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Coachella, Bender in the Desert

Coachella music festival, Molly had clued me into it, she'd also made the arrangements so we could go for free. All we had to do was volunteer the following weekend at the country music festival, Stagecoach. I'd just hitchhiked from Vegas to meet her in the town of Surprise, a suburb outside Phoenix where her parents lived. We went to her house where she finished writing a paper and we gobbled up some food while waiting on our ride.

The rendezvous came later than expected, we were waiting on word from her friend who would be driving us out to California. Molly's dad gave us a ride to a gas station by a road called Jackrabbit Trail, he waited with us to ensure our ride would come. The two of them went inside, for water I think, I stayed out under the streetlight with our bags.

By the gas pumps I noticed a tall blonde girl with a pink hat, her 80's style had my attention for a moment until she disappeared. A minute later Molly came walking back towards me, the pink hatted girl by her side, this was her friend Tanya I realized. We introduced ourselves, she'd heard stories about me already through Molly, I'd heard a bit about her too. Her brother and his friend were also there, the five of us shuffled our bags around and squeezed into the SUV.

The ride was filled with excitement, but also tension between Tanya and her brother - the day had apparently involved many delays and mis-communications. We made a few stops, including a back track to a Target to get food and beer. It took a lot of doing just to get the marijuana smoking too, an apple being the eventual solution, but this smoothed things over nicely.

Some poor directions lead to a u-turn, we hadn't gotten more than a mile or so off track, but this became the boiling point between Tanya and her brother. We arrived at the Best Western where volunteers and will call people were waiting in long lines, Tanya's brother and his friend dropped me and the girls off to dive in - they'd paid for their tickets instead of volunteering.

The three of us quickly shook off the tension from the ride, happily waiting in line and awaiting the festival. We realized we were in the wrong line after a bit of time, moved to the right one, and were then bumped to the front immediately. They'd run out of parking passes, but we were the only few who didn't need them, so we got our wrist bands right away.

We headed to the road, eager to hitch a ride to the festival grounds. We started walking down the road once it was clear many cars weren't leaving the parking lot, probably because of the parking pass situation. A car full of five guys stopped, offering us a ride, they said they'd have to drop some people off and they'd drive by again to look for us.

Next a minivan rolled by us, "Coachella!", screamed the guy out the passenger window, we yelled back at him with excitement. "Hey? You guys need a ride?", he asked as they slowed down.

"Of course!", we yelled, they pulled over and let the three of us in. They were The Canadians, that's what we called them from then on. The one who'd shouted at us was from the Northwest Territories, the other two lived in San Francisco now working for Google. We got to laughing and enjoying each other's company right away.

We got to the grounds, finally pulling into a massive field with dozens of lines of cars at a stand still, waiting to reach the front where each vehicle was being thoroughly searched for things like glass bottles. The Canadians offered us beers, and so began Coachella.

Simon was talking to everybody in earshot, he was the one who shouted at us from the passenger seat, Adam and Jimmy were the two living in San Fran. Molly cracked open a bottle of wine, we figured if they were going to confiscate our glass, we might as well drink it now. People were partying all over the field, groups of people were on top of vans, music blasting from different directions, lines of RVs with decorations and car paint on the far right.

This went on for an hour or so, as we got closer to the inspection point I pulled a bottle of sake out of my bag, I ran down the line until I found a group of people who I thought would best appreciate it, I gave it to them and told them they had to drink it up, they hadn't yet heard about the glass bottle rules.

We made it through inspection without incident and met back up with Tanya, she'd been running around trying to deal with her brother, some parking issue. We rolled in and got parked, decidedly camping with the Canadians for the weekend.

We got fairly settled, some vodka cranberries were poured and I broke off with Tanya to go explore. We walked by everything, people were flooding in and energy was high despite the hour being somewhere around 4am I'd imagine.

Sometime later, after the sunrise, the Canadians had come across some MDMA, the six of us popped a pill each. Soon we were overwhelmed with ecstasy, loving everything we saw. It wasn't long before I was talking with Tanya that I found myself leaning over to kiss her. We moved to the middle of the walkway between the row of cars and laid in the bright sun, I used her bandanna to cover my face. We talked while laying there in the midst of pure happiness and sunlight, I found myself telling her stories of childhood I hadn't thought of in years, all this between pecking kisses and reflective sighs of relief.

Tanya was soon off to a volunteer shift, unlike Molly and I who'd be volunteering the next weekend, she had to volunteer during parts of the festival. The rest of us headed down to the festival grounds, dancing and getting sprayed with water, a welcome thing in this hot sun. At some point we headed back for the campsite, I ran back to the festival in search of Jimmy. I didn't find him, then got lost coming back for the campsite. I was in an entirely different lot, and I hadn't realized there was more than one. This festival must of had a hundred thousand people.

After much wandering and getting sidetracked at various campsites offering me beer or water, I found the campsite with Molly and the Canadians. There was a need for more MDMA, the Canadians had a big pile of money for such things, but we hadn't found anyone with what we needed. I hopped up and started wandering around campsites in search, at last bringing back a guy who had some to get rid of. They got seven pills, two they gave to the neighbors, the rest went into Simon's sock, a precaution for the inspection at the festival gates.

We headed back to the festival for the nights shows, once successfully through the gate, Simon was on the ground looking frantically... the pills were gone, he'd dropped them. I decided to run back and retrace our steps, a move that would separate me from the group for several hours. I amazingly found the bag on the foot patch, but the pills had been spilled out and crushed. I tried to salvage a hit from the mess, but it was mostly useless.

I was still reeling regardless off previous hits, booze, and about 30 hours or more of no sleep. I ran into the show aiming for the bands I figured my friends would be at, there were five stages going on at all times in this massive venue. I somewhat forgot about my mission of finding familiar faces, the music sucked me, I jumped and danced to the sounds of bands like Passion Pit and Pretty Lights. Everyone I encountered was raging, all on the same wavelength of excitement and ecstasy.

Somewhere in the dancing frenzy I spotted Jimmy, he'd been separated too, but raging all the same. In a while I bumped int Simon, Adam and Molly too, I almost couldn't believe it I'd found them. They were on the search for MDMA again, or anything really. I winded through the crowd, as did Simon, in search for somebody who could help us out. I got caught up in the music, but soon Simon had a bag with MDMA and we were at it again.

Simon eventually disappeared for good later on while searching for more, Molly, Adam and I made our way to the main stage where Jay Z was set to come on, Jimmy had also vanished. We rocked to Jay Z for a while, sleep deprivation and the come down were getting to us all though, we soon made our way back to the campsite.

I passed out in Tanya's tent, she arrived sometime after my eyes had finally shut. She had a big smile on her face after just having gotten off her shift, we were glad to see each other. We passed out soundly, exhausted and happy.

We woke up to heat of the morning sun, Tanya and I in the small tent, the rest outside in a circle, a shared pillow at the center. We reflected on the day before, which had really been a solid two days of raging and raving.

A bottle of tequila emerged from one bag or another, jokes were made about finishing the bottle by noon, it was empty by 10am.

Tanya and I ventured out to find her brother. The lot we were staying in was full of tents and action, music, colors and wandering style. Her brother's lot was quiet, no tents, only cars, not many people about either. We found him with a few people by his car, we grabbed some beers from the cooler and got to talking.

Her brother's friend had made a healthy amount of baked goods with pot, shortbread style mostly. One bag contained a substantial amount of crumbs, probably a crushed bag. I was offered some, I grabbed a pinch, "take more than that, but it's pretty strong", I was told, I took a handful and munched it down along with my beer. I'd find out later that it was much stronger than they'd even lead on, Tanya would learn this lesson even rougher.

We stayed a bit longer, than a group of us wandered back to the lot we were staying in with the Canadians. Along the way we stopped at various campsites with the shortbread cookies seeing who wanted some, most did.

Back at the campsite we got to relaxing again, a steady flow of beers. Luckily we'd remembered to eat before the tequila bottle, something we'd neglected to do the day before.

The baked goods started to kick in soon, they made me feel sluggish and tired, I'm sure my share of tequila and beers were a part of this too. Tanya was feeling the same I sensed, she disappeared into the minivan backseat, sitting up and surely sleeping. I joined her after a bit, I knew the nauseous tired I was feeling could only be amplified for her.

After a bit of time there was a pair of tweezers being pushed in my direction, a small piece of paper in it's grasp. I grabbed it a placed it on my tongue, ready for the next set of kicks.

I returned to the group and the sun outside, they grew concerned with Tanya's state of being, she became mostly unresponsive and was refusing offerings of water. We found her shortly by the side of the car next to a substantial puddle of vomit. Still she refused water, I poured as much down my own throat as I could stomach. Being that I felt essentially the same as her, I wasn't as concerned as the rest, I knew she just needed to sit still and catch some sleep.

Everyone headed towards the festival grounds to catch the early music, I stayed behind with Tanya. I was still feeling sluggish from the baked goods, plus the responsibility was put on me to make sure Tanya was alive and awake in time for her volunteer shift, something I couldn't imagine getting to in my current state.

I laid in the tent while she snoozed in the minivan, I closed my eyes, but barely slept. The acid had me in a lucid cartoony dream state, an entertaining interactive movie I enjoyed until just before 4pm. I remember the time since this is when Tanya was due to be a work.

I made sure she was up, she didn't seem to want to go and I couldn't blame her. My cartoon had cured my sluggishness, I let her be and headed for the music.

I saw a few different bands, names I don't recall, I was attracted to where I could find the most energy from the crowd, where everyone seemed on the same page as the beat playing.

I headed back for the campsite eventually, the sun still barely up. I came upon it to an array of smiles, Molly jumped up first and gave me the type of hug you'd expect from your best friend you hadn't seen in years and perhaps thought you may have never seen again.

Tanya was there too, she'd skipped her shift and intended to go to the volunteer tent in just a bit to try and work a different shift to make up for it. The Canadians had scored more MDMA and acid, much of which they'd done during the afternoon.

After dark settled in we got up and headed for the festival grounds. I headed to the volunteer tent with Tanya and got immediately split up from the rest of the group. I left her at the tent, she'd just taken a hit and was in for a trip of a shift.

The scene in the venue was wildly electric, the amount of people had seemingly doubled from the day before. I knew it would be near impossible to find familiar faces, I discarded the thought of trying and instead began to seek out the music that would best get me going.

I saw MGMT getting people going and vibed with that for some time, then flowed over to the main stage where Muse was getting underway. Something drew me to the far stage where Kaskade had people in a frenzy of energy, every beat moving us as one, feeding off each other in explosion after explosion, jumping and moving in passionate unison.

I headed back to the campsite after this, Jimmy arrived minutes after. We sat for a while drinking the last of the beer, then moving on to the box wine. After a cup of this we returned to the festival in search of one last blast of energy. We found it at the same tent Kaskade had been in, now it was 2 many DJ's who had people going.

We soaked that in, then all the music stopped and the giant mass of people all began filtering out and back to the campgrounds. Jimmy and I got back to the box of wine, soon the other Canadians came back too. Molly was with them, her eyes exuded unbridled love for everything and everyone, past to future. She couldn't sit still, "Can't stop, won't stop, get it get it!", her undying cry.

I wandered about with her to a group of people smoking and drinking. A girl in the group was lost, many people were, the campgrounds mostly looked the same, rows and rows of cars and tents without many significant landmarks. I went off with her to help her find her spot, the vibe in the air wasn't suited for wandering lost alone. It didn't take long to find her tent, an incredible sight to see for one who'd been searching for over an hour, I knew the feeling having being lost for an hour or so the day before.

I returned back to find the Canadians winding down into sleeping bags, Tanya had also returned from a long shift, now cozy in the tent. I realized then I had quite an attraction to her and really embraced the word, attraction. I felt the need to be close to her, it was as if we were feeling each other's movements as our own, be it her leaving for a shift or just walking a few feet to the cooler, there was something to be felt in the gravitation.

We laid in the tent tangled together, human contact seemed to be the answer, although I couldn't think of the question. Molly climbed in with us for a few minutes, there was a similar sense there too, her presence was always on my mind, her proximity. It didn't necessarily matter if we were touching or miles apart, at this time I was just embracing the fact that I always had a sense of where she was. For that matter I considered my friends and family scattered around the world, particularly those in the northeast of the US, I felt I had a loose bead on them and what they were doing, a comforting feeling.

Molly tried to recruit us into the night. I was feeling awake and peaceful, but content with Tanya in the tent. In a quiet moment we heard chanting in the distance, we all knew this was Molly's calling. We gently pushed her out of the tent, "the nicest push ever" Molly called it, she went running towards the chanting and what would become one of the most memorable nights of her life.

I remained in the tent consumed by feelings of love and peace, falling asleep in the midst of this, my mind completely absent of the rampant wanderings of thoughts usually slated for the time right before sleep overtakes.

We woke peacefully in the morning, again to warmth of the sun. Tanya left in search of her brother, bringing her things with her to pack into his car for the nights departure, this would be the last day of music at the festival.

The rest of relaxed for a while, soon heading to the grounds for the early shows. We first went to a small tent where music was bumping, Simon, Jimmy and Molly got to dancing on the small dance floor. Adam and I were danced out, or at least not swayed by the energy in the place, we sat on the bench enjoying the air conditioning.

We next went back to one of the big tents where an uninspired rock band got underway, not much was said between the group of us, but we all walked out after a song or two headed for the next tent.

We found a spot on the grass and relaxed listening to the music there. Simon and Adam disappeared, returning with french fries, many of us were only able to stomach a few despite the total lack of food we'd consumed in the past days.

We'd arranged a meeting spot and time to find Tanya, Molly and I went and waited for a bit of time, but Tanya didn't show. We went back to the spot we left the Canadians at, but they'd moved on.

Molly hadn't slept a wink the night before, she'd followed the chanting and raged all night in a mob of people being followed by security and causing general mayhem, eventually joining a group of people on "sunrise hill", for the sunrise of course. We aimed ourselves for the campsite with the intention of resting up for the last night of music.

Just before getting out of the venue, we spotted Tanya just behind a fenced area holding a cup of beer. We found an entrance and joined her, she gave me a cup of beer, Molly was uninterested in beer at this point. I drank mine down, Tanya was full of energy and ready to find the first music tent and get to dancing. Molly briefly protested, tired, but we followed in support to the music.

It didn't take but five minutes when Molly turned to me, "let's bail, I'm done", we fled the scene and bee lined for the campsite. We both passed out quickly in the small patch of shade of the minivan, half underneath it.

We woke up hours later to find Simon asleep in the car, Adam asleep nearby as well. We relaxed a bit, some of our neighbors joined us. Later a big guy burst into our campsite looking authoritative, inquiring about glass and illegal things, claiming to be a security guard. He spotted a small shwaggy bag of pot and demanded it, "anything else?".

Simon busted out of the minivan from his slumber, "What the fuck man?! What are you doing invading our campsite?".

"I'm security!", he went on in a power tripping aggressive fashion, "You guys wanna be kicked the fuck out of here?", Simon remained upset and the conflict continued for another sentence or two until the guy stormed off.

We brushed it off when he left, a ridiculous scene. Our campsite was littered with pot cookies, glass vodka bottles and remnants of drug baggies, the contents of which had long since flowed through our systems. The shwag bag was not missed, we were left with a fleeting sense of confusion over the negative outburst in an otherwise love filled weekend.

We smoked and drank some more of what was left in our stash. Much time went by until night had fell, we headed back to the venue in time for the closing show, the Gorillaz. We vibed through their whole set, enjoying the last piece of Coachella. They ended on a dull note, a slow song with visuals of plane crashing and death, the lights came up and they walked off stage. An entire festival of people stood unfinished, some clapping, some calling for an encore, all expecting one more song, a better note to leave on, it never came.

Slowly we began to filter out, the music was over, and although the Gorillaz missed the point, we were thrilled by the thoughts of the festival as a whole.

Back at the campsite the Canadians packed all their things up, many cars were already lined up in traffic eager to get moving on. Once they were packed, the five of us all laid out in relaxation, Molly and I had no intentions of leaving this night, and the Canadians were waiting out this first brunt of traffic.

We all eased to sleep, an hour or so later we woke briefly for goodbyes as the Canadians were now getting on the road, Molly and I fell back to sleep.

Perhaps just an hour later I was woken by a smiling energetic Molly, she'd been stirred awake by something and I was happy to join her in the middle of the night, we poured ourselves some boxed wine.

A campsite away we heard conversation of cocaine and words about how great sharing is. Molly took this opportunity to invite the group over to our campsite, soon we were sharing our vodka and wine with them. In return they were passing around the box of wine, the top of which had rows of coke lined up for each of us.

This was the jolt we needed at the tail end of the weekend. A couple wandering girls joined us, one toting a guitar she began to play. Another guy learned of our plans to hitchhike to Flagstaff in the morning, he enthusiastically wanted to join us and we welcomed him to do so. He left to go back to his campsite for one thing or another, leaving a student ID with us as a promise that he'd be back, but he never came back, I chalked this up to drunken coked up ambition that didn't translate to the sober mind.

The group fizzled out a while after some more guitar and harmonica playing, Molly and I decided to go wandering to find that party. She was determined to find the roaming mob, wanting to chase the type of experience she'd had the night before.

We kept believing we were hearing it, but couldn't track it down. We stumbled upon a group of ten people playing music trying to instigate a large raging party. We joined for a few minutes, then set back for our campsite for the vodka to help fuel the action.

We didn't make it to the campsite, we found the mob along the way and joined in. The group of us grew and grew, parading through campsites chanting, some people screaming, "Wake the fuck up! Join us!, this was responded to with joiners and a few "fuck off! We're sleeping damn it!"'s.

Soon our mob grew quite large, security began approaching from behind, some in golf carts attempting to surround us. We raged on, there were too many of us to be stopped, chanting and passing bottles around between us. Molly's voice was all but gone, she still managed to shout out, "Aint no party like a Coachella party cause a Coachella party don't stop, say what?!".

We raged into the roller rink, through the dark and quiet campsite lots and back to the brighter ones, security keeping close tabs on us. Someone needed to pee, a new chant began "Porta potties, porta potties, porta potties!", we headed for them in our final march. Once there, security took the chance to fully circle us in, many scattered in fear of being busted. Some of us marched through security in defiance, me included, almost being a casualty to an aggressive reversing golf cart that missed me by inches.

Our mob had dispersed and was no more, I found Molly across the street. We eventually made our way to sunrise hill, a small group had assembled there, some from the mob, some on their own accord. We sat on the hill with the others, drinking the last of our wine, beers and liquor were being freely passed around. One guy stood before the hill shouting, "who hasn't smoked in the past couple hours?", running over to anyone with a raised hand with a packed bowl, other bowl and joints also circulated amongst us.

Sunrise finally came, people started emerging from there tents, many with towels heading for the line at the showers. Nobody passed by our group without hearing the chant, "Do a dance! Do a dance!", most appeased us with their moves, the few who didn't were shamed with a chorus of boos as they walked past us.

Eventually Molly and I headed back to our depleted campsite, the lot was mostly empty now, many people had left the night before. We got packed and made a sign on the back of a 30 pack, "Flagstaff" it said.

The sun was beating down, we headed across the field towards the road where cars were still lined up heavy heading out. We got to the first shady spot near a fence and held up our sign. Many of the cars were packed solid, we grew tired of the spot and decided to head further down the line.

Molly was visibly exhausted, taxed by the weekend of drugs, sun and lack of sleep, she hadn't even the strength to lift her own pack on her shoulders. At the end of the line we found two girls holding an LAX sign and another hitchhiker with a Colorado sign, we sat in the shade by them with our Flagstaff sign.

Many cars passed, we all remained, soon another hitchhiker joined us with a PHX sign. Some cars threw water out to us, another came with a burrito, it had meat inside, the other hitchhikers were vegetarians which was a lucky break for the stomachs of Molly and I.

We decided to walk even further to catch the traffic coming at the fork, the trade off being the lack of shade on that stretch of road. It paid off though, we were quickly picked up by a woman, although she was only heading down into Indio. She dropped us off by the freeway, I-10 East, leaving us with some cold lemonade.

There was no shade in this spot, Molly was fading fast, sitting on her bag with her head in her hands. After 20 minutes of this, the Colorado sign and the PHX sign guys came walking up, standing on the ramp with us. I considered this a lack of common sense, at least hitchhiking sense, as four people standing on the on ramp are not likely to get picked up, we were no longer in the long line of the festival exodus.

I decided to walk down the ramp to the traffic of the freeway with Molly to split away from them, but just minutes later they followed us, not understanding what was going on. Amazingly a small car stopped eventually, we piled all of our stuff in... and the guy only went one mile before his turn off to head south came up.

We piled out, later we'd realize Molly dropped her phone in the backseat. The four of us headed down to the freeway again, but I quickly said that it would be near impossible to score a ride in this large group, and that Molly and I would wait down by the trees until the two of them could manage a ride.

We rested in the shade, Molly looked dead, I too quickly drifted off. Twenty minutes went by Colorado came over looking frustrated, "I hate hitchhiking here man, I tried it last year, no one will give you a ride! I'm gonna go find a greyhound, you can come looking with me if you want.", we weren't going to do any such thing. I'd hitchhiked long enough to know that a ride always comes, one bad experience in a spot doesn't define the spot.

He marched up the on ramp and disappeared, PHX began walking down the shoulder of the freeway still thumbing traffic, in less than a few minutes a big trucked pulled into the shoulder, I watched him run up and into it and cruise down the road.

Molly and I headed back up to the freeway and began trying our thumbs for a while. Not much time went by until Molly couldn't take anymore of the sun, we headed back to our shady spot to regroup and relax, both fading to sleep. I couldn't sleep long though, I soon headed back to the freeway thumbing on my own, figuring anyone who stopped to pick me up wouldn't mind a surprise rider in Molly too.

A car did stop after a while, but it was a cop informing me I couldn't stand where I was standing or relax in the shade where Molly still laid dormant. I headed to where she was, waking her up and we headed back to the top of the ramp.

Fortunately, we were quickly picked up by a young guy who lived in the area. He drove us a few exits up to a truck stop where he said we'd have much better luck.

We went into the truck stop, hungry, thirsty, dirty. Molly ordered a feast from taco bell and arbys, I ran into a bathroom splashing water on my face and washed up a bit, then munched down on our feast and swallowed cup after cup of cold water.

We no longer cared much about where we were heading, we'd forgotten why Flagstaff was written on our sign, we had no ties to anything for the time being. My phone had been off for days, I went to go find a charger and Molly said she was going to rest. I watched her go outside to first patch of grass and begin to pull out her sleeping bag, I knew that wouldn't pan out for her.

I went to find a plug, but found an extra battery first, my phone was charged. I went back to where Molly was, she'd already been approached by security and told she couldn't be sleeping in the grass there. We sat by the corner for a few minutes, eventually motivating ourselves to go towards the on ramp, now Phoenix seemed like the place to go, although we weren't too definitive in this decision.

The bottom of the on ramp was shaded by trees, a nice bonus. A flatbed truck stopped and picked us up, he was heading for Phoenix. We didn't talk to much, in fact Molly and I both slept quite a bit, the driver seemed to understand our situation well.
We stopped about halfway at a Popeyes, the guy bought a huge family meal with everything - chicken, biscuits, greens, fries - just everything. We ate as much as we could, which wasn't much at all after the feast we'd had at the truck stop, he kept encouraging us to eat more. The big lemonades on the other hand, couldn't get enough of that.

He dropped us off at old exit 131, my friend Larry's exit in Avondale. He'd recently moved to a different house, but exit 131 all the same. He picked us up and took us back to the new house, it was packed with unpacked boxes all over. We talked for a while, Molly and I took turns taking amazing and much needed showers.

Larry had to skip town the next morning, he let Molly and I take over the king bed in his bedroom. It was nice to be inside on an actual bed, we passed out quickly and soundly. Coachella had been a hell of a trip, but now we'd sleep for a solid 20 hours... it wouldn't be long until the next trip.

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