The straight dope

Playing it safe is all the rave for kids seeking peace, love, and ecstasy

Tonight, they have a cooler of water on hand for ravers who get dangerously overheated and can't afford the $2 for bottled water or juice. DanceSafe leaflets on drugs fill a table next to the booth: LSD. Speed. Ketamine. Coke. Ecstasy, or E.

Whatever kids want to know, Mosmeyer and his crew will tell. No condemnation. No retribution. "No b.s.," reads one note, "just straight facts from people who care."

"Standing outside oneself," that's the Greek root of the word ecstasy. It's a dead-on description. The drug's been hailed as the "penicillin of the psyche," a "stabilizer" that triggers dopamine and seratonin to flood the nervous system and create a "warm glow," a sense of childlike amazement at the here and now that hushes the neurotic self.

With E, there is no "I," only "we"; it unites the "family" of ravers, melting away the inhibitions, the Ego. The "love drug" sparks the urge to merge into a cuddle-puddle. Any raver on E also feels a unique interaction with the club music, especially its repetitive, uptempo beats that seem to caress the skin.

Recent research suggests that the drug stimulates a particular brain receptor, which encourages repetitive behavior. Go to any rave, and the pulsating music never dies; it stays in rapt suspension, one loop melting into another that locks ravers into a groove.

Tonight, at Eddie Deen's, ravers will get lost in the music courtesy of local DJs Don and Roland, DJ Rectangle, and Chaos. Above the DJs' booth, a screen hangs. In this dark club, multicolored, fluorescent strobe lights ("eye candy" for ravers, just like the glowsticks with which they dance) interrupt the darkness. On the screen flash images from Disney's Alice in Wonderland. Soon, "trip video" appears, of psychedelic, gyrating designs that would make Jefferson Airplane proud.

Nearby, a girl from Mosmeyer's group posts a sign on the wall across from the booth for the aspiring DanceSafe chapter. "Remember why we started going to parties?" it reads. "The music is the drug. Everyone here is your friend. Feel the vibe and the love. Dance the night away." (By the night's end, a raver scratches out the word "dance" with a red marker, replacing it with "sweat.")

Tonight's rave comes courtesy of Jeremy Word, a 23-year-old party promoter whose production company, Prototype Industries, has put on eight Dallas-area parties in the last year. This rave is a three-way effort, organized by Word as well as the Houston-based Motivation Productions and Dallas' Urban Mass Syndicate. All companies, owned by men in their early 20s, paid $8,000 to rent this space tonight. "There's no place for drugs in the rave scene" says Word, countering a common view that raves are nothing but drug fests. Word's a wiry, short man whose dark eyebrows stand out amid his bleached blond hair, cut so that he has long sidelocks that make him look like a Hassidic Jew. I ask whether he uses drugs. "I do not do drugs," he answers simply.

For $20 a pop, hordes of Dallas-area suburban, mostly white teens enter now. And several drag queens--Travis Technicolor, Felicia Fondel, Jessee!--check their tickets. Party rules: No one under 17 is allowed. Three security teams walk the grounds, inside and out. An ambulance is at one entrance, just in case some kid gets too loaded. And about five Dallas cops are here to make arrests, if need be.

The presence of authority doesn't stop the crowds from creating their own inner sanctum closed off to grown-ups. Inside, they hit the floors where they'll sweat buckets tonight, with trance music (and in many cases E) propelling them to generate enough heat to make the air conditioner and fans useless. The energy is key, driving ravers--until the party shuts down at 5 a.m.--to create their own unique realm of hippiedom.

So what's a rave's appeal, I later ask those lined up outside. "Isn't it obvious?" says 18-year-old Grant Isaacs, a blond-haired teen from Corinth, Texas, snickering at my question. "It's a big, bad-ass time."

"It's not at all about the drugs," says his friend, John Lyons of Flower Mound. "Last time I did drugs? Damn. March maybe," says Lyons, 18. "What's the fun? You sit on the floor drooling all night."

Twenty-one-year-old Chris rode six hours from Houston with his friends to be here. "I'm not taking no drugs tonight," he tells me, while we sit on the back of a pickup truck surrounded by some of his friends. "I'm trying to watch how much I spend. I'm on a budget."

As he talks, a teen with sunken cheeks and dark circles under his eyes walks by. "Do you want some K?" he asks, referring to ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic that can lead to jail time. Chris casually shakes his head no. Still, in between two parked cars, the teen finds a buyer.

A friend of Chris' stands near us, wearing a D.A.R.E. T-shirt.

"That stands for Drugs Are Really Expensive," cracks one teen.

"Have you ever tried ecstasy?" Chris asks me.

"No," I say.

"Go in there and try it. You'll have your story."

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