relationships begin and end with long car rides (or why i love Coachella)
This isn’t a piece extolling the benefits of festivals, you can find those elsewhere. And I really don’t want this to be some personal account “top 10 holes to stick your wang inside of at a music fest,” because no one really wants to read something like that. I just want to express my appreciation and love for Coachella, because without hyperbole I can tell you that this music festival changed my life for the better.
Though my music fest cherry had burst at Bonnaroo in 2008, I’d yet to attend the West Coast’s premier music event. More often than not, the price and line-ups never felt like a value to me. But like many other leaps of faith, I took the plunge because of a woman.
We met in college, we became friends, we became lovers. She was artsy, so we did artsy things. We bought tickets for the Sundance Film Festival in February and Coachella passes for April.
I live in Phoenix, AZ. My older brother lives with his family in a small town outside of Park City, UT, called Midway. Me and the girl were going to stay with them during Sundance. The trip was fun. Then we decided to see “Blue Valentine.” Now, if you are dating a girl who is unable to distinguish life and art, DO NOT GO SEE THIS MOVIE. Unless you want to be miserable for the entire ride home.
In my case, the drive was 10 hours from Park City back to Phoenix. I can look back at this moment and say with confidence that it’s one of the worst moments of my life. It was hideous. Of course we tried to amend it. We stayed together for another two weeks before she ended it.
You know, looking back I’m happy it happened. That fucking car ride… But in the moment, she ripped my heart out. She said she loved me only days before. I’d never felt that before. No one had ever said that to me and actually meant it, in this capacity.
It was agony. I wanted to be with her, she only wanted someone to go to Coachella with. So I severed it with her over lunch and a beer. Things turned sour when I suggested she shaved her nipples before being sexually active with another partner, and she made fun of the size of my penis (which, I can assure you, isn’t small. What? Quit looking at me like that). Our opinions obviously soured.
Through my time at ASU’s J-School I made many friends and colleagues. One remains a friend to this day, her name is Lenni Rosenblum. Lenni helped me a few times with the newspaper’s weekly Podcast that I started with Kyle Daly. I knew she was going to Coachella and when I confided to her about the heartbreak, she invited me to come.
“Fuck that bitch,” were her words, I think. “Come have fun with us.” So I did. I met a group of underclassmen from school and forged some great bonds. But I was still nervous.
After all, she was there, too.
Being that April is still a part of the school year, I had an online Spanish class that I’d neglected. And it just so happened that two exam deadlines were that first Friday of the festival. So I took my laptop and headphones and walked to the wifi tent to do some homework.
On the way back to camp, I saw her. She looked right through me, I glanced away, but the damage was done. It felt like someone kneed me in the stomach, the impact took away all mass. I had to hunch over and cry like a child, but I was still alone. I only just met these people, and I didn’t want everyone to look at Lenni like ‘why’d you invite this guy again?’
So I shoved it aside and had a good time. My exams were done, I got decent scores, what else do I have to worry about? Certainly not an ex girlfriend. It was finally time for a good time.
It was my first day at Coachella and it was a pretty great experience. There were a few bands I was interested in that my adoptive group weren’t fond of, such as Marina and the Diamonds and Sleigh Bells. I watched them by myself, but I didn’t worry whether or not I’d run into her. The music was all I needed. My cellphone died, so I really didn’t have a way to meet up with the group outside of heading back to camp.
I finally passed out around 2am. The morning sun woke us all up around 8am when beer cans were promptly opened and poured down our gullets. I plugged my phone in the car to get a quick charge, and was surprised to find Facebook notifications from a high school friend, Courtney.
Now let’s take this moment to go back a bit. Courtney and I were really close our senior year and right after graduation. We went to prom together. Her and her best friend Sean were very almost like sisters. I didn’t do anything with Courtney without Sean being there, and Sean and I were also close.
Sean and I were kindred spirits. We liked the same things, made fun of what we didn’t, and generally enjoyed being in each others company. When I asked Courtney to prom, Sean helped me decorate Courtney’s in that flashy way high school kids have to ask each other to dances.
I’d get drunk at her house, pass out on her couch, and drive us around while we got stoned. It was purely platonic. Our friendship sort of ended when I moved for a semester at the University of Utah, but there wasn’t a catalyst. We just grew up, grew apart.
So, back to Coachella, I see Courtney has wrote on my Facebook page. I check it out, and it’s a post from the night before. Of course her best friend Sean is tagged in the post. The post asked a simple question: “Are you here?” It was geo-tagged, Indio, CA.
Yes! I have friends here! Not to say my adoptive group and I hadn’t gotten close, or that I was ready to ditch them. It was just exciting to know that I really wasn’t alone, that somewhere in this breeding ground of debauchery and jam sessions were a couple of friends that I wanted to reconnect with. I replied to the Facebook message and told them where our camp was. I waited for minutes with eager response to any notification that buzzed.
But they never responded.
Whatever. Late morning hits, and the adoptive crew decided to play drinking games. We started playing Kings, I think, setting the cards in a circle face-down to draw. As we’re drinking, I begin to tell a story. I like telling stories. Sometimes I’m good at them. This wasn’t one of those times.
I don’t even know the particulars. All I remember is getting down to the nitty gritty, to some key detail that needed to be explained with intricacy. This was the punchline. But before I could get it out, I see two people cross in front of me. They didn’t see me, but I saw them.
“Hold that thought,” I said, standing from my seat and running up to Courtney and Sean, who were passing by.
And Sean was even more beautiful than I remembered.
That was the moment I fell in love. True love. I didn’t know it then, it would take a couple of weeks. What I did know was that her presence is intoxicating, and I’d do well to have that in my life.
As coincidence, or fate, would have it Sean’s campsite was only a few cars down from ours, just an aisle over.
I spent the rest of the festival at her side, dancing with her, holding her hand through crowds under the guise of ‘not getting lost’. And on the last night, when we were splitting up to pack up, I decided I couldn’t let her get away without… something. I don’t know what I wanted at the moment, aside from just being in her presence. I just wanted to talk to her one more time.
So imagine my ecstatic surprise when I turned the corner to find her waiting for me, a smile on her face. She said that I left some change from beer money in her purse, but she couldn’t find it. I assured her that she already gave it back to me, but that I was glad to see her again anyways.
My cellphone was dead, once again. I asked Sean for her phone number. She looked at me like I was crazy because she knew my phone was dead and I didn’t have a pen or paper. She told me and I repeated it over and over in my head as I looked into her eyes and shared our last hug of the festival. I wanted to kiss her, but I also like to consider myself a gentlemen. So it was just a gentle squeeze, then we were off.
I started my car, plugged my phone in, and eagerly waited for it to garner enough juice to power up. Finally, once it did, I sent her a text message. For a second, I wasn’t sure whether the number was the right one.
But she replied.
Sean and I drove home separately, but we spoke the entire time. We had our first kiss two days later, our first *real* date three days after that. We got engaged a year and a half later. Married eight months after that. Pregnant a week after marriage. Now we spend our time raising a smart and adorable little boy.
I don’t think of that road from Park City to Phoenix much anymore. But I do think of the drive from Coachella back home every single day. It’s only a couple of months away now. It will be our first time back as parents and we will be away from our boy. Something tells me this drive home will be something special, as well.
2/13/14 thurs. Life.