This photograph appeared in Issue 8 of the Chicago rave magazine, BEAN. This party, Direct Drive, was my first rave, way back in ye olde January of 1997. I'm the guy sitting on the floor. Behind me is my best friend at the time, Scott, and my girlfriend at the time, Emily, both of whom I drove with down to Chicago. My friend Ben and a couple of his friends come in another car.
We missed an exit on the drive down and ended up stuck between two limos in front of the Hard Rock Cafe, and when we finally got free, the map-point was some lady's apartment just south of downtown, and the rave itself was at the Dolton Expo Center.
We finally arrived and there were sheriffs doing security just inside the door. One of them found a half-smoked joint in the bottom of my pack of Camel Wides (yes, I smoked cigarettes back then) which I had completely forgotten about. The sheriff yelled over the music, "Okay, outside!"
Obviously I panicked, thinking of a long night sitting outside in the car while my friends raved all night. When we got outside, the cop dropped the joint on the ground and looked at me and said, "Step on it." So I did. "Okay," he said, "get in there."
So, that's me sitting on the floor. I did a lot of that that night. I would get up and make the rounds of the place, but I pretty much staked out that one spot.
I took some of the best acid of my life that night. At one point I was pretty sure that raves were designed by aliens in order to harness massive amounts of psychokinetic energy, which is what their ships run on. I also interpreted the bass coming off the speakers as heat. I had grand revelations about (biological and cultural) evolution (because the event itself was a microcosm of the history of the planet) and intuited what I thought were some pretty crazy theories about the nature of energy and subatomic particles which I later found out were pretty standard quantum mechanics stuff, like the bootstrap model and all that.
I don't remember much of the ride home, except that the guy driving us home (who I'd never met before and never saw again) almost killed us with an icy skid on the highway and that we stopped at a gas station that looked like a Swiss chalet and because the rave's music was still echoing in our heads, we all thought there was another rave in the bathrooms. It took a minute to realize that the music was in our heads.
When we got back in the car, Ben took over driving our car and he turned around and asked if we lost anything in the chaos of leaving the party. "My sanity!" I yelled. But it was a lie, a joke.
There was something magical, something alien and mystical happening on that cold Chicago night. I didn't lose my sanity that night. I didn't lose anything but a half-smoked joint. But I gained something and I'd be hard pressed to tell you exactly what that was. I often attribute my spiritual awakening to events later in the year, but really, I think all the seeds for what was to come were sown that night at the Dolton.