By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
They love rave, these 10 teens at Irving Mall's food court. Seated with them around some tables, "party kid" Trey Mosmeyer is talking about starting a local chapter of DanceSafe, an organization based in Berkeley, California. He's seen ravers get too loaded at parties and agrees with DanceSafe's tactics: providing leaflets on drug information at raves and, for those interested users, having ecstasy tested to make sure it's not laced with something more dangerous, like speed.
"DanceSafe doesn't condemn drug use," Mosmeyer says, his wrists and neck adorned with colorful beads, "the candy" of a typical raver. "If you know all the facts, then you can make your experience as safe as possible."
The media's got it all wrong, he tells me. Raves aren't about in-your-face drug use. They're about "family," about PLUR: Peace. Love. Unity. Respect.
A "safe" rave's coming up, just two days away, he says. And he and his group plan on being there, clean and sober, to show you that to rave you don't have to buzz.
There's no sense in ruining a good party, after all.
On this Saturday morning--July 29--one of them, an 18-year-old, has a pill tester, obtained from DanceSafe. (The 18-year-old is quick to point out that he is not a member of DanceSafe, which has eight chapters nationwide.) Two drug dealers are with him, one also 18, a Plano kid who works at the shop. The other--a 23-year-old Pentecostal Christian--tells me he can't in good conscience sell ecstasy to his fellow ravers unless he knows it's the real thing. So they go to the back of the shop to test the loot. With a knife, one of them scrapes some shavings from a pill, a Green Monster, into a bowl that he got from his mother's kitchen. He then takes a small, brown vial of liquefied chemicals and drops some over the powder. Seconds pass. It turns black, but not as fast as it should have. Still, he concludes it's pure ecstasy.
Just then, a middle-aged woman--an elementary-school teacher who's friends with the boss--comes in. She sees the bowl and the black residue but is oblivious to what's going on. Does she know what they're doing? I ask her. "I don't know," she says, smiling, and leaves.
(For clueless adults, a lesson: Ecstasy's the top drug choice among ravers. As for the rave scene, the word "raving" comes from black British dance culture.)
"So these are all good and everything?" asks the 23-year-old, a tall man looking conservative in his khaki pants and button-down shirt. He says he earns $400 to $600 a week selling the drug.
"See, this is my professional appearance," says the man whose "real job" is in the pharmaceutical industry. "No one would ever guess, and that's the way I want it."
It's 8 p.m. The crowd won't arrive for another hour, but they're expected in the thousands, enough to fill the lower floor's 30,000 square feet to capacity.
Amid the sounds of a DJ revving out a drum-and-bass beat, Mosmeyer and his team set up a booth overlooking the dance floor. This former punk rocker bonded with rave the moment he walked into a club this May and a total stranger hugged him. Acceptance, that's what he felt--something he never encountered at his Catholic prep school. His parents don't understand the rave scene. They don't even know he's used ecstasy.
Earlier in the day, when I stopped by this teen's middle-class Lake Highlands home, I asked his mother about rave. "Which we know so little about," she said, chuckling.
"I hope he's on the good end of it, helping kids," said his 49-year-old father. "I just hope this ecstasy thing isn't as harmful as some articles say it is."
Chronic abuse of ecstasy appears to damage the brain's ability to think and to regulate emotion, memory, sleep, and pain. And it's a felony for anyone caught with even one pill in his possession.
Tonight, at this rave, Laura Fagerstone of Mosmeyer's group is wearing loose-fitting, "phat" pants emblazoned with the letters "XTC" on her back pocket. She's loaned her tent for the night and, with oscillating fans to the side, the shelter will serve as an indoor refuge for those clubgoers who may get too hot amid all the sweaty bodies and the non-stop geometric trance-dancing that ecstasy fuels in users. In worst cases, users--"rolling" and too buzzed to come down--raise their temperatures as high as 108 degrees, causing any number of mishaps: dehydration, blood clotting, heatstroke. Death.
Even though Mosmeyer says that 75 percent of these DanceSafe wannabes use recreational drugs, they're all clean and sober tonight.
Mosmeyer tells me it's because he wants to present a good image to ravers who may not know the risks of careless ecstasy use. And in a few weeks, a member of DanceSafe will come to town, see Mosmeyer's group in action at a rave, and possibly give the go-ahead to start an official chapter here. As of now, Mosmeyer and the others have been at about five parties spreading DanceSafe's message of "harm reduction."