This weekend, my Instagram filled with photos of friends – you know those friends you used to get drunk with in high school but, like, not actually hang out with? – as they ran through the California desert wearing flower head bands and flash-tats. Because they’re at Coachella. And I’m not. For the first time in three years. If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. Still, those days in the Indio heat hold some of my fondest memories: my best times and my worst times, filled with some wise decisions and some foolish ones.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Best when you’re approaching the scorching desert, your car equally packed with sticky limbs and stuffed luggage and some Drake song blaring through the speakers, worst when you reach the sprawling polo field a little after midnight and have to wait hours in a line of cars ranging from Mercedes to Mazdas, Camaros to Camrys, before you can unload; best when those hours lead to the formation of unconventional friendships, worst when some of those new friends wear “GYM, TAN, LAX” T-shirts and eat all your flavor-blasted goldfish; best when your feet first touch the field’s floor, worst when your feet get run over moments after they first touch that dead grass (though you miraculously don’t break any toes); best when you cry watching Jeff Mangum, worst when your friends make you stand through a Skrillex set; best when you’re laughing as you hold a heavy-duty garbage bag for your friend to vomit in, worst when that same friend has to hold your hair back as you throw up publicly in an aluminum trash can; best when you watch A$AP Rocky perform before you even know who he is, worst when a naked woman starts dancing on you in the crowd; best when you watch the sun kiss the desert mountains around 7:00 p.m, tinting the sky with a pale pink and purple, worst when you feel the sun rise at 6:00 a.m and with it, the temperature approaches 100 degrees.
It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. Wise to finally begin setting up your campsite at 3:00 a.m, foolish when your lack of camping experience causes you to break the tent; wise to bring an air mattress for the tent, foolish to accidentally poke a hole in said mattress; wise to befriend your car-camping next-door neighbors who offer you absinthe, foolish to willingly drink it; wise to buy a few disposable cameras, foolish to think you’ll want to carry them around all day; wise to bring a reusable water bottle, foolish to forget to apply sunscreen to your fair, freckled skin; wise to fill your friend’s whole camelback with vodka, foolish to drink it all before Shlomo’s afternoon set; wise to eat a piece of Spicy Pie pizza, foolish to eat four pieces of Spicy Pie pizza; wise to take some time off in the shade, foolish to fall asleep and miss most of Kurt Vile’s show. Wise to try and forget the festival is only three days, foolish to think you’ll be able to go again after you become a college student and move to Michigan.