Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Journal 02- Pre-Peace Corps, Raving While Waiting for Poland

After choosing to decline Guinea Bissau as a post, I turned my focus back to my life in the Washington D.C. area. I had a job that didn’t pay fantastically well, but I liked the people I worked with, was moving up steadily and enjoyed a real renaissance in my social life. Sticking around hoping for another Peace Corps assignment was easy. At this time I was writing for a small local music magazine called Scene (out of print for some time now). It was unpaid, but the free CDs to review and the ubiquitous guest list access made it more than worth while. I had time to skateboard, which I enjoyed. I was a bit sad about having to give up skateboarding had gone to Guinea Bissau. There probably weren’t many paved roads there, much less a skate park.
Work was fast-paced; I dealt with mutual fund trading which isn’t rocket science, but it was a good experience and I had developed a rapport with traders in town and around the country. I would later be quite touched when one of the traders came down from Pennsylvania for my going away party. We’d play trivia games and share jokes to add a hint of variety to the daily trade placements. The morning coffee at the local coffee shop and visiting with work buddies made it a rather pleasant experience.
Things got more interesting after work. I’d go home to the group house where I lived and could hang out with my housemates if I didn’t have specific plans. We’d play variations on indoor baseball. It mostly involved hitting a ball around on the ground floor of the house and induced a good deal of chaos. There was nothing to break but the TV set; which miraculously managed to survive in tact. We would also watch TV when John wasn’t watching football (which was almost all the time) or just hang out on the porch drinking beer.
My room was little more than a crash pad. I had a place to leave my stuff, listen to music, and write articles for the magazine. Sometimes a friend would come over and crash after hitting some after hours joint, about when I was heading off to work on my bike. My girlfriend would spend the night a few times a week. She soon had to return to Spain but we kept up a long distance relationship. My love live was reduced to phone calls and letters for several months until we would reunite in Poland, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The best part about this time was the group of friends I hung out with and the collective we formed around our rave adventures. I’d been involved in the dance music scene since college as a radio DJ, and went to events in Greensboro, North Carolina, mostly to a club called The Edge and then later to a regular warehouse party downtown. At the warehouse, the latest 12 inches and acid house were being played such as The KLF, the Happy Mondays and so on. The vibe was fresh; all of there felt like we were tapping into something new and fresh. It had the collective feel that hippies must have felt in the 1960’s. The sense of community was very strong and I latched on to that immediately. What struck me the most aside form the weekly crowds diggin’ this new scene was the old WV combi bus in the middle of the floor and a skate ramp. We’d skate, dance and drink until early morning. This was my introduction to raving and it could be said that we were having our own ‘summer of love[1]” in 1991.

By 1993-1994, I’d come to really enjoy going to raves. One day, another writer for Scene, and I got to talking about raves. He had previously been a lead singer for a band and was mostly into rock. The conversation turned to raves and I invited him to come along to a party in Baltimore called Rise. A week later, he and I piled into my car along with his friend to head up to Baltimore one Friday night. That night opened a new chapter in my life.
As we headed up to Rise, I told my fellow Scene writer what he might expect. His friend was already tripping as we got onto Interstate 95 North. We began joking around, pretending the German techno tape we were listening to was a Grateful Dead bootleg. The friend was not the wiser. He’d been to a rave before and decided to check it out again.
The benefits of being a music magazine writer paid off. We were on the guest list and ushered to the front of the line to go into a warehouse hear the Baltimore harbor. We went straight in, dropped the backpack on the floor and began dancing. It was a evening of trippy breaks which really set the mood and hit the spot. My friend the Scene writer and his buddy were hooked. This was the first in many trips to Rise and Fever in Baltimore where we partied like nobody’s business.

[1] Simon Reynolds, in his book “Generation Ecstasy” termed the summer of 1991 ‘the summer of love’ because the ecstasy-induced euphoria and sense of community that was spreading across the country.