The lights on the main stage went dark and Coachella was over. As folks headed toward their cars (and their demolished tents) I went in the opposite direction, to the press tent. A high wind had caused its imitation canvas flaps to buck in the wind. The tent was empty except for me and one photographer, who was screaming curses at his computer. After about an hour, an attendant told us both to get out.
Outside, the wind blew grit against the backs of my legs. Still not turning in for the night, I went toward the music tents at the far edge of the festival grounds. An hour previous they had been filled with tens of thousands of people, but now the only evidence of human life were thousands of empty water bottles and, at the EDM tents, discarded glowsticks. The glowsticks still gleamed determinedly against the dusty dark, as if asking for one last dance.
Spots that came to mind: The South Pole once the penguin colonies return to the sea; anyplace anywhere after a bomb threat. A man drove by on some sort of a tractor and told me I should go home and I couldn't think of any reason to disagree with him.
Heading toward the exit, the wind gusted and things flew across my path: a broken pair of sunglasses, more glowsticks, an empty bag that had once held festival enhancing supplements. Passing an art installation where all weekend men had pretended to be hippopotamus astronauts, a sea of yellow jerseys came into view: hundreds of festival workers going home for the night. All weekend I had only encountered them one at a time, I could not believe they were so many of them. They looked a little like migrating penguins themselves.
Outside the walls of the festival at the campgrounds, the wind was even stronger. The tops had been ripped off the gazebo-style tents and their skeletal frames lay clustered in piles. Those tents that had been fully secured danced like those inflatable men you see outside of used car lots. A few stoic DJs provided a dubstep soundtrack to the scene, which seemed appropriate.
During the Red Hot Chili Peppers closing set, Flea had commented: “I feel like I'm in the Dust Bowl with Woody Guthrie.” Well, it didn't feel exactly like that since everyone had paid hundreds of dollars to be here. I didn't see anybody nursing their starving Grandfather from their teat or anything like that, although I saw a lot of people fleeing the campsites in luxury cars. It felt more like we were in a film set for about a movie about the dust bowl.
When I got back to my campsite it was mostly gone. A friend of mine wearing a woman's dress wrapped around his face for a makeshift bandana was piling items into little piles, which would then blow away when he went to make another pile. I grabbed my bag and joined the deserters, finding a couple hours sleep on a couch before hightailing the hell out of the desert.