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2005-08-12


Lights on a carnival ride in downtown Norrköping.

I walked through downtown Norrköping today. The town was packed with people. It was as if someone poured paraffin on their ant hill and set it on fire—they all rushed out and filled the streets and walkways.

I looked to the sky, but there was no giant child with a bottle of wax and a stolen lighter. Instead it was something probably even more compelling for the sleepy city: a street fair spidered through the streets of the city center like cancer, only with slightly fewer tumors and slightly more kiosks.

I was feeling melancholy, so I indulged my sad side and listened to some late 1960's Beach Boys from around the Smile era. Their music appeals to me because it's hopeful and fun and cozy and heartbreaking and sad at the same time—much like life. The crooning background vocals sound like music to cry to. Their eerie voices sound like ghosts slipping out through the fake smiles of people with hearts more broken then they would ever admit from this side of the grave. There's a subtle sadness that looms behind their sunny façade. Just like me.

So I walked and listened, wading through the people. Everyone was beautiful. Swedes come in three flavors: beautiful young Swedes with low pants and tight shirts, beautiful old Swedes that used to be beautiful young ones, beautiful babies waiting their turn in line to join the others.

Friends at home ask me to explain how any people could be all that beautiful. To do that, I need to tell a story.

Once there was a row of statues of angels. They had lean bodies and perfect, delicate faces and huge eyes lifted to the heavens—eyes that filled with pools of water when it rained. And then, one night a shaman casts a great spell on the statues—animating them, allowing them to leave their pillars. The angels would get to come to life, but, only until midnight. After that they would return to stone again, forever.

The angels tasted everything life had to offer in those fleeting hours. They ate, they drank, they swam. They laughed, they had crushes, and they tangled themselves together, fucking as they fell from the heavens. And as midnight approached they cried. They knew their time was almost over. The angels were so angry that they could only experience life for one night.

They felt cheated that humans could walk around and look at them on their pillars for eternity while they themselves remained trapped in stone, unable to enjoy anything at all. So, they decided to punish the living. They made their own angels—in their own image, but so much better. Their creations were so radiant, so appealing, so delicious that anyone who saw them would fall weeping to the ground. And, these new angels would walk among the living. The humans would also know how it felt to experience unparalleled beauty that they could never really keep. And, the angels left their sweet faced children behind to taunt the living. It was their cruel trick to punish the one who cast the spell and all people.

And the angels' creations would be the Swedes.

Don't think it's fun to walk around through a crowd of them. It's not. It hurts.

It doesn't really matter anyways. The real issue is that I don't like crowds of strangers—gorgeous or not. Being one tiny drop in a sea of people makes me feel depressed. I long to connect with people. I like to talk, to share, to discuss, to listen. I like to contribute to a moment. I want to take interest in someone's life; I want someone to take interest in my life. Crowds just feel like an evil taunt—the people are all around but they might as well be a million miles away. I'm a starving person surrounded by statues of food I can't eat.

I've been at so many festivals, parties, night clubs, bars, and big concerts since I started this tour. Each night ends with me so sad and wanting to go home. I try to talk with people, but it doesn't really work—the cultural divide is just too wide. I think I'm starting to understand why immigrants stick together.

I left the street fair and the bubbling crowd behind. It felt much better to walk through the empty park. The iPod in my pocket spun on, and the Beach Boys howled eerie psalms about loves lost and moments that fade into memory. Just like this one will.


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