Len Flatley on Tue, 6 Oct 1998 08:51:53 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> RECENT HISTORY: Ravers Invade Pittsurgh

note:  the following is from the October edition of Memoirs of A Quark,
available at http://www.tekknowledge.com/flatley/

new content this go-round includes an article on sexuality/gender and a
certain transsexual junglist, a short story by yours truly, info. and real
audio files pertaining to my current record release and the following

questions, comments, criticism, etc. encouraged, appreciated and
thoroughly enjoyed.

   - Lenny

RECENT HISTORY: Ravers Invade Pittsburgh


   Soon the young writer found himself assigned to Pittsburgh, 
Pennsylvania, an Evolutionary Agent infiltrating the countercultural. He
dressed like any typical High School student, and refused to conduct
himself otherwise, despite his advancing years (or maybe because of) so he
was pretty much relegated to combing the depths of popular culture, which
suited him just fine. 

[The author finds himself plodding along in spite of the fact that his
head is padded with pitchers of beer . . . "padded" because alcohol tends
to seal oneself from their surroundings, which is generally detrimental to 
communication. The author chooses to ignore that, and work through it all,
because he is racing against obscurity here, and finds himself trailing. 
The good news is that D.C. United just beat down the Miami Fusion, 
guaranteeing themselves a position in the finals. Just so you know] 

   The young writer took to spending time in Oakland, which is a
neighborhood  in Pittsburgh, containing the campuses of the University of
Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. He soon made the acquaintance
of a certain John Dwight. John was and is a decent chap, a sensible fellow
who is never anything but courteous to everybody and may be a Prophet or
Messiah, but that is a topic that I will cover later on. John, and the
writer, and a cast of thousands, which made up the better part of the
Pittsburgh Rave scene (this was 1995 and 1996) lived in this house on
Meyran Avenue, nestled between a couple crack houses, some old ladies and
an alley where looters would ransack the dumpsters and unlocked garages in
the middle of the night.


   John was always especially kind and helpful
when dealing with myself, the young writer, for reasons I could never
fathom... but in the end we became quite good friends, and I am glad to
say that we are still close. The first time we got stoned together it was
John, myself and John's partner Ryan. We were at a party at Johns house,
and had locked ourselves in his bedroom to get some privacy. We were
smoking out of this old bong and Ryan kept referring to the crowd
downstairs as Zippies (there was an article in Wired last month about the
Zippies) which I thought was real cool, cos it meant that these guys read,
which is more than I can say for the punks that I was hanging out with at 
the time. I think that I ended up moving into the house a week later.
   I believe that it was June of 1995 that John and Ryan proved
themselves the Zen Champions of Pittsburgh Rave Promoters, with an event
called Tunnel Vision. The story goes that when the film based on Stephen
Kings The Stand was filmed in Pittsburgh scenes had been shot in the
Liberty Tunnel. John figured that if he shot a film then he should be able
to use some city tunnel as well. So, as sweet as pie he wrote a letter to 
some big city official asking if he could use a city tunnel, if he 
promised to shoot a film. They heard "film," the mind filled in the blanks
and the next thing you know the city had turned over one of their city
streets to a bunch of stoned twenty year olds for a party!


   June 24 was a dirty Pittsburgh Saturday night, the kind where
there seems to be coal dust or rust particles floating around
in the air... you cant exactly see any of that, but you feel it on the
skin and in the lungs. And there we were, three of us, stranded about
mid-way up Mt. Washington, in a bottomed-out Chevette with those idiotic
dancing Dead bears plastered all over the windshield. I was elected to
muster up some reinforcements, so I headed up the hill, following the
bass, wearing a god-awful powdered blue long sleeve shirt made from some
space age polyfiber. I had just eaten five of those candy bars that you
get from the Japanese importer ... theyre pure sucrose and caffeine and
probably shouldve stopped my heart... and I headed upwards and onwards.
   I made it onto the mountain just after night fall. There must have
been 1500 baggy pantsed dancers crammed into this street tunnel, with a
wall of speakers on one end and a large tarp stretched over the other end,
where if you peeked through the tarp you got a fantastic view of the
river. I think that everybody there must have been tripping, but the acid
didnt seem so strong and it just sort of kept me awake, which was fine
because the spectacle was all around me and I could journey to the center
of my mind some other time. 
   The happenning quickly took on a rhythym of its own, gated to the
DJ, which remained pretty much constant throughout the evening into the
early morning.  Dancers dispersed throughout the tunnel, trainspotters up
front, some video game players had VR goggles and a play station behind
the DJ booth, young miscreants in a k-hole outside the tunnel in the
blocked-off street. The guy that filmed those Jane Fonda Workout videos
was running around with a camera, flew in from points west to make this
party legitimate (filming a movie, remember?). 


   I started a conversation with this young lady who claimed that her
name was Bunny. She was leaning against a wall towards the front of the
action, with short blueberry blonde hair, wearing zippered moon boots and
an Adidas parka. There was a pair of ski goggles around her neck and
(adding to the already ridiculous amount of post-modern chic) she was
playing with a light saber. 
   We started talking about culture and freedom:

JOE: Lester Bangs was talking about the same thing that we have here,
except he was at a rocknroll show, when he said that the experience, the
politics of it all, and I paraphrase, is that a "whole lot of kids to be 
fried out of their skins by the most scalding propulsion they can find,
for a night they can pretend is the rest of their lives... so the next day
they can go on with their lives and nothing can cancel the reality of the 
night when for once if only then in your life you were blasted outside of
your life and the monotony which defines most life anywhere at any time." 

Bunny: Well, I guess that the principles the same, but the vibe is
altogether different at a rave than at a rock show. For one thing, the 
musics structured differently, cos you have to keep going for hours longer
at a party than if you were gonna go see Kiss. The other thing is most of
rock was a reaction to economic prosperity or hardship. Techno seems to
completely ignore class and culture, because in a big room with loud
speakers and a repetative beat what do those things matter?

Joe: At the same time, though this rave business may try to ignore matters
of class, it is largely defined by white middle class sensibilities,
though not everybody involved is white or middle class, at all, at all.

Bunny: Definitely. And what is so wrong with that? Removed from the
industrial -age notions of elitism, Madison Avenues "Bigger Is Better" and
a certain comfortable xenophibia that every human seems to be guilty of,
anywhere, anyways, the attitudes that evolved from Dr. Spock and Nintendo
and MTV ... youre so-called "white middle class" ... are quite egalitarian
and productive... people are beginning to realise that there really is no
prosperity in this sort of insect-like "specialization" ... you have to
find your own niche, your own way of doing things. Tim Leary called us
"the new breed": detatched, individualistic zen opportunists.

Joe: I havent thought of this one in relation to all so-called
subcultures, but one could probably draw comparisons between this party, 
and the Paris uprisings of 1968 or Millbrook or the American 
countercultural communes... the importance of aesthetic theory, what Hakim
Bey called "pirate economics," living off the surplus of social 

Bunny: Right... in this city, country, in cities all over the world a sort
of counter-economy has developed amongst people that live to throw
parties, live to perform at parties, live to deal the drugs, even live to
simply attend parties. And youre right, a lot of that Bey does discuss, as
in "Either the world will change or it wont. Meanwhile, keep on the move
and live intensely." And if people werent raised in this relative
prosperity... leisure time and disposable income... raves would have never 
evolved into what they are today. I would say that 90% of the people
around here are students or are living at home.


   Among other notable events for this evening was the naked guy.
>From my vantage point, talking to Bunny there, I am not neccessarily glad
to report that I got an eyeful. As we talked, I noticed this very large
dude, mustve played high school football with the founders of our country,
taking off his shirt. I wouldnt have noticed this sort of thing normally,
but he was a large man. And he had just taken off his pants. Next thing
you know, he is a very large naked man... the naked guy, actually, and hes
heading towards the speakers... evidentally he felt that he should make
love to the bass. If that wasnt weird enough, he then tried to attack the
wall of television sets that were stacked up next to the dj booth.
   Imagine a stone-aged ex-football player committing a sex crime
against a family of Panasonics. Local musician 1.8.7 (see later in this
issue), not a large dude by any means, came to the valiant rescue of the
appliances and got in some sort of blocking stance, standing firm between
the behemoth and the televisions. The Naked Guy, upon seeing this 
instinctual kamikaze, stopped dead in his tracks, flipped onto his back
and started humping the pavement.
   This continued unabated until The Naked Guys Brother wrapped him
in a blanket and threw him in a mini-van. For all I know he is still
naked, running around in a field somewhere, trying to have sex with the
trees and the rocks.
   That's just a little bit of what can happen to a first time
psychedelic user if s/he overdoes it.


   By this time, the people living in the area were growing quite
furious, to say the least (and believe me, I am). It must have been
a slow news night, but reporters from all the TV stations and newspapers
arrived, going in for close-ups on anybody that might look like a milk
carton kid or prospective gang member. They were also spending a lot of
time interviewing people that looked like they might have something
incriminating to say  anybody, except for the events organizers. 
   The neighbors did make for some interesting TV news, however, as I
was to see the next day. I got home around noon, slept for a few hours,
and then somehow ended up on an AM talk radio show as some sort of
spokesman... I was like, "I dont know how youve been able to
devote two hours of your show to this topic, none of the callers had
actually been there. The organizers had a permit. Whats the point?"
   Apart from the "naive teenager" act that one puts on to keep from
getting roasted by "adults," I really did know the point, Kenneth Starr:
politics, the games that people play to get one up on another person, are
all about force, whether physical, economic, or even semantic. Politics
are about ones constituency and what theyre angry about. If you can see
that, and yell loud enough, and if enough people are on the same sad, you
can ignore damn near anything: common sense, the law, human nature. And I
got to see that up close for the next week, as I saw the heretofore
"undiscovered" rave community become the darlings of the local media, with
my house as the epicenter: people dropped by the house for interviews, 
people called on the phone and those little "Prime Time Live" black and
white cameras got shots of teenagers doing crystal meth for the Arts and 
Entertainment section (although word has it that most of those pics were 


   We could probably bring this whole thing around by reviewing the
cause and effect of this TunnelVision, a perfect example of the turns that
culture, especially youth culture as a whole, seem to be taking. 
   There was a frenzy of media attention on the event, after the
fact, and this was interesting as well. They were mostly "straights"
attempting to sneak peaks at an event that they could not comprehend. And
what did you expect? Traditional media is simply no good at communicating
shifts in popular culture, bridging generation gaps or handling its matter
delicately. Most papers around the country cant even get their Sunday
Comics section right. Could you expect anything but knee-jerk dogma from
the local yokels? The party was a grass-routes, accidental event that
occurred outside of the world of traditional media. It went off for many
of the same reasons that the world has seen Pirate Utopias and Communes
and "Gone To Croatan."
   What I propose is that economic, social and technological forces
are conspiring to create a climate where being a detatched,
individualistic zen opportunist is not a pre-meditated event, but actually
instinctual, much in the same way that being a passive consumer, a blind 
follower of government and thinking that nature should be dominated are
all instinctual for people raised in the industrial -age. And as this new 
generation continues to evolve and find its own answers, these spontaneous 
happenings, Temporary Autonymous Zones, will continue to emerge and be
recognized for the real role that they play in human life. This 
understanding will probably continue to defy the old guard, as long as
this "old guard" should continues to exist.

Joe Flatley
Erie, PA
October 5, 1998
joe flatley                          MAYBE I AM NOT VERY HUMAN - WHAT I
velocity.network services            WANTED TO DO WAS PAINT SUNLIGHT
http://www.velocity.net/~lenny       ON THE SIDE OF A HOUSE
http://www.tekknowledge.com/flatley         Edward Hopper
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