Orange is the New White

New column up. Was a fun one to write.

I survived Coachella Weekend One and all I got was this lousy selfie. Seriously.

It’s one of those experiences that’s hard to sum up with words, or at least with eloquent ones. It’s a frenetic experience, in moments completely absurd, and therefore is best described in what else but Tweets. So here goes: #Coachella2014: #Who the heck is spending $3,500 on stubhub #I’ll just go to the pool parties #this golf cart better not tip over #I can’t believe I’m missing Outkast #Maybe prices will go down #Is $300 too much to spend #I hope this wristband is real #I’m sweating like a mofo #why does it matter which beer garden we got to #Let’s have our meeting point be that Spaceman #Mmm that pizza looks good #I just saw my ex #what did that dude just snort #too much glitter. #glad I outgrew my flower crown phase #what’s worse, smoking a cig or inhaling all this dust #let’s get Del Taco #I think I saw them? for at least half a song #Why did I just look down the porta-potty; what kind of a sicko am I #Was that Leonardo DiCaprio #I bet VIP has better food #Can you take our picture #I wonder if we can sneak into that after party.

The youth of America is lots of things depending on whom you ask, but to me, the only conclusion I can make is that the youth of CoachellAmerica is tan and taking a picture of said tan. And after day two of the show, they’ve survived a sandstorm and they’re very dusty.

There were the selfies I snapped like everyone else during the show — they had huge mirror installations all over the grounds so you could take expert shots. Then there were those other selfies — the truthful ones we don’t take — of me losing my friends, forlornly eating a slice of pizza alone in the beer garden; of me with one eye shut after my contact lens blew out of my eye in the sandstorm, forcing me to permawink through Nas’ entire set — I couldn’t see Jay-Z or Puffy, but I could hear them. That still counts, right?

If you are one of the brave ones gearing up for Weekend Two of Coachella this weekend and you’re worried you’re not going to know how to #selfie with 90,000 people, consider incorporating some things from my foolproof Coachella Preparedness Kit.

For clothes, stick to barely any. It’s that simple. I called a few staple shops to see if the Coachella zeitgeist had shifted at all this year.(Not even a little.) At American Apparel on the Third Street Promenade, an excited employee named Samantha said, “We get a lot of people coming for the fanny packs and the vinyl circle skirt and high-waisted shorts; a lot of neon bright pink and sunflower patterns too.”

What about men? I asked. “For men, again it’s fanny packs.”

At Planet Blue on Montana in Santa Monica, it’s denim cutoffs, crop-tops, maxi dresses, rompers, and “anything boho, tie dye, or body chains,” said an employee named Nikki. “It’s funny to me because everybody kind of wants the same thing — a hippie-boho vibe.”

The most important accessory is of course looking range. “Orange is the new white,” my friend said to me when she texted over a #selfie post-spray tan. I called a bunch of tanning salons around L.A. to see if business had spiked in anticipation of Coachtanness. Most were booked solid all week.

Portofino salon in Beverly Hills was firing off custom spray tans every 20 minutes from 9am – 10pm. Same deal over at Bronz Body Tan on Figueroa near U.S.C., where they were airbrushing an average of 20-30 people per day at $45 a pop.

A Bronz Body Tan employee named Crystal said, “It’s like a mad house the day before they leave,” she said, mentioning that the expert Coachella tanners build their tan using the old-school tanning bed all week and then topping it off with a spray tan.

But wait, what about the music – it is a music festival, right?

I should try and write this column without mentioning one single band. Why? Because my Weekend One of Coachella was less about investing myself in discovering great music and more about seeing one or two songs from a smattering of bands for 30 seconds. From the beer garden. This is the ADD generation, after all.

Instead of bouncing from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter, people were pin-balling from beer garden to stage to next beer garden in circles.

I spent the majority of my time sending texts like these. And I quote: “I’m right next to VIP,” “I’m right by the entrance,” “Going to beer garden by Sahara,” “Where are you now?” “You still in there?” “Ok I’ll come meet you there,” “You said ketchup and mustard right?” “I’m wearing a yellow Laker hat”, “just lost everyone,” “How will I find you.”

I got bumped, jostled, nudged, sweat upon, stomped on and yet the whole way through, people were surprisingly respectful toward each other as though we were one big amoeba – though perhaps it has to do something with that, ahem, paraphernalia.

In the wee hours of Saturday night, my friends and I escaped the dust storm in one of the 1,000 Ubers that had flocked from L.A. to dominate the transportation sector like a fleet of sharks bottlenecking the roads.

“I think this is the longest I haven’t showered,” our driver said, explaining how he was sleeping in his car between shifts.

Right then, a fleet of SUVs with tinted windows zoomed by with a police escort. “Gotta be Jay-Z,” my friend said with total conviction. Though I still could only see with one eye, I concurred, throwing up the HOVA sign as he whizzed on out of my life.

Longtime Pasadena Star-News columnist is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles.

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