MADE OF AMERICA
It was all designed in an afternoon.
Patel needed money to pay their staff, and Raqim and I needed to get in. We certainly weren’t paying a hundred dollars for glorified radio. Patel told me to meet him by the north entrance; where 24th met spring; by the gray van.
He said we were going to act as the next shift and we walked in as if we owned the place. Patel zig zagged between deadbeats and gallywackers, obviously on a working man’s time. I hustled to keep up while providing enough slack for Raqim to keep up with me. Soon enough we walked behind the yellow tape, strode past some parked eighteen wheelers, and into the white tents. I could hear that song from the radio being played. The one that everybody knew. He was on stage and the sound found it’s way past the yellow tape and to the back of my ear. We were blurring the lines of the partiers and the party makers, feigning employment as food industry proffesionals. The fryers were hot. They were heating the already hot day and creating a stench of crabfries and sweat which clung to the air around you like a shower curtain. I glanced back to check if Raqim had caught up and we made our way to Patel’s plot of fryer hell.
We walked in and everyone gave us a sour look. Apparently we didn’t fool them into thinking we worked there. I slid Patel the envelope and he gave us instructions.
“This is the main stage, these are the side stages. You can go wherever you want. No re-entry.”
I unraveled the tinfoil, careful to wipe the sweat from my hand before touching the tabbed paper. I tore two tabs from the perforated line and popped them in my mouth. Two more I delicately passed to Raqim and the other two I wrapped back in the tinfoil. I slid Patel the tinfoil and gave him instructions.
“Drop both tabs on your tongue. I like to keep it there for a couple seconds. Then swallow.”
He palmed me a twenty and we said our goodbyes. Raqim and I bought two giant beers. Twenty four ounce cans of bud heavy because they were all out of bud light. We explored the carnival in front of us. It was a two day party and we were a day and a half late. The streets were lined with the trash of those before us, including the thousands of crushed blue bud light cans which we were too late to have been able to enjoy.
The world was alive and well. Girls were young and pretty with t-shirts tied up to cover only what was needed. White tees’ with blue daisy dukes and red accessories. They dressed themselves in glow sticks and danced wherever they could find the space.
I sipped my beer and Raqim and I watched Queens of the Stone age blast out melodies over the crowd. A horribly appropriate name for a band who was twenty years older then the oldest fan. We were all happy when they played that one song that everybody knew; then we walked away.
Turning around was no easy task. The space behind us had filled up and without warning we were surrounded on all sides. Raqim pushed and I followed, an elbow into his back with a strangers elbow into mine. We were stuck in the middle of a human traffic jam and trickling through like a stream separated from the river. The smell of peoples sweat was making me gag and I needed to get out before the chemicals working inside of me turned a corner. Raqim started two eagles chants. One was successful; the other wasn’t. After I was sure all hope was lost and we would die right there, caught in front of another stage of a dj I once again never heard of, we bursted out of the pack on the other side. I twisted my body around, elated I had room to do so, and we went to the row of shitters to release the bud heavy’s inside of us. I couldn’t decide whether being caught in the crowd for twenty minutes was worst than thirty seconds in that piss soaked hell hole, but luckily I didn’t have to think about it for too long.
We walked up a hill and saw purple lasers and dancing triangles decorate the sky as a man too far away spun records to keep us all engaged. I stood clutching a tree and gazed at the purple lights move and morph and change in front of me. Girls paraded around with glow sticks and somewhere between us walking up to the purple light show, and the ten minutes it took him to finish his set, we were officially on drugs.
The day was sunny which became sunset which became night, and all Raqim and I could talk about was tracking some glow sticks. We walked up to girls dancing in the street, rainbow sticks decorating the air as they swayed into and out of each other’s arms. I asked them where we could buy some glowsticks and they laughed, saying they had brought them from home. I looked around at the hundreds or so with neon rainbow lights attached to their bodies. Had they all brought them from home?
We stopped by Patel’s tent and got waters. We were looking for bud but not the type from a can. We couldn’t find any and eventually chalked that up for a lost, right next to the glow sticks.
Pretty soon we were walking out just to survive. The flood of people was headed toward the exit and it required too much strength to swim against the tide. Our feet crushed trash of the day. Cans and liners and images with big corporate sponsors and multi billion dollar products clogged the sides of the road, suffocating the drains with product placement. The crowd exited softly, a sea of drunken youth, still dressed in red white and blue, released into the wilderness of the city around them. All of them made of America. All of them made from the fabric of the corporate sponsors they felt so comfortable walking over.
Raqim and I left with an army, but soon the soldiers dispersed and the weight of the real world had saturated numbers we used to have. By five blocks our numbers were cut in half. In another five we were a tenth of what we used to be.
I saw a girl later that night wearing the colors of the evening. She had a tattoo of a sailor on her right arm. I invited her home, and then pointed to the sailor on her arm and said jokingly, “he can’t come though.” She was not amused.