Michael Phillips, The Airstream Chronicles - Herbalistic inspiration in the Airstream

Herbalistic inspiration in the Airstream

It was late Friday afternoon when Bell burst into the Airstream. "MJB! Willie Nelson is on the phone! Talk to him for me!"

Bell thrust the Tropez cordless into my hand. The static was overbearing, but I talked through it. "Hello? Hello?"

"Yeah, is this Art? Willie Nelson here."

"Hey Willie, Arty isn't here. This is mjp. You ready for the show tonight?"

"Sure am, but I was hoping to talk to Mr. Bell before I went on."

"Well, he's out in the yard pruning tumbleweeds. I have to tell you, he's a bit of a recluse and doesn't get along well with others. But I know he's looking forward to talking to you tonight." Bell sat in the old La-Z-Boy, scowling at me.

"A recluse? Well, nothing wrong with that I suppose. How long do you think this thing will run?"

"Anywhere from ten minutes to five hours. Depends on how much Bell you can stomach."

Willie laughed and said, "I've been told he's more than a little bit 'out there.' But hell, I'm up for it."

"You heard his anti-herb rap?" I asked, "He's dead set against legalizing anything stronger than No-Doz. But I don't think you'll have any trouble with him. He'll be beside himself to talk to an actual celebrity. I don't foresee any hard questioning."

"He's anti-herb? No kidding?"

"Yeah, well, he's 'anti' anything he doesn't use himself. I've only seen him smoke herb a couple of times, and each time he wound up running out into the desert, naked and yelping. Once I didn't see him for three days."

"Man, I don't know about this." Willie waffled.

"Ah, don't worry about Arty," I said, "He'll be putty in your hands."

"Okay, okay. I'll be on the bus at 2 a.m., he has my number."

"AOK Willie, easy now."

"You too, boss. Talk to you later."

I hit the disconnect button on the Tropez, and Bell lit into me. "What the hell was that all about?"

"What do you mean, Arty?" I asked innocently.

"Why were you telling him I was 'anti-herb'? I enjoy herbs in my food! Ramona is a whiz at sprinkling the Italian seasonings on Hungry-Man dinners!"

"Oh, you know me," I said, "Sometimes I ramble."

"And what was that about smoking herbs? What the hell did you mean by that?"

"Arty, we were talking about pot - marijuana, you know? Remember when you and Crane shared that spliff?"

"MJB! How dare you disclose privileged information like that! I told you, I didn't know what that was. Crane got that cigarette from his son. We were duped!"

"You may have been duped, Arty, but Willie knows exactly what he's smoking, and it ain't Italian seasonings."

"Willie Nelson? The Highwayman? You telling me he smokes pot?"

"Not only does he smoke it," I said, "he's a proponent of its legalization."

Bell stared at his shoes for a minute. It was obvious that he was torn. Finally, he said, "I don't believe what you're telling me MJB. I think you're trying to affect my interview. Trying to throw a donkey-wrench into the works."

"No Arty, what I'm telling you is true. Ask him for yourself. That is, if you still want to have him on. Seeing how he stands for something you're so strongly against."

Bell stumbled out of the Airstream (the only way he's ever left the place) mumbling to himself, "Legalization...Highwaymen...Willie, Willie...pot...herbs..."

An hour later, Bell was standing naked on his "fancy redwood deck," shrieking, "No Willie! No god damn pot-heads on my show! Hippies! Hippies! I piss on you dirty bastards!" Ramona gently lead him back into the double-wide, and by show time, he'd apparently justified the matter in his own mind, and warmly greeted Willie to coast to coast, conveniently sidestepping the issue, and wetting his lips in preparation for Willie's ass.

mjp
5/12/97

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