The scene: A nondescript parking garage in downtown Austin, Texas.
The time: Sometime last fall, early evening.
The characters: 40ish hipster with longish hair and a lot of impressive camera equipment slung over his shoulder; and me.
The setup: I’ve driven downtown for some event or other (I’ve forgotten what it was, and it doesn’t really matter). I’ve just parked and locked my car and am walking down the parking-garage ramp to the exit, and suddenly notice I’m not alone.
Hipster guy (sidling up alongside me): Does that mean San Luis Obispo?
Me (extremely confused): What?
Hipster guy: Does that mean San Luis Obispo?
Me: Excuse me, does what mean San Luis Obispo?
Hipster guy: The bumper sticker on your car.
Me (the lights coming on): No, Slovenia!
[Some years ago, shortly after returning to the States, I affixed a “national” sticker purchased in Ljubljana to my car’s rear bumper, bearing the coat of arms of Slovenia and the three-word abbreviation SLO. This man is the first person to have ever commented on it.]
Hipster guy (laughing): Oh! Are you from there?
Me: No, I’m not from there, but I lived there for several years.
I suppose it’s understandable — Austin is a lot closer to San Luis Obispo than Slovenia, and that California town of 45,000 (halfway between San Francisco and LA) even refers to itself as “SLO” — the Chamber of Commerce site’s URL is www.visitslo.com and their slogan is “Experience the SLO life!” The city’s official web site uses the headling, “What’s new in SLO.” And so forth.
But still. I mean, joke if you want to about Slovenia’s relatively modest size and population, it can still boast of over a thousand years of literary/cultural/artistic/folk traditions, gorgeous and varied geography, some great food and wine, sophisticated design, an independent-minded and educated populace. San Luis Obispo, on the other hand…as far as I know, its major claim to fame is being the birthplace of Jamba Juice.
I’ve got nothing against fruit smoothies, but, c’mon. I’ve been to SLO, and it ain’t a town in California. I’m just sayin’.