Justin Hudnall had just driven 18 straight hours to the South by Southwest music festival to write about local label Volar Records when he passed the sign.
“I recognized this fishhook roundabout as the most poetic of road signs the moment I saw it,” explains Hudnall, a local scribe who serves as the executive director of San Diego arts organization So Say We All. “Granted, I was already in an abstract mindset.”
The fishhook roundabout instructs drivers that they can continue on in any direction except backward. “At the time I had just been ejected from an embarrassingly toxic relationship,” he recalls. “I remember thinking the fishhook would make a good shorthand reminder for people in recovery. It could be the Prince symbol of the self-help world.”
Four days later, Hudnall—who, in the tradition of the sprawling Austin music fest, had been drinking since arriving in Texas—went to a big backyard punk-rock show, where he blacked out.
“At some point late that night, I came to while riding a giant mustache see-saw. What I managed to piece together was that I had wandered away from the party and into the Red Devil Tattoo Parlor, where a 17-year-old runaway had permanently inked the fishhook on the inside of my left forearm. He was good for a kid, and I still think it’s the most poetic of road signs.”