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Hi! If you hadn't noticed, I am traveling around the US. I am looking for nice, fun people who can put me up for a few nights and feed me (since I am broke) and show me a good time (since I like good times). If this sounds like fun for you, email me at justingrace AT mac DOT com with your info and address and phone number. I am especially looking for places to stay in the southern USA. Right now I really need a place to stay in or around the following places:

Palm Springs/Indio/Joshua Tree, CA
Central Texas
Thanks in advance for your help! And now...

US Tour Day 3, Part 1: Santa Barbara

My second day in Santa Barbara almost flew by, but I managed to have some fantastic moments.

I woke up late. My body was obviously starving for rest. I felt great, though. Waking up naturally almost always feels good—as opposed to waking up with the help of something like an alarm clock or a door bell, which basically sucks endless loads.

After putting on the same clothes I wore every other day of my trip so far, I remembered I had work to do—special scientific work! This is the day on which I would discover the surprise inside my danish pastry!

I scuffled into the kitchen. See, when I have shoes on I don't scuffle, I just walk. But, with only socks but no shoes I definitely scuffle. And that's what I did all the way into the kitchen, scuffle scuffle scuffle right up to the counter where the pastry rested in it's little, white pastry envelope.

Now, I knew there would be no surprise around the outside of the pastry—that part is nothing but stupid, boring–ass pastry dough. It is like a barren, fruit–and–custard–free pastry wasteland made to disappoint my mouth. I disrespect the dry, outer ring of dough like an inebriated frat boy disrespects women and children—merely a means to an end. Get me to the good part already!

I was going to need a plan. So, after a careful planning meeting that actually only took place in my imagination and lasted no more than 300 milliseconds I decided the obvious best plan of attack was to eat all of the dry, outer part first, leaving only enough crusty pastry–wasteland for me to have a makeshift handle with which to grip the danish. (Whoa, I said 'grip' and 'danish' in the same sentence. That is SO dirty.) This step was easy to execute, as it involved tasks which I happen to be very experienced with, such as biting and chewing and swallowing.

Why is it that pastries are so fucking EVIL?

Soon, I had exposed the center, the part where the surprise was rumored to lurk. I peered under the layer of almond paste. There was definitely something else under there, nestled between the almond paste and the pressed–down pastry layer below. But, what was it?

The mystery substance, which I refer to as the surprise layer, had a custardy–yellow color. It could have been lemon or egg custard, but definitely not any reddish berry. And, its opacity and consistency ruled out apple entirely.

I took a bite. And another. And another.

And I figured out what the surprise was, and it wasn't a good surprise. The surprise was the fact that the weird goo under the stupid almond crusty crap didn't taste like anything at all. Or, if it did have a taste it was completely masked by the flavor of the marzipan holy war that the Solvang Bakery waged against my fucking mouth.

So, after all that, I never got to find out what the hell was in the middle of the stupid mystery pastry. Oh well. Maybe some things are better left a mystery. One thing is for sure: next time I go to Solvang I am going to pay a visit to the folks at the Solvang Bakery, and there will be fisticuffs brandished, and they will know the might of my anti–them jihad!

Later that day I visited the crappiest park on earth. Well, the truth is that I have a bad memory and I may have in fact visited a crappier park before but can't remember. But, you will see from the pictures that this place was, without a doubt, a real craptastic fiesta of mediocrity.

People of Santa Barbara: This park is about to enhance the living fuck out of your wildlife! Except not really. Perhaps the sign was a clue to the park's dire need for some major enhancing, such as huge warning signs cautioning people from accidentally letting their eyes view this post–apocalyptic wasteland of a wildlife refuge.

Here we a filthy garbage can in it's native surroundings, the Andree Clark Bird Refuge.

Oh! What an amazing find! See it there? It's hiding! You can barely see it, as they tend to camouflage themselves with graffiti in order to blend in with their native surroundings of pieces of pipe sticking out the ground and wooden fences overgrown with weeds.

Here the have enhanced the ground to look like a face, sort of. Ok, not really.

Thank god I didn't pay to come here.

At least they have plenty of plumbing!

After the crappy park I had a wonderful visit with my friend Theresa. She was a girlfriend of mine during the summer when I was 17. Or was I 18 then? It's hard to remember. We worked together at a summer camp called St. Dorothy's Rest and I thought she was the cat's meow—smart and creative and mysterious and spiritual.

It had been ten years since I last saw her. After the camp's summer sessions were complete our services were no longer needed. She moved off to make a new life in Oregon and I returned to San Jose. We spoke infrequently for the next ten years. Usually she would call to tell me that she would be in the San Jose area in the next week and that we should hang out. She would say she would call me when she knew more, but there would be no other call. That is, not until the next time she called to tell me she would be in the area, usually about a year or two later.

Well, there was one phone call that she made to me that is of great importance to me. Not too many months after we broke up I got a call from Theresa. I was sitting on my bed in my mom's house, and I answered my green translucent Swatch phone, the one that lit up yellow when it rang.

Maybe she said hi or hello or howdy, but I don't remember. I only remember that she told me something that day that would shake my life in a way I had not felt before, a way I would not soon forget.

She said that she just felt like she needed to call me and thank me for being the person I was and let me know that she appreciated me and that our moments together had changed her life.

Nobody had ever said anything like that to me before, especially not someone as wow as her. I mean, this was the girl who seemed to know so much more than I did. She was so spiritual. She was so beautiful. She was experienced. She was a free spirit—she painted and danced and made beautiful things with her hands. I looked up to her so much—fascination and adoration with a tiny hint of envy.

So, to hear these words from her filled me with so much joy and warmth that it spilled over the edges and spilled all over the floor—the flood of it all caused the seams of my heart to nearly burst apart.

And with all that emotion that washed over me I wrote a song. I wrote it within minutes of hanging up the phone.

When my life presents me with times like these, I don't know what to do.
I look around my room and I see the flowers—
so beautiful, I can't believe
how every day is roses with people like you and times like these.
My life is on this island of caramel and flowers.
By day I swim a sea of sunshine trees,
my dreams start when I wake,
and if I die before I wake lord take these thanks.

Each morning I'm awakaned by snow people who love me and feed me love.
How my eloquence escapes me when speaking of their beauty,
they bring me flowers.
And every day is roses, but I don't mind anytime.
Come in my room and look at the flowers, share the flowers.

I finally recorded this song just last year during my fantastic Swedish recording adventure—ten long, crazy years after I wrote it, the day I began to understand the miracles of telephones and mouths and ears and hearts and flowers. [Keep tuned, the album will be available soon!]

My visit with Theresa would be short. I had to leave by 4 PM to get to Los Angeles by 7:30 to meet some wonderful readers who invited me for dinner. Theresa and I would have just under two hours.

I felt a little nervous as I walked from my car to her door. But, my nervousness dissolved when I saw her through the window. So I knocked on her door and she answered and we embraced and she talked and talked and danced me around her cottage and into the garden to show me her life there in that city by the Pacific Ocean. Her personality was huge and bright, like a monument lit up for a day of great celebration.

She was exactly the way I remembered, only somehow much better.

We talked about a million things that I don't need to write here—our words were like the winds blowing between two mountains, beautiful air carried back and forth in delicate patterns choreographed only by the moment, only to suddenly disappear forever, remembered by no one.

The important parts: Theresa was fantastic, and I didn't wonder for even a second why I fell in love with her so long ago. She danced and moved as she spoke, emoting each sub–particle of every idea with her entire corpus. I was happy she was my friend still, she was happy she was my friend still. And I didn't want to leave.

But I had to leave, as it was four o'clock. I gathered the few things I brought into her cottage into my arms and sat them on the passenger seat next to me and said goodbye. I headed to my old friend, Highway 101, and headed south towards Los Angeles.