Everyone whos travelled through the desert knows that its a strange place inhabited by very unusual characters. I've crossed every desert and barren wasteland in North America but nothing could compare to the bizarre scene we witnessed here today at Joshua Tree. Our story needs a tiny introduction from a history past that i knew nothing about until yesterday.

The story begins with the dead body of famous American singer songwriter Gram Parsons. Parsons was a hugely influential artist who mixed country and rock music during the 60s and 70s. Parsons died of a drug overdose on September 19, 1973 in a hotel room in Joshua Tree, California. he was just 26 years old.

This exerpt taken from Wikipedia blew my mind. It tells the incredible story of the events after Parsons death.

Parsons died September 19, 1973 in Joshua Tree, California at the age of 26 from an overdose of morphine and alcohol. The amount of morphine consumed by Parsons would be lethal to three regular users and thus he had likely overestimated his tolerance considering his experience with opiates. Parsons friends returned to Los Angeles after dispersing the remnants of Parsons' drug stash in the desert.
Parsons' body disappeared from the Los Angeles International Airport where it was being readied to be shipped to Louisiana for burial. Prior to his death, Parsons stated that he wanted his body cremated at Joshua Tree and his ashes spread over Cap Rock, a prominent natural feature there; however, Parsons' stepfather arranged for a private ceremony back in New Orleans and neglected to invite any of his friends from the music industry. Two accounts claim that Bob Parsons stood to inherit Gram's share of his grandfather's estate if he could prove that Gram was a resident of Louisiana, explaining his eagerness to have him buried there.
To fulfill Parsons' funeral wishes, Kaufman and a friend stole his body from the airport and in a borrowed hearse drove it to Joshua Tree where they attempted to cremate it by pouring five gallons of gasoline into the open coffin and throwing a lit match inside. What resulted was an enormous fireball. Police chased them, but according to one account they "were unencumbered by sobriety" and the pair got away. The two were arrested several days later. Since there was no law against stealing a dead body, they were only fined $750 for stealing the coffin and were not prosecuted for leaving 35 lbs of his charred remains in the desert.

The site of Parsons' cremation was marked by a small concrete slab and was presided over by a large rock flake known to rock climbers as 'The Gram Parsons memorial hand traverse'. The slab has since been removed by the U.S. National Park Service and was relocated to the Joshua Tree Inn which was where he was staying at the time of his death. At the site of the original memorial now are simple rock structures and writings on the rock which the park service sand blasts to remove from time to time.

What an amazing tale.......

I learned this tale yesterday on the way into the desert and was blown away. Hours later after marching around the valleys and rock formations a stranger appoached us out of the darkness. He saw all our camera gear and asked if we'd document an event happening in the town the next day. His offer of dinner was declined by the three of us because quite frankly this geezer found us in the middle of nowheresville and our New York jaded brains told us he was a total psycho. Anyways he gave us his card which said he was a gold leaf expert and told us to swing by a certain motel in the morning.

In complete darkness we headed off to our motel room and to the saloon to get some beers and mineshaft burgers

The next morning our curiousity took a hold of our brains and we headed across to find this motel

Nothing can compare to the bizarre scene we all walked into at nine am.

The three of us walked into the court yard of the Joshua Tree Inn. It was a sort of japanese style zen garden but with all desert style palms and cacti everywhere. The sand was raked into neat patterns and was perfect until we marched right through the middle of it . In the centre of the garden was a little shrine covered in all sorts of rock n roll trinkets and candles left for Gram Parsons. It was completely quiet apart from the unusual singing coming from a Japanese woman sitting in the corner. Her voice was all over the place as she practiced her scales and octaves. It was the trippiest back yard ive been in in a while.

Inside the room where Parsons overdosed we found the guy who approached us in the desert. We'll call him Jimmy for security reasons. Yes its not even gotten nuts yet. The modest room where the famous songwriter passed away is covered in posters and memorobelia from the 70s. Jimmy was excited we arrived and explained todays procedures as the cameras rolled. He and some friends flew into Vegas and drove to Joshua Tree to cover the door of the motel room with gold leaf. Yep thats right folks . This is actually happening right now.

Gold leaf specially obtained from Japan

We interviewed Jimmy as he covered the entire door in gold

I seen some weird shite in my day but this morning takes a bit o beatin. He even let me throw up some gold sheets on the door. It was tricky as hell. The stuffs like working with skin or hair . Its so delicate and turns into dust as soon as you touch it . After totally botching 2 squares of this annoying stuff i quit. No guilding for me.

Outside in the zen oasis Jimmy's buddys prepare a second door which they will paint , cover in gold leaf , take into the desert, shoot it with guns , then pour 5 gallons of gasoline onto it , hopefully creating a giant fireball all in honor of Gram Parsons. I couldnt even make this script up if i tried . These guys are dead serious . I asked if this was all happening today.........In all the excitment I was actually looking forward to the guns and gasoline section of the ceremony but alas no . This arts n crafts project wont happen until November 5th. While the interview and photoshoot went down , the entire time the Asian lady in the corner sang at the top of her lungs. Later we found out the lady's name was Infinity and she comes once a month to the same room at the motel to practice her songs. As luck would have it . Today was the day and i was over the moon because it was totally bananas............

If that whole scene wasnt enough the innkeeper was equally as bonkers. A very soft spoken young chap with 7 foot long dreads gave us a tour of the motel. During which i must state he asked us over 6 times to try his natural tea he made . Yes . It was this guys mission we drink his herbal koolaid. he asked us so many times it was uncomfortable. I thought at first he was just mad at us cos we trampled all over his perfectly raked patterns in the courtyard sand. I mean i really did a number on the place . I was everywhere. I left about 2000 size 8 waffle grip vans prints in his zen gravel. i felt bad.

So at the end of the tour of course we all had a giant glass of the mystery tea. I literally think i might've squeaked out and "oh god here we go" but im not sure if i thought it or actually said it. We politely finished our cups and ran for the car...........

Inside the safety of our rental car i think all three of us were thinking "OH GODS WHAT THE FUCKIN HELL"

Waiting for the dready's alien space tea to kick in ............

Reporting from the other side .....stay tuned