Today I’m here to debunk the myth that the festival-goer of today (different from the hippie of yesteryear) is a lazy, pot-smoking wasteoid. From popular culture, you might think that this guy:
is the epitome of the species. Long hair, check. Disregard for social clothing norms, check. Hemp necklace, check. And although we can’t see his feet, I’m willing to bet he’s either barefoot or sandal-clad – probably in Birkenstocks, at that. However, on Saturday night at the Festival, we met a unique specimen.
I’m sure you’ve heard of nitrous oxide – the gas you get at the dentist before major mouth-work? Well you can find it at Festivals too, usually at night. You’ll hear it well before you see it, a telltale HISS-HISSing punctuated by laughter and the occasional popping noise. Soon, you’ll be swimming upstream in a river of balloon-toting hippies, some of whom are already swaying on their feet from the drug’s pleasantly dissociative effects. At ten dollars a balloon, nitrous is a HUGE moneymaker – it only lasts for a minute or two, and it leaves you feeling kind of empty and sad and wishing that you had more. It’s not hard to figure out why, on the lot, they call it “hippie crack”.
There was a TON of nitrous at the Vibes. I mean a TON. 24 hours a day for all 4 days: HISS, pop, HISS-HISSS, pop. It was especially weird because you NEVER see nitrous during the day. It’s totally illegal – massive fines, jail time, the works – and the tanks are pretty large and conspicuous. When I talked to my friend Alison about this, she nodded dolefully. “Yeah dude, they SWIM it in” she said, gesturing to the boardwalk. “There’s that whole area where it’s unpatrolled, and they just park their boats out there and swim the tanks across. They can get anything in here that way. I mean, ANYTHING.”
I wondered what she meant by that last ominous “anything”, but quickly dismissed her story as speculation. I mean, seriously. SWIMMING ACROSS THE SOUND WITH A NITROUS TANK STRAPPED TO YOUR BACK? And then HAULING IT UP THE ROCK FACE INTO THE FESTIVAL? Like, be real, please. I’m dying over here.
So anyway, back to Saturday night. I’m sitting outside with Lisa, smoking a Newport, when this red-faced, breathless guy pops up out of nowhere and asks us if we have any molly (a slang term for MDMA powder). “I beenwurkinall day”, he slurs, through thick lips. “Ibeen fuckin… swimmin tanks overhere alleese fuckin… hours man. Fuckin… swimmin.” He’s sweating, it seems, and when he hears that we have no molly, he slumps to the ground in a dejected heap.
I can’t help but seek clarity here. “So you’re telling me that you actually swam a tank across the sound?”
He gives me a look that tells me it’s not a question I should be asking, and, after some more muttering and fumbling, gets up and stumbles off.
So there. Intrepid hippie. Or, perhaps more accurately, intrepid sketchball. Swimming nitrous across the Sound for love and money. Or, you know, just money.