Friday, February 24, 2006

Journal 02- Pre-Peace Corps, Raving While Waiting for Poland, Segue #1

It’s not as if we did nothing but rave. My friends and I got together for dinners, to play mini golf, and go swimming (skinny dipping) at a lake in Great Falls, Virginia. For those of us who skateboarded, we’d skate pools we found out about, and hit ramps whenever someone tipped us off to their location. Sometimes it would be a small group getting together to go to a show, the museum, The Sugar Shack (coffee house) or whatever else we decided to do. These activities were really fun, but the vibe really struck when we all got together. We were all in our early twenties, so we had all the energy in the world to stay up all night on the weekends.

Come Friday and/or Saturday night, the cumulative conversations and plans for the night had us all wound up to go out. Pretty frequently, someone new would join us to go up to Baltimore, or to the rave happening that weekend. Shortly thereafter, the person would join the group which was something truly remarkable. I am trying to get at the phenomenon of our group, collective, crew, posse or whatever it should be called. The dynamic was so positive and we were all so genuinely happy to be together. I can only describe it as being with your ten or more of your best friends. It felt like each person in the group was your best friend, not just a good friend. It was euphoric.

We’d begin to congregate at a restaurant or someone’s house for dinner in smaller groups. Eventually we would all converge on one person’s house and then between 10:00 and 11:00 we’d caravan to the party. Even the car ride was fund we’d be really pumped up, happy to be with each other, listening to music and talking up a storm as we drove. If we were going to Rise or Fever, it was a warehouse party with a limited, but excellent line up of DJs. There were anywhere from 500 to 1000 people there. If we were going to a rave, then the excitement was notched up several levels and there were usually several thousand people at the party. Rise and Fever were fairs and raves were full on carnivals. We’d bring everything you need for a long night of dancing and hanging out: water bottles, candy, bubble gum, fun trippy glow toys and anything else that sounded like it might be fun to have. This kind of stuff would quickly fill up a back pack or two that we would put on the floor to mark our group and dancing space. If it was winter, the jackets would pile up on top of the backpacks.

The people you’d meet at these parties ranged from the interesting to the scary. Fortunately, most of the people were pretty cool. There was a group of really young kids and then there were the tweakers, which were scarier. These people looked like that had overindulged in a variety of substances. There were the dancers who were focused on dancing above all. Sometimes they would bring baby powder to put on the floor so that their feet would slide better. (At “Glow” in Harve De Grace, Maryland, the dancing area included a few tennis courts and the baby powder made the surface much better to dance on). Others would dress up in anything ranging from costumes to complex blinking light systems. They were always fun to watch. The queens showed up at some of these events and their flamboyance was fun to watch. Many people brought fun things along with them and were generally cool and friendly. There were back rub circles and one guy brought a set of paint brushes trying to get people to submit to his (dry) paint brush facial massages.

Our crew was relatively tame in attire. It was about having a good time, but there was no need to get involved in complicated costumes. This didn’t prevent the occasional wig or goofy hat.

We’d get pretty jacked when there was a good DJ spinning. We tended to favor the techno, house and breaks DJs as well as the Jungle or Drum and Bass DJs, the latter when it was more musical than it is today. The sign of a good set was when we would get lost in the music. The intensity would build slowly but steadily for an hour or so. By this point most everyone in the club was a sweating, pulsating mass of dancing, it seemed like the DJ would have a sense of when the crowd was peaking in their frenzy when he or she would break the intensity with a track with a much lower BPM and often with blissful atmospheric qualities. This served as a break or brief respite from the next onslaught of pounding beats.

Words, at least mine, do no justice to the experience when you dance virtually all night at a rave. It is a combination of the people you are with, first and foremost, and a series of other factors. It is the mood you are in. It is the repetitive beats, smoothly waning and ebbing in both speed and intensity, which allows you to find a rhythm and stick with it for protracted periods of time. It feels like the DJ is taking you on a journey, (at the risk of sounding very corny). It is the lights and decorations in the warehouse or club. It is the sound system too. And it is so many other things.

Imagined Places. Geoff Dyer: The Search

I recently re-read Geoff Dyer’s novel “The Search." It reads like a cross between film/detective noir and road movie, but what stood out in my mind was the homage to Italo Calvino, specifically to his novella “Invisible Cities.” I love the allegory of the cities that Calvino describes in his book. It is a collection of short stories, sometimes a page or less, that describe real and imagined cities or aspects of them. Calvino’s book so captured my imagination that I have followed that vein in literature ever since. Dyer’s novel makes an excellent companion to “Invisible Cities.” In fact, I was turned on to Calvino by reading a blurb written by John Updike stating that Calvino provided carefully imagined stories on par with Borges and Marquez, who are both related

Dyer’s novel starts out in what might be the Bay Area in San Francisco. As the narrator travels in the story, he goes to places that could be American towns and cities, such as Chicago and New Orleans and to others that sound as if they are based on Italian cities. One town sounds like he is describing a photograph of a busy cityscape. Another city is a large museum or palace. I wish it would just keep on going, describing ever more cities and places in the search. True to the homage, the plot is thin; the search of an illusive man is almost beside the point. It provides a narrative thread to for the story. In fact, the sightings of the man the narrator seeks link a trail much like the effort the narrator and a film maker engage in to trace the figure though a series of thousands of photographs taken in a city on a single day. One gets the sense that Dyer is reliving some of his travels. He lived in San Francisco and New Orleans and traveled through much of America and Europe.

I’ve read several other Dyer books. His last novel is about photography. The one before is a travel book, called “Yoga for Those Who Can’t be Bothered.” He has a wry sense of humor and an eye for detail while maintaining a tight prose style. He resonates with me on the story level, and the fact that he has similar interests to mine. I look forward to his next novel.