I remember this time, back when cell phones were things guys in white tailored suits, single earrings, and a level of unshaven that could only be described as “the Don Johnson Fuzzy Look” carried around in custom leather bags, a friend of mine decided it would be a hoot if we took some mescaline. No stranger to the mind-expanding possibilities being proffered, I heartily agreed. We were young, dumb in the way that young adults are when they think they know everything because they read “On the Road,” and stuck without a reliable means of transportation or income in the middle of a humid Cape Cod summer.
It was a weird little nub of a pill, like a homeopathic remedy you’d put under your tongue to dissolve, which is what we did. Then, as is customary in situations like this, we sat and smoked cigarettes and stared off into space.
Forty-five minutes later, shit got weird. And it stayed that way for the rest of the night, and much of the next day. How weird? Let’s just say that I still, 20 years later, cannot see fried clam strips on a plate without having to pause, count to ten, and convince the rising red tide plume of panic in my soul that everything will probably be okay.
Fast forward two decades and that friend I was with is now stupid rich and involved in an Internet company that performs some abstract service that, even after dozens of explanations, I still don’t understand. Anyway, every year he and his weird army of Generation X success stories leave their Spanish villas and planned communities in the Bay Area and parade out to the dusty wasteland of Nevada to get weirder than clam strips ever were by partying like only people with vast sums of money and way too many hours logged in sterile rooms staring at ones and zeros can at Burning Man. And you know what festival, out of all the gazillions of ‘em that happen every weekend around the United States, talks the most about mescaline on the Internet?
If you were gonna say Burning Man, you’d be right.
It’s not really a surprise, I guess, since here in the US of A high-end boutique psychedelics have always been the playthings of the upper crust and their offspring. It takes a certain level of general comfort to know that you’re gonna be okay when the clam strips start snaking up your arms and going for your eyes like a rabid batter fried demon octopus even as you stare into the abyss and recognize that there is no fucking bottom, man. It’s all just darkness. And tartar sauce. Which is really just mayonnaise and relish and broken dreams and a heart attack someday when your kids are hitting their prime and your wife is still hot and there’s a little money in the bank, finally.
What sent me down this rabbit hole? Well, the folks at festively named drugabuse.com have cooked up a series of stats generated by parsing social media posts, specifically from Instagram, at certain festivals. They then ran through this database of debauchery and isolated which illicit substances were most mentioned at which gatherings. How they have the time and funding to do this, I do not know, but it is fairly interesting, though completely unsurprising.
Yep, the results are just what you’d expect. Boringly predictable, even.
Weed at Marley Fest, for example, is a no-brainer, no pun intended. And booze at the Chili Cook-Off, which, assuming it’s exactly what the name says it is, is also a given, because nothing says “definitely gonna encounter tens of thousands of farting and burping beer drinkers taking selfies” like “chili cookoff.”
The Electric Daisy Carnival, in which a hundred thousand or more people dress up like demented Disney cartoons and bounce up and down until they die of dehydration to the sound of a rubber ball hitting the tarmac sped up 1000x, is—SPOILER ALERT—a hotspot for Ms. Miley’s favorite, Molly. AKA MDMA, AKA ecstasy. Which you don’t need Instagram to know, ‘cause hey, look at all those people cuddling and sweating and mixing germs while they chew on the inside of their mouths. Electric Daisy also won in the “pills” category, which I suspect the statisticians at drugabuse.com intend to mean pharmaceuticals, but would wager my best disco ball and furry fedora is just those crazy ravers using a common slang term for ecstasy, which is “pills.”
Burning Man sweeps the psychedelics, crushing the LSD, DMT, mescaline, and magic mushroom quadfecta. Again, you’re okay, I’m okay, we got money in the bank, and ain’t no cop gonna bust a bunch of rich white people, even if they are naked and setting shit on fire. Imagine if Wu Tang wanted to burn a 100-foot tall effigy called “The Man” in the dessert? They’d send in the fucking Navy SEALS.
Oddly, the only category Coachella rears its stupid racist-sorority-girl-in-a-headdress’ head at is cocaine. Which, of course, isn’t odd. You get that many douchebags and fashion people together in one place, especially in SoCal, and it’s bound to look a scene from Scarface meets the muppets. I just can’t even.
But it really is odd that they only won one category. Is it winning? Is this like the Academy Awards of thinly veiled excuses for substance abuse?
Real talk: the only thing that was mind blowing about these stats is how many morons are posting about drugs on Instagram. So not chill to blow up the spot, bro. We go to these things for the music.
No, really. I swear.
For more information on how drugabuse.com compiles it’s data, and loads more of it, check out that site. Some crazy stuff over there, and some even better clip art.
Also, we’re smack in the middle of festival season, so choose wisely. No one wants to be the coke guy at the weed party.
Check out the rest of the study here.