Joshua Tree Contemporary Legend

Ana: This is a story that I’ve heard about one of my friends but I’ve also heard it from a couple other people as well so, I don’t know how true it is. There are these uhhh, four guys and they went to the desert. I think it was Joshua Tree. They went for the weekend and were going to drop some acid. And… while they were there, they umm… started dropping acid (LAUGH). And they umm, and then one of the guys wasn’t feeling the effects so he decided to wonder off into the desert by himself. So he’s like wondering and wondering and he still doesn’t know if the acid is affecting him or not but he kind of got lost so he kept walking. And all of a sudden he sees this thing in the distance and you know he gets closer and closer to this thing. So he’s looking at it and he thinks ‘Oh my god, it’s a… it’s a gnome!’ like he found this gnome in the middle of Joshua Tree. And so he is like freaking out, like he didn’t know if he had even felt the affects of the acid or not but he was shocked that he ummm… found this gnome. He (LAUGH) umm, so he starts to talk to the gnome. He said ‘Hey gnome! Are you a gnome?’ and the figure started to talk back and said bluntly, ‘Yes, yes I am. I am a gnome’. And this guy is like freaking out because he wanted people to see that this was actually true – that he actually found a gnome. So he said to the gnome, ‘Hey gnome, I’m lost but will you come with me? Come with me so I can show you to my friends?’ And the gnome said, ‘Yes. Yes I will’. And so he carried the gnome on his back and he finally made his way back to his friends. And he said to his friends, ‘Guys, guys, I have something to show you!’ and everyone was still tripping but uhh… umm but they all could not believe that he had found a gnome in the middle of Joshua Tree. And they were freaking out that they got this gnome and they felt like they had to show civilization because no one would every believe them if they said they came back from Joshua Tree with a gnome. So they said, ‘Gnome, Gnome, you got to get in the care we have to back to Los Angeles. Will you come with us?’ and the gnome agreed. Then they were driving back and they were all coming down from the acid and umm, they are driving and driving and they’re talking about how they’re going show people this gnome and how it’s going to be such big news. So they look in the back seat, and… they are coming off of the acid and it’s a little kid. It’s this little toddler kid about four years old. And now they pull over and you know, they are freaking out. One of them suggests leaving him on the side of the road, the other said they should bring him to the police station. And they are all freaking out, you know, they are going nuts! So they end up doing the right thing and going to the police station. Ummm… and apparently it was a missing kid that had been lost in the desert for a couple days. So they had found the kid. And, ummm, the other thing was kid had Down Syndrome. And that’s the story of the gnome in the desert.

Isabel: Where did you first hear this story?

Ana: I heard it out to dinner with one of my friends. He said it was his friend. But then I think I looked it up on the internet or something and it was one of those… like they can’t say whether it’s true or not, but I guess its one of those urban legends or something. I definitely heard it another time after Ben told me that first time. And I totally believed it the first time I heard it though. I think it was the way Ben told the story, it was so believable and like compelling.

Both the tone in which Ana narrated this story and the context in which she first heard it indicate that there is a comedic purpose to the narrative. There is a sense of humor in discovering the details of four young guys’ experience with LSD. The story’s conclusion portrays the group of friends as idiotic, enabling the story’s audience to laugh at their ridiculousness. However, contrastingly, the fact that the gnome is actually a toddler with Down Syndrome makes the comedy of it a bit disturbing. The audience is left uncomfortably laughing in reaction to the narrative. However, the story does not seem to make fun of the mental illness, but rather highlights the inane actions of the four guys under the influence. Therefore the comedy of the folklore remains, albeit with an awkward edge because of the Down Syndrome detail.

This piece of folklore exposes the acceptance and prevalence of a drug culture. There is plausibility within the foundation of the story, as the scenario of four young guys taking Acid together is likely. Additionally there are often absurd and exaggerated experiences attached to the use of Acid, enabling the narrative to be entertaining through the anticipation of how their ‘trip’ will transcend.