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a short story by C. E. Santana
MadLit Publishing, LLC Copyright 2012 by C. E. Santana All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published by MadLit Publishing, LLC. www.mad-lit.com This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Edited by Charis Conn Special Thanks: Rivington, Jorge Liloy, Enrique Hernandez, Carlos J. Santana, Husein Sonara, Kate Litnovak, Lucas Garzoli, Jeff Curran, Maximo Pena, Dalia Perez, DVLP, Bigram Zayas, “Lionel” from Seattle, “Baby,” Enrique Galvez, P.F. Bonifacio
Waves Coachella 2012 sold out in three hours. Two weekends, 80,000 plus passes for each weekend, gone. Luke was one of the many to miss out. But still eager to finally experience Coachella he purchased his airfare and left early morning on Thursday, April 19th, for the festival's second weekend, hoping to be able to find inexpensive passes once there. He landed in LAX from Newark at 10 AM. He was to meet his friends, Chad and Gabe, who were landing later that night so the three could take a Greyhound bus together to Indio, California the following morning. The last time the three friends went to a music festival was 2009’s All Points West in New Jersey. On the last day of that festival, a clear, bright Sunday, Luke met Chad and Gabe, along with Luke's best friend, Jesse, standing by the gates of the music and arts festival being held in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, overlooking the opening of the Hudson river into the ocean, the downtown New York City skyline and the Statue of Liberty. Soon after passing through the gates, the group lost contact with Jesse. He was a free soul at concerts, prone to squeezing his way through the crowds to get to the front of the stage for a better view or so he could crowd surf. Luke thought he caught glimpses of Jesse later on in the audience watching the Black Keys, but during MGMT, he lost him. He figured he went to the main stage to see Coldplay, or had joined the kids running up and down, sliding through the mud, completely covered from head to toe in it, dancing about like members of a tribe worshipping music and the night. News of Jesse’s disappearance began circulating shortly after the festival. Jesse’s parents contacted Luke and said they hadn’t heard from him. His parents called his job where they learned he was a no-show. When his dad went to look for him at his apartment, his neighbors said they hadn’t
seen him and his landlord said Jesse who was always on time with his rent was past due. His parents checked his savings. There was no activity on his account. A missing person report was filed, starting a search of the shady Jersey City neighborhood and the wooded areas surrounding Liberty State Park. No leads, no clues, nothing. No one knew what happened to Jesse. It was Luke’s first time out west. He managed to figure out the LA metro transportation and was on his way to Downtown LA, the first of his stops in which he planned to see as much of LA in just one day, when he noticed the homeless population. He had heard about it, seen it on television and in movies depicting Skid Row, but he never understood it until he felt the Californian sun for the first time. It was low 80’s without a cloud in the sky. The warm air was a satisfying breeze, not the noose around your neck humidity of New York City and the rest of the east coast. Luke wondered whether his old friend Jesse had simply turned to a life of a street traveler. He contemplated this, pulled out his cigarette holder containing his cigarettes and medication and swallowed a 1mg Xanax. Luke walked around Downtown Los Angeles for a bit before realizing that he wanted to see the ocean and dig his feet in the sand, not skyscrapers and concrete blocks. He found his way onto a bus riding down Wilshire Blvd. towards Santa Monica. He took everything in. The route on Wilshire passed through Korea Town, Hollywood, the La Brea Tar Pits, LACMA, and Beverly Hills. He looked at the streets perfectly lined with houses with lush green grass and shaded porches. He passed through expensive high-rise condos and Rodeo Drive, golf courses and parks. Before he knew it, he was off the bus, in Santa Monica, staring at the Santa Monica statue, the Pacific ocean glistening ahead.
“What a greeting, Ms. Santa Monica! What a morning!” He looked out at the waves. He sat down unable to stand back up –the view and breeze left him in awe. He was already falling in love with California. He romanticized a future living there: walking to the beach hand in hand with a pretty girl and their dog, Mitt, a lazy fat bulldog. They’d set a towel on the sand and lay for hours, reading and napping, before walking back to their home in a quiet side street in Santa Monica with a yard and porch where they smoke joints under palm trees, and a backyard where they host outdoor dinners, and where his girl has a studio where she does her paintings, and he sits around thinking about nothing and everything at once in his garden like a Japanese monk trimming bonsais, before heading inside to make love. Luke got up from his daydreams and went searching for food and a place to stay. He decided to stay on the beach for the weekend. Maybe he’d find a girl with a dog and live happily ever after. He was delusional, but the California sun does that to people. He had seen a hotel on Ocean Ave, Shore Hotel, but it seemed a bit too luxurious for his purpose. He wanted something cozy and homey, but not a murky motel either. He strolled along Ocean Front Walk, passed the famous Muscle Beach, and made a left back towards Ocean Ave, passing through the hotel Shutters on the Beach, which was too honeymoon for his taste. On Ocean, he was about to turn right and walk towards Venice and deeper into Santa Monica, when he caught sight of a brunette with long tan legs standing by a meter. Luke walked in her direction to a narrow, highly shaded pedestrian strip called Seaview Terrace. Lined with small bungalows and apartments, it was the perfect setting – straight out of his daydreams. There he found his hotel, one with small colorful rooms surrounding a plot of plants and palm trees. After settling in,
he went in search of food, first stopping by the beach to rent his transportation for the weekend, a cruiser bicycle. Near Venice he found what he was craving: an authentic SoCal taco truck. He finished his steak burrito while still sitting on his bike, rode to a liquor store, bought a six pack of cold Coronas, and went back to his room, happier and more content than he’d felt in a long time. Dozing off in his shaded bed, a breeze flowing through the open windows, he sent a textmessage to his boys who were boarding their plane from JFK to LAX. “Dudes, I’ve decided on staying in Santa Monica this weekend. I feel at home here. I’ve rented a hotel room. You guys go and enjoy Coachella. Enjoy Tupac. Take lots of pictures and drugs. See you guys Monday.” On the plane, right before turning off their phones, Chad and Gabe looked at each other simultaneously as they received the message. “Fuck that guy,” Chad said. They landed in LAX at around nine pm. Originally, they were going to meet Luke at the airport and find a spot to sit around for a few hours before catching a Greyhound bus at 6 AM. But now they too were considering taking a tour of Los Angeles. They got on an airport shuttle and were dropped off aimlessly in Hollywood, like two aspiring actors on a bus from the Mid-West. “If we don’t make it here, I’ll just pimp you out,” Gabe said, teasing. “You’re the pretty boy,” Chad responded. “I’ll make so much money off you.” They walked around, taking pictures of the stars on the Walk of Fame, posing in front of the Chinese Theater, the usual tourist things. After eating at an In-n-Out, they found a bar for a beer on Hollywood Blvd, where they befriended a pretty bartender named Shelly. After telling her they were in
town for Coachella, she offered them a spot on her Coachella car-pool with her roommate. “That would be awesome, thanks,” Gabe said. “When are you leaving?” “After my shift. My roommate is picking us up here. We want to get there before the morning to set up our camp. It’s supposed to be 102 degrees tomorrow. You don’t want to be setting up a tent in that heat. Are you guys camping?” “No, we have a hotel room.” “Pussies,” she mocked. “But it’s your first time at Coachella. You were probably unaware how awesome it is to camp. This is my third year. I did the hotel thing last year after camping my first year. Camping is a much better experience.” By 3:00 AM, Chad, Gabe, and their carpooling hosts, Shelly and her roommate, Steph, were traveling on I-10 E to Palm Springs. They drank iced coffees and smoked joints while listening to a Coachella playlist. The girls sat in the front seat singing loudly to every song. The farther they drove from Los Angeles and into the California desert, the more the stars in the sky lit up. On the horizon they could faintly make out the outlines of mountains. Gabe and Chad couldn’t stop smiling. They both knew it was a great start to what was sure to be a memorable trip. When their car passed under the underpass declaring their arrival in Palm Springs the excitement reached a climax. The girls told them the best part of the route right was approaching over the upcoming hill: on both sides of the road, bright blinking red lights as far as the eye could see sat on top of thousands of humongous windmills like a mystical garden of giant white orchids dancing in the wind. Arriving in Indio, the first stop was the will-call office, basically a
large tent on tennis courts, where Chad and the girls were picking up their passes. This was the beginning of Gabe’s quest for tickets. He too had missed out on passes and was hoping to find one in Indio. Luckily, posted on the walls of a porta-potty, he found an ad for someone selling a pass. He called the number and they agreed to meet the following morning at the taxi stand near the festival entrance. The girls dropped off Chad and Gabe at their motel on Indio Blvd, exchanging numbers to meet the next day. It was a cool night, almost hard to imagine the temperature rising over a hundred the next day. Chad and Gabe stood outside their roadside motel, a quiet mom-and-pop, one-level building surrounding a pool. Exhausted from their travels, with a long weekend ahead of them, they passed out almost immediately after checking in. Luke looked up at the ceiling of his motel room unable to sleep. He had gone out earlier in the evening for dinner and a walk along Main Street, which was lined with busy bars. He had a few drinks at a bar, but he wasn’t the type to socialize with strangers. He stared at the ceiling, thinking about all the girls he had seen on his walk. Beautiful Californian girls like The Beach Boys and David Lee Roth sang about. He jumped from bed after hearing the silly giggle of a drunken girl outside his window, only to see a guy leading the girl into another room. Luke popped Xanax, knowing it was the only remedy for his horny caused insomnia. He set his alarm for early morning. At dawn he got out of bed, hopped on his bike and rode out towards Venice. Gabe sat on a ledge outside the motel room’s open door, smoking a cigarette while Chad showered. It was only 10 AM, but the heat was almost
unbearable. He had his shirt off already, using it as a headband to stop the steady flow of sweat pouring into his eyes, fogging up his cheap aviator sunglasses. Just as he was about to go back inside, a car pulled up near the front office, a few doors down from their room. A girl stepped out and walked inside. She was wearing short denim shorts and a ripped up Rolling Stones tank top, exposing a black bra. Gabe wondered if the heat was already causing hallucinations of beautiful girls in skimp clothing. He waited a moment and then went towards the office. The girl had disappeared. Gabe smiled at the man at the front desk, a stocky man in his fifties, looked in his pockets for a dollar and inserted it into a vending machine. While deciding whether he wanted water or juice, he heard a girl’s voice behind him. “Dad, I’m heading out to the festivities. Do you need anything else from me today?” Gabe pushed the button for money return, walked over to the desk and asked the man, “Hi, sorry to interrupt, but do you have change? The machine isn’t taking my dollar.” “Well, is it a real dollar?” The man asked half jokingly. “I’ve been seeing a lot of fake bills coming in from Mexico.” “I’m pretty sure it’s real, sir. I brought it along with me from New York City.” “They don’t have fake dollars in New York City?” The man mumbled as he looked for change. Gabe glanced at the girl. She was leaning on the doorway of an office behind the front desk. Her skin was tan and smooth, her hair a golden brown from the sun. When she went over to her dad for a kiss goodbye, Gabe hoped that they would make eye contact but she still had on her huge black
sunglasses. Gabe thanked the man, quickly bought his water, and ran outside. He waited near the door for the girl. “Are you going to Coachella?” He asked her when she appeared. “Were you spying on me?” “Something like that. I also wanted some water. It’s pretty hot out here.” “If you think this is hot, wait until it goes up to 100. Think you’ll be able to handle the heat?” “I think I can manage.” “Are you excited for the festival?” “Yeah,” Gabe answered. “Even though I don’t have a pass yet.” “You better find one,” the girl said as she got in her car. “Would be a shame to miss out on this.” “Fuck dude, fuck dude, fuck dude.” Gabe paced back and forth in the room. “What, man?” Chad asked, getting dressed. “I called the guy with the pass three times. He isn’t picking up. You think he sold it?” “Relax, he’s probably still sleeping.” “We’re supposed to meet in a half hour. I just met this girl –gorgeous Californian girl straight out of a cheesy David Lee Roth video. She told me ‘would be a shame to miss out on this.’ This! She didn’t mean a damn music festival. She meant her pussy!” “I bet you didn’t even get her name or number, right? You won’t find her with all those people, with all those other girls. But if she’s staying in this motel, at least you’ll see her tonight. Unless some other dude who’s
staying at a much better hotel like the Ace gets to her first.” “She’s not staying here. She just works here, I think. Her dad is the guy at the front desk.” “So you’ll have three days to catch her. Come on, let’s get you this wristband.” They took a cab to the festival then waited forty-five minutes by the taxi stand as Gabe repeatedly called the pass seller. They tried buying from another source but the heat was too brutal even for degenerate concert ticketscalpers. “Dude, we’re going to die out here if we stay any longer,” Chad said. “How about you go back to the motel and find someone on Craigslist, then have them meet you there if possible. At least you’ll be in the comfort of air conditioning.” Gabe agreed and headed back. Chad walked towards the festival gates. By noon, he had already smoked two joints with Shelly and Steph at their camp and immediately regretted not camping. The campgrounds were like communities, complete with street names and neighborhoods. The girls were staying on Lot 7 of the car camping on 150th Street. Cars had tents set up behind them in a variety of settings, like a shantytown, but more festive. There were one-person tents, couples, small groups, and large tents that could fit ten people. The girls had set up a six-person tent under a large canopy and chairs serving as a makeshift front yard. Some tents were the designated party zones. Music blasted from portable PA speakers while college aged boys played beer pong or tossed a football. Residents were just getting up, brushing their teeth with bottles of water. The majority had beer cans or red cups in their hands –mixed cocktails of vodka or tequila smuggled through the campground checkpoint in hidden compartments in
cars like professional trafficking. Chad drank a breakfast mix of orange juice and coconut vodka, which Shelly had rolled in a sleeping bag to fool the awkwardly job-positioned college-aged security guard who inspected their car the previous night for glass bottles, drugs, and propane tanks. The girl’s camping neighbors to their right, a young couple from Orange County, fumed that they only brought beer because the previous year, security was so tight, smuggling liquor bottles was like trying to sneak kilos of cocaine across the border. Steph poured them two drinks. Meanwhile, the neighbors to the left, three frat boys from USC, cooked their closest neighbors a breakfast of eggs and bacon on an electric stovetop. This was what the festival camping was all about, Chad thought. Even if it was just three days, it was a tidy community where food and drink are shared with laughter and good times. He texted Luke, wondering how he was doing in Los Angeles: “Hope you’re doing well. I’m doing okay, just smoking weed and drinking an ice cold drink surrounded by hot chicks and music.” Luke smirked at the text, then put his phone in his shirt pocket. He too was stoned. He had found a girl on the beach smoking from a glass bowl as she read. She looked entirely at peace. Luke sat nearby, listening to music. After Luke kept looking in her direction, the girl finally offered him a toke. “Is it legal to smoke here?” he asked, getting up to sit next to her on her towel. “No. Are you going to tell on me?” “I’m no snitch. I’m just not from around here.” Luke inhaled and almost choked on the potent weed. “Where are you from?” “East coast. New York/New Jersey area.” “Cool. Welcome. How long have you been in Cali?”
“This is my second day.” “Do you like it?” “I love it. I’m thinking I may never go back.” “Yeah, you wouldn’t be the first. My dad is from New York. He used to be a stockbroker. He came here on vacation, met my mom, had me, hasn’t lived anywhere farther than three blocks from this beach in twenty-five years.” Luke smiled. “I’m Luke.” “Katie.” In the darkness of the motel room, Gabe sat staring out through the curtains like a fugitive on the run, waiting for bounty hunters to find him holed up in a run-down motel. He was waiting on a phone call from someone who said could meet him there for the Coachella wristband transaction. He lit a cigarette and stared at the ceiling. It was a non-smoking room but he didn’t care. Fugitives wouldn’t give a shit, why should he? If he couldn’t enjoy the festival at least he could imagine himself a rebel biker on the run, breaking all the illegal codes of hotel rooms. He turned on the television and flipped to the adult channels. Why the fuck not? He ordered a fitting flick called “Desert Bunnies” and lowered his shorts. It’s not everyday a guy gets to wack off in a motel in the desert of California. Now he was really on vacation. Finished, he went to the bathroom, cleaned himself off, washed his face, put on deodorant, threw on a clean white tee shirt, and walked outside. He found a shade and lit another cigarette. “Why aren’t you at the festival?” a man's voice asked him from above. Gabe opened his eyes, having dozed off in the soporific laziness of the desert and saw the man from the front desk.
Gabe rubbed his eyes then answered, “Haven’t found a pass yet, sir.” “That’s a shame,” the man said walking away. He stopped before entering the office, as if he wasn’t sure whether or not to say what he was about to say. “Listen, kid,” he said, finally turning around. “You’re going to depress me if all you’re going to do is sit around my motel smoking cigarettes and ordering porn.” The man chuckled. Gabe’s face turned red. “It’s alright. That’s what it’s there for. You do seem like a decent kid, though, so let me help you out. My daughter seems to think her dad’s hotel is shit so she’s at a pool party right now at a new hotel called The Saguaro. At least go there and have some fun. You’re making my place look miserable. I’ll call you a cab.” “Thank you.” Gabe said, gratefully. “No need to thank me. Just do me a favor and watch over my little girl. Make sure she doesn’t end up in any Girls Gone Wild videos. We get those at my hotels. A hotel owner’s –excuse me, a dad’s – worst nightmare. Imagine that, knowing guys like you are jerking off to my daughter in my own hotel. No offense.” Walking through the lobby of The Saguaro Hotel was like walking through an old relic of Palm Springs –a desert destination for the likes of Sinatra –with its vibrant colors and mid-century modern architecture. Gabe took note of this because he studied architecture for a brief period in college, before landing a job in marketing. By the pool it was back to 2012 Palm Springs: dozens of barely clothed young people swimming and lounging, loud electronic music, tattoos, debauchery, vodka sponsors, a mascot that looked like a giant Pillsbury doughboy on ecstasy, party-photographers
taking pictures of drunk girls posing provocatively; in other words, the type of party Gabe was searching for. He grabbed a drink and found himself a spot close to the pool. He scanned the area, surveying for a golden-brunette in big black sunglasses –about 85% of the girls there. He got up for another drink. He had drunk his vodka like water. He told himself to slow down, anticipating a long day of drinking and partying ahead. By the bar, he saw her with another girl. Gabe walked up and stood in front of them, awkwardly, hoping to be recognized. Finally, she looked at him. “Can I help you?” “I’m from the motel this morning. Remember?” “Oh, yes, you were spying on me. Now you’re here. Wow...you’re good,” the girl said quite seriously, making Gabe uncomfortable. She seemed to sense this, and backtracked: “I’m fucking with you. It’s a party. You’re allowed to come to a party. I’m not that conceited to think you’re following me…well, maybe a little bit conceited.” “Actually, your dad sent me here, which sounds lame, I know, but he saw me sitting in front of my room and told me I could come party here.” “Did he tell you to keep an eye on me?” “Yes. But don’t tell him I told you.” “Don’t worry, I won’t,” the girl said, smiling. “This is Mindy and I’m Cindy. Yes, I know it’s cheesy but we didn’t plan it.” “Nice to meet you Mindy and...” “Don’t!” He was cut off. “I hate when other people say our names together. Sounds like we’re the stars of a bad Disney show.” “Okay...It was tempting. I’m Gabe.” “I see you don’t have a wristband yet. Having trouble finding one?” “Yeah, some guy was supposed to sell me one this morning but
bailed. Probably sold it for more money.” “How much are you willing to pay?” Cindy asked. “Tops…four hundred.” “Okay, give me four.” “Really, like you have a wristband right now?” “No, but I’ll get you one.” Gabe looked at her suspiciously. “What, you don’t trust me? You know my dad’s hotel if I run off with your money.” “No, it’s not that. I’m just wondering how you’ll get this ticket.” “Gabe, you’re from New York, right?” “Yes.” “Not from Palm Springs?” He shook his head. “So you don’t know who the hell I know here. So trust me, okay? I want to help you out.” Gabe went in his pocket and pulled out his money. He had saved up exactly $800 in cash for Coachella and had $400 on his person for the ticket. “Cool,” Cindy said. “I’ll have a wristband for you in no time.” By 3 PM, Luke was already infatuated with Katie and her sunny Californian personality. She was at ease with herself, she was pleasant, and she liked dogs and surfing. They left the beach and went for lunch. After she told him her father’s story, Luke shared how he too worked in banking until last year when he quit out of discontent during Occupy Wall Street’s prime. Not that he worked at Goldman Sachs or anything, just a random Chase branch, but he still felt dissatisfaction at himself for pursuing a career in
finance. He yearned for something with more significance. “You’re like the typical come out west to find yourself kind of person.” Katie seemed bored. “Isn’t that what your father is?” “No. He fell in love with the area and stayed. But he’s still in finance. He just moved from Wall Street to Hollywood. Same shit. Please, don’t romanticize about moving out here and finding yourself. You’ll end up like all the other bums on the boardwalk. It’s cliche. This whole hippie thing is overrated and sad. I would say 90% that come out west for a new beginning end up on meth in an alley somewhere off Skid Row. What makes you think this place is easier to survive in than anywhere else? Because there’s ample amounts of sun? Please tell me you have a plan.” “No. I just came out here for Coachella but decided to stay by the beach for the weekend. I'm supposed to go back on Monday. I guess I was romanticizing about staying. It’s just so peaceful here.” “It is. I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I just don’t encourage the doing nothing and living on the beach thing. But if you have the means to live here, then I say do it. I’ll help you find a place.” “That's kind of you.” “Yeah, here’s my card.” Luke read the card. “You’re in real estate?” “Yes, even though I smoke weed and surf, I still enjoy making money. After all, I am my father’s daughter. Enjoy your day, call me if you need anything.” Katie got up, leaving twenty dollars on the table for her share of the bill and Luke confused.
At Coachella, Chad and his two girlfriends, Shelly and Steph, were finally inside the venue, sitting on the lawn in one of the beer gardens, drinking cold beer. According to the girls, who were acting like guides, it was still too hot to be walking back and forth from stage to stage. You had to pace yourself. Chad looked out at the immense festival grounds. There was activity everywhere. On the Main Stage, you could barely see Kendrick Lamar, but you could hear the music booming perfectly clear, even though Chad must have been at least three hundred yards away. The loudspeakers, hanging like giant insects on leaves scattered around the grounds in front of the Main Stage, projected sound quality for the thousands lounging lazily under whatever shade could be found. Chad was anxious to see everything but the girls were right, it was still too hot. Clothes felt like a cruel form of torture, which luckily for Chad's viewing pleasure, it was torture for many of the females in attendance, including the girls he was with, who had stripped down to their bikinis. He called up Gabe, wondering if he had found passes yet. “Yo, any luck?” “Yeah, I think so,” Gabe lied. He was in the beginning stages of panic. He had lost Cindy and Mindy. They had disappeared. Gabe feared the worst: they had run off with his money. “How is it?” “It’s dope, but hot as fucking balls, man. I’m dying. Where are you? I hear music.” “I’m at a hotel party.” “Our hotel?” “No, another one.” “That sounds cool. Should I go over there?”
“No. I’m getting my passes now. I’ll meet you inside the festival.” Gabe walked into the The Saguaro lobby where he found Mindy coming out of an elevator. “Hey, I was looking for you guys.” Mindy leaned her head sideways, squinting through her Ray Ban Wayfarers. “Who are you?” She asked. “I’m the guy who gave your friend four hundred dollars for a wristband. Where the fuck is she?” “Chill out, dude. She’s in my room. Two-fifteen.” Gabe knocked on the door. Loud electronic played inside. He knocked harder. “Bitch! I told you to take your fucking keys,” Cindy said before opening the door. When she opened, Gabe finally saw her without her massive sunglasses. Her eyes were light green and would have looked pretty and innocent if they weren’t massively bloodshot. There was a strong stench of weed smoke. “Oh, hey, come in.” Gabe walked in and noticed drugs and a bottle of Jack Daniels sprawled on the table. There was about a quarter ounce of weed, an 8 ball of coke, two lines ready to go, and a half dozen clear capsules containing a powder. “I’m not one to assume, but did you use my money to buy drugs?” “No, of course not!...Okay, yes. But I have your wristband.” She dug into her purse and flung the wristband. “My dealer deals to all the bands. He hooked me up. Not only did I get you a wristband, but that little heart on it means you’re special. It’s a guest pass. You’re allowed pretty much anywhere this weekend...Sorry about the drugs. I would have told you, but I
doubt you would have trusted me.” “No, I would have never given you the money if I knew what it was for. But fuck it, you came through. Thanks.” Gabe strapped on his wristband. “And, check it out, we’re heart BFFs,” Cindy showed off her band. “We’re going to have so much fun this weekend. Feel free to take whatever you want, too. Technically, they're your drugs.” “What peer-pressure. I’m going to start with some whiskey if you don’t mind. It’s a little early for coke. My rule is: cocaine only after nine PM.” “That’s cool. That’s Mindy’s coke. I’m not too big on that either. I’m all about smoking hella weed and drinking. Oh, and Molly, can’t forget her.” “Yeah, it’s never too early for molly.” “It’s the clear capsules. I put mine in my drink. I hate putting stuff in my nose. Typical white girl wasted shit.” They sat down on the bed together as Cindy packed a bowl. Gabe carefully opened a capsule and sprinkled the powder into his drink. He sipped his spiked whiskey slowly. The chemical had dissolved and you couldn’t taste it in the booze. “Now I know how easy it is to drug someone,” Gabe said. There was an awkward silence. Then Cindy laughed and Gabe gave a sigh of relief. They smoked the bowl then went out to the balcony. Cindy danced to the music from the party downstairs. Gabe looked out to the mountains surrounding the hotel, the sun scorching down on its rough terrain, and wondered when it would be a good time to try to kiss her, then have an awesome, sweaty, MDMA-enhanced fuck, followed by more drugs, more whiskey, more sex, more music, more dancing, more sex. The
possibilities were overwhelming. On a bench near a canon facing the ocean, a block from Luke’s hotel, an older black man sat singing a soulful rendition of Otis Redding’s "Sitting on The Dock of The Bay." Luke looked around to see if he was the only one hearing this, like in one those moments in films when a guardian angel is visiting a down and out man and only the man can see the ghost. But no, there were others tipping the man. Luke walked over and put a five-dollar bill in his cup, then sat down on the neighboring bench. When the old man was done singing, he tipped his hat and thanked Luke. “Thank you, young man. That’s love right there. Not the actual money, but the act.” “You're welcome. I liked your singing. That song is like a soundtrack to my life right now.” “Mine too. That’s why I’m singing it!” The man let out a deep laugh. “Are you from here?” Luke asked. “No, I’m from Seattle. I decided to come visit Los Angeles, and unfortunately, I got stuck here.” Luke took out an extra twenty dollars from his pocket. “So you sleep out here on the beach?” “Oh, no, I sleep in the Greyhound terminal. I’m waiting on my Social Security check. It deposits next week then I’m heading back home.” “How long is the trip?” “About one day. But it’s a beautiful route, as you can imagine, up the California Coast. I’m usually sleeping by the time it goes through the woods of Oregon and Washington.” “How much is the ticket?”
“Oh, about one-thirty. Like I said, I’ll be fine with my check.” “Well, here’s an extra twenty to help you on your way.” “Thank you. You’re very kind. I’m Lionel.” “Luke.” They shook hands as Luke got up to walk away. Gabe was sober. Reason being, he was driving Mindy’s BMW 335i towards the festival. The girls were too drunk, or rather, wanted to continue doing drugs on the way. Gabe had been designated as the driver, which he refused at first, but then Mindy joked that Cindy would suck his dick while he was driving. He knew they were kidding but still. He sobered up quite fast after seeing the amount of police on the roads. “You’re a nice guy, aren’t you?” Cindy asked. She was sitting in the front passenger side. “I can sense a protectiveness in you. Do you have a girlfriend? A daughter?” “Neither. But I told your dad I was going to keep an eye on you.” “Gabe, he was kidding, you know that, right? My dad isn’t going to expect a stranger staying at his hotel to watch over his daughter. It’s a joke to him.” “Still, I don’t mind. You’re cool to hang out with.” “Aww, you’re sweet.” “Now suck my dick!” They all laughed. “I’m just kidding.” No, I’m not, he thought. Inside the venue, Gabe and Chad were reunited. They met up on the left side of the Main Stage. The Arctic Monkeys were just walking on stage. The heat had resided significantly. The sun was setting. Hues of orange and purple stroked the sky over the mountains. It was almost too aesthetically
stunning, like in a Post-Impressionist painting, or maybe Gabe was feeling the MDMA, and remembering subjects from his first year Perspectives in World Art and Design class at Parsons where he fell in love with his first girlfriend and met his future best friend and roommate, Chad, an illustration student. Then “Brainstorm” and its blistering opening guitar riffs and thundering drums took over. “We’re at fucking Coachella!” Gabe yelled, putting his arm around Chad. It hadn’t hit either one until that moment. That moment when they looked around and realized that they were actually at Coachella, an experience they’d dreamed about for years. The sunset over the Pacific Ocean was as breathtaking as over the mountains of the desert. Luke smoked a joint, weed Katie had given him from her personal medication stash. He was in his swimming trunks, shoes off, sitting right on the edge of the tide, the waves flowing over his feet. He wondered if he had made the right decision in not going to Coachella. Probably not, he thought, but it wasn’t too late. He still might be able to get a refund from the hotel and leave on a Greyhound bus to Indio that same night. Thinking of a Greyhound bus reminded him of Lionel, the old man singing his soul out by himself on a bench. He thought of him sleeping uncomfortably on a bench at a bus station. Luke had some experience in that. He would often have to sleep in Port Authority in New York City after a late night and wait for the bus back to Jersey. He shuddered at thinking of that dreaded place. The late night drunks, the people stranded, the anxiety, the desperation. He got up with the intention of finding Lionel. Maybe he was still sitting around, singing. If he could find him, he would pay for his fare on Greyhound's website where tickets were $50 cheaper than buying
them in person. He searched and searched but couldn’t find Lionel. He googled the location of the Greyhound bus in Santa Monica but was told the nearest one was in Downtown LA. Nothing much he could do then, so he rode to a bar on Main Street for a drink. After a Jack and Coke and a beer, he pulled out Katie’s business card. He was about to dial then decided otherwise. He ordered another drink, this time straight Jameson. An hour later, after two more drinks, he staggered his way to the beach and passed out. It was now dark in the Coachella Valley. In the venue, lights were everywhere. The Ferris wheel glowed, purple lights lit up the tents, an hundred foot mechanical green and purple Lotus flower swayed in the wind, thousands of kids with glow sticks danced about. Chad, Shelly and Steph had gotten food and were now on the outskirts of the crowded Gobi Tent where Frank Ocean was in the middle of his set. Gabe was with Cindy in the guest pit, an exclusive area adjacent to the stage for those with Guest, V.I.P. or Artist wristbands. They had already made out, and now Gabe was holding Cindy from behind, kissing her neck. Molly and Frank Ocean can cause those reactions. Ocean was signing “Novacane." Gabe put his hands around Cindy’s waist and they danced. He nearly whispered, “I love you” in her ear. Over at the next tent, The Rapture was just beginning to play. Chad walked over with the girls. They still hadn’t really been in the midst of a crowd yet. They had been on the outer areas, or in the beer gardens. But at The Rapture, they dwelled deeper into the crowd. At one point, during “How Deep is Your Love?” they were in a circle with a bunch of other people, surrounding kids who were taking turns doing the most ridiculous dance
they could think of. It was all in good fun, but Chad, who wasn’t one to be dancing around like a high school kid at a rave, was reluctant to fully let himself go. That all changed at AfroJack. Chad wanted to go to the Main Stage to see The Black Keys, but since Afrojack was just one tent away and his set was beginning ten minutes earlier than The Black Keys, he was convinced by the girls to accompany them to the Sahara Tent. During a long build-up where Afrojack greeted the crowd, Chad stood with arms crossed, skeptical that he could enjoy himself seeing a DJ at a music festival. Then the beat dropped, and green lights pointed in all directions like lasers shooting from a galactic mothership, and the LED screens on stage surrounding the DJ booth and the ones hanging alongside the length of the entire tent played graphics in harmony with the beat, and the energy of twenty thousand people with their hands up jumping up and down, going completely nuts, was the antidote for Chad’s doubt and his crossed-arms. He put his arms up, jumping alongside Shelly, who was rather close to him; the tightness of the tent caused sweaty, barely covered bodies to touch, which bothered no one, not like it was a subway ride during rush hour. For the next hour, Chad danced like he had never danced in his life. He came out of the Sahara Tent drenched in sweat. He managed to catch the last couple of songs by The Black Keys, then walked Shelly to her camp –she said she wanted to get something. When they got there, she kissed him. They made love on the air mattress. She moaned loudly, unashamed that their camping neighbors all around could hear them; after all, they weren’t the only ones. Luke woke up on the beach after a weird dream. He'd dreamt his friend Jesse, the one who disappeared three years ago, was at Coachella. He
often thought about Jesse, but for some reason this dream seemed like a sign. Luke walked to his hotel. He set his alarm for 7 AM. He was going to Indio first thing in the morning. At 8 AM, Luke walked out of his room, but instead of checking out, he went to the bench he had seen Lionel sitting on the day before. Lionel wasn’t there. Luke walked to The Coffee Bean, bought an iced coffee and a bagel, and then walked back. Still no sign of Lionel. He sat down and waited. At around 9, he saw Lionel walking from the bus stop. Luke approached him. “Hey, do you remember me from yesterday?” “Yes. Good morning.” “I wanted to give you this.” Luke handed Lionel his hotel room key. “It’s a room at the Seaview Hotel, right down the block. Something came up and I can’t stay. You’ll have the room until Monday, when hopefully you’ll get your check and be able to go back to Seattle.” Lionel looked at the key, then at Luke. “This is extremely kind of you. I wish I could pay you back personally, but I know the lord will.” “No problem,” Luke said. “Good luck.” The phone rang in the darkness of Gabe’s motel room, waking him up. He looked around, wondering for a few seconds where he was. His head throbbed. He looked at his phone. It was Chad calling. He let it go to voicemail. He checked the time. It was 8 AM, Saturday. He slowly got up and pieced together what had happened the night before. After Frank Ocean, he walked around with Cindy holding hands. They sat on the grass, smoked a joint while watching The Black Keys, and then walked to Refused. At
Swedish House Mafia, towards the end of the night, under the mesmerizing light show and pyrotechnic display, he'd held her closely. He remembered telling her how much he was enjoying hanging out with her. She told him that she had to go find Mindy and to wait for him there. After the show, and no sign of Cindy, Gabe hung around the entrance of the venue, near the Ferris wheel, lying down on the grass, staring up at the lights of the wheel. He was disturbed from his sleep sometime later by security. The venue was closing. He walked to the taxi stand and got a cab to the motel. When he got there, he discovered the room empty. He fell asleep. The desert sun at 8AM was intolerable and made sleeping impossible. Chad woke up alone in Shelly’s tent. He called Gabe, then sent him a text. After getting changed and greeting Shelly –she was at the communal showers – he took a cab to the motel. The Greyhound bus dropped Luke off in the middle of the desert or that’s what Indio Blvd looked like. It was blazing, but fortunately there were cabs idling nearby. Luke took one to the motel. When he got there, he called Chad, who told him the room number. They were getting ready to leave for the festival. Luke caught them right on time. “How the hell did you get a wristband?” Gabe asked Luke, noticing his wrist. “Someone on the bus sold it to me for only two hundred bucks since I already missed the first day.” “Fuck, man, if you only knew what I had to go through to get mine.” At Shelly’s camp, having beers and joints for breakfast, the guys were
introduced to a young kid, a local, who couldn’t have been more than sixteen years old, hanging out in the tent with Shelly and Steph. He was actually twenty-two, he told them, and people called him Baby for his youthful appearance. The festival regulars knew him throughout the campgrounds. As in any neighborhood, he served the purpose of knowing everything that was going on, including but not limited to knowing where one could purchase drugs, who sold cheap cigarettes, and even where ice was in stock. He also knew a lot about past festivals. According to him, before Goldenvoice started using the wristband with an electronic chip in it, it was a free-for-all. Kids like him used to find an opening in the fence somewhere along the 100 acres of Palm Springs Polo Grounds land and sneak in. Now, for the first time in six years, he actually had to pay for a ticket, which he wasn’t too happy about. Then it got weird: “This chip in the wristband is to control us, man. I was thinking about that last night. All these people in here, 100,000 of us, can easily be turned off.” “What the fuck were you on?” Steph asked, laughing. “Shrooms. Yeah, I guess I was tripping hard. The music felt amazing, though. Don’t pay no mind to my whacked out conspiracy theories.” “Can you get us some?” “Shrooms? Sure. This guy on 145th and Park has everything. I can go get.” “Cool. Who wants?” Steph asked. The guys looked around at each other. Gabe was still feeling the day-after consequences of MDMA and hard liquor; Chad shrugged; Luke said, “Fuck it, I'm down.” Steph handed Baby some money and he went on his way. The group
then piled into Steph’s car, and blasted the A.C. It was nearing 1:30 PM, but nobody was ready to withstand the sun inside the venue. Luke didn’t mind; after all, it was his first day. Everyone else needed to mentally prepare. They stayed this way for some time. Finally, from the backseat, Gabe said, “The power of music. We’ll sacrifice our health to party. Let’s do this.” And just like that, the group left the camp and headed towards the venue, where they paced themselves under tents and drinking as much water as possible. Before they knew it, it was 7PM and the sun was beginning its descent on day two, casting that same splendid glow from the previous day, and setting the mood for the night. Luke was walking back to camp. He had volunteered to grab Steph’s extra battery for her digital camera, which gave him an opportunity to charge his phone. He assured the rest of the group he remembered the way there. He was lost shortly after, walking through one of the five immense camping grounds. Fortunately, he found Baby walking back to his camp. Baby told him that he couldn’t get the shrooms earlier but was on his way there now. Luke followed Baby to a black Jeep Wrangler, where he knocked on the tinted window, which cracked only slightly, smoke seeping out. “Yeah?” A low voice asked from inside. “Rick, it’s Baby. My friend here needs some party supplies.” “Is he cool, man? Is he cool?” “Yeah, dude, he’s cool, he’s cool.” “Head on back to my tent.” They walked inside Rick’s tent, a large ten-person with two rooms. The front room was furnished with a floral area rug, bean bags, inflatable chairs, and empty beer cans. You couldn’t see the back room behind a
beaded curtain. It was dark and the glow of a camping lamp set shadows on the walls, giving the tent eerie feeling. Rick walked in a few minutes later. He was older than most people camping at the festival, had to be in his late thirties. He had his shirt off, exposing a thin frame covered with a faded large bald eagle chest tattoo draped by the American flag. He had a matching American flag bandanna tied around his forehead, over his hair. “Welcome to Rick’s super fantastical tent where all your dreams come true.” He said in a uninterested sarcastic way. “I’m Rick. How can I be of service today?” “Did you get more shrooms?” Baby asked. “Nope. But I received some acid from some kind Mexican friends.” Rick pulled out a notebook. From inside, he carefully slid out a sheet printed with Bart Simpson. “I haven’t dropped this one yet so I’ll give you guys a hit to try it out.” With a small facial hair scissor, he cut out tiny squares, handing one to Baby first, then Luke. He also cut one out for himself, and placed it on his tongue. Baby did the same. Luke hesitated at first but then put the tab on the tip of his tongue. “Is this your first Coachella?” Rick asked him. “Yeah,” Luke responded. “My first festival in awhile. I went to All Points West a few years back in Jersey but it turned out to be a nightmare. My best friend disappeared,” he sighed. “I’ve never talked about him to anyone.” “Legend has it,” Rick began to say, then stopped to sip a can of beer before continuing, “that at the first big modern music festival, here in California, before Woodstock, a group of people disappeared. According to
some, they became part of the energy of the music. Trippy shit, huh?” “Yeah,” Luke said, intrigued. “I know a guy who tripped so hard off LSD last year that he got stuck. He never came back from his trip. He’s forever lost.” Baby giggled. “Wait, what?” Luke said, spitting out the tab. “This a little bit too intense for me. Sorry.” He got up. “How much do I owe you for that tab?” “Don’t worry about it. It’s not for everyone,” Rick said. “You’re not a cop, though, right?” “No, man. I’m good. You guys have a good night.” Luke found the camp and sat in Steph’s car while his phone charged. He thought about his weekend; his time in Santa Monica; about his friend Jesse. Forty-five minutes later he awoke to a phone call. It was Chad, asking where he was and to meet them back in the venue. He walked back. More beer at the beer garden. More dancing. Chad and Shelly were getting closer. He told Luke and Gabe, while the girls used the bathroom, that he thought he was falling for her, and she told him he could stay in Los Angeles whenever he wanted to visit. He was thinking of moving. He could get illustration and design gigs online like he did in New York. Even work with the same clients, just over the Internet. “How about it?” he asked Gabe. “How about what?” “Well, we’re roommates. Let’s leave our shitty apartment in Brooklyn and move out West. Shelly told me with what we pay in New York we can get a really nice place with a pool in the complex, two bedrooms, two baths, windows that face an actual view that’s not an alleyway.” “I’m fine in New York. But do what you have to do, man. I guess
we’re at that age, right?” That night, once all was quiet and bodies rested, after the friends finished off the night with Radiohead, Jesse visited Luke in another dream. Maybe because last time Luke saw Radiohead live he was next to Jesse at the first All Points West. They had graduated college that summer and seeing Radiohead live inspired them to start a band, but they never did, which Luke now regretted. At Coachella that day, Luke looked around at all the young kids, barely adults, walking around with their friends, seeing bands and DJs, not a care in the world, and he felt like telling each and every one of them to take advantage of life, start bands with their buddies, travel the world, follow their passions, take risks, tell their friends they love them – as Thom Yorke wails the first verse of “Reckoner” and searchlight beams reach up in the sky trying to connect with the light of the stars millions of light years away –because they don’t know if any of them will be around the next day. In the dream Luke dreamt he was walking in the desert –alone, dehydrated and near death –and like a biblical figure, his old friend Jesse stood in front of him in the haze of the heat. Jesse reached out his hand and when Luke grabbed it, they were at Coachella, in the midst of the festival, surrounded by celebration and music. And then they were transported through the sky and landed in some other festival, somewhere else, with even more people, hundreds of thousands, the dancing more intense, the stage decorated by a giant tree with glowing eyes, fireworks shooting into the sky. Jesse looked at Luke and for the first time he spoke: “This is TomorrowLand.” Instantly they were transported again, landing in front of a sunset over
a vast sea. Elaborate stages appeared like biodomes from a future utopian city. There were naked bodies dancing everywhere. It was a pure, hedonistic paradise. “Kazantip,” Jesse said. They were teleported to another location, one Luke recognized: Miami. “This is Ultra,” Jesse said. They went to Electric Daisy Carnival in Vegas, Future Music Festival in Australia, Sensation in Amsterdam, Bonnaroo in Tennessee. Finally they were back in Coachella. “You don’t have to worry about me anymore,” Jesse said. “I’m part of an entity called The Waves. We travel from festival to festival. Wherever there are more than 50,000 people celebrating the same energy, you can find us. Sporting events have as many people, but there’s a competitive nature to it: A team against a team, a positive against a negative. In a music festival everyone is rooting for the same team. All that energy when souls and music combine in the same place attracts us.” “I don’t understand,” Luke said. “Are you dead?” “Better than dead. I’m very much alive.” “Take me with you.” Luke didn’t tell anyone of his dream. He and Gabe woke up the next day and as they walked past the front office, towards a waiting cab, the owner of the hotel called for Gabe, telling him to wait up a second. Gabe was worried something had happened to his drunk-mess of a daughter, and was blaming him for it, but instead he came out and thanked him for taking care of her.
“She told me all about you.” “She did?” “Yeah, she must like you. She said you studied architecture at Parsons but do marketing?” “That’s right.” “Here’s my card. Send me your resume. I’m looking for some help. I’m remodeling this motel, plus one in Downtown Los Angeles that I’ve owned since the late nineties. Downtown LA is a different world now compared to fourteen years ago, and I’m looking to completely revamp my business. I want to compete with the likes of the Ace and The Standard. Are you familiar?” Gabe nodded, “I go to both in New York a lot.” “I’m doing a whole remodeling, not only of the property, but the name, the brand, the personnel, everything. By this time next year, I want kids coming to Coachella to party here.” Gabe looked around. “You have a lot of work to do, sir.” “I know. Are you interested?” “I don’t get it. With what?” “Not so much the architecture, but in the branding. I need a consultant. Someone who knows the culture.” “Why me?” “Honestly, son, because I trust my daughter. She may act like all she does is party, but partying is her job and she’s very good at it. If there’s one thing she knows, it’s lifestyle and how to make money off it. She said you guys talked all Friday. She said you were unhappy at your job, but that you know your stuff. That you’re smart. She convinced me to give you a chance.”
Gabe was speechless. “You don’t have to give me an answer now. I know it’s a tough decision to move away from home and start over. So figure out if this is even for you, think about what you can bring to the table, and give me a call in a week or two.” On the cab on the way to the festival, Gabe gazed out the window, silent. “What are you thinking? Are you going to take the job?” Luke asked him. “I think that man is as crazy as his daughter. They’re both delusional.” “How about if they’re not?” “It sounds too good to be true.” “I think you’re just scared this might be too good to be true. Sometimes life is like that. It throws a fastball right down the middle for you to hit the winning grand slam, and we’re too worried about being deceived that we take the strike. That man back there pretty much blessed you with a job and his daughter. Maybe you don’t want his daughter, I understand that, but the job sounds like everything you’ve worked for, and you don’t even realize it because you don’t believe you deserve it. But I think you do. And the universe thinks you do.” Gabe smirked, “Since when did you become the life fucking guru?” It was the last day of Coachella. Everyone except Luke took the shrooms Baby finally found. Luke felt he didn’t need it. He was on a natural high. Everything was perfect: the music, the scenery, his company, the beer, the refreshing feeling of pouring water over his head, the watermelon he ate, the way a line of balloons floating high into the sky danced in the breeze,
that majestic sunset. He even felt okay with returning home. Back to reality, as they say, but not for him; life –reality–would never be the same. It was now filled with endless possibilities. He saw Jesse during the end of the night, at Calvin Harris, standing by himself, perfectly still, near the edge of the Sahara Tent. Jesse looked at Luke and nodded, then walked inside the crowd and disappeared into the sea of bodies, transcending into a Wave. Luke understood why he couldn’t go: Jesse and others like him had earned it. Luke will never be able to reach their level of divine being. He was too worrisome...too mortal. Even so, he still tried. When the keys came in for “Feel So Close” he put his hands up, his head towards the sky, singing the lyrics. The beat rose up, and Luke felt the energy of the thousands of party-goers under the tent, of his friends Chad and Gabe standing next to him, of Jesse...then the beat dropped, and everyone went mad.
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