Living a Dream & Surviving a Nightmare at KAABOO

A solid establishment (courtesy of the Pillbox Tavern)

Since I first heard them as a high school student in suburban Southern California, I’ve dreamt about seeing Wu-Tang Clan live. I’ve seen individual members like RZA, GZA and Method Man before, but it always felt like it would be impossible to see the entire Clan do what they do best, especially since the untimely passing of Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Naturally, this is the act I was most excited to see at this year’s KAABOO Del Mar. Thanks to an extremely confusing system of VIP sections and different levels of tickets, and the fact that none of the four or five security guards I asked could point me to the media section, I ended up in a very upscale VIP tent that, if I’m not mistaken, was sponsored by MGM.

I was by no means looking to be a party crasher. A security guard who I asked called her supervisor, who then instructed her to send me up into this tent. It wasn’t until Wu-Tang was about to start that the section filled up, drinks became complementary, and I realized that this was supposed to be a private event. But festival staff, at the direction of a supervisor, had let me back up into this section multiple times throughout the day and hey, I wasn’t complaining.

I was ecstatic when Wu-Tang took the stage. They played one classic after another, with that same group energy and versatility that gained them popularity back in the ’90s. Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s son, Young Dirty Bastard, did an incredible job of filling in his father’s verses and replicating his unmistakable style.

My excitement grew as their set continued, until I finally realized that I felt a lot more intoxicated than I should have, considering that I had only had two single pours of whiskey since eating dinner and that I had not voluntarily ingested any other substances that day. I shrugged it off and continued to enjoy the show until a security guard approached me and told me that I had to leave because I didn’t have the correct wristband to be in this VIP area.

Honestly, I had been expecting this to happen all day, since I figured I ended up there by mistake. But like I said, the rest of the festival staff was cool with me being there and no one could direct me toward a designated media area. Nevertheless, I have a vague memory of arguing with the security guard like some kind of drunken imbecile, even though I knew I was in the wrong. The person I was with noticed that I went from being slightly (if at all) buzzed to completely belligerent at the drop of a hat. I ultimately left the area and walked down to the general admission area to enjoy the rest of the show.

Wu-Tang finished their set and Snoop Dogg came up on stage to perform his catalog of West Coast classics. I only remember this because I thought it was strange that the event schedule suggested the two would be performing together. At one point, I apparently told the person I was with that I was going to the bathroom and that I would be right back. They didn’t see me again for nearly two hours.

The next thing I remember is walking through a neighborhood of beach houses, wondering how I got there. I had no recollection of the music festival and no idea what city I was in; it felt as if I was in a dream. I was completely alone, aside from a few small groups of rowdy party people, who in retrospect, I realized had probably just left the festival as well. My phone was dead and I was stranded in a completely unfamiliar place with no clue how I got there.

I kept walking for awhile and came to the conclusion that I was in San Clemente (most beach cities look the same, especially at night) and started asking random people around me if they knew my close friend who lives in that city. I eventually made my way to a bar called The Pillbox Tavern (ironic, I know) and asked the bartender if he knew my San Clemente friend. The bartender informed me that I was in Solana Beach and pointed to my festival wristband, asking if I had just been at KAABOO.

It was then that reality started to set in. I remembered that I had left the person I was with at the festival, which was over by now, and that I had no way to get a hold of them. I had somehow ended up more than 2 miles away from the festival, and I didn’t know if I walked that whole way or if someone had taken me. The bartender, to whom I am eternally grateful, realized that something was seriously wrong and let me charge my phone at the bar. I called my family, who immediately knew something was wrong by the sound of my voice and came to get me.

Things are starting to get hazy. (Photo by Alive Coverage)

My memory of this part of the night is still extremely hazy. I realized that the only explanation was that I had been drugged: Drunk people don’t just go from the verge of unconsciousness to  being somewhat lucid within an hour and a half. I started to panic. I felt extremely guilty for leaving the person at the festival. I felt guilty for being beyond fucked up in public and for possibly being a huge burden on everyone at the bar. I went outside to find some private place for my panic attack and a waitress followed me out. She gave me a cup of water and told me to stay around because my family had called the bar and said they were coming to get me.

My family came to get me and I told my dad that he looked like Jesus Christ. They drove me to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, which had an extremely overcrowded emergency room. We told the emergency room nurse, Jeff, that I had been drugged and that I needed to be tested to see what was in my system.

At this point, I was still extremely intoxicated and incoherent. Because of this, Jeff treated me as if I were a problem instead of a patient. Frustrated, I told them that I needed to be tested right away because the drug was leaving my system, but they made me wait at least an hour before they took a blood sample. After another hour, I became increasingly agitated and told Jeff that I couldn’t wait any longer; I was still panicking and feared that I was given some kind of poison.

Finally, after at least two hours and much more frustration, Jeff offered me a cup for a urine test. I had already urinated at the hospital at least once and possibly once at the bar. I asked him why he didn’t offer me a urine test when I first checked in, and he responded with a shrug and a smug smile. As of this morning, Palomar Medical Center still cannot tell me the results of these tests.

Obviously, neither KAABOO or MGM is to blame for this incident. Shitty people are everywhere, from music festivals to nightclubs to frat houses. But so are good people. I can’t articulate how grateful I am for the staff at The Pillbox. They realized that something was wrong and, instead of kicking me out of the establishment like the drugged-up person that I was at the time, they helped me get to safety. I’m also beyond thankful that my family drove to pick me up and take me to the hospital, no matter how useless that visit might have been.

If you or anyone you know was drugged at this event, report it to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. If I’m correct and this happened to me while I was in the VIP section, there are fewer than a hundred people who could have done this. I don’t imagine it would take much to dig up a list of who had been admitted to that area. As far as I can tell, I was not attacked or assaulted while I was blacked out, but that might not be the case for anyone else who went through this. This happens more often than we know or would like to admit. Through sharing our experiences and prosecuting those who think this is acceptable, perhaps we can put an end to this inhuman behavior.

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