Capital Santiago de Chile does not pale next to the artsiness of Valparaíso and weds it with next century architecture and big city feel. And so it isn't for nothing that a bohemian quarter by the name of Bellavista fits in just as much as a financial district named Sanhattan. Throughout the city all modernism mingles with century-old plazas, gaudy colors and parks of all sizes. Some of them, like Santa Lucia, reside on hills that allow for panoramas of the impressive Andean range walling in Santiago de Chile.
If you're interested in facts, anecdotes and insider tips, free guided walking tours are one way to explore the city. They are led by students who you tip based on how you liked it, which might be a lot or not at all depending on the guide. We ditched our group due to a severely dull lecture, while we had very much enjoyed the equivalent tour in La Paz, Bolivia.
warm evening light flooded the windows of Sanhatten
But anyway, we hadn’t come to Santiago for Santiago’s sake. Two of us were here to meet a familiar face from a prior time and place, while the other two were lured by Lollapalooza. Bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Arcade Fire, The Wailers, New Order and Nine Inch Nails headlined that year, expelling artists like Phoenix and Vampire Weekend to the ranks of “rest of the line-up”.
"But the flasks were not the only contraband – two of us didn’t have tickets."
While smiling at the sun on a lush slope of Santa Lucia one day, Vampire Weekend’s lead singer Ezra would pass by. I distinctively remember the dialogue that unfolded then:
“Hey Ezra”, one of my friends shouted at the celebrity unsuspectingly scuffling up the hill with his book. “See you tomorrow,“ she set forth.
“On Sunday,” was all he replied into the Friday air.
That Sunday, the four of us outfitted ourselves with whisky flasks we wanted to smuggle into the festival. But the flasks were not the only contraband – two of us didn’t have tickets and so the other two were supposed to sneak us in by taking off one of their futuristic security bracelets inside and smuggling it out with their partner in crime. It worked just fine. For one of us. The second time around the security guys had tightened the bracelets to a painful degree – mostly painful for me, the one who was now waiting outside for the other three to never return.
I tried to assess the inside situation in my mind – what would my friends do now? Try it again at a different gate? Forget about me and enjoy the show? Of course, heroically, I would want this for them. A reality check was a bit more detailed and included in its analysis also bitterness about being alone. I wouldn’t have left them alone, right? Then again I didn’t pay top dollar for tickets to see my favorite bands. Were they maybe trying a different gate? I was running circles in my head and finally my feet mimicked the loop and led me around the vast O'Higgins Park where the festival was held.
"Naturally, Kant's principals are noble, intact, and upright, while mine dangled lazily between mischievous and preposterous. But, from a pragmatic point of view no harm was done and this factual utilitarian reality was more convenient for me that day."
While I was trying to find my friends at some other gate or an opportune spot to hop the fence, I had time to brush up on the moral implications of my potential wrongdoing: I would never sneak into say a charitable event, where my stealthy escapades would actually mean depriving somebody who could use a dollar of my fair share. But, pointed towards the music of a festival that essentially made rich people richer, my moral compass read “by all means sneak in”. This youthful misconduct didn’t call for the most profound reassessment of my ethics. I was pretty broke after all and my road to bankruptcy had also been paved by doing some good deeds such as working with nonprofits and donating money.
Besides, no one would lose because of one more set of ears listening. Probably most of the people on stage had snuck into one venue or another at some point in their lives. A little voice in my head, resembling the one of Kant I imagine, said: “what if everybody would do this?” But not everybody does ever and not everybody did then as the joyous crowds on the far side of the fence proved. It's a philosophical rabbit hole really. Naturally, Kant's principals are noble, intact, and upright, while mine dangled lazily between mischievous and preposterous. But, from a pragmatic point of view no harm was done and this factual utilitarian reality was more convenient for me that day.
A couple of people seemed to think like me, or have their own moral justification or simply didn’t care. One group of juveniles had a particularly noteworthy approach to get in: their fiercest member jumped onto his skateboard, ducked and clung to an official car that was allowed through one of the gates. The almost perfect coup got busted only seconds later and the kid literally got the boot administered by the authorities in a brutal manner. The outrage caused by that led both sides directly into combat and a severe crossfire with stones ensued, during which innocent bystander me was suddenly caught in the middle.
It was time for me to take off and work on my own strategy. My best shot was a less guarded fence on the far side of the park, offering two opportunities: some cars parked near it, making for the perfect springboard or an official security uniform that shone invitingly in blue and yellow somewhere near a tree. I thought if I could just make it across the fence, run to the tree and throw on the vest, the security guards nearby wouldn’t pay too much attention to me being there, far from the stages. But all my plans were shattered, when a whole group of guards decided on that very spot for their lunch break. By then some hours into the struggle, I resigned.
While I slowly trudged back towards the metro station, I heard Vampire Weekend play Oxford Comma, a song of some significance to. The tune ushered me to the nearest piece of sidewalk, where I sat and took it in with some sips of Whiskey. And so I got more than what I paid for. Because it’s true what they say: “If you want to see a music festival you buy a ticket. If you don’t, you can be glad if you end up listening to some of it from outside with a whisky flask.”
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