Tourists of Death

By Nathan Payne | pablosmoglives | 4 Jun 2024

"I am a drug user!  I am unclean!"
The Carrion Preacher


Kalifornia is a 1993 film in which David Duchovny and Michelle Forbes give Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis a one-way ride to hell, by way of California.  Duchovny plays a writer who is writing a book about serial killers, and has planned an itinerary that takes them on a tour of murder sites.  Little do they know that Brad Pitt's character is himself a homicidal psychopath. 

They figure it out, eventually.


Elizabeth Short was an aspiring actress who was brutally murdered in L.A. in 1947.  Dubbed "The Black Dahlia," her case was never solved.  The circumstances of her death are beyond horrific, and fortunately it doesn't serve the interests of this article to repeat them.  You're probably familiar with the story anyway.


"The Black Dahlia" was one of my crown-jewel songs at the time, and this chick I knew wanted to visit the site where they found her body.  We drove down to 39th & Norton and got out of the car.  Immediately, my friend pointed to the southwest corner and said, "they found her there."  Which was true.  It was 2004, and the chances she'd looked it up beforehand were slim.  39th & Norton had long-since become a clean, developed neighborhood, but there were still traces in the spirit world of the horrible events that transpired there in 1947.  I chalk my friend's perception up to spiritual forensics.  Not witchcraft, which is the spiritual equivalent of trying to clean up a crime scene, and make it into something that it isn't.  Witchcraft kills the soul of the witch, then takes the dead spirit body and props it up in a storefront window in a ridiculous attempt to transform it into a mannequin.  Witchcraft is essentially a Frankenstein craft, strapping spirits to lightning rods, lightning bolts to inverted crosses, scarecrows to the stars.  Witchcraft is an act of alchemy, pouring blood on a dead rose in the belief that doing so will turn it into gold, or bring it back to life.  My friend wasn't a witch.  The southwest corner of 39th & Norton is dirty.  Dirty like a razor blade.  Or a hateful heart of stone.

We went back there in 2005 or maybe 6, to shoot the first and last scenes of our music-video recreation of the horrible events leading up to, and including, the crime.  The girl in the video wasn't the girl who visited the crime scene with me in '04.  The girl in the video was an actress I met on the set of some movie or commercial or TV show, where we were both working as extras.  It was very generous of her to donate her time and talents to the project.  The other people too, including the director.

What happened to these people?  Did they become movie stars?  Murder victims?  Did they sink into the script of a David Lynch film, some non-linear version of the afterlife in which rabbits summon the dead, and saxophone players turn into car mechanics while lying in their jail cells?

Are they drowning in an artful, timeless narrative?  Are they hitching a ride to the present moment, playing cooing games with Juliette Lewis in the backseat of a convertible, on the sexy road to hell?


How do we get off this ride?  Who's driving, anyway?  Brad Pitt?  David Duchovny?  The Devil?


Does the departing spirit leave a bathrobe on the street, a crumpled nightgown on the bathroom floor of eternity, nobody can see?   Will the future Tourists of Death visit our resting place?  Who will pick the flowers from our neverending windowsill?  Who will clean our dusting-off place?  Will the events of our demise alter the magnetic force of the field of everlasting birds, floating overhead?  Will we see sparrows, or vultures, at the moment of our final breath?  Will we enter into peace, or everlasting torment?  Who will have mercy on our soul when it's too late to ask for it?  Brad Pitt?  Benicio Del Toro?

The Devil?

I'm still good friends with the director, actually.  He lives in a building, somewhere in the world.  We talk on the phone regularly.  I thought he did a great job.  The video below is from his channel, posted 17 years ago, an horrific observation for which I have no useful comment.  The song was recorded in a series of overdubbed one-take performances at some guy's apartment in Hollywood, a few months after I arrived in town.  He wasn't my friend, so I had to live with whatever I laid down when he hit record.  The preacher at the end was recorded on a portable mini-cassette recorder at Jentezen Franklin's church in Gainesville, Georgia in the summer of 2001.  It isn't Jentezen Franklin preaching.  It's some guy who was shouting like a religious vulture in the grip of an heretical, faux-righteous ecstasy.  "I am a drug user!  I am unclean!" he said.  That's true, I said to myself.  I am a drug user.  I am unclean.


The carrion pontificator bellowed on about how we can "speak our future into existence," a teaching which has long-since been exposed as heretical by many Christian teachers.  I didn't know it was heretical at the time, and felt bad about superimposing the sound of a coin flopping around like a dying fish inside a tin cup over it.  Yeah yeah yeah, clang clang clang, etc.  The empty cup is rattling.  I get it.

For a long time, that bothered me.  But it was right for the song.

It doesn't bother me anymore, even if I hate drugs, and would leap like Tobey Maguire out of the backseat of any car driven by the devil, whether Juliette Lewis was trying to make out with me or not.

Thanks for listening.

The Black Dahlia

She lights a cigarette
on a sunbeam
she's got a painted smile
and a pretty scream
she's a delusion come true

So get your shovel
and your violin
dig a hole, baby
in my skin
maybe you'll find my heart
on your way to China

Drive another nail
into the dirt
fingers hitchhiking
up her skirt
maybe she loves you,
maybe she don't

So lick your lips
and suck your thumb
I'm playing cool,
you're playing dumb
but any fool can see
you know exactly what you want

     You fall in love
     on your knees
     I fall in love
     with my enemies
     hand in hand,
     we'll all go down together

You're no fun
and I'm no good
I don't love you
and you knew that I never would
and it goes without saying
that you don't love me

So baby let's get drunk
and sing the blues
swallow the bomb
and light the fuse
paint our names
on the pews

Gunshots in my brain
I'd do anything
to kill the pain...
anything but that

     You fall in love
     on your knees
     I fall in love
     with my enemies
     hand in hand,
     we'll all go down together


©2002 Nathan Payne

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Nathan Payne
Nathan Payne

I am a songwriter and bandleader who travels the world in search of the golden ticket.


Replacing my blog at

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