WILD Stories: On The Road (To Art Basel)
Art, parties, debauchery and a no-regrets mentality, it’s hard to forget your first Art Basel Miami beach. But for journalist Meghan Mardon, the journey down south was just as much a part of the experience, riding along in an old school bus full of artists in conjunction with Ludlow Supply Co . It was Jack Kerouac meets Fear and Loathing meets Spring Breakers, and Meghan documented the whole thing.
Here she shares her diary of the WILD ride, with documentation by photographer Alex Kapsidelis. Julian Gilbert on the road
I’m now old enough to rent a car but not capable enough to drive one so it’s Alan who accompanies me to the rental spot in Midtown. We’re headed to Virginia to join our friends and journey south to Miami for Art Basel. Coffee and sleep deprived, I’m having second thoughts. Miami- fake tits, sunshine, Ed Hardy, art. I don’t even get art. It’s the rumors of debauchery, talk of a grown-up Spring Break that intrigue me. A chance to partake in the hedonistic activities I missed out on during my college years. (Discounting one misguided break I actually spent in Miami, under 21, sullen and unamused). I was too anti- back then I didn’t even own a bathing suit. But the years have laid way to a more convivial attitude and several pairs of short shorts so I’d enthusiastically accepted Aiden’s invitation and here I am. Alan gets the keys and we’re on the road and after what feels like years we’ve escaped the Bermuda Triangle that is New Jersey and what after what feels like even more years we’re in Richmond standing beside the pearlescent blue school bus that will be our vessel to Basel .It starts to sink in that we’re doing it. Another motley crew of misfits boarding a bus with psychedelics and big dreams. Fuck winter and fuck adulthood. The saying goes you’re either on the bus or you’re off the bus and it’s too late for second thoughts; I’m on. The bus plunges into the night and I’m struck with the fear I forgot to pack my sunscreen.
Colby Hewitt, Julian Gilbert, Alan Yuch and Alex Ball
Alex Ball and Alan Yuch
We drive. Or sleep. Or try to sleep as there is no real sleeping on a bus full of belongings and bodies. The trick, I think, is to find a position just comfortable enough- or to take enough benzos that you reach a mild level of peaceful catatonia. I do both. Others prefer to spend their time less sedated and eat mushrooms to pass the time. The time, it crawls. We visit South of the Border, the self- proclaimed highway oasis along I -95. Obligatory tourist photos are snapped and we exchange hellos with the trio of goth teenagers stopped here too. At The Sombrero, where unsurprisingly I eat the possibly the worst Mexican food of my life, Colby tries to pass off Special Agent Fox Mulder’s id as his own and the waitress is unamused. There is in fact hardly an amusement to be found in this amusement trap. We drive. By nightfall we’re in Jacksonville and though we want to continue further to Daytona, or at least place with a pulse, our driver is tired, of the road and mostly of us, so we stop at a motel. He warns us to check the sheets for fleas, he’s read the Yelp reviews. The more responsible ones retreat for a good night’s sleep, while us degenerates catch a cab to Sinsations- Jacksonville’s premiere full nude strip club. I amuse myself by pretending that one of the strippers is actually Hope Sandoval not just a lookalike and Ray gets his first lap dance from what I think was a woman and Alan is ecstatic that his girl had braces. At Waffle House, Aiden is disappointed to learn that this particular location no longer carries whipped cream. An effort to go green, someone asks? Our teenage waitress giggles out of nervousness and probably totally confusion. Whippits?This she understands but answers, wasn’t me. Alex and I wander parking lot after empty parking lot, really soaking in the cultural richness of this town and we don’t sleep and don’t bother to wake the others either and it’s midmorning before we’re back on the road. We drive.
Miami is exactly as I remember only this time around the streets are filled with other New Yorkers. Confused by the sea of black and absence of Ed Hardy, I’m beginning to experience a sort of strange de ja vu. From inside the Max Fish and Westway popups, it’s only the palm trees and 80 degree weather that convince me I’ve left New York. Preparing for the week, I set honest intentions to attend some of the fair, to make an attempt to understand this thing called art but then Alexis and I are in a cab on the way to Hialeah to visit to famed Flamingo Plaza, a shopping centre we’re told is a thrifter’s goldmine. The cab driver questions our reasons for coming to this part of town and later when all I’ve managed to score is a skirt from Hot Topic and we’ve been to every bus stop in a half mile radius and not actually seen a bus, I’m beginning to understand his sentiment. Standing under a freeway overpass waiting for some bus, any bus to rescue us from this place, a guy comments on Alexis’s tattoos. His cousin is a tattooist, he owns a shop she should really check out and were we from out of town? His name is Adam but his friends call him Raven (other aliases include Jack Skellington and Jack Sparrow) and he wears all black all the time not because he’s a hipster but because he’s goth and not some corny ass mall goth either but the real deal. He’s into the Romantics, Shelley and Byron, whose works he likely read in the prison I assume he’s just been released from considering the fair hair cut and certain kind of positivity only a guy who’s been locked up can have. Raven is strongly against gun violence, has a collection of over one thousand knives and can recite verbatim every Universal Studios Halloween Horror Night commercial jingly. He’s a gentleman too, giving Gigi the pregnant girl standing near us a cigarette when she asks. Easily the most interesting person I meet in Miami.
Something, somewhere. Probably danced with Ball. Never applying enough sunscreen. Missing the snow.
We’re the only people at this pool party actually in the pool and I have mild, psychedelic- induced paranoia that people think its some sort of staged performance. But then Alexis is yelling that nothing fucking matters and Miyako is underwater and her long hair and longer limbs have me thinking she’s a mermaid and Julian is standing at the edge of the pool and for a minute I believe he will abandon his post at The Bikestand and jump, and it’s true. Nothing matters. This communal trip has become even more of a communal trip as Alex seems to have blessed everyone within a mile radius with his own Electric Kool-Aid . It’s the opening of No Class and there is an infectious energy pervasive throughout the Ansonia Creative House. That or I’m high, the difference is none. It’s the most art I’ve seen all week, barring Jesse Camp’s one man act aboard the bus that inarguably can be reduced to him imitating himself and the fifteen minutes I spent wandering the Pulse Fair, totally out of my element and totally unappreciative. I’m proud of my friends. Everyone is talking and laughing and if Kesey could witness this he’d know we’ve achieved it; we’re relating. Then, a sudden downpour and we’re ducking inside a Collins Ave tourist shop, emerging in full South Beach swag and it isn’t until much later, when we’re eating at Jerry’s for the second night in a row despite it’s being shit, that I’m coming down and realize what I’m wearing. Mortified, I wish I’d just Gone Wild instead.
It’s our last night in Miami and we’re sprawled out on the sand, a small group of us awaiting the arrival of the sun. Kellan and I talk of the show, our friends, the future, our threadbare ties to it. The trouble with happiness or sadness, he’s saying, is you have to actually want one. Soon it’s back on the bus, back to the lives and realities we’ve left behind in New York and though it all seems so asinine from where we’re sitting now, that we want anything but this, I know it’s futile to attempt preservation of this moment. It only means anything because it’s temporary. Spring Break simply isn’t forever. This thing, this feeling, it’s “working itself on permanence” but for now I must settle for “one short glimpse of the horizon.” Until next year…