Ticket to the Festival: Coachella from a Performer’s Perspective

10:30 a.m.

I have inspected our trailer — a couch, a small TV, a bath mat-sized rug, a vaguely ’70s-inspired tie-dye blanket, a bathroom like one in an airplane with a pedal that you push to flush, a closet, a box of snacks, a handpainted work of art that says “TITUS ANDRONICUS” in curly brown letters above a thick brown moustache and a beard, a piece of paper that says we are free to keep the original artwork but please keep the other decorations for the next band. I think this might mean that we shouldn’t steal anything like the rug or the blanket.

The sun is tearing a hole in the sky and D. has fallen asleep on the floor of our trailer while E. has fallen asleep on the couch. I diligently apply sunscreen, then kick off my sneakers, and settle in the shade of a picnic table on the lush grass.

Eager young women with lanyards around their necks are traveling from trailer to trailer, carrying tape and poster board. They are fixing each front door with a hand-painted sign bearing the artist’s name, all covered in glitter, just like the signs I made for the kids when I was a camp counselor.

Famous artists’ names glint in the sunlight everywhere you look: “Robyn, Interpol, Ariel Pink,” and the shut doors seem to tantalize you with specters of whom you might potentially see. I am getting antsy with so many celebrities, or ideas of celebrities as neighbors. I decide to take a shower to clear my head.

The trailer marked “SHOWER” is deceptive. As I enter the women’s side (the men’s side is opposite,) I find three stalls, pick one, and get naked. Then I try to figure out how to start the shower, which turns out to be a lot like trying to start the shower when you are visiting a foreign country, in that the laws of logic, reason, or physics, no longer apply. There is no handle or button to be seen, just the shower head peering at me mockingly, as if to say, “It’s been 20 minutes and you still haven’t figured this out?!”

Eventually, I try pulling a little rope on the side of the shower stall, and suddenly the shower starts. Hot water will not come, no matter how long I wait for it, but I am too sweaty and eager to bother with the temperature. I leap into the cold water, then leap out, then leap in again, and eventually find myself getting used to the damn thing. The trouble with the shower is that you have to constantly pull the rope down. Otherwise, the water does not flow. I leap out naked into the shower stall next door, hoping that my rope is merely malfunctioning. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A test of the third shower reveals the same general principle. You must tug at the rope with one hand as you scrub and wash and brush your teeth with the other. When you mess up and let up on the rope, the water stops and you suddenly are hit with an incredible draft of air conditioning and you give a little scream: “Ahh!”

The art of showering one handed is not one I have mastered. So it is a mystery to me why I decide it would be a good idea to shave my legs. I bend over, as much as I can without letting up on the rope, lather up some moisturizing soap, make a passable swipe downwards with my razor, and immediately slice an enormous chunk of skin off my ankle. Blood runs into the shower drain with a higher pressure than the shower water. I begin to feel a little queasy.

Meanwhile, the feminist voice in my head scolds me: “I told you it was better to go au naturel.” “Shut up, for a second, feminist consciousness!” I mutter as I try to use one hand to put pressure on the wound while using the other to pump the shower rope for all it’s worth. This one side up, one side down posture proves physically impossible, and I give up on the rope for now, hopping on one foot out of the shower, reaching with my free arm toward the roll of brown paper towels beside the sink. I rip off the towels and press them to my open wound, which is bleeding quite angrily onto the floor, leaving bloody streaks everywhere.

I have an epiphany and grab my white towel, provided so generously by Artist Relations, and wrap it around my ankle like a cast. The blood begins to soak through, painting the towel red. This will not work, especially since I have to return the damn thing to Artist Relations. I hobble back to the paper towel roll and use one hand to staunch my blood flow while I use the paper towels to mop the blood off the floor. All that happens is that the paper towels become stuck to the wet floor as I scrub it, and bloody, brown chunks of paper begin to crop up everywhere.

With one hand on my ankle, I somehow tug on my shorts and T-shirt, and dance my way down the stairs back to the trailer labeled “Artist Relations.” “Help!” I cry at the woman who is seated behind the desk, answering a phone call. “What’s the matter?” she asks. “Uh, I’m so sorry to bother you, but would you happen to have a Band-Aid?” I ask, trying not to sound like it’s too urgent. “I think so,” she replies, then rummages in the drawer of her desk, before producing a box of them.

I race back to the shower room and apply the Band-Aid to my bloody ankle, which is basically like setting a single crouton atop a bowl of soup. “To hell with it,” I say, as I use my white towel to clean the clumps of blood and paper towels off the floor. Satisfied that I have made some progress and that the bathroom no longer looks like the shower scene of Psycho, I deposit my towel in the heap of used ones outside the shower, burying it a bit behind the ones that are still white. I deposit my razor neatly in the trash, vowing that I will never shave any part of my body again. “Ha!” laughs my feminist voice, victorious. It occurs to me to check on my Band-Aid again, just to see if it’s still clinging to me for dear life, and I realize that it says, in cute pink letters, “Karma’s a bitch.”