by Lucas Taratus and John Keyes
"...reinforced bed, half-ton hauling weight, and torque that could tear your sister apart."
It was Friday afternoon, and so far, nothing had been planned for the weekend when a new email shot across my screen.
It was from Wapor, (spelled with a "w", but pronounced with a "v") a long-time e-mail buddy from the Pet Shop Boys mailing list, and someone for whom I have a lot of musical respect. He was raving back when I began writing him in '94, and his stories of dancing to glorious music at all-night parties were what first got me interested in the scene. In fact, until I moved to Atlanta and started going out myself, I used to live vicariously though the adventures of this man that I'd never met. Strangely enough, before I received this letter the last I knew he was helping the Mujahadeen cultivate poppies in Afghanistan to fund the fight against Soviet oppression, a battle that ended nearly 10 years ago. 5
He had sent me a link to a Web page that advertised a party named Ocean Spray being thrown on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Saturday night. From my first glance at the page, I could tell this was not going to be your typical cookie cutter event. As the note had suggested, this rave was set to occur under the stars on a remote beach along the Carolina shore. For those of you who have never been to the Outer Banks, it is a unique sliver of land that lies a few miles off the coast of North Carolina, which, for all logical purposes should not exist. With certain stretches of the dune measuring less than a half-mile wide, it's a mystery why this enclave of sand has not yet been gobbled up by the sea. Nonetheless, it contains miles of pristine beaches that are as beautiful as they are remote a perfect location for a memorable party.
Aside from the sand and the surf, there were going to be several DJs spinning everything from funky house that was sure to wax the moon, to trancy beats bathed in "early morning sunshine," and if that weren't enough, a P.A.W.N. laser light show. One of the DJs scheduled was the great Ty T, a progressive master, and someone I'd been hearing a lot about. More importantly, though, the party would provide a late summer opportunity to dance in the sand, sleep under the stars, and rise with the sun. It all sounded potentially enlightening to me.
To make things even more interesting, the promoters had refused to disclose the true location of the party for fear the authorities would shut it down. Instead, they were meeting people at the local KOA campground between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m., and then shuttling them via Jeep, and under the cover of sunset, to a sandy dance floor about a mile or so out. Nestled far from the meddling minds of the misanthropic, and hours from any $5 water stand 6, this was going to be a party that truly deserved to be categorized under the often-overused banner of "underground."
As if what had just been described were not enough to make any dancing child grab her binky 7 and glowstick, and hit mom up for 20 quid to party, this extravaganza was being held pro-bono. Friendz and Family, the glorious people throwing the affair to whom not enough praise can be given were only asking five ($) for the ride out to writhe 8 under the stars all night an honest act by anyone's measure.
Under normal circumstances, I would have instantly packed the car, grabbed the kids, and altogether jumped at the chance to partake of this festival in the sand. The idea of raving on a beach throughout the night was even more enticing than a slow dance with David Bowie 9, I thought, but Cape Hatteras is at best a nine-hour journey from Atlanta! With less than a day's notice, and a monumental drive staring me in the face, it was doubtful that I would be fortunate enough to make it to this event. Granted, I had nothing planned this weekend, and I would love to finally meet Wapor, a man whose true existence sometimes seemed as ephemeral as his name would suggest, but is any party worth going to such lengths? I needed someone to convince me otherwise, so I decided to consult my pragmatic and often fiscally conservative friend John, who has the unique ability to function as my superego.
"Hells yeah, I'm all up in that!" busted out John with the kind of gleam you gleam when an opportunity for spontaneity suddenly presents itself.
Be it fate, or just brazen impulsiveness, it had been decided: We were off to North Carolina. All that remained now was to get a hold of a truck suitable for beach travel and inform Wapor we'd be coming. A quick e-mail was drafted in reply to the invite, and no sooner than you can say "ugh, sure, I guess I'm 25," I was on the phone with every car and truck rental joint in metro Atlanta.
The best deal that could be found at this late hour was a 1999 Toyota Tacoma extended cab 2X4 for a mere $35 per day. Despite the stern warning made by Friendz and Family about the necessity for four-wheel drive, we chose to give into frugality, or was that male stubbornness, and decided that the Toyota would be perfect. At first inspection this truck looked rather pedestrian, but once inside it's true quirkiness was revealed. If you're wondering what makes the Tacoma so unusual, then you haven't seen the brilliantly rendered graphics package, the mechanically gratuitous 3CD disk changer 13, or the combination bushido sword 14 and shotgun rack, normally only available in Japan. The Tacoma had all the makings of a winner, and as if a nod from the gods, she was on special.
It was perfect. After picking the truck up that night, we began our trek early Saturday morning. The most difficult and trying portion of our journey was about to commence.
"How may more laps before we achieve breakaway speed?" screamed John over the top of 170 shrieking ponies, as the two continued to accelerate around Atlanta in the HOV 15 lane.
It's funny, when you're a kid, a nine hour road trip is a bit like a two year sentence in a minimum security lockup: comfortable and safe, but inescapable nonetheless 18. As an adult, however, such trips are far less punishing, especially when accompanied by good friends and interesting conversation. Or so I'm told. I was dreading this trip more than a ride across the Atlantic on a lawn tractor 19. Between the endless Vegan propaganda, his constant complaints about nouveau riche values, and the relentless ridicule of most modern scientific theory 20, John can be a hard person with whom to travel.
In the end, though, the voyage wasn't the rhetoric-filled trip I'd expected John slept most of the way. Despite getting a sudden insatiable urge to eat burritos 21, and the onset of an unavoidable advertising storm 22, we even managed to make good time. The directions we'd printed out guided us into the KOA parking lot at a comfortable 4:30 p.m., nearly two hours before the rides out to the beach were set to begin. Plenty of time to pick up some, ugh, supplies, and meet other die-hard party kids. Trouble was, there weren't any around.
"We've been had!" asserted John as we pulled the Tacoma into the KOA lot. "There's no one here, not a soul. The whole thing's a sham. I can't believe we drove nine hours for this!"
Comforted by my logic, but still a bit suspicious of a greater conspiracy at work, John agreed to reserve final judgement until further investigation could be done. At first glance, it appeared that there was no one about, at least no one that fit the description of a partier. Just a bunch of brownie bakers and weekend bowlers splashing around in the pool, or parked under a tent along side their Winnebagos. Man, this place was dead. 24
Knowing that the KOA people were aware of the Ocean Spray group, as they had offered a discount weekend rate to anyone who claimed to be part of the gathering, we decided to take a peek in the office to see if there were any obvious sings that would point us in the right direction.
The tiny office doubled not only as a grocery store and lounge, but also as a pool hall, video game room, liquor store, and chamber of commerce. Yet no where amongst the assortment of fliers or brochures that this shrine to common folk convenience had to offer, was there anything explaining where to meet if you wanted to rave on the beach. We'd searched high and low, and found nothing. Disillusioned, and too proud to ask, we made our way to the door. Then, like a reflective beacon flashing down a rescue helicopter, we were blinded by two figures wearing shirts that appeared to be made from the latest shiny fiber-optic material. 25 Reflecting light in all directions, these two space age nomads were contemplating the purchase of Blow Pops and Tang. Where did they come from we wondered? Who was their leader? And what's with the veracious craving for sugar?
Despite their otherworldly appearance, it seemed that we were in luck. Judging from the clothes they wore, the soft tones in which they spoke, and the smooth fluid motions with which they moved, they were obviously fellow ravers. One was tall and built and the other shorter and very skinny, and they both looked a bit skittish. In the interest of tack, we decided to follow them out before we began our barrage of questions and attempts at immediate friendship.
"Hey, are you guys here for Ocean Spray?" asked Luke.
Quickly wrapping up the conversation with Brad using a routine set of pleasantries, John and I made our way back to the truck for a snack and a quick nap before our drive to the beach.
After a short and restless sleep in seats covered with the crumbs of pretzels 27 we'd eaten to sustain ourselves throughout the day, we awoke to find our truck surrounded by what must have been 200 ravers.
"I guess I was right, they were asleep," said Luke surprisingly.
A line of trucks mostly Jeeps, with a CRV or two scattered about, and even a Hummer mixed in had formed in the parking lot. These were cars owned by kids attending the party who wanted to drive themselves, and not ones operated by the Ocean Spray people. The promoters were guiding them out to the spot, while at the same time shuttling people in their vehicles. Two or three trucks would follow an equal number of Jeeps out of the lot, and then head south on the road that runs the length of the island. The whole process seemed to take about 15 minutes.
"Pull her 'round back," barked John pointing to the end of a line of beefy trucks, each one looking 10 times as beach-worthy as our pickup.
The line of trucks was long, so to pass the time we began to compete in the battle for techo dominance that had naturally erupted. Everyone was playing what they thought you needed to hear, and no one was backing down. The mechanical extravagance that Toyota calls a 3 CD changer was birthing beats at an alarming rate and volume, but before long she was forced to plunge into the electronic malaise that throbbed beneath only the loudest of stereos. We had lost.
Before long, we found ourselves at the front of the line and minutes away from what we hoped would be an exhilarating battle with Mother Nature. Soon, two jeeps pulled in front of us, immediately filled with cleverly dressed revelers, and were off again.
"Now are you sure we should de this? We could easily get a ride in one of those Jeeps," said Luke.
Stomping the gas pedal with needless rage, John and I let out a hawl, and leapt forward in pursuit.
The entrance to the beach was about a mile down from the campsite on the left side of the road. The Outer Banks has beaches on either side, one set on the bay, and the other on the ocean. The party was on the ocean side.
We followed two Jeeps overloaded with people and a blue Honda CRV off the main paved road, though a small parking lot, and onto a dirt road that lead up a set of dunes and onto the beach. The road was bumpy and wet in spots, with jagged chunks of stone littered about. This was certainly more interesting than the highway driving we'd been doing all day.
Keeping pace with the other three vehicles, we leapt over the crest of the dune and landed on hard packed sand. Now in full view of the Atlantic, we could see golden beaches on either side that disappeared into the horizon. In the distance, there was a group of trucks and speakers that looked to be the makings of a rave.
We continued by heading south along the uppermost part of the beach, just above the high tide line. Soon, the hard packed sand that first welcomed us to the beach turned into the kind of soft moist sand from which young Nobles often build their castles. Sticky and heavy, but of no consequence because a series of tracks had been cut into it by the countless other trucks that ran the beaches during the day. They crisscrossed like rail lines in a busy freight yard, intersecting and dissecting all up and down the shore for as long as you could see. Our guides had claimed one set that appeared to run straight and true all the way towards the burgeoning party forming about a mile ahead. We'd be there shortly.
"I told you two-wheel drive would be fine. Look, we're gonna make it!" bragged John.
The tracks were deep, and the mesa of dirt that formed between them was rapidly choking all of our clearance. Almost immediately, the unrelenting fervor with which we bounded down the beach had been curbed to a lethargic crawl, and before long we weren't moving at all. Despite all the experience I'd gotten at "rocking" cars out of banks of snow and ice by growing up in the Northeast, I could not free our beast from the soft, encapsulating trap that is the sand. We were stuck.
"Luke, why are you stopping here? The party's only a little bit further," queried John jokingly.
Eager to make use of the disposable camera I'd purchased just for this event, I hopped out of the car to take a picture of our predicament. 30 I never actually got a chance to take one though, because right then I made a very important and dire discovery.
"John, is the tide going in our out?" asked Luke.
Like a curtain of doom, a feeling of complete isolation fell over both John and I. Not only had the group that we were following long disappeared, not only was it beginning to get dark, but our truck was pinned well below the tide line, and to our utter horror the sea was slowly cascading in. Judging by the looks on our faces, we must have both envisioned of our $18K rented truck being washed away by the tide. John fell to his knees, and I turned white as a sheet. These are the situations that truly test a man's mettle.
"Luke, what are we going to do. What are we going to do?" cried John, who was using Luke's name at every opportunity in order to express the urgency he felt.
With that, he leapt from his seat, flopped into the sand on his belly, and began hurling dirt in every direction like a crap trying to bury itself.
"Luke, try it again, try it again!" hollered John getting more desperate with each passing moment.
Ordinarily I would have protested his tone, but this was no time to argue. I did exactly as he commanded, but got nowhere. We only continued to bury ourselves deeper in the earth.
After 30 minutes of futile effort, I got out of the truck, and John stood from the ground, exhausted. Hands rubbed raw and bloody by the sand, he stormed off with my cell phone on a mission to call his account. Little did he know, all the Swiss banks were now closed, and it was too late to hide his money.
As I stared out across the Atlantic, I could hear a completely random and steady stream of curse words flow from John's mouth in one ear, and the splashing of the waves as they slowly encroached on our position in the other. John was not taking this well, and I was being a bit too calm.
Turning back to face the truck, I could see through the window that one of the bushido swords had been removed from the rack behind the seats, and John was nowhere to be found. Then, from out of know where, I began to hear the all too familiar chant of "Ip is a Vibe" 32 that begins the ritual suicide of the Samurai. Known as Seppuku, this act of disembowelment was performed by the ancient Japanese warriors when all hope had been lost. I knew what was about to happen.
From atop one of the dunes, I saw my friend stripped down to only his shorts and holding the sharp broad sword just inches from his gut. Apparently, the thought of losing the truck was too much for John to bear, and he saw this as the only way out.
The sun was setting, the waves were dancing ever closer to the Toyota, and my good friend was on the verge of killing himself. "Nothing good can come of this..." I thought. 33
[To Be Continued...]
John is a Philadelphia native and a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh who is currently carrying on his life adventure in this beautiful city of Atlanta. A vegetarian for all the wrong reasons and a fervent advocate of the punk-rock spirit, he strives to remind people through his words and actions that life is sacred and that we should use its blessing to create. Spending most of his time either playing or wooing (or a combination of the two), John can often be seen out where the music is suffering from Tarantism. If you see him give him a nod, but be aware that he will likely try to teach you something you may not already know.
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