Semi-Annual Desert Party

It had been a long day in Disneyland. The drive to Anza Borrego would be a whole 3 hours and it was already 10pm. Stephanie had never been to a rave and I hadn’t been to a desert party since 2008. Simon Schultz gathered at least 50 Russians in the desert and if they were still there, it would be a party until early morning. All I had to do, was drive three hours at night, through mountains, after a full day at Disneyland.

For an hour of the drive, I was debating, to drive straight on the 15 home, or to exit at Hwy 79 and head for the party. On one hand, I was tired, this was dangerous, who knows if they are still there. If they aren’t, where will we sleep? On the other hand, I wanted to push Stephanie out of her comfort zone, I wanted to not waste having moved Disneyland to Saturday instead of Sunday, I bailed on a birthday party for this… For one hour I was mulling over and then I decided, I would go home. The exit was in sight and I was about to drive past it. And then, Stephanie wakes up and says: “Sam! You have to take this exit.” I veer off and exit, and just as suddenly, she falls asleep again.

As we drove through Temecula, the thought of going home past the mind as we passed the point of no return. Fuck it I thought, they will be there, how many times in RD old days did we show up at 1am? Rarely did we show up any earlier. That’s how veterans do it, they show up late and party late.

We were now getting close, the coordinates were in front of us. The turnout was a mile away, then a quarter then there it was. Stephanie was now driving, she gets less naucious when she drives. I could see the doubt in her eyes but she trusted me enough not to say anything. She turned off onto a dusty road. No, it was more of a river gulley with tracks. Not nearly enough tracks, just a single pair of tire tracks that went on and on. We stopped surrounded by darkness, our lights like two spotlights in a black box. We were alone and there were no sounds of basslines. I was worried. My GPS was no longer working, We must have gone the wrong way. Or did we go the right way and they all left? Were they busted? “Let’s go back on the road Steph, maybe we’ll get signal, I want to try other coordinates.”

We had to go a mile back on the road to get a signal, I put in coordinates not for the turnoff but for the party, and indeed we made a right instead of left. We drive, and I’m too excited and too worried and Steph is more than apprehensive. We make a premature right, then go back on the road. We make a right and follow a dusty road. I see us getting closer and closer to the red balloon in the middle of the wilderness on GPS. We are a quarter-mile, then a tenth of a mile, and then, there they are, the cars. They are there. But where are the speakers, the lights? Are they really asleep already? We lower the windows as we pull up to the dozen parked cars and there they are, the sounds and lights, we’re here! We made it!
Two Russians are talking at their car, they come over and shake hands, its as if we are back in time in 1995, an unpermitted party in the middle of the desert, and Plur is back. We grab blankets and our iPhone flashes lead us to the sounds of Psychodelic Trance. Lights and lasers light up three faces of the sand dune. A bonfire glows with people around it and a DJ table is lit up with psychedelic colors. Basslines of Infected Mushrooms send me into a trance. I’m home.

I hug my friends Simon and Vita, they hug me, it’s 1:30 am and they certainly weren’t expecting me. We drink to music, to friends and we dance. DJ Will from San Francisco gets off the decks and Simon steps up to spin House. Will is an old school raver. He had been to Audiotistic, he had sold a LOT and he had done A LOT. He tells me how he just spins to survive, its a job now. One club after another with their horrible tastes. “I haven’t played these records in soooo long! I’m so happy to hear music I love and have other people like it.”

In front of is Russian ingenuity. A Washing machine drum upside down serves as a genius firepit. The Russians brought a Samovar for tea and a battery-powered bandsaw for the wood. But the fire is unnecessary right now. It’s 3 am and the temperature is perfect, I’m dancing and working a sweat. Steph and I dance and dance. I have to run to the bathroom and run up a sand dune. Bellow me is a hedonistic dance party, fire, and music, above me are stars, around me are mountains. I am in Goa, I am in prehistoric America, dancing to the drums around a fire. I feel so alive and so happy. I run down drunk and keep dancing to the music as a hoolahooper slides the hoolahoop up and down her body.

It’s 4 am and the temperature drops and the wind picks up but we have fire and the sun will soon be up. No one is sleeping, everyone is dancing. Someone has the idea to go out to a lookout to see the sunrise. We pack into our cars and make the mile plus ride through the sand traps and moguls. Cars get stuck, we pull them out of the sand and the convoy continues. People stop, they don’t think they can keep going, the sun sky turns grey awaiting the sun. The desert comes into view as do the mountains. We press on and arrive. We are like the Indians of the plains who ran the buffalo off the cliff. The cliff came suddenly and in front of us are water-eroded wrinkles of sand dunes, desert, mountains, and pink and orange clouds on the horizon. We open the champagne and scream. We’re all there, we’re all strangers and we’re all friends. We’re ecstatic, we’re not at all tired and we haven’t slept at all. We take pictures, we hug and we watch the horizon turn brown with dust. This isn’t a good sign, but we don’t yet realize it.

We get back into cars and drive back to the camp. If we arrived cautiously, slowly and with pitfalls, we drove back with the fearlessness of experience. We arrived and we fell asleep. Some in cars, some in tents.
Two hours went by and I woke up to the shaking of the car. Gusts of wind of up to 70mph would shake the car. We were too tired to get up as the sand pounded the car. I looked into the window and saw our compatriots, carrying equipment from the camp to their cars, like sailors on a ship in a storm, battling the wind, leaning in and being pushed back, battered by the sand. It was time to help. Every twenty steps without wind had to be taken advantage of as the next gust like a wave would hit and like battered by whitewash, the sand like water would go into the nose, mouth, and ears. It would carry off our things like the ocean would carry off a surfboard. We had to act quick, the desert-like the ocean, is unforgiving. The desert was the ocean and its spirit is there, with or without water.

Finally, we were all packed up. We jumped into cars and caravaned through back streets avoiding checkpoints and winds and mountain roads. As we drove through the mountains, we pulled off to the side of the road for a group hug, and just like that drove off and out to Julian.

In Julian, the rowdy Russian bunch, like a gaggle of Burners packed into a tiny diner, the size of a living room. This was not some touristy joint. It was a tiny place with two teenagers manning the help and mabe a half dozen tables. We had a twenty-minute wait. We took the time to wash and talk about past night. A giant Buffalo head hung on the wall, diner speciality. I told Steph, how important morning breakfast is. “This group is going to eat like victors. All others went home, they pussed out, but these guys, are the organizers, they are first there and they are last to leave and they are the soul of the party. They will eat, as if they hadn’t just partied all night, as if they are not running on zero sleep, they will joke and they will laugh and then they will go and drink Mimosas all day and tomorrow, they will be at a corporate job outperforming everyone. Why? Because we are ravers.”

Old times were back, old times were here, in music, in people, in the desert. It was the confounding of nature and man, of ancient and future. It felt good to be alive. At that point a reminder went on on my phone “Having guts always works.” Yes it does… yes it does….

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