New Heathens

Winter Vacation, the Gram Parsons Pilgrimage


Took a little winter vacation and I wanted to share some pictures with you.

I'm a big Gram Parsons fan. For the past three years I've organized Gram Parsons tribute nights here in New York. (2007, 2008)

But I'd never been to the spot where Gram's spirit lives, Joshua Tree, until now.

Joshua Tree

The quick version of The Legend is this: Gram Parsons, who fused country music and rock 'n' roll into a style he dubbed "Cosmic American Music," sought inspiration in Joshua Tree National Park, high in the Mojave Desert about a three hour drive from LA.

In 1973 Gram ODed on drugs at the Joshua Tree Inn, a motel just outside the park. He was 26.

Shortly before he died Gram told his road manager that when his life was over, he wanted his body cremated in Joshua Tree National Park. That manager, the legendary Phil Kaufman, stole Gram's corpse before it was shipped to his stepfather's estate in New Orleans. He took it out to Joshua Tree and set Gram ablaze.

At the risk of being what Gram biographer David N. Meyer dubbed, a "Grampire," I wanted to see these spots (Once, during a Key West to Seattle road trip, I visited the grave in New Orleans where what was left of Gram's charred body was finally buried; his marker reads, "God's Own Singer.")

First, the fun part:

Gram was burned at a crossroads in the park known as Cap Rock.

So I went to Cap Rock and walked around to the back where I found some stuff like this. Pretty nice.

Thanks GP

Opened up the doors of the red, rental Mustang, cranked Gram tunes and sang at the top of my lungs while the sun went down. Awesome way to spend an evening.

The sound system & the scenery.

Considering what happened at Cap Rock, I found this sign there kinda' funny.

Now the un-fun part. On a Gram jag I looked up the Joshua Tree Inn on the internet and found that the motel actually advertises letting guests stay in the exact room where, according to legend, Gram died. Room 8, the website boasts, offers "A quintessential Cosmic American Musical Experience." Boy was I a waterhead, a sucker. I reserved the room.

Room 8

It wasn't until I checked in and cracked the door that it hit me. As a Gram Parsons fan I shouldn't want anything to do with that room. I should HATE that room. That room is wicked.

Freaked out, an inquiry was made as to whether there were any other vacant rooms in the motel. The motel owner had good news and bad news. The bad news was that the band the Arctic Monkeys and their entourage, who were shooting a video in Joshua Tree, had rented out every other room in the motel.

The good news was a part of "The Legend," that I never read in any biography.

According to the motel owner, Gram Parsons didn't actually die in Room 8. He died in Room 3.

Apparently Gram was staying in Room 3, doing some pretty heavy drugs. Late in the night one of his companions returned to the room and found him unconscious. The police and the paramedics were called. However, there was allegedly paraphernalia scattered all over Room 3. Not wanting the police to know what was going on, Gram's body was moved to the only other vacant room in the motel: Room 8.

That's where paramedics tried, and failed, to resuscitate Gram.

This revelation begged two important questions. Does the hotel tell this to people who come specifically to stay in Room 8?

And more importantly, do they tell this to the people staying in Room 3?!


I will say that despite the creepiness, which was entirely my fault, the Joshua Tree Inn is as cool, funky and great a hotel as you're ever going to find. I look forward to one day going back.

OK, also made brief stops in LA, and San Diego, where I visited my best buddy Chris and his wife Laura.

Unfortunately, this is how Chris greeted me at his door. When that blue liquid was gone, so was my memory of San Diego.

That ain't entirely true. I went to the Zoo.

Considering how brilliant the San Diego Zoo is, I found it even more ironic to find this on a San Diego bumper.

Survival of the cleverest...

Speaking of fish, next stop was (Ooh) Las Vegas. Out in there in the desert they've got one of the best shark aquariums I've ever seen (note: I'm a big shark aficionado too). I was awfully excited to get to see my first tiger shark.

A tiger in their tank!

Despite all the wretched things that have been said about Las Vegas (some by me), I'd be a liar if I told you I didn't have the time of my life there. Lucking into a hotel room at the Four Seasons, with an oh-my-god view of the Las Vegas strip from 36 floors up certainly had something to do with it. (As did my luck at the craps tables, but mostly this view:)

Ooh Las Vegas, ain't no place for a poor boy like me.

Well, maybe just for a night...

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