The heat was oppressive and the cramped confines of the mid-‘70s Porsche 911 were void of air conditioning, but the bark of the hot-rodded flat six nestled behind us intertwined with the intoxicating scent of burning oil in a way that was plenty enough distraction – if you’re into that kinda thing. I certainly am.
Cam always runs the 911 hard. The modifications to the car (which he’s named “Jolene” after the Dolly Parton song) and particularly its lightweight flywheel means high revs are necessary for the car to run properly. Time seems to slow down a bit when it’s in that sweet spot between 60 and 100 mph; the steering lightens up, the engine’s guttural barks become a song punctuated by shift blips, and you forget about the mundanity of modern motoring in a hurry. Just remember to pack an extra shirt.
We were doing around 90 mph southeast on the 10 about an hour out of LA. The Cramps were blasting out of the door speakers just loud enough to compete with the engine’s wails, and we were carving through the afternoon traffic with ease. When presented with the gift of a relatively open road and desert scenery, one really should try their best to drink it in. Even with the cacophony of the car and the music, there was serenity in that drive that can’t really be described. As we got closer to Palm Springs, the mountains that hem in the road loomed taller and our 80 mile an hour meditation grew deeper. At one point, a patched vet cruising on a black Harley Dyna took us on our right, split the lane, and blasted off in front of us. A blip of the throttle, a swift throw into 3rd gear, and we were off behind him and matching his speed as he threaded the needle for us. A few miles up the road, the vet gave the top of his helmet a couple of pats to warn us of the cops he’d spotted waiting up the road. Haven’t they got anything better to do? Waves were exchanged and the lone rider was off into the distance for good. There’s something romantic about primitive communication like that in the digital world — the lost art of highway speak.
Cam and I were headed to a dinner party in Palm Springs. Could be a worse day on the job, right? The party we were headed to was at Chris and Karen Haines’ home. Chris is a legendary off-road motorcycle racer that dedicated his life to conquering the Baja circuit; he’s an American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame and Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee, and a guy whose exploits on a dirt bike are matched only by his passion for James Bond films, the Beatles, and pop art. Haines has a big personality that was shaped by simpler times — a dying breed of guy and tremendously entertaining company.
Haines had parlayed the lessons he learned successfully campaigning for championships in Baja into a small fortune when the US Military came knockin’ and contracted him to teach soldiers how to drive fast in the dirt and how to keep their vehicles running when the terrain bites back. His “retirement” has been spent providing guided dirt bike tours of Baja, and to say the guy has accrued some incredible stories is the understatement of a lifetime. The party orbited a collection of guitars that Chris had spent years scouring the world for and putting together that included an exact example of every instrument the Beatles had ever played — right down to the flimsy imported acoustic guitars the band used in the Quarrymen days! We’re talking correct years, correct colors, correct everything!
Haines had decided it was finally time to let go of the massive collection of guitars and some friends of C + T’s that own a prestigious vintage guitar shop in Seattle by the name of Emerald City Guitars were going to be handling the sale of the collection. The dinner party was intended to send these instruments off in style with a video telling the story of the collection for ECG’s media channels. But really, it was simply intended to celebrate what an incredible passion project collecting these guitars had been for Chris. Craft + Tailored had already been in chats with ECG about partnering up for a satellite location in our Los Angeles showroom and the party proved the perfect place to iron out the details and let everyone break bread with a face-to-face meeting.
As the sun set over the highway, we were still about 20 minutes out from Palm Springs. Cam went to flip on Jolene’s lights…no dice. While the old 911 is typically ultra-reliable and exceptionally well-maintained as a daily driver, tonight was the night its yellow-tinted headlights decided they were going to fuck us right as the sun sank like a stone over our shoulders.
Cam looked at me and said “Looks like we’re going to have to do some sketchy driving. Have you ever been in the desert at night? It’s a different kind of dark.”
Cam dropped the hammer and we white-knuckled it safely off the highway and onto Palm Springs’ Main Street before we lost all of our light. We barely made it to a Shell station as the sky turned a deep purple and while the highway star heroics had worked out (don’t try this at home, kids), we still had no headlights and a party to get to. After some pointless troubleshooting, we limped to the Ace Hotel with our iPhones in-hand and beaming out the windows – a reminder that no matter how snarky we get about modernity around here, it can be pretty useful sometimes. A quick costume change at the Ace, a disappointed last look at the lovely old car which had let us down, and we were off to the Haines residence in an Uber.
Emerald City Guitars is owned by Jay and Trevor Boone, a father and son team that have been in the vintage guitar game for decades. The Boones walk a similar path to C + T in that they are just as invested in telling the stories of the remarkable instruments they buy and sell as they are in finding the right homes for them. They often travel the country hunting for vintage guitars in an RV (they call it the GuitaRV) and film their excursions to tell the stories of hunting down uncirculated guitars and amps, meeting up with notable players and collectors, and life on the road at a time when so much of business is done in the digital realm. The Boones run their business with a truly palpable passion that makes them a perfect match for C + T’s philosophy and energy. We have a real kinship in that sense and the deal for their LA location in our showroom (now known as Emerald City Guitars South) was agreed upon quickly – but the party itself had just started and the Haines’ residence was something else! A picture-perfect mid-century gem that represents everything one could love about the proverbial Palm Springs time warp.
The night was catered by the immensely talented chef, author, and entrepreneur Luke Thomas, who prepared a wonderful spread of hearty classics with a few subtle twists for the guests. Thomas was great company himself, and the meal was sweetened by the Haines’ home being decorated with painfully cool original artworks, James Bond paraphernalia and original movie posters, and a living room filled with vintage BSA motorcycles and a massive original Warhol piece. The conversation touched on everything from vintage watches (of course) and guitars to Ian Fleming’s work, to the celebrities that could and couldn’t hack it on a dirt bike when Haines had them on a Baja tour. One guest was a prolific collector of Northern Soul 45s that arrived wearing one of the greatest vintage Hawaiian shirts I’d ever seen, and another was Palm Springs local and ECG client Brian Ray, who has spent the last 20 years as Paul McCartney’s lead guitar/bass foil and several decades prior as Etta James’ musical director. It was one of those hangs that had no forced conversation, plenty of people that were just keyed in and absolutely loved what they did and wanted to share it. In a world that’s been forced apart socially for so long, it was incredibly refreshing to sit in a room full of people talking about the things they’re most passionate about.
The drive back to LA was another hot one, but we left Palm Springs feeling fulfilled and excited about the next chapter for Craft + Tailored with our new partners in Emerald City Guitars. We took it easy getting back into town, stopped at a vintage store on the outskirts of Palm Springs and at the famous Cabazon Dinosaurs to make PeeWee Herman jokes and shoot some film. The trip was a reminder of the social aspects of passion-based businesses that we all really love, the facets that make the hard work worth it beyond a paycheck. By the time we had meandered back to Los Angeles, it was dusk and we had a few miles between us and the house – but iPhones weren’t going to hack it in LA traffic. However, as we exited the 101, Cam gave the horn a tap to get a car out of the intersection and I’ll be absolutely damned if those headlights didn’t pop on with the horn! We laughed about it the entire way up Sunset.
Check out 'Reference Tracks' our Spotify playlist. We’ll take you through what’s been spinning on the black circle at the C + T offices.
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