAP if you want to hang out!

If you believe in what I am doing and want to help support me, please do so! You can donate money to me using PayPal. Email me for more information! Or, check out my photo sales page! Buying photos from me feeds me and keeps me on the road!

US Tour Day 119: Shopping

I like shopping. Going to a store is like going to a gallery for me—a gallery of human achievement. Look around any store. Marvel how mountains of items line the maze of aisles and walkways. There are so many things to look at and think about.

Consider that even the simplest or most mundane product is the brainchild of countless hours of human labor. People spend entire lifetimes perfecting their craft in order to bring you that snug–fitting shirt, delicately–scented soap, unbleached tampons, folding chairs, or even a box of pasta.

Lately I've been avoiding shopping, though. Usually I'm able to restrain myself from actually buying anything at the store. And, not having any disposable income makes it even easier to just say no. But, I must admit there are times when the temptation is just too great and I succumb to the pull of that one item that just demands to go home with me. I know that I don't have the money or space for it to join me on my journey, and I try to explain this. But, the shiny new something doesn't care. It soon gains control of me. If I had to describe the phenomenon of these certain hyper–attractive products, I would say their effect on me lies somewhere between a sexy, naked hitchhiker lightly misted with body oil, bending over to pick something up, and that of an infectious virus. There are times when even my greatest acts of strength and will are just enough to get me out empty–handed.

Thrift stores make the situation even more difficult by removing one of the few prohibitive features of shopping: the cost. Thrift stores are not free, but they are the closest thing to free short of rooting around in dumpsters. It's even harder to say no when the price is so low.

Recently, my willpower was seriously tested at one of these low–priced second hand stores in Orlando. First, I found a record album that I just had to give to my friend Adam. The cover showed a clean–cut, white American male. His hair and suit were perfect in that way reserved for preachers or motivational speakers from the 1980's. His chin was awe–inspiring and strong. He held a microphone in one hand and his other hand made a fist. Huge yellow letters above his photo said, "I AM DETERMINED".

Determined to do what?, I thought. I giggled at the possibilities. Determined to punch you in the gonads with my raised fist? Determined to demonstrate fisting to each and every person in this geriatric congregation? Determined to live a life of pummeling retarded orphans while singing into this microphone? It could've been anything, so long as it involved his fist and him being determined. And that's what made it so funny.

I wanted to buy the record. But not for me, for my friend Adam. Adam likes to joke about punching. I knew he would've come up with some great phrases to complete the bright yellow caption above Smiling Microphone–Fist Man. I didn't buy it, though. I did the next best thing, the safer, more intelligent option. I took a photo of it instead.

Most stores forbid customers from taking pictures inside. If you don't abide by this rule, an employee will ask you to leave. If that still doesn't stop you, they call security to 'help you find your way out'. I know from experience. I love to take photos in stores.

In the great retail food chain, second hand stores are only just barely above dumpsters. They don't bother with rules. They don't care if you urinate directly on the racks of old sweaters or throw those pillowcases full of bloated, lifeless kittens you recently fished out of the river into the bins of paperback romance novels. Everything there is already soaked in urine or dead animal juices to begin with. They couldn't possibly care any less if you wanted to photograph yourself having sex with live pandas in their store as your satan worshipping cronies burned the place down.

So, why would they care if I wanted to take pictures of products rather than actually buy them for myself or others? This particular store was just teeming with things I wanted to buy to share with friends. So, instead of shopping, I turned each item into a photo opportunity.

There was a book titled, "Simplify Your Life with Kids". All I could think was, yeah right. I can just hear it now, "Hey honey, I was thinking of some ways we might simplify our lives. Then, I found this urine–soaked book at the thrift store that gave me the great idea that we could simplify our lives with kids!"

I found a collection of life–sized wooden choir boys and young angels back by the bicycles. Painted on press board, the fading, yellow children looked like they may have been used a few decades ago in a church play or on someone's lawn during the Christmas season. There was nothing particularly funny or dirty about them, unless you count the fact that their mouths were all open in the exact shape that I imagine a choir boy's mouth would be if a penis or two were about to be inserted into it.

One of the little angels was even kneeling with its left hand in a fist just in front of its angelic mouth. Sort of like it was using its hand to guide a prayer from its mouth up to Jesus in heaven. Or something else involving things being guided in or out of its mouth. I organized the kneeling angel in the proper position to be photographed—on its knees, ready to 'help' the choir boy.

I really wanted to bring these things home for Ray, but I used my new photo defense to keep myself from carrying around fifty pounds of wooden church props for the next six months of my trip.

After I was done with the choir boy and angel, I poked around a little back by some mismatched jumbles of parts labeled for sale under the name 'bicycles'. Something naughty caught my eye: There was an ass peeking out from behind a $2 stepladder! I stepped over some broken stereos to see what was being so flirty. It was a wooden cut–out of Santa Claus! And it looked like Santa was looking to get some serious, deep dicking tonight!

I wondered what sort of Christmas display this was from. Christmas in Ibiza Volume 17? Or maybe, Castro Christmas Volume 23 (The Blacker the Bigger)? Saint Nick was bent over forward and his long jacket flipped up in the back to expose his eager, willing rump. The artist captured the jolly old elf the same way I always imagined him, peeking back over his upturned ass, coyly inserting his index finger between the lips of his mustached, old–man's mouth.

He was smaller than the choir boys and angel cut–outs, but Kris Kringle was still too large to bring with me. So, I took his picture and captured the moment forever. And what a moment it was. He had the look of someone who just got caught being very bad on his plump face. Of course, that was what made it so perfect.

As fun as it was, I soon grew tired of the thrift store. Plus, the day was speeding into the lazy late afternoon. And there was a huge world of accomplishment outside the second–hand shop just begging to be experienced, interacted with, and photographed by me. So, I said goodbye to the gallery and gave myself a pat on the back for escaping without having spent a single cent. In fact, I could say that I left that place a little richer, for I had a camera full of memories to share with my friends.