Trevor had rented an Audi Q5 in Monsoon metallic, a luxury SUV, but smaller than it should have been, given the four of us and the camping stuff and the cooler, plus the costumes and the makeup and the snacks. After meeting the other passengers — Brooklyn roommates Diane, a real estate agent from Japan, and Aliya, a pharmacist and part-time actress — outside a Williamsburg Starbucks, he settled into the driver’s seat and studied the dashboard nav system with a boyish reverence for the tech.
Trevor was from London. He was wearing shorts, a T-shirt, flip-flops, and a ball cap. He was given to phrases like, “You make your own luck in life,” but he seemed like a guy for whom some of the luck had come baked in. A big fellow, maybe 6'4", and handsome with a gym rat’s physique, he resembled Superman, but a notch better, due to the accent.
Our destination was, let’s call it RISE, an exclusive three-day dance-music festival-cum-New Age spiritual retreat held on a 10-acre property in the wilds of New England, to which I’d wrangled an extremely hard-to-get invitation. (The name of the event has been changed, as have the names of attendees and organizers.)
Successful young professionals — many with a polyamorous bent, some bearing fanny packs stuffed with pharmaceuticals — were heading to the woods to party, and I hoped to join them.
The guests were a tight-knit bunch; many had been showing up every year since attending a wedding together on the property in 2008. Beyond a few rumors, I had little idea what to expect. I knew only that a tribe of more than 250 attractive and successful young professionals — many with a polyamorous bent, some bearing fanny packs stuffed with pharmaceuticals — were heading to the woods to party their asses off for three days in August, and that I hoped to join them.
The assignment would likely mean subjecting myself to nearly 50 hours, in aggregate, of deep house, tropical house, techno house, and drum ’n’ bass, but I’d manage.
Introduced via email to the organizer, an entrepreneur I’ll call Lev, I’d concocted a powerful pitch affirming my mission to write about the creation of “intentional community.” I would show readers, I promised, that what seems like little more than a party can actually “be therapeutic and even liberating, especially at a time when so much seems to be going wrong in the world.”
I cringe a bit to reread that email now. I won’t quote the entire thing, but let’s just say it’s ingratiating and overeager and a even touch disingenuous — because although I would indeed have been perfectly happy to write about a radical utopian experiment and the seeds of a transformative social movement, what I actually expected to find was a privileged band of naive but endearing pleasure seekers spouting New Age banalities.
But there’s another reason the letter makes me cringe. That line about the possibility of a party being therapeutic and liberating? What I didn’t understand when I wrote those words — what only became clear later, thanks to a lack of sleep, hours of dancing, and my willing consumption of a variety of pharmaceuticals and “plant medicines” — was that the therapy and liberation I was really after were my own.
Of course, I’d also have to file a story.