Rock al Parque in Bogota is one of the biggest music festivals in Latin America. I always heard it was the biggest. This year’s festival took place June 29 – July 2. But this story isn’t from this year. It’s from 2011.
I had plans to go with Pusha T and Pollo. We were going to take acid and go to the show on Sunday. We bought acid from Dopeman, took the acid, then smoked a joint. In my stoned thinking and dire need for money, I realized I could sell weed to gringos inside the concert for twice the normal price. I asked Dopeman to front me a few sacks. Pusha T and Pollo also borrowed a few. The acid hadn’t kicked in while we all hid bags of weed on our persons. I put mine in the lining of my ancient leather jacket. It mixed with the stuffing perfectly. It was hidden so well that I wouldn’t know it were there in case I forgot about it. Pollo and Pusha T hid bags in their nether regions.
We left Dopeman’s for my place, where I had plenty of shoestrings to loan. Rock al Parque is free, so it attracts all elements and has a history of violence. The rules of entry are strict, one of which prohibits belts. So we had to tie our jeans with shoestrings. After doing so, Pollo said in his Miami Latin accent, “I got my documents, I can go to jail if I want.” Then we head out.
We hit Septima and headed north towards Calle 53. It was a Sunday, well after Ciclovia ended, and a puente (holiday weekend), so the city was dead. As I always do, I crossed the northbound lanes to walk in the median while waiting for an opportunity to cross the southbound lanes. I do this all the time, and occasionally it occurs to me that if a car were to jump this thin, tiny concrete median, I’d be dead. It never really bothered me. But the LSD was kicking in at that moment, and I felt my mortality. But there was so little traffic I crossed and the feeling didn’t last.
We crossed 53 and waited for a taxi at the corner. A group of crackheads were sitting on the bench. A taxi came down the hill westbound on 53, passing right by us. One of the crackheads got up in front of us to hail it, as if we needed help in the deserted streets. This is a common hustle in Colombia – crackhead hails the taxi so you don’t have to. Then he opens the door for you and asks for a tip.
Pusha T gave him a few coins. I never give them anything, but I realized I had a 50 pesos coin, which is worth about 3 cents. I gave it to him and sat in the front passenger seat. The bum got pissed when he saw the 50 pesos from a gringo. He held it out in his hand to show me, disbelievingly. He held it just in front of the windshield. When the taxi started, he ran along side it, showing the 50 peso coin just in front of the windshield where I couldn’t reach it after I had rolled down my window, pissed. That 50 pesos is more than I’ve ever given a crackhead for “hailing” me a cab – more than I’d ever given to all crackheads combined – and he’s taunting me? I yelled at the cab driver to catch up, which he did, and as soon as I could reach him I smacked the crackhead’s hand hard so the coin bounced off the street and went flying.
The taxi driver stopped at the traffic light at Kr 9. The crackhead stopped just outside my window. He was barely taller than the car, and typically filthy of Bogota zombie bums. He said in Spanish – no exaggeration – “You’re a gringo in my country. You’re supposed to give me money.”
“Am I supposed to smack this guy?” I asked toward the back of the car.
Pusha T said, “His boy’s got a knife.” One of this crackhead’s cohorts had come up behind him, hiding something in his hands. I doubt it was a knife – they always hide their hands as if they have something. But the fact is they’d sell a knife if they ever got their hands on one.
At the same time Pollo said, “There’s a cop.” On the north side of 53 between Septima and Kr 9 is a slew of fast food joints, and at the one directly next to us sat a uniformed police officer, watching us.
Not knowing what we were talking about in English, the taxi driver took preemptive action and blew the stoplight, heading westbound on 53.
A silence fell over us. Then they laughed at me picking on a poor bum. I protested that he was taunting me. Pusha T confirmed that he was taunting me. We all laughed. But we were on acid. This kind of incident wouldn’t normally bother us. BUT – especially with acid more so than all other drugs – you don’t want any incidents. That set the tone for our arrival at Simon Bolivar park.
We passed groups of mostly clean-cut Colombians sitting around the grass. But when we neared the line to pass through security, I noticed a tough-looking gang of about 20. Their hair was all the short length of about one inch. I joked that the skinhead gang all started growing their hair out the same day a month or so ago, just so they could get in today. Two nerdy event organizers were trying to talk them down, and out of the show. I gathered the nerds were the last line before cops with batons started beating them.
We waited in line for a while and I saw all the florescent uniforms of cops – cops we’d have to pass through with our dope. This was just a few weeks after I returned from the States – a trip which started with the MIA incident and me promising God I’d change my ways. And here I was, trying to get dope through the authorities again. What the fuck is wrong with me? Do I need my head examined?
The cops stood in parallel lines of 5-6 guys on each side, and they made each entrant pass through the gauntlet while each officer grabbed at our jackets and pants pockets, trying to feel for weapons. Just as we were about to go through, a drunk dumb shit was getting pushed out by other cops. He was pushing and hitting back. The cops were about to hit him with batons. This grabbed the attention of the gauntlet and they shuffled us through with barely a pat, more concerned with the drunk dumb shit.
I felt relieved – acid relief. Acid paranoia is the worst because it consumes you. And I was starting to feel consumed by paranoia and fear.
Then I noticed the next line – the big line. The gauntlet was just a preliminary. A big line led to where police were emptying people’s pockets, going through everything to make sure no weapons or alcohol got through. The acid paranoia and fear returned. What was I doing? I promised God!
Pollo and Pusha T were just as paranoid as I was, but not for getting caught with drugs. They were simply uncomfortable to be around so many cops. And Rock al Parque isn’t their element.
I saw a sign with all the prohibited items, one of them cameras. I had my Sony Cyber-shot in my pocket. No cameras? I confirmed this with one of the nerdy volunteers, then told Pollo and Pusha T the bad news. We left.
Walking away, Pusha T let out relief that we were gone from the cops. Pollo said he just wanted to get back to Chapinero. I was pissed we wouldn’t be going to the show, but glad I wouldn’t have to sneak drugs through a police search. Even though my weed was brilliantly hidden, and the cops are primarily looking for weapons and liquor, I just didn’t want to go through that again.
In the taxi back to Chapinero, Pusha T and Pollo started telling me how dangerous Rock al Parque is. I’d heard it was sketchy, but dangerous? I knew a lot of gringo squares who attended with no trouble. Pusha T countered that those skinhead and rock gangs don’t like hip-hop people (which we didn’t necessarily look like) and they especially don’t like hearing people like us speaking English. Pollo seconded that, saying he heard somebody from far behind us in line say, “Pa’l lado, marica.” I was sure that was an effect of his LSD. I don’t catch everything in Spanish, especially if said at a distance, but I would’ve caught “Pa’l lado, marica.” Pusha T might be somewhat right, but Pollo was full of shit. Full of LSD anyway.
When we crossed Ave Caracas, Pollo let out a sigh of relief. “Ah, finally, back in Chapinero. For real dog, you could let me out anywhere around here, anywhere, I’m good.” We all laughed, because it was true for us too. He added that many rolos may consider Chapinero a dangerous neighborhood, but we all feel safer here than anywhere else.
We returned the dope to Dopeman, minus one sack for us, and went to Pollo’s house. I tried to convince them that we should go back to the show, but they wanted none of it. After the crackhead incident and all the cops, on acid, they didn’t want to leave Pollo’s. They were convinced that Rock al Parque was dangerous. They said we could go to Hip Hop al Parque, it was better. I found it ironic because, if you surveyed most Colombians, the vast majority would say the opposite: Rock al Parque is safe but Hip Hop al Parque isn’t.
So instead of seeing the biggest rock festival in Latin America, which I was stoked to see the Dead Kennedys that Sunday, we smoked weed and watched movies that would enchant people on acid: Avatar, Hellboy, etc.
Rock al Parque FAIL.