Malibu, 5:10 p.m., Feb. 14: Valentine’s Day. Having been delayed en route to the Phish show at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, we have stopped to watch the sunset in a park across PCH from Pepperdine.
We laugh at the scornful stares of posh blondes – everybody’s blonde there, or so it seems – but then we’re laughing at about pretty much everything at this point, having been on the road for roughly three hours.
“Anybody down for a nature-walk?” Of course we all three are, so we walk along the bluffs indiscreetly. We had to stop when the other car of our caravan got into an accident with a minivan parked on the side of the road. They called us when it happened, so we stopped to look at the carnage, luckily finding everyone safe and unscathed.
We also cleaned their car of all the evidence that really didn’t need to be at the scene of the crime.
In all the strangeness, I had completely forgotten my mission: find love on this 14th of February. It would be a while before I remembered what I had come for, other than the show.
The sun burns its final little molten pool of orange on the ocean’s edge, and we have to get moving. A cop delivers our friends to us from the scene of the accident, and we scrunch into our now packed single car.
We reach the parking lot, get waved into a spot and collect ourselves. We are well prepared.
The line seems endless, marked along one side by a trail of empty beers and vomit. The smell of Phish Phan is nearly overpowering when you’re crushed between gangs of them.
We show our tickets and are directed to the next line to be searched. The kid apologizes as he points to me, saying, “Sorry, you’re just the fifth person.” His fingertips brush down my sides, only miming an actual search. He smiles and waves me through. The guy behind me in line laughs and strolls on.
This is the Phish Community; this is what makes following them around the country worth it. The Big Love that was lost in the early 70s has found a home with this euphoric jam band. Walking through the corridors to find our section, I marvel at the circus of wide-eyed and fully-dilated phreaks. All of them smile at me as I walk by.
By the time we enter the arena itself, the music has already started. We groove in, dancing as we go. The light show sets all of us on burning bright orange, green and blue fire, perfectly synched with the music bouncing around the great big room.
We find seats, but are soon discovered by their proper owners, a couple of about 17. They decide to stand, and in gratitude I pass them everything that comes my way. Everybody wins.
Looking across the arena, I see countless Phishheads dancing away and sparking lighters, Trey on stage singing, “I can see through the light!” I sit back, smile at my neighbors and talk to strangers. Phish emanates pure shining joy from the stage, and we all share in this Great Big Love.
The couple whose seats we borrowed are dancing together next to me, and I can’t help but watch. These two people are sharing in one of those unending moments of utterly selfless love, becoming one mind; their love fills the room.
It seemed like days, but finally the concert ends after two sets and one encore. We say goodbye to our new friends and head out.
3:30 a.m., Isla Vista – back home, and despite having found the Big Love, I am alone in my bed. Well, not exactly alone; I do have the goo-ball I bought in the parking lot outside the show. In the comedown darkness of my room, I’m satisfied with my experience and ready to share all the love I just found.
Daily Nexus assistant opinion editor Cory Anthony will never leave his goo-ball.