HAVANA CLUB…and LONELY T-BIRD

The ’66 T-Bird  roared across the high desert  somewhere between Morongo and Joshua Tree,  sliding mushily across lanes as if guided by some reptilian death wish. Turning the wheel was like trying to slalom with an oil tanker, each time it would be  a few long, long,  and occasionally terrifying micro-seconds before there was any acknowledgement that there was anyone at all in control. In the narrow, twisting  passes and draws,  charging the wide, aquamarine colored beast down the road without hitting the dividers felt like dropping a squirming rat down a drain pipe.  One could only hope he came out the other end.

The convertible top had been removed permanently—with a significant change in weight distribution on the chassis and the car floated over  the desert on its springs. Celestial Detroit. The brakes had some interesting eccentricities as well.  If driving too slow, the slightest tap caused the  car to stop dead—and  driver’s seat to slide forward on its tracks, bouncing the driver’s skull against the dash.  Rear view and side mirrors hopped around with each bump in the road, each gust out of the pass, realigning themselves at crazy angles. A worried look for reference as the roar of a 16 wheeler approached and one would find oneself looking at nothing but blue sky.

But the ****er looked good. Damn good.  And by the time we edit all that footage to the music that Josh Homme ( KyussQueens of the Stone AgeEagles of Death Metal,  Them Crooked Vultures) composed for us, it’s gonna look like the best car that ever hit the American highway.

Thanks to Josh, and to the legendary Rancho de la Luna crew:

Dave Catching (Eagles of Death Metal, Queens of the Stone Age, Mondo Generator, the Gnarltones, Masters of Reality, Mark Lanegan Band—among others) , Brian O’ Connor (Eagles of Death Metal—among others), and engineer Patrick Hutchinson ( Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age,  Desert Sessions, Eagles of Death Metal, The Raconteurs, Them Crooked Vultures—among others).  Thanks for letting us completely invade your lives and your space for a week,  for doing our strange and surely incomprehensible-at-times bidding, for cooking (brilliantly) for us, for feeding us fine tequila in inordinate amounts, for creating amazing music for our show, for showing us the highlights and lowlights of  your strange and wonderful community. No one could possibly have been nicer.

Thanks, Josh, in particular,  for the Pappy and Harriet’s incident. Some very nicely executed Swayze moves there…and for letting me repeatedly endanger your life in my aquamarine widowmaker. Also thanks for getting us all out there in the first place—as it was your idea from the beginning.

Readers will only be able to imagine—or try to imagine—the crazy-ass **** show we got out there where the road ends, the stars shine bright, and some mystical **** is always going on just out of view.  If you’ve been to this expanse of America, well then try to picture the Integratron, Natural Born Killers, Lord Fletcher’s, Pappy and Harriet’s, table grapes, Country Kitchen,  spaghetti –and the mutilation by arrow of the works of Jethro Tull.  I smell…Emmy!  Or is that..something else?

Also in the next block of shows, along with Macau, El Bulli,  Kurdistan, Ukraine, New Orleans and  Louisiana, and Naples/Amalfi Coast: Havana. A hard thing, doing a show in Cuba.   One one hand, it’s beautiful—incredibly so. Probably—no, definitely—the most gorgeous city I’ve ever seen anywhere in the Caribbean or Latin America.  The people are lovely. The baseball, some of the best and most passionate in the world.

It’s easy and understandable how visitors can get overenthusiastic about the place, gush about it, and lose sight of the fact that their experience is very, very different than the average Cuban’s.  It’s a difficult thing to balance—or even try and balance—one’s appreciation for Cuba’s beauty, the pride and resilience (and amazing resourcefulness) of its people with the fact that those same people can’t leave.  Or that one’s casual references to things we take for granted:  ubiquitous and open access to the internet,   entertainment and news sources from all over the world,  freedom to speak our minds without fear of consequence—don’t really exist in Cuba.

I’m writing Voice Over for the show now—and I’m trying to find a way to make even the angriest and most unforgiving Cuban émigré pause—at least for a second—and think, that in spite of everything,  “It’s still beautiful. It’s almost as I left it.”Things seem—emphasize “seem”—to be changing in Cuba.  There’s no denying the need, even at the top levels of government.  And a sense of “what’s next?” is everywhere., a palpable atmosphere of anticipation. I am  grateful to the people who took a chance on us—knowing full well that they were taking a potential viper to their breast. We will do our best to make everybody proud.