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2003-09-30

Hi again! I am traveling around the US and writing about it, and there seems to be no end in sight.

I am looking for nice, fun people who can put me up for a few nights and feed me and pay my way (since I am broke) and show me a good time (since I like good times). If you think it might be fun to host me for a day or two or three, email me at justingrace AT mac DOT com. Please make sure to include your address and phone number. I am especially looking for places to stay in the southeast USA and the East Coast.

I will be traveling all over the USA, though, so email me no matter what! Here are the places I will be in the next few weeks that I am still looking for a place to stay at:

Texas: Between Austin, TX and Louisiana
Mississippi
Alabama
Tennessee
North/South Carolina
Georgia

I am in Austin right now, so please contact me ASAP if you are in or around Austin and want to hang out! Thanks in advance for your help! And now, more of my banter...



US Tour Day 14: Land of Glory: Ari–motherfuckin'–Zona

I used to spend a lot of time with Steve Peterson in my high school years. He was the classic boy next door, everybody loved him for his authenticity. He was beautiful like a girl with delicate features and long blonde hair. Girls, forever narcissists, adored him. He was hilarious, too, popping out puns and witty comments like a loaded slot machine.

And, he could do anything at all better than anyone else without even trying. Steve is what I like to call a natural. It is as if there's no learning curve with anything for him. He picked up guitar, bass, and drums in a year—and he played them all quite well. His innate talent seemed almost unfair to the rest of us who had to actually try to be good at things. When we met I had been playing guitar ferociously for six years, practicing hours every day. He'd just started. In less than a year he was almost as good as me.

After high school he and I drifted silently apart. I didn't even realize it happened, actually, it was so quiet. I probably didn't realize he was gone until he came back into my life during his trip to the Bay Area a few months ago. He'd found my web site or something and got in touch with me, I think. We were going to have lunch at Apple, since he was a big Mac fan. That was the point of contact that brought him back into my life.


Arizona. Don't worry, it's beautiful. Here we see my stupid face, arms, and upper body blocking a perfectly good view of the aptly named Canyon Lake.

Turned out he was still a lot like the person I knew before—sweet, shy, funny, boyish, sweet, did I say sweet? The archetype of Good Guy, the laws of physics clearly prevent anyone from disliking him.

He lives in Scottsdale, Arizona now with his wife and daughter. So, when passing through Arizona I was happy for the opportunity to spend some time with Steve.


Dude, my face is inside a toilet seat. The possibilities for funny captions boggle the mind.


Wood paneling on the side of a building in the ghost town of Tortilla Flat.

He drove me out to show me some fantastic Arizona sights, all of which were stereotypical in the best possible way—canyons, ghost towns, cacti, and other spectacular examples of the desert's greatest hits. Each thing we saw epitomized the American southwest, like delegates from various ethnicities dress up in their culture's most classical garb on the day when they meet the other representatives. And it was all too beautiful. It was like being clubbed over the head repeatedly with the majesty of nature and her desert creations. Everything I looked at screamed out photographic opportunity through a megaphone into my face, and I wondered if it was really all so perfect or if it was just me.


I might be biased. The desert is my favorite flavor of nature. Most everything else is too cluttered. But, with the desert there is more space between things, allowing each object to be framed perfectly. Lines are more clearly defined. The stark absence of clutter fills the ears with the deafening ringing of space and silence.

Steve and I spent most of our time talking about spiritual issues. His spiritual path as a Christian has shaped his life and guided him in ways that he is very excited about. I am always happy to talk with people about their connection to god or God or the universe or whatever they call it that day. It is during those discussions that I feel like I am doing what I was put on Earth for, if that makes any sense. I long to strengthen people's connection between them and that energy that fills us all.


I told Steve about my journey and how I wanted to change the world. I wanted to meet the people of this world and listen to them and know their pain and problems. And, then I wanted to help them learn that—through love and some sort of faith—they can alleviate these pains and teach others to do so, too. In the recent days I came to realize that this was the point of my US trip, to serve and to give and to love the world and the people I interact with in a way that might compel them to want to do the same for everyone they interact with.


I think he was surprised to hear me say that. Religious people often mistakenly think that their people are the only ones who have been called to do something important in this world and everyone else is a big fucking stooge in need of serious fixing. During our hours of driving and walking and sightseeing I think Steve saw that our paths were more similar than they were different. We both were called to love and to forgive. We both felt compelled to share this with everyone we met. We both felt like we really had nothing to do with it and were just helping out a bigger cause.

One moment with him really struck me. He bought me lunch in Tortilla Flat. Tortilla Flat is a ghost town east of Scottsdale. A southwest style burger joint has inhabited one of the decrepit buildings there like a hermit crab takes over a deserted shell, providing an oasis to the tourists passing through. Before we ate, he almost forgot to pray over our meal.


I noticed this attention to the obligation for prayer over our food. It was like he had to remember to pray. I respect the sentiment of praying over food. I said to him, "I imagine a day when people are so thankful for the food that they have been blessed with that they will never have to remind themselves to give thanks. They will give thanks constantly. They will be so overwhelmed with thankfulness that to do otherwise would be impossible."

I asked him what he thought it would take to get people to that place. He said that the only way he knew how to get there was through his specific faith. That seemed like a solid enough answer.

But, something tells me that there must be a more general and universal solution than one specific faith. I think there must be some collision between ethics and understanding that transcends the social limitations of our current mainstream faith communities. We must begin a renaissance of compassion and sincere interest in one another. As we become acutely aware of the pains of every other person we share the world with, ignorance melts away, replaced with understanding.

We can sit together and laugh and cry over what one another have gone through and and see that we're not so different after all. And, the moment when we realize we are not so different is the moment of clarity when one sees that there is not enough time in the day for all the thankfulness we could have for our lives and for one another.

— So, what does it take to get from the world as it is right this very second to that world? Those are the baby steps I want to start taking and start encouraging others to take each moment.


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