I’m eighteen and it’s early summer, steamy hot, and 1974. The Eagles are scheduled to perform at the state fairgrounds, an outside concert. I tell my boyfriend *Ricky, I want to go. He wants to go, too. His parents are out of town and he decides to “borrow” their pickup camper so we can be there the night before. Ricky’s best friend *Billy wants to go.
I’m the only one with a real job, so I contribute gas and buy some of the food. Billy also brings food. We arrive at the fairgrounds late afternoon where I see mostly pup tents, vans and people prepared to sleep under the stars. My boyfriend is nervous about using his parent’s camper and announces that we can’t use the camper bathroom; we cannot leave any evidence that we’ve used the camper. I’m not a happy camper about this decision.
The boys and I sit inside for a couple of hours talking until they decide to use the campground restrooms. I wait for them outside and watch hundreds of people morph into a thousand people, mostly under the age of thirty. Day is turning to night. Campfires light the grounds. When the boys return, we stay outside to talk and watch our new world unfold and the camp’s dynamics change.
“I’m going to the bathroom before it gets any darker,” I say. Neither boy offers to escort me. I go alone.
I find a path to walk on until it ends then change my course. I have to weave through people who are sitting and standing who seem high and happy. Some are clothed, some are naked. My upbringing tells me not to look, but of course, I do.
I walk into a thick haze of marijuana smoke that covers me and I cough. I hold my breath and realize that the building is still too far away and lift the lower half of my smock shirt to cover my nose and mouth. Now, my stomach is exposed which invites another problem, unwanted attention.
“Come here, baby,” one guy says.
“Where you goin’?” Another reaches for me.
I feel more annoyed than scared and let my shirt fall back down. I hold my breath again until I meet a group of people dancing around a campfire chanting something. For some reason, this scene reminds me of the book Lord of the Flies. I’m holding back my laugh when a man grabs my arm and motions for me to join them. I shake my head and pull away.
Ahead, I see the restroom and follow a skinny girl with long straight hair, wearing a tank top and jeans, into the women’s side. Once inside, the girl turns around and I see she’s a dude with a beard. I walk back outside again to see if I’m in the right place. I am. As stall doors open other men, as well as women, exit. I want to look like I’m ok with it, but I’m shocked. I hurry in and out vowing not to return to the restroom until morning.
Back at the camper, we go in and lock the door. I can’t sleep much because there’s lots of loud unrelated music playing and people noise. Around 1 a.m., I hear a scream and look out every window, but see nothing. A couple of hours later, the camp roar goes silent and I sleep for a couple of hours.
The next morning, the boys and I are up early. We eat our junk food and decide to visit the restroom. Most of the time, things seem to look better in the daylight, but this time it’s only different. Bodies still litter the landscape—lying flat and still. The fires are out, but leave behind glowing and blackened embers.
We need something to do and head for the concert area to claim a seat. Hours later we join thousands of people to listen to The Eagles in concert. It was worth it.