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Lit  and  Crit

Desert Trip Dispatch #1:

Chaos In The Bummer Tent

by Kevin James Salveson


An urgent call goes out. There's a mounting disaster in the triage tent. "It's those damn kids again," comes a clipped and crackling voice over the walkie-talkie. "They are in revolt!"


And it's true. Once more they have every reason to mount a protest movement. Seems the salmon tatarre with Umbrian capers, part of one couple's catered Highballs & Highbrows package, is missing its white truffle shavings! There is great confusion under heaven. Now this veritable wilted lettuce of a man is slumped up against his wife, both of them obviously overdosed on privilege, in the first aid area. They are practically comatose and unable to respond to verbal command; beached manatees on mushrooms dressed in Fred Segal.


The nurses in the tent don't know how to handle it. They keep waving hula-hoops in front of the patient's eyes but the expected dilation of the pupils never comes.  "Put a champagne reduction sauce under his nose and see if that revives him," one nurse suggests, but it's hopeless.


The Bummer Tent is exploding in chaos as well. Clouds of Boomers in pastel bowling shirts seem to be arriving like flies, settling on any duvet they can find without the courtesy of checking in with the wristband Nazis first. They are crawling in from under the tent flaps (or perhaps we can call it a rolling lurch that ends with a face-plant) and burrowing into the massage tables like termites taking up a new home.


Their complaints are legitimate. The Winnimere cheese platters are scant with anything but Stilton and existential angst. The Beluga caviar stuffed White Crab is a slap in the face without the quail eggs. It is these indignities and more that make their tie-die colored flash-frozen fingerlings dusted with wasabi seem tinged with a certain ineffable sadness. They have come to the Triage Tent seeking solace, seeking more than medical care. They are hoping to find their spiritual Hawkeye here. They are desperate for meaning. After all they've been through, for it to come to this!


The place is overflowing, a sea of Hawaiian shirts surging forward, threatening to rip out the tent-stakes. They wander in a fog of altered states and regret. Their guts are a churning stew of peace signs, illegal chemicals, micro-brews, sheepish grins, and suffering.


It's kind of funny and sad to see a seventy year old stumbling around on acid. Yet the inebriated pilgrimage to the holy site with like-minded fellows is timeless. This is just the gathering of Those Sixties Swingers for one more group grope in the dark, one more acid test. Crowds of immense size free one to revel. It is perhaps the world's oldest rite: The throwing of one's self into the chaotic melee, the surrender of the ego, the celebration of the abundance of a fresh kill. Now the road to Eleusis runs through the Mojave.


*  *  *


The revolution started modestly, as they often do, led by a simple Nana from Encino who had become fed up with it all.


"Another tray of tartlets?  We're sick of tartlets!" was the rallying cry.


Her name was Eloise, and she had said this almost to herself, standing as she was near the entrance to the Craft Tequila area, with a fistful of crab-cakes still in her clutches. She had seen the endless line of waiters streaming out of the backstage kitchen area holding aloft yet more of those gleaming sliver trays of brandy-infused chocolate raspberry phyllo shells (as if they were holy chalices!) and her gut reaction was one of disgust. "Fuck your tartlets!" She spat bitterly. And thus does history turn a page. 


A few looked up from where they were soullessly gnawing on their prosciutto goat-milk mozza rockmelon skewers and it seemed to them as though a heavenly light was suddenly shining on the woman. Brad McClendon, a podiatrist attending the show with his wife, Susan (both from Brentwood), says that he was right in the middle of the ennui hurricane when it started and it changed his life forever. 


Dr. Macca (as his patients fondly refer to him) claims that suddenly it all made sense to him. "We're sick of tartlets," he repeated, nodding his head and making eye contact with his neighbors. Yes. Yes. "Fuck your tartlets!" he then ventured, louder. Suddenly, he found he was in the middle of a crowd all seemingly tuned into the same wavelength. "Fuck your tartlets!" the entire mob of revelers started simultaneously chanting. "Fuck your tartlets! Fuck your tartlets!" To emphasize it, they began savagely beating their fondue forks in rhythm to the burgeoning chant. Suddenly, the idea of over-turning the oppressive status quo was in the air once more. In a flash, it was 1968 all over again.


Most accounts of the event concur that it was at that precise moment that the first shots were fired. That is, shot-glasses of small batch Anejo tequila were the first objects to be launched through the air from somewhere at the edge of the Rare Distillate Depot. One struck a yoga instructor in the thigh and she cried out, "That's namasty!" After that it was a free for all.


One revolutionary grabbed a leg of lamb in mint sauce off a nearby platter and waved it about like a sword. "Liberty, Aioli and Frater Houses" was the cry. Suddenly the entire mob was pushing over their bistro table sets with gusto and moving en masse towards the bleacher areas where all the old rockers too weak to stand up for the show still sat blissfully unaware. "Fuck your tartlets," the movement chanted. The rocker's first response was to stop and ask, "what's that sound?" and to look around. Then they instinctively clutched their pearls.


As the revolutionaries surged forth to spread the good news, their stomping feet conjured up a cloud of dust which eventually enveloped the entirety of the Polo Grounds. Yet these brave visionaries held no regret. Within that cloud of dust, they knew, a New New World Order was being birthed.


More by Kevin James Salveson


Is it possible we can we get Stephen's intern to forward our questions to Stephen so that we can make free PR hay from all this grass we tried shoveling his way?  Apparently not.








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