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Torturing Coyotes

”Camping“ was all she‘d called it at first. Then, after I’d agreed (to rent a van for the weekend, fill it with her, me, Molly, three dogs and camping gear, and drive the lot of us to an as yet undefined location in the Mojave Desert to do something equally undefined for two or three days, then drive back, unpack and return the van), she added, ”with a big group of people, music you‘ll hate and DJs.“ But of course by then it was too late.

Soon the official e-mail invitation from the mystery event’s mystery organizer arrived. It went on and on and eventually included the following:

This is a powerful spot we are going to

and an intensely beautiful journey

we are about to embark on

We will take time to cleanse ourselves and the land

the end of the old

before begining [sic] the new

begin your cleanse now

. . . which led me to ask my friends to estimate the likelihood that our co-campers would be requesting donations or calling me at home just to ”chat,“ just to see if I‘m ”all right.“

Not a cult, they said. The organizer gets a bit blissful and ninnylike sometimes, but it’s all in the interest of impressing teenyboppers to the point of orgasm (his). He‘s not dangerous or anything.

So December 31 arrives, and I drive, and we arrive at the Bliss-Ninny New Millennium Hootenanny Jamboree with just enough daylight left to pitch tents in 40-mph winds in a glorious expanse of desert terrain unspoiled except by us. (Note that a nylon tent provides a sense of closeness to nature identical to that of a latex condom.)

With dusk, however, come overdriven subwoofers, the audio components that have co-defined a generation. (Subwoofers and sharp metal objects: As I understand it, the Kids Today require both corporeal and sonic piercings to feel at one with nature, or, for some, to feel anything at all.)

And, for me, with subwoofers come the earplugs and the ensuing nap in the van -- two small, heroic acts of anarchy, I decide. I wish I could just enjoy the entire world pounding at 120 bpm, as everyone else (except maybe the dogs and the local coyotes) seems to be doing, but my desire to avoid physical pain prevents me from appreciating the violent volume’s clandestine subtleties. So on the van floor I lie, wrapped in crap. Waiting for my Decibel-Significance-Reduction Filter (a half-milligram of Klonipin) to take effect. Thinking about the rest of the desert: millions and millions and millions of unmolested, moonlit acres, everywhere but here.

Forty yards from the speakers, with earplugs and Klonipin in place and the van shut tightly and idling with the heater on high, I find the music almost tolerable. Eventually I sleep. When I awake, all is quiet, exclamation. The radio panel reads 11:40 p.m., same as my wristwatch. I find an AM station to verify, just to be sure.

Feeling inexplicably better, I venture out to investigate the silence that has awakened me. The ecstatic campers stand in a circle now, reciting sections of All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten, bliss-ninny style.

”Like, I just wanted to say that, like, sharing the new millennium with so many kick-ass people is like . . . it just kicks ass.“

”To be around so many awesomely creative people, you know? All in one place? You know?“ (The crowd goes nutz.)

They speak of a future in which all upper-middle-class offspring will share apartments in Silver Lake, spend days and nights bastardizing inner-city music and pretend not to have trust funds. I look at my watch. It is 11:50.

By the firepit I locate Molly and ask her what is scheduled to happen at midnight. ”It already happened,“ she tells me. ”About 10 minutes ago.“ The organizer had led the crowd in counting backward to zero, and then these fascinating ad-lib toasts had begun.

I feel a sense of accomplishment: As far as I can tell, then, in these parts I am the last remaining occupant of the 20th century, left to savor the end of one meaningless nothing while all around me my fellow bliss-ninnies (for I certainly must be one, too, to someone) revel in the beginning of the next.

The subwoofers return, and somehow they don‘t hurt so much. But . . .

Why drive all the way out to the desert if you’re not going to listen to it?

The Sugarloaf Mountain Arts Festival and Hootenanny (http:hootenanny.org, and not affiliated with the preceding tale in any way) ”provides a place for unbridled revelry and good cheer, as well as ample space for hootin‘ and hollerin’. It is also an arts festival . . .“ The Web site provides extensive information on hootenannying, including the Art of Competitive Pie-Eating (http:hootenanny.orgpieindex.html), and advises that we bring, among other things, the following items to its next hootenanny:

• duct tape and twine

• costume andor float for the parade

• et cetera