It's a hard way to find out
That trouble is real.
In a far away City
With a far away feel.
An ice cube up the arse. Margaret Fisher is leant over a young man, in a motel room, administering the old junkie antidote. He's Gram Parsons. The golden boy of country and earlier that night he's taken enough heroin and morphine to fell an elephant. Nothing new there. He's never been the same since he fell under Keith Richards spell, but they don't worry about Keith. Keith isn't human. Gram on the other hand is getting more wayward by the day. This isn't his first overdose, and people are worried. Margaret Fisher more than most. She's an old high school friend.
This isn't the first ice cube she's jammed up Grams holiest of holies. Friendships should really be like that.
Tired, she leaves Gram under the care of another friend Dale McElroy and goes for some dinner. Dale watches over the singer sleeping for some hours until she notices him starting to struggle for breath. Crucially however, she isn't experienced in the murky world of opiates. She panics and starts to administer CPR and give the singer mouth to mouth. Nothing gives. Thinking they're alone in the hotel she doesn't even get help. This goes on for nearly an hour until frantically she rings Fisher. Fisher rushes over but it's too late. Poor Gram Parsons has made a date with Sharon Tate. He's dead.
Some weeks later Parsons manager Phil Kaufman is driving across the Southern Californian desert in a psychedelic hearse he's rented for a special occasion. In the back he's got a precious load. Very precious. He's wired on adrenalin and trying to keep his eyes on the road but there are ghosts everywhere. He stares at a cactus and remembers him, Parsons and Keith Richards tripping on acid at the Joshua tree and looking for UFOs. Good memories. He holds on to them. This is a Hunter Thompson-like race across the desert. He feels as though he's got a hot knife jabbed into his back. He hopes those frigging bats don't turn up anytime soon.
Behind him, two people are desperately trying to catch up. One of them is Gram Parson's ex-girlfriend, the other Kaufman's current one. Thelma and Louise. They drive like mad women trying desperately to stop a scene unfolding. From time to time they look at each other and shake their heads. That crazy bastard Kaufman. He's stole a precious load from an airport and now he's driving across the desert in a psychedelic hearse. Looking to fulfil a pact.
The pact, yeah the pact. Kaufman looks over at his friend Michael who'd come along for the ride. They laugh through the fug of marijuana smoke and take long swigs from a shared vodka bottle. It's like that film Vanishing Point. Maybe the pin-point horizon of the Universe will appear soon. No time for such thoughts, Kaufman thinks, as up ahead he spots the Joshua Tree. Their destination. The holy land. Yeah motherfucker. They've made it. They've won.
They stop and park the psychedelic hearse. Take a moment to contemplate. The sun is like a giant sunflower overhead. Just what he would have wanted. Gram. The hysteric angel, gone too soon and forever in the rock and roll obituaries. Well not quite. He's quite close. In the boot of their decorated funeral mobile in fact. They stole him earlier. Saved him from that funeral in New Orleans. The place he hated. Escaped from with his country dreams. Even in death he didn't want to go back there. Gram made them swear to it.
They open the boot and want to contemplate. Say a little something. Something profound. No time baby, Kaufman thinks. The authorities will be closing in. The man. Those two crazy women. So between them they carry the singers body and lay him down on the dust. Start to carry out their plan. They feel bad for pouring liquid on him, they do, but hey it has to be done. The funeral pyre. Kaufman now flicks a match. He watches as the flames engulf his friends body. A friendly fire. The flames lick like wild horses on a wild American land. He almost sees a half smile forming on his dead friend's face.
It's a real country funeral after all.
Follow Craig on Twitter, @midnightapes