Just for the heck of it and after having exhausted all my options in the goings on around the City of Angels and all that Hollywood hype, I decided as it popped up to me to seek refuge elsewhere in the Southland, temporarily, I would guess, on an expedition. I had thought about which particular place or city would be convenient for my nerves as the crazy, Hollywood wannabes, road rage and same sex driven gay and lesbian community tend to change the Southland into something the biblical principles condemned, long time ago -- I don't know about Leviticus, though.

But as I made up my mind, I had thought about several other Los Angeles suburbs and cities around Southern California. After the hurdle of thinking about it, Riverside, California, popped up, just like that; and the reason it became my point of call was something I really did not know, and in a case of lottery where I had gambled, Riverside won as my fantastic trip.

Quite some drive from Downtown Los Angeles and taking the 10 Freeway East to the 60 Freeway East on to the 71 Freeway and the 91 Freeway when the traffic had normally been humble, I did not sweat to the City of Riverside and walking down all the streets through City Hall, the journey was worth telling.

I had gone to the historic court house and passing through the metal detectors with tight security hanging around, I walked pass the sheriffs and the troubled with the law for court dates and appearances.

These days of much talked about recession and economic meltdown, folks around town 'dunno' what would be next. Hagglers were all around trying to broker a deal on foreclosures. Yes, that's right, every Tom, Dick and Harry you pass by seems to be dipping his or her hands where money can possibly be made, especially these hard times making money looks like a mirage. The courts, these days, are calm and from my observation at the Riverside Court House, everything seemed pretty much the same in the Southland. The clerks, sheriffs, plaintiffs, defendants, prosecutors and judges have sensed the need for cordial and mutual relationships, never minding the rule of law, applying human nature, fairness and understanding the toll this recession has taken on every American. This is the time to stick together and rebuild America; and that's exactly what seems to be going on.

On Mission Inn Avenue and Main Street where I checked in to the historic Mission Inn Hotel, I felt like I had landed in one of those exotic resorts in Miami Beach. I had arrived to a place that was totally strange, another big city. A whole lot of eatery, plaques, engravings and statues of the accomplished. It is a famous hangout and has been patronized by presidents, Kings, Brahmins and movie stars.

There's Bella Trattoria Italian Bistro, the fine Italian cuisine in a posh atmosphere. There's Mission Inn Restaurant which offers Italian, Mexican, American and other ethnic dishes from around the world. There are three other restaurants housed by the elegantly structured Mission Inn Hotel

Mission Inn was the perfect place for me in my quest to stay away from the bumper-to-bumper amd hustle-me-crazy Hollywood. Hollywood seems to be hype compared to the little moment I shared with Riverside. And I had begun to thinking about retiring to smaller cities or if necessary the woods, before I lose the remainder of my hearing from the noisy, crazy dubs of Hollywood, especially the rock concerts that had almost made me hard of hearing. Riverside does not look like my place of retirement. It is a big city.

At Mario's Place, another fine cuisine on Mission Inn Avenue and while taking some shots (I am becoming one of the fine photo shooters, believe it or not), I encountered a curious minded tourist who had thought I was also a tourist like him. The tourist had asked of my origin and I told him "I belong to the City of Angels." I got him confused because he was expecting an answer he already had in mind. He wanted to know my country of origin and I told him "Biafra."

"No, no, I mean, what country are you from?" he asked again.

"Biafra," I told him and he still did not get it.

I gave him a hint about the Holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered; the Rwandan genocide in which over a million souls perished in 1994; the Armenian genocide in which millions were massacred and the pogrom in which over two million Igbos were murdered in the most brutal of circumstances and the pogrom being the most blood soaked event in the African continent. He got some history lessons and he loved it. I continued my journey.

My second day at this fine city was full of fun. It was on a Saturday and a whole lot of line ups had been scheduled by the Riverside Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

University Avenue, UC Riverside, academia and scholars. The Street Jam. Lake Alice Trading Company Saloon and Eatery; hamburgers, sandwiches, fingerlicking foods and a host of salad varieties on the menu at this spot on the flashy University Avenue. Mr T's Family Restaurant where actual potatoes and eggs exactly how you want them are served on Main Street. The Tamale Factory, the catering style Mexican grub hosts great service and terrific tamale tastes on Main Street. Templo Del Sol, the best wrapped flour totilla with a bunch of meat, cheese, beans and veggies on University Avenue.

Orange Street and the beautiful smiling faces even though they do not show the evils in them. The bikers and the smoke shops. Back to the Grind Coffee House; poetry, live music, jazz, reggae, blues, rock, bluegrass including the kind of blues rock invented by Steve Winwood when he was discovered in Birmingham by Jamaican born Brit Chris Blackwell who also found Bob Marley, Junior Murvin, U2 and the rest. Blackwell owned Island Records.

So on this georgeous Saturday, I am vacationing in the desert, there were better graded approaches as everything got me knocked off including the Downtown Street Jam on Orange and Ninth Street. The event was the real deal. For the first time, I knew of the rock group Inhale, the area's local band. Superbad was the local ensemble that thrilled me the most with its pure funk and mixtures of soul, jazz flavors and hard rock. It was loud all evening and the dancing and stomping was on the street.

And one thing I observed in Downtown Riverside was while walking you will notice the absence of big-time pimps, prostitutes, junkies, runaway teens and crack heads commonly seen in Hollywood -- I mean, the squatting in alleys and empty buildings -- like rats hanging out in some cage.

But in Riverside, I'm quite sure the city residents appreciate the way their tax dollar is being spent as merchants and visitors who trooped in to watch The Downtown Street Jam could obviously tell that the Riverside local groups, Inhale, Polite, Superbad, Micah Justice and Paging Beto came to entertain for real and free of charge on the goodwill of the City of Riverside and the Riverside Downtown Partnership.

Not forgetting the usual place I hibernate to stay away from the whistle blowing Los Angeles, I had the chance to check out the Riverside Public Library on Mission Inn Avenue just next to Mission Inn Hotel. For one who loves to read and since I was on a pleasure trip, I did not do much and as an out of area guy. The procedure was different. I read the Riverside local papers -- Inland Empire Weekly and Press Enterprise. I also stopped by the Renaissance Book Shop on Magnolia Avenue where European and Asian literature, history and philosophy graced the shelves. I walked through and went to the music section and picked up the greatest living saxophonist, Sonny Rollins' recorded concerts CD "Road Shows Vol 1" for my listening pleasure.

My Riverside experience was actually entwined with the city's history. The city is big. It is the 61st largest city in the United States and 12th largest in California. It is one of the best places to live. Drive down on Orange and University Avenue to the 900 block of University Avenue sits the campus of UC Riverside and the city is located in California's 44th Congressional district. The fun: Keep going to view dozens more of University Avenue lovely structures, and eateries, and grab a bite or whatever along the way.

Pictures: (From top: Riverside City Hall, Riverside County Court House, Mission Inn Hotel, UC Riverside and the local ensemble Paging Beto)


Su Papra said…
I remember the landmark homes on Victoria Avenue. Nice lovely place.
Alicia said…
This essay is complete and excellent. Thanks for the update.
Ardis said…

you are right about that. Hollywood is something else, man!
Anonymous said…
Sad they wiped out the thriving African American neigborhoog in the city. Sad indeed!
Big G said…
Waaasssssuuuuup LA? You guys rock, period!
Denise said…

I was in Riverside on a show in 2007 and there is no way compared to LA.
Ardis said…
You did not mention the severe air pollution and congestion in Riverside.
Ingra said…
Riverside is not LA. Not even close.
Anonymous said…
California, California,
in the city
in the city
Kenny said…
Nice little city named after the Santa Ana River. The city's history from John W. North, the European missiionaries and the English explorers is amazing.
Jason said…
I love Riverside!
Ebere said…
How about those crazy students... the party animals?
Denise said…
Ambrose, this is a nice article. Does it mean there are skidrows in Riverside?
Carlos Sing said…
You have a touch of everything...musicology, politics, history, sociological problems...you got it all together. Thanks.
Mickey said…
Riverside jams, dawg!
Steven said…
Chris Blackwell was the biggest deal that happened to U2 and Bob Marley. You got that right.