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Wow, I sure have been traveling for a long time. As I post today's installment I looked at my calendar and saw that I've been out here for 139 days! This is the longest I've ever traveled, and by far the most challenging trip I've ever taken. Sometimes I think about calling it quits and heading home—some days I'm just tired of never sleeping in the same bed, some days I'm tired of wondering what happens when the money runs out. I miss my friends and family.

Yet, there is something that compels me to continue. I know I have something great to find out here. And, I know I have something great to give out here. And, I'll know when it's time to go home. But, until then, you'll find me somewhere out there. I'm the one in the red car with the driver's side window that doesn't work anymore, the one with the rust spots all over it that speeds past you. I'm the one taking the pictures of the graffiti, the statue, the strange food.

I've been playing shows every day for the last few days. I even played TWO concerts the other night. I sell my buttons, CDs, and photos at these gigs. And, I've been consistently selling things every day. It's very exciting! So, I'm sure as hell not rich, but my finances are looking brighter. I am starting to realize that I can support myself entirely with my art. Onward and upward!

I am still looking for nice, fun people who can put me up for a few nights and really host me. This would involve me staying at your house for a few days, showing me a good time, feeding me from time to time, and leading me into whatever general mischief we can get into. I'll get to learn about your life and write about our times together! I am meeting with people I've never met before and living some life with them. That could be you! 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 in your email to me so I can be in touch!

I am especially looking for places to stay in the southeast USA and everywhere on the East Coast. I will be traveling all over the USA, though, so email me no matter where you are because I will probably come visit! Here are the places I will be in the next few months that I am still looking for a place to stay at:

• Florida
• Alabama
• Tennessee
• North/South Carolina
• Georgia
• Virginia

Please contact me ASAP if you want to hang out!

If you believe in what I am doing and want to help support me, please do so! You can donate money to me using PayPal. Email me for more information! Or, check out my photo sales page! Buying photos from me feeds me and keeps me on the road!

US Tour Day 120: Deb's Crystal

People in Florida advertise their religious beliefs more than any people I've ever met. Garnished with blue rope light, the cross in the back of this college student's truck makes a loud statement about his faith. As do his Christian fish emblem and bumper stickers reading, "Next time you think you're perfect, try walking on water!" and "You better be right!"

I have a friend named Deb Khan. She lives in Santa Rosa, California and makes jewelry. Deb gave me a sort of mission—a little task—during my recent visit with her.

We were sitting in her dining room, surrounded by beautiful stones and pearls and crystals and clasps and all the sorts of things that clutter your table when you make jewelry. She picked up a stone, pressed it flat between the palms of both her hands and held it out in front of me. She looked like she was tasting something in her mind, trying to see if it was to her liking. I wasn't sure where she was going with this.

Whatever she was tasting between those palms must have been right because she said, "Yes, this is the one. I'm giving this to you to pass on to someone else, someone in need. Maybe it will be a homeless person on the street or a crazed mom in the supermarket. I don't know. But, you'll know who you're supposed to give it to when you see them." She dropped a beautiful quartz crystal in my hand.

So, I took the crystal and put it in my bag. And, I've carried it with me everywhere since she gave it to me, anticipating the moment when I'll meet that person.

I knew I'd found her when Craig and Jen and I drove into the gas station today in Orlando. She was sitting on a skateboard against the mini–market part of the gas station. She was smoking a cigarette. Her stringy, blonde hair was a mess and her posture screamed of agitation. The conversation she was having on her cell phone seemed to be upsetting a place inside of her that was already upset and hurting all the time to begin with.

I fished around in my little green backpack to find the crystal and took a picture of it in my hand so I could remember what it looked like. I put on my crumpled black cowboy hat. I wanted to avoid her eyes as I walked over to where she was sitting, and I tipped my head down just enough to hide them under the brim of the tired, old hat.

Farewell, miracle of nature. My time with you is over. Our lives were never meant to intersect for long. From the beginning our relationship was clear. I was merely a messenger, a middle–man between you and your new life, your new friends. So, go now! Diffuse photons in patterns which speak of your unique signature, introduce yourself, spread waves of light!

Saying nothing, I held my clenched hand out towards her in that way that shows that you are planning to drop something in someone's hand.

"I'm not a beggar!" she screamed.

I tilted my hat up so she could meet my eyes. She was much younger than the pain in her body language had led me to believe from across the parking lot.

I smiled. "I know you're not." This confused her. "I want to give you something." This confused her more. She reached up to grab what I was going to drop into her hand.

I let the crystal go.

You'd think that I was attacking her by the way she yelled out, "It's a rock! I don't want your rock!"

I explained to her that it wasn't a rock. It was a crystal.

"No it's not! It's a rock!" I was starting to wonder if she ever ended her sentences with anything besides exclamation points.

"It's a quartz crystal." I assured her.

And then some little sun within her peered out from a space in the clouds, "Really?"

"Yes. Really."

"Where'd you get it?"

I told her how I was in Northern California with my friend Deb who is a jewelry maker and how she'd given me this stone and instructed me to hold on to it until I found the right person to give it to. "I knew it was you when we pulled into the parking lot."

"Really?" The clouds had parted all the way, and I could tell there wouldn't be any more exclamation points from her during this conversation. I wanted her to feel the love that Deb had passed on through me. And, I really wanted her to stop shouting.

I smiled, "Yes, really. You can keep it, or, you might find someone else someday that you think needs it more than you. You could give it to them."

She was beaming. She jumped up from where she was sitting on her skateboard, leaning against the dirty gas station wall and shot me a huge smile. She thanked me and shook my hand. She told me her name (it was something out of the ordinary that began with a 'B') and how she went to the college across the street and that she was technically a sophomore even though it was her first year and one or two other little facts about her which I forgot. I wasn't trying too hard to remember, though. I knew I'd never see her again. Plus, I'd done what I needed to do.

I told her my name was Justin Winokur and that I hoped that her day got better, which I realized in the moment may have been odd to say to a stranger that wasn't even aware I noticed them having a less–than–perfect day.

She thanked me again and smiled and I made a mental note that she had dimples. I said goodbye, walked to the car, and drove off.