Monday, April 23, 2012

"With your feet in the air and your head on the ground/ Try this trick and spin it, yeah/ Your head will collapse but there's nothing in it/ And you'll ask yourself/ Where is my mind?"

        I thought in honor of Coachella, the annual, epic music extravaganza in the California desert (Indio, if you want to get specific) just happening last weekend (and also, apparently, the weekend before that) I’d tell a little story about my time(s) at that whack-a-do place.
        The first time I went was the Spring of 2002, so I guess that was the fourth year of the festival (at one time a line-up of indie rock bands playing in side-show tents with an occasional big name thrown in as a headliner performing on one of the actual stages). It was fun and sweaty and tiresome in a good way, but nothing to write home about. There were lots of hippies (and people who just smelled bad for no good reason), expensive bottled water and mind-numbingly foul port-o-potties. Sigh. It’s an outdoor concert/all day event. What are you gonna do? But to quote a calendar I once had, “I love not camping.”**
Hot hot heat, a batrillion people and no bathrooms? Sounds awesome!
        But the second time I went is what I really wanted to write about. That happened in the Spring of 2004 and I was deeply into The Cure at that moment in time and so agreed to head into Indio yet again for the concert. But this time, I wasn’t going for one day. I was going for THE WHOLE WEEKEND. The Pixies were playing, along with The Cure, Radiohead, Blonde Redhead, and Belle and Sebastian. I think. I could have my years confused. But definitely The Cure, The Pixies and Radiohead. Come on. You gotta go, right?
Robert Smith of The Cure. Wore this man on a t-shirt. Truth.
        I want to address briefly the way I feel about concerts: not super stoked. I like music. Hell, I love music. But concerts make me feel anxious and annoyed and trapped; and like something is maybe really wrong with me. I don’t like to dance (where anyone can see me, anyway) and I can’t sit because usually the people in front of me stand up to dance and then I can’t see. I like to know the music before I go, and most of my favorite bands are comprised of people that are no longer with us or are too old to feel like jammin’. So I’m relegated to loving a new(ish) band and going to see only them(Belle and Sebastian), waiting for an old band to plan a reunion tour and sit with a bunch of middle-aged hippies (Loggins and Messina; Simon and Garfunkel; a group of people covering Joni Mitchell songs) or—horror of horrors—seeing a band I know nothing about. Shoot me now. I’d rather stay at home and watch Monk all night, truthfully.
        But my good buddy, Scott, and I decided that the line-up was too good to pass up, and we bought our tickets early in April (for a May concert). Our plan was to drive down to Indio Friday night, the day before the concert, check into a hotel and then hit the concert grounds running in the morning. This way, we figured, we’d beat traffic, be well rested, and get a relatively decent parking spot Saturday morning.
        I remember I went to his apartment that Friday night and he made me a “White Trash Burrito,” instructing me to try it before he would reveal his secret ingredient. The burrito was delicious and the secret turned out to be pork rinds, but he obviously didn’t know me very well if he thought that was going to be some kind of deterrent. Scott explained, mid burrito, that he was hoping we could stop at Morongo Casino on our way to Indio. A short stop, he said, just to play a couple rounds of black jack and hit the roulette tables and then we’d be on our way. I said I’d think about it. He said we were going. I said sure, I’d totally think about it. He said we were going. I asked if he wanted a ride. He said we were going. We were very accustomed to fighting (we were in a play together at the time).
        So we set out on the road sometime around 12 a.m. and began blasting The Cure as soon as we hit the freeway. We were young, excited, on our way to a musical extravaganza, like young people are supposed to want to be.
        Within 15 minutes, Scott was asleep in the passenger seat and I was so relieved. I actually felt a little crafty and clever. We’d just skip right past the casino and he wouldn’t know anything until he woke up. By then, it would be too late. He was 26 to my 21 and I figured the old man would sleep all the way to our hotel—wherever that might be.
        Unfortunately, as it sometimes does, the 10 Interstate East suddenly came to a standstill right around Cabazon, CA, an hour-and-a-half into our trip. At 1:45 in the morning. Apparently we weren’t the only yahoos that thought we would get to Indio a day early.  Guess what’s in Cabazon? Nothing at all except for one thing: Morongo Casino Resort and Spa. I have to say that they use the terms both “resort” and “spa” incredibly loosely out there in Cabazon. Because you can tell that joint’s a shit-hole all the way from the freeway. 
Morongo Casino. Blech. Trust me, it's worse in daylight.
         But Scott woke up and insisted that we stop. “Just for 30 minutes,” he kept saying. He also pointed out that I could get a cocktail, if I chose not to gamble.
        “It’s last call,” I said, pointing at the clock.
        “Not on an Indian Reservation.” He seemed so sure of himself.
        I pulled (very reluctantly) into the parking lot and we got out.
        I want you to know that the Indian Reservations stop serving drinks at 2 a.m., same as everywhere else. The rest can wait for next time.

Read parts two, three, four, and five.
*The Pixies "Where Is My Mind?"

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