Tag Archives: Coachella

In Memory Of Gil Scott Heron…

 This was a short piece I wrote from Coachella 2010 about GSH… 

I am at Coachella in the hushed Gobi tent waiting for Gil Scott Heron, who is known in many circles as “The Godfather of Rap”. Given the political consciousness that lies at the foundation of his work, he is also considered the founder of political rap. I know this because I read Wikipedia.

All day, I have been struggling at Coachella, certain that I am the oldest person here, but in the Gobi tent, I have found a more mature crowd. These are socially aware people, who realize that we must come and pay homage to Gil, because you know – he’s old, and black, and once knew Martin Luther King Jr.  I’ve read that his album Message to the Messengers was a plea for the new generations of rappers to speak for change rather than perpetuate the current social condition. He called on them to be more articulate and more artistic. I’m not really sure that they heard him, but at least he put the message out there. I’ve also learned – rather recently – that he coined the phrase ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, which the Gorillaz (i.e. my pretend boyfriend Damon Albarn) paid homage to when they (i.e. he) wrote the post modern lyrics ‘The revolution will be televised’ on the title track of the Gorillaz latest release, Plastic Beach. This kind of continuity excites me.

Gil finally comes out, and he looks really old for sixty-one. Despite his musical success, he’s been in and out of jail for the last ten years on cocaine charges. No one’s perfect I suppose. He sits down at his Hammond organ, and starts tinkling around on the keys while he talks to the audience. It’s all very shuck and jive, and not in a good way. It sounds like he’s reciting a shopping list, “Corn dogs, apple butter, tomato!” he shouts.

The people are hanging on his every word. He says something like, “Hey, the tent is white,” and everyone claps.

Then he says, “I like a white tent. Better than an army tent!”

This time people laugh hysterically, even though it’s not funny at all. People are nervously second guessing their own comic taste, worried that there’s something brilliant going on. I’ve been around old black musicians and I’ve seen this game. He’s trying to get people to laugh at nothing. It’s a power thing. When I was a student at Manhattan School of Music, I lived next door to Eddie Locke who had gained fame as Roy Eldridge’s drummer. Eddie was a legend in the neighborhood, he was even in that famous Art Kane photograph A Great Day In Harlem that featured 57 of the most famous jazz musicians of all time. Eddie, loved to blather on and on, and young musicians used to flock to his apartment and sit as his feet as if he were some Jazz Shaolin monk. He’d make jokes that were awful, tell stories that had no ending, and everyone would just laugh and laugh. One day after they had all left he turned to me and said, “Hey, Pip…” (he called me Pip as in ‘pipsqueak’ because I was small), “Why don’t you laugh at my jokes?”

“Because you’re not funny,” was my response. Continue reading

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I Came, I Saw, I Kicked Some Coachella Ass…

…But then I got home and promptly started this raw diet which took a lot out of me.  However, five days in and I’m starting to feel better and while I have SO much to say about Coachella, I decided that I’d go have a Nervous Breakdown and post a rant about the portrayal of women in movies and books instead.    So head over there and have a look.  Next week, I’ll get into my post Coachella detox.

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Down the Rabbit Hole

Two months ago, I said I was way too old to go to Coachella, and now here I am, packing.  Coachella is upon me.  My boyfriend and I are leaving tonight after he gets done with work.   I have no idea what to expect, and I won’t lie – I am full of trepidation.  Let’s be honest: Where does a forty-one-year old, divorced mother of two, attending the event with her twenty-four-year old boyfriend fit into this mix?   Does this ritual hold any context for me?  Will I be the High Priestess?  The Tribal Elder?  The Medicine Woman?  Or am I the old lady clutching her purse worried that her credit cards will be stolen.  I can’t say for sure.  But there will be plenty of  obstacles to overcome, that’s for certain.  For starters, I will be trapped in the desert (once we park, we cannot leave).  Never mind trying to get the shuttles to the various stages, and trying to coordinate my set list with that of my boyfriends (I refuse to go hear the Cribs), there are other very serious obstacles that must be overcome.  Procurement of food, tent sleeping, and public bathing come to mind.  Twenty-five thousand people in the desert, a couple hundred porta-potties, this will be no simple feat, and per my mother’s advice I’m bringing toilet paper.

The screenwriter in me can see it all so clearly.  There’s ME — the befuddled heroine of this misadventure trying to control her urge to give career advice to throngs of 20somethings while simultaneously beating off young, nubile girls bent on attacking my boyfriend.  There’s the BEST FRIEND in Brooklyn on high ‘text message’ alert.  I should add that she is busy working on the edit for her latest book READING WOMEN: How The Great Books of Feminism Changed my Life – which seems sort of ironic to me for some reason.  There are the RANDOM WACKY PEOPLE I’m sure I will meet in the pursuit of music, food and felt hat making (ever since I saw the Cooper Hewitt exhibit on felt I’ve been hooked).  And of course  there is THE LOVE INTEREST,  my boyfriend, who will be doubling as THE GUIDE (my Virgil if you will), although this is assuming he doesn’t get completely smashed and disappear on me, which he promised he won’t do, but he’s English and likes to drink, “It’s cultural,’ as he likes to say… so who knows.

Finally there’s the higher purpose for my character.  Loosely defined:  My ‘want’ or my ‘need’… And after considerable thought I’ve decided that my ‘want’ from Coachella is a perfect moment of the Spalding Grey variety.  If it can’t be ‘perfect’ I’ll accept transformative, or at the very least, I’ll settle for a sign.  I want to know that everything will be all right in the big sense of the word.

But of course as we all know, that kind of stuff only happens in the movies.

I guess the real me would settle for a little growth.  I’d like to stop being so self-aware for a moment and lose myself to something bigger than me.  I’d like to have a really fun time, or make a really great memory…

I don’t know if this will happen either, but I’m going, and I think that’s the main thing.  I’m not going to be a victim of inertia and habit.  I’m stepping outside my comfort zone, and at any age, that has to count for something, right?

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It’s a Sunday night.  A bunch of our friends are over, we’ve just finished dinner, and we’re about to play a game of Rummikub with my two kids, when my twenty-four-year old boyfriend turns to me and says, “I think we should go to Coachella.”

“I’m too old to go to Coachella!”  I laugh, mostly because I think he’s joking, but from the look on his face, he’s dead serious.  It’s one of those moments between us that I dread, mostly because it is a glaring reminder of our seventeen-year age difference.

I play it cool though, and ask everyone in attendance what they think.

“You can totally go to Coachella,” is the general response.

I nod my head and smile politely but the fact remains I am way too old to go to Coachella, especially with him!

My boyfriend is a soccer specific strength and conditioning specialist from England.  We met when he was working in the States for a brief stint and he ended up becoming a family friend.   After my divorce we stayed in touch exchanging emails on a pretty regular basis.  Our epistolary friendship was something stable in a world of post-divorce confusion, and we ended up becoming very close.  Eventually, we started dating.  It was long distance and sort of nerve-wracking mostly because no one took it seriously.  I was just a number to his friends.  He was just a fling to mine.  But after a year of that, he found work in the United States, and we moved in together. It took another year for our friends and family to get used to the idea of ‘us’ but they did.

We’ve lived together for the past two and a half years now.  He helps me raise my two kids, and together we’ve acquired two Saint Bernards and two cats.  Our life is very normal.  There are regular Sunday dinners for friends and family (he cooks).  On Fridays we have date nights, either alone or with other couples.  In between there’s work, homework, laundry, dishes, school lunches and lots of driving of children to various practices.

Since I look younger (or so I am told), and he looks older the age thing doesn’t really come up all that often when we are with people.  In fact, people will make fun of the Dec./May thing without realizing that we are in fact one of those couples.  When they learn of our age difference they’ll usually backpedal, they’ll say things like ‘It’s different with you guys’,  ‘You look so young’ or ‘He’s an old soul’.  I always imagine they are really thinking, “Jesus, she’s so old!”  or worse, “Who knew Kristen was a cougar?” Continue reading