I never woke up thinking to myself, “You know! Today I’m gonna move to Riverside, California!”
No one in their right mind would think that. I only came to Riverside because I needed a break from Hollywood, and my brother suggested I come for a visit and see his family. I didn’t have any gigs lined up, my music career was taking a nose dive at the time, and I knew I’d have fun and be very well fed. So I packed up my Toyota Tercel for a weekend visit and took off.
If you look at a map of Southern California and draw a line from LA to Palm Springs, Riverside is exactly halfway between the two. If the map has any color to it, the green that represented the beautiful California coastline would suddenly turn brown because you drive into a desert. The name Riverside is a misnomer. Actually it’s an outright lie!
Once there was a river and a thriving agricultural community that was the envy of the nation. Riverside was one of the richest places to live in the whole country. What happened was Los Angeles. They greedily sucked up all the water, diverting it for their use.
I drove up the 91 on a hot summer day with no air conditioning so I got to appreciate the 110 degree heat blasting me through open windows. My brother was a welder at the time and had just started a new family. Money was tight for them so they lived in a trailer park up in the foothills just outside of Riverside.
I got off the freeway and drove up Cajolco, a two lane road that wound like a huge dead snake flung across a landscape of dusty hills. As I drove it amazed me that patches of green property appeared with actual grass and beautiful plants then abruptly at the property line, everything would turn crispy brown and dead again. That happened regularly as I drove down the road; a classic example of how mankind did daily battle to establish a foothold in that God forsaken environment. If the water that Riverside pumped in was ever turned off everything would be dead in a week and tumbleweeds would roll down Main Street and up to the doors of city hall.
About five miles short of my brother’s place my car made a noise, quit working and rolled to a stop on the side of the road. Smoke started to waft up from the engine. I jumped out, lifted the hood and used an old shirt from my backseat to beat down a small engine fire. That was it. God was pointing a finger at me saying that my life needed to change. I had no money to fix the car.
I walked the rest of the way to my brothers and spent the night on his couch. The next morning he drove me to where I left the car.
It had been stripped.