Thursday, August 28, 2008
They shoot smokers, don't they?
Maybe you’ve heard this one before. A man vacationing along the central coast of California hears a rumor about a small village of Dutch settlers called Solvang. He drives to Solvang, and finds a city lined with pastry shops and chocolatiers. There’s Dutch architecture everywhere he looks and every restaurant is a “smörgåsbord” (even though anyone can tell you that smörgåsbords are Sweedish, not Dutch). It’s homely, and maybe even a little kitschy. He feels comfortable. Maybe even a little pleased with himself. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. He lights one, taking a nice, long drag. He barely notices the hands creeping along his back, just before he disappears into a dark, foreboding alleyway, never to be seen again.
So maybe Solvang isn’t quite that foreboding, but there is definitely a level of creepiness associated with the small town of 5,000 possibly Dutch residents. It’s got that “It’s A Small World” kind of atmosphere, minus the creepy dolls. Eat enough of the town’s sugary pastries or chocolates (and trust me, you can’t walk 20 feet without tripping over marzipan) and you might even get a sugar high bad enough to evoke an acid trip through Fantasyland. I’m convinced that there must be some sort of city-mandated ordering structure to the shops in Solvang. It goes: bakery, shiny things shop, chocolatier, smörgåsbord, toy shop. Lather, rinse, repeat. And probably the creepiest thing about Solvang is that no one, I repeat no one, smokes there.
I did not see another soul light up the entire time I was there. I saw no cigarette butts in the gutters. I didn’t even see any tobacconists in the area. It made me paranoid. Anytime I lit up, I searched the crowds of tourists for “men in black” or “doppelgangers” or even “strangers.” Instead, all I found was the disapproving gaze of shoppers who’d eaten far too many preserved orange slices. “Stop smoking,” their eyes said. “It makes my aebleskivers taste funny!”