A North Dakota nurse holding $300,000 in checks sniffed a jar of my piss and gave the okay. She broke off $8,500 and I hurled south. My third Bonnaroo was about to begin. In my excitement I scrawled a few words about it:
hey guys just to let you know..as of 5 days from now…i have quit smoking (gonna finish my last carton of spirit sticks at bonnaroo this weekend… im goin on the birth control patch…ive pretty much changed my image since i last spoke with yall….the money i save will go toward game cards for ninja saga and star trek online…ive also lost a grand total of 150+ lbs since July of last year….believe me..seeing the numbers 3 0 0 took my breath away…
I didn’t really want be in Minneapolis but also didn’t care to retreat to North Dakota. So I made plans to be away from my homes as much as possible that summer. I wanted to escape my life for now and instead focus on things I love. I had to find out if I could travel on my own and be okay with that. I entitled this trip “FUK NORTH DAKOTA.”
I still embrace my home state but needed to build a life and experiences away from it. That place is my fallback but I hoped to never have to use it for that. Still, I knew if I went there for too long I’d be faced with questions of what exactly am I doing with my life. I wouldn’t be able to answer that. So fuck North Dakota. I was going away for summer.
In my mother’s car I sped for twenty hours as I was already missing the first day of the fest. There were lots of headless deer along the roads of Wisconsin. I thought of sprinkling cereal on their bodies and stringing Christmas garland through their sawed off noggins.
I passed along the pavement of more states in a whirling blur of music with which I sung along. I purchased pot after pot of gasoline to keep the car going. I slapped my face and chewed bitter caffeine pills that gave me power. I mixed jalapeno juice with coffee grounds and slurped this concoction down. My singing turned to screams and I spoke to myself in statements of clipped gibberish.
To keep my mind active I thought on who all I’d see. I’d been excited for months and had researched tons of bands. I knew I going to have a great three days on my annual Roo trip. In Kentucky I slept atop a rest stop picnic table for a couple hours. I awoke feeling fresh and by late morning arrived at the fest.
This was my first Roo alone. I liked the idea of only having to worry for myself even if there was no one to share the joy with. I drove through the green field of endless tents and saw a landscape littered with thousands of humans. Balloons hovered a hundred feet in the air and the hot sun melted the wet sandwich drying on my dash. People waved and walked by with dirt dusted legs and grime-ridden hair. Most had already spent a day of enjoying music, partying, and sharing in a life experience with their friends. I thought of ways to interact with these strangers.
After introducing myself to my Roo vet neighbors I yanked cheap liquor from my mother’s cooler. It was dyed like farm diesel and splashed across my shirt as I guzzled it for breakfast. Once I was properly Loko’d I took a box of plastic Easter Eggs I made at home. I walked through the campground offering them to the Roo folks.
The eggs were full of candy and tattoos that were chocolate scented dinosaurs or Disney princesses. Within each was a handwritten note with an invitation to be my pen pal. I like handwritten interaction and the excitement of receiving a letter. I thought since we all shared a common interest a few folks might take to the idea and write back. Even if that weren’t to happen I tried making the eggs more than just another hunk of garbage. I scrawled corny jokes and poems on the pen pal slips:
As I handed them out I received grape popsicles and fielded silly questions.
“Hey, egg dude, ya know where I can buy some molly?”
All I had for him were Jolly Ranchers and cheap booze soaked into the cotton of my shirt.
Before heading in to see music I applied food dye and tattoos to my body. I created a backpack patch for my summer trip. I glued Zig-Zags to it so all behind me could take one if needed. I know zero about weed culture and soon realized most people were using glass one hitters instead of rolling paper.
I walked around by myself and caught a band on a tiny stage. It was hot and I’d drank too much. Soon I was locked in a portable blue shit bucket. I vomited Four Loko on a toilet seat already slathered in wet toilet paper. I stared into the abyss of logs and spit out the last of my booze.
I estimated my vomit to contain $1.45 worth of alcohol. I hoped if some dude took a porto dive he’d at least get bombed as he sucked down the chemical waste while gasping for breath. I left the shit bucket and felt much better. Soon after I caught a band that brought monster sized, puppeted tinfoil robots into the crowd.
I was back at my favorite festival and it felt good once I got dancing to joyous bands.
I walked around misting myself and doing as I pleased. The weather was good and my tummy full. I was filled with joy as I kept myself busy enjoying an endless stream of fun. I thought of the people I’d been here with before. Those were very different experiences as I had to account for the desires and plans of others. I felt I had to make sure they were enjoying things at the same level as me. Live music is one of my favorite things. I prefer sharing it with others but that’s not where I’ve guided my life toward. I knew I’d be going to this Roo by myself and had become okay with that. I decided long ago in life it was more realistic to know I’d be alone when doing most things I enjoy.
I’d spent years trying to convince others to take off with me to do fun, interesting things. Rarely did I get them to comply. I found myself ricocheting across the country on daylong drives by myself as I sprang into some adventure or trip. I slept at rest stops at night and texted friends to liven up the drive. I’d go days without speaking to anyone in person. It was all in service of hitting some new fest, hike, or favorite city.
I’d grown used to these solitary times. In accepting I had to do most things by myself I found myself envisioning an infinite number of activities. I wasn’t going to be limited by not having others to join me. I’d had plenty of good solo adventures after college and held no plans to quit that lifestyle. It made me feel independent to plan and execute a cross country trip on my own. I was finally living the life I wanted, though the feelings I encountered weren’t always what I expected. These experiences were both fulfillments and distractions. But I was happy to be back at Roo. It’s a festival I hope to hit every year I’m alive.
At night I waited to see Radiohead up close with tens of thousands in a massive field. Squeezing into the Radiohead pit was likened to going through the birth canal. We were crowning but I hung back to lap me some afterbirth. During Radiohead the girl in front of me squatted on the grass to piss. She was down there a while. I danced in her drippings.
I moved onto Major Lazer at one in the morning. It was great. My whoops of joy were screeched with power and then mixed among those from others. But during the show I kept envisioning modifications for the baby mask I strapped to the back of my head:
I wanted twenty lit cigarettes glued to the baby’s face with legs coming off the chin. I couldn’t fix it now but still liked what I’d made. It added to the visual landscape. After dancing for hours in the dark among crowds of glowing people I headed to camp. I found myself sleeping in a super secret mystery cave beneath the bumper of my mom’s car.
This is just your typical car wearing a cape. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along now.
No! Don’t go in there. I beg of you, please don’t peer behind the curtain.
You’ve successfully located the super secret mystery cave beneath the bumper of my mom’s car. I slept here at night. It was the best Roo sleep I’ve ever had. The mats kept out the sun. They allowed me to snuggle a hunk of cold festival dirt as the earth grew hot.
Dirty water dripped on me all night. I couldn’t maneuver but I was so dead tired it didn’t matter. I liked the comfort of the confinement. I often think of how I should live in a cage stacked on others in a NYC room. I could adventure all day and sleep behind the bars at night. Many times I’ve thought of how to survive while being both poor and alone.
The space beneath the bumper was small and unlit, like some closet I could move into. As long as I have internet and a laptop I can burrow like a feral animal. I’d only step out for music and people watching. In the private space I could lie naked on my tummy all day. I’d stream hot piss and let logs bubble out my ass. No one would mind as I’d be the only person there. Wallowing in my own filth and sadness is easy so long as no one interrupts me.
At times I yearn to experience so much stimuli, such as a fest, yet want to keep hidden away from others. I have to fight these instincts of retreat on a daily basis. I know it’s good for me to be around others and making an effort to live outside myself. So I crawled out from beneath the bumper of my mother’s car.
My neighbor was frying hot dogs in my camp space, unaware I was there. We had a good laugh as I spooked him. I stayed on the ground like a grub creature slithering the dead grass. He shared drinks with me and talked about the great shows from the previous night. I had breakfast and wiped dirty car water off my face.
I stopped in as many portos as I could to photograph the scribblings and shit. I thought of how I should one day do a project where art supplies are left in these blue shit buckets. The creations would be great and inventive. I’d perhaps curate a selection of the best of this filthy art. I’m drawn to portos despite their ick factor and want others to see their better side. It was outside one of these future art piece where I ran into a Minneapolis girl I used to know. She once let me spray my curdled goo across her chest as her cat watched. I’d known she was going to be here but it was still a surprise.
I watched the Red Hot Chili Peppers in a massive field with her and the spun friends she had along. I was among 80,000 strangers and now finally someone I knew. But I played with my phone, listening to voicemails a diseased spellcaster, Vampiric Spektor, sent me in 2009. His words entertained me more than the music or my company. I was having fun but didn’t quite feel connected to the moment I was in. I wanted to just keep doing my own thing. That was just so easy for me.
The girl’s friends had done a long list of drugs that day. Their acid was bunk.
Still, they were fucked on plenty of other things and too far gone to even have a concert chat. I sipped from a schnappster I made by pouring mint alcohol into a water bottle. I got drunk with the girl and danced in circles that made me tip to the ground.
One of her friends thought my baby mask was a freakish monster in need of aborting. He strapped it to his face and ran into the thick crowd. There were so many folks we soon lost him. I didn’t really know this girl anymore so said goodbye as she went to find her friend. I left on my own for a midnight show. I was glad to be back by myself for this. The band wore tinfoil suits and had us flap our hands like flipper feet. I haven’t danced so hard since my brief meth binge from 1986-2011.
After stomping through a marsh of porto mud I saw Skrillex play until three in the morning. Thousands of glowsticks streaked the air and I got wasted as dark clouds went drip drop. Soon I was dancing in mud and being pelted with neon objects. They illuminated the cloud spit that wet my dirty hair. A jumping girl sipped the shcnappster with me. But she faded away when I pathetically picked glowing shit off the ground and waved it in her face. It was a bad attempt to get her to stay and push her ass against me. It was more a need for human contact than base desires.
After she left I could hardly watch the show. Instead I felt lonely as people raged around me. I let myself be crushed by a stranger who grazed in and out of my life in under five minutes. Later I wound up ensnared at a Van Halen cover band hoping to dip my quill in some grey ink. In my 4AM drunkeness I scanned for 200+ year old buku hot hags to fuck beneath my mom’s bumper. I retreated to camp alone.
It was raining and so too wet to sleep in my super secret mystery cave. I got inside the car and peered at myself in the rearview. “But I look good.” It was a statement of confusion and rejection. That girl I knew from Minneapolis was now dating someone she said she loved. I was no longer friends with the last I’d uttered that lie to. I came to this festival by myself because I didn’t have a single person to bring. For both better and worse I figured that was just how it had to be. I fell asleep in the backseat with wet underwear and a sense this loneliness would never lift.
The next morning was the final day of the fest and my blankets were soaked. I walked through mud to wash myself in a cow trailer. It had a row of dirty sinks whose troughs were riddled with hair and yakked up toothpaste. I had breakfast made from wet bread and stomped to the music in soaked shoes.
After laying in wet garbage at Delta Spirit I looked through Windows Movie Maker for the proper transition. Slow dissolve infrared brought me to comedians and a line in the huge field as The Beach Boys played. I sat down to rest and think back on my weekend so far. Despite the drunken sadness of the previous night I was having an incredible time.
I met a tall dude in line as we waited for Bon Iver. He gave me wet wipes after I told him I hadn’t properly washed my hole nor genitals in days. I wiped my arm’s needle slot from the cream study with alcohol swabs. My line buddy thought I was a heroin user until I explained how I made my living. He was a doctoral student involved in psychological studies. He hoped to one day educate people at fests about how to keep safe with their party drugs. He was so loose and nice about everything that it was easy to talk with him.
We spent an hour or two sipping my schnappster and chatting about who we’d seen and the other things we do apart from fests. We snagged others into our chat and had a good time getting to know every one. He was so positive about everything it reminded me I needed to reset myself and be that way too. I’m sure there were others like me out there and I could do for them what he did for me. He was the first person I really talked to the whole fest and I really needed that. Later on we sang along in joy from a mud pit as Bon Iver played in the rain.
After wiping out my asshole in a blue shit box I finished the fest by people watching at Phish. I needed to see a pile of wooks fucking that went so high it reached owl heaven. It didn’t happen but I caught sight of some cool jellyfish creatures.
As I walked out I noticed dudes pissing on a wall that said to fill your heart with Jesus.
At the back of the giant field I took in the last of this fest. Part of me was glad I did it alone. Part of me wished I’d met more people through the weekend like my wet wipe friend. It was easy to be alone but only if I didn’t interact with others. Talking to people makes me realize how much I like it. Yet I avoid that as best I can. These alone times are intended to be brief but always become more. I thought perhaps I’d do a better job next year of making a Roo friend. Next year. I’m aware of most every change I need to make in life and yet all those things exist on some future to-do timeline. The effort required to enact them is little yet I rarely follow through. I always come up with fun new delays and distractions.
I packed my wet belongings at camp and headed for home. It’s a post-Roo tradition to stop at McDonald’s on the way out Sunday night. So I ate fries and gutbombs among fellow dirty Roo folks. I heard them laughing and reminiscing with their fest friends. They’d all just shared a unique and unforgettable life experience together.
I wiped grease from my fingers and carried on. I drove for hours in the night and stopped at the same rest stop I had on the way down. I woke from my backseat sleep a couple hours later. My stomach was rotting. I crawled out the car and stumbled to the lawn.
I tipped over in pain, incapacitated and puking with violent force. I fertilized the grass with stomach acid and special sauce. I lay next to the goo in a half asleep state. Ten minutes later I noticed a smell that hadn’t come from me. The grass reeked of piss. I realized this area was used by those too lazy to walk themselves toward the bathroom. I started driving again.
I wiped down with some of the gifted wet ones to wash the piss and puke off my skin. The tip of my cock stung from making contact with a porto seat. My tummy ached. I flipper danced with my hands and thought back on the fun I’d had. I wanted to alleviate the bad and focus on the good. My methods worked. I’d just had three great days. But the few moments of contemplation while there brought sadness. So I vowed to avoid those. I didn’t mind being filthy and alone so long as I kept myself busy. I needed to keep travelling so as to avoid the need for progression. Fuck North Dakota.
While driving I licked my arms for their natural salt. It’s a taste I know and love. It means I’ve been out in the world and can enjoy what it throws at me. Instead of salt my tongue registered chemical cleaner from the wipes. The artifice was better than piss, puke, and porto shit. I couldn’t seem to separate the fun from that filth. There was no balance. Just heavy glops of both. Cash and travel. Fungus and grease. I figured I’d keep wiping with rags ’til I had no one left to hand me another. Then I’d have to figure it out while truly alone. When there were no options remaining. I knew at that point the fun’s effect would fade and the filth overtake me. I hoped that time was far away.
I can be reached via commenting below.
I previously wrote about my experiences at Bonnaroo here:
FUK NORTH DAKOTA is the third of a seven part series on loneliness, friendship, and selfish endeavors in my semi-recent life. If ya want to read about more of my fucked choices then part one can be found here:
Part four takes me to the badlands of western North Dakota. ‘Til then here’s who I saw at Roo 2012:
- Bon Iver
- Beach Boys
- Delta Spirit
- Rhys Darby
- Unchained: The Mighty Van Halen Tribute (who actually turned out to be an impostor group by the name of Fat City: http://www.unchainedvhtribute.com/unchainedfacts)
- Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Art vs. Science (x2)
- The Roots
- Marc Maron with Judah Friedlander and Amy Schumer
- Charles Bradley
- Battles (partial)
- Post Flying Lotus
- Major Lazer
- Avett Brothers
- Rubblebucket (x2)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
- Electric Guest
Here’s the lineup for Roo 2013, which I’ll be attending alone: