Sunday, April 14th
in the desert, surrounded by a sea of people. I was tired. I hadn’t
slept a full night since I arrived to the festival. There was a calm to
the restlessness though. The desert was still blowing off her heat
before inhaling another dry, hot swallow.
I watched the birds fly over in a large check-mark. I heard a zip from a tent, a few cans tip over, a slam of a toilet door.
woke up, disoriented and drunk. I watched his head whip around as his
eyes opened in the cab of Benny’s truck. There was an exchange between
the two muffled by rolled up windows and Trent tumbled out then climbed
into the back seat of my car. I watched him sleep until the heat picked
up, then rolled down the windows and wet clothes for his neck and hands.
was one of the first up that morning to join me on the lawn chairs
propped in front of our cars. I hadn’t seen him very much inside the
festival, but we were enjoying the morning together, quiet.
“You know, someone could really get used to life like this,” he said.
was in the circle of “normal lifers”. He made an income, and instead of
living each day the way he wanted, he worked on salary and paid
vacation to live, really live, only for a cluster of days at a time. On
the other hand, people like Trent and I struggled to live each day,
working low paying jobs we, just so we could live life the way we
wanted. We didn’t have new cars or trips to Europe, we worked when we
were sick and haven’t slept in on Christmas morning in years. We lived
with only what we had. That is enough, most days.
Sal and Fernando joined us on the lawn chairs, then Haute and D. I checked on Trent periodically but knew he needed the sleep.
“I can tell there is a lot of love there,” Kev said. “Just the way you two are.”
“I love him,” I said. “He can get nasty but it isn’t the real him. There is just a lot of pain.”
saw the scars,” he said. Trent is covered in scars over his shoulders,
arm and back. White large, permanent blisters spread over him like paint
carelessly kicked over a canvas. I don’t notice them unless he is
wearing a tank top. They look like burns and I believe they were cut
into him as a child. I only asked him about it once: “I don’t want to
ruin the night,” he said, giggling, shrugging off large, white spiders
clutching tight to his body.
Trent tried to kill himself last
year. After trying to hang himself in his room, he was discovered, fled
the house and arrested by police officers. Then he tried to hang
himself in his cell by his pajama bottoms. His mother and I kept each
other on speed dial. If Trent was missing for a night or spending the
night in my living room, we texted. I believe of everyone in Trent’s
life, she suffers the most.
When he finally emerged from my car,
bleary and worn from the night, he pulled out a little white packet of
cocaine and cracked open another beer. It wasn’t alarming for even in
Coachella, on a Sunday morning, I spotted a maintenance employee
snorting lines from one of the carts paroling the grounds.
and Benny were close at hand and one offered an energy shot, the kind
sold at counters in gas stations. “No thanks,” Trent refused, “I prefer
The morning was spent cat-calling all the boys walking
back and forth to the latrines and showers. All the pent up, homosexual
frustration burst out from under Trent’s black, Sunday sun hat. We
bought that hat together at a Target the weekend we escaped to Joshua
Tree National together. There was no fear of retaliation or alienation,
it was the last day of the festival.
“Lookin’ good!” Trent would shout.
of the other boys in our company joined in, whistling, commenting,
complimenting. The straight, bulky, sheltered boys had no idea how to
respond. Most ignored. Some grinned and tossed their head around
confused. A few seemed completely put out.
Pierre found me with
his friend, asking if I would paint him. I, of course, obliged, tracing
my fingers over his body with bright pink paint. He allowed my friends
to tease and ask questions, as long as I gave him some attention to ease
any doubt about his sexuality. Everyone was in good spirits.
we decided to go into the music festival as a group, Trent got ahead. I
would stop to track the others but lose sight of either Trent or the
group. Trent stomped off like a child. “Obviously you want to be with
them!” He marched ahead and I followed him.
It is hard following
someone through thousands of drunk strangers, under tents of people
packed in shoulder to shoulder, each one, staring blankly at the stage.
Were they moved or bored, I really couldn’t tell.
“If you want to be by yourself, that’s fine!” I said.
“You are carrying the drugs, so I am stuck with you.”
allowed him to string me along for 30 more minutes, like a trout caught
on the line, feeling my lip slowly rip from my mouth as a hand dragged
it deeper into its own world. I found him sitting Indian style under a
tent and handed him the drugs. “Here,” I said, “You obviously want to be
alone and I don’t want to ruin the rest of my day. I can’t take it
anymore. The silent treatment. The temper tantrums. I would rather be
After leaving him, it wasn’t long before I felt the gentle
tug at my elbow. I misunderstood. He was sorry. It was a recited speech
for loved ones who finally try to leave, as if it wasn’t hard enough
turning your back on a little boy bound by scars.
We spent the
rest of the day together, listening to melancholy music that meant
something to him and absolutely nothing to me. He watched himself, kept
from being snappy and grouchy, though I could see the cauldron boiling,
giving rise to the darkness in his eyes and the white splotches on his
As the night came down, he insisted on buying drinks. A
small, plastic cup of wine was $8 inside the festival. He bought himself
two and double fisted as we sheltered ourselves from a growingly
violent wind crossing the desert. I huddled down to keep warm, and let
my hood cover the back of my head. A girl approached me, “Are you ok?”
“Yes,” I said, forcing a smile, “Just cold. Thank you, though, for caring.”
ate some mushrooms and decided to wait in line for the Coachella ferris
wheel. A couple chatted with us and though we engaged them, both Trent
and I were counting down the minutes to be alone together. Alone on top
of the world.
“Are you feeling the shrooms?” he asked.
I answered, positioning a pair of sunglasses on my nose. I found them
on the ground earlier in the festival. “Oh look, the ferris wheel is
green. That’s an interesting choice.”
Trent released his signature
cackle and we climbed into our own passenger car. As we climbed into
the sky, Trent relieved himself into an empty water bottle. The wind
pushed the wheel and car against the sunset, like rain drops pinning a
leaf to a wet windshield.
“I am scared,” I said.
sat across from each other, looking out at the thousands of people, the
lights and tents waving from the distance. I held on to the sides of
the car as it rocked back and forth. We didn’t need to touch the stars,
we just wanted to keep from falling.
After we got down, Wu-Tag
Clan was playing on one of the larger stages. We listened a bit from the
distance but everyone was drunk. Unlike the previous nights, when
everyone was tripping or high, this time everyone was drunk and bumping
into each other. Knocking over girls. Knocking into security guards. I
am not sure it mattered. Giving psychedelics to just anyone for a high,
someone without the capacity to really use them, sharpen their mind and
learn more about themselves, is very much like reading Kafka from cue
cards. The real experience is lost on them before it ever started.
Hot Chili Peppers took the stage, they were headlining the festival.
Trent and I decided to head back early. It wasn’t our type of music.
The wind had really picked up and it felt as though if we leaned forward
on our tip-toes, the gusts would keep us upright. Against the black of
night and muffled under the warmth of shrooms, we barely were able to
do much of anything.
“A little breezy,” Trent said, sarcastically, clutching his sun hat and scarf over his head.
“Just a bit.”
I laughed as dust flew into my eyes and mouth. We dragged ourselves back to the campsite until morning.
as we did on every camping trip, Trent and I woke up in a pool of
spilled beer. It was early, but Rolling Stones tickets were going on
sale 10am Pacific Standard Time. They were selling 200 tickets $85 a
piece under what I referred to as the “Poor Man’s Lottery”. On the day
of the concert, your seat would be determined at random. You could get a
seat anywhere in the stadium, as long as you had official
identification and the credit card used to purchase the ticket. Then,
and only then, you would be escorted to your seat by a stadium employee.
Michael was back home with two computers cued up to buy tickets. They
were expected to sell out in less than 5 minutes.
woke up at 6am to pack up and woke up everyone at 7am for help. My car
was dead, but Kev and D were going to jump start Black Betty then drive
Sal and Fernando to the airport, for their return to Mexico City.
Everyone got up with us, with sand in their eyes and under their
fingernails, helping to make sure we were on the road in time. With the
commute from Indio to Los Angeles and a few dollars in cash, we would
make it back to my house in just enough time to hop on the computer and
click our way into the concert lotto. As it turned out, by the time we
arrived, I didn’t even have time to smoke a cigarette. Trent waited
patiently on the couch, stroking my dogs as Michael and I furiously
clicked on the fan site for tickets. That was the price I agreed to pay
for the life I’ve chosen.
Coachella was not the psychedelic
playground I expected. It wasn’t the visit to the ideals of the 1960s or
a glimpse into hippie culture I was hoping for, nor was it much of a
vacation. I found the whole ordeal somewhat stressful.
memory I will take is a group of sleepy men, rolling out of their
comfortable, warm tents on an early Monday morning to help me chase my
music. Aside from the materialism, the drunks, the privilege, the
fatigue, the selfishness, there was soul at Coachella after all.
luck,” they shouted, waving at us as we slowly navigated over the grass
and onto a dirt road. I smiled, wiping the sand off my side view
mirror. They knew how important it was to follow the music. It was our