||The venue is on the west side, in a warehouse behind a gas station. Its location was meant to be a secret. The flyers - the only advertisement for the event - gave nothing more than the address of two import record stores to get tickets from; the tickets sold at the record stores printed only a phone number to call after nine pm; the phone number had a pre-recorded announcement saying to ring back at ten; finally, at eleven, a fresh recording went out announcing the venue. So Missy, who's dragged me here from Hedonism against my instincts but not against my wishes, tells me. But they might as well have flashed the address up in Times Square two weeks ago for all the good these games have done. Hundreds of teenage ravers mill about out front, blocking the entrance to the gas station, casually tossing cigarette butts within sparking distance of the gas itself. A few older ravers, presumably the promoters, are trying to get those with tickets inside the building as fast as possible. They're busy shouting to everyone else to go home. Their anxious expressions give their concern away: this event is highly illegal.
"The place only holds three hundred," Missy tells me as we cross the street to join the throng. There's at least that many outside. "It's dangerous doing this in Manhattan. Too obvious. But we have to prove a point." She sounds upset, as if the point in question is a sharp sword to her own chest. But as she takes my hand and pulls me through the unruly crowd, disappointment is the last thing on my mind. Everyone here knows her. More so, everyone likes her. A lot of people kiss her as they greet her; I notice it's mainly the boys. At the front of the mass a frazzled-looking white kid with six inch blond deadlocks momentarily breaks from checking tickets and turning away those empty handed, gives her an extra-close smooch on the lips that presumably comes with being the man in charge, and parts to let us through. "He with you?" is all he says about me. She smiles and I feel a flutter. I'm with her.
We climb some industrial width stairs and as we get higher so the music rises in volume. A knot of excitement gathers in my stomach to match. It's a sensation familiar to anyone who's been to any club anywhere, but it seems extra potent tonight. For all that I deal in the unorthodox, I've come to know what to expect when I go out...The few gigs I get to are inter-changeable when it comes to procedure. The Haunt back in Jersey can no longer shock me. And though Hedonism provides entertainment for every entity, offers freedom for all seekers, it is a controlled entertainment, a contained freedom; for all that it pretends to no rules, it is a precision engine, designed to make money at any cost. But tonight, as we ascend to our destination, I have no idea what to expect. Even those like Missy who go to these events every weekend only have a vague idea. Hunting it down from flyer to ticket to venue to rave, it's like any great romance - the thrill is in the chase. Now we can only hope the sex is worth the pursuit.
We walk through invisible portals - no security, no metal detectors, no ticket windows or number-clickers - and into the heart of the matter.
"THE MESSIAH! THE MESSIAH!"
The crowd is in rapture. But unlike the blind worship of Boy Wonder, or the self-conscious sacrilege at Depraved, this crowd is in adulation only of itself. The room is all on one level, dark and crowded; whereas at Hedonism the DJ looks down from his exalted position above, the decks here could be anywhere in the room. No one seems to any extent interested in finding them. Instead, in every direction teenage kids are dancing frantically, almost spastically, semi-hopping on the spot, waving their arms in a dozen directions at once as if drawing instant maps of the psychedelic experience. There's none of the moshing The Wire's crowd attracts; none of the elaborating posing of the drag set; and certainly not that pathetic imitation of dancing so favored by the B&Ts. If anything, this is a sped-up, secular version of the great Gothic groove, that individualistic and painstaking two-step so beloved of boys in black dresses and girls in shorn fishnets.
"Did I dream you dreamed about me?"
And just as the dance is both a familiar form of expression and yet like nothing I've ever seen, so the music is at once both entirely habitual and yet totally novel. I hear frantic breakbeats, like someone's got hip hop on at the wrong speed, and I hear helium voices to match, I recognize the familiar drone of the industrial techno vacuum cleaner, and I hear the simple piano chords that are the property of house. It's like a collage of everything I would normally hear at Hedonism over the course of a week.
Some of the kids here are so young this must be one of their first teenage nights out. But I also recognize faces from Depraved; boys who just a couple of months back sported leathers and ripped jeans, black combat boots and aggressive slogans, are here in stripey Jive surf shirts, baggy shorts, and bulky sneakers. A few girls I knew for mohawks and sucking cock in toilets are in pigtails and sucking lollipops, like they're working their way back to the womb. They've jumped ship, this crowd, switched sides, and they don't recognize me; not out of rudeness, just that their eyes are too far gone to see beyond the shapes they draw in front of them. They used to be into Hedonism; now they're simply in heaven.
This, I grasp all too clearly, is the buzz that Skippy was always chasing, always describing, always in awe of. Fridays at Hedonism, divided by the mainstream, he never fully realized it; but the aftershows, the one-off raves, the distant gigs in unannounced places that I never attended as I was too busy busing...there he found his calling. And I never went visiting. How I wish he was here with us. In spirit perhaps he is. Ever since I told Missy we had permission to see him at the hospital she's been incredibly upbeat. She's obviously looking forward to it.
"You into this, Holy?" she asks me, referring, I assume, to the event. Looking round some more, taking the music in some more, wanting to be part of this with her some more, I nod my head vigorously in the affirmative.
"Open wide, then," she says. I look at her for clarification and I see she's got a couple of white pills in her hand, the size of aspirin. I let out an exhausted moan, which is drowned out by the music. After last night's chemical misadventures, the last thing I need is more drugs. Then again, if I expect to last through the night, more drugs are exactly what I need. What the hell. It's Saturday night. I no longer work Sunday nights. And I'm with her. Certainly physically, possibly emotionally and so, I suppose, I may as well be chemically, too. I open wide. She pops the pill onto the tip of my tongue, smiles - delectably, I note to myself while sober in case later on I blame the drug - and then does the same thing to herself. For a moment I wonder if she wants us to exchange the pills with our tongues, but then she swallows, gulps, winks, grins. So do I.
Missy shuffles on her feet. She wants to dance, I can tell, but she's about more than just that. She knows people, she goes places. She wants to check out the scene.
There's no bar to speak of, which means no bartenders, no bar backs and best of all for me, no bus boys either. At a fold-up picnic table a few kids are making brightly colored concoctions in a blender instead. Space Race. Energy Flash. Protein Punch.
"All legal," says the boy behind the bench as I examine a big white container, the kind that steroids come in.
"So legal they're not even regulated," adds Missy.
"Maybe later." She buys a couple of waters instead, hands me one. I gulp greedily. I feel a thirst coming on.
We move around. Missy is like a kissing machine. Everyone offers her a peck on the cheek. Everyone gets one in return. She hugs and clutches, kisses and touches. I'd say it was the ecstasy - at least I assume it was ecstasy - but it's too early to have kicked in yet. Then I suddenly get a huge attack of butterflies in my stomach, recognize it as the initial speed surge, and with a jaw-stretching grin, tell myself I'm in for a fine time.
A couple of girls skip past us, hand in hand like nursery friends, and I'm beginning to get a euphoric sense of this as some idyllic playground for regressing teens, when suddenly they go flying to the floor. As we look down at their sprawled bodies, we see outstretched legs extending from shadows against the wall. Missy helps pick the girls up, and has a word with the zombies on the ground. Then she repeats it. And again. Eventually, as if with cognitive difficulty, they draw their out-stretched legs inward and upwards to their chest.
"Blunts," she says to me on standing back up. "Don't know why they bothered paying twenty bucks to get in if they only want to get stoned." The reason seems pretty straight up to me, but I don't want to harsh our high. Accentuate the positive instead.
The room, its concrete walls causing the sound to bounce all over the place, is mostly dark with a decent number of mid-tech lights flashing hallucinogenic morse code. But as we round a corner, we see a desk lamp shining down upon another flea market table. Missy is drawn to it like a moth. The table is laden with flyers. 'Magic.' 'Energize.' 'Heart.' All names for upcoming raves in surprisingly far-off places: Philly, New Haven, Asbury, Baltimore, even DC. They all fit a pattern, too: giant fold-out invites in lurid psychedelic computer-generated designs; long lists of obscure dee jays with brief resumes ("the DC originator," "direct from New York," "rave pioneer,") and even longer lists of phone numbers for "tickets" and "rides." They boast things like "24K systems" and "2000W intellibeams." "100% legal," seems a popular if unconvincing cry. "Guaranteed to go off," says one with less respect for the law and more belief in itself - or the power of its bribes. None of them list locations.
Except one. It's at Hedonism. Next Friday night. The event is called Wired. And you can guess who's the star DJ. The invite is not the same big fold-out either; it's the regulation six by four inch double-sided card that all Hedonism's flyers are printed as. And at the moment it's causing a show-down between the baby-faced thin black kid trying to keep this table tidy and the imposing presence of a certain Hedonism promoter trying to place a pile of them smack in the center.
"This table's only for rave flyers," says the kid, as forcefully as he can. His t-shirt has a peace sign on it. How quaint.
"This is a rave," says the Wire, holding up his invites. The Ocean is standing alongside him, seemingly disinterested in the impending argument. She looks around, bored," - this is most definitely not her scene - "then sees me, breaks into a come-on grin and blows a kiss.
"No it's not," says the kid behind the table, sticking to his guns.
"It's a mega nightclub promotion masquerading as a rave." A masquerave, I think. Have to remember that come Halloween.
"I say it's a rave," says the Wire. Anything else is meant to go unsaid. The conversation is meant to end here. But the kid won't be subdued. He won't play his part.
"And I say it's not. You can hand out the flyers to the kids yourself if you want, they'll tell you what they think it is."
"I don't want to hand them out," says the Wire. "I'm a fucking dee jay, not a two-bit teenage promoter. I just want to put these flyers down here and be done with it. Fuck, man, I thought you was all into peace and love. Like your shirt says. Positive vibes. All that shit."
"Yeah, man, positive vibes," drawls the kid, with sarcasm way beyond his years. "And you can't get positive vibes at a mainstream nightclub. Why do you think you don't see this crowd at Hedonism? You want to make a difference, you want to be part of this 'scene,' you want positive vibes, peace and love, yeah? Then get out of Hedonism."
"Now there's a challenge," I say, sidling up to the Wire. The speed rush is good and happening now. I feel like talking him down a bit. "What do you reckon? Give up the Friday night gig? Now that you've just got it?"
The Wire acknowledges me. But it's with a chill. "Holy, man. What you doing here? I didn't have you down for this scene." None of the hugging or hand-shaking he gave me all last week. "Hey girl." He nods recognition to Missy, then talks over my head direct to her. "You brought Holy along? After all those questions the cops were asking yesterday? About Skippy?"
"You're Holy?" says the boy by the table, rising straight to the bait. "You're not the one who ..."
"Of course I fucking....." I begin, but Missy talks for me.
"Chill out, Fly." That's his name? "Holy's with me. If he's with me, then obviously he didn't shoot Skippy. Nobody knows who shot Skippy."
"They must have an idea," says the Wire. "Or they wouldn't be asking questions about Holy."
"That's funny," I say. "They've been asking me questions about you, as well."
"Oh yeah? And what'd you tell them?"
"I can't quite remember offhand. Why, what did you tell them about me?"
"You suggesting I'm setting you up? Your room-mate gets shot and the next we know you're Mr fucking Shock Artist around town, in the Count's pocket, page fucking six, ten fucking grand? Why I need to set you up? Seems suspicious enough behavior to me."
"Yeah. And I suppose the fact Skippy gets shot, you stumble on the scene, get him to hospital in a coma, then take over his precious Friday nights doesn't mean anything either, does it, Mr rave promoter?"
"You saying I got something to do with that. Holy? You been dogging me all fucking week and I can do without it. Skippy was my buddy too, you know. You don't have a lock on his friendship. You never even set foot in this scene before. You want to make something of this? You want to go outside and settle this? Man, I should fucking shoot you."
He shouldn't have said that. And he knows it. "I didn't mean that," he says. But we know he doesn't mean it. And it's too late. He already said it. I promise, Skippy dies, The Wire's a dead man.
"Boys, boys," says the Ocean, coming between us, placing a hand on each of our chests, pushing us gently away. "Grow up. Neither of you shot Skippy. We all know that. The police are just covering all bases. Okay? They love to divide and conquer."
The Wire grunts. I snarl. We stare each other down another few seconds, and then the Wire, I swear, blinks.
"You want to know why we don't want to be involved with Hedonism, Mr Always-Wired?" shouts Fly Boy over the music and into our personal silence. "You've just answered your own question. Take your flyers away, fake rave dee jay. They bring negative vibes. And you, miss liberal," he says to Missy, "should get yourself out of there too. Get a proper job. You too, Holy. That gothic art crap might turn on the media, but it doesn't wash round here." Fly boy's amazing. He's dissed the lot of us without thinking twice. He'll make a great drag queen if he ever discovers his sexuality. The only one to get away with out a drubbing is the Ocean and if he finds out what she does for a living...But she's pulled the Wire away from the table, dragging him across the room to a dark corner. Away from further confrontation. Away from the truth, more like.
I turn to Missy. Two minutes ago, her eyes were sparkling green seas of youthful excitement and love of-life passion. Now they're brimming with tears. They make her look yet younger than she is. I think I'm falling for a twelve-year old.
She takes my hand and drags me to a corner. "It didn't use to be like this," she says, swallowing hard and trying to look brave. "No one ever used to get hurt in the old days." By that I think she means six months ago. "People didn't scream at each other. No one ever talked about putting raves on in nightclubs. I'm sorry I brought you here. It's over. You're too late."
"It's alright," I say. "Really." I don't want to be too late. Not for her. I put my arms around her and she sinks into my chest. Buries her head in there as if looking to burrow inside. She's shorter than me and as I find myself looking down on her strawberry blonde hair, I can't help but start stroking it. I ought to feel like I'm back in my early teens, trying to get beyond first base. But I feel something else entirely. I feel an incredible surge of warmth wash over me. Truly intense, protective, non-sexual but totally loving warmth towards this girl. A part of me knows it's the ecstasy, but another part of me insists I'd feel like this anyway. It's the typical confusion of the mind-altering drug - perception posing as reality fronting as perception under the guise of a good trip - but it doesn't bother me. I feel only happiness at my potential to make her content.
She looks up after a minute or so, and she's smiling again. Trippy drugs can do that to you at the beginning: send you on a speed rush that can turn you aggressive or melancholy or just plain weird if you don't know how to ride it out. We've ridden it now, that I can tell. I feel proud for helping her through and beam accordingly. She recognizes my feeling, must now feel it for herself, and whatever she really thinks of me, for now she's decided to play along with me. "Let's watch," she says. We lean back together into the security of the dank wall, hands touching. Hers is as light as a feather and I feel her pulse dance up to mine. The tips of our fingers explore each other's. And in my sudden MDMA-aided desire to understand the cosmos, I realize what it is that's missing from this scene.
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