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Hi again! If you hadn't noticed, I am traveling around the US and writing about it. 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:

Riverside/Palm Springs/Indio/Joshua Tree, CA
Central Texas

Thanks in advance for your help! And now...

US Tour Day 4: Inland Invasion

I woke up in a strange bed.

I was moving around my luggage and preparing my little nest of pillows when Larissa asked if I wanted to sleep in her bed with her. Assuring me that she didn't want to get it on—she said she really missed the warmth of just sleeping next to someone. "Get it on?", I thought. I giggled in my mind. I wanted to ask, ironically, "get what on?", but I was way too tired to be funny. A proper bed (as opposed to a makeshift nest on the floor) and the warmth of a friend to hug looked very attractive, so I fell deep into sleep next to this warm, kind new friend.

Normally I have so much trouble falling asleep next to another person, unless it is someone I am very close to, such as Andie or Dave Marr. But, for some reason I fell asleep instantly and stayed asleep the whole night. It was great, there wasn't the usual sexual tension that tends to keep me awake when sleeping next to a woman—that constant wondering if maybe something might happen, anticipation that a hand might brush against some electrically charged piece of skin. But, instead there was warmth and hugs and sleeping and safety.

And, many hours later I woke up in a strange bed. I pried open my eyes and saw a stark white mosquito net hanging from the ceiling, pouring down and wrapping itself like an embrace around the bed where I lay alone.

Today we were going to a concert—one of those all–day events with fifty–million bands and fifty–million people where sodas cost ten bucks and you are so far away from the stage that you could probably see the bands just as well from your house in another city. But, you must understand that on this particular day that sounded like about the most fun thing I could imagine. I mean, there I was in a fun, new place with fun, new people and they—through theirincredible generosity and hospitality—were taking me to do this fun thing where we would hang out and eat and drink and have what I estimated to be nearly illegal quantities of fun together. I felt like the luckiest guy in the universe.


First we went to 7-Eleven (aka The Sev) to get some liquid refreshment. My 64 ounce behemoth—lovingly dubbed "Mug"—was empty, and The Sev always has the best deal on refills. While there, Hillary even decided to get a mug of her own. Now, let me say that this was a great victory for my cause. See, I have been trying to start a Mug Movement. I envision a land where all the cool kids have their own gigantic mug full of soda or iced tea or steaming hot frothy urine or whatever it is they like to drink or sip or splash around in. Each time a friend converts to the way of the mug, it brings us all one step closer to Mug Nation!

After The Sev we picked up food from the grocery store and began our 55 mile journey to Rancho Cucamonga for a day of music, sunburns, jumping up and down, and all around fun in that place the locals call The Inland Empire.

The sun set over what I guess was the stage, since that was the direction all the attendees faced. Tiny things moved on the stage, like miniature band–members on the moon.

I have a few words about big, outdoor festival concerts. These words are: expensive, crowded, long lines, overburdened restrooms, obstructed view, suffering, agony, torture, and finally an overall loathing for public events and a lifetime of agoraphobic paranoia. But, today was different. Sure, there were all those things I just mentioned. Today there was one variable that made it all so much better: we were with one another, which felt like the most correct combination of people on Earth at that moment. The right people paired with the right attitude made us all forget about the usual pains of big–time–concert living.

"Self portrait with Larissa"

Yay for my rad, new friends!

There were so many bands! Soft Cell was finishing up just as we arrived. This turned out to be a good thing. They sounded terrible, their singer's voice almost caused me physical pain. The other acts were ranged from good to great, totally making up for that first band's transgressions against my ears: Psychadelic Furs, Charlatans UK, Violent Femmes, Hot Hot Heat, Duran Duran, and finally The Cure. Most of these artists have been performing together for over twenty years, and you could tell—their grace and talent dripped of experience and they made it all seem as a bird silently floating on a stream of warm air, far above the land of the walking.

Us having fun!

Now here we are having fun at NIGHT! I bet you didn't think it was possible! You can have fun in the day AND the night!

Give a guy a cowboy hat and it's like you give him a license to act like an idiot. (Note: Still having fun.)

There were so many bands and so little time, so each band only played their biggest crowd–pleasing hits. Except for The Cure. The Cure played last, giving them much more freedom to play whatever they felt like. So, instead of playing everyone's favorite Cure songs or fun, happy radio singles, they took this opportunity to play a suicide encouragement set: nothing but their 8–minute depressing songs about death and sorrow, the songs that were usually relinquished to the final track on that album.

I didn't know The Cure had so many aching, agonizing songs about suffering, but they did all they could to reassure the crowd that they had plenty—and there were more where that came from, too. By the end of their set we huddled together on the blanket like a depression party, holding one another in semi–fetal position, moping, wishing the sad songs would stop. Hillary watched over us, making sure that none of us would end our lives at the suggestion of the music. But finally the band played their last song, an upbeat song—Boys Don't Cry—and we were freed from sadness' chains.

Except for some low points brought on by The Cure audio depression missiles, we had the maximum amount of fun all day. We laughed and danced; we talked and played. Somehow my one day with Hillary, Leslie, and Larissa felt like one thousand days—one thousand long, full, fun days. I guess the word I keep using is 'fun'. I don't really have an adequate synonym for it—no other word can fit in its place. You should have seen us. Leslie jumped up and down with joy; Hillary and Larissa embraced us into a group hug, somehow shifting the balance of glee in the world a little bit higher than I thought possible. Fun was our theme, and we had it in droves.

All this talk of fun reminds me of something. There is this phenomenon that occurs whenever I'm having an especially good time. I get in this mode where I'm constantly telling anyone within earshot how much fun I'm having. And, I'll tell them over and over and over. And, if they get tired of it I'll tell someone else. If there's nobody left to tell, I'll write about it. The truth is that I feel like a broken record sometimes, always going on and on about how 'fun' something is and how happy I am. I wonder if anyone ever gets bothered by this? Nobody has ever actually said anything about it yet, so I'm probably safe for now. But, still sometimes I wonder.

And, speaking of fun: if my trip continues to be this fun I will never have time to write about anything at all. I am going to have to start setting aside a few days each week, or maybe a few hours each day, just for writing.