|30 June, 2016 (12:58pm) |
JUNE, 2016 E.V.
SILVER COLEMAN VS DEATH VALLEY
As our heavy-duty Ford pickup slowly moved deeper into the scorching wilderness, the road conditions changed quickly - from unpaved dirt spurs with ruts and dips, to torturously rough washboards, to a rising, nearly impassible stretch of soft sand with large exposed rocks. While attempting to negotiate the nerve wracking twisting stony trail, the rattling pickup kept getting stuck, and now it might have been too late to turn around, with a towering cliff face on one side and a steep narrow gully on the other. Instead of the required high-clearance four-wheel drive normally driven in such unforgiving landscapes, we had a stainless steel cooler filled with bottles of Modelo in the F-150's spacious crew-cab. Therefore, I guess that you could at least call us experienced.
With our spinning tires sinking deeper into the sand, to me the situation seemed almost hopeless. Not so to my determined friend behind the wheel. He truly believed that, not only could we free the vehicle without sliding off the jagged cliff, but that once we got enough traction to move forward, we should continue further over the sloping rugged terrain until we reached our intended destination. (We had come to this remote location deep in the heart of Death Valley, California, to photograph a unique feature that we wanted to use as part of the cover art for a forthcoming Danny Carey book.) With no sign of the isolated backcountry campsite, or of the geological marvels to be shot by a camera attached to a remote-controlled quadcopter, I pleaded with my friend to reconsider things. Without any cell service and, hence, GPS, we had most likely taken a wrong turn somewhere, and were now at the mercy of the harsh elements and a host of hungry predators that would even eat our bones.
"How could we possibly die out here!" my exasperated friend shouted as he revved the engine, hoping that the pickup would lurch forward.
Indeed, how could a person die in a desolate expanse in Death Valley, where the late afternoon temperature was over 111 degrees, and where there was no sign of anyone as far as the eye could see (and, believe me, the eye could see far!), and where we had lost cell reception many hours ago. After all, we had an ice-chest loaded with bottles of Modelo Especial.
Scanning the barren scenery in the extreme heat, I thought of a few ways that a person could die in Death Valley. These, I related to my friend: "We could wade into an isolated waterhole for a drink and choke to death after inadvertently swallowing a rare 'Devils Hole Pupfish'... or we could bang our head chasing a lightning-fast roadrunner into a cleverly painted tunnel on a cliff-face... or we could drop dead from a coronary after seeing a floating 'Gravel Ghost Wildflower'...or we could die from the Hantavirus after eating infected rodent droppings that our fevered brains mistook for beer nuts..."
As the sun beat down mercilessly, and with my left ear still bleeding from the spray of sharp loose gravel, I gathered some larger stones and carefully placed them under one of the F-150's badly chewed up rear tires. While doing so, I tried to convince my stubborn friend that if he should manage to get the pickup unstuck, he should look for the closest turn-around loop (if there was one) and head back down the slope where we might find a place to camp for the night. Maybe we'd even throw a chuckwalla on the grill! To which my friend raised both hands, looking terribly annoyed.
"Why'd we drive all the way fuck out here?"
Having placed a final stone under what remained of the tire, huffing and puffing (nay, making a strange wheezing sound not unlike a laboring donkey), I quickly responded:
"Worst of all, though... about dying out here - should we succumb to the elements, it's quite likely that our knife-stripped flesh will be greedily consumed during a (realistic) re-enactment of 19th-century lost pioneers..."
"We can't give up now! C'mon, Blair, you once jumped over a collapsing sinkhole Indiana Jones-style in Adam's Jeep at Area 51." (Note: See my August 2006, Tool Newsletter for more about this washed out road at Groom Lake.)
If I wasn't going to persuade him to give up this madness by saying that I just wanted to go home to the things that meant the most to me, then, in a last ditch effort to change his mind, I walked up to the F-150's rolled down window and looked directly into his eye.
"What about the newsletter?
Having climbed out of the idling pickup, my friend examined my tire rock placement and then gauged the distance to the edge of the steep drop off. After which, he patted me on my back before jumping back into the Ford, shouting out the window:
"Everyone knows that the band is still working on their new record, and that there's really no other major news other than that."
"No, you're wrong. There are certain things that people need to know about. Things that finally need to be revealed - concerning the new record and other band related matters. Things that I've been holding back... for years... because I felt that I had to, but now it's time to make them public. Only, we're stuck in this desert hellhole... up to our lug nuts in burning sand..."
Gritting his teeth, my self-reliant friend eased on the accelerator until finally the spinning rear wheels gripped the stones and bolted forward. Ducking for cover behind a large boulder, I watched in horror as the pickup's rear end started sliding dangerously close to the edge of the cliff...
I had an uneasy feeling about this trip right from the start. When we first discussed plans to take an aerial photograph of a certain geologic curiosity smack dab in the middle of Death Valley, I felt that having a 4WD vehicle was essential, and that we should visit the area in the early spring when the temperatures weren't as severe. But, here we were leaving Las Vegas in a heavy pickup truck without 4WD at the start of the summer. The well-stocked Coleman cooler in the F-150's extended crew-cab helped alleviate some of my initial anxiety, but I knew that if somehow we were stranded in such an inhospitable place, and something happened to "Silver", we would in all likeliness have to drink the bladder-voided piss of a desert tortoise, and wrestle ugly turkey-buzzards for the shriveled up carcass of a cactus mouse with all the fixings. As for our charged cell-phones, well, with no reception for miles, we might as well have brought cheap fake ones with fake batteries that we purchased from a Chinese wholesaler.
Interesting sights on Highway 190 were a temporary distraction, such as ominous Creech AFB in Indian Springs. Looking out the window, we saw nesting on taxiways several AUVs - those DARPA toys with names like "Predator", "Reaper", and the terrorists' worst trouser-chili nightmare, the "MQ-Jeepers-Creepers." Inside the glistening array of operations facilities, one could imagine a flurry of activity as the drone's operators - those who scored the highest on the old "Polybius" arcade game - selected targets halfway around the world, while munching on Chevron fried chicken. On this hot summer's day, no anti ultra-lethal drone protesters were to be seen parading outside the heavily fortified base. Perhaps they were all busy at the famous combination brothel-hotdog stands on the other side of the highway?
Somewhere west of Beatty, the tranquil cerulean skies suddenly filled with vertical chemtrails, each having a bizarre black shadow. What the hell? Moments later we passed through the real Hells Gate, where we stopped at an information kiosk to purchase a visitors permit and to get a road map. After this, we didn't see anything else too unusual, unless you count busloads of European tourists walking out on waves of sand totally oblivious to the Andro-Pleiadean base under the shifting dunes as being rather odd. What we did see, however, was a makeshift road sign informing us that the maintained road to our photo target was temporarily closed. Although inside I secretly felt some relief, my friend was not the type to let a little thing like this stop us from achieving our goal.
My concerns about our isolated destination resurfaced after we stopped in Stovepipe Wells, where a Park Ranger (or, was it the owner of the gift shop?) told us that sharp lava rocks would puncture our pickup's tires if we tried to ignore the road closure. It would be best, he suggested, if we spent the night with Jerry Attrick and his friends at a nearby campsite with camper friendly amenities. To Burney Butz and myself, that sounded pretty damn good. But not to my friend. No, he wanted to grab a cold beer and consult the map in hopes of finding an alternate route.
As 'luck' would have it, there was another way in - the only problem being that the entrance was in the completely opposite direction, and would add hours onto the already tiresome trip.
In the resort's crowded restaurant, we discussed the pros and cons of attempting this alternate route. So has not to 'waste' a valuable table, we told the attractive young waitress with decidedly Nordic features that we were going to split an order of fries with our beers. Nothing weird about that... except that when we asked for our bill, the woman appeared to be quite confused (dare I say, astonished) when we declined to order any dessert. Okay, let me state for the record that all of the talk in these parts about resort employees having strange blue-eyed Nordic alien physiology - similar to that of Orthon, who 1950's UFO contactee George Adamski encountered in the Mojave Desert - would appear to be absolutely ludicrous. Until, that is, your waitress asks you what you want for dessert after only splitting an order of fries. Then, one has to truly wonder about the stories about visiting Mu-Suvian dignitaries to the Federation base under the Panamint Mountains...
Once we were back on the well-paved road, near Pantamint Springs, I caught a flash of something out of the corner of my eye. Wow! We had just been buzzed by a WWII-era P-40 Warhawk fighter plane, complete with 'shark teeth' nose art against its olive green fuselage. Flying very low (well beneath 3000 feet), I wondered if it was a very large remote controlled model or a near full-scale reproduction drone from nearby Edwards AFB, or China Lake, or even Nellis? Hell, it could have even been controlled by some geek gnawing on a greasy gas station chicken bone at Creech. Didn't the fuck know that there were busloads of tourists at the sand dunes?
Having passed occasional signs of life in Panamint Springs, my bristling with confidence friend thought that it would be "retarded" to top off the gas tank before we headed into the canyon narrows. When we finally arrived at the dusty turn off that would supposedly take us to our journey's end, before we lost cell reception, I texted the name of this 'road' to my significant other. The first thing that we saw on the tame gravel roadbed was an approaching tow truck that was hauling a Jeep out of the canyon. Rather than taking this as an ill omen of sorts, my unruffled friend started laughing, saying something to the effect, "Ha-ha, that guy didn't make it."
A mile or two further the road conditions worsened considerably - becoming a spine-jarring, deeply rutted washboard. Up ahead, a Park Ranger vehicle could be seen heading towards us. Here we go, I thought, expecting him to light us up any second. But, instead of turning on the strobes, he just passed by, smiling and waving. The ass! Why didn't he stop us, asking us where the hell we thought we were going? He could have arrested us for stupidity alone. How'd he know we weren't cultivating marijuana in some parallel dimension whose energized portal we were headed towards? STOP US, BEFORE...
The last thing my encouraging friend did before climbing back into the pickup was to point to his cell phone's GPS screen and say, "If we can just make it through this one last rough area, it's a clear shot the rest of the way." Revving the engine, the F-150's sliding tire came inches from the steep drop off, before continuing forward over a large rock that slammed the undercarriage with a deafening bang. As the truck picked up speed, it was too late for me to run behind it in the plumes of dust and spray of sharp gravel, so I just waited to see what would happen?
With considerable skill, my friend maneuvered the pickup around a narrow turn-around and was soon heading back towards me. When he reached a level area a few yards down the slope, he stopped and shouted that he couldn't go any further - that around the corner of the cliff-face was an abrupt dead-end. It was certainly a good feeling to know that even the most positive attitude realized that it wouldn't be beneficial to our cause to drive off the side of a mountain.
Having climbed back inside the truck, I had to admit it: That pickup really was built Ford tough! Best-in-Class with a payload of ice cold Modelos. Underneath, the rental (did I forget to mention that?) was dinged to the utmost conceivable degree, but it was still destined to be a whopping discount to some one who really appreciated such things. Besides, a $6.00 spray wash and no one would be any the wiser...
A few miles down the hill's sparse vegetation, we found some ground level enough to set up tents. But first we had to erect an awning for some much needed shade. Seconds after we finished, with visions of chilled beers and grilled Bubba Burgers dancing in our heads, strong gusts of wind were blowing it off the ground. Even with both of us holding on to it with all of our strength, the damn thing was about to go air borne. So, here was yet another way to die in Death Valley - a couple of sand-ripped idiots clinging onto a brand new Big-5 Sporting Goods awning as it rises high over the valley floor like some ridiculous hot-air balloon, until we are obliterated by an errant Army Javelin Anti-Tank Missile fired by some methed-up warrior at Fort Irwin. With our camping supplies tumbling off into the desert, we both decided to gather our shit and head back to Las Vegas. Death Valley had won this time...
A couple of hours later - realizing that we hadn't eaten anything all day except for a few fries (and without dessert!) - we stopped at a dimly-lit restaurant in Panamint Springs. Ah, local color! As moths fluttered and softly batted into lanterns in the rustic setting, we were handed menus by a young attractive waitress with Nordic features. In fact, she looked exactly like our server at Stovepipe Wells (and the girl at Furnace Creek!). So, the blue-eyed Mu-Suvian aliens are employees at all of the resorts here. Who cares! The beanless "handmade" chili looked palatable... but should I just go ahead and order it with a dead moth, or wait for the inevitable to happen, as did the other diners?..
And then I saw it!
Hanging high on the wall right in front of me was a framed photograph of the unique geologic feature amid the otherworldly desert terrain that we had hoped to shoot from the quadcopter. My downcast friend's back was to it as he studied the menu. Hmmm... I thought about pointing it out and telling him to go get his camera and take a close up photo of the photograph. With this, our mission would be deemed a success! Thinking better of it, instead, I just ordered my beanless "handmade" chili (without a dead moth).
Once safely back home, I thought about my recent brush with 'death', and what would happen to the Tool newsletters if I no longer were the one writing them. So I made an important decision. No matter what the repercussions might be, I felt that I owed it to the loyal fans to divulge certain things that I have kept to myself for so many years. Maybe next month - or the month after that - these things can finally be revealed? It's going to be crazy, I tell you. Rance Q. Spartley, are you reading this?..
Photo by BMB
|27 June, 2016 (10:11am) |
In case you missed it, check out MONICA'S post: "A PERFECT UNION OF CONTRARY THINGS" (the authorized biography of MJK, arriving November 8 from "Backbeat Books") on the TOOL FACEBOOK PAGE (www.facebook.com/ToolMusic/).
|27 June, 2016 (10:02am) |
DANNY's most popular tee-shirts - including "ASMODEUS", "THINK DIFFERENTLY/PSILICON VALLEY" and "DRACOMANTES" - are ALL now back in stock, and can be viewed/ordered...
|25 June, 2016 (01:23pm) |
Here are the guest musicians for the JUNE 27th offering of the MONDAY NIGHT JAMMMZ at THE BAKED POTATO in STUDIO CITY. Bring an instrument and ask JOHN ZIEGLER (or another band member) about possibly joining in during the second set. As always, ALL AGES ARE WELCOME TO THE 'TATOR" EXPERIENCE.
|22 June, 2016 (10:07am) |
A reminder to you that VOLTO! will be performing ultra-fusion jazz at THE VIPER ROOM in Hollywood on SATURDAY, JULY 2.
|20 June, 2016 (06:15pm) |
Our good friends in "RAJAS" have two upcoming shows in Los Angeles. Check out their superb musical talent and dynamic live performance on MONDAY, JUNE 27 at THE GRIFFIN, and then again at THE BOOTLEG THEATER on WEDNESDAY, JULY 6 (8 PM), where they will share the bill with "Mike Watt and the Missingmen" and "Toys That Kill."
|19 June, 2016 (10:04am) |
In case you missed my recent TOOL FACEBOOK POST, ADAM passed this along for me to share with you: "Lee Leontina Lalic is a Serbian TOOL fan attending Cinema Makeup school in Los Angeles. For her Special Effects final project she chose an image from Alex Grey and turned it into a prosthetic makeup." The vintage Peter Gabriel in me could sure think of a way to use such a thing.
|19 June, 2016 (09:57am) |
Here are the special guest musicians for the JUNE 20 offering of the MONDAY NIGHT JAMMMZ at the 'tator' in Studio City. All ages welcome to listen to some of L.A. 's finest players. Believe it or not, there are also ginormous stuffed baked potatoes on the 'tator' menu. So... come hungry!
|19 June, 2016 (09:52am) |
Celebrate the Solstice with CoSM.
|19 June, 2016 (09:49am) |
JOHN 'VOLTO!' ZIEGLER has teamed up with former "Zappa Plays Zappa" guitarist JAMIE KIME to form... ZIME! Go check out this stellar group of musicians at the BAKED POTATO jazz club in STUDIO CITY, California on JUNE 23.