Originally published in InsideOut: Ohio's College Magazine, Volume One, Issue Two, Winter 1992.
Delving into The Debauchery: Narrative of a Virgin Raver
For years, I had heard of these infamous Rave Parties; I listened to stories about these Caligula-like parties of drugs, lust, sweat and rib-rattling music. And tonight I shall partake in Cincinnati. Tonight, I Rave.
Except for a monarch butterfly committing suicide by wrapping itself around my Volare's antenna like a soft taco at 80 mph, the ride from Athens to Cincinnati was uneventful. After buying beer, I walked with my friend, Nash, down Vine Street to the pay point. We turned the corner and stopped.
A large man in black militaristic clothing greeted us on the stoop of a dirty apartment building. He cocked an eyebrow as if to ask, "What the Hell are you looking at?"
I gulped twice and looked to Nash for guidance.
"Rave party?" Nash asked, full of confidence.
Military man silently pointed into the building, then flashed four fingers.
Apartment Four held two guys and a buttload of money. One stared at us with a cold, level gaze, while the other nervously wiped his hands on his baggy jeans.
"Are any of you police, narcs, or federal agents of any kind?" the one behind the desk asked. (Yeah, I'm a fucking metermaid.)
We went to our friend Attica's apartment, where, over Bud Lights, Chris "Leggett" Braham told me about California Raves: four DJs at a time, wide video screens, as much Ecstasy and Acid as you can gobble, carnival rides in airplane hangers, Smart Bars, Dumb Bars, and other craziness. Grinning hungrily, he then said that he had heard rumors of a huge Ecstasy shipment coming in from San Diego to this Rave. Rock-n-Roll. I chugged my last beer, popped a couple of Vivarin and followed the group up the street.
We heard the music thumping half a block away and saw flashing strobe lights through the windows as we stood outside in line. Immediately through the door, two "bouncers" dressed identical to the pay point mercenary-type searched us. We went up a flight of stairs and entered Sensory Overload.
There's like 800 people here.
Strobe lights, pierced by red and green laser lights, ricocheted off a heavy fog of dry ice. Advertised in pink neon, Smart Drinks and pop were sold bu the door. Far above, bare rafters and piping surveyed the scene below. When the strobe didn't flash, the cavernous room glowed from a mixture of fluorescent and Christmas lights. At the far end, about forty yards away, behind a stack of speakers, the DJs hieled and danced on a stage. Three DJs had flown in from Detroit, one from San Diego and two were local.
Dressed in black with glow sticks or in technicolored stripes with Dr. Seuss hats, people thrusted or gyrated to hardcore dance/rave music that boomed continually at ear-bleed volume. We rushed the dance floor and plunged right in. Soon, I became one of the mass.
Suddenly, as midnight approached, one of our group ran up to us, smiling like a little girl whose father had just bought her a double-dip of mint-chocolate-chip ine cream.
"I bought Acid, come quick, "she shouted at us above the din.
We pushed our way toward the DJ stage and up stairs to its side and into "The Chill Out Lounge."
Darkness. I couldn't see shit.
When I finally got accustomed to the dark, I could see four couches, a fern, and another DJ. Lighter music played quietly. Here, people talked, "chilled out," and drank water from a cooler that went "glug, glug" occasionally. Others zoned-out, lost in private mental Heavens or Hells.
We scurried to a corner. Our ice-cream-friend, Roo, ripped blotters and handed them out to eight hungry hands. I felt like one of the disciples breaking bread. Daphne took my share, placed it on my tongue, and said, "I give you the body of Christ, Amen."
And then we danced.
Around 1:00, I was covered in sweat, had rubbery legs, and Oh Lordy, did I have to pee. I wandered through the crowd in search of a bathroom, which I found empty. Cool. It resembled a Speedway bathroom minus the condom dispenser: off-white linoleum, a mirror, a rust-stained sink, one urinal, and one toilet. I opted for the toilet.
As I stood streaming recycled Bud Light into the puke-covered toilet, the door flung open, crashing against the wall. Two bodies burst in, locking the door behind them. Lovely, two psychos and me with my bladder in operation and penis in hand.
That's when the walls started breathing.
Meanwhile, psycho guy screamed, "can't you see them? They're right there, and madly rubbed the back of his shaved head. the psycho girl, laughing hysterically, splashed him with water.
"I resurrect thee with this blessed water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy ghost, " she yelled.
The psycho guy cried, "Is it hot or cold?"
I had no answer for the schmuck because the walls were hyperventilating and the urine had crept up into my bladder. I glanced at the girl who grinned, shrugged, and splashed more water. I smiled and emptied my bladder. Saying "bye" to living walls, I headed out. The psycho guy screamed, "if I look into the mirror, I throw up."
Back into Sensory Overload, the smell of pot and cloves rammed its heated fist up my nose. I looked around to get my bearings straight. On the wall above me, overlooking the sea of people, moved the face of Satan, and Satan was green and gnashed his teeth over and over. Shapes writhed and loomed in the shadows.
Walking like an ape with bad knees, I shouldered my way back to "The Chill Out Lounge" with this obnoxious grin plastered on my face. I look like a vegetable. What? Never mind, just get to The Lounge. Avoid the space cadet, Star Trek look-alike; s/he's silver and ugly. Light a cigarette. Keep walking. Damn, I'm thirsty. Lounge. Water.
At The Lounge. Friends. Cool water. Sit down with Nash. They're playing the Hokey-Pokey song, "...put your left foot in, and shake it all about...." Everyone sings along. Next song: "...there was a farmer, who had a dog, and Bingo was its name-o...." Look across at people on the couch. It's Daphne and Thelma. Tell Nash they look like flappers from the Roaring Twenties. Light another cigarette. The smoke smells like dogshit on my fingers: smoke it anyway. Kid with Mohawk walks in, walks out. Two guys plug in the pop machine and buy cheap Cokes. The light from it flashes and the people on the couch yell in protest. The machine is unplugged. The space cadet just walked in. Glance at Daphne and Thelma. They point to the dance floor, downstairs, and I nod. Must dance. Must escape the space cadet thing.
The fog was London-think and the stobe light screwed with my mind, but I can't close my eyes. Just dance. God, a beer would taste orgasmic now. The DJs are shouting for the crowd to get up, move, get up, move. They look pissed and political, waving their fists and screaming. A beautiful girl in bra and baggy jeans worn off-the-hip dances in a booth behind them with a stuffed iguana. She keeps ramming it between her legs. Hank gives me a Sweet Tart and says something about exploding.
With a head full of Acid, I lean against a speaker and watch the crowd. Every race imaginable is dancing together. A guy in dread locks brushes against me, his sweat leaving a streak on my arm. Nasty.
Why do people go to these parties? Why do they (we) munch drugs and dance? Are we looking for something? What is missing in our lives? Where are our heroes? Some girl starts shouting. She doesn't want to look at her aura in the mirror. Why not? What is she afraid she'll see?
As I stagger for the mirror on the edge of the dancefloor, I see the space cadet thing coming for me. Aaaarggh! S/he turns the other way. Rock-n-Roll. Rumors go around about a midget with three fingers. Supposedly, the midget is dating the space cadet. Charming couple.
"Fuck it," Leggett screams. "There's no X here."
It's 3:30. Light another (my thirtieth?) cigarette. My legs shake: must dance. Marin screams and points to "one of the most evil things" she had ever seen. Some guy was holding up a balloon and The Green Satan was on it gnashing his teeth, eyeballs spinning over and over.
I find myself in The Lounge again, sitting on the floor. I burn my arm on Nash's arm. Never mind, don't ask. I look across the room at a couch. The beautiful dancer (sans stuffed iguana) is sitting between a guy with Bermuda shorts on and another in a NIN t-shirt.
Strobe light reflections look like lightning on the window.
Look back at the dancer. The Bermuda shorts guy is holding her head in his lap. She's crying? Whoops, not quite. Can you say Oral Sex? Hello!
After a while, the two get up (did she actually just wipe off her mouth) and go separate ways. And who says hippie love is dead?
Around 5:00, we decide to leave; the local DJ sucked. The dancefloor was now noticeably less crowded. Outside, the air felt bitter cold, yet refreshing. It was butt-quiet. Reality returns; back to Earth.
Rave, rave against the dying of the night.