Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship,
my senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip, my toes too numb to step,
wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’.
I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade into my own parade,
cast your dancing spell my way,
I promise to go under it.
I was nineteen in the summer of 2004. I’d been at college two years, spending most of my time drinking and partying and reading and writing and listening to music that at best I enjoyed and at worst disliked—though not even passionately. If I had to give myself a name, a group, a label, a brand, I’d call myself a hippie-hipster-pseudo-intellectual-philosophical-spiritualist with self destructive tendencies permeated by a grandiose sense of intelligence, charm, wit, and righteousness. In other words—as though even more words were needed—I suffered from the oscillations of wanting to belong, not wanting to belong, hating when I belonged, and hating when I didn’t.
Sitting in my dorm room with my best friend Lilli, I postured along with my college friends, eyes closed, head weaving back and forth in that groovy kind of way, listening to the dirty, heady, painfully never-ending jams of Phish, the String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic, and the rest. But amidst all that disjointed, cacophonous nonsense, I never pretended with Bob Dylan. So when Lilli called me up in June and told me she had bought me a ticket to Bonnaroo, did I want to go, and by the way, Bob Dylan would be playing, I said yes. Followed by: “What’s a Bonnaroo?”
Bonnaroo in Wikipedia’s words: The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is an annual, four to five-day music festival held on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee. The main attractions of the festival are the multiple stages of live music, featuring a diverse array of musical styles including indie rock, world music, hip hop, jazz, americana, bluegrass, country music, folk, gospel, reggae, electronica, and other alternative music. The festival began with a primary focus on jam bands, but has diversified greatly in recent years. The festival features craftsmen and artisans selling unique products, food and drink vendors, and many other activities including some put on by various sponsors.
Bonnaroo in Lilli’s words: Bonnaroo is bonnaroo, nothing more, nothing less. There’s amazing music, food, every drug you could ever want, camping, enlightenment, freedom, and this intense sense of love surrounding the whole thing. Bonnaroo is life.
So I bought a tent and headed to Manchester in a car with a cardboard sign taped to the back window: Bonnaroo or Bust.
We arrived in Manchester, Tennessee around dusk. About ten miles outside of the farm grounds, the line to get in started and we waited in our car moving mercilessly slow for hours. Lilli and I got on top of the Jeep and watched as the energy around us gathered in anticipation. There were people walking down the side of the road, holding up one, two, three fingers—the number of tickets they wanted, needed. Girls in floral, floor-length dresses, old men with long beards and cowboy hats, big earth mamas who looked as if they could birth a child just walking down the road—have it tumble right out of them, no problem, already imbued with the hippie spirit.
The billboards we’d passed on the drive down had made me feel uneasy: “Do you have any idea where you’re going? –God” and “You think it’s hot here? –God” and “What part of ‘Thou Shalt Not…’ didn’t you understand? –God.” They were always signed by God. He sounded angry, threatening. He knew where I was going. He wasn’t happy about it.
At our campsite, Lilli and I would wake up around 7:30, when the sun was unbearably beating down on our tent, baking us, like sardines, all of us kids lined up next to each other, practically on top of one another. Already sweating, we’d send her boyfriend off to get us some breakfast, usually funnel cakes, while we sat under the car swatting off flies and dunking dirty rags into buckets of water then slapping them down onto our bare stomachs or necks. “What’s this stain?” I asked Lilli, holding up a rag for her to see the white crust on the blue rag.
“It looks like cum,” she said. I squealed and threw it onto the grass.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” she laughed, throwing me her clean rag and getting up to pick up the cum-stained one. It wasn’t, I supposed. But lying under that car, seeing Lilli and our other campmates take their tops off in the middle of 90,000 people, I felt everything was breaking down. Every time my hand reached up to pull my shirt off, unhook my bra, something deep inside stopped me: fear, shame, impropriety. I could do it, I could take my tank top off, unhook my bra, cast the unnecessary fabric aside, lay on the grass on my back, my breasts sloping softly to the sides, like everyone else’s. But I would think about it. I had already given it too much thought for the act to mean what it should have, what I had wanted it to.
I begged Lilli to come see Bob Dylan with me but she and her boyfriend McCarley were rolling around in her tent. She told me from inside that seeing him was a waste of time. “I saw him last year and he sucked,” she said in between the giggles and her hushed pleas for McCarley to stop touching her until I was more than two feet from the tent.
But Bob Dylan was the whole reason I’d come and after several minutes more of imploring Lilli to come with me, she poked her head out of the tent flap and whispered, “We were just about to do it, just wait like fifteen minutes.” In that second, I wanted a tent of my own, with my own boy, but located somewhere far away from this place, in the middle of nowhere, where I could hear his heavy breathing, breathe my own heavy breathing without half my mind listening to the hundreds of people eating, shitting, laughing, drugging, dancing, buying, selling around me. I wondered, were they making love or fucking inside that tent?
I headed toward Centeroo, the pulsating heart of the festival where all the different stages were located. Bonnaroo was divided up into different sections, each camping area named after a cartoon. We lived in Scooby Doo. (The first few times I’d used the lingo, it sounded ridiculous and I kept trying to avoid the terms: “Let’s head down to where the stages are,” and “I think that waffle fry stand is in the center area,” and “I’m tired, I’m going back to our campsite,” but eventually I was able to get the words out, with only the slightest decibel drop in my voice.)
Being alone, walking the mile and a half from our campsite to Centeroo alone, was bad. But not seeing Bob Dylan was worse and after all, my sacrifice felt noble and pure.
I wanted to buy drugs on the way and you couldn’t walk two feet without some tall guy wearing patchwork pants or some fat dreadlocked girl walking past whispering “Pot brownies,” or “chocolate shrooms,” or “pure MDMA.” But I wasn’t interested in any of that, I wanted the real stuff.
Lilli and I had been attempting to buy acid since we had arrived in Tennessee. She had done it a few times but I’d only tried it once and according to Lilli it had been weak because all that happened was I saw a bunch of small sparkly frogs sticking to the bark of a tree. I was amazed by them and kept saying “look, look” and pointing at each tiny frog until Lilli’s brother told me that the frogs were actually there, in the flesh, and not a figment of my acid-addled brain as I had hoped and believed.
Anytime we heard an acid whisper grazing our ears, we stopped the guy and started bargaining.
“Ten tabs, 80 bucks,” and we’d agree and grab the tabs greedily, hungrily, split them, stick out our tongues, and place them gently as they suctioned to our taste buds. We discussed what we hoped to get out of our trip, where we wanted to go, who we wanted to see, and what to do in case of an emergency. The one rule was that there were no rules and if we had to split, then we had to split and to go with the flow and follow the flow wherever the flow took us, either together or apart.
Unfortunately we got ripped off. “I thought hippies were supposed to be honest,” I said, holding my hand an arm’s length from my face to make sure it wasn’t morphing or turning colors.
Later, we found another guy with more tabs. This time we were cautious: “Four tabs, please,” I said, pulling out 40 bucks from my satchel. The dealer took the 40 and smiled, nodded at us, and let out a “Bonnarooooooo” howl to which Lilli and I responded in unison—this being the song cry of our Bonnaroo brethren and kin. And I actually meant it because the dealer had a sweet smile and kind eyes.
Two hours later we were not tripping. “This blows,” Lilli said. “I’m going back to Scooby Doo.” I followed her, but when she and McCarley started their thing, I took a chance on the mile and a half walk to see Bob Dylan, my own little proclamation of love.
People always asked me if I was a hippie. But I thought of hippies as the rebellious youth of the 60s and 70s, fighting against something, not just in it for the drugs and free love. So I would say no, “How can I be a hippie when I have nothing to protest?” They were all fakers in my opinion, and so was I, listening to Bob Dylan and Hendrix and The Doors. That music meant something to me, but probably not the same something it meant to their contemporaries. It was all about the drugs now, the drugs and the partying and the image. Tie-dyed t-shirts paid for with credit cards, perfectly adorned dreadlocks and hemp jewelry and glass-blown pipes that cost $100 or more. And even though I was against the charade, I did take part, in a half-assed way; I pretended to know the different strains of pot, I pretended I was ok with the seemingly constant passing around of sexual and intimate partners, the endless drugs and booze. I smoked my requisite pack of cigarettes a day, got my feet muddy and my hair tangled, danced to the Djembe drum circles like a tribal pixie, like a bayou witch doctor. I believed in some of it, a passing moment, here and there.
I’d read somewhere that Bob Dylan was the same. They made him out to be the lonely singer prophet, sent to enlighten those children with his truths. His words were like scripture, his harmonica cried like the suffering of the characters in his songs. But it was kind of a hoax, we’d come to find out. He was a mythmaker. He made the myth of Bob Dylan. Robert Allen Zimmerman reborn into Bob Dylan. And it was just that: a persona. He wasn’t espousing the truths Robert Allen Zimmerman held dear, but the truths he’d created for Bob Dylan. How much of the persona that he wanted did he come to inhabit? Was there a difference between Robert Allen Zimmerman and Bob Dylan anymore? Or had the two melded into one? Or did Bob push Robert out of the way, insisting that the legend and the myth were better than the real? But I was sure that his voice would send waves of truth into my ears to run like an electric current to my toes and fingertips and afterward anything I’d touch would pulse with reality.
Partway through my trek, a short guy whispered in my ear: “Acid.” I ignored him and kept walking but Lilli popped into my head and how she’d always been the one to bring the new experiences to me, so I turned around and chased after him in the crowd. He had long scraggly hair and a dirty goatee. His name was Firefly. I didn’t bother introducing myself and asked the price. It was twenty a drop. I’d never heard the term and he explained it to me: pure acid, dropped right on the tongue, no tabs to soak up the juice, faster pathway to the brain. It was expensive and I told him my sob story of being ripped off. He promised me: if you aren’t tripping your balls off, come find me and I’ll give you your money back.
90,000 people at the festival, the odds of ever seeing him again should the transaction go wrong were not in my favor. I made the deal anyway, stuck out my tongue while he pulled out a bottle that reminded me of the mercurochrome of my childhood—the red antiseptic medicine my parents would use to heal my cuts and scrapes—and used the medicine dropper to coax two paisley shaped drops onto my tongue. It tasted like nothing. Firefly flitted away and I was alone again.
I had been walking the sea of grunge for over an hour, stopping only to buy food from an Oregon family-unit who paid their way from festival to festival selling garlic grilled cheeses that they made on a mini grill for $1 apiece. The festival was all about makeshift families. We were all brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. The whole 90,000 person festival was a family, and then it was broken up into smaller families. Scooby Doo was a family. Our camp was a family. The garlic grilled cheese troupe was a family, all pitching in to accomplish the same goals; they all took care of each other, just like Lilli took care of me, and I took care of her sister, and her sister took care of McCarley. We were 90,000 orphans, all looking for someone to take care of us. I don’t know what it was about those grilled cheeses, maybe because they always came when we were just about to give up on our walks from Scooby Doo to Centeroo, but the combination of Wonderbread, Kraft American singles, and garlic powder made us feel at home, loved by those Oregon hippies who loved their lifestyle so much they were willing to take turns manning the grill—half of them would serve, half would go and listen to the music. There was love in that.
I saw a relatively normal looking guy my age stopped to light his cigarette. He was wearing khakis and a plain white t-shirt and a baseball cap that indicated he went to or liked Clemson University. I asked him if he knew where Bob Dylan was playing. He cupped the lit match with his left hand, lit his Parliament, and spoke out of the unused corner of his mouth, beginning an exchange that went like this:
“Right, which stage is he at?” I asked again.
“He’s at Which Stage.”
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you.”
“Which Stage,” he said slowly, annunciating each sound. “There’s What Stage, Which Stage, That Stage, and This Stage.”
I stared at him. I felt like a fat goat with big wet eyes, chewing on the last bite of garlic grilled cheese like cud with my big dull goat chompers. He looked back at me in disbelief. Then he pulled a rumpled piece of glossy paper out of his pocket, thrust it at me and walked away. It was a map, and upon brief inspection, I realized that Bob Dylan was indeed playing at “Which Stage,” as the festival creators figured it would be hilarious to confuse drugged out, drunk, heat stricken concertgoers by naming the stages as they had. My lip started to quiver and my heart beat quickly. I wanted to run from that place, I wanted to take that boy’s cigarette and burn him, I wanted to laugh cynically at these morons around me who thought this whole thing was so “rad” or “dope” or “groovy,” I wanted to stick my head in the sand and come up for air when the tents were gone and the drugs were gone and a stage was called a stage and I knew what every word meant. Instead I kept walking, willing my heart to slow down, forcing the tearlets back into their wells, and tensing my jaw, I repeated in my head the mantra I’d heard so many times since my arrival in Tennessee: it’s all good.
When we were sixteen, Lilli and I would sneak onto her roof by climbing out of a window in her bathroom. We’d sit there for hours, sometimes even sleep out there, listen to the bullfrogs and watch the dogs running around in the yard below. We’d smoke cigarettes, sometimes a small joint, and talk about boys we liked or which parent was making our lives hell at a given moment, the classic rock station always on in the background, the little blue boombox we’d painted with nail polish sending the tunes and the vibes our way. She had just gotten her license and we drove the half hour to school listening to the Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, the Grateful Dead, and Bob Dylan, thinking we were the first people in the world to have discovered this music, getting excited about each new lyric that so completely and perfectly defined an idea we hadn’t been able to give words to before.
The acid that Firefly had given me was real. Maybe too real. After Bob Dylan, I hurried back to Scooby Doo. I felt sick. Really sick, my insides were twisting and revolting against what I had done to them. Poisoned them, and even worse, poisoned them with something unnatural—chemicals. Lilli saw me squirming around on the grass outside the tent where I had collapsed, wringing my hands together, rubbing my palms hard against my thighs, sweating, gagging.
“Tara,” she said. “Look at me. I know it sucks right now, just push through it. Doing yoga helps. Copy me.” I looked at her and used every bit of strength to get into child’s pose, as she was doing. It settled me for a moment. “Hey,” she said, snapping her fingers to get my attention. “Now this.” I looked up at her and she was in downward dog. I attempted it, but toppled over. I tried again and when I got into the position, I looked back behind me, through my legs, saw that everything was upside down, nothing was as it should be. My stomach pushed its final coup de grace and I threw up and didn’t stop for ten minutes.
Lilli brought me a new shirt, cooled me down with a wet rag, and when I finally stood up, I didn’t feel sick anymore, but reborn.
I saw everything in neon. I looked up at the black sky and there were neon shooting stars in every inch of the night. This was very different to eating mushrooms, which I’d done several times and which made everything more vibrant, the colors were lusher, more vivid, plants and trees breathed and I could see the life in everything. Acid was neon, a robot, a thumping techno beat, jagged and disconnected and disjointed, jerky movements; slow motion, then fast. On my mushrooms I felt a part of everything, I felt like I moved fluidly in the world, within the world, as part of life’s cycle. On acid, I was separate from the world, I had no connection to anything, I saw things happening (real or imagined) and didn’t connect the pieces. Maybe I was in a movie, but I definitely wasn’t from the soil. I wasn’t scared either, because I knew it wasn’t real. I was where I’d been before and for that I was both grateful and sad.
Lilli’s boyfriend McCarley had been a cocaine addict, and he was even still snorting when he and Lilli first got together. But Lilli had amazing powers of mind control over her boyfriends, and she’d gotten him to quit, clean his act up in many ways, including cutting down on his sugar intake (he liked any and all candy that was basically a variant of sugar in colorful packaging) and dressing better (no more baggie pants tied with a belt underneath his ass). But Bonnaroo was a free-for-all, no rules applied. How could Lilli really control him if she and I were both wandering around, fucked up off something or another? So he made a few calls and while I was being reborn, McCarley managed to get an eight ball of cocaine from his friend with the order that if he was able to sell half of it, he could keep half for himself. So confident was he in his drug dealing abilities that he snorted ten lines within the first five minutes of obtaining the coke. Meanwhile, Lilli and I were in an almost zen-like state, commenting on the auras of others and perceptions gone awry. Some of what she said sounded like bullshit, and while I was aimlessly musing about my own truth-telling bullshit, McCarley emerged from the tent, animal-like, an enormous lumbering yeti, with a blaze in his eyes that reminded me that there was such a thing as good and evil, for the white devil had certainly gotten a hold of him and I could feel the energy emanating in waves from his body, from his core, one thought possessing him wholly: more.
Lilli and I were scared of him, scared for him. We had to let him go off on his own journey though. We had to have hope he’d come back, that you’ll come back, that we’ll all come back; that the sun will rise in the morning, that your face won’t look like the face of a goblin when day breaks, that newspapers will be delivered, children will go to school, grass will be green, trees will be just trees. You’ll come back and think: where was that place anyways? Was it real? And is this more real? Was the me of last night the me of today and which me is the me that I want to be?
As I wandered down the road toward Centeroo, I noticed a commotion a little ways ahead of me. Dozens of people had crowded around something in the corner and as I walked up to the group, I saw a thin young man wearing nothing but boxers writhing slowly in agony on the ground. His feet were covered in mud and he was baked red from the sun. A policeman, who had jumped down off his horse, was kneeling next to him, talking to a young woman. She informed the cop that the man was on ecstasy. There was true panic in her voice. I thought maybe I should make a run for it, feeling somehow complicit in the guy’s illegal activity, my own illegal activity being just a few minutes behind me. But I needed to know he was alive, that he would stay alive.
The policeman put his hand under the guy’s head and looked into his terror-stricken eyes: “Son, we need to get you to the medical tent. Do you think you can get up, just for a moment?” He sounded like a priest or a caring teacher. The boy couldn’t move, couldn’t even hold his head up, so the policeman hoisted him up and carried him away. They knew we were all on drugs, that we were buying drugs, selling drugs, trading drugs, but they were still kind. I wanted the caring teacher priest policeman to carry me away. I wanted to collapse, to have him gently cup my head and hoist me away somewhere cool and quiet, where I could be alone. I wanted him to take care of me and remind me that I was ok because I kept forgetting. I wanted to be saved. But I fought to keep walking.
I hadn’t showered in days and I had no desire to do so. I’m just going to get dirty again, I told Lilli. But she wanted desperately to wash her hair so we wandered around looking for the rumored public showers. Instead we found a watering trough and I wasn’t sure what its actual purpose was, but there were a couple of girls washing their hair. So Lilli and I walked over. “Can I borrow some shampoo?” Lilli asked of one of the girls, who was wearing a strip of cloth on her chest and bathing suit bottoms.
“Most definitely,” the girl said and Lilli held out her palm and the girl squirted some pink shampoo into her hand. I helped Lilli soak her hair using a bucket that was lying nearby to fill up water from the spigot over the trough and dump it on her head. We then lathered up her hair and rinsed it clean. The Tennessee heat dried her hair within minutes.
“I’ve never seen your hair shine so golden bright,” I told her, admiring, almost in awe, of the flaxen, sparkling curls. We both touched her hair and it felt so soft, like a downy pillow. It was as though her hair had never truly been clean until then. Maybe it was just relative.
I felt most trapped in a nightmare when it was dark. It wasn’t just the drugs or the heat or the stand food, funnel cakes and nachos and beer, it was more than that. I was surrounded by 90,000 people and felt completely alone and terrified. At night, the hissing of the nitrous balloons would begin and I was surrounded by demons. Every inch we walked the sound was inescapable: hssssssssss, until the balloon was sucked dry and deflated and its deflator high as the moon for about 15 seconds—15 seconds where his eyes bulged out of his head and who knows what he saw or where he was. And then he was back. And then he’d buy another balloon, flip-flopping from one realm to the other until his pockets were empty.
Wandering around Scooby Doo in the mornings, we saw the remnants of the previous night’s nitrous orgy. Ripped and deflated balloons of every color, some with patterns of stars and shooting stars and suns and moons, littering every inch of the ground, like a child’s birthday party gone awry. I felt sorry for the land, the Tennessee land that surely did not predict this debauchery when the animals roamed it, or the Indians, or the farmers. I felt sorry for the balloons, too. I didn’t think this was their life’s goal.
After Bonnaroo, me and Lilli and her sister drove down highway 40, making our way back to Virginia, exhausted and sun burnt, with a car full of Diet Cokes and Cheetos and acid and pot and ecstasy to share with our friends. We were speeding, of course, and soon enough we heard a siren behind us and as Lilli pulled over to the side of the road, a panicked look came onto her face. “My license is suspended,” she said, just as the cop was walking up to the door. I sat back in my seat and looked straight ahead and dug my fingernails into my hands. Lilli and the cop went through the whole rigmarole and when he came back from his car, her license in hand, he looked at us and shook his head, the way cops do. He told her he would have to take her to jail
Lilli burst into tears, the classic girl tactic, and as we had anticipated, the cop’s features softened. He told all three of us to get out of the car and said he needed to make sure Lilli didn’t have drugs on her body. Why would the drugs be on her body, I thought. Wouldn’t they obviously be in the car? And wasn’t it obvious she didn’t have drugs on her body when all she was wearing was a tight tank top, sans bra, and a pair of tight spandex shorts that more resembled underwear.
The policeman instructed her to take off her shirt. She looked back at me, scared. I looked at the ground. Someone help us, I thought. Because I can’t. Lilli took off her shirt and he made her keep it off for minutes, maybe hours, while he took a good long look to make sure there were no drugs hiding in the crevices between and under her breasts. And then he let us go. The three of us sat silent in the car for about a hundred miles—slow ones too, since we stayed at the exact speed limit. I was ashamed for Lilli, ashamed at my silence. I stared out the window while God spoke to me in big white letters in the sky: “Do you have any idea where you’re going?— God.”
On the last night of Bonnaroo, I’d finally given up on the whole thing. I’d seen probably 5 or 6 bands or artists perform of the 100-plus lineup they’d had over the three days. I didn’t want to try to like it anymore. I just wanted to be in an air-conditioned place, eating a fresh salad with vinaigrette, and watching a movie on a comfy couch. I was no hippie. And I couldn’t care less. Lilli and I had been on our way to Centeroo when a guy walked past us and whispered: “Mescaline.” We bought two capsules from him, and inside the capsules, there was a viscous milky liquid, presumably the Mexican cactus juice we’d heard so much about. We swallowed the capsules and it was dark and even almost cool that night. The path to Centeroo was quiet and in the distance we saw the lights of the stage and could hear the 89,998 people gearing up for the biggest show of the festival, the grand finale: Dave Matthews playing with Trey Anastasio of Phish. We turned around and walked back to our campsite.
I thought I would be communing with the great mama earth and the shamans she’d sent down to lead us transients toward the right path. I thought I was going on a desert journey where Father Mescaline would show me something I needed in order to live the life I wanted: not something life-altering or explosive, not something to rock me to the core. Just a small thing I could keep tucked away in a back pocket of my brain to fish out when I got too bogged down in this particular life. Instead, I saw colors like I’d never seen them before. Blues and greens and purples, especially. Those colors soothed my aching brain. I thought I could think again. I felt realer than I’d felt in a long while. Nothing magical happened though, and me and Lilli assumed we’d been ripped off yet again; that either this wasn’t good mescaline or it wasn’t even the real thing. We lay next to each other on the ground, our heads almost touching, looking up at the sky with the sound of Dave and Trey floating quietly above us, almost like Sunday brunch classical music, and we talked. Just talked. For the first time in days, we were quiet and content and everything seemed like it had been before; before I’d embarked on this raucous festival tour. We talked about little things and big things, massive things, bigger than the sky and the universe and smaller things like a movie we’d recently seen and how we missed our dogs.
“I think I can feel what my body needs right now,” said Lilli. “Citrus.” I agreed wholeheartedly. We both decided our bodies were lacking in vitamin C; our bodies’ necessity for orange juice suddenly became paramount to our happiness. We got up and walked around the empty campsite, on a quest for orange juice. We found one open vendor, who had only watered-down lemonade. We got it any way and it did satiate our need, at least a little.
The worst part of growing up was realizing my parents had flaws. Not just that they made mistakes—I’d learned that the first time they forgot to pick me up from preschool—but that they had flaws so deeply entrenched within their beings that nothing could change them, that perhaps they couldn’t even recognize them. I stopped trusting them to know the truths about life. I was so different than them. I couldn’t talk to them about my experiences, my likes and dislikes, my friends; they were concerned with bigger issues, like paying the mortgage, getting divorced, my mentally-challenged younger brother. I had lost them at such a young age that I kept looking and looking for someone or something to fill their spot; a guiding presence, something to believe in wholly, something perfect. I didn’t belong to them and they didn’t belong to me and what I needed was to belong to something.
I did end up finding my way to Bob Dylan. I stood at the farthest edge of the crowd that had gathered at the altar of my poet prophet guide. I felt completely serene for the first and only time at the festival. I had made it. I had. I did it alone, I did it for myself, and I did it for Bob Dylan. I was sixteen, flying down the road in Lilli’s Volvo singing Tambourine Man. I was a hippie. I was an intellectual. I was a follower. I was a leader. I was a disciple. I was a child. I was a best friend. I was brave. I was not alone. I was unique. I was this. I was that. I was the other, and more. I was loved. And I loved. I was happy. I was true. I was real. I was ready.
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to.
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.
Bob Dylan got on stage, sat down, mumbled something unintelligible into the microphone. The amp squealed. The music stopped. His guitar string broke. He told the crowd to wait while he replaced the string. He replaced the string. He mumbled into the microphone some more. He sang off pitch. His harmonica screeched like nails across a chalkboard. I couldn’t understand what he was singing. I didn’t know if he was singing at all. He was bored. And so was I.
“All I know… is everything”—God
I watched him for ten minutes. Then turned around and walked away.