Grinning Cats and a Guillotine, a Wonder Valley Love Story

By Kevin Bone

It was a beautiful wedding. The bride, groom, and an officiant perched on a boulder, with a boombox set on a higher boulder to provide some background Sam Cooke. We had all followed a trail lined with Joshua Trees and rock formations to get to this magical spot, though honestly, the entire trek was magical. No further set-dressing was necessary for this wedding; nature had already taken care of this.

Half a decade later, I was again making my way across Highway 62, a visitor once more. This time was with a Polish friend who’d never seen a desert before. Her favorite band was U2, and she’d read somewhere that the band had stayed at the Harmony Motel in Twentynine Palms during the recording of their Joshua Tree record. So, if we stayed there that night, we’d be one less degree of separation from Bono and The Edge, right? We did stay there, and a few days later I returned to Los Angeles by myself, as Gosia had fallen in love with the owner of the motel and decided she might just stay awhile. She got a job at a saloon in Joshua Tree, serving cocktails to a small crowd of locals. Several weeks later, a car plowed through a wall of the bar, (in case anybody reading this needs a timestamp). The desert was beautiful, but too damn hot and dry for my tastes. I could never live there.

Fifteen years later, I passed by the Harmony Motel and kept on driving and driving until I made it to The Palms, a roadhouse clearly marked by a sign with a bison on it. Because, you know, palm trees and bison. Ben Vaughn, who I knew from Los Angeles, had put together a small music festival (as he’d been doing for several years) for the indoor stage, and I had several friends from Los Angeles performing on that bill. Two of them included Ben himself, in a trio called the “Modern Skiffle Quartet,” because, you know, three musicians are called a “quartet”. It was a night that would set me on a new course, the moment a band called “The Sibleys” took the stage, and I heard that voice that belonged to Laura Sibley. My plans to never fall in love again were shattered. Thanks, Ben Vaughn. Thanks a lot.

And what about this PLACE? This, I don’t know, what IS it? A bar? A restaurant? A venue? A community meeting place? The paintings hanging on the walls are weird…and amazing. Cats – yes, cats from other planets have obviously landed here and decided to stay, perched in this corner or on that wall, big grins on their faces. This place was not decorated like any other watering hole that I’d set foot in. No dartboards, no lit-up “Miller” signs…and yet, it was oddly comfortable. REALLY comfortable, as if we’d all been here before. Then of course there was that big blue stage in the backyard (a skate ramp in a previous life), with an old, abandoned bus as a backdrop, and a guillotine off to the side. Don’t worry, the blade is chained up. That’s how they roll in the middle of the desert.

I went back to Los Angeles the next day, but left my heart (insert music here) in Wonder Valley, knowing I’d be back eventually. I didn’t know the “when” or the “how”, but I knew. What I DIDN’T know then was that I’d end up moving to a desert that I could never live in, taking on another restaurant job I promised myself I’d never work again, and getting married after deciding that I was done with relationships, to that girl with that voice. The music for the wedding, by the way, was not out of a boombox. It was by a band that Ben Vaughn had put together, “The Everglades”. We were married on that big, beautiful, blue stage, with the guillotine off to the side (to perhaps keep me in line), and a bunch of cats from outer space grinning out there in the audience.

About the author: Kevin Bone is a playwright, as well as a manager, bartender, and booker at The Palms. While in Los Angeles, he spent 7 years stage managing the long-running theatrical movie parody, “Point Break Live!” and was a co-creator/producer of a short play and music series, “There in Ten”. Since moving to Wonder Valley, he co-created/produced a series of theater shorts (“Succulents”) and a comedy series (“Desert Quackers”). He is currently working on putting together a weekend-long solo-theater performance festival to be held this spring in Joshua Tree, as well as a murder-mystery, his own one-man show, and an interactive, messy staged movie parody NOT based on “Point Break” (it’s a secret!). He runs a weekly online writer’s group called “Word Slingers”, open to anybody, regardless of writing experience.

 Post-credit scene: Kevin now plays drums for a brother/sister band that he first saw play at that Ben Vaughn music event several years back – the one led by that girl with that voice: The Sibleys.

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