A Clean Guide to Camping at Coachella: The Return of Lesbochella

Welcome to the third installment in the series A Clean Guide to Camping at Coachella. Three years ago, I attended Coachella for the first time. And because I am a stage-twelve, borderline-obsessive planner, I started researching how to Coachella about four months before we actually went to Coachella. As a result of what I found and didn’t find, I decided to write my own How to Coachella Guide. Ultimately, it could be How to Music Festival, but not all music festivals are held in Satan’s asshole, so this really only applies to music festivals in the desert during hotter months. This guide is also for the clean freaks attending music festivals or those who don’t wish to die of dysentery.

In Part One, we talked about how to set up camp for a successful Coachella Car Camping experience. Part Two focused on how to survive once you’re there. And this, Part Three, is about our second Coachella attempt this year— three years after the first— in which I put my Coachella smarts to the test.

We’ll talk about what I learned from the first two posts and how I implemented the things that went well, to truly craft an awesome second attempt. And don’t worry, we’re going back again next year. Because Beyoncé.

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Because I am a stage-twelve borderline-obsessive planner, I studied for several months before my first Coachella. I can confidently say I was much more relaxed in my planning this time around. Maybe because I’d done it before. Maybe because I’m more financially stable now than I was three years ago. Whatever the case may be, I was much more relaxed about it. And we still had an incredible time. I also went with a group that had their own ideas and strategies from their previous Coachella attempts. Their plans exposed me to things I never would have tried or thought of myself, so now I have some opinions about different plans and recommendations for you, future Coachella goers.

In my first Coachella experience, we arrived late at night on Thursday and had to set up camp in the dark. This year, the people I went with wanted to be some of the first people there to ensure we got a really great camping position. So here’s the thing about that. We arrived in Indio at 5:45am on Thursday morning. We all met at a Walmart that didn’t exist the last time I went. It also didn’t open until 6am. The campground does not open until 9am. You are also not allowed to line up at the campground before 9 so as not to impede the normal everyday Indio traffic.

Why the fuck were we there so early, you may ask. Beats fucking me.

Traffic cops do not begin directing this massive clusterfuck until 0900, so it was a nightmare to even try to get ourselves in position to funnel into the campground. In 5 hours, we drove 9.9 miles and still had not made it inside the campground. Arriving first is the worst possible idea. Our friends who showed up around 1pm made it through security quickly and they landed a better camping zone than we did. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t plan to arrive before noon. Let them clear out everyone else that creates the clusterfuck traffic jam, then go. Or go at night. Setting up camp in the dark is not bad at all. There is absolutely no reason to get there at 9am. You will thank me later.

The only downside to showing up late at night is they had fewer security lanes open at night, so a team of security personnel ripped my vehicle to shreds. Arriving earlier in the day, all lanes are open and there’s one to two security officials per vehicle. We had an older gentleman who couldn’t have given two shits about what I was bringing into the festival. After he didn’t really search my Jeep at all, he felt it appropriate to tell us a joke: “What’s the difference between a battery and a woman?” No idea. “A battery has a positive side.” I drove away quickly because I could hear my girlfriend filling her lungs to lay into this dude. Let’s get away before he actually searches the car, please.

“Why would he say that? Why would he pick that joke of all jokes?” She was livid.

“I don’t know babe. He probably misgendered me and felt safe, like, ‘This poor schmuck drove all the way from New Mexico in a car full of women.'” #lesbochella2017

Tensions were high as we were running on little sleep, inappropriately-directed-misogynistic jokes, and the most insane traffic, so my girlfriend asked me not to pick up recyclables as we were in line. I tied off garbage bags on both mirrors and had my latex gloves on, but she was embarrassed so I stopped. She changed her mind about this once we were surrendering our collected items to the recycling center inside. You may remember there were girls combing through the garbage for recyclables the first time I went. At Coachella, you get points for the number of aluminum and plastic containers you recycle. These points can be redeemed for cold bottles of water, merchandise, raffle tickets, VIP upgrades, and future Coachella passes. But there’s a catch. There are recycling centers at the campground and inside the venue. Your points do not transfer from one to the other. They are separate entities. The recycling center in the campground closes around 3pm on Sunday. So if you want VIP upgrades, you need to enter with about 1500 points early enough in the festival for it to be worth it. The schwag goes quickly, so you need to be on it. We turned in 142 recyclables in a half-assed attempt. We decided on 5 raffle tickets and one bottle of cold water because pickins were slim by this point. As we walked away from the recycling center, my girlfriend agreed we need to get on this next year. Another benefit for going later in the day: you’ll find more recyclables in the gigantic tailgate party that is the security line.

It’s a smart way to encourage people to pick up garbage and recycle; it’s also an easy way to lose faith in humanity as you look at the destruction of Coachella. We clearly didn’t all learn the same “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” song when we were in elementary school. I seem to remember it to the same tune as “Grandma Got Run-Over By a Reindeer” (R-E-C-Y-C-L-E Recycle…) but I don’t think that’s right now that I read it in front of me.

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We met our whole group in the waiting area and then drove in together. We ended up in camping zone 4 which takes the red path to get to the festival ground. My first year we were in zone 10, which takes the green path. As you may guess, the green path is a nice grassy walk to the festival. The red path is dirt. It is windy at Coachella. The red path shredded the hell out of my throat to the point where I am still hoarse two weeks later. In 2014, I had a coworker who went first weekend and I went second weekend. When he came back he warned me about how the dust totally destroyed his throat. I thought he was a big fat liar just trying to cover up his excessive drug use over the weekend. Nope. He was probably just on the red path. I know this now. I’m an asshole for judging you, Tim.

This camping experience led me to come up with the ultimate camping plan for next year. Third time’s a charm, am I right?

I haven’t figured out the appropriate ratio of people per camping space. We had 4 spaces and 16 people this year. It made for a decent living area between two spaces, but the tents weren’t positioned for optimum shade and airflow. However, the most important thing is to make a decent hangout space for you and all of your party people because you will not be sleeping much. Coachella is a marathon, not a sprint.

We had the worst neighbors this year. They were loud, inconsiderate, bigoted douchebags. They had 7 spaces and made an enormous hangout area—which was truly impressive. But the one thing I still find absolutely mind-blowing is they left most of their shit because they were too hungover to care about deconstructing their tents. They left several brand new Coleman tents. They left camping chairs. They left coolers. Full cases of Red Bull and other sodas. Not to mention their garbage they didn’t bother picking up. Pairs of shoes. Brand new battery-operated camping fans. Their entire custom-made PVC-pipe shade contraption.

So we yard-saled that shit. If it wasn’t broken or barfed on, we claimed everything we could fit in our vehicles and drove around the camp neighborhood yelling, “Yard sale on 408th and Broadway,” so others could claim what we had left behind. Fuck those people.

One morning, as I began my day with my usual 7:30 breakfast beer our neighbor bros had an existential conversation about the rap airhorn sound.

“I can’t hear that sound and not make it,” one bro pondered, “It’s like something instinctual. Like it’s embedded in my DNA. I hear it and I just have to make the sound.”

“Like a mating call?”

“Dude. Yeah. It’s like a mating call. But like, to find other bros,” he paused, “Wait. But like. If this is a mating call, does that make us gay?”

“No bro, we are totally not gay.”

“No, but like animal gay. Like if we’re using a mating call to find other bros would that make us animal gay? Like if we were in the animal kingdom, we’d be like animal gay, right?”

“No dude. That’s not how that works. We’re not gay.”

I was definitely staring at them for this whole conversation and drinking my beer in disbelief. But there was also this part of me that hoped they’d explore new depths of their own sexualities and have a really incredible and eye-opening Brochella experience. MAKE OUT WITH EACH OTHER ALREADY. Jesus.

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This year, the Coachella people decided to try something really progressive— not actually at all and I will explain why— and have gender neutral bathrooms.

Let’s pause for a moment and recall what the Coachella bathroom setup is. The Coachella bathrooms (in the campgrounds and some of the ones at the venue) are aisles of port-o-potties behind a chain-link fence separated into male and female restrooms. The chainlink fence serves one obvious purpose and maybe another antiquated purpose. The first being it makes it easier to form a nice single-file line instead of having a line in front of each port-o-potty. The other might be privacy? So spectators don’t see you leave a toilet from afar? I don’t really know.

This year, they added one port-o-potty to the end of each row— outside of the chain link fence— that had a gender-neutral restroom sign on it. At first I was pleased to see this, but my feelings quickly soured. It was clearly an attention grabber for the Coachella team. Look at how inclusive we are; we added a gender neutral bathroom. They’re all fucking gender neutral though. It’s a single occupant bathroom with its own locking door. It has both a urinal and a toilet. It’s already gender neutral. Just remove the male and female signs on both sides of the chainlink fence and voila! They are all gender neutral.

It became a joke. Everywhere we went, douchebags were yelling things like, “You can’t police my gender” and “you mean gender confused.” How do I know this Coachella year was less chill than 2014? I almost fought people every time I went to the bathroom, that’s how.

One morning when they were cleaning and emptying the women’s side, they allowed us to use the men’s side. Later in the day, one of the males in our Lesbochella group was told he had to hold it because they were cleaning and emptying the men’s side. He wasn’t allowed to use the women’s bathrooms, but we were allowed to use the men’s. That isn’t fair. One of our campmates tried to defend them saying guys are gross and pee on the seat. WOMEN DO NOT SIT IN PORT-O-POTTIES. There is piss everywhere. The seat, the floor, you name it: it’s been peed on. If anything, the women’s port-o-potties are probably worse because of one special lovely thing called menstrual blood. Nope. Not just urine. Not just fecal matter. Not just vomit. There’s fucking blood in there.

You’re welcome for that.

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In the festival grounds, they expanded the bathrooms with running water. The lines were never ridiculous, so there really is no reason to use the port-o-potties once you’re inside the festival grounds. I also totally recommend using the running-water bathrooms each night before you leave the festival and return to the campgrounds. The fewer times you need to brave the port-o-potties the better, am I right?

My girlfriend also had the really awesome idea to shower at night. I feel like this wasn’t an option the last time I went. The showers have limited hours of operation. This year, the showers were open from 7am-2pm and 7pm-2am with some zones operating limited showers all day. We were fortunate that zone 4 was one of the zones running 24-hour shower options. But we still showered before 2am each night. Showering at night is the way to go. Not only is it super refreshing to fully remove the day’s worth of sunscreen and dirt, but at night you don’t have to worry about the heat nor the lines. These are college dorm showers on wheels. Most of the trailers do not have air conditioning. 10 showers all pumping hot water in a small box with limited ventilation can easily turn into a recipe for fainting. And if there’s one place I absolutely do not want to pass out at Coachella, it’s inside a port-o-potty. But the showers are a close second.

The only thing that truly surprised me in our camping experience this year was the food. In my first Coachella experience, we brought a small propane grill and pre-cooked food items because salmonella is not your friend. We typically ate one meal each day inside the venue and found some pretty inexpensive options. This year, the group of other Coachella veterans explained bringing a grill wasn’t their style. I contemplated bringing one of my own, but I knew exactly how this would turn out: I would cook something for me and my girlfriend, but then I’d be expected to provide for the 14 naysayers too. Sorry, but no.

About a week before Coachella, we received notifications from the Coachella app that all of the vendors would be accepting Apple Pay. Hallelujer. Typically, everything is cash only and pickpockets are rampant at Coachella. In the festival grounds, every vendor had iPads mounted in Square stands with the RFID readers. It was awesome. I still brought some cash just to be safe, but if I had been depending on my math from 2014, I definitely did not have enough cash on hand.

The inexpensive meal options are gone. I paid $15 for a grilled cheese a la carte in the campground city center. I paid $8 for a quesadilla that was literally just melted cheese on a tortilla. Water is still $2 because they don’t want people to die if they don’t bring refillable containers, but if you need a little sugar in your bloodstream, you can pay $5 for a 16oz Powerade or soda.

I’ll be bringing my own food next year, thank you.

Governors Ball: How the f@!k do you have a music festival without camping?

Last June, I joined approximately 150,000 people at the Governors Ball Music Festival in New York City. The festival was first hosted on Governors Island in 2011–  hence the name– but it has since been relocated to Randall’s Island (between Manhattan and Long Island). Due to the location and sheer lack of space in New York City, the three day festival is a commuter festival. There is no camping.

I attempted to prepare for Governors Ball much like I did Coachella a few years ago. I knew there would be obvious differences and complications since I was flying to New York City and not driving to California. I knew I was at the mercy of TSA and would probably have to purchase supplies in New York. Bringing everything to and from the festival was sure to be a pain in the ass. So, I started to research the festival and see what others who previously attended the festival had to say about it.

There was very little written about attending the festival.

Because I am a stage-twelve, borderline-obsessive planner, it was incredibly stressful to plan for this trip when so little information existed. So I just had to say fuck it and hope for the best.

But I care about you and I want you to have a good time if you ever attend this festival. So let me tell you what I feel like I did really well and what went horribly wrong.

Let me just start by saying I prefer camping festivals. And if I’m going to be totally honest, I might not do Governors Ball again.

I picked this festival because Robyn was performing and I couldn’t think of any other opportunity I’d ever get to see the magical Swedish unicorn perform live. I had never been to New York City. And I didn’t really pay attention to any other details before I said yes and bought my ticket.

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The Governors Ball team is really great at sending you frequent emails to keep you informed leading up to the festival. If it hadn’t been for these emails, I would have been significantly less prepared. However, their website is not as helpful as Coachella’s website. That Coachella website is a planner’s holy grail.

Let’s start with arriving at Governors Ball. A few months after purchasing tickets, I received an email from the Governors Ball team about purchasing transportation tickets. What are those? Since the festival is on an island, they close off public access to the island during the festival so you have three options to get to and from the festival every day.

Option A: Manhattan Ferry

This is the option I chose because the email said it is the easiest way to get to the festival and it has the most frequent departure times. So I purchased a three-day ferry pass.

Option B: Shuttle Bus

You could also meet at Brooklyn Bowl and pile onto a school bus that would then drive you to the festival through NYC traffic. This seemed like a less than ideal option.

Option C: Walk

There was also this free possibility of walking to the island on a pedestrian bridge after taking the subway/bus to the pedestrian bridge. This option was not provided in the transportation email. I didn’t know this option existed until I found one of the few articles written about Governors Ball in which the author mentioned the other two transportation options were a complete waste of money. I don’t wholly agree with her though.

Before you pick your transportation option, it’s really important to know there is no re-entry for the festival each day.

At Coachella, you can come and go as you please, which is why camping is the best way to go because you could go for some early bands, go back to your campsite, and then go back later for more. You could go back to your campsite to change clothes if you need to. You could go back to your campsite to drink more or eat cheaper food or whatever the hell you want.

So, since you cannot return to the festival, it’s more about getting there efficiently. Based on what I witnessed with NYC traffic, I’m going to just assume the bus is the worst option. Riding in the city bus a few blocks at a time gave me enough anxiety as I watched the bus drivers force their way in to tight spaces and nearly take out pedestrians. I cannot imagine a shuttle ride from Brooklyn.

The ferry was also a clusterfuck though. We were staying in Brooklyn, so my friends and I took the A/C train to Penn Station where we caught a bus to the ferry. At no point did I feel like anyone even checked to see that I had a ferry pass. They didn’t scan my QR code on my bracelet. Nothing. We were nicely filed in a line going into the bag check and then it just became a free-for-all mass of people running to get a good spot on the ferry. Then the ferry takes roughly 30 minutes to actually get to the island where you go through bag checks again.

I did not plan well enough the first day. I did not leave early enough because I did not realize just how long it would take to get to the festival. I totally did better with this the second day, but I also didn’t take the ferry to the festival on day two.

The super shitty thing about the ferry though was leaving the festival. I thought it was disorganized getting there. But leaving is just a mob of people trying to force their way through this tiny little maze and pile onto the ferry. It took us 45 minutes just to get onto the ferry. 45 minutes of being shoved up against the people in front of us. Moving forward from the force of those around us and not because we were actually walking on our own. This is how people get trampled at festivals. Drunk disorganized mobs. But we’ll get to that in a second. Let’s start with…

Day One:

Like I previously mentioned, I didn’t plan to leave early enough because I didn’t realize just how long it would actually take to get to the festival, so I missed most of Big Grams (Big Boi + Phantogram).

After their set, we found our locker. Because there is no camping, it is an absolute necessity that you pre-order a locker. This is another handy thing the GovBall team will email you about as you get closer to the festival dates. Especially since there is no re-entry, you want to make sure you have everything with you for an all-day event. We put my backpack in the locker, but kept the middle-aged lesbian fannypack on hand with all of the bare necessities.

As we wandered the festival grounds, this is where I need to tell you Coachella also has Governors Ball beat. There really aren’t very many food vendors. And nothing is cheap. This was easily the most surprising thing to me about Coachella. I couldn’t believe how reasonable the food and beverage prices were. Yes, we brought most of our own food and alcohol because we were camping, but if you had to depend on the venue, it was pretty reasonable. At Governors Ball, the food was reasonably priced, though there weren’t many options. But the booze was out of control. The event was sponsored by Miller. And there was absolutely no way I was going to pay $10 for a tallboy of Miller or Miller Light. Fuck that. For hard alcohol, they had a selection of 3-4 mixed drinks you should choose. $16 for a double. $12 for a single.

Praise the person who decided they’d also carry Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy at a few of the beer tents. Now, I’m not one to get shitty incoherent at concerts of any kind– because I’m there for the music and I want to remember and enjoy my experience– but I like to enjoy a few beers.

There are really only three stages at the event, so after a few beers and some sustenance, we made our way back to get in the perfect position for Matt and Kim.

I honestly don’t listen to a lot of Matt and Kim’s music. But, after seeing them live on a whim in 2011, I will never miss an opportunity to see them live again. They are incredible. They are easily one of the most fun acts I have ever seen live.

So we prepared and secured a good spot close to the stage.

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The sheer force of the moving crowd separated our crew. We had a Pride flag as our totem, but it didn’t help us get anywhere near our flag bearer. At one point one of my friends took a crowd surfer’s foot to the face. I took an elbow to the face forcefully enough to pop one of the lenses out of my glasses. My super-expensive-because-I’m-blind-as-fuck-prescriptioned glasses. Why was I wearing them if they’re so expensive? Because I wasn’t expecting to get my face rocked that day. That’s why.

I watched the lens fall away. Helpless. My arms were trapped between other sweaty bodies. You know when people talk about that burst of adrenaline that gives mothers the strength to lift cars when their children are trapped underneath? This was my baby under a car moment. I threw my arms to create space around myself with force I didn’t know I could muster. My eyes darted around desperately searching for any remnant of glass. By some grace of holy festival gods, I saw the sun reflect off the lens on the ground in the middle of a mosh pit. I bent down to grab it and shoved it in my pocket. I yelled, “Fuck yes!” and then the mosh pit took me six feet closer to the stage like a rag doll.

And it was all worth it. Kim came out into the crowd for one of her famed booty dances right next to me.

It took us awhile to recover from Matt and Kim, so we used this time to rehydrate, booze it up, and listen to bands from a  distance while we prepared for my sole purpose for attending the festival: Robyn.

There were people around us who had seen Robyn before and they all talked about how incredible she is. I was pumped. But there was also this piece of me that was afraid the festival would peak on day one and then the next two days would be a waste. And I didn’t want to feel that way. But I couldn’t shake the feeling.

And then she took the stage.

And then the disappointment set in.

I kept waiting. Hoping.

Robyn’s entire set was watching her dance to a jam session and occasionally sing a verse or the occasional chorus from one of her songs. She did not perform any song in its entirety. It was still a good performance. But I was not alone in my bewilderment as most of the crowd seemed equally confused for the entire performance.

What I wish I had known earlier is that Robyn’s most recent tour and festival appearances was promoting a remix project she is working on. Thank you, Rolling Stone for helping me mend my broken heart once I returned from the festival.

So, I will not give up. If I have another opportunity to see Robyn, I will absolutely go– after I confirm that she’s not performing her remix project.

After Robyn, we made our way over near where The Strokes were finishing their set. Some of the people in my group went to see The Strokes instead of Robyn and we decided to meet up at the silent disco tent after the performances before heading back into the city. It turns out the activity tents close fairly early. So, since the silent disco was closed, we made our way back to the ferry. Now, if we’d known leaving was going to be such an issue, I probably would have left immediately after Robyn instead of leaving with the masses after The Strokes wrapped their set. But I also really like The Strokes, so I’m glad we caught the tail-end of their set.

Like I mentioned earlier, getting off the island was an absolute clusterfuck. If you decide to take the ferry, bring jackets/sweatshirts/something warm for the ferry ride back. I don’t care how warm it was during the day, the ferry ride will be cold. You will thank me for this. I feel like the pedestrian bridge may be the best way off the island, but I do not know this for sure.

It took what felt like an eternity to make it back to our Airbnb. We were exhausted. And before we knew it, it was time for…

Day Two:

Because this was also my first trip to New York, I decided to try to pack in some touristy things around the festival despite not really providing myself adequate time to do so. On the second day of the festival, I didn’t care to see any of the early bands, so I decided to spend some time adventuring and I met up with a friend I’ve known since elementary school.

This meant bottomless mimosas.

Since we were in Harlem, it made more sense to take the pedestrian bridge to the festival instead of backtracking all the way to the Manhattan Ferry. The pedestrian bridge is the easiest way to get into the festival if you know how to get to it. Which transportation route is best will really depend on where you are in the city and how much time you have. I’m glad we took the ferry on the first day because it was neat to see the city like that, but I also didn’t budget enough time for how long the ferry took to get us to the island. If you’re a more experienced New York City traveler, the pedestrian bridge is probably the way to go.

We arrived in time to catch part of De La Soul. And then it was time for HAIM.

I first saw HAIM at Coachella in 2014. I wasn’t really familiar with them, but we stopped at a beer garden between two of the stages and I was drawn to their stage by a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”. I was floored and immediately went to the Coachella app to figure out who these girls were. The Haim sisters.

The other thing that’s important to know about Governors Ball is to prepare for rain. Most of the Google image searches will come up with girls in rain boots in the mud. It will rain. We prepared by packing ponchos, but somehow on day two when it was most definitely going to rain, I couldn’t find them anywhere. Certain I left them in New Mexico– spoiler alert, I didn’t– we did without the ponchos and decided to brave the elements.

We picked up some beers at one of the beer tents and tried to coordinate efforts to meet at HAIM. Cellphone reception is also terrible on the island, so this is where having a really great totem will come in handy. They started the set and we were all separated in our efforts to locate one another and make it closer to the stage. And then the rain started.

I will honestly say this was my favorite festival moment. I went in expecting to peak at Robyn. It almost peaked with Matt and Kim, but HAIM, watching HAIM in the rain was magical.

I also have no pictures from seeing HAIM in the rain. Why? Because I water-damaged the ever-living shit out of my phone taking these Snapchat videos.

I also blame the effects of the rain on the quality of the video/audio sync. Thank you, AppleCare+.

Let me take a moment to make a few public service announcements:

  1. Do not be that asshole with an umbrella blocking someone’s view of the stage. Ponchos. Bring a poncho. Or forget them like I did, but do not bring an umbrella unless you’re cool being as far away from the stage as humanly possible.
  2. Danielle Haim, please marry me.

After HAIM, literally everyone made their way to see Purity Ring because they were performing under a covered pavilion and the rain was really coming down. We tried to catch a little of Miike Snow and The Killers, but the temperature was turning, we were completely soaked, and we were becoming more and more miserable. So we made the executive decision to get back on the ferry and head home. But so did many others.

Again, we were stuck in a mass of wet bodies, forcing their way toward the ferry. A sea of people moving in waves without taking a single step. A girl shorter than I am wanted to fight me because she thought I was pushing her. Clearly, she had never been in a crowd situation quite like the one trying to board the ferry. This was also the most frigid ferry and train ride back to our home base. Everything we had was completely soaked through. It was cold and windy, and the rain was relentless. We probably still would have been cold and uncomfortable if we had the ponchos, but we would have been significantly more dry.

Good thing we found the ponchos in a suitcase once we unpacked from the trip. Yes, a suitcase we had with us. Yes, we could have been dry and warm but we weren’t because we couldn’t find the damn ponchos when we were prepping for the day. Oh, the satisfaction of knowing I didn’t actually leave them in New Mexico.

Now, before we go on, it’s important to note that my travel buddy and I had three long days by this point. We arrived late on June 1st. We spent all of June 2nd seeing New York– museums, Central Park, bars, Stonewall, etc.– and had another late night. The festival started on June 3rd. And by the time we made it back to our home base each night after the festival, it was roughly 2am with the festival ending around midnight/12:30 each night.

So by the time we reached…

Day Three:

We were exhausted.

Day three was also the most packed day of the festival. I wanted to see Cold War Kids, Eagles of Death Metal, Courtney Barnett, Two Door Cinema Club, Chvrches, and Death Cab for Cutie.

And then they cancelled the festival.

They cancelled the festival due to lightning in the area. And honestly, I’m glad they did. Because if they had allowed everyone to go to the island but then had to evacuate the island due to lightning or other weather, there was no way that was going to happen quickly or efficiently.

So we gained an extra day to explore New York.

One of my friends told us to be on the lookout for some of the bands from the festival playing pop-up shows. I have no idea where anyone heard about who was playing where. I felt like I spent all day on Twitter waiting for tips to attend secret shows, but it wasn’t until we came home that I learned some of the bands I wanted to see still played at small venues in the area.

The next morning we woke up to the news that Kanye West tried to play in the middle of the street, but the city shut it down when the crowd grew too large and things got out of control. He never performed.

Despite not knowing anything about the pop-up shows, this is another moment where I was really grateful for the communication from the GovBall team. I received an email that morning letting me know performances were going to be delayed and informing us not to go to the island until they sent an update regarding conditions. Once the cancellation email came, it had all of the information we needed about refunds being issued, etc.

Governors Ball is unique in the sense that they still allow single-day ticket purchases rather than purchasing a wristband for the entire festival. So anyone who purchased a ticket for day three received a full refund. We received a partial refund for that day, the ferry, and the locker. And we had an extra day to visit the museums and sights we hadn’t had time for earlier in the week.

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I don’t know if I’d go again. When I think about festival experiences, there are fewer artists at Governors Ball than at some other festivals, and depending on where you are traveling from, Governors Ball could be pretty pricey. A three-day pass for Governors Ball is around $300 where it’s $400 for Coachella. But I’m close enough to drive to Coachella versus flying to Governors Ball. A Coachella camping pass is around $115, but you can split that among your campmates and you can’t find anywhere to stay for anything near that for a three-day festival in New York City. Add to it all of the expenses for meals, etc. since you won’t be camping at Governors Ball and… it’s spendy.

I want to do more festivals so I can provide a better comparison. I’d like to go to Bonnaroo, Sasquatch, Lollapalooza to name a few. But, you better get ready because I’m going to perfect my Coachella setup this year when I return to Indio for Coachella 2017.

 

 

 

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For those of you who are still reading my blog, I’m sorry. It’s been almost a year and a half. I failed you. Tremendously.

There’s a lot that has happened and I promise to explain why I’ve been absent for so long, but first, it’s my birthday week and I’m going to Governor’s Ball.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I went to Coachella a few years ago and I created a glorious guide for having a successful Coachella. It had two parts even though I promised three. Because I am the worst– maybe one day I’ll finish the third installment?

Anyway, because I am a stage-twelve, borderline-obsessive planner, I have researched the hell out of Governor’s Ball, but no one writes about it like they do about Coachella. So I feel completely unprepared, yet there is this piece of me that wants to believe no information exists because it is: 1) a newer festival by comparison, and 2) there isn’t camping.

That’s right. No camping.

How the fuck do you have a music festival without camping? I’m about to find out.

This time I promise to adequately document my experiences at Governor’s Ball because I owe it to the future Governor’s Ball goers as well as you, my loyal readers/my mother.

You can follow my adventures on forms of social media that didn’t exist the last time I posted on my blog, like Snapchat (the_cleanfreak), and the ones that I was previously using: Twitter/Instagram @the_clean_freak.

Moments in Music: Willie Nelson “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”

Every time I started to write the highly-anticipated third and final installment in my Clean Guide to Camping at Coachella, I kept finding myself over-explaining why music matters to me. And then in the past few months as I’ve moved and changed jobs, I kept coming back to this—telling and retelling the stories where music has affected me. So it’s necessary for me to paint a larger picture before I get to Coachella (but trust me, I will get there).

My parents are not musicians, yet they raised two. They are lovers of music and I strongly believe their passion for music supported and encouraged my sister and I to pursue music as young children.

My parents run our family’s restaurant. Vacations weren’t really a thing that we did. I remember various trips up into the mountains in our home state of Colorado. I remember going to Texas to visit family. New Mexico for a cousin’s high school graduation. Chicago to visit family. My mom and sister went to Chicago for a funeral. Dad and I didn’t. There was that one time we went to Las Vegas that had nothing to do with family. And then the time my parents and I went to California, Oregon, and Washington to look at colleges within the span of a three-day weekend. My dad and I went back to Oregon another weekend for a scholarship competition at the school I would later attend. And I guess maybe you can count when we flew back to Oregon and my parents left me there because it was the place I was going to live for the next several years. But most of those things I don’t really consider to be vacations.

We weren’t the type to go on cruises or go to Disneyland. We didn’t have some annual Hawaii trip. No resorts. No fancy virgin-daiquiris on a beach. I’d never even seen the ocean until I was in college. To this day I’ve never left the country. Normally when I tell people that they ask if I’ve been to Mexico or Canada. Yes, I am aware of the difference between continent and country. I did pass Geography. Traveling just wasn’t a thing we had the time or money to do.

But we went to concerts.

We went to Eric Clapton (twice), Earth, Wind & Fire—three times if you count the time they couldn’t perform and rescheduled the show or the time my parents and sister went without me which was a super bummer because it was Earth, Wind & Fire AND Chicago—Prince, and Brian Setzer Orchestra at Christmas time—which is the best time to see BSO. My mother took me to my very first music festival: Lilith Fair. My father took my sister to Santana that same year. Last fall my family went to see Foster the People without me which was totally fine because I saw them at Coachella.

Because of my family, I budget for concerts. It’s why I built my own Coachella one year and why I actually went to Coachella last year. It’s why I once spent $400 on two tickets to a sold-out Radiohead concert. It’s why I saw Tegan and Sara three times in the same year. It’s why I saw Fiona Apple twice on the same tour. It’s why I drove to Colorado to see The Faint with two of my closest friends.

And to be perfectly honest, I’d rather have these moments than vacations.

We saw Prince in 2004. The Musicology tour. There was no opening act. Just Prince. He played for three hours: one-hour medley of Prince with full ensemble, one-hour Prince solo acoustic set, one-hour medley with full band to close it out. Prince doesn’t do a lot of the public speaking. He might talk a little here and there over the music, but it’s a real feat of musical stamina.

On his most recent tour, tickets were in the neighborhood of $275 each. While I am confident in saying the ticket price is justified by the quality of performance, I will probably never be able to see Prince again. My parents taking our family of four to see Prince is worth more to me than any trip to Disneyland.

Music is beyond my family though. I remember critical moments in my development as a person through music.

I think I was nine or ten when I left a letter professing my love for my friend H. I put the letter in his baritone case so he’d find it before band.

I didn’t know I was a lesbian yet. I liked H a lot as a friend and I didn’t really know that the way I felt wasn’t the same as the crushes my friends were developing on members of the opposite sex. I needed a crush to fit in. To this day, he and I haven’t really talked about this moment. Not that there’s anything much to talk about other than to say thank you. Professing my love for H kept me safe for a few years. Safe until I was ready. Whether he knew it or not, he kept me safe.

I met my first girlfriend through music. Had my first kiss through music. I’ve loved, lost, and healed through music.

While I don’t remember the exact song, I know the album I was listening to moments before I walked out of my bedroom and into the kitchen the Christmas Eve when I came out to my parents.

So I’ve decided to weave together a series of moments in music without sharing all of these stories at once. Because I could fill volumes with these moments.

Moments in Music: Willie Nelson “Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain”

I remember the last conversation with my grandfather as though it just ended.

My parents never call me. I typically initiate our conversations.

I was a junior in college. I was leading a group of incoming students in a community service project as part of their orientation week. My phone rang and I thought it may have been our shuttle driver calling to ask what time we needed to be picked up.

MomDad Cell.

My parents shared a cellphone. It was for emergencies only. Not our emergencies, though, because they never had it on unless they needed to call someone. Their emergencies.

This was an emergency.

I answered the phone and started walking away from the group. It was my mother. “Papa isn’t doing well, but today is a good day. You should call him.” No deeper explanation of what was happening.

I looked back at the students painting the house and stepped out into the field of weeds as high as my shoulders. I called my grandfather and it was like any other conversation we’d ever had.

How’s your Jeep? What’s the mileage? You didn’t take it to Oregon? You flew? Oh.

But then it was different.

I asked how he was. I asked if I needed to come home.

He said no. Don’t come home. No reason to do that. And then he told me he loved me. I said, “I love you too, Papa.” And then I sunk deeper into the weeds and cried until I barely had the energy to stand.

I remember the sound of my father’s voice as he cried through the phone when he told me Papa was dead. I’ve never seen my father cry like that. But I heard it.

On the flight home from Portland, I didn’t listen to music. I typically prefer the aisle seat because I always have to get up to pee during a flight anywhere, but I was fine with the window seat this time. I thought about flying to Texas when I was little. The most memorable part of the whole trip was the flight there. Aside from the belligerently drunk woman in the back of the plane who had to be restrained with four extra seat belts, my most vivid memory is the image of the clouds through the small oval-shaped window.  We were surrounded by the most beautiful shades of orange and pink. I asked my mother if that was heaven. We’re not religious and I don’t remember her response. But in this moment, I stared out the window at the space above the clouds. And like a crazy person, I spoke to the window. I spoke to my grandfather.

I told him everything I wanted him to know, hoping he was listening, until I realized how idiotic it was. Not only because I don’t believe in heaven, but there I was, sitting in an airplane, speaking quietly under the engine noise so a man who only wore his hearing aids when he was watching TV could hear me. Yeah. I would have had to yell as loud as my vocal cords would allow in that fifteen-seat shoebox with wings, “I know you probably already know, but it’s important for me to tell you myself. I am a lesbian. No. Lesbian. LESbian. I like women! L-E-S-B—Jesus Fucking Christ, forget it.”

I’m pretty sure the people around me thought I was completely insane. One second I was crying, then laughing, then laughing and crying at the same time. I’m lucky the flight crew didn’t restrain me with four seat belts.

The first time I couldn’t keep it together around my family happened before we even left for the funeral. I showed my sister the 1922 Liberty Dollar I had in my pocket. A piece of him I carried with me that day. We were sitting on the couches in the living room. Dressed and ready to go. My now brother-in-law sitting by her side. I pulled the coin out of my pocket and then I couldn’t make words. She moved to sit next to me and we cried together until everyone was ready to leave.

I stood next to my sister and parents in the receiving line in the front lobby of the church as people entered for his memorial service. My mother mentioned something to us about the music she had selected. Something about how it wasn’t religious. No hymns. But still appropriate to be played in the church.

In the twilight glow, I see her…

I felt the smile form in the corner of my mouth as soon as I heard the unmistakable crooning of Willie Nelson through the speakers in the Catholic church. And then I felt my sister squeeze my hand and she was done for the rest of the service. Aside from the moment in the living room, we had done a really good job of keeping it together up until that moment.

Thankfully, the song is short and I was able to regain my composure. But the playlist wasn’t very long.

Everyone was seated and it was time for us to walk to the front of the church. First my grandmother. My mom’s older sister and her family. Then my parents. Then Leslie and I.

Love is like a dyin’ ember. Only memories remain. 

This fucking song. Seriously, Mom. I felt as though I were fully supporting my sister under the weight of her sobs as we slowly lumbered forward to our seats at the front of the congregation. I couldn’t look at anyone.

Through the ages I’ll remember blue eyes cryin’ in the rain.

For the entire service, I held my sister’s hand while she cried. My other hand held the coin in my pocket. I counted the organ pipes, bricks, segments of stained glass. Anything I could do to avoid looking at the people speaking.

Someday when we meet up yonder, we’ll stroll hand in hand again…

There are moments now, several years later where I’m able to keep it together when I hear “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain”. But there’s also this quiet reverence when we’re together as a family. New meaning. A song I’d heard many times before that carries new weight and significance.

… in a land that knows no partin’, blue eyes cryin’ in the rain.

A Clean Guide to Camping at Coachella: Surviving Coachella

Welcome to the second installment in the series A Clean Guide to Camping at Coachella. Last month, my girlfriend and I went to Coachella. And because I am a stage-twelve, borderline-obsessive planner, I started researching how to Coachella about four months before we actually went to Coachella. As a result of what I found and didn’t find, I decided to write my own How to Coachella Guide. Ultimately, it could be How to Music Festival, but not all music festivals are held in Satan’s asshole, so this really only applies to music festivals in the desert during hotter months. This guide is also for the clean freaks attending music festivals or those who don’t wish to die of dysentery.

In Part One we talked about how to set up camp for a successful Coachella Car Camping experience. Now let’s talk about how to survive once you’re there.

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Part Two: Surviving Coachella

I searched all over the internet for a comprehensive list of everything I would need to bring to Coachella. There are plenty of lists. Most of them cover essentials but leave a lot of room for forgetting things that may be particular necessities for you and your survival. I found that some of these add-ons–while not essential– can really make or break your experience.

Here’s what I wouldn’t Coachella without:

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Let’s start with the bathroom situation.

In the campgrounds, there are no flushing toilets. Welcome to Coachella: the land of a million port-o-potties. They are emptied and hosed down multiple times each day. Sometimes you will get lucky and they will have been freshly “cleaned” upon your arrival. Other times, you would rather dig your own hole in the grass and shit in plain sight.

It will also be approximately 9 billion degrees in the port-o-potties because they’ve been roasting in the sun all day, so you will sweat a lot and probably pass out if you try to hold your breath. And the absolute last place you want to pass out is inside a port-o-potty. If any part of your body falls into the blue hole, you should probably just find someone who you trust to put you out of your misery and then lie to everyone you’ve ever known about how you were murdered by some manic Coachella-bro on bath salts. A true friend would never tell a soul they helped you die because you fell in a port-o-potty.

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When you venture to the blue, plastic, disease incubators, there will rarely be toilet paper. If you are in the campgrounds, take Clorox wipes, toilet paper, and baby wipes with you to the bathroom every time. The Clorox wipes are for the seat; the toilet paper and baby wipes are for you. Even though I would have shaven all of the skin off my ass with a carrot peeler if any part of me touched the seat, cleaning it with Clorox wipes made me feel like I was less likely to contract some kind of STD or bacterial infection.

If you can’t juggle or balance all of the things you are expected to carry to the bathroom or when you’re actually in the venue, the fanny pack is your savior. Load the fanny pack with travel packs of tissues and baby wipes and travel-sized hand sanitizer. We didn’t have travel packs of Clorox wipes, but I’m sure they exist and you should bring them. The great thing about a fanny pack is I can sling it over one shoulder while I hover above whatever freak nastiness is in there and still have access to tissues, wipes, etc. or I can hoist it up over my boobs and keep it secured but also accessible while I do my business. I can’t imagine wearing a backpack into a port-o-potty. If the straps– NOPE. Not worth it.

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Queen of the Gays

For each port-o-potty situation, there is a chain-link fence separating the rows of port-o-potties creating a male and female restroom-type setup. When you enter the row of port-o-potties, walk to the end. These ones are typically used less frequently because most people are lazy or too drunk and stick with the first five toilets closest to the entrance. There will be hand sanitizer hanging on the fence as you exit the port-o-potty station. Use it. When you get back to your campsite, sanitize again or have a friend assist you with hand washing– this is where the bar of soap comes into play. Occasionally washing your hands with real soap will make you feel fucking awesome.

Inside the actual venue there is one location with flushing toilets and running sinks. There will probably be a line. It is worth it. We didn’t bother with port-o-potties in the venue once we discovered these beauties.

Contrary to popular belief, you can shower if you are camping at Coachella. There are shower trailers sprinkled throughout the campgrounds. The shower trailers are glorified college dorm showers. In a trailer. We showered twice the whole weekend, which is more than I had expected to, and it was glorious.

We went to two different varieties of shower trailer. The first time was very college-dorm-esque with separate white, plastic shower stalls. There was a main changing area right in front of the door with locker room benches and not nearly enough places to hang things. This trailer was air conditioned, which I learned is a necessity when you’re in a trailer filled with showers and it’s 100-something degrees outside.

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The second shower trailer was not air conditioned. It had separate metal stalls, but the showers were not fully enclosed because they all shared the same drain. Yes. You read that correctly. These showers were open like bathroom stalls on a slight decline to the end with the drain. This means, if you aren’t at the end farthest from the drain, everyone else’s dirt and pee is cascading over your feet because you know people pee in those fucking showers. If you draw the drain side let someone else go before you until your options improve.

The showers have hours of operation from 9am-2pm. Supposedly the lines took forever in the morning. Both times we went, we went around 1 or 1:30 and there wasn’t a line.

When we didn’t shower, we used wet wipes. We went to Costco and bought the pack of 1000 baby wipes. It will help you feel less gross if you can wipe off the dirt and sunscreen at the end of each day. We used the wipes on our faces, arms, legs, and nether regions each night before bed. Unless you’ve actually experienced this, it does not sound nearly as refreshing as it actually is. For the clean-obsessed, this is a necessity. I could trick my mind for long enough to sleep comfortably and not feel like I was laying in filth or like I’d have to burn the sleeping bags and sheets when Coachella was over.

As far as food and food preparation is concerned, unless you are a food safety expert, stick with meals that are fully cooked. Hot dogs/turkey dogs are a great idea. Raw chicken breasts? Let’s just say, the last place I’d ever want to risk consuming undercooked chicken is a place where I don’t have easy access to flushing toilets and running water. You do not want to have diarrhea at Coachella. Period. The end. If you and all of your friends are fucking hopeless in the kitchen, stick to PB&J and cold-cut sandwiches. Seriously.

The food in the venue is decently priced. We probably ate one meal at the food vendors each day. My favorite was the tamale place. $10 for two awesome and filling tamales. Everything at Coachella is cash only, so plan wisely if you’re going to eat or drink inside the venue. There are ATMs somewhere, but I’d rather lose a handful of cash than a card linked to all of the money I have to my name.

There are water refill stations scattered through the venue. You may bring your own empty water bottle or Camelback inside. Metal water bottles are not allowed. We brought hard plastic Nalgene water bottles. My girlfriend and I brought one inside the venue to share and refilled it multiple times each day. Bottled water is $2, which isn’t bad for an event of this kind. You could also recycle ten empty bottles for one full bottle. For your camp site, bring more water than you think you will need. There are supposedly filling stations in the campground but we never saw them. If you run out of supplies, there is a general store in the campground and a shuttle that visits a local grocery store each day.

Because you are camping and attending a music festival in the desert, there will more than likely be dust storms. Bandanas, sunglasses, SARS-style surgical masks, and/or safety glasses will save your lungs and eyes. It wasn’t terribly windy while we were there, but the first weekend had some major dust issues.

There are supposedly lockers and charging stations for devices. The lockers have power outlets in them. Bring a power strip if you are using a locker. If you want a locker, you have to reserve one online beforehand. They go quickly. I don’t consider a locker to be a necessity unless you aren’t camping. If you’re staying in a hotel nearby, you’ll need a place to stow your warmer gear for when it cools down at night.

We charged our devices in our vehicles. Keep in mind, if you’re going to charge a device in your vehicle, it’s best to do so with the car running so as not to drain your car’s battery. As a precaution, we ran the car for an hour or so each day just to make sure we wouldn’t have any problems leaving at the end of the festival. I also brought jumper cables which we ended up using to save a neighbor whose battery died.

You may want to use Coachella as an opportunity to live off the grid for a weekend. That’s fine. However, there’s this really awesome Coachella app with a customizable lineup that updates if any changes are made. So you can make a schedule that only includes the bands you want to see or you can view the full lineup. It sends notifications about any weather advisories or emergency warnings. It has a venue map that pinpoints your actual location and shows who is playing on each stage at that time. I recommend the app if only because the paper schedules they passed out to us were for the wrong weekend of the two-weekend festival. And I would have been pissed if I waited to see Lana Del Rey and fucking Skrillex walked out.

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Ultimately, I think the key to successfully camping at Coachella is to be rational. I am perhaps unhealthily obsessed with germs. I can’t watch another person prepare chicken because watching them contaminate everything around them stresses me the fuck out. Yet somehow, I can calm this part of my brain for 5 days while I use hand sanitizer that just disinfects the dirt that it is in no way removing from my body because it is not soap and never will be as good as soap. There is hope. I thought all rational thought– when it came to germs– vacated my brain years ago. But if I can camp at Coachella, you can too. And you can do so without spreading salmonella or killing your whole caravan.

And if you come back for Part Three, we’ll talk about the music part– the part that makes living in filth for five days totally worth it.

A Clean Guide to Camping at Coachella: Setting Up Camp

Last month, my girlfriend and I went to Coachella. And because I am a stage-twelve, borderline-obsessive planner, I started researching how to Coachella about four months before we actually went to Coachella. As a result of what I found and what I didn’t find, I decided to write my own guide based on our experiences. Some of this may be applicable to other music festivals, but not all music festivals are held in Satan’s asshole, so this really only applies to music festivals in the desert during warmer months.

And because I have completely irrational feelings about germs, this guide focuses on the one thing I didn’t read anywhere else: how to go to Coachella and not die of dysentery. Because you can have your cake and eat it without exposing yourself to food-borne illnesses, too.

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Part One: Setting Up Camp

For our Coachella experience, we purchased Car Camping passes. I feel like this is the best way to do Coachella because you don’t have to worry about traffic each day to and from the venue. You can also go back to your campsite as you please with relatively no hassle. You don’t have to assign designated drivers or fight with one another because your asshole friend who was supposed to be the DD on Day Two went to Do-Lab and did neon-colored shots and snorted cocaine off of some guy’s dick while listening to the soothing sounds of Skrillex. It’s $85 for a car camping pass versus whatever you could pay per night at a local hotel. And your Coachella experience continues all day, every day until the end of the festival.

More than any other personal account of having a successful Coachella, I studied the Coachella website like there would be an exam at the entrance. 90,000 people attend this event. The people who put this event together have figured their shit out; there is a really extensive list of things you can and cannot bring, FAQs, etc. This information is so important they even include a bound booklet of it with your tickets.

If you are camping, your vehicle will be thoroughly searched upon entering the grounds. The checkpoint officials are mostly looking for glass, metal tent stakes, hard alcohol, drugs, and other prohibited items. If you’re planning to bring something on the list of prohibited items, be smart about it, and don’t be an asshole about it if you’re caught. We saw a guy drink all of his hard alcohol while the search team clapped for him. So there is an alternative to pouring it all out if you don’t value your liver.

The vehicle search lines are long. There is a gas station a few miles away from the festival grounds. I recommend filling up before heading into the festival– it’s also a great place to buy ice. Some tutorials recommend putting your car in neutral and pushing it as soon as you enter the grounds. There are a few reasons this is a great idea: 1) exhaust fumes and pollution, 2) saving gas for when you’re in the grounds, 3) consuming alcohol.

This area is a gigantic tailgate party. Open a beer. Meet the people around you. These people will most likely be in your same neighborhood if not your direct neighbors. Make friends. If you’re not pushing your car, I don’t recommend driving with an open container of alcohol in hand. There are police here.

As a result of this being a giant tailgate party, some Coachella veterans take advantage of the opportunity to collect recyclables. Inside the campground and venue, you can turn in plastic bottles and cans for tickets you can redeem for bottled water or Coachella schwag. You could even be entered in a drawing for VIP tickets. If you want to get a jump start on collecting recyclables, bring latex gloves– you will be digging through the trash bins– and plenty of garbage bags.

We showed up pretty late on Thursday night so the lines were not nearly as long as I’d heard they were earlier in the day. We pushed my Jeep for a bit, but our line was moving too fast for us to keep up. Depending on when you arrive, you may only move a few feet at a time.

Had there been anything illegal in my vehicle, the checkpoint team would have found it. They combed through each individual water bottle and food container. Our friends, on the other hand, made it through with wine and beer in glass motherfucking bottles and with hidden vodka. The only casualty was a jar of mayonnaise. Because these friends desperately needed to have mayonnaise in order to consume foods, they opted to scrape the contents of the glass jar into a plastic cup and gently place the cup into one of their coolers without drawing any attention to the insane amounts of glass littered through their cargo.

Fuckers.

After completing the first part of our quest, we were corralled into a clusterfuck of a situation where we tried to keep all of our vehicles together in a caravan so we could camp next to one another. We discovered they do have a waiting area past the vehicle search station where you can wait and assemble your troops before driving the rest of the way in, so don’t worry about staying together until you exit the waiting area. Once the clusterfuck becomes a nice single-file line, you will be guided into your camping spot by the Coachella staff.

Because we went in together, our camping neighborhood was like this:

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Our location was also pretty great. We were a 10-15 minute walk from the actual venue grounds, but we were close to a row of port-o-pottys. So getting up to pee in the middle of the night was feasible. And this is important when you suffer from Old Lady Bladder and sometimes don’t receive much warning before it’s time to piss yourself.

As far as the setup of our actual campsite, this is where I won Coachella. You have a 10 ft. by 30 ft. spot to call home for several days. Your car will be parked on the very front edge of your spot. Behind your vehicle, extend your Easy-Up or other shade providing tent. This will be your living room area. The Easy-Up requires space to extend, so you must set this up first while you still have open space in your campsite. Once the Easy-Up is assembled and secured, set up your tent on the back edge of your camping spot. It’s okay for part of your tent to be shaded by the Easy-Up, but you don’t want to be directly underneath it. This real estate is valuable. The space between your car and tent is a shady hangout area for you and your friends.

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If you’re flying to Coachella, there are other options like making friends who will let you crash at their campsite and maybe do horrible things to you while you’re sleeping, tent camping sans car in the designated tent camping area where you will have less space but still plenty for what you could bring on a plane, probably other options I don’t know about, or you could totally cheat at camping and rent one of these:

JUCY-Nissan-El-Grand

This monstrosity is called a Jucy Rental and they were everywhere. Apparently there is a double bed on top of and inside the van. It has a fridge, sink, propane camping stove, five seatbelts, it probably has Wi-fi and some kind of topiary-filled greenhouse situation. They are probably more expensive to rent during Coachella, but some basic research tells me you must rent one for at least a 7-day period at approximately $85 per day.

Back to those of us who really camped, one challenge with arriving late is setting up camp in complete darkness. This is why you should have a plan. I developed a master plan during the four months I studied for Coachella and then discussed the plan with Julia along the four-hour drive from Phoenix to Indio. Because we had a plan, we had the joy of sitting in our camping chairs drinking celebratory beers while we watched another couple yell at each other and struggle. While we finished setting up our tent, we devised yet another plan to high five after completing the second stage of our quest but we forgot because we were exhausted and beer.

If you arrive in darkness, don’t worry too much about setting up everything by flashlight. Focus on the necessities. Make shelter and a place to sleep. The rest can wait until 7:30am when you’re sure to wake up because the rising sun will gradually heat your tent until it becomes an oven. As we discovered on the last day, putting up a tarp along one side of your Easy-Up can help shade the tent a little longer and allow you to sleep in a bit, but the tarp may also block a nice breeze from entering your area. These are the choices you will be forced to make.

I was typically the first to rise from our caravan each morning. On the first day, I used this time to finish setting up our campsite (AKA “Lesbochella”). Accessorize your campsite. We brought neon el-wire to light up our tent all fancy-like and a rainbow flag to attract all of the other gays– it worked. Bring games. We brought Cards Against Humanity. There were others who brought bean bags/corn hole, decks of cards, ladder golf, beach blanket bingo, etc.

I also spent my mornings sharing breakfast beers and niceties with Lanie, one of our awesome neighbors and a fellow early riser, while we waited for everyone else to wake up. We really lucked out when it came to neighbors. Because the second weekend of Coachella occurred during Easter, Lanie brought plastic Easter eggs that she hid throughout our Coachella neighborhood. She and her friends were a lot of fun.

Sometime early the first morning, while we all sat in the living room of Lesbochella, we saw the Magical Fairy emerge from his one-person backpacking tent cocoon. A pink-haired, winged vision in gold, glittery hotpants, he thanked us for the invitation, but he clearly had better plans than drinking beer with a bunch of dykes. We never saw him return to his tent at night, but each morning an even-more-impressive, glittery wonder exited the tent and fluttered away.

Since the Magical Fairy was never home and he did not occupy even half of his allotted space, he provided us with the perfect location to set up the propane camping stove and fire up some gluten-free turkey dogs.

Come back next week for Part Two, where we’ll talk more specifically about how to stay clean during the festival.

Brown Recluse

Each year as the weather gets warmer and insects start gravitating inside, the house is filled with crickets. Crickets in the kitchen. Crickets by the doors. Crickets in the stairs. Crickets everywhere. We are lucky. We only have crickets; most homes in Arizona have scorpions or cockroaches. However, now that I say this, I will undoubtedly bring a horrible plague of scorpions and cockroaches upon us and they will be fucking everywhere and I will hate myself for ever mentioning that we don’t have a problem with cockroaches or scorpions.

My roommate typically sprays the perimeter of the house with whatever toxic insect concoction and things are fine, or at least better, for a majority of the summer. Last summer, because there were so many fucking crickets everywhere, he decided to invest in little glue traps for catching crickets.

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I’ve only ever known these to be roach traps, so I panicked when I first saw them, but he assured me they were cricket traps and not roach/mouse/whatever-sick-nastiness traps.

Scott and his father strategically placed the little white cardboard boxes around the house in an effort to trap and starve all of the crickets. We didn’t really get a chance to see just how useless their investment would be, because within days the dogs had shredded all of the traps but one. One lone survivor. The last remaining trap hid in the kitchen, behind the recycling bin, for the entire summer.

Because I was so sure the things were useless based on the sheer number of crickets I continued to find in the house, I never checked the trap. As summer came to an end, I gave in and decided I would finally be the one to throw the last trap away.

I picked up the trap, and I saw it almost immediately. There, on the backside of the trap, was the shriveled brown corpse of a cricket.

VICTORY!

I pulled out my iPhone to take a picture for Scott so he could see his bounty. As I rotated the trap to get a better angle I discovered my error.

MOTHERFUCKER! I dropped the trap.

It was a brown recluse.

It was dead now.

But once, it was a brown recluse spider.

Brown Recluse

 

Just walk out. Just leave. Move. Leave all of our things here. They do not matter. We can get new things. The spiders have won. This is their turf. It’s over. We’re gone. I don’t care. Just sell it. We can’t even live in our cars because they were parked in the garage and it’s all just fucking tainted.

Rational. Be rational.

So the trap was in the corner next to the sliding glass door and it probably just came in through the door and went straight to the trap and didn’t lay eggs or have a family of flesh-disintegrating spiders or anything, so you’re probably fine. Totally.

Scott came home from work and I cleaned the entire house like a maniac while he sprayed everything with the toxic ooze that will probably give us cancer one day. And we moved on with our lives as though it never happened.

What Arizona considers to be winter showed no signs of our enemies and we’ve lived in blissful ignorance ever since. But a few weeks of 80-90 degree temperatures are leading us into summer at a full sprint.

I was in my room getting ready for the day when I opened my closet and saw a piece of dryer lint or a dust bunny stuck to the white box fan on the floor. I went to grab it and throw it in the garbage when I noticed it was not dryer lint nor a dust bunny. It was none other than a brown recluse spider. Still very much alive. Not shriveled. Not stuck to a slab of strong adhesive on a white cardboard tray. Not moving, but not trapped. Just there. In my bedroom. In my closet with every pair of shoes I own.

No.

I thought about using a kleenex but what if it wasn’t thick enough to save my hand from the bite it was sure to lash out with in its final desperate moments. Or what if I reached for it and the spider fell through the grate of the box fan and then scurried away in my closet and what if I couldn’t find it and… just burn it. Burn the whole fucking house down. Everything. It’s all dead to me just fucking burn it. Nothing matters anymore.

I ran downstairs to the pantry and came back with a hand full of salt and the vacuum. In one quick motion I turned on the vacuum, sucked the spider into the hose, followed by the handful of salt. It’s probably bullshit, but my mother always told me to vacuum a handful of salt after you vacuum up a spider or anything you want dead. Otherwise it could continue to live in the safety of the vacuum until eventually it finds its way out. But the salt would act like buckshot or shrapnel and rip it to shreds as soon as it hit the vacuum bag.

Friends suggested I tear everything apart to make sure there weren’t more, but I can’t. Because if I find them—let’s just say there’s a nest. Nope. Done. Game over. Goodbye everything.

I returned to my state of moderately paranoid ignorance. I checked all of my shoes and clothing before removing it from the closet. Because if I did find one, I could just throw it and the article of clothing back into the closet, slam the door and make a run for it. Giving me a head start to detonate the bomb I put under the water heater before the spider could escape the closet.

A few days ago I discovered a red bump on my vagina. Now, I know anatomy well enough to know that it’s actually the mons pubis/pelvic region and not actually on my vagina, but I’m still going to say vagina because if I said mons pubis, most people would have to Google it but probably wouldn’t take the time to do so and this would not be as terrifying. Also, do not ever do a Google image search for mons pubis unless you’re in the mood for weird anatomy porn. “Pea-sized red bump mons pubis” is also a horrible idea. Save yourself.

I considered the possibility of it being a zit. Thanks greasy adult body for being weird and giving me occasional acne in awkward places like my back, ass, and apparently now my vagina. Getting older sucks, you guys.

But it didn’t really look like a zit. Maybe like the super early stages of a pimple when it’s way below the surface of the skin before it forms a whitehead and develops its own heartbeat. But it was too soon to tell.

I considered the possibility of it being an ingrown hair. But I couldn’t see the follicle and it felt hard, like a cyst, or a weird-hopefully-not-any-kind-of STD that I definitely should not have for any reason.

Then I realized the only true and logical possibility: a brown recluse crawled into my bed while I was asleep and bit my vagina. All of the skin on my vagina is going to melt away and then they are going to have to put fake skin on my vagina. There is just going to be this hollow emptiness like I was shot with a cannon or… this is some Frida Kahlo shit. I am going to lose my vagina. Even my actual vagina. Not just my mons pubis and pelvis. The whole shebang.

I’ll never have children— even though I have zero interest in ever birthing a human out of my own body— but now it’s physically impossible. Ovaries, uterus, the whole thing is about to dissolve. I’ll never have another menstrual cycle— which is probably the best thing that could ever happen in my life but under really horrible circumstances. There are probably a million other horrible, awful things that would happen as a result of my vagina being poisoned by spider venom and rotting, but I didn’t have enough time to dwell on it before the bump went away.

Whatever it was, I survived. And my vagina survived. Good work, vagina, we’re all super proud of you.

19 BuzzFeed Articles I Probably Could Have Written

I really despise Facebook. I’ve considered freeing myself from this particular social media, but there’s a considerable number of you who find my blog posts through Facebook. Isn’t that some shit.

I’m highly annoyed by certain things on Facebook. Particularly the like-this-and-something-will-happen posts.

(Image: Facebook/Twogirlsandapuppy)

The what-I-really-do memes.

I don't care.

And now, BuzzFeed articles.

I use the term “article” very loosely. BuzzFeed is where writers go to die. It’s really just a series of GIFs and pictures with captions. But at least this latest trend in Facebook posts means people are reading more. Kind of reading? It’s not a lot of written text… but there are words and sometimes they are slung together into complete sentences. And maybe once in awhile they make people think? One can dream.

Anyway, in a conversation with my bro, Emily, we were making fun of the types of things a person could expect to find on BuzzFeed and it led to a thing I’ve been thinking about all week.

So here are 19 Buzzfeed Articles I Probably Could Have Written:

1. 17 Ways To Tell Your Girlfriend You Love Her Using 26 Vegan Recipes While Renting 13 U-Hauls And Adopting 11 Cats And Watching New Girl In Matching Flannel Onesies
Co-written with Emily

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Look at that happy, dual-mother family.

2. 23 Creative Places To Put Your HRC Sticker That Aren’t The Rear Bumper Of Your Subaru

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3. 365 Times You Left The House Looking Like Justin Bieber (This Year)

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I only have myself to blame.

4. 5 Shows You Can Watch On Netflix While You Wait For The Second Season Of Orange Is The New Black

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Fuck it, just watch OITNB and The L Word on a continuous loop until the new season is streaming.

5. 18 Flannel Patterns You Need In Your Closet

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6. Which Tegan And Sara Album Best Describes Your Current Relationship?

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7. 14 Meals You Can Make In A Sandwich Press

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8. 6 Reasons You Begged Your Mother to Take You to Lilith Fair When You Were 12

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But Mom, it’s all of my favorite musicians playing a concert together!

Because you didn’t know you were super gay yet.

9. 482 Movies You Should Just Stop Watching Now Because, I Promise You, They Do Not Get Better In The End

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Consider all of the time you’ll save.

10. 1 Tooth You Lost When You Were 4 That Didn’t Come In Until You Were 8 Or 9 And Your Mother Was Terrified She Was Actually Going To Have To Let You Get A Gold Tooth

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Let’s talk about how badass I would have looked with a gold tooth.

It was going to have a diamond “L” in it like Master P’s tooth.

11. 18 Reasons Batman Is Better Than Superman

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12. 50 Shades Of Grey To Add To Your Wardrobe

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Bitches love grey.

13. 27 Times You Lied To Someone On The Phone About Lifting Something Heavy When Really You Were Just Taking A Shit

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14. 13 Ways To Consume Quinoa

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15. 1,482 Things You’d Rather Do Than Watch/Hear Anything RE: Taylor Swift

celebrity-omg-faces-taylor-swift-main I’m watching the Grammy’s, CBS, not the Taylor Swift Reacts to Everything Everyone Else Says or Does Show.

16. 94 Tegan And Sara Songs Ranked In Order Of The Number Of Times You Cried While Listening To Them Alone In Your Room Or That One Time On A Plane

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These towels are for your tears.

Because it was “Hop a Plane” and your girlfriend broke up with you but at the time you thought you were just fighting and then you found out from someone else it was a breakup and then you were mad you ever shed one single tear over her.

17. 9 Ways You’ve Tried To Eat Kale

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 It’s just not that good.

18. 72 Hours You Wasted On The Internet This Week

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19. 47 Ways You’d Like To Have Sex Hot Lesbian Sex With Jennifer Lawrence

SURFBOART

SURFBOART

We be all night.

Properties of Matter

The universe is really funny at times.

After a busy day, I decided to pick up a pizza on my way home from work. It was late and I lacked the motivation to cook a meal. But it’s not like pizza is ever a bad idea, really, so I don’t need to explain myself.

When I ordered the pizza, my debit card was declined. I went through the state of panic I witness other people grapple with on an almost-daily basis at my place of employment. There’s more than enough money in my account. Will they think less of me because I can’t even buy a fucking pizza? I mean, it’s $12. What a fucking loser. I just used the same card multiple times yesterday. Is it suspicious I went to Ikea twice in the same day? That’s probably it. I called my bank. It turns out my card information was compromised in The Great Target Debacle of Holiday Shopping Season 2013.

My bank noticed a $294 charge at a gas station in North Carolina, so they put a hold on my account. MidFirst Bank is awesome. The customer service agent apologized for the inconvenience, and asked that I visit my local branch the following day, where they would make me a new debit card on the spot. I thanked her profusely as she apologized for this “tremendous inconvenience”. I understand why she was apologizing– it sucks that my information was compromised, but in no way was this the bank’s fault. She shouldn’t have felt it necessary to apologize to me. I’m incredibly thankful I didn’t have to discover a fraudulent charge on my own and go through the legwork with the bank to contest the charge’s validity. My bank saved me the time and headache.

So, realizing I had all of $20 in cash on hand in a jar on my dresser, I was left to make an important decision: spend $20 on pizza or $20 on gas. I had selected this particular pizza place because it was on my way home. If I decided to get the pizza after all, I would have to drive home first, get the cash, and then drive back to the pizza place. Knowing I would need to get gas in order to go to the bank to get a new debit card in the morning, I made the responsible, adult decision. I charged gas on my credit card and used my cash to order a pizza. Because fuck it, this day deserved a pizza.

When I walked in to the pizza store to pick up my order, it was like any other experience before it. The establishment was staffed by high schoolers working part-time for activity money but calling it “tuition money” or something of the sort. The girl who greeted me asked, “How can I help you?”

“I’m picking up a carryout order for Lindsey.”

She looked at the computer, then back at me. “Are you… Were you ever a teacher?”

“Yes.”

“A student teacher?”

“Yes?”

I can honestly tell you, while I may occasionally need a hint on a name, I remember the faces of all of my students. I did not teach this girl. She must have been a hallway creeper. Maybe she was one of the teenaged lesbians who always ended up in my classroom before school, during conference hour, or after school. I preferred to call them my posse. My friends called them groupies.

“You were totally my student teacher when I was in 8th grade! I recognized your last name. You were so awesome. I loved your class. I still read Hyperbole and a Half ALL THE TIME. Did you know she wrote a book? It’s really awesome. She’s great. It’s so funny.”

Holy shit. This is the teenaged version of a girl who was a child. A girl who was too young for my Men in Black references and a student in the class that called Babe the “really old movie about a pig.” That semester, I used a lightly edited version of Allie Brosh’s “The God of Cake” from Hyperbole and a Half as part of a unit on literary devices. She has to be 17 or 18 now. “I’m glad you’re keeping up with her writing.” The nose ring and auburn hair threw me, but I could recognize her. Alexis, I think. Lexie?

“Totally!” She paused and nodded her head in silence. “This must be the best part of your job.” Sensing my confusion, she continued, “Finding out you mattered.”

“Yes. Thank you. Thank you for telling me. You’ve grown so much, I wouldn’t have recognized you.”

I didn’t tell her I’m not teaching. I was embarrassed to tell her I’m not teaching. And in that moment it all seemed so petty.

It was necessary for me to be there. I needed a reminder. As I look to what’s next for me, it may be time to return to my roots.

To the Lexies of the universe, thank you. Thank you for always resurfacing in my life right when I need you. You matter.

The Worst Thing My Mother Ever Told Me

I sat down to write and opened the 642 book. It turned right to this page: Five things you wish your mother had never told you. Perfect! The timing of this writing exercise is excellent because my parents just recently visited.

Items 1-4 are probably germ related. Places or things I had never considered just how diseased they were until my mother poisoned my brain. Like the bathroom on an airplane.

When you really think about it, the bathroom on an airplane is a glorified port-o-potty. It has a hole that dumps your shit out onto the world below and a sorry excuse for running water. The force of the air when you flush sprays fecal matter all over the tiny cavern. Nothing in there is clean. Aside from the small silhouette on the door your body protects from the spray of fecal matter. Even if you didn’t shit, you know someone has. It’s all over. This is why I dehydrate myself for hours before I board the plane. Or I take the alternate approach and drink enough alcohol to prevent myself from caring.

The worst thing my mother ever told me, the thing I will never be able to erase from my mind, requires a story.

My maternal grandfather died six years ago. Shortly thereafter, my grandmother moved into an apartment community that may as well have been an assisted living facility considering the number of elderly residents. My grandmother is 83, but I’ve never really felt like she was an old woman. She doesn’t act like an old woman. She broke her hip fairly recently but even she admits it was because she was drunk and not because she is feeble or weak. My mother made the doctors run her BAC after the fall. Eight hours or more after the actual incident and she was still well over the legal limit. College kids would die of alcohol poisoning if they went drink for drink with my grandmother. She’s not your typical 83 year-old woman.

In the years following my grandfather’s death it became clear my grandmother was back on the market as droves of old men began courting her. There was Chuck, her neighbor at the apartment complex who creepily opens his door every time he hears her leave or enter her apartment. He’s very nice and cares a lot about her, clearly, but he’s also in the neighborhood of 273 years old, and she’s not interested in dating someone Chuck’s age unless he’s rich and dying.

Then there was The Swede. I have no idea what his name is or if he’s even Swedish. But my grandmother has never been very good with names or ethnicities, so it seems fitting that he not be Swedish at all. For all I know he’s just white and blonde. The Swede was married at the time he began dating my grandmother. He flew her to New York City to vacation with him while his ailing wife was in a hospital in Sweden or wherever the fuck he’s from. A real charmer. The entire trip was plagued with poor planning. It sounded like they spent their vacation waiting in lines at various monuments: World Trade Center Memorial, Statue of Liberty, etc. Of course, this is all my grandmother recounted upon returning from New York. She may not have cared about the Statue of Liberty, but she waited in the damn line and you should give her a fucking merit badge for it.

The longest of all of my grandmother’s recent relationships was with Ralph. Ralph knew my grandmother when they were children. Thrice divorced, Ralph paid a visit to my family’s restaurant in Colorado Springs where he reconnected with my grandmother. He told my grandmother of the millions he lost in his recent divorce (obviously no more than half his net worth), his vacation homes, etc. with a sort of blasé attitude. Remember, this man grew up with my grandmother; he knows the way to her heart perhaps even better than my own grandfather.

Ralph showered her with gifts. He paid her bills. He flew her to Florida (where he lives) for months at a time. Ralph offered to fly our family members out to Florida to visit my grandmother if she ever missed us. Ralph was a dream come true for my mother because it meant her mother was never around and needed little to no attention from us.

As Ralph became more interested in my grandmother, he sent my mother this bizarre email in an attempt to use her in his plot to further woo my grandmother. The subject of the email was “Amazing Photos Around The World” and it was filled with stock photos from National Geographic and the internet. He told my mother he would be sending the email with photos from his travels to show my grandmother since she doesn’t have a computer, internet, or a relative grasp of technology in general. These are some of the photos from what is most likely an annoying chain email circulating through the inboxes of people who still use AOL minutes:

Don’t mind the URL in the upper left corner. Ralph didn’t steal this from the internet.

Ralph’s caption: “Poseidon Undersea Resort, Fiji ($15,000 a week stay)”

Pay no attention to the photographer's moniker in the lower left hand corner, Ralph obviously took this himself

Ralph sometimes publishes photos under the pseudonym Phil Hart.

He signs his email “IN GOD WE TRUST” (capitalization, his own).

GROAN (capitalization added for emphasis).

When my mother forwarded his email to my sister and I, she laughed at it, but also suggested it would be more effective if he left a Hansel-and-Gretel-style trail of money leading to his front door.

During one of my grandmother’s extended visits to Florida, she sent me a card for some holiday or birthday. She mentioned attending a Tea Party rally with Ralph. Knowing nothing about politics, not wearing her hearing aids often enough, and not giving a fuck in general, led her to believe they were going to a tea party, or perhaps a reenactment of the Boston Tea Party. She was unsure but mentioned in her card it was nothing like she anticipated and she was easily the youngest person in attendance. Oh, Florida.

My grandmother returned from Florida– smitten with Ralph and his money– for a short visit before she would begin another extended stay in Ralph’s vacation home in The Keys. I was on the phone with my parents when my mother randomly stated, “Speaking of people you’d rather not know were having sex, your grandmother–”

“Noooooo. Stop, stop, stop–” I could still hear her speaking over me.

“–came into the restaurant and talked to Sukia about how Ralph doesn’t need Viagra and–”

“Nooooooooooo! Ah! Oh my god. No! I’m going to hang up on you if you keep talking.”

My mother’s voice was very calm. “If I have to know, so do you.”

“That’s horrifying.” It was the worst thing my mother had ever told me. So I immediately texted my sister and my cousin Nick. If I had to know, so did they.