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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:

Central Texas

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

US Tour Day 12: Riverside

I am really behind in my writing. I haven't even had time to write up days 6-11 yet, and those were some really fun times with great stories. Well, I'll write those up later—when I get a chance to sit in one place for a while. I did, however, get the chance to write about day 12 last night, so I figured I would post that now.

Outside a Unitarian church in downtown Riverside.

Riverside. It would be presumptuous of me to think I could say anything all that accurate about a city this big without living a few lifetimes here. So, I'll just explain what I've tasted thus far.

An old Subaru 360 sits on the side of a residential street near downtown.

Downtown, or at least what I saw of it, was beautiful and dead—it made a boarded up convalescent home seem hopping. I visited a photography museum and walked on empty sidewalks, passing a gorgeous old mission that had been converted into a hotel. Flowers poured over every inch of the old California building, falling in voluptuous curves over the old adobe walls.

It was the middle of the day on a Sunday. Nobody walked by, the streets were silent. If this was Riverside then I love it.

I ate dinner at a burrito place on the other side of the freeway from downtown. Geographically it was only a few blocks away, but it was a completely different Riverside than the one that I remembered thinking that I liked a few minutes earlier. Someone told me there was a college over there. I wasted seven years in colleges once, and I observed how college kids will much rather spend their money on intoxicants than food. So, go to where the school is to find the cheap eats. My goal was to eat for under $4, if not less.

The burrito place is on the left, across the street from the motel.

I pulled into the worst–looking Mexican place I could find, hoping that the attention they payed to their building, paint, decor, potholes, and signage would be directly proportional to the cost of their food. And, I was right. I ate outside at a tile topped table and watched people and cars.

I had wandered into the strangest neighborhood. There weren't any men. There weren't any children. There were only women. White women with tattoos walked the sidewalks, and sat on the tile benches near me. They crossed in the crosswalks. From what I could see, fast living and hard times had accelerated their aging like a half–successful NASA experiment to degrade human skin. If you listened close enough, you could figure out their favorite brand of cigarette when they spoke by the timbre of their husky voices, each resounding rasp of their vocal cords like leather clapboards being beaten together. I couldn't tell if it was buy one get one free day at the store where you get tired, carnie women or if there was a jailbreak at the nearby women's prison for the badly tattooed or what.

It wasn't even funny, it was just depressing and weird. I ate a little faster, as if that might keep one of these strange creatures from sitting on my lap or sneaking a bite of my burrito or tattooing me or whatever it was I was afraid they might do to me. If this was Riverside, then Riverside is the font from which all carnies flow.

I don't trust carnies, and the women made me nervous, so I didn't really hang around outside the restaurant much after I was done eating. Instead I drove back to a cafe near the freeway on University, back in what I had already decided in my mind was the yummy, quiet, clean good Riverside.

As I parked my car, a young woman in her early twenties stumbled out of the bar next to the cafe. She wobbled, lost her balance, then fell into a heap on the ground, only inches from my car. Her white wife–beater shirt was stained with what I assumed was vomit, beer or beer vomit, judging by the colors and the fact that she made Shakes The Clown look like prohibitionist nun at an oxygen bar. She got back up and repeated her little walking and then swaying and falling thing, trying as hard as she could to head some place. Until this point I had two different views of this city, but they were now converging into one.

I hoped she would be OK. Then again, I don't know, maybe she was having fun. I personally don't like falling down and vomiting—at least not when it's involuntary—so it appeared to me that maybe she could have been having more fun doing something else.