Summer's really over...herewith, 40 shots in 40 minutes; no musicians, no celebs, no captions...just regular everyday citizens of Coachella-land: a mohawked cashier; a parasol princesses, lawn-Betties, a seriously buffed dude, the world's largest ear-worm, a break-up-make-up couple, primates grooming each other, a proud Mom, fellow shooters, sad, lonely me, my cam and, hopefully, YOU. Like always, this is for those who weren't there.
ALL IMAGES C. 2015 Michael Vazquez ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
They say that when a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him...at least that's what Don Draper said to himself as he entered a swimming pool. Floating in a blood-warm saline pool, my ears miniscused by sky and water as the sounds of Nat "King" Cole, Bobby Darin and Dean Martin reach my ear through the foetal soundscapes that arise from being partially underwater, I find myself lost in meditations about the best elements from a golden age that was really only gilded.
Amidst the garish juxtaposition of desert-zen and appallingly easy-to-take-for-granted (mid-century) Modern comforts, the first hotel I stay at, the perfectly elegant, sagely un-gilded Del Marcos Hotel is the crystalization of a haunted Palm Springs, and indeed, America. Amidst deep-vintage Eames pieces and furniture I ponder the emergence of our Nuclear Age, and how the hum of an air-conditioner has never sounded so dually comforting and terrifying as both reminder of domain mastery and also the fragility of same in the face of millions-of-years-old terrain -- and much more perilously, the imminent threat our very progress and conquest over indifferent(?) nature has created.
Such are the preoccupations of my feeble, never-at-rest mind, as the wind slowly propels my miraculously floating carcass across the water, like the big fat jet I rode in to get here, being towed across the tarmac.
When I was semi-capable of venturing out (because I, lonely traveler, am only ever semi-capable of venturing out) during these days before I would be on that polo field shooting, I had the joy of bearing witness to a personal history delivered by a very cool cat who, though ostensibly my tour guide through some ancient lands, was actually a fascinating conversant through the two hours during which we never even bothered to walk the trail and instead spoke about life and the universe as we think we know it, at a picnic table in a parking lot.
I'm glad I kept my camera off, though it limits my ability to share a fascinating, truly American trajectory, beginning with social responsibility as a Chavista at age fifteen and being placed on the front lines to conduct psy-ops on scab pickers and truck drivers -- in English, so that they got the message that it was their fellow-countrymen and laborers (read: their own selves, as members of the human family) that they were taking jobs and food from...and coming home and facing a Dad who wanted to kick him out of the house because, understandably, for a man working so hard to make ends meet during very lean days, there was no immediate value in labor solidarity.
Eventually our protagonist saved enough money to go to the bus station, close his eyes, randomly pick a brochure and buy a ticket -- in this case, thanks to the roulette wheel of fate, to New Orleans, from whence, during the Summer of Love, a ride was found cross-country to San Francisco, where multiple library visits created an autodidact's ally in the form a of a super-human search-engine, AKA, a librarian, who began curating a reading list that further expanded his naturally intellectual mind.
After living life to the fullest, he now lives it even more fully, in a proud and humble stewardship over a sacred land.
And although I didn't get to experience all that the land and culture have to offer (though I am hoping to be invited to a sweat lodge next year; I've done enough time in in my present, tiny Manhattan apartment to endure...I think) I did experience an ancient rock formation that reminded me of the documentary Levitated Mass, about a "Rock"-star piece of modern sculpture, and the sense of daily wonder it evokes in Angelinos visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
To those who've seen the movie or experienced that sculpture in L.A. -- and, well, actually, to anyone -- I very earnestly impart that you read the book, as it were, and come to this land and experience Mother Nature's effortless one-up of a man-made work, in its natural setting. To those quite correctly fascinated by perspective-expanding excursions to parts unknown and generally sought overseas, I would earnestly suggest a visit to the Indian Canyons, The Salton Sea, The Joshua Tree.... there's a lot of wonder in America, making eminently manifest that bit about traveling the world to find what you seek at home. Espesh if you're already in Palm Springs or Indio for Coachella? What you see and experience will rival and likely surpass -- or better yet, perfectly complement -- your festival days.
For my final two nights I stayed at the Avalon Palm Springs which was clearly geared towards younger folks; after a few minutes poolside, I'd had enough of endless chatter about uber-rides and shots imbibed. I started to feel like Robert Plant, by way of Joan Didion or Bret Ellis ("There's a feeling I get, when I look to The West..."). Maître d'hôtel, Don Devine earnestly living up to both title and (phonetic) name, recommended that I head over to the family pool, where solace was found before I come home to New York, and write this.
FCC Disclaimer: airfare and lodging were furnished by Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism. Extra special thanks to Sarah Hahne.
PRO-TIP: Although 2016 pre-sale has ended, I think there is an (albeit, not bargain-basement) loophole to be found HERE where Coachella Music & Arts Festival travel packages are being sold in real-time, for those who don't want to chance it. And since these packages offer you the option to buy two additional tickets, a $2,500 package (like the one I successfuly tried to order, see image) including hotel, festival passes, and shuttle to and from the festival, brings each person's cost down considerably -- plus the cost of two additional tickets.
To my brother who, a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, as a young Marine returning from overseas, gave this younger brother first his 35mm camera: this life-changing act is an un-repayable debt. Happy Birthday.