A Rude Awakening
Written by Mario Rodriguez
Photos by Dominic Murillo, Graffitti Seed, Jacob Smith, Ramon Basha
*Knock* *Knock* *KNOCK*
“Hey! Buddy! “Came a voice through the closed window. “You can’t sleep here.”
Martin woke on the last knock and rubbed his eyes. He was fully dressed and on his side, curled up to a small pillow.
“You hear me?” *Knock* “Either get or imma call the cops.”
Eyes barely open, Martin sat up in the driver’s seat of his Honda and looked out the window to see a hunched older man with a saggy neck and liver spotted head. He wore a necklace with a plastic and fragile-looking silver badge that read, “Security”. Martin nodded and motioned the man off with his hand. The keys were in the door, where Martin put them the night before in a rare moment of drunken wisdom. He started the car and drove down the street into the unknown murkiness of a gloomy Berkeley morning on the east side of the Bay.
Luckily, like all areas of “progress”, around the corner a Starbucks sat, barely opening its doors for the day. It was just past 6:30 am and Martin could feel the hangover bubbling inside his gut and his frontal lobe. There was some regret from the past night spent drinking alone at the Chapel in San Francisco, getting free ginger ales and spiking them on the dark corner of the balcony with a flask as old as his high school diploma but far more useful.
But, why should I?, he thought as he sluggishly parked his car to a honk from a tailgating Prius. Why shouldn’t I relax and take in all that is intoxicating while I have the chance? Hell, I drove seven fuckin’ hours. I deserve it!
Then his stomach growled and he could feel those warm Stella’s boiling away down there. He remembered the expensive slice of pizza that’d he scarfed down last night in seconds next to a homeless woman who had a cat lying peacefully on her head like it was a normal thing to do. All that sloshed around inside him and made him sweat.
You’re working! Be professional… Martin opened his door and caught the chilling breeze against his face. Got a long way to go, bud. Long, long way…
Outside in the cold fog, Martin’s skin felt tender in its wetness. He brought along a toothbrush and travel sized toothpaste and brushed his teeth in the Starbucks bathroom as he let his phone charge and coffee cool in a corner spot that looked out the window to the street.
When he came out, there was a woman seated next to his spot in the corner. She had these clear rimmed glasses and short gray hair. She, too, was charging her phone and scrolled along a feed of one of the major social medias. Martin took his seat and the lady smiled warmly at him. Martin, eyes still groggy, grinned and nodded, then took out a book from his backpack, mostly to avoid some sort of conversation. The book was The Politics of Consciousness by Tim Leary. He cracked it open and could feel the lady eyeing it. Martin glanced at her again and she knowingly smiled.
“Leary, huh?” said the lady with a twinge of joy in her voice.
Martin nodded, “Yeah, just got it yesterday.”
“Kind of a cliché don’t you think?” she joked, “Reading Leary in Berkeley.”
“No better place to do it, I’d say.” Martin said with a tired laugh. He always liked those who didn’t bother with trivial pleasantries.
“I’m just kidding. Pretty interesting stuff when you get passed all the romanticism.”
“Yeah I get what you mean. It sounds very…” Martin raised both hands and shimmied his shoulders, “hippy dippy, ya know?”
She laughed, “It sounds absurd! But that’s just because it’s dangerous. All dangerous things either get vilified or mocked.”
Martin nodded silently, wanting her to go on. She did.
“If people believed there was some sort of over all connected consciousness and that that consciousness is powerful enough to transcend a species from terrestrial to extra-terrestrial, then there would be no need for pointless ideas like America or Nike. We’d be free!”
The lady took a sip of her coffee and Martin stared out the window, processing.
“I’m Liz,.” the lady said and held out her hand.
Martin shook it, “Martin.”
“You from around here?”
“No. LA. Just passing through to a music festival out in Piercy.”
“Piercy?” Liz shouted. “That’s a good distance away from here. What festival?”
“No way! I was supposed to go to that! Jai Wolf and Living Legends are supposed to headline, right?”
Martin felt his face get hot, “Ye–yeah.” He said meekly.
“Ugh! I love Jai Wolf! The lineups pretty good. Who you going to see?”
This was as far as it could go. Martin never could bullshit.
“Honestly, I don’t know anyone performing.” He said, trying a disarming smile. “I’m actually covering the festival. Supposed to write a story about it for a media company Ii write for.”
Liz’s face dropped a bit, “Oh.”
“Yeeeah, I don’t know why I lied.”
“It’s okay,” she smiled, “At least you’re going! It’s supposed to be a lot of fun.”
About two hours north of the Golden Gate bridge, Martin pulled over to put gas at some little highway town off the 101 freeway. The air was different up there. It was warm but not like that steady heat of southern California or the humidity of the desert. It was this warm clean air with the scent of trees and wood, the smell of an old forgotten California dream. He had a couple hours still ahead of him but that didn’t really mean anything. The road was a part of it. The long running and windy 101 that starts in the smoggy congestion of downtown LA and runs out just off the coast near Oregon. Martin always felt connected to the 101. Either taking it to Echo Park or Santa Barbara or even San Francisco if time wasn’t a factor and he wanted to enjoy some scenery that interstate 5 couldn’t provide.
Here, gas stations served food too, but not the microwaved dry, fried cancer you find in 7-11 or Amp. Good, wholesome food that smelled like freshness and sat separate in its own area. Martin ordered a cheeseburger and potato wedges from a very pleasant blonde woman with chubby red cheeks that balled up big when she smiled. He sat and waited on a bench outside the front window and pondered on the truth.
What the fuck am I doing? thought Martin as he stared at the tops of the trees off in the distance. Out here in the beauty of another world all on lie. I don’t deserve this… He thought of the woman at Starbucks and her clear and painful disappointment. Should I know who’s performing? Maybe Ii could have done some research… listened to some songs… maybe googled a name or two… Martin shook his head bitterly, this isn’t even what I do! I’m no reporter! I’m no Pitchfork Critic with my own dick in my ass… I’m just a writer… a shitty half-baked poet…
A woman with a long face and thin amber hair carried a baby from one of the cars and they went inside, smiling at Martin as they passed. This eased his angst. He took a deep breath and pulled out a pen and small notebook from his back pocket.
Such calm, such serene connection with time. Here, me worrying of internal projections. But not these people. This clean air must do something to ‘em. Break the cycle of the skyscraper mentality. “Growth for Growth’s sake.” In the beginning the only towering figures were the mountains and the redwoods. Then people forgot about Our Mother and thought themselves to be God and built monuments to their naivete, trying their very flawed best to recreate what cannot be recreated.
“Martin,” called the woman through a speaker on the roof.
I am not God… I can only do my best…
It was a thick patty with fresh lettuce and tomato and the cheese looked nice and melted, imbedding itself to the patty. The potato wedges were the perfect mix of crispy and tender. They gave Martin the chills as he dipped them in ketchup and swallowed them almost hole. He ate quickly as if starving. His long hair bunned up messily with flip flops and faded clothes, he must have looked like a hungry hobo hitchhiking north. But it didn’t matter, this burger was the best he’s ate in months and the wedges, maybe the best he’s ever had. All in a gas station that would look more at home in Kansas than California.
He left with a full stomach and gas tank and made a point to return to the little burger shack gas station in Hopland.
Checking In and Checking Out
It was just after 12 pm when Martin missed the festival entrance at Valley road. The car was still fogged with weed smoke and he zoned out staring at the bed of the Dodge Ram driving in front of him as they curved their way up the 101. By chance, he glanced up and caught the sign reading, “One Log House” causing him to swerve off into the parking lot skidding to a stop on the loose gravel. He remembered from the press email from Northern Nights that “check-in” was supposed to be at One Log House so he parked and went to investigate. Turned out that they moved the press check-in inside the festival so he headed back.
Coming south, the entrance stood out clear along this wide bend and open space with a sign that read, “Cooks Valley Campground”. Martin turned in and got in behind a line of cars. The road curved downwards between two rows of trees where people in turquoise shirts with the Northern Nights logo on it (two triangles on top of each other) stood waiting in the shade waving and greeting, answering whatever questions were asked to them through rolled down windows. They looked happy and bounced around with excitement.
Martin rolled down his window as he approached two volunteers who were pretend karate kicking each other.
“This is for parking, right?”
The two stopped fighting and hopped over attentively.
“Yup!” one of them said, a skinny girl with a big friendly smile.
“Just along that way. Follow the cars,.” said the other, a tall red headed man with a beard and a flat brimmed hat. Under it was a towel that hung down the sides of his head. Martin thanked them and rolled up his window. He was grateful he had a car with air conditioning. The thermometer on the car said 99 degrees. 99 degrees and still those volunteers stood out in it with genuine smiles on their faces.
The line of cars broke in two and hugged closely together at the request of those directing them. It moved slowly but Martin didn’t mind. More time to smoke. He refilled his flask with bourbon and poured it into a plastic cup with 7-up. In his back seat, a cooler sat with ice and a 18 pack of Coors light. Somewhere in his trunk a bottle of wine was resting in the darkness between his clothes. The a/c was blasting and he still had a little bit of battery life in his phone to play music.
Two men were walking up and down the rows of cars handing out 21 and over wristbands to the people inside that showed their i.d. Martin showed his.
“No glass in there, ya hear me?” said the man to Martin as he gave him his first wristband. Martin nodded and rolled up his window.
About an hour later, Martin got his other two wristbands by a fair skinned girl with a pink umbrella. He felt weird saying, “Press” like some pompous ass but the girl responded with an, “Oooohhh” and a smile. One wristband was VIP, black and gold, the other was the “press” wristband, a white band with rubber ducks all around. He was then instructed to follow this row of cars all the way around the back of the campground to park in this big open area covered in yellow grass by a woman with a unicorn hat who’s horn had rainbow streamers hanging and that fell down her back.
Martin finished what was left of the bowl and the plastic cup and got out of the car. The sun beat down hard and felt closer somehow. He always imagined northern California to be cool and breezy but not here in this valley. The wind came in hard from the west with is spurts and bounced off a towering hillside of forest green redwoods. It was beautiful… in the shade. But out there in the middle with no protection, it weighed on you.
Took about five minutes to get all he needed out of the car and ready to hike over to the camping area. Martin always traveled light and this trip was no exception. He had his backpack with mostly books and notebooks, one bag of clothes and the wine, his tent and his cooler with beer and some waters. Food was never a concern for Martin. Places always served food and he didn’t eat much anyways. Plus, a couple beers would kill hunger at least temporarily. Expensive food was always easier to buy than expensive booze.
The closest camp site was about a hundred yards from his car and slightly up hill. As he got to the entrance, there were two paths, one, south, straight ahead and the other off to the right going west. Martin elected the one on the right which a ran along a fence with blueberry bush intertwined within it. He walked all the way down to the back of the area where there was an open space there in the corner. Another path led along the back edge of the camping area south, the other side had some shallow trees and shrubs that would block the sun in the evening. Martin, tired of walking mostly, decided on the corner spot and crossed over from the gravel path into the yellow grass where others were setting up their camping spots.
There was this older man setting up his ten with shirt off, next to him four young people worked to get up two tents, across from them was another group of about five who were tying blankets on their canopy to block the sun which was right above them. There was a big blue school bus that had several people going in and out with camping equipment and coolers. They were all in their late twenties and had the look of those who spent many days on the road. There was a girl in a thin bikini bent over rolling out her tent. Martin tried not to look but failed before deciding to start setting up.
Martin rolled out his Wal Mart tent and took out the poles, unfolding them and locking their elbows. This was the first time he was pitching this specific tent. He lost his and had to go with his back up tent which was of far lower quality and Martin could tell almost immediately. First, there were no stakes and he was confused about where to put the poles. His old tent had these pockets that you’d slip the poles inside but all this had was a key chain thing with piece of metal attached that looked like a key without teeth. He tried to shove that into the earth as stakes but the stick part was too short and the earth was far too dry and hard to retain it. After several minutes of laboring with nothing to show for it, he was dripping sweat and starting to breathe hard. He sighed and looked down at the deflated materials lying there shapeless. He tried one more time to raise one end and succeed for a second before it fell again just as he moved over to the other side. He hung his head in defeat and considered sleeping under a tree someplace.
“Man, you’re gonna pass out from heat exhaustion!” Shouted a man as he approached Martin. “You gotta–gotta drive your stakes into the sides before movin’ on, huh!” said the man very frustrated. He was much older and had long gray hair with these pale gray eyes that matched. He didn’t have a shirt on and his small but round belly hung out over his waistline.
“I don’t got stakes.” Martin said between heavy breaths.
“Ah! Tha–that’s why you’re having a hard time, yeah, ah.”
“Yeah, these things are too small.” Martin, showing the man the toothless key on the tent.
“No! Those aren’t stakes. Those go in the ends of your poles.”
“Yeah, then you–you put tha stakes–wait, right. You don’t have stakes, uh, umf…” The man mumbled and spoke in erratic spurts, but not quick. It was more of an erratic patience and the sign of a fast-moving mind. “Here.” The man walked over and picked up a large rock. “Put one of these inside your tent in–in–in each corner to, ya know, hold it down.”
Martin did so and within a couple minutes his tent was up and standing elegantly, holding up to the wind that came in just through the corner where Martin’s tent was since there was a no trees behind him to block it. Martin went inside and set up his home for the next three nights.
When he was done, he sat with legs crossed at the mouth of his tent and just enjoyed the feeling of completion. He cracked open a beer and packed a bowl and watched all the people funnel in. The group next to the old man kept making trips. there was a tall dude with a black flat brimmed hat and girl with a slicked back ponytail and skinny shoulders, behind them walked two girls with short blue shorts on and white tank tops. Martin smiled as they walked by. Then Martin turned and seen a guy approaching with sleeping bag and tent in hand. He had these big eyes that seemed to be on constant alert through his glasses and wore a black hat with a big green marijuana leaf on the front. Martin gave a polite grin and looked away but the guy kept coming and Martin could feel it. He turned and the guy was close and looking right at him.
“Heeey,” said the guy in a high pitched, shrill sounding voice, “Is all this open?”
“Yeah, man. I’m guessing.”
He dropped his stuff and, much to Martin’s dismay, went to go sit next to him. Friendliness, openness, conversation and trust. Journalists talk to people!
Martin held out his hand, “I’m Martin.”
“Want a beer? They’re cold.”
“Umm, I don’t drink beer,” responded Ivan.
“Okay, ha,” Martin let out an awkward chuckle and looked away.
“So, is this your fiiirst Northern Nights?”
“It is. Actually, my first festival ever.”
Ivan’s face lit up, “Oh my god! You’ve never been to a festival before?!”
“Oh man, well you are in for a good one. I’m sort of, like, deep into the festival scene, you could say.” Ivan had the tendency to emphasize at least one word in each sentence.
“Oh ya, ya,” Ivan’s eyes grew even bigger, “I’m one of the promoters for the event, akchually.”
Martin took a big hit of his beer and hiked his eyebrows up a couple times. Ivan seemed like the kind of guy who enjoyed talking but that didn’t bother Martin. He’d rather listen anyways.
“Well, reeeally, I work for a promotion company and Northern Nights hired our company to do promotion.”
“Damn,” Martin, semi-interested, “So they don’t do their own marketing?”
“Oh they dooo, it’s just they hire out to, ya know, getting a bigger reach.”
Martin nodded and thought about it. He handed Ivan the piece and Ivan took a big rip and held it in like a pro.
“So, like, how do you promote? I never really understood that.” Martin leaned back, he could feel the beginnings of a story somewhere around here. He didn’t know much about festivals, didn’t even know there was a scene to begin with.
“Well, what IIIII’d do would be, like, handing out flyers after shows, posting shit on social media. Pretty much, getting the word out there. Sometimes I’d be out for, like, over twenty hours a week giving people flyers all around Santa Cruz.”
“You’re from Santa Cruz?”
“Not from, but that’s where I live now. Just graduated for UC Santa Cruz,” Ivan, very proud. “Anyways, so yeah, I’m one of my company’s top promoters. I even got to into this for free.”
Martin smiled as he exhaled a big cloud of smoke, saying, “Me too,” before coughing.
“You a volunteer here or something?’
Ivan’s face changed instantly and he gave a big, slow nod. “Nice. Writing an article about it?”
“Something like that.”
Ivan pointed at Martin’s wrist. “Is that what the ducky wristband’s for?”
“I guess. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do though. I’m supposed to have some interviews with some artists but I don’t even know…”
Ivan sat there silently as Martin looked away, sipping his beer. He seen the group next the old man returns. He made eye contact with the guy and waved. He waved back and smiled like any friendly neighbor would.
“Well, if you want a story, I know some shit about the festival circuit.”
Martin’s head snapped back to Ivan unintentionally fast. Ivan had a big devious smile on his face.
“What kind of shit?”
“Well let’s just say they get creative on how they fund their festivals.”
“Okaaay?” said Martin, intrigued.
“So, there’s all these small little companies like Misty’s. Have you heard of Misty’s?”
Martin shook his head.
“Well Misty’s is another festival type thing and they feature a company named Bass Droppings.” Ivan would use his hands as he’d talk, “Bass Droppings has a sound stage at Fire Man. You’ve heard of Five Man, right?”
“Yeah, that big ass festival in the desert.”
“Yup!” Ivan said excitedly.
“Well, I’ve never beeeen but I’m part of the Fire Club and we have local ‘Fires’ all around the country. Just had one in Santa Cruz actually.”
“Wait, I thought there was only one Fire Man?”
“There is only one big Fire Man but there’s smaller Fires all over. Where are you from?”
“Oh yeah, there’s definitely some Fires out in LA.” Ivan’s emphatic nod demonstrated his certainty. “Anyways–”
“Howya dudes doin’?” said a low voice that grabbed both of their attention. It was the tall guy from the group on the other side of the old man. He had a friendly face with light, almost red, facial hair, wearing a regular white t shirt and beige shorts. He crouched down beside them.
“What’s up!” responded Martin with a welcoming tone. Ivan just nodded at him.
“Smoke weed?” asked Martin.
“Hell yeah!” Rick replied, getting the piece from Martin. “Just came down from Washington, got some daaank nugs!” Rick hit the piece.
“N-E waaaays,” Ivan interjected, “Like I was saying, all those companies are registered as independent businesses but essentially they’re run by the same people.” Ivan had a big smile like he said some outrageous.
“And? And it’s just a big scheme! It’s a cycle that just replenishes itself.”
“What are we talkin’ bout here?” said Rick, taking a zip lock bag from his pocket.
“Ugh,” Ivan sighed, “Not trying to explain it again.”
Martin came in quick to make Ivan’s response less rude, “Basically, he was telling me how these festival companies are all ‘different’,” Martin used finger quotes, “for tax purposes but they all just funnel back to one source.’
“Ah.” Rick said without looking up from the bowl he was packing.
“Crazy, right?” squawked Ivan, waiting for the two of them to lose their minds with this “crazy” information.
“Well,” Rick passed the fresh piece to Martin, “I don’t wanna be a dick or nuthin’ but… who cares?”
Martin couldn’t help but laugh and Ivan’s face got red.
“No, seriously, not trying to be a dick,” Rick, regretful smile, “I’m just saying, ‘whatever’. You know? Like so much shady shit goes down for eeeverything so why not this? At least this is something that makes people happy. Gives people some reason to fun.”
“That’s true. Very true.” Martin replied before taking a hit which he coughed up almost immediately. “Some–(coughs)–some good shit–(cough).”
“That Washington weed!” Rick said grinning.
Ivan got up to his feet. “I’m gonna go check out the festival.”
Rick and Martin let Ivan get a good distance away before they started.
Rick, “I hope he’s not mad. You get what I mean, right?”
“Definitely, dude.” Martin agreed, holding in another cough, “If bad guys can commit crime for bad things, why can’t good guys commit crime for good things?”
“Exactly. That’s all I was trying to say.”
“Well, language is a pretty shitty medium.”
Rick exhaled, “Ain’t that the truth.” He hit the piece and held it, no cough. Martin took a sip.
“Shit dude, my bad. Want a beer?”
Martin handed Rick a beer and got the piece.
Rick went on, “Heard one time that all human conflict is derived from inevitable misunderstanding.” The fresh crack of beer can opening behind his words.
“Makes sense. Language is uniquely subjective.”
“Language is so limit.”
“So limited.” Martin finished off what was left of the can and opened another.
The rest of Rick’s group approached and they were changed into more festival appropriate attire. High socks and short shorts. Low cut shirts and glitter on their faces. One of the girls knelt by Martin.
“This is my sister, Trish.” said Rick.
“Martin.” They shook hands and Martin offered the piece.
“Suuure,” said Trish. She took a hit and brought out a plastic flask of clear liquid. “Vodka?”
“Fuck it,” Martin replied and took down a couple throat fulls that almost came storming back but he managed keep it.
“Hi!” shouted one of the other girls. She had long black hair and a pretty face and a low-cut shirt that Martin did his best to not notice. “I’m Ariel.”
Martin introduced himself.
“I’m Rick’s girlfriend.”
Definitely don’t look now…
“Martin.” He held out his hand to the last girl, a blonde with bright blue eyes that gripped you.
“So, this is your crew?” Martin said smiling at Rick.
“Yup. Came all the way out from Minnesota.”
“Mhm,” Trish said after a swing. “Been on the road for the last week.”
“Damn,” said Martin, “good shit.”
“Well, we’re gonna head in. See you later.” Sandy said sharply yet subtly cordial. Martin could tell she was skilled in the ancient art of passive aggression.
Rick rolled his eyes playfully. “We’re gonna check out the river. See you around.”
The group took off down the dirt road, Rick with Ariel under his arm and Trish dancing as she went. Martin chugged the rest of his beer, letting the cold foam drip out the sides of his mouth. He reached for another.
“One more. Just one more.”
Wandering and Wondering
By the time Martin made it in the festival day one he was wobbling as he showed the guys at the entrance his wristbands under a tall wooden structure resembling some new-aged, woodsy kind of Chinese Architecture. The sun was firmly behind the trees now, only reflecting onto the redwood hillside in a warm orange glow, leaving the shadows below perfectly cool. Martin felt good in his drunken high and drifted toward whatever music was playing. He went straight into the heart of the festival. Right there next to him was a dumpling shack with an option for ‘Four Cheese Pizza’ dumpling. On his other side was a general store that was loaded with everything you might need, sunscreen, chips, water, ATM, eye drops, Band-Aids, trash bags, itch cream, etc. They had ice and ice cream, even some beer. This was the row of food vendors and they were lined up and pushing out pizza slices or hot wings or burritos to hungry festival goers waiting in the dust.
The main stage was right there as soon as you enter. Next to the main stage sprang big clouds of smoke and dust under green canopies and tents. Martin would smell the weed being burnt and consumed and unconsciously drifted closer toward the entrance.
“Wristband?” said a menacing-looking security guard. Martin showed him his wrist of bands and kept walking. “No!”
The security guard grabbed Martin by the arm and yanked him back, catching him completely off guard.
“You need a green wrist band. GREEEN.” He said emphatically. But Martin was confused and drunk and ended up just wandering away.
“Hey,.” a familiar voice called out to Martin through the fence. It was his camp neighbor, the older man who helped him with his tent. He waved Martin over.
“Didn’t let you in?” the man said.
“Nooo. Ii don’t got a greeen wristband.”
“Shit.” said the man, “Well, I’m–ah–I’m gonna get at least–well, I don’t know–at least an eighth or two. I’ll–ya know–I’ll bring some back, right.”
“That’d be siiiiick.”
“Don’t be passing shit!” snarled the security guard.
Martin held up his hands innocently.
“Ah, he’s–he’s just doing his job.” said the man, “They gotta be strict! Real, real strict!”
The music picked up again at the main stage.
“They have good weed out here?”
The old man shouting, “Huh?”
“THEY HAVE GOOD WEED OUT HERE?”
“Oh yeah! The best–THE BEST WEED IN THE WORLD!”
“WHAT’S YOUR NAME?”
Martin nodded and Drake waved bye as he disappeared into the green tents. The smell of sticky fresh goodness came floating through and Martin could almost taste it. He felt like those cartoon characters who lifted off the ground as they got scent of a pie in a window. But no, he couldn’t cartoon float over the fence and pass by the angry yet honorable security guard. He was limited to this physical body, a body he had to drag away from the intoxicating air surrounding the Holy flower.
A little further down there were two adjacent rows of more vendors, these artists who paint and who make clothing and big psychedelic tapestries and gypsy capes. Martin walked slowly, considering each one. The clothing places were prettily packed, day one everyone getting their Saturday night outfit. The tapestry tent looked cool but was just as full. Then Martin caught a glimpse of a vendor tent that was nearly empty and had its walls covered with paintings of all sizes. Martin made his way there and entered under a sign reading, “Forever Stoked”.
There was an orange tint coming into the tent as Martin looked over the first wall of paintings. There was a man and woman seated in the back of the tent that smiled at Martin as he came in. They were eating and looked comfortable. The first painting that grabbed Martin’s eye was beautiful recreation of sunset in Big Sur that made it feel like you were standing on a mountain and looking down the valley to the coastline. Along the side, those straight edge cliffs that make Big Sur so unique. And how real! It looked as if Martin was there, now. Watching the slightest of swells forming its roll. Almost every painting had one or several waves. Subtle, small rollers and big, curved masterpieces of natural. All sorts and kinds. These artists seemed to capture the majestic power of the waves in their art. The ocean’s universal strength, it’s consistency and it’s grace.
“Anything standing out to you?” said a sweet-sounding voice behind Martin. He turned. It was the woman who greeted him when he entered. She was tall and thin and had glitter on her cheek bones that sparkled when her face would catch lit.
“Uhh, that one for sure.” Martin pointed to the one of the Big Sur coast.
“Nice, that one was painted by him.” She pointed at the man seated near the back who sat with pleased look.
“Really nice! That one just grabbed me.”
“Thanks, man. Appreciate it.”
“So, you two painted all these?”
“No,” said the woman, “I didn’t do any of these. They’re a group of them.” motioning to the man with her hand.
“It’s like, five or six of us.” The man picked up the conversation. “Six if you count one of the guys who paints for fun now and then. He’s got a suit-and-tie job so he can only paint in his off time.”
Martin made his way over. “I’m Martin.”
Martin shook his hand, then reached out and shook the woman’s.
“Dana.” She said as she gracefully took a seat, curling her long legs underneath her.
“Waves, huh? Kinda see a common theme.”
“Yeah,” Charlie laughs, “Really inspired by the ocean…”
“They’re all surfers.” Dana added.
“Makes sense.” Martin smiled. Charlie had his shirt off and Martin noticed his shoulders that were square and very boxed, like a swimmer’s.
“What about you? Just enjoying the festival?” asked Charlie.
Martin hesitated to say he was part of the press. He didn’t know how to explain what he did and not feel weird about it. Someone coming around, observing solely for the purpose of regurgitating that info for a paycheck and a publication. Meanwhile, paying customers and genuine artists are here enjoying themselves. Martin felt like a leech, or a poser, a non-skater wearing Thrasher.
“I’m–I’m a writer,” Martin said ashamed as he lifted his wrist to show his ducky wristband. “Supposed to write a story about the festival.”
“That’s cool, man,” responded Charlie, cool and calm, genuine. It was the first response to that answer that didn’t make Martin feel like a hack or a try hard. It was a look of one artist interested in another.
“Yeah but I’ve never really done anything like this. I’m really just a fiction writer, I’m not a reporter or someone, you know?”
For some reason Martin felt comfortable enough to open up, “I wrote a couple good pieces for this site and next thing I know, I’m out here and have all this pressure to write something.”
Charlie smiled a broad, relaxed smile. “Should be a nice challenge for you then.”
Martin calmed and listened; he hadn’t thought of it like that before.
“You can’t force it man. You gotta just let it happen. When Ii paint, and I’m really in it, nothing matters. I’m completely there. But if I have other things in mind. If I’m distracted, I’m almost always gonna dislike what I do.”
“I get you.”
“It’s like meditation. Everyone thinks mediation is some cross legged ‘ommm’ thing. But mediation is any focused act that levels you out of your mind and into the present. When you write, you’re meditating. When I paint, I’m meditating. Folding clothes, surfing, washing the car, all meditation.”
“That makes sense. Anything that focuses you on the now.”
“Exactly. But either way, just let go and write the piece you want to write, or try for something different. Something harder, more structured maybe. See that one,” Charlie pointed at the Big Sur painting, “That one I had to be very structured and exact because I have the actual coastline to replicate–”
“But on something like this,” Charlie reached out just to the side where an abstract piece sat. “See, this is more just me letting go and just creating. Pure, pure creativity. I just painted whatever came to me.”
That painting, the “pure creativity” was blotched with pretty red and yellow and orange and had a tribal pattern over it in black, almost resembling some ancient eastern graphics. They had the same curvature as the waves but the black pattern twisted and turned into psychedelic patterns and made you feel wild.
“I have a lot fun with these.”
Martin nodded and they all sat in the silence, transcribing the truth just uncovered back to them.
“Well, thank you so much for the advice.”
“No problem,” Charlie stood, “I’m excited to read whatever comes out.”
Martin shook hands with Charlie and Dana and left their tent feeling ever more like an artist ready push his abilities as far as they could go.
Outside, people were making their way back from what Martin deduced was the river given the bathing suits and big inflatable floaties shaped like donuts or burgers. They came by with wet hair and the rosy red skin of early burns, all smiling and laughing as they passed. There were half-moon hammocks sporadically between the two rows of vendors and people would lay in them for naps whenever they needed to. In the distance, bass could be heard. A couple walked out with new tapestry from the tapestry tent, both with long dreads down to their bums. The lasers from the main stage began to reflect themselves in patterned rows on the redwoods where The Grove stage was supposed to be. In there were more campsites and even some more public hammocks. There were rumors of yoga and a pirate ship somewhere inside the density that couldn’t be seen from where Martin was standing.
The conversation with Charlie had really lifted Martin’s spirits. He took the time to relax and watched the lasers play off the trees, all the people swarming around him. Expectation is the enemy of creation, he thought as the lasers turned from neat rows of green to big blocks of purple, I’m obviously here for a reason. Martin nodded surely, turned and headed for the canopy with a sign reading, “Info.” A girl with a turquoise shirt stood behind a desk patiently.
“Hey,” Martin said trying to be confident. “Know where the press area is or whatever this ducky wristband lets me go?”
The girl smiled, “It’s right on the other side of the main stage. Like, if you were gonna go through the back of it.”
Martin thanked her and went on his way. There was a row of porta potties just to his right which had a handful amount of people waiting outside with arms crossed. Martin continued, getting himself ready for the professionality a serious journalist would take. Confidence, bud, confidence. They don’t know you! You could be from rolling stone, GQ, anywhere! Play the part! Maybe get a couple free drinks from it.
The entrance to the “Ducky Longue” was guarded by a bored looking kid who didn’t even have a turquoise shirt. Martin showed his wristband the kid waved him in through and pointed him to the left, away from a shed and a tracker, towards this nicely lit area under some trees.
It was averagely packed, all people in clumps of three or four, holdings full drinks while talking and laughing loud enough to stand out in the Constance of noise. Martin took refuge at the bar top, the eternal sanctuary. He waved down the bartender who was across the way leaning against the counter in conversation with a beautiful girl with neon paint patterned nicely on her face.
“Uh, am I supposed to get drink tickets or something?” said Martin uncomfortably as the bartender approached.
“Drink tickets? Someone told me I can get drink tickets with the Ducky wristband.”
“Hmm, yeah,” the bartender turned and looked around the bar but it was only him, “Ummm… let me che…” the bartender looked under the counter and came back with nothing.
“I think there’s a list somewhere.”
“But I have the wristband? Doesn’t that mean I already passed the list portion of this?”
“Yeeeaa..” the bartender hesitated, looked around, “I don’t reaally know, man.”
Martin could feel the frustration build but his thirst was more important than that so he just ordered two 805s and paid for them like those single wristbanders on the other side of the fence. After getting the beers, he decided he try to go back behind the stage. A big biker looking dude with a blonde/gray handle bar mustache and baseball forearms stopped him at the staircase that lead backstage.
“Need this sticker.” the man said very sternly, pointing to the sticker on his chest.
Martin didn’t even fight it, just turned around and found a place to sit.
Whoever was on the mainstage begun their set but no one around Martin seemed to notice. They just began talking louder and exaggerating their laughter. He could hear bits of their conversations…
“I just got back from Peru, maybe Thursday? Then, Singapore on Tuesday, then maybe Prague. Gosh I can’t even tell you,” said a nicely dressed hipster dude with long, well-kept hair and thickly groomed beard. “But this is nice,” he went on condescendingly, “really chill.”
“Um, Kevin did this festi, like, way before anyone heard about it. In, like, 2013. And now,” a bald-headed girl with choker and septum piercing shrugged speaking to a group of friends, “but whatever. I guess that just happens with success.” saying, “success” like it’s an indifferent luxury.
Three guys stood around a pair of sparsely dressed young girls with subtly aggressive posture. The girls would smile and nod and take slow slips of their drinks that they held onto closely. Two of the guys were very animated and loud and did their best to be entertaining, the other had his hood on and just leaned against the fence and listened, interjecting something now and then. Martin could faintly hear…
“We’ve been touring with our bro–” said the one with a loose-fitting tank.
“Yeah, he’s a childhood friend. Used to sleep over my house as kids.” said the other, collared shirt and sunglasses still on.
“Me too, we went to elementary together.”
The girls would smile and nod politely.
“So, we kinda go everywhere with him. His entourage, you could say.”
“You ever heard of him?”
“Who again?” one girl said.
Both girls shook their head in almost unison.
“Really?” said the one with sunglasses who kept, consciously or unconsciously, rolling his shoulders and flexing.
“He’s pretty big in Canada.”
“Oh,” said the other girl excitedly, “you guys are from Canada?”
Martin quickly slammed both drinks and bolted for the exit. Enough was enough. What fucking charade! A kennel for the narcissistic and disillusioned, all floating around and consuming each other’s shit. All this time, Martin was under the impression that the exclusive had some worth to it, that it was earned and that those who seen the inside were the ones who were deserving. But no, it was for those who loved “the self” so much they believed the story they told themselves. Those who indulged in the naming of exotic destinations like they were flavors of dollar ice cream cones. Those who hung onto the past and resented the future and subliminally all that wasn’t them. Those who fed off the crumbs that fall from the mouths of the true creators and artists. It was all so… fake. And what got Martin the most, was that he was part of it. He was part of the body of the dog that chewed on its own tail. He oddly got off on saying “press” and having a different wristband than the rest. This was just another form of caste system, westernize, commodified caste system that resembles all classism in human history.
But at least he was out. Away from the clean dressed and their mouths. It was now fully dark and he headed back toward camp for some reflection and some free beer. There was a steady flow coming in and about half way to the campground, Martin regretted heading back, especially coming up that dirt hill that connects the back campground to the entrance of the festival. He was out of breath when he got there and wanted to collapse in the gravel. He didn’t though, and made his way towards the back path he travelled the first time and along it were people drinking whiskey from the bottle and playing beer pong in some not-too-bright flood lights. There were people sitting in the bed of a truck drinking beers and laughing, one stood up and started doing the robot as the rest cheered her on. Another group of guys, maybe six or seven stood in a circle, Budweiser’s in hand and having a good time. One of them seen Martin looking and held his beer up. Martin nodded and continued.
Back by his area, the group from Minnesota was just getting ready to head into the festival, Sandy held up a big plastic bag of pink colored wine and Ariel slapped it hard then chugged a good amount from the spout. Trish still had the vodka flask tilted up before handing it to Rick, who turned and seen Martin walking up the from the path.
“Martin!” he shouted.
“Ayyye!” added Trish.
Martin waved bashfully and walked up. “You guys boutta head in?”
“Just about.” said Rick, before taking a hit from the flask.
“Here,” Ariel, holding up the bag of wine, “wanna ‘slap it’?”
“You gotta slap it!” said Trish.
Ariel held up the bag and it dangled there in the faint moonlight.
Martin hesitated and looked at Rick, “Just, like, slap it?”
“Just slap it.”
Martin reached back laid one on the bag hard enough to make a good ‘slap’ sound.
He wrapped his lips around the spout and twisted. A forceful flow leaped from the bag and down his throat that stunned him in its coldness. But it was good so on he gulped.
“Daaamn, okaay!” said Ariel.
Martin pulled away and was met by a loaded bowl coming at him from Rick. He hit it and coughed so loud the group of guys circled around drinking Bud cheered from a distance. A couple of them came over and mixed in with out issue. They had a some blunts and sparked them. Rick passed the piece and Martin got the cooler from his tent and started handing out Coors to whoever wanted some. The bag of wine went around and everyone spoke to whoever was next to them like they were old old friends on a reunion kick long overdue. Someone brought out a baggy of one kind of white powder, then someone else took out one of another. Both were passed around with key and in no time each nose had the sniffles and all the conversations began to pick up. Martin could feel the mix hitting him in a perfect combination as he listened to a bearded fellow tell him about the time his house caught on fire when he knocked out trying to make THC extract back in the nineties. Then, almost as if the group communicated through an invisible, unnoticeable dialog, they all headed back toward the festival, lost in conversation with strangers that felt closer than family. All high, all feeding off each other’s intoxicating energy that no plastic baggy or aluminum can could reproduce. Martin went from alone and confused, to a pack existence where all the troubles of his mind were diluted by the presence of his brothers and sisters. And for the first time all weekend, he felt like he belonged.
Rationality v. Expectation
The morning came with a bright hot sun as soon as it got over the hillside. The mouth of Martin’s tent faced east and ate it all, toasting up the inside which had been freezing just a couple hours earlier. Martin woke up at what had to be about 3 or 4 am. Shivering and still drunk, he wiggled into a pair of pants, a flannel and this thick, brown leather jacket he “borrowed” from a friend. But now, he was ripped from the dream world by a panicked sweat. He tore off his jacket and flannel. His pants were put on over his shorts confirming that he had got far drunker the night before than he previously understood, but this time, he just accepted it and emerged from his tent to find Ivan and Drake sitting crossed legged. Next to them was an older lady, a little younger than Drake who was packing a small violet piece. She had her hair pulled back and you could see the beginnings of gray hair around her head going back into a light brown. Her face showed a life of sun, with its red and rugged look, the one you would expect from a lifetime on the coast. Martin took a seat next to them as Drake and Ivan went on about the Pyramids.
“We know, right, we know they were built by different kinds of stones, yeah, we know that–” Drake spoke excitedly with shaking hands. “An–and it was on purpose! They–they, huh, ya know–”
“Well, what they did–what they actually did was used dolomite limestone which conducts electricity because of its high metal content–”
“To build the foundation,” Ivan had those big eyes and you could tell he was savoring the role, “and then they use a different kind of limestone that has a low metal make up which insolates it–”
Martin paid close attention as the lady handed him the bowl.
“An–and the river!” Drake shouted.
“And the river runs underneath the pyramids and running water provides another form of electricity.”
“An–and the granite halls! That carries currents, uh, thro–through!”
“Yup!” Ivan, excited, looking at Martin with a smile seeing he was listening. “The sunlight is from the top soaked in from the stone, that’s the positive. The river running below is the negative and the granite transports both and wa lah!”
“What the fuuuck?” Martin mumbled in amazement, eyes already low.
“I know, right?” the lady said with a cool grin. “I’m Virginia, by the way.”
“Uh! They were brilliant! Real–ya know, real civilized. Actually civilized. Not–mmhmf–not like now.”
“Yeah! They had it all! Ancients had technology!”
“And we killed it.” Drake said with light sorrow in his tone. “We–we kill everything.”
Silence. He continues, “same with–that–that fuckin’ assss-hole who said weed was bad–shit–fuckin’ lyin’–shit bastards.”
“It’s all hemp!” Ivan added, “Hemp is threat to everyone.”
“You know hemp was used for the first sails?” Virginia broke in.
“Hemp was the only thing that wouldn’t mold and come to pieces at sea.” Virginia spoke in a low, cool voice that had no rush what so ever. “Paper, cloth, nothing else would work.”
“I’ve heard that.” said Ivan.
“That’s insane!” Martin exclaimed, genuinely shook. “So, like, literally, if it wasn’t for hemp there would be no modern civilization.”
“Ha,” with a big smile of her face, “Exactly.”
Some time went on like this, Drake and Ivan going on about obscure facts and Virginia there throwing in her own brilliance as she packed bowl after bowl, Martin just enjoying his high and listening. They spoke about politics and the president that Drake called, “Stump”, about the weather and the south moving jet stream, they’d talk about water and Drake scolded Martin about LA taking everyone else’s water. The most passionate subject was about Humboldt county and the thriving cannabis industry.
“This whole area would have crumbled economically if not for pot.” said Virginia, very seriously.
“Ab-soul-lutely!” Drake agreed.
“That’s what I’ve noticed,” squealed Ivan, “it’s like everyone out here is part of the industry.”
“Really, everyone.” Virginia took a hit, “just go to that 215 longue! That has a bunch of locals and that isn’t even a quarter of all the growers in the area.”
“Ooooo, I did a–a–a dab in there and ooooo–I was lifted brotha, lifted!” Drake leaned back on his hands and the wind blew his long gray hair perfectly. “Only–only bad thing, all–all these–BOOM!” Drake held up his hands in front of his face, his eyes glowing grayness in the sunlight, “Logo! It’s that–that–that–”
“Braaanding!” Drake mocked, “Everything needs a name! An–and a biiiig–big sign! And colors!”
Martin sat there as long as he could but his morning piss had to come out sooner or later. So, he packed a bowl of his weed and left it for the three of them to finish as he headed back down the path to find a pot.
The porter potties weren’t terrible this early in the morning. Martin thought about trying to take a dump but couldn’t bring himself to it. A good amount of people were moving about. There was the nice silence of the morning and the sun wasn’t too bad if you weren’t directly in it. In the distance Martin could hear people snoring and it made him happy. Snoring meant comfort.
He wandered back toward the stages and food vendors. People were coming back with iced coffees and what looked like burritos. Martin could feel the distant hunger waiting for him. Weed this early always made the empty stomach rumble. The walk seemed long, or Martin was just drained. He remembered the night before walking this walk in the darkness with his pack as they chattered their way along. Trish had the flask out and was passing it around. One guy tripped and fell but did it gracefully and was athletic enough to turn it into a barrel roll-type thing, hopping back up to his feet as they all cheered. Inside, mainstage was bumping and the mob slithered its way through the gate and into the main stage crowd, all dancing as they walked under lasers. Martin remembers dancing to Falcon there for some time before going with the group of Minnesotans back to the bar for a break that served as a rest and an opportunity to swallow enough drink to keep them leveled for some time. Martin stopped getting 805s and went straight gin leading to him vaguely remember anything else besides little spats of memories sitting back at camp in absolute darkness with Rick, Ariel and Sandy talking about freedom and the stars and the beautiful coast that they found themselves in during this very moment in time and how magical that all was.
But now, Martin was hot and hungry and looking for a solution to both. The vendors had people already lined up. One had a line at least ten deep. It was the coffee vendor with “Espresso” painted on the top of the wooden shack. In line were tired faces that hung and body language that screamed of sweaty hangovers. Another vendor had a piece a paper with “Burritos $7” written on it, making Martin cringe. Seven bucks is a lot of bucks. He elected to stand in the coffee line and kill his hunger with some caffeine and a toasted bagel which would hold him over until he can get enough energy to make it back to his beers.
The caffeine did him well and the bagel just enough to stop the rumble. Smiling on his way back, he thought about all the ways we make life just a little less shittier for ourselves. Wake and bake to ease your way in then a jolt of cocoa to stay alert and ready. Both just right and it’ll produce a sensation not unlike coke and Xanax (on a smaller scale, of course) but it was all he needed to ready himself for another draining day of drink and direct sunlight.
When he got back, Rick and Ivan were standing in the shade that crept into the path.
“Y’all want a beer?” Martin said passing them, heading for his tent.
“I’m good.” said Ivan.
Martin came back with two semi cold ones. All the ice had melted and left a pool of chilly water in the cooler.
“Dunes in Oregon, believe that?” Rick was saying as Martin approached. “Big, sixty-foot-tall sand dunes coming outta nowhere out in Oregon. Take a couple ATV’s out there, go fuckin’ crazy!”
“That’s funny,” Ivan said awkwardly smiling, “my friend lives out in Oregon and he takes a buggy out there and has a great time.”
“I bet! They were monsters!” Rick looked at Martin intensely, “Imagine, big waves of sand, tall as that hill there,” Rick pointed at the hillside of redwoods that towered over them. “Okay, maybe not that big, but pretty damn close!”
Martin takes a drink, it’s still refreshing in its lukewarm form. “I wouldn’t expect sand dunes in Oregon. They seem so… green.”
“That’s what I thought, too. then, BAM! outta nowhere, dunes.”
“Where all have you guys been?” asked Martin.
“Shit, started in Minnesota, then went through North Dakota, Montana, a little bit of Idaho. Just came from Fern Canyon. That’s where it’s at, man. If you ever get a chance, check out Fern Canyon.”
“Couple hours north of here. Still in California, though.” Rick took a long, deep drink before continuing, “It’s all ferns, green green ferns over all the rocks and in this one place, moss grew on the ground thick enough that I walked shoeless through there like it was carpet. It was nuts.”
“Must have been nice.” said Martin.
Silence. Ivan went away and returned with a bottle of rum, a two liter of coke and red plastic cup.
“There’s something about being in nature.” uttered Rick, “Being out here with the trees and dirt. I don’t know, it feels right.”
“I know what you mean,” Martin agreed, “It’s like we’re home.”
“Are you guys familiar with Evolution?” asked Rick, “like, really read up on it recently?”
“Somewhat familiar…” said Ivan, sheepishly.
“Not really.” said Martin.
“Well, according to evolution, we all came from this one cell, right, and that cell multiplied and multiplied through natural selection, right, into plants, little tiny algae. Then over
years it became fish then land plants then land animals, right–”
“Right…” Martin responded. “Like, how human DNA is found in stuff like bananas and shit.”
“Exactly, so we’re all related. All living things. That’s why, at least I think, that’s why we feel so good in nature. It’s because we’re amongst family.”
Those words rang out so strong and true, Martin felt genuinely moved. Of course, he thought, of course we’re all related! All life is fundamentally the same. That’s the freedom these people find out here. They’re reunited for their ancient loved ones. The same loved ones we in the city steamrolled and paved and cut up into little poison factories.
“That makes so much fuckin’ sense. Wow.” said Martin, still digesting it all.
“Socrates said, ‘we do not learn anything, we’re just reminded of it.’” Ivan said in a lower, serious tone, “That’s how I feel. Like, I’ve always known that but I needed to be reminded.”
Trish, Ariel and Sandy appeared from the path that lead away from the parking lot.
“Shit,” Martin laughed, “I thought they were here the whole time.”
“Nah,” said Rick, “Trish slept in the van, and the other two joined her when the sun got too hot. They got a/c.”
“Morning.” shouted Ariel as she came up.
“We got druuunk last night!” Trish said smiling, hair pulled back and shades on.
“For real,” laughed Martin, “I don’t remember a lot.”
“Oh yeah! How’s your hand?”
Everyone looked at Martin.
“My hand?” he said, confused.
“You don’t remember? You fell last night when we were walking in.”
“That was me?!”
They all laughed and so did Martin. His hand did feel stiff around his thumb but he didn’t think nothing of it.
“Don’t worry,” Rick assured him, “happens to everyone.”
With that, the group went to go check out the coffee options. Martin, now a bit sleepy with beer, went back to his tent for an uncomfortable nap under the sun. Before he went to sleep, he scribbled a note on his tattered notebook.
I have a lot to learn…
Rick gently kicks the edge of the tent.
Martin sat up, he could feel the sweaty wetness of his shirt, his long hair hot on the back of his neck.
“We’re gonna make pancakes. Want some?”
Martin rubbed his eyes. “Uhhh,” Martin went to get up. “I’m cool, but I’ll hang out.” He grabbed his cooler and headed over to their camp where the shade had made a perfect half-moon around them and Drake’s tent. In the shade, it felt at least ten degrees cooler and that sweat-filled shirt chilled his skin with the breeze.
“Just wake up?” Trish asked, lying on an inflatable couch.
“Yeah.” Martin sat on a small stool that resembled the seat of bike.
Ariel was mixing batter in a plastic cup with a long spoon. “Ready for some pancakes?” she asked looking at Martin.
“Umm,” he hesitated, “I’m alright. Thank you.”
“Yeah, I’m–I’m alright.” Martin reached into his cooler and took out a beer. “Anyone want a beer?”
“Down.” said Rick, no one else.
Sandy was setting up a fold up butane grill with a very concentrated expression. She twisted on the butane to a pipe that led to two big circles resembling a stove. Two clicks and a blue flame came out and held as she put a square black pan over it.
“Shit! What time is it?” shouted Martin in a panic.
“Phones dead,” said Rick.
“Mine, too.” Ariel said still stirring.
“Mine’s around here somewhere.” Trish wiggled around, moving her hands up and down the couch and feeling inside a bag just to her feet. “Here–here!” She looked at it, “11:20.”
“Okay,” Martin sounded relieved, “cool, cool.”
“Why? Tryna see someone/”
“Nah, it’s just–” Martin paused, again faced with the dilemma of the truth. “There’s this meet press mixer that starts at one. Probably should go to that.”
“Press?” Rick, surprised, “Your press?”
“Yeah,” Martin sighed, “supposed to write a story bout the festival but shit man, I don’t know.”
“That’s pretty cool though,” said Rick as he begun to pour the pancake mix onto the pan. “What don’t you know?”
“How the fuck I’m supposed to do this? I’m supposed to cover the festival, right? But all these emails and expectations are that I get artist interviews and all that shit but…but…” Martin stopped and took a deep breath, he wasn’t used to ranting but obviously it had to come out, “but that’s not what this shit’s about. This festival is about, like, us. You know? Well, not me, but you guys! You paying customers! Those who came here to let go and be around your brothers and sisters and just rejoice in the moment and the booze and the drugs and each other!”
“And–and like, this shit doesn’t happen without the people. Without the crowd. I don’t know, I guess I’m just struggling on the piece I’m supposed to write.”
No one responded for a moment, but each was listening and being there with him. Rick spoke first.
“Fuck it. Write whatever you want.”
Martin laughed at its simplicity. “Right. That’s, like the obvious answer.”
Trish sat up on the couch and grabbed a water bottle out of the cooler. “You know, in Europe and the middle east, even Latin America,” she spoke distantly and with a comforting kind of certainty. “Out there, they have festivals weekly, monthly for sure. Little festivals all over the towns and provinces. They last all day and all night, sometimes for weeks. There’s one in somewhere in Puerto Rico that would last a month back in the day.” She took a long drink of the water and smiled, “Festivals are as old as mankind. Don’t let the fancy wristbands and boutique food vendors fool you, this is an expression of humanity. But you’re absolutely right. Western festivals are about the performers. Eastern festivals are about the people.”
“So fuck ‘em!” said Rick flipping a pancake. “They’ve had their stories told. Come to the river with us.” Martin smiled and raised his beer to them, Rick did the same and Trish nodded and laid back on the couch.
“Pancakes are ready,” said Ariel as she got the peanut butter from the cooler. “You put chocolate chips in there right, Rick?”
Rick started putting pancakes, about the size of a hockey puck, on paper plates and handed them out. Ivan appeared coming from up the gravel path.
“Ivan!” Rick shouted, “Come have some pancakes.”
Ivan walked over and sat next to Trish on the couch. He got two and spread peanut butter on the tops of them.
“You sure you don’t want any, Martin?” asked Ariel.
“Come on.” said Rick, very seriously.
“Okay. I’ll take a couple.”
They gave Martin the plate and peanut butter. He spread the chunky butter over the top and devoured both patties in seconds.
“Hungry!” Sandy giggled, embarrassing Martin a bit.
“Thanks. Really, thank you.” he said, mouth full.
Silence, in the distance music was playing but not loud enough to be heard clearly. Ivan chewed loudly and with smacking lips.
“You know why birds scream out a warning cry when they see a predator?” said Rick breaking the silence as he scraps some leftover pancake off the pan. “It doesn’t make sense, really. Their more likely to be prey if they make a noise, yet they do it anyway.”
Martin took a sip of beer to get a chunk of cake down his throat.
“It’s because,” Rick continued, “we’re biologically compelled to watch out for one another. We are biologically trained to put the group instead of the self. It’s called biological altruism. Our cells main goal is to reproduce itself. So, if the group is in trouble, one lost cell is better than a pack of lost cells.”
“Organic Martyrdom.” said Martin softly.
“It’s natural to take care of one another… because that’s what’s best for our species.” Rick took a drink, silence followed. “Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.”
The river was cold at first. And rocky. The word rocky, alone, is an understatement for the rockiness of the river bottom. Later, Martin heard that over by the river stage, the rocks had been crushed into a fine sand and it was nice of the feet, nice enough to dance and jump and not worry about breaking a foot. That’s not how it was where Martin and the rest of the group went in. rocks lined the edge of the river and made it a harder than necessary walk. It wasn’t bad with flip flops or shoes, but it was already too late once Martin hit the water barefoot.
About ten feet in, the water went all the way up to Martin’s neck. He would lean back and float a bit, kicking his legs like fleshed propellers. In the water, the heat seemed to vanish and he suddenly felt cold but he welcomed it. He’d let himself sink to the river bottom and just hang there, weightless. Then up, into the cold air that swooped down the valley and made little waves against the current. His hair clung to his face and he’d have to go back backwards so it could fall towards the back of his head. Martin missed the water. He missed swimming, being one with a mass greater than himself. As a kid, he’d go to the beach at least once a month, late teens even more than that. He’d be out there for hours, just swimming back and forth against the tide, making lifeguards blow their whistle and point angrily at him. But he’d lost that. The ocean and the connection with the earth. Spending days indoors writing on laptop for hours and hours and hours, eating twice a day and needing muscle relaxers to go to sleep peacefully. He needed a hasty return, this city life has waged war on his soul for far too long.
Rick came swimming up after him, torso higher above lake level than Martin.
“This shit is perfect…” said Rick gliding through the water.
The girls were behind him, still on the edge, adjusting themselves to their floaties. They all floated through to the other side of the river, next to this patch of island. There was a deep pocket there and warm zones that would prompt one of them to shout, “piss spot!” when they felt one. They hung out there for some time, down the river the DJ’s were playing for a crowd. The bass vibrated off the rocks near Martin and the rest of them. Rick picked up a couple flat rocks and started chucking them across the lake and they’d glided and splashed several times before sinking. Martin joined but seated in water up to his chest.
“Oldest game is history,” he said, “throwing rocks.”
Rick laughed, “yup! Still fun, though.”
“Oh, def fun.”
They continued to throw rocks side armed and watched them skip across, no competition. When either would chuck a good one, the other would cheer.
“I’m guessing you’re not going to the mixer?” Rick said just before launching an 8 bouncer.
“Nice.” said Martin before throwing a four skipper with a big sloppy splash. “Damn. Um, nah.” Martin threw another one, this one went six and a little cleaner.
“Ever see Stranger Things?” asked Martin.
“Well, remember when they put Eleven in that little water pool?”
“Sensory deprivation. Yeah.”
“That’s dope.” Martin leaned back and opened up his arm, “Isolating consciousness. Negating the body.”
Martin floated there and closed his eyes. He pictured nothing and tried to think of nothing but couldn’t hold onto to it for more than a second or two.
They hung out there in the river for another hour. Eventually, Rick and Martin stopped throwing rocks and settled down in a rocky area in the sun. They talked about many different things from dungeons and dragons to David lynch. Martin told of his love for Twin Peaks and Rick, his obsession with Samurai Jack. Both epics that left and returned and are now killing it. They spoke of their pasts. Rick’s journey from comfort and a steady living in a nice neighborhood, to quitting his job and hitting the road toward the great old American west to find, something, anything. Martin’s awkward ascent from absolute obscurity to tolerated mediocrity. His dying self-suffocated by concrete and exhaust fumes. Two different people, weighed on by the same pressures. Both were too aware for their own good. Their conversation, heavy ones that questioned everything and made people uncomfortable. Small talk, they agreed, was a cursed cast to keep people docile. They understood the urge to settle up with high school sweetheart and get good job and get started on the mortgage, but that wasn’t them. They needed more than a story of yesterday’s happiness. They needed truth. And that can’t be ordered on amazon or found in vows. They had to find it.
Back at the campsite, small parties were popping off all over. More people had moved into the spot around them. A hippy couple and three young kids who were bursting with life. Martin changed into pants now that the sun was well behind the trees and the breeze lost its heat. The girls got dressed into their outfits as Rick and Martin sat and continued their elaborate discussions while finishing off the beer they had left. Ivan joined them.
“It’s almost our obligation to have children,” Rick went on, “if all the smart, enlightened people stop having kids, then only dumb babies will be born. Think about what that’ll do to evolution!”
“Didn’t think about it like that,” commented Martin, “but I feel like that can be avoided somewhat simply.”
“Education. Real education though. Poverty and the poorly educated are so intertwined. We’ve made people dumb.”
They finished all the beer and Trish brought out another bottle of vodka and passed that around. The bass from the stages could be heard loudly enough to be recognized. People started slowly heading toward the festival, Drake and Virginia appeared for a second to pick up some fruit snacks that Drake needed to keep his blood sugar up. Ivan kept pouring himself rum and cokes and his eyes started to get low behind his glasses.
One of the guys from the night before appeared and took a seat by Rick and Martin. His name was Jason and he had a ball of chewing tobacco lumped in his jaw, as he whispered, leaning in, “Y’all want some acid?”
Martin and Rick looked at each other.
“How much?” replied Martin.
“Free.” Jason said, the same guy who the day before gave Martin a bud and sung sweet home Alabama with one arm over Martin’s shoulder. “A friend just picked up a whole vile.”
Without hesitation, Martin responded, “I’m down.”
Rick nodded, too.
The guy looked around and handed Martin a brown vile with black dropper as a cap. Martin twisted it open and sucked the clear liquid into the dropper and squirted a big drop onto his tongue. It was bitter and made his cheeks clinch. Rick got it and did the same.
“Want another?” said Jason before taking drop of his own.
Martin shrugged and took another big one, Rick too.
It didn’t take long to hit them. Darkness was crawling in and the only light shone in hot orange against the hill of redwoods and, above, a vulture glided on the wind that bounced off the hill. Martin and Rick watched the vulture coasting in circles waiting in the warm light of sunset, speechless. The sun’s shadow could be seen getting closer and closer to the top of the redwood hillside, increasing minute by minute. Down by the campsite it was getting harder and harder to see what was next to you in the darkness. There was something calming about watching the day turn and bow to the starlight. The moon broke low to the north and was a big beige ball in the sky just above the horizon.
This time, the walk into the festival was a blur. They passed two guys passed out in the gravel at the top of the dirt hill leading down to the festival entrance. Martin and Rick smiled as they passed them.
“Down.” said Martin.
Once inside, they again entered mainstage where an artist painted a purple unicorn live there in front of them. The head of the unicorn sparkling in blue white and orange. A crowd formed as the artist, masked and zoned in, moved gracefully with spray can. There were other big paintings on plywood, some owl head with enlarged eyes, a cool psychedelic tree that seemed to vibrate to Martin.
Again, they went to the bar by mainstage. The girl behind the register recognized Martin, “Hey! You okay?”
Martin hesitated to respond.
What the fuuuck…
“From yesterday? You were telling you fell and fucked up your hand.”
Martin smiled and nodded shyly. “Yeah, I’m alright.”
“805.” Martin chuckled, the acid making everything seem awkward, well, more awkward. “At least for now.” All words were coming out uncomfortably.
She took a long time to bring the beer and Martin waited there by himself with hands in pockets trying to act natural. The air felt really cold against his skin and the music being played through shaking speakers made the hair on his arms stand. When she returned, Martin grabbed the cup as fast as he could and took off. He found the group, sitting under a canopy. It was only Rick and Trish, and they were sneaking drinks from the flask.
“I feel crazy.” said Rick, smiling very lazily.
“Me too.” Martin said, taking a drink of beer which he could feel drip down his esophagus and settle into his stomach.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me.” Trish uttered disappointedly before another shot.
“We’ll get something better.” Rick nodded, looking up at the lasers cutting through smoke. “We’ll get something…”
Sandy and Ariel came back from the restroom. Someone suggested the Grove and everyone agreed. On the way, Martin noticed a Street Fighter arcade machine sitting inconspicuously at the side of the canopy where they were waiting.
“He–” Martin was interrupted with a hand to the chest from Ariel.
She shook her head, whispering in Martin’s ear, “Don’t. We’ll be there all night.”
Martin nodded silently. She looked very sincere which, in Martin’s enhanced state, he took with the utmost importance.
Walking from mainstage to the Grove, you pass a teeter-totter in the form of a mustache. Sandy and Ariel took a ride, so did two other people after them. Passed that, was a guitar, piano and drum set that were artistically made to be intertwined with a tree. There was a guy with long braided dreads at piano playing a sped-up version of Beethoven’s 9th, someone else, a bandana wearing skinny kid with pink mohawk, kept a simple, jazz beat behind it on drums. A topless girl with duct tape x’s over her nipples picked at guitar like a bass. They three went on for some time, Martin and the rest gathered to watch, as did about five other passersby’s. The jam sesh went on for about minute, maybe more, but to Martin, time slowed down and all that mattered was that weird rendition of Beethoven’s most played. Then it was over and all three of them got up from their instruments, hugged and left in different directions. Afterwards, Martin felt a kind of loss as they left separately, and yet somewhat encouraged that total strangers could come together and create something through a medium deeper than language.
Once inside the Grove, passed the small village of hammocks that held groups of festival goers, not much light gets in besides those of the campsites and the stage. The stage stuck out in warm red/orange. As they entered the gate, showing wristbands to the security at the mouth, they passed this big wooden structure built in between some redwoods. Three levels of master craftsmanship whose very presence was a mind mixing juxtaposition. Pirate ship ship wrecked in dense redwood valley just off the coast of California. There were steps to board the ship, where up on the first level, people held fishing poles over the edge with red puffy balls at the end of the line. Those who walked by would reach and jump for it, those with the fishing poles yanking it away playfully. There were usually two responses to this game, both by the ‘fishes’. They’d either get really sad and walk away defeated, or really pissed and chase after the puff ball angrily until they got it, if they could.
The group climbed up to the first level. Rick and Trish were completely captivated with the ship. As crafts people themselves, they marveled at this finely built odyssey. The second level had a sign that read, “Captains Deck” and above the sign was a wooden steering wheel you’d see on a legit pirate ship of old. Instantly, the group climbed the latter into the “captain’s deck” and had a look around. On the other side of the ship was the Grove stage with a big open area. The sides were lined with little jewelry and clothing tents. There weren’t that many people around the stage as some random DJ played music off what looked like his iPhone.
But the stage wasn’t the attraction that people flocked to. It was the pirate ship. And not just the pirate ship. The crow’s nest, a blocked off section above both lower parts that had a sign that read, “Five people max.” Below the latter leading to the crow’s nest was an older, freckled man who had sunglasses on over a very serious expression.
“I want to get up there.” Trish said, very determined.
People kept coming up on the captain’s deck and the freckled guard started to get distracted with people who would come over and talk to him. He ‘d begrudgingly smile and crack jokes and showed a reluctant kindness. Trish and Rick made their way over and started making some conversation, Martin listened from the steering wheel.
“Sup, man!” Rick said smiling, putting a hand on the guard’s shoulder. Rick was much taller than him and the seriousness of the guard looked odd now dwarfed under Rick. The guard nodded.
“Oh yeah,” the guard said, sarcastically smile.
“That’s why you got the shades, huh?” said Trish.
“Oh yeah,” the guard adjusted his sunglasses, “All these lights trippin’ me out.”
“Same.” smiled Rick.
“So,” Trish, now leaning against the latter, “can we get up there.”
“Ha! Nope, they don’t want no one up there.”
“Aw, cummon!” Trish pleaded. “Why have it if people can’t go in?”
The guard shrugged his shoulders. “People been asking all night.”
“What if we smoke you out?” Rick said in a low voice.
“I can’t, bro. I’m working.” the guard adjusting his glasses, “I would,” he said, emphatically, “I would.”
The entrance to the crow’s nest was blocked by a piece of plywood that was strapped down by rope and tied to the latter by a complicated knot.
“Fuck it,” the guard said, “If you can untie that knot, you can go up.”
Instantly, Trish turned and started working on bulging white knot. All three of them watched intently as she worked. She got one strand loose and the tension in the room fell. Just as she was working the strand through the other loop, a man in a pirate hat was coming up the latter from the first level.
“Aye! What you doing?” the man said staggering up the latter with drink in hand, “Don, what the fuck? We said no one up there.”
Trish stopped and looked over at Don. Don looked down like a kid caught watching porn which made Martin grimace. There was something depressing about a grown man deflated in his impotence.
“Goddamn it!” the man with the pirate hat said, now up on the captain’s deck. “Now it’s all loose.”
“I could fix it.”
Before the man could finish, Trish was already working on the knot. In another second, she was done.
“No more!” the man said sternly. “No more!” he repeated, looking at Martin for some reason. “Don, they need help over by the 215 longue. Why dontcha check that out.”
Don nodded sadly and walked down the latter and out off the deck. Martin Rick and Trish followed down to the first deck and found Sandy and Ariel talking to two dudes with the fishing poles. Martin Trish and Rick huddled together, not satisfied.
“I wanna get up there even more now, fuck!” Trish snuck the flask out and took a hit.
“Seriously. Okay, we have to distract him somehow. But we can’t make it obvious.”
“Quick, Martin,” shouted Trish, “take off your clothes and try to give him a hug!” she said it as a joke but in an earnest enough tone that Martin reached for his shirt collar for a second before realizing it.
Rick laughed, “Not obvious.”
The man stood there at the steering wheel looking out from the captain’s deck and taking slow sips from his drink.
“Let’s just go.” Trish turned to head back and the other two followed.
There were more people up there this time making it hard to move. The man with the pirate hat stood there at the wheel with puffed chest and raised chin. At some level, you must admire the effort but not when it’s keeping you from the only thing that seemed to matter now; making up on the crow’s nest.
Trish, Martin and Rick separated. Martin hung out by the steering wheel, Rick found a friend by the balcony and Trish blended into the crowd behind the latter. More people started to filter in and the man with the pirate started to get nervous, looking over his shoulder at the latter to the crow’s nest. When he wasn’t looking, Trish would inconspicuously more her hand over to the knot and loosen it. Martin noticed and looked to the dude with the pirate hat, who looked over for a second but didn’t notice. Trish kept going, getting a strand loose. The man with the pirate hat must have seen from the corner of his eye because he went to turn. Just then, Martin threw his arm over the man shoulders and pretended to be drunker than he was.
“Ayyyye,” Martin slurred and breathed out hard, trying to get the man to smell his vodka breathe. “Wanna know something coooool?” Martin swayed with the man, him looking uncertain and uncomfortable.
“Did–did you know–” Martin, doing his best Drake impression, “that hemp was used as the first sails?”
The man lost his discomfort. “I did!” He said, “Hemp is one of the oldest crops in the world.” The man spoke fast and looked out in front of him distantly as if really picturing himself sailing across the Atlantic. Martin took a peak and seen Trish down to the end of the knot. The man with the pirate hat continued, “everything was made from it, houses, clothes, everything.”
Martin nodded emphatically, arm over his shoulder, before taking another peek back to Trish. This time, the man noticed and turned.
“Hey! What did I say!” The man threw Martin’s arm off him and shouted over several heads at Trish who was working the wood barrier down the latter. The man pushed through the small crowd. “I–should–have–” the man fought through but there was little room so his anger was diluted by how ridiculous he looked, yelling over some girl’s head who had a unicorn horn pointing right in his face. At the same time, Rick appeared with the friend he met by the edge. He was a smiling middle-aged man with a little tattooed knife under his right eye.
“He said we could go up,” Rick said, coming up on the scene. The man with the pirate hat turned and faced him angrily but relaxed when he seen who Rick was with.
“Are–are you sure?” the pirate hatted man said.
“I fuckin’ built it!” said the man with the knife tattoo.
The pirate hat man motioned the knife guy over and they discussed whether or not to let people up.
At that point, Martin got over getting up on the crow’s nest. Nothing was worth the trouble of all that. The acid was making him feel warm and all he wanted to do was find a seat somewhere and relax. He left the Captain’s deck and joined the bigger group on the first level. He found Ariel alone, Sandy talking to one of the guys from the Bud circle.
“Are we gonna be here all night?” Ariel said slightly annoyed.
“I mean, I just wanna see other stuff, too.”
“Yeah.” Martin agreed. But truthfully, he didn’t mind hanging out on the ship all night. It was well lit, it was small yet not too crowded, music was playing and he could lose himself in the compact spaces of the group.
Sandy came back. Her and Ariel decided to go check out other spots of the festival. Martin decided to hang back. He looked up and seen Rick still talking to the knife faced man as Trish made her way up the latter into the crow’s nest.
Martin turned to the stage and rested his elbows against the railing of the pirate ship. It was comedy hour and a single comedian came up and performed to a nearly empty area. But Martin paid close attention. As someone who has done stand up, specifically stand up to small crowd, Martin listened intently to the man’s jokes. He was an older comic, gray hair and a beer belly that was barely hidden by a tighter than usual Hawaiian shirt. The man told a couple jokes about being a fat guy outnumbered by a beauty epidemic here at the festival. Something about all the nice bodies that were all over the festival, which any gutted attendee noticed immediately. Credit to the comic, he maintained his high energy act all through the ten-minute set, even though not many people were there to receive him. His set ended and all those who were there cheered and Martin watched the guy leave the stage laughing and shaking his head before getting handed a beer and chugging maybe half.
Next up was a man and woman dressed in old timey clothes, the man dressed as, what else, a pirate and the woman dressing like a woman from that era with corset and with breasts almost leaping out in front of her. They announced that next would be a burlesque show and the small crowd shouted with excitement.
As soon as the dancers started, Martin was locked in. its wasn’t the sensuality alone that gripped him, it was something more. He didn’t know if it was the acid or the environment, or just the sheer sexiness that the ladies moved to the music with, but he was certain he was watching angels glide and jive across stage. Some groups, some single alone out there, but all connected to the rhythm, letting it move them. Martin had this feeling that he was watching an age-old practice of our species. He imagined civilizations of ancient times where woman would go up and move their divine vessels to the drum or band, transforming themselves into holy messengers of love and passion. One after another, the dancers would come up and the crowd would ‘whooop’ and ‘yeeeeeah’. Without Martin noticing, the crowd started to fill with people pilling in onto the ship and into the mainstage. About half way through the show, the entire area in front of the stage with packed with people sitting crossed legged and even with people standing in the back. On the ship, Martin couldn’t even back up it was so crowded. With the new audience, the energy picked up and, with the encouragement of the pirate and old-timey lady who hosted, the crowd got louder during the performances and the dancers would notice and smile as they’d stride across stage with grace and strength. There was a belly dancer who’s hips moved in almost unnatural ways to the beat. The performances would range from classic twenties styled dancers to groups who would resemble their older ancestors of dancing gypsy women would were as mysterious as they were intoxicating.
Towards the middle of the performance, Martin could feel a girl close to his shoulder. She would ‘wooooo!’ in the breaks and pauses in the performances. The crowd on the ship was tightly packed so her left arm and chest were pressed against Martin and both got into rhythm with each other without saying a word. Martin, in his acid mind, began to analyze what was happening. Given the performance, the level of arousal in the crowd rose. He could feel himself getting riled up and, from the closeness of the girl beside him and the way she rubbed up against him, he could tell she was too. Again, she’d ‘wooooo!’ and Martin could feel her energy trying to get his attention. He turned to look at her and their eyes met instantly. She had these deep brown eyes and seemed to lurk behind bangs that fell over her forehead, she smiled coyly and Martin returned it.
“Hey.” said Martin, unsure.
“Wanna smoke a joint?” she said, pulling out a joint from behind her ear without waiting for his answer.
They continued to vibe to the music together. She went to light the joint but the wind made it hard to do so Martin cupped his hands around the flame, drawing them close. Her hair smelled like honey and it sent shivers through him.
She took a couple of hits to get it started before handing it to Martin.
“They’re really good, huh?” she shouted over the music.
Martin nodded emphatically, hitting the joint. “Really good.”
“I’m on break,” she said, “I’m working the barbeque tent. Have you been?”
“Nah,” said Martin, handing joint back to her.
“It’s good. We have like, ten different mac and cheeses.”
“Is that where I seen the mac and cheese? It looked good!”
“It’s so good!”
She took two long drags and blew out smoke elegantly.
“I’ve been here for five days now. Setting up, ya know?”
Martin communicated his surprise by hiking his eyebrows as he inhaled.
“I know.” She said.
They sipped on the joint for another minute or so, looking out on a woman with nipple tassels twirl them around with artistic precision.
“You can have the rest,” she said, “I gotta get back to work.”
“Wait? Really? Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” she said smiling, brown eyes sparkling sensuality.
As she turned to leave, Martin snapped out of his high. “Hey!” he shouted over the crowd as she made her way through. “What’s your name?”
“Candice!” she said before disappearing between shoulders.
Not long after Candice left, the show ended and with the ending, Martin felt as if he awakened from a dream. All that mattered in the moment were the dancers and the music and the feeling of Candice rubbing up against him. But that was gone and Martin looked around, lost. He glanced up at the crow’s nest and seen Rick and Trish up there with only the knife faced man, working to tighten the ropes. They both had a very serious look of workers focused on an objective and Martin came to the unsettling realization that he was still on the pirate ship. That time seemed to warp and suddenly he was present again.
Sandy and Ariel appeared just as Martin found a seat by the latter leading up to the first deck.
“Where’s Rick and Trish?” asked Ariel, in a tired voice. They both looked beat. A day in the sun after a night of hard drink builds as midnight approaches.
Martin said nothing, just pointed up at the crow’s nest. Above them, Rick and Trish were holding up a white sheet as the Knifed man fastened down a knot at each end. They looked to be communicating earnestly, Trish pointing to Rick as he wipes sweat off his forehead with his shirt sleeve. It made Martin feel this gentle calm that he always felt when he watching someone work with such diligence and concentration.
Mediation… he thought to himself… pure and beautiful, not even aware of their own divinity…
Eventually, they did come down but it took a couple of choice words and some fiery looks from Sandy to do it. But Rick and Trish were buzzing when they got back. They spoke excitedly about the guy with the knife tattoo, Steve, and how he’s been building this for almost a week now. Trish gained his trust when she showed him she could tie a constrictor knot in under ten seconds. Rick, with his understanding of carpentry and overall mellow personality. They said Steve begged them to stay and even invited them to an after party on Sunday after all the stages close.
Next objective was for food. This time a carne asada burrito from a food truck that smelled to Martin like the ones back home in LA. He closed his eyes and, for a second, he was back there, the busy streets with all those lights and people and cars. All the asphalt and concrete monuments, the tradition of life where roots were grown.
Martin opened his eyes to Sandy holding a burrito out in front of his face. He smiled and took a healthy bite that had a good mix of all it contained, the tell-tale sign of a great burrito. He thanked her and she responded with a gracious nodded as she chewed, those big blues showing her tenderness. Above them, the lasers from the mainstage were dancing against the tall trees of the grove. A golf chat shaped like a lady passed by bumping trap with neon painted passengers hanging out the sides and dancing. From behind, the top of the cart looked like a dick head which made Martin laugh.
They made it back to their campsite early enough that music still vibrated through the dark valley form the mainstage. Trish and Sandy went to sleep almost instantly, Rick Martin and Ariel standing up talking about the moon. Rick, explaining that the full moon controls the liquid inside our bodies like the tides of the ocean, blowing Martin’s mind.
“That makes so much sense!” Martin would scream out and it ring and echo around them.
Ariel mentioned their friend who went to India and helped purify water there. That organization had a tent there at Northern Nights. This spun the conversation into a deep spirally rabbit hole about politics and evolution. Rick commented on how odd it is that those people in parts of Africa, for instance, couldn’t figure out the technology to purify water. Martin questioned what that says about evolution if a certain tribe of species can’t adapt to climate, whether it’s natural or not that those tribes go extinct. Ariel entered with cutting truth.
“They wouldn’t need to purify their water in not for colonialization! We act like they weren’t civilized before Europeans got there. The Europeans destroyed their culture, then poisoned their planet.”
Both Rick and Martin sat quietly in the silence.
“One society’s success comes at another’s destruction.”
“Fuuuh…” muttered Martin.
“I can talk all intellectual too, ya know.” Ariel said smiling proudly.
They sat there and talked until the music stopped coming from the stages. People could be heard coming back to their tents, all very calmly and respectful. By this time, the acid was reduced to a light tingle, a psychedelic buzz that was warm and cozy. Rick got up and started rustling about in some bags.
“What are you doing?”
Rick said one word. “S’mores.”
Ariel got excited and Martin sank back lower in the inflatable couch that cupped him just right. Reluctantly, Martin admitted he’d never had a s’more and, as he expected, both Ariel and Rick freaked out.
“How could you never have a s’more?” they asked.
“I don’t know.” was Martin’s response and he meant it. He didn’t know why he’d never had a s’more. He blamed it on the city life, the old fateful excuse he’s been giving country boys and girls for all his tangible shortcomings since his days back in Kansas where he first figured out that saying he was a, “city boy” seemed to get him out of a lot of disappointment. But that wasn’t true. He’d been to bon fires in Huntington beach. He’d been camping all up the coast and in the desert which had nights of roasting campfires. But never had he ever had a s’more.
They made a point of having him make it himself, which he would have done anyways… probably. After some trouble, Rick got the butane grill up and pumping blue fire. Martin held the ‘mellow in the fire. Ariel and Rick recited the famous s’more scene from sandlot that sparked an unusual nostalgic twinge in Martin’s chest. The ‘mellow caught on fire and Martin let the blue flame consume it and watched as the black burnt edges made their way inward. After blowing it out, he was handed a graham (cracker) with some chocolate that he smashed the ‘mellow onto, sandwiching the top with another graham.
The first bite was tasty but no fireworks went off in the background and the earth didn’t slide open and suck him down into it but still, it was tasty. The taste of ‘mellow brought him back to him childhood, where his grandma would always have a bag of marshmallows in the fridge, even though no one ever seemed to eat them.
After the excitement of the s’more, the energy seemed to go away a bit, signaling the end of another night. Martin and Rick, still feeling the buzz, sat there quietly enjoying the high. Ariel, only coming off booze and weed, was struggling to stay awake. But never, and Martin’s appreciated this more than most would, she never made them feel like they were tripping. Some people are either way too into those that are tripping or are mean and belittling to them. But not. Ariel. She treated them normally, talking to both like they were sober minds. To martin, someone who spent many nights being patronized by ignorant ‘friends’, this was nice.
And Martin, in an ode to her great drug veteran patience, was the first to say goodnight, not necessarily being tired himself.
Back at his tent, Martin lying flat on his back, he could feel all the sensation of the LSD moving through his body all culminating at a spot in the middle of his forehead. He laid there, vibrating, feeling a pressure right about his eyes but not a painful kind of pressure. A kind of…focused energy coming from parts of his body. He could feel it especially when he closed his eyes. Then, suddenly, somehow inside his mind, he could hear bits and pieces of different conversations he had during the day. They weren’t more than a word or two long but Martin could hear the actual voice of the person who said them. There was Rick’s voice and Ariel’s voice, Sandy and Candice’s voice, Trish’s laugh and Ivan’s squeaking tone. All swirling around in a soup of voices in his head. He’d freak out and open his eyes, thinking he was talking a loud and the voices he was hearing was his own but it wasn’t. Or at least that’s what he thought.
Again, the sun woke him but this time there was no break in the early morning, scavenging for warm clothes and more of the only blanket he brought. No, this night he slept all the way through with a heaviness that could only be attributed to the acid that he could still feel as he sat up in his hot tent. Coming out, he heard Ivan talking to the hippy couple that camped next to Martin and himself. Martin approached, barely awake.
“Sup.” he said as he sat down near them in the shade of a tree.
“What’s up,” said the guy who had dark sun glasses and a tie dye shirt and hat. He had a beard that sat nicely between rugged and well kept, and long hair that hung out behind his shoulders. “Name’s Alex.” he fists bumped Martin.
“This is my wife, Xochi.”
Xochi waved and gave a slight smile. She had her hair pulled up and wore big circle sunglasses. She sat back in her chair comfortably, looking quiet and serene.
“Beer?” asked Alex, already reaching into he cooler he was sitting on.
Alex was from the Eureka area, he explained to Martin. He and his wife lived in a small single room shack on a secluded cliffed side on the southern end of the small bay. Ivan mentioned that Martin was a writer and Alex’s interest grew. He spoke of his years in grad school writing essays on the influence shifting tectonic plates off the coast of Alaska. Alex had a chill stoner voice that contradicted the complexity in which he spoke. He talked about his early life in San Diego and his times hiking through the caves in New Mexico. Every so often, Alex would turn to Xochi and nudge her while whispering something and she’d smile. Once she commented she was hot and Alex instantly ran off a list of possible things he could do to relieve the heat. Xochi just smiled and said, “thank you” and accepted a water, which ways one of the ten options offered.
Soon after, Rick woke up and made his way over. He seemed to be feeling the acid still too because he took a seat near Martin and slowly made his way into the conversation. But once he was in, him and Alex clicked and off they went. They both were born in San Diego, both around the same time, and both loved nature and had a pretty good understanding of it.
Maybe it was the volume of the conversation, or the sun, or the second early morning, but all at once Trish and Sandy appeared from the parking lot and Ariel staggered out of the tent. Seeing them all converge on the area at the same time made Martin smile. Maybe it was the acid, but he was sure there was some kind of invisible communication that all humans use without even knowing.
The girls decided to go get coffee, Ivan went with them, now canceled out of conversation now with Rick and Martin in it.
Under the tree where they were sitting wasn’t so hot as long as the breeze continued to pass through and it did, making Martin relax and drink this heavy beer Alex gave him comfortably. It was Sierra Nevada in a can, which he’d never seen before. It was ice cold and tasted so good in the morning heat. He drank the first one fast and Alex, without asking, handed him another which Martin naturally took.
Sunday morning, he thought as the conversation went on in the foreground, Sunday morning and I’m catching a buzz like young twenty-one-year-old me just after being able to do it. Three years later and it’s just as good.
“Right,” Alex was saying, “but people don’t think of that…”
I have friends everywhere. Every place where hearts beat and minds think, I have friends…
When the girls came back, Alex and Xochi decided to go get their own breakfast that wasn’t something in a can. Trish went off and in minutes, the famed van that brought them across the country appear right near the corner of Martin’s tent. Technically, you had to pay for “car-side” camping but at this point, didn’t really matter.
At this point, when Alex and Xochi left, when Ivan drake and Virginia were nowhere in sight, Martin started to feel odd tagging along with this group of people who’ve known each other since they were kids. But now, Martin felt like he was following them around like a little stray dog who’d never been loved. It wasn’t far from the truth but still, that wasn’t the m.o. at all and at some level he knew they knew that. That worry of negativity was probably made up, he knew that. Yet, the feeling didn’t go away. It worsened when all four of them, almost in unison, got their things and headed for the van.
Should I follow? I mean, we were all hanging out sooo… Martin stood up and felt useless with nothing to do… Just leave them alone. They didn’t come to some festival to get some sucker fish tagging alongside them.
Martin was certain of it. He left the area and found refuge inside his tent when caught wind and sun and let almost no breeze flow through it’s cheap material. Martin remembered his old tent with the windows on each size that zipped closed or opened, letting some fucking air inside. Not this one.
Like in all times of idleness, Martin reached for the notebook and pen. It felt awkward in his hand, pen slightly shaking between his fingers as he laid flat on back. He wrote two words:
Looking at the words sit there in the physical word, existence instantly validated, he sighed deeply. Raising his pen, he continued:
It’s all… Hot air…
With that, both arms fell to his side, pen to his right, notebook to left and he let out a relieved exhale… an exhale of Hot air…
The pen wasn’t working and when the pen wasn’t working, the book always seemed to fill the void. He had a couple books. Of course, Leary but also, End of America by Naomi Wolf, Visions of Cody by the ol’ drunk Jackie K. Rebel by Camus that has been a fuckin’ bitch to digest. All these shared the same ingrained seriousness. This very detailed dissection of some truth that Martin had no energy for at the moment. He chose Kerouac out of sheer cadence. Catch him in a running rhythm, that flow that mimics Coltrane and feels just like it when you’re in it. But Martin wasn’t in it. He skimmed through mindlessly, taking the words as they came without imprinting them with genuine attention. Thankfully…
“Yoooo.” Rick came cautiously into sight.
Martin, peaking over the top of book, “Sup.”
“We’re gonna chill in the van with the a/c. Watch some adventure time. If your down, you can join?”
Hesitating, trying not to be too eager from what really was air conditioning but could have been confused for loneliness (and probably was), Martin replied with a, “Down.”
The van was in typical road trip condition. Pieces of clothing in the front seat, about six different wires all tangled in the console, the smell of weed and people. The seats in the back folded down and that’s how Martin found it as he got in from the front seat. Trish, Ariel and Sandy were all laying under blankets with the low eyes of a coming nap.
“Boutta smoke some of that Washington weed!” Rick said smiling, cleaning what he could from the front seats.
Adventure Time came on and the car was silent, besides the sporadic laughter and coughs, the sound of a lighter and the faint snore of one of the girls in the back.
Martin never really watched Adventure Time but in minutes, he was hooked. It could have still been the acid lingering around, or maybe the Washington weed that they smoked one bowl of (one bowl that felt like five). Either way, he was hooked on the show which had such deep symbolism in almost every shot. Each bit of dialog so powerful in its simplicity. They watched all the episodes on the disk, eight full episodes. They watched they simpler topics like compassion and inclusivity but also much more complex concepts like higher consciousness and what happens when you die. All with such ease and grace that Martin forgot it was a kid’s cartoon. It felt more like an animated innocence designed for easy enlightenment of young people. That, or just good tv.
But, like all things, Adventure Time ended and it was time for, at least Martin to get out of the car. And after hours in the direct cold air conditioning, the warmth of the sun felt perfect and welcome. All it’s bite gone when hitting chilled skin. Rick got out with him and they went to go sit in the shade of the trees now with the sun behind them.
The breeze was perfect and the shade gave the scenery of the huge redwood hill in front of them a new beauty. They sat there quietly for some time.
Martin broke it with, “Man, I’m still thinking about Adventure Time. that shit’s brilliant!”
“It really is!” Rick agreed. He went on to tell Martin the entire layout of characters from the Ice King to all the princesses. He talked about their stories and how they connect. And in each, Martin’s mind which tries to find connections to transcendence where ever it could find, recognized ancient and modern archetypes, metaphors and hints towards philosophy.
“That’s what all entertainment should be.” Martin said excitedly before contradicting himself, “Well, some entertainment should just be for fun. Some mindless junk we all love to watch and shut off our minds. But, the stuff that’s gonna transform society is the entertainment that speaks to social truth.”
‘And we’re seeing that!” Rick agreed, “All these shows, Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, Black Mirror, Handmaids Tale–”
“Get out is a perfect example. And people are hungry for it!”
“Art to transform the world.”
“Nah,” Rick said with big grin, “Art to change self! The world can only follow.”
Again, a calm silence. But not a silence that would last more than a minute. Every subject was touched on. From the inability of the five senses to the wars in the middle east. Rick told Martin of his friend who had PTSD from a war he signed up for believing one thing and getting their and having that belief shattered. Martin told of his Reaganistic upbringing that promotes work and only work, worth based on wealth. Rick his obsession with doomsday prepping and Martin’s ever-present state of perpetual guilt that, more than likely stems from his childhood in Catholic Church. The conversations went on and on and time was nothing.
“This is what’s it’s about,” Martin said, between one of the breaks, “this is why we still have festivals.” They both laughed.
“Thank god, or whatever you wanna call it, that you came to this, man.” Rick said shaking his head. “I needed a break from the girls, dude. I was going crazy.”
Martin laughed loudly, mostly because it meant he wasn’t a burden. “Road trips bring people reeeeaaal close.”
About then, Alex and Xochi came back and brought their chairs up onto the path with Martin and Rick. They all shared stories, true or fake, none of them would probably ever know. The sun was getting lower and the girls were still asleep in the van. Martin felt his energy lower and because of it, he spoke less and listened more. Anyways, Rick and Alex were on one talking about roofing or electrical through roofs–something about roofs. Rick ends up telling Alex about how he just quit his job and is looking to move somewhere and instantly Alex said, “Move out here.”
“Yeah, I have a job for you if you need one.”
“Can I come too?” Martin joined in jokingly.
Alex went on to say how he’s opening his own book store out in by the college in Humboldt. He already had a place but he wants to completely renovate the whole thing. The best part, above it are two studio apartments that Alex said Rick and Martin could stay in rent free if they worked to renovate the shop.
“Dead fuckin’ serious.” and by the way he said it, there was no way he wasn’t.
Almost on cue, Ariel and Sandy arrived from the van wanting to go to the river.
“Think about it. I need the help.”
The only thing both Martin and Rick could think about in the river was the prospect of moving out here on a whim, all because this random guy offered them a job. They didn’t speak, just skipped rocks in silence as Trish sunbathed on the rocks while Ariel talked to two other festival goers on a double raft. Sandy’s boyfriend got there and joined like he’s been there the whole time. His name was Rodney and wore a hat with Jake (the dog from adventure time (of course) on it. But, besides some small talk to Rodney, Rick and Martin stood quiet, pondering the future.
Rick focused more on stability. Was it a stable thing to travel half way across the country. But then again, Rick resented stability. If he wanted stability, he should have stayed at his normal job. He thought about Ariel back home and that made it hard, but even harder was leaving Trish behind. Trish was his little sister! They’ve been inseparable and now, on some books and dream of a seaside morning, he’d bail.
Martin struggled with the sheer idea of up lifting his entire life to somewhere he’d never even been. Leaving his family behind, his family that never did anything too risky or spontaneous, his family that has lived in the same city for fifty plus years. All his friends with family’s just the same. And Los Angeles! Hollywood! What greater place to be a writer? And just now as he started to get published and read. Now, when he was getting jobs and feedback from the underground that he felt so connected with. All that, gone! Packed up and driven ten hours north into the redwoods and the fog, just because comfort and repetition scared him. The same comfort and repetition that he begrudgingly clings to. And that was the point, the clinging. Writers can’t develop in the same place their whole life, that he knew without a doubt.
When they got back to camp, the whole area was sitting around laughing with each other. Martin changed into dry clothes and joined them. He felt like talking to Alex about the bookstore but it wasn’t the right time. Everyone was chillin and business was far from thought. Then, just as Martin started to think about how sleepy he was, Alex pulled out two baggies of crystalized molly, the good stuff. Before raking lines, Alex looked at Xochi pleadingly. She just smiled and shrugged.
Not everyone got some. Martin and Rick did, Trish hit a fat one like it was nothing. Molly always went through rough and Martin could feel the tears forming but not falling from his eyes. Holding his nose, Martin remembered the bottle of wine and bourbon that was in his bag. When he got back, a young tanned blonde kid named Danny showed up and Alex got excited. He kept saying, “Danny’s here! Danny’s here!” Apparently, Danny partied with them all night then, without sleep, drove back to town and went to work and now he was back. Danny pulled out his own baggie of white glory and it made sense how he could stay up for that long.
Martin had several lines of both kinds and took long pulls of the wine in between. suddenly, he wasn’t sleepy. Trish and Rick either. They only stood up and talked in quick spurts, pacing back and forth. Ivan came around and started handing out balloons of Nas or “whip-its”. Trish put the rest of the bourbon in the plastic flask that still had the remanence of vodka but no one thought about that.
Before they knew it, they were heading back in the festival and it was night time somehow. All, now six, went straight to the mainstage and danced intensely for as long as their short breaths would let them. Soon, Martin needed a drink that wasn’t vodka scented bourbon. Rick went with him and on his way, he spotted the only thing that could hold him still. Racing, towards the machine, he gave it a big bear hug like it was an old pal. Martin could hear Sandy tell Ariel, “He found Street Fighter.”
Almost as if he expected it, Rick reached into his wallet and took out several dollars in quarters and started dropping them in the slot. By the time Martin made it back from the bar, his group was huddled around Street Fighter. Sandy was the first to beat Rick. She then played Martin and beat the fuck out of him. Much to Ariel’s dismay, a small crowd started to form around the arcade game that was in surprisingly good condition. Rick beat Sandy and then went on a six-game win streak, before a large heavy-set man lumbered up and challenged him. It was a good fight, went all three rounds. Rick won but after the man refused to leave, wanting a rematch. Martin, right at the man’s shoulder, watched with intrigue.
Rick, “Other people wanna play, man.”
The man looked around (and down) to everyone watching. It was only about five people but that’s still pressure.
“If I can play again, I’ll smoke you guys out some of this!” the man held up a plastic bag in the air that looked empty in the darkness.
“And if I lose,” the man continued, “you can have all of it.”
“What is it?”
The man whispered into Rick ear and Rick’s eyes bulged. All he said was, “Down.”
It was another close one. Rick got Ryu and the man got, who else, Zangeif. In the third round, with both players nearing their death, Zangeif jumped and kicked but missed as Ryu slid under it and, almost instantly, grabbed Zangeif and body slammed him. The crowd watching, as into it as a game seven, cheered as Zangeif hit the floor in slow mo.
“Good match,” the man said smiling which made him look a thousand times less intimidating. “Good match. Here.”
He handed Rick the baggie and disappeared. Rick bailed on the game after that and bunkered down under the canopy while he loaded a bowl of whatever was in the bag.
“What is it?” Trish asked, looking hard as he packed it.
“For real?” said Martin, looking too and have just a rough time figuring it out.
Rick finished and took a big hit, holding it in with deliberate precise, not holding it too long and releasing it slowly.
“What is it?!” Trish repeated with force.
“Just hit it.”
Trish got the piece and held it to her mouth, then pulled away.
“What is it?”
Martin waited in suspense.
Rick looked around, like all criminals do, and said, “It’s opium.”
All three of them froze, Rick smiling. “I know, right?”
Trish shrugged and hit it. Martin, too. Both exhaling just as Rick did.
The smooth calm hit instantly. It was like a shot of oxy. They passed it around enough for each of them to drift into that chill. Rick got up, swayed for a second, then went back to Street Fighter. As his quarter make that coin-though-coin slop noise, Ariel came to his shoulder.
“It’s our last night here. You really wanna spend it here?”
Rick, who said later that he thought he gave a better answer (or at least used words), mumbled something out the side of his mouth and picked Ryu again.
“Fine. We’re gonna show Rodney the pirate ship.”
“Pirate ship?” Trish said lazily, still triggered by the crow’s nest.
They all headed toward the pirate ship except Martin. He was torn between hanging back or returning to that pirate ship that seemed to transcend time. Rick noticed and laughed a low, faded laugh.
“You can go bro, really. I got allll I need.”
Martin knew he meant it and ran back to catch up with the group.
When they got to the ship inside the Grove, the burlesque show had already started. Trish immediately bolted for the crow’s nest and met up with Steve who greeted her with open arms and a tight hug. Martin followed Ariel and Sandy, with Rodney next to him, to the stage area and they sat and watch cross legged.
The pirate and pirate-ess host of the show appeared asking, “Who wants to play pin the tail on the danceeeer?”
All the men in the audience shot their hand up and wiggled them in the air like eager third graders. They chose four and brought them onstage. Then, the introduced the dancers. Beautiful woman with beautiful bodies who winked at the men as they walked by.
“But we can’t make it too easy, now.”
They brought out blind folds and cover the eyes of the men who smiled excitedly. After blind folding them, like piñata parties, they spun the men in circles to get them dizzy. As they were spinning, the dancers silently left stage and were replaced by a row of men who shook their butt and moved their shoulders sexily. The crowd, all watching this happen, laugh and shout but the blind folded men think nothing of it.
The men blindfolded, staggered towards the bent over men who smile, dancers standing next to them calling towards the blindfolded. One man gets to a ‘dancer’ and instead of pinning the tail on the ass, he wipes it between the ‘dancers’ legs and moves it back and forth on the ‘dancers’ crotch. The crowd erupts with laughter. Another man feels up the ‘dancer’ and smacks his ass, crowd again cheering. The host let them all four pin their tails before letting them take off their blindfold.
“Okay, take of the blindfold.”
They did and all four looked like a mixer of complete embarrassment and utter confusion. But they were good sports and hugged their ‘dancer’ with smiles. That was the end of the show and it got a standing ovation.
After that, Martin felt slow and sluggish, the molly and coke fading with the direct shot that ancient medicine. They found Rick in the same place they left him.
This night, night three, there was no late moonlit conversation. No s’mores or profound biological realizations. When they got back, each went to their tents and collapsed for the night.
Martin awoke to the sound of people packing up their tents. Ivan was all packed and ready. Drake and Virginia, too. They were headed for some farm town in Oregon where Virginia’s brother was having a big cookout for her nephews going away party. Danny was already drinking, he was staying as long as he could before they kicked him out. He and Alex shared beers back under the tree between their tents. Martin packed up quickly, again the benefit of traveling light. After, as Ivan said his goodbyes, Martin sat down to listen. Alex handed Martin a beer, and without thinking it was cracked and halfway finished.
Soon Rick woke up and asked the group if they wanted anything from the coffee place. They all declined but Martin offered to go with.
On the way there, they said nothing for a long time. Then, Rick, “I’m gonna take the job, fuck it.”
“Dude,” Martin, sincere as he’d ever been, “me too. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“This was meant to happen. This opportunity.” Rick sound very sure of his words, “Can’t just let this go.”
“Yeah. Fuck comfort. In comfort, there is only death. Change in the root of growth.”
They came back with a tray of coffee for the girls, who were all up breaking down their campsite. Alex was almost all packed up with car loaded.
‘There you guys are!” he said as Rick and Martin approached. “Thought about it?”
“I’m in.” said Rick.
“Me too.” repeated Martin.
“Fuck yeah, we’re gonna make it happen boys.” they all hugged. “When can you guys come up?”
“Yeah, august for me too.” agreed Rick.
“Just hit me up.”
They exchanged numbers with joy that only could be from the knowledge of an unknown but bright future. Xochi gave both Rick and Martin hugs good-bye and said, “Welcome to the family.”
Then they were gone, waving out the window as they disappeared down the road. Martin helped the Minnesotans pack up camp, it took almost an hour and a lot of the time Martin had nothing to do and felt bad for it. Secretly, he reflected later, he didn’t want to help them pack up because the faster they did, the faster they’d be back on their way which Martin produced a melancholy Martin could taste in the distance.
Nevertheless, soon the van was loaded and so was Martin’s Honda. It was hard saying goodbye. Martin followed Rodney and Ariel on Instagram. Rick and Trish got Martin’s number. It felt like they were saying goodbye to an entire life that they’ve shared together and even though it only lasted about eighty hours, it was significant enough to leave a lasting mark on each of them.
Rick was the last one in the van, he and Martin lingered around outside. Both, unsure how to express their sorrow of party.
“I’m gonna miss you, man.” Martin said as they hugged.
“We’ll be hanging out again in august, bro. Not too far.”
Rick got in the van and shut the door. Just as Martin turned, he heard the window lowering.
“Hope you found what festivals were all about.”
Martin responded, “I think I did.”