CH. 43 «The Festival – Part 1»

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We woke up late and didn’t even hurry to get ready. We felt confident we’d make it in time. 9 o’clock came and sometime after breakfast was served we finally got around to getting on the road. Our party of three set out in the 4-treaded crawler down the last stretch of our journey before our main destination: the Bonnaroo festival.

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It was at this exact same time that my brother pulled his 6-treaded rover into the parking spot a volunteer in an orange vest waved him into. He had waited so long in line, following the slow moving trail of vehicles, all honking and hollering with excitement constantly for the past hour. On and on it went, to the middle of a grassy field, beside hundreds of others, and enough space between to comfortably fit a tent for each group.

His behemoth of a land vehicle lurched one last foot forward and came to a rest in the soft, rain fresh soil. He killed the reactor and removed the KEY, his seat automatically un-adjusting to allow him more room to exit. Setting down the keys and remaining seated, Zech Lane turned slowly to the rest of his group.

“Now bitches, we are here. Let‘s get high!” he said dramatically, and to much applause and cheer from the others.

Within thirty seconds all four members of their party had stepped down out of the navy blue beast and begun stretching and moaning. Minkus Grambel was the first out; he cracked his back, flinched his head to side a few times and pulled out a cigi, tapping on a pack that matched the color of his shorts before lighting it.

Rip Gozo was soon after, slipping out of the passenger’s seat on the same side as Minkus. He stretched his arms together, giving out a strange, high-pitched grunt, and patted himself down for a pack of cigis. Finding none, he turned around to face the other Earthling.

“Hey Minkus, can I bum a Red from you?” he asked in a curious tone.

“You say it like we could possibly have another type of cigi with us,” he retorted quickly, being on the road had made everyone a little edgy.

“I know that’s all we have, I was there when we bought the carton…so, can I have a cig?” he inquired again.

“Oh, right. Of course, man,” Minkus said apologetically as he pulled out the red and white box. “An astronaut killer for you.”

“Thanks,” Rip said as he lit it, and only taking a little puff of it. “I really hope buying all 200 of these will be worth it by the end of this.”

“More like…175. That was one long line, man,” someone interjected. Eli Bayer was a dopey looking Earthling in baggy jeans and a ball cap pulled low, but always had an ability to seem inconspicuous; the man would be downright unnoticeable in a crowd of garishly dressed hippies, let alone the likes of Rip and Minkus. “I’m sure I smoked a pack by myself,” he exaggerated, but lighting another as he joined them, walking around from the other rear hatch.

“Guys, we really need to focus on pitching our tent,” my brother, Zech, reminded everyone as he rounded the front of his rover.

“He’s right, we have to stake our claim before the next car moves in, otherwise we won’t have enough room for everything,” Rip confirmed. He had been to every one of these festivals here since the year I began attending. I may have gone first, long ago in the day, relaying tales and fragments of what my memories revealed to anyone who would listen, but Rip was seasoned in the experience of Bonnaroo, this would be his fourth.

“Yeah..that..and I need to sleep,” Zech explained, glaring at Minkus for not getting behind the helm at any point. He had made the 10 hour trek from Northern Dominia in one long stretch, and sat in line for another two; he desperately needed rest. He held out three fingers, putting them down one at a time, saying “Tent. Blunt. Sleep.”

“But I want to go out and…find something,” Eli moaned to himself, holding his elbows as his eyes searched far off.

Gozo placed a calm hand on his shoulder. “We can go out and find everything we want later,” he assured everyone, though he too looked off into the distance, longing to discover what palpable offerings there were at hand. “Also, it’s gonna be, like, way easier once everyone is done setting up their camps, too,” he said, telling himself more than anyone else.

Zech was removing the nylon sack containing a 4-person tent that belonged to the Grambel family. “Mink, you’re really gonna have to help me with this. Eli, stop rolling that and…well…on second thought, roll the blunt. I think we’ve got this.”

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We were still elsewhere in Appalachia about two hours later. After an embarrassing stop into the nearest Uber-Mart to stock up on last minute supplies and food to fill up whatever room we had left, our crawler had reached the end of waiting line for the festival. Ahead of us it seemed to go on infinitely, everyone pulled over to the shoulder to let local traffic through, and quickly behind us, as far back as we could see, it continued on, endless.
“That’s it. I’m gonna get out and start making friends with the neighbors,” Brick said, unfastening his seatbelt.
“By neighbors you mean the rover in front of us in line?” I asked, with a slight bitterness since I could have used a tree myself.
“Yep. Looks like a good enough time,” he said, opening the hatch as he snatched the pack of the cigis out of the console. The door slammed behind him, followed by a moment of silence.
“So, Leona? Read any good books lately?”

«···»

Two hours later, at Zech’s campsite, Rip and Minkus returned from a browse through the shops along the thoroughfare to the event center. They managed to lose Eli somewhere along the way, but felt confident he‘d find his way back. Zech was still passed out in the tent, so the two present members opened up the tailgate of the behemoth, sat down and shared a bowl of fire together.

“This is so astro, dude,” the blonde haired Earthling said, hitting the pipe out in the open, in broad daylight. He passed it back to his pointy eared companion, making no efforts to conceal it.

“Yeah, it’s always really nice here,” he responded flatly, well aware how astro it was from the past three times he attended. He picked a curl of his dark hair out of his face and hit the little pipe they just purchased. He glanced down at the tiny glass piece with a sour face as he exhaled, saying “Man, I should have bought a bigger one…I guess I’ll just give this one to my mom.”

“How many pipes that you didn’t want anymore have you given to your mom?” Minkus asked, facetiously.

“How many has she given to me?” Rip smirked.

“Hey, you guys wanna hang out over here?” a young woman’s voice called from another campsite. “We’re about to play a game of pong.”

Rip and Minkus looked at each other and nodded, turning to say in unison “Void yeah!” They walked over with the unfinished pipe to the adjacent camp.

“Oh look, she’s making friends already,” their neighbor said to his brother. His lovi turned and gave him a face, sticking out her tongue.

“Shut up, now you have a team to play against,” she explained to him. None of them seemed too bright to Rip, Minkus just thought the neighbors were funny. They handed their new friends the smoldering bowl as they joined their game.

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At nearly the same time, after two hours of waiting in line, I was finishing up the last pages of my tlog. Well, not the whole thing, just this ‘best of’ collection I carry; the highlights, if you will. Realizing these last pages were all about Lou, I cut it short, making an ending out the middle of a random paragraph.
No one noticed, so I put my computer under the seat and picked my texti out of the console to check how long we’d been in line.
“That’s it, time for a beer.”

«···»

Sometime around 2 in the afternoon Zech awoke, bathed in blue light and sweat, sprawled on top of his sleeping bag. All around him were the sounds of celebration: people laughing and shouting, beers popping and fireworks screeching, and music! Music coming from more directions than he could count. He stretched, yawned, and unzipped the hatch of the cerulean tent they’d assembled some 5 hours ago, crawling out into the real world.

He was instead astounded by how surreal it was; standing up in a pool of vivid colors and sounds. He seemed to be treading in a sea of tents and rovers that spanned as far as he looked in any direction, the horizon spiked with masts and waving flags, alive and brightly adorned. Giant balloons floated off in the distance, tethered to the ground by massive lines, and bottle rockets exploded in the sky nearby.

Rip and Minkus returned from another neighboring camp, waving goodbye to the pierced lesbians they just met. Minkus had a smitten expression on his face his companion was more than eager to wipe off.

“Just cause you’re extra feminine doesn’t mean they’ll find you any bit attractive,” Rip said, popping his bubble.

“Shut up. A man can dream, blast it.” He paused a moment to think, then said to himself “she kinda reminded me of LZ.”

“Well, look who’s finally alive. I mean, huh-what?” Rip quickly deflected, lest anyone notice how snarky he is all the time.

“Mornin’,” he responded, letting the joke roll off his back. “What happened to Eli?” my little brother asked, noticing that his crew was short a member.

“Eli?” asked Minkus in a tone that made it seem like they’d been joking about him for a while.

“Yeah,” Rip continued, glancing at him with a smirk. “We haven’t seen him in hours..

“The man completely disappeared after we smoked and you passed out,” Minkus expressed with concern, but not enough to go out looking for him.

“Oh, but come on. We’d never find him out there; it’s, like, too insane,” Rip interjected with a swish of his hand.

“You’re right, it looks crazy from here,” Zech agreed, peering about for a nano.

“If you really want to see something, check this out,” Minkus said, leading everyone to the side of the resting beast, where he climbed to the roof by stepping up the ladder and the tread cowling to the hood. “The view’s amazing, guys. C’mon up here,” he waved to the others to follow. “And bring that fire, Rip.”

In a minute they were passing around the bowl, sitting 2 meters above everyone else’s heads, atop the blue back of the sleeping behemoth. To every direction there was excitement and joy; festivities raged to the horizon line. They could see the pulsing veins of fellow concertgoers between the other tents and vehicles, flowing like blood to the core of the several hundred acre event. They trailed with their eyes until they were all looking forward in amazement, jaws open.

“Holy gork!”

“My gorking heavens!”

“Slag, we can see the main stage from here,” Zech said, finally starting to wake up a bit.

“Wow guys…this is going to be a good year,” Rip said humbled, thinking it may be his best trip to this etesian Elusian so far.

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I leaned over the driver’s side and pounded on the roof. Brick stuck his head out and stared at me irascibly. “Hey-” I started.
“What!?” he snapped quickly.

 

“We shouldn’t have smoked the last of our weed last night.”
“I know, I realized that already,” he said glaring, “or sacrificed the last of it for luck last night, you Callitian.”
“Yeah, my b. Look…we should have slaughtered a goat…or Leona,” I said jokingly.
“Haha,” his mood changed a bit. “No we’re trading the blonde for hallucinogens, remember?”
“What’s that?” she finally interjected, sticking her head out the window too.
“Nothing, go back to reading, hon,” I said, dismissing her. She gave me a puzzled look and shrugged, withdrawing back inside. Brick chuckled again and retreated as well. I remained on the roof, finishing my cigi as I stared at the anxious line, slothing its way along.

«···»

Another hour later and Rip was just getting back to the camp, excited to smoke what he just bought. He was almost frolicking by the time he bounded into the site, greeted by two pairs of confused, blue eyes that only said goodbye to him a minute ago.

“Guess what I got, like, three camps away.”

“What, what?” Minkus asked, hoping it was something better than the brick weed he’d brought from up north.

He removed a baggie that contained a black, lumpy substance, and held it aloft, shouting “Mmmm-opium!” This lit up the eyes of the other crew members, excited to add the first exotic drug to the list for this trip.

“Did somebody say opium?” an optimistic voice called from around the rover. Eli Bayer stepped out of nowhere, as if summoned by the tarry stuff.

“Yes, in fact, I did…Where did you come from, Eli?” Rip asked, feeling most confused of all.

“Huh? Oh, I was just in there,” he said, pointing to open driver’s hatch of the 6-treaded rover everyone was currently seated on the tail of.

“Really?” Minkus turned in amazement, obviously not even knowing he was there. “How long?” Eli simply shrugged and joined them, sitting on a cooler with a jacket on top for a cushion.

“Now if only we had another pipe to smoke out of,” Rip started to mutter, staring at the little blue one. Not even a minute later, a large hippie came roaming passed the camp with a massive black case.

“Blown glass pieces! Finest Quality! Get them while they last!” he shouted in all directions, unashamedly. The crew just looked at each other a moment before, responding.

“Yo, over here!” Rip said, acting as representative for them. The salesman came over and displayed his wares: truly the finest of triple blown glass they had ever seen.

“I made these myself; all the ones you see here in blue don’t change color because I blew them with silver,” the artisan explained. Rip immediately gravitated to one of these metallic blue pieces, particularly such with what seemed like a sidecar-handle. Zech locked eyes with a different, sturdy one shaped similarly to a gavel. Both had strange honeycomb patterns that seemed to sweeten the deal. They noticed the prices though.

“I really won’t have enough for other stuff this weekend if I spend a hundred on this,” Rip complained. Zech was already getting his KEYring out.

“But it’s so gorkin’ astro, man. You have to get it,” Minkus pleaded.

“It really is a pretty one,” Eli even added with his mysteriously present southern drawl.

“I can throw in one of these chillums here for free,” the man offered, still holding the case with one arm as he pointed to a series of short one-hitters in the front. Rip spotted a white one that looked surprisingly like a squid and snatched it up.

“Yea, ok. I’ll take these too then,” the dark curly haired Earthling said, bowing his head as if in defeat.

“And I’ll take this one for 75,” the light curly haired one said, handing over the chargecard immediately.

“I appreciate it, pleasure doing business with ya’ll,” he thanked them and disappeared, but could still be heard, continuing to advertise himself nearby for a few more minutes.

“Wow guys, that was real lucky,” Minkus was still in a bit of shock. Rip and Zech continued eying the new pieces of their arsenals.

“I really wish I had some dank weed to christen this thing properly,” my brother said, seemingly to no one. Some force seemed to beck their call, as another, even brighter dressed hippie came treading through.

“Headeez! I‘ve got Orange and Purple!” he bellowed as he rounded another site and entered theirs.

Everyone yelled “Yo, over here!”

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The clock in the HUD of brick’s crawler showed a few past five o’clock. The crawler was silent except for the clicking of a tuni as I searched for a playlist. I sat, running scroll-wise for what seemed forever, eventually forgetting what I was doing and just absent mindedly spinning my thumb around as words streamed by unintelligible.
“Pick something, the click is maddening!” Brick had been getting impatient.
“Huh? Oh, sorry,” I picked the next thing I saw, something we’d listened to on Luna, but it was long enough ago by now.

“Blast it! Why aren’t we at the shows yet, we’re missing out on so much right now.”
“Its ok guys, I’m sure we’ll be there soon, I mean…how much longer could this line be?” Leona asked rhetorically.

«···»

It was about the same time, only a couple of miles away, that Rip, Minkus and Eli left the camp to go on another excursion into the vibrant world that surrounded them. Zech remained behind to mind the camp, an activity that wouldn’t require too much of the already fatigued lad. The others attempted to establish a viable path out of the three rows of other camps that impeded them from reaching the closest lane.

When they’d reached the already well trodden path, they came to join the gaudy, surging mass making its way to the junction between the event center and camping areas; a giant arch constructed in the middle of the farm with the words ‘Bonnaroo’ illuminated for all to see, though it was only slightly visible unless you were quite close by.

Rather than tag along the column of slowly moving bodies to the stages, the gang became distracted by the glittering attractions of the thoroughfare vendors. All sorts of baubles and trinkets dangled from leather thongs on the posts holding up the blue tarps of their shops.

Belly dancers and fire jugglers played in the street to bring attention to the shop, some waving about smoldering bunches of incense that filled the entire avenue with a pungent but memorable aroma. Brightly colored fabrics woven of natural fibers were sold alongside wood carvings and incense burners; screened tee shirts beside music memorabilia and ash trays. Every manner of smoking device available on display for all to lust for sat at their fingertips, and all could be theirs for the right price.

“This is what heaven is like, right,” Minkus asked, shaking his head in disbelief.

“No, not at all,” Rip argued, “the section in Heaven is rather provincial.”

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A roar of excitement filed its way back down the line to us, catching my attention and stirring me from my daydreams. It was just after 6 by the clock in the dash, and it looked like we were moving a considerable amount, compared to the last hours of drudgery that amounted to very little.
We came around a wooded corner, and screeched to a sudden halt, met by a thousand red lights loitering in a line in front of us that stretched on until eternity.

 

“Gork!”

«···»

An hour later and it had begun to rain over the 700 acre farming colony and its surrounding areas. Hard rain; heavy and unrelenting to those improperly covered or prepared for such an occurrence. Three individuals, particularly so, began their withdrawal back to the rover. A slow retreat though, none seemed to be too bothered by the downpour.

The one with strong Ionian features (dark curly hair and pointy ears), a brand new tie-dye shirt, and a new blanket wrapped around his shoulders, woven of coarse pink and grey fibers, lead the way. Behind him, the Earthling with blue eyes hid his buzzed blonde hair and slightly pointed ears under a brand new blue hat as he nestled his arms, warm underneath his favorite sweatshirt. Trailing in rear was the dopey looking one with dark hair and blue eyes who wore nothing but a t-shirt, but was too busy staring the new piece he had bought himself, the little blue chillum he imagined he’d get to use plenty.

Surprisingly, the fourth member of their crew was awake when they returned to the camp. The youngest one, skinny and pale with light blue eyes and long, curly blonde hair sat in the wide open cargo bay, noming on a box of cookies, dry and safe from the storm underneath the large hatch, swung open above him. He scooted back to let them in, seating himself on top of someone’s luggage.

Rip simply shook out his blanket and folded it up, the material dry as he was underneath it. Minkus swapped sweatshirts and wrapped the hood of his wet one around the inner handle of the large hatch to let it dry. Eli took off his soaked t-shirt and put a sweater on over his damp back, muttering something to himself as he hung his only shirt over a seat‘s headrest.

“Alright, who wants to get high,” Rip said, removing his tool kit and some freshly purchased supplies. Three eager faces responded by huddling up close to where he sat, the glow from the dash illuminating them all from behind.

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It had started to rain. Id been impatiently curled up in the passenger’s seat with my arms folded for nearly the entire time since it began. Two hours later and it was still coming down hard on the metal exterior of the vehicle, pounding arhythmically for what seemed like forever on this already infinite day. There wasn’t even music playing anymore, we only ran the reactor to keep the air circulating while the windows were closed. Brick feared if the line kept going any longer that we’d run out of fuel before reaching our camp. I tried to reassure him we’d never be able to burn the rest, but words like ‘never’ ‘could’ and ‘impossible’ meant very little in these conditions.
“I wonder how the others are enjoying the festival so far,” I grumbled as I looked back out the window into the dark, wet nothingness.

«···»

“This isn’t so weak, you know?” Minkus said, turning to the others. “In fact, I think it’s kinda cosmo. As long as we’re dry, I don’t care if we’re missing any of the bands.”

“I wouldn’t want to be out at any of those shows in this weather, anyway,” Rip decided, pausing a nano to think if any of them would even be worth getting soaked for. “No, it always seems like a good idea, but it only gets more and more miserable as the show goes on.”

“What do you mean, that doesn’t sound like a good idea at all,” Minkus objected, turning to see Rip wasn’t being the slightest bit serious.

“You think Klay and his friends made it in ok?” Eli spoke from where he sat in one of the forward seats.

“I hope so,” Rip answered. “I thought they would have called the nano they got in, but maybe they’re too tired or all their comms are dead,” he reasoned.

“Ok, look. There’s no way that all of their comms are dead. No, I think they just haven’t gotten in through the spherewall yet,” Minkus stated pessimistically.

“Well that sucks because they’re gonna have to cut the line off eventually,” Rip began thinking to himself. “Man, I hope they get in soon.”

“Seriously, I dunno how much longer I can stay awake,” Eli said groggily, obviously already starting to doze off.

“All we can do is wait I guess…” Rip said to the rain still falling outside.

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PREV: CH. 42 «The Road Trip – Day 4»

PREV: CH. 42 «The Road Trip – Day 4»

NEXT: CH. 44 «The Festival – Part 2»

NEXT: CH. 44 «The Festival – Part 2»

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another two hours later and the rain had let up. At this point, we’d been in line nearly 12 hours, and half a day of this monotony had worn on us greatly. We were, without a doubt this time, certain we were approaching the final stretch.
The unintelligibly slurred locals, in wifebeaters and trucker’s caps and handlebar mustaches and well-into their second case of piss beer, were out on their lawns gawking at the trail of cars heading into the festival. Some set up tables to try to make a buck off the kids passing by, selling cold beer, ponchos and bug repellent at 300% markup. Others just set up rocking chairs to watch the freaks.
One particularly hairy Earthling, seeming to barely have had a cut or trim since the turn of the millennium, decided to gonzo himself into the spectacle. He made his way down the line of foreign vehicles, meeting and greeting every single one of the ill humored, brightly colored individuals with his beer-free hand. He informed us we were in Asbury, a promising detail according to what I’d remembered seeing on the map. Then he was on his stumbling, stuttering way to the next crawler down the line, the odorous oaf. Heavens bless him.

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We were finally at the portal, one of the last vehicles before the cutoff. Suddenly, after hours of seeing nothing past the other vehicles packing us in on all sides, we could look back and see nothing but an empty road. We look forward and we’re the next to enter. Trading our tickets for digital wristbands and map slates. They were out of the digital event programs, which could have been convenient, but had plenty of extra trashbags to give us.
After a relatively short procession, we were led to our campsite and immediately started to set up our shelter, stomping out a square of grass large enough to lay down a tarp and then stretched out nylon construction. The tent went up easily enough, and we were just getting inside for the first time to assess how much space we‘d have when the deluge resumed. Rapid raindrops began splatting against the exterior of our watertight plastic enclosure.
Ahh hax, its not watertight! Hold on, I think we need to sacrifice a couple garbage bags or my new poncho real quick. BRB!

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We climbed back into the tent, dripping wet and exhausted, but feeling accomplished after everything we had to do to get here…laying inside a weak shelter on a farm in the middle of nowhere on Earth on the edge of exhaustion in a rainstorm. All for some drugs and music. It took all the clean towels we’d brought just to soak up the moisture that had already gotten inside and dry ourselves off. We said gork it and pitched our only towels into the dark wet of night.

Id tried to raise my brother on the comm, but couldn’t really… communicate with him. I don’t know whether to blame poor reception out here, or rainwater soaking into my speaker, or him just being incoherently tired..but I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. He was no help, all I wanted was a bowl to smoke to help me sleep. I hung up on him in frustration.
Brick began to snore heavily once he passed out. Each of the other nights I’d been stoned enough to ignore it, or was given a separate room entirely. Instead, I was sober, uncomfortable, and not properly covered. I rolled over and looked at Leona, deep in dream already with self-molding earplugs nestled deep enough to even drown out one’s own voice.
I rolled back over on the inflatable swimming pool toy I was using as a bed, pulled over my thin tie-dye tapestry as blanket, and hoped the bullfrogs would serenade me to sleep.

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