Freedom instincts rusty, there had been a moment of intense awkwardness stripping in front of a friend for whom epilation seemed part and parcel of an image as emerging DJ. Deflecting attention from dangling appendage, Dylan gave an off-kilter Tarzan yodel and splashed into the heavy, mineral-laden water. Settling himself gingerly opposite, Kyle felt any lingering sense of self consciousness dissipate as he gave himself to a feeling of sub-gravitational bliss––the confined surface contours hiding a surprisingly spacious confluence of geothermal nooks and fissures, cavernous passageways to a molten mantle, if not the very center of the earth.
As the water grew uncomfortably hot, Kyle realized that the largish rocks along the edge of the pool were set at varying heights––a harmonious assemblage of filmy, sulfurous perches, designed for cyclical rotation. After two minutes of steadily increasing heat he shifted to the next rock and then he was out, gasping for air on the patio-flat rocks encircling the pool. Trying not to succumb to complete lethargy, he took stock of his surroundings––20 feet beyond the pool stood a stone well, bucket attached to winch and rope. Next to it a lone tree, undoubtedly the excreted product of a bird’s courageous journey from the Sierras to one of the few desert spots with reliable water. Thick with gnarled bark, inured to daily lashings of the sun, the tree’s roots spread outward along the rock and down into minute fissures, drawing sustenance from an eternally moist wellspring.
The meaning implicit in a solidly-constructed well gradually imprinted itself in Kyle’s consciousness. This was not simply some backcountry hippy hollow designed for trips and giggles––the entire tableau had been arranged with practical purpose. If not indicative of a permanent settlement––scant chance of that, Kyle thought, remembering the vast desolation of their traverse––it was a well-tended retreat. Could be Native American in provenance, yet there was something rather too tidy and well maintained––Cowachunga did not exude a sense of broken-in acceptance of the place in which one’s ancestors had been born. Rather, it seemed an artfully rustic reshaping, as if a boutique spa designer had been parachuted in to develop high-level concepts related to earth, stars, belonging. A perfect vista for shamanic rituals of the new age variety, to a Moby soundtrack.
Dylan pushed himself out of the water and reached over to pants that lay crumpled near the pool, soaking up moist mineral elements. He fished out his iPhone and stretched on the patio-like rocks on the other side of the pool, holding the device at various angles, seeking reception. Kyle cooly observed this uncanny pantomime of a vampire lifting a coffin lid, recalling his friend’s odd texting frenzy earlier in the day. Dylan gave a distinctly dissatisfied sigh, resigning himself to the fact that, even at elevation, they were well beyond the range of cell tower reception.
Remembering the ostensible purpose of their detour, Kyle felt a sudden urge to get his friend off his texting kick and back on board with their excellent agenda. “You were right about one thing––this place is one of mind expansion, not slasher movie endings.” Dylan nodded distractedly, not quite receiving the hint. “Let’s burn one down?” Message received, Dylan fished into crumpled pants for connective pathway to higher consciousness. Lighting up he intoned, either in stoned rapture or with residual irony, “Thank you native spirits….” The sharp flick of fire gave way to a familiar waft, sweet beckoning sinsemilla. Lungs expanded, holding it in––five seconds, ten. Kyle waited, instincts attuned to second-hand appreciation of mere galaxies. Andromeda, Ursa Major. As if from a great distance––
“Ah sorry for noshing the duff, here you are… It’s far from cashed.”
Kyle gave the only sensible reply, Vulcan greeting, indicating continued adherence to a code devised by a loose group of friends a decade ago. A group of college students inclined to meditate on waves and tightly packed bowls, though not all had surfed or smoked. Carlos Jaeger, for one, had been a spearfish diver twenty years their senior––lived in a 1920s bungalow across the beach and limited his female encounters to Mucky Duck one-night stands. Then there had been Jorma, who fluently spoke three Vulcan dialects. Deriving the first from his native Finnish, he had constructed the others along the lines of linguistic divergences suggested by Japanese and ancient Aramaic.
These life-enriched misfits had connected with the college age surfers most evenings at the cliffs, receiving what Jorma called cosmic pinpricks, or soulful mango––the sunset deepening, boards planted in the sand. Jorma had been the first to go––stowing away on a cargo ship bound for Borneo, on a walkabout that amounted to escape from an oppressive multiverse. Now that Kyle thought about it––and he was most definitely feeling the effects of the weed––there had never really existed a formal group. Kyle’s ex-girlfriend Carly had perceived as much, two weeks into their short-lived relationship––making it clear that she saw no higher purpose in the random assortment of slackers and beach drifters he considered very close friends. This was during their phase of vinyl discovery, before they had mastered all the incidental strums and she had dumped him for a rescue chihuahua.
Handing Dylan the glowing nub of a joint, Kyle examined his friend with semi-sharpened focus, trying to puzzle out what he had become. How had he turned into someone so fretlessly urbane, wrapped in the artificial trappings of uber-smoothness, a fixture for voluptuous women to play with, fiddle knobs, ingest… it was as if his friend had been abducted by an alien race, spit out as denuded automon. And yet, he was not soulless…. and it was those knobs that had brought them here. Dylan’s unexpected rise to virality had come through the mass appropriation of his funked down reworking of a combination of Fishbone baseline and Big Star harmonies. A distinctive rhythmic hiccup that laid a hidden dragnet amid bpm propulsion, creating a sense of complete dissolution. More to the point in the pleasure-fixated now, an urge, when suitably out of one’s mind, to freak out completely.
Not for the first time, Kyle considered the unlikely arc of Dylan’s rise to semi-fame. The original composition, Stella Neuter, had not gone viral, but left an algorithmic imprint that was identified by Soundcloud beat raiders as yummy––within days it had been tweaked, appropriated, and snuck into top level tracks by DJs spanning Tulum and the Crimean coast. The beat was submerged within Khlöe’s chillout anthem Captain Quirk, exposed as the spiky foundation of Nik Fuh’s Balzonic, and sped up, distorted in Freakzone 7’s Taint Select. Ultimately it had found its way into Mallzbrat’s pop trash gem Bratwurst and Indefinite Jest’s eponymous grindcore debut. The rhythmic propel proved so infectious that it was finally lifted by Father John Misty as the xylophone and tub bass bridge in the ska folk shanty When Your Tits Are Out, I Am Hungry.
As if in response to its mind numbing ubiquity, Kyle had skipped everything electronic in his in-car song selection thus far––Radiohead’s Amnesiac was the closest he had come to pure beats and even that was a moment of transition, not immersion. Here on this journey, he wanted to reclaim a sense of being physically present, firmly planted on the earth. Dylan, to his credit, had latched onto the analogue vibe. It was he who suggested The Byrds at the beginning of the trip and now the Red Hot Chili Peppers, at their most chill and sublime––though with crafty purpose of getting them to this place. “Pass that duff, mate.”