Chapter 2 — Escape from the Island Party (Paper Squares and Purple Stars: My Life as a Rave Outlaw)
This is the full second chapter of my book Paper Squares and Purple Stars: My Life as a Rave Outlaw. I have decided to share a few chapters for free here, to give you an idea of what to expect from the book. The book is already available for purchase at www.raveoutlaw.com, and the mobile game is coming soon, www.immortalgames.co.uk.
If you missed chapter 1, go back and read that first.
Chapter 2 — Escape from the Island Party (9/1/07 — Harrisburg, PA)
I stood on the beach in shock as I slowly began to realize that we were trapped. When I finally regained the ability to speak, I turned to Jerry and said, “This looks like a raid dude! We need to get back to the party and let the staff know about this, they need to be ready! We need to tell all the dealers too, everyone needs to stash their shit! This is our tribe now, we need to protect our tribe!”
By now, the other ravers nearby were coming closer so they could get a better view of the incoming marauders. Then, one of them stepped forward and spoke up.
“He’s right, this doesn’t look good. Everyone should get back inside the gate and warn whoever you can. If you see anyone being stupid, tell them to get their shit together and move them towards the back…oh, and put those glowsticks in your pockets, you guys don’t want a target on your back right now,” the stranger said calmly and with authority.
As if they were following orders, all of the ravers in the shadows put away their glowsticks and began packing up their things. I wasted no time taking his advice and ran off towards the party.
“Yo, what’s your name kid? Where can I find you?” the mysterious stranger called out as I started to run away from the beach.
“John!” I shouted back, “I’m camped out in the back left, not far from the campfire, just look for three blue tents.” I added, slowing down for a second before tearing off through the woods.
Luckily, we had become familiar with the terrain by now, and we were flying through the trails like it was second nature. When we reached the gate, I quickly found someone from the staff and got their attention.
“I think there’s something wrong on the beach..there’s….cops,” I struggled to say as I caught my breath.
“Thanks a lot, yeah, someone called us from the beach a minute ago. I’m not sure what’s up, but we should be fine, just go back to your campsite and tell everyone that you see to be on their best behavior,” the staff member told me, seeming just mildly concerned.
I made my way through the crowd to tell everyone I could that the enemy was at the gates and preparing to storm the castle. I told Clyde to throw away his pills if he hadn’t sold out yet, but he called me stupid and said that he would know when the time was right, after all, he had been in the game forever, and I was still just a stupid kid. However, I will say that others in his position were a bit friendlier to my advice, even Satoshi went off towards the back when no one was looking and hid his stash somewhere. I followed his example, told everyone I had to take a bathroom break, and stashed my weed in a tree, in a crumpled-up cigarette pack. Luckily, I sold out of pills, but I didn’t want to get caught with weed either, in those days the sentences for possession were still steep, even for small amounts.
As I slithered through the crowd and made my way back to the tents, the music was abruptly shut off, but the stage lights remained on, illuminating the dance floor and camping area. I looked through the crowd towards the front gate and saw the organizers standing next to a group of cops and other people in uniform.
One of the cops stepped forward and shouted at the crowd through a megaphone, “We are looking for a missing person, and we have formed a search and rescue team to help find him. No one is in trouble, but we are going to ask that the music be shut down, and all traffic to and from the island stop until we find a solution to ensure that our missing person and everyone here is returned to the other side safely.”
Everyone seemed to let out a sigh of relief because the situation was different than what they expected. They expected a raid, but it was just some dude who was missing, I, however, was still on edge. What if they didn’t find him outside the gates and had to come in? What if something happened to this guy?
“May as well smoke,” Jerry said, handing me a joint.
“Yeah, I got my shit hidden in the woods,” I told him.
“John! You over here?” A strangely familiar voice came calling through the crowd.
I couldn’t place where the voice was coming from, but it sounded close.
“Uhhh, yeah, is that you from the beach?” I called out.
As I looked for the stranger in the crowd, I was having a hard time remembering what he looked like, but oddly enough, a group of ravers parted like the red sea to allow him to walk towards me. They all looked confused. I could see them trying to do the calculus in their heads, wondering what business I had with this dude, but why did they care? I started becoming very curious about who this guy was.
“There you are! That was really cool out there kid. Did I hear you say that this was your first party?” the stranger asked.
“Yeah, well, my first one like this, my first truly underground event, but I’ve been going to festivals and clubs for a while,” I said, trying hard not to seem like the new guy.
“Well, it seems like you have the right kind of attitude for stuff like this. I called in the warning to the gate earlier, but if I wasn’t there, and you weren’t there, what happened a few minutes ago could have gone much differently. I’m glad someone else out there was looking out for all these kids,” he said, speaking to me, but also to the group that had assembled around us.
He started laughing, “What was that shit you said about ‘the tribe’ or something bro, I loved that shit! I loved it! You get it man! This kid gets it!”
He shouted with excitement as the crowd listened intently.
“I can’t remember exactly, but kind of like you said, I wanted to do my part, I had a great time tonight with these people, I don’t want anyone to get in trouble, especially the people who made it happen,” I replied nervously, feeling like a deer in the headlights.
“You get it bro,” he repeated. He stopped and thought for a minute.
“You should come to my party, it’s at this little place called God’s Basement. If you hang out with these guys you may have heard of it,” he said nonchalantly, nodding towards Satoshi and his crew.
I couldn’t believe it. I was standing next to the host of God’s Basement, one of the most notorious underground raves on the east coast. Now the way that everyone was acting around this guy made sense. He was a legend, and fate put me in his path in a strange way that night.
“You and your friend, that dude from the beach, you guys can get into my next party for free. It’s my birthday party, and I got Venom coming out, it’s gonna be bonkers, I want you two to be there,” he said.
He eventually became overwhelmed with multiple people competing for his attention, so the conversation broke off into various different directions, and eventually, my mysterious friend left without telling me his name.
When the crowd began to thin a bit, I was approached by Satoshi.
“Duuuudee, it took me YEARS to get on that comp list, you probably don’t even realize what just happened, but you just entered the scene in the best possible way. Whatever you did… good job,” Satoshi said before giving me a hug.
God’s Basement was legendary, I heard all of the old heads talk about it millions of times. They described it as “a rave in the basement of an old church, in the middle of the hood.”
It was on my list of places to go, but now I was obligated. What just transpired seemed like fate, or maybe something less mystical that people haven’t developed a word for yet. These weren’t the types of thoughts that entered my mind until this summer when I began doing psychedelics in large doses. I had done plenty of psychedelics when I was experimenting in high school, but these experiences were very different because the settings were so different, and my mind was a bit different then as well. I hadn’t changed all that much though, I was still just beginning to grow up from the cynical, nihilistic, and depressed alcoholic that I had been since my early teens. I was in the early stages of a transformation, where I was still a gloomy addict who needed to drink every night to fall asleep, but for the first time in my life I began having hope in humanity, and hope in the future, thanks to a string of psychedelic experiences that created a shift in my thinking. Every trip I took, and even some of the rolls, seemed to speak to me with these messages, which were always positive, even if they were many times critical of my actions. For example, I was trippin at a festival earlier that summer and was filled with an overwhelming sense of shame and guilt after throwing a cigarette butt on the ground. My mind flashed with memories, showing me many of the times in my life that I have littered. I never littered again after that day and became increasingly more cautious about the impact I made on the world around me. The psychedelics also told me on multiple occasions that the alcohol was killing me, but I wasn’t ready to listen to that message yet.
The rest of the night was weird and quickly turned to a somber morning, as the sunlight began to poke through the clearing to reveal our zombified faces. I was the only one in my crew left awake, the events of the evening had increased the power of the drugs tenfold, and I was completely manic. To this day, I don’t know how any of them managed to sleep. I wasn’t alone though, all of the other spunions were gathering by the fire.
Talk around the campfire with the rest of my new tribe was grim. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who realized that we were in a war that we didn’t want and that we didn’t declare. This was a rare occasion where someone other than Jerry was entertaining my rants about the system. As dozens of us sat around the fire drawing up scenarios in our heads, about what the cops could be doing, and what could have happened to this guy, our chatter was interrupted by the sound of helicopters chopping up above over the canopy.
Everyone whispered their favorite expletive and began to walk quickly back towards their tents.
I ran to Jerry’s tent and woke him first.
“Dude…dude…wake up…we got pigs…helicopters…feds…I don’t know man we’re fucked,” I said frantically.
Jerry woke up quick, but I could tell he was still out of it.
“Are you serious? That’s fucked up. Give me a minute, I’ll be right there.”
“I’ll have something rolled up,” I told him.
Getting Clyde to wake up was much more difficult. I tried to wake him up for what seemed like ten minutes before Jerry and Amy met by our circle of camping chairs. Clyde was still snoring away.
I walked back towards Jerry and Amy and quickly told them, “We need to get the fuck out of here guys, do you see that shit?”
I pointed to the sky at the choppers above. I probably looked like a complete madman, but they didn’t hesitate to agree, they wanted off this island too.
“Yeah this has gotten super sketch, and they didn’t even turn the music back on, that definitely means something is wrong,” Amy said.
Jerry nodded in agreement, taking a puff from a joint and passing it along to Amy.
We sat there for a few minutes and stared at one another in silence as the joint turned into a roach.
Eventually, I broke the silence and said, “Well our first obstacle is right over there,” pointing towards Clyde’s tent, which I left open in hopes that something would wake him up.
“Thanks for keeping my tent open John, I was starting to get hot in here,” Clyde called out from his tent.
“No problem,” I said calmly, still feeling the roll. I took a deep breath.
After a short moment of silence, I continued, “Look, seriously though, we need to get out of here, I know you hear them helicopters.”
“Yeah, I know you heard them say last night that they were looking for some dude, maybe they needed a helicopter,” Clyde said sarcastically from his tent, the sound of his voice muffled by the hat resting over his face.
I took another breath. “Well we’re gonna start cleaning up, so you better be ready by the time we finish,” I warned him calmly.
Clyde laughed and muttered, “Sure, I’ll get right on that,” and rustled around in his tent before going silent again.
I walked to the front gate to get a trash bag and maybe see what was going on. When I reached the gate, I could tell immediately that something wasn’t right. All of the organizers were sitting in a circle with tears running down their faces. They were talking about something. I tried to listen in, but all that I could hear was someone say, “He’s dead.”
I stopped in my tracks, frozen in shock. I must have looked horrified, because they all looked back at me as if I was interrupting, so I quickly apologized and walked away with my head to the ground. As I walked back to our campsite, I stopped to talk to a few others that I recognized from the campfire, and somehow, they had already heard the news, the search for the missing person ended tragically. Now there was no question, I knew then that those helicopters were not searching for a missing person, they were planning a raid.
I jogged back to the site and ripped open Clyde’s tent, “Dude we’re fucking leaving, they found him in the water last night, he tried to swim and didn’t….,” I trailed off and took a deep breath. “We need to leave now, there’s gonna be a raid, we’re leaving now,” I told him, beginning to lose my patience.
Even the leftover high from the roll wouldn’t calm me down now, this fool was going to get us arrested.
“I’m leaving in five minutes, everyone is ready to go except for you, so get the fuck up, because I’m not playing. It’s my car, I’m driving, so unless you want me to leave your ass here for the pigs, you better hurry the fuck up,” I yelled, louder than I expected.
Clyde hopped out of his tent and laughed nervously, “You’re such a baby,” he snapped, while quickly gathering his things.
He was ready to go a few minutes later, and we all walked silently to the beach. The beach was packed with people waiting for a ride across, many of them whispering about the news and the possibility of a raid.
“We’re never getting off this bitch,” Clyde said pessimistically.
As we stood there in silence, someone who seemed to represent the event told everyone through a megaphone that boats from the fire department would be coming in an hour or two to take everyone to safety. I was not trying to look cops in the face, my pockets were packed with cash, and I was up chewing my face off all night long. I wasn’t the only one either, one group immediately panicked and swam across, even knowing what happened the night before. That probably wasn’t the best idea, but getting on a boat with a bunch of cops didn’t seem like an option either. I tried to remember the layout of the island from the night before and began walking.
“Grab your shit, let’s go,” I said sharply.
My mood was beginning to turn sour, it was obvious that my serotonin levels were crashing now, which is typical after a night in paradise. I usually handle a come-down gracefully, but today I had no patience for this type of pressure. I knew we had a better chance of getting picked up by a random boat if we were by ourselves, so we walked for several minutes along the shore until we reached the end. When we stopped, I turned around to everyone and asked, “OK, did everyone sell out last night?” Everyone nodded their heads yes.
Then Clyde spoke up, “Well…I got a few left. I saved a couple for later tonight,” he explained.
“No fucking way dude, throw them in the river,” I insisted.
“Hell no, I’m done with you telling me what to do today, I’ll take the blame for it if we have any problems,” Clyde said defiantly.
“Whatever,” I said, caving in.
Several boats were passing by, so I pulled a few twenties out of my pocket and began yelling, “Help!” as loud as I could, waving my hands above my head. Eventually, my friends joined in, and that did the trick, one of the smaller boats began drifting our way. When the boat got close enough, I offered the fisherman onboard some money to take us across, and luckily, he agreed without asking any questions. As the boat drifted across the rough morning waters, I remember looking back at the crowd assembled on the beach thinking about how lucky I was to be off that island. When we reached the other side, there were already several news crews gathered on the dock, likely waiting to get the perfect money shot of the most disheveled raver they could find, and I didn’t intend to provide them with that opportunity.
As soon as I stepped off the boat, I pulled a shirt out of my bag and held it over my face like a suspect on his way to court, but I made sure to give them the finger just in case the camera was rolling. In that moment I got a strange feeling that my life was changed forever, I was a raver and an outlaw.
The ride back to Baltimore was silent, and the tension in the car was thick, but at least we made it off that island. When we got back to the apartment and checked the news, we saw that there was indeed a raid of the island, and it looked like those boats from the fire department were a trap after all. Everyone who was out of state was arrested, strip-searched and held in jail for days because the local police feared that no one would come back for court. There was never much information released about the man who died, only that he was a local who found out about the party at a bar and tried to swim across after dark, just as many of our friends did earlier that night. Hours after settling in at home, I finally managed to make amends with Clyde. Without saying much, he pulled a few pills out of his pocket and began to crush one of them up on the table.
“I told you it was a good idea for me to save these,” Clyde reminded me.
“Sure, no doubt, I was just trying to play it safe, a lot of crazy shit was happening…I mean, someone died dude, cops were everywhere,” I explained.
“Yeah, I’ll give you that, it was a pretty crazy night, I’m glad we didn’t get stuck out there,” Clyde said as he diligently finished cutting the pill into lines.
“So, do you still got one of them for me?” I asked him.
“Even though you didn’t want me to keep them…I guess I can share,” Clyde said while handing me a rolled-up bill.
Maybe it was a good idea for him to hold onto those pills after all.