Rascall Flatts, Dale Watson, and the ghost of Gram Parsons

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Photo by Nikki Miller
Gram Parsons Memorial, located outside Room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn
This morning, I'm drinking coffee outside a motel 28 hours southwest of Minneapolis, and two hours east of the L.A. freeways. The coffee's thin and weak, but I slept well in spite of an evening spent getting tipsy and singing country classics with the locals at the Joshua Tree saloon, then communing with the ghost of Gram Parsons in Room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn. This is the very room where in September 1973, Parsons died after a day spent swilling Jack, which was competing in his liver with god knows what else (accounts by friends and an autopsy report indicate heroin, morphine, barbiturates, and/or cocaine).

My report from the evening: Gram didn't make the mirror move, and we didn't see his shadow in the closet. Rumor has it when he's not making toothbrushes and other incidental items disappear, his ghost will rattle the mirror (the only piece of furniture remaining in the room from the day he died), and when the motel was briefly used as a home for children in need - the owner at the time didn't know its history and put some kids in Room 8 - they reported seeing a ghost moving about in the walk-in closet that now houses a handful of wire coat hangers, an old fridge and even older microwave. Wait, that's why that bottle of champagne shattered all over the closet last night, it's not because my boyfriend had perched it precariously in the refrigerator door! Gram!

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Photo by Nikki Miller

So we spent the night blaming Gram's ghost for everything we could. CD skips as we listen to a recording of Emmylou Harris performing live with Parsons the year he died - Gram! Bathroom heater's broken down and we freeze our tooshies off on the toilet - Gram! The only thing on TV is the episode of Friends where the Friends get into a fight over a Hootie & the Blowfish concert, and Monica gets a hickey from someone in the band (officially titled: "The One With Five Steaks and an Eggplant") - Graaaa-aaaaam!

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Photo by Nikki Miller

In other words, it was a pretty quiet night. Now we're off to Joshua Tree National Monument and its Cap Rock, the spot where Gram's buddies whisked away his body in a borrowed hearse and attempted to immolate it before being later captured by authorities and charged with Gram Theft Parsons (no shit). Note to self - ask any crematorium owner; it takes more than a few gallons of gasoline and a bottle of Jack to transform a human body into ashes. We're hoping with a little inspiration from this site (which, if anything, is of historical importance for its reminder that everyone's drunkass friends may not be all that savvy but are at least well-meaning, not just yours), as well as a bottle or two left at the shrine outside Room 8 and a little guidance from our glow-in-the-dark Ouija Board, we might see that mirror move tonight.

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Photo by Nikki Miller

My parting wisdom for you, all of you freezing your asses off in Minnesota: Gram Parsons once referred to his brand of soul and rock-infused country as "Cosmic American Music." Sounds nice, doesn't it? You know what's American and Music (arguably) but most certainly not Cosmic?

Rascal Flatts. Apologies to our friends at Xcel Energy Center, Rascal Flatts really, truly do blow (not the kind found in Gram's postmortem toxicity report, but the kind that involves monkeys out one's ass). They're playing at the Xcel Friday night (presented by JCPenney, 7:30, $23-97).

For music that is both American and Cosmic, and head over to Lee's Liquor Lounge tomorrow night to check out Dale Watson instead (8:30, $15). Watson, who visits Lee's a couple times a year from his home in Austin, may be a rascal but he's the anti-Flatts. The man's had a hell of a life, can write and sing a hell of a song, is fully tattooed, and unlike the men performing at the Xcel (though their frosted, spiked hair and middle-aged man chub is... adorable), the man knows how to dress.

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