The following is Chapter 8 of my memoir, "Paper Squares and Purple Stars: My Life as a Rave Outlaw." I'll be sharing the book on t2 for free, chapter by chapter, but you can buy a copy and check out the reviews here. If you're just getting started now, check my t2 page and start at the bottom to read the previous chapters and the preface to catch up!

Chapter 8 – Tru-Thousand-Eight (Winter 2008)

The afterparty at Duke’s apartment lasted throughout the week, and every day after work Caylee and I would stop by and rejoin the party. We spent every day of that week together, and I started to get a bit more confident that she actually liked me, but I was still hesitant to make my move. That Friday, there was a party at God’s Basement called “Tru-thousand-eight,” and Caylee asked if she could ride with me. I wanted to make a good impression and not completely turn her off with my excessive lifestyle, so I decided that I would stay sober for this party. It wasn't like she had something against drugs, but even at that point in my life, I realized that my lifestyle was not normal, and most importantly, probably not very attractive to a girl that just got out of a relationship with a lunatic. This time we didn’t have to leave early to find a safe spot, Caylee knew about a small lot with a gate that was hidden directly next to the building, we just had to access it from another road. Mickey told her about the spot after her tires were slashed at the first party she went to, so now she has VIP parking.

When we got there, Mickey was holding it down at the front door, as usual, keeping an eye on his staff, the money box and the street outside. I was relieved that the line died down by the time we arrived so I would have a few minutes to talk with him about my predicament.

As soon as I saw him, I blurted out, “So, Clyde is trying to get me banned from Galaxy!”

“What? That’s ridiculous, you’re the promoter!” Mickey replied.

“I know, we never really got along that good, and he did some really fucked up shit recently. I'm still allowed to work your parties though, I guess I’m just not involved with the club in any other capacity anymore,” I said.

“Yeah, I don’t like that guy. He came by earlier and tried to cut the line, acting like he’s some big shot. You two really did seem like an odd combination. Don’t worry though, we are gonna kill it next month, and then we’ll be callin the shots around there,” Mickey said.

“Awesome man… Wait, he’s here?” I asked.

“Yeah, he showed up earlier with that girl acting like he owned the place. Just do your best to avoid him, you got a party to promote anyway,” Mickey said.

“Oh yeah, that reminds me,” He added, turning and grabbing a stack of flyers out of a large box.

They were the flyers for Tru Zu, and they were amazing. I couldn't believe that I was seeing Galaxy’s logo on such a professional design. The lineup was crazy too, with Venom, Candy Kid and Starkiss, it was like a real rave!

“Hey, look, one more thing,” Mickey said, motioning me over to him.

“I see what Clyde is doing in here, and I saw what you guys were doing at the island party. I know you are involved in something, I don’t know what, but it doesn’t matter. You can’t be a successful promoter and a hustler at the same time, it will eventually catch up with you…It always does,” he said.

“Yeah…I understand. I’ve been keeping that stuff outta the clubs, and I lost all my contacts anyway, Clyde was my connect,” I explained.

“Well, good. You’re better off without it, and without him…Now let’s get back to work,” Mickey said as a new group of ravers began to form a line at the door.

It’s odd, even though I was sober I don’t remember much about that night. The place was big enough to where it was relatively easy to avoid Clyde, and we were both busy promoting and trying to make contacts on our own anyway. I expected the ride home to be smooth since I was sober and all, but surprisingly that actually made the drive more difficult because I did not have any chemicals in my system to keep me awake and alert. I became so tired that I was hallucinating, seeing cop cars and exit ramps that didn’t exist. My plans for a sober evening ironically created a more disorienting and dangerous ride home. When we got back to the apartment, Jerry and Duke quickly scurried inside to give us a few minutes of privacy before Caylee had to leave. We stood out in the cold under the stars for a minute before I took her into my arms and kissed her for the first time. It seemed like we were both waiting for this since the moment we met. We held each other there in the street for a few minutes until both of us were shaking from the cold and eventually parted ways.

The next weekend we went to a party called Robots in Disguise. It was at a warehouse on Collins Street in Philly and headlined by DJ Starscream, aka Sid Wilson, the DJ from the metal band Slipknot. The party was hosted by this guy named Juggalo who was on the staff at God’s Basement. Juggalo, of course, got his name because he was a big Insane Clown Posse fan, which was a generic name, but it fit him well enough.

The warehouse was an old building that had large windows and a wide-open floor, with concrete columns lining the center of the room. The lighting they rented that night was excellent, maybe too good actually, since the room was more well-lit than a rave probably should be. The crowd was thin, and it was the middle of January in an old warehouse, so it was freezing in that place. We spent most of the night huddled on a large concrete ledge with a few dozen others trying to keep warm. I made a comment to Caylee about how I really enjoyed the music that night, but that I was still confused by the various different genres and subgenres within the realm of electronic music. Once I named some of my favorite DJs, she broke it down for me.

“Well what DJs do you listen to?” she asked.

“I like Lenny Dee, Scott Brown, Starkiss, Candy Kid, Venom…Stuff like that,” I said.

“Ohhh, cool, yeah you like hardcore and hard dance, that’s the kind of stuff I’m into too. It’s more fun to dance to,” she said.

An awkward silence fell in the air for a few minutes. There were many moments like that recently, as it seemed that both of us had so much to say but were afraid to say it.

“So, hey… I know you are going through a lot, but we have been spending a bunch of time together, and it's probably obvious that I like you… so I just wanted to let you know that if you wanted to…ya know, officially be in a relationship I would like that, but I know it might be too soon. I don’t know, I guess I just wanted to let you know where my head is at,” I said nervously.

Caylee smiled, “I appreciate that, and yeah I feel the same way. I will warn you though, I’m tired of people’s bullshit, and I’m not looking for a short-term relationship just to get hurt again, so if you are interested you better be serious,” she said.

“Yeah… I mean… I am serious, and I guess that’s good that I know you are too because it sucks to constantly worry about how someone feels about you,” I said.

“Yeah, exactly, I don’t want to have any of those worries,” she said.

“You won’t, I promise,” I assured her.

We sat there in the cold in each other’s arms trying to stay warm for what seemed like at least two hours, talking and continuing the process of sharing life stories. She wasn’t really concerned with dancing tonight, and even though I ate a pill or two, I wasn’t running around like a madman trying to sell anything or promote any parties. Maybe it was the cold, or perhaps it was just because we were more interested in one another than we were in anything else.

At one point towards the end of the night, I made my way to the bathroom where there was a rather long line since there were only a few stalls for the entire building. I was in line smoking a cigarette when I heard a group in front of me erupt in laughter.

“You can do it man!” one of the voices shouted before breaking down into laughter again.

“Shut up! I need quiet! I can’t do it with you motherfuckers hassling me,” a familiar voice yelled back from one of the stalls.

I recognized that voice, it was Duke!

“Duke?! What’s the problem over there!?” I asked.

“Something is wrong dude…I can’t piss! He shouted back.

I laughed and responded, “Dude your head is fucking with you man, you know this, you probably don’t even have to piss, you are just psyching yourself out. There are like 20 people out here who do have to piss though, so maybe you should give it a few minutes.”

One of the voices from the crowd called out, “No way! I’ll wait, I have faith in my man over here. He can do it!”

The crowd erupted in cheers and laughter again. “It’s not fucking funny!” Duke yelled.

Now even I was laughing. I knew for a fact that there wasn’t actually anything physically wrong with him, that is just something that happens when you eat too many rolls, sometimes your mind gets confused about whether you have to piss or not. Sometimes you even forget how to piss altogether, but it always comes back to you eventually. After a few more minutes, Duke finally gave up, and the room gave him a round of applause for his efforts. He was so uncomfortable for the rest of the night that we ended up leaving a bit early. Sure enough, as soon as we got on the highway, he begged and pleaded for us to stop at a convenience store so he could try again. This time was apparently a success, probably because he had some privacy and his mind was able to adjust to a different setting. After that small emergency was taken care of, we made our way safely back home for our usual afterparty festivities.

Aside from the few parties we hit at the beginning of the month, January was laid back. I spent most of my time working, promoting and getting to know Caylee. We spent every day together since New Year’s and instantly fell into a relationship that seemed to be waiting a lifetime to happen. It was one of those weird things where we felt like we knew each other forever, even though we just met. There was an extremely passionate energy between us, and we couldn't keep our hands off each other. Everything felt like it was meant to be. It was only a few weeks before we started saying “I love you,” which was something that both of us were already thinking from the beginning anyway.

When the night of Tru Zu finally rolled around, I was ready to party. We worked hard to promote the most important show at Galaxy ever, and I hadn’t eaten any drugs for the past few weekends. I had a few pills I was saving since the warehouse though, so I took one of them in the car to get the party started early. I wanted to make sure that I was in a good mood when I arrived just in case I had to deal with any bullshit from Clyde. When we got to the club, he was at the front door, but luckily, he was playing nice, Charles must have told him to be on his best behavior. Mickey and Charles both seemed busy running around making sure everything was in order, so I grabbed a beer from the bar to wash down my second pill and walked around to greet a few of the people who had already shown up. The rolls hit me fast though, and within a few minutes, I was on the dance floor elevating both my heartbeat and my high. I had to be dancing for nearly an hour before I noticed that my legs were becoming weak. The next thing I remember, I was laying back in one of the couches upstairs watching the blurry figures pass by when Mickey came to sit beside me.

“This place is pretty awesome man. You having a good time? You look like you’re having a good time,” he said.

“Yeah…ya know…great time” I trailed off, unable to move my mouth in a way that would form sentences.

“Look man…I really appreciate you connecting me with this place, and you did a really good job with everything else too. Remember that conversation we had last week though, about the drugs?” he asked.

“Yeah man…Can’t hustle when your throwin the party…It’s a bad look,” I replied, slumping further down into the sofa.

Mickey laughed, “Yeah, well I’m glad you picked up on that, but I should have mentioned that you probably shouldn’t be getting all fucked up at your own shows either. That’s kind of a bad look too,” he said calmly.

When I heard him speak, I got this sinking feeling in my stomach that I had unknowingly crossed some line and entirely fucked up everything for myself.

“I’m so sorry, I really let you down didn’t I?” I asked.

“Really it’s OK. I’m the one who’s responsible for this show at the end of the day, and at a club like this the place basically runs itself, but I see you becoming a valuable member of my team, and I want to teach you how to do this shit the right way. If you want to be a part of the team that makes this shit happen, you need to stay sober so you can make sure all the people who aren’t sober are safe. The promoters can have their fun at the afterparty, when everyone isn’t watching you and when you aren’t responsible for hundreds of people,” Mickey explained.

“Nah…I get it man…I totally get it…I fucked up…I didn’t think much about it. It won’t happen again I promise,” I said.

“It’s cool, you’re good, I trust you. Just remember what I always say, “respect the rules you break,” that means you can have fun, but just be careful to watch your back and not blow up the spot, and just don’t fuck around with the lives of these kids,” Mickey said.

“Yeah, no, you’re totally right, we are in a war with the outside world, and this is like some kinda sanctuary or peace zone that needs to be protected. We need to be like the monks of the sanctuary,” I said.

Mickey laughed again, “I love the shit you say sometimes! It sure is something like that. You get the point, we are responsible for the people here, so we gotta be at our best, just in case the shit hits the fan,” He said.

“Don’t let this conversation ruin your night though, have fun, just remember this for the future,” he added before getting up to walk away.

I must have looked pretty far gone, because moments later Juggalo came to sit down next to me and give me the same lecture.

“Dawg, you can’t be getting all faced like this at your own party son. You Baltimore cats are fucking wild, you better make sure Mickey doesn’t see your ass like this,” Juggalo warned.

“He just did...he said it was a bad move and to not do it again, I fucked up,” I said catatonically.

“Yeah dude you can’t be slobbering all over yourself at your own club man, you are fuckin crazy,” Juggalo said laughing.

“I just thought it was cool cuz it’s the rave, anything goes, ya know? I didn’t know there was this…like…code of conduct and shit, but I’m cool now, I got this,” I said.

“You ain't got shit tonight son! But I get that you didn’t know any better, I’m just breaking your stones. For real though, now you do know better, and if you are going to be working with us you gotta save this shit for the afterparty,” he said.

“That’s the same shit Mickey said, save it for the afterparty,” I said.

“That’s cuz he knows what he's talking about, that’s like one of the OG promoter commandments dawg, ’save it for the afterparty’,” Juggalo said.

“I appreciate that you guys are giving me a second chance and that you have faith in me, I really feel at home with this crew,” I said.

“Stop it with that emotional bullshit, it’s the drugs talking. You cheesy ass candy kids are hilarious with your fucking ecstasy,” he said laughing harder now.

“You got the right heart for this, but you still got a lot to learn, and that’s cool. I don’t think there is a damn person on the Tru Skool guest list who hasn’t gotten that talk from Mickey at one point or another,” he added before getting up and disappearing into the crowd.

From the outside looking in, I guess it seemed like I was being irresponsible, but this was normal for me, this had been a part of my identity since before I started high school. As soon as I became old enough to begin experimenting with substances, I quickly learned that my resentment of society, and of myself, was much easier to cope with if I was in another state of mind. There is really nothing wrong with cannabis and psychedelics, in fact, both can be quite beneficial. From my early days though, I was doing whatever I could get my hands on just to numb the pain, including coke and opiates, but mainly alcohol. Still, I was starting to understand that my lifestyle was physically unsustainable, so I was willing to admit that I made a mistake getting fucked up at my own party that night. My general attitude towards drugs may have been unhealthy at the time, but the psychedelics were still having a positive impact on my mentality, forcing me to recognize my own self-destructive behavior and question my need for constant sedation. Ironically enough, I took these drugs to escape reality, but very slowly, with each experience, I was beginning to consider developing a healthier lifestyle. Obviously, I was still a mess, but I was starting to realize that I needed to clean up my act a bit, and I was actually making gradual progress, despite my current condition.

After Juggalo got up and walked away, I thought that maybe I was calling too much attention to myself sitting there on the couch, on display to anyone who walked through the doorway. I thought that if I got up and moved around it would be harder for people to tell how fucked up I was. I’m not very sure how well that strategy worked, but walking around did seem to make me feel more alert. I walked into the lounge to see how it looked as a full area of sound instead of a VIP room, and as I expected, opening that room up to the public was an excellent idea. Having a place where people could go to chill out and relax created the perfect atmosphere to compliment the rest of the club. The lounge had an entirely different vibe than the rest of the venue. It looked and felt more like a house party than a club. The rest of the venue was dark, aside from black lights and stage effects, but the lounge was fully lit, furnished, and carpeted. There was even a fireplace on one side of the room, although I am sure that it hadn't been used in ages. Instead of building a stage or DJ booth, we simply put the decks and mixer on a pool table, which added to the intimate ambiance in the room. The DJs were face to face with the crowd, where they were close enough to pass blunts back and forth with their fans while they played their sets. The room was filled with a thick mixture of cigarette and weed smoke, but no one seemed to care, everyone was happy that they were able to do their thing. This room was the smallest in the building, but it was instantly one of the main selling points for the club, it was the party room.

As I gazed through the crowd in that back room, I noticed a familiar face drawing on one of the tables with a marker, it was an old friend named Matt who lived across the street from me when I was growing up. Drawing on tables was well within the rules of the club. Charles loved that kind of thing, after all, he was the guy who invited my friends to spray paint the building while people were inside. He liked to see everyone “leaving their mark on the club,” as he used to say.

I walked over to Matt and asked, “Yo, how did you find out about this? I haven’t seen you in years man!”

“Oh…Hey John, I was hoping I'd see you, I heard you were doing some groovy stuff out here, so I came to check it out,” Matt said slowly in a very deep tone. It seemed like he hadn't changed much, he was still doing his best to impersonate his hero, Jim Morrison.

In high school, he was obsessed with the ’60s, but especially Jim Morrison, even going so far as to adopt his style of talking and haircut. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but this should have been a red flag that he was a bit mentally unstable. That really wouldn’t have mattered anyway though, I always took the guy under my wing and tried to show him a good time, ever since we were kids. Plus, I know that I am far from mentally stable, so I have no room to judge anyone. We sat and caught up for a few minutes, and I remember being very happy that he was out and being social since he was always a bit of a loner. When I excused myself to continue wandering around the club, he asked if he could have a ride home. He told me he got a ride to the party with no plans about how he was going to get back home. His house was way up in the suburbs, and I was probably too fucked up to be taking that drive, so I told him that he could catch a ride to the afterparty with us and I would take him home in the morning.

The rest of the show was a blur, and it’s a struggle to piece together anything that happened after that conversation. The next thing I remember I was back at the afterparty in the corner of a crowded room talking to Mickey about how things went at the show. I was under the impression that it was a massive success and that we were at the dawn of a new era, but I quickly learned that there was much more going on behind the scenes than I realized.

“So... how well do you know this Charles guy? Do you trust him?” Mickey asked.

“Well, things are weird, cuz, for the most part, Clyde won’t let me get close to the guy. Not many people really noticed me there until I brought you in,” I replied.

“I don’t think I trust him, dude. I think he tried to pull a fast one on me tonight,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, at the end of the night when we were tallying everything up he tried to lay down all these charges on me that we never discussed. I was in there for like a half hour arguing with him about it, and eventually, he gave in on a few figures, but I still really feel like I got screwed tonight. I’ve been counting heads for years, and I know how much money should have come through that door,” Mickey explained.

“Fuck, are you sure? What happens now?” I asked.

“I’m pretty sure, but when I get home, I am going to double check some numbers to make sure. If I’m right, I don’t know what I’m going to do, because we got another show planned there next month and I got a headliner booked already with a contract signed and everything. I really don’t think I want to do business with this guy though,” Mickey said.

“Fuck,” I said blankly, piecing everything together and realizing that my future at Galaxy was dependent upon Mickey’s relationship with Charles.

“Look man…I know you were really counting on this working out because of Clyde playing dirty and forcing you out of the club, but I’ve learned in this business that if you have a bad feeling about something you need to run as far as you can in the other fucking direction. We don’t need that place anyway, you’re an official Tru Skool promoter, and God’s Basement is just as much your home as it is mine,” Mickey said.

As I mentioned earlier, I was still oblivious to how the money flowed behind the scenes, this was actually one of the first conversations that I ever had about how that end of the business worked. I was so naive to the reality of these politics that I was totally blindsided by the possibility that our show could be a blast on the dance floor but a disappointment behind the scenes. This news was hard to take, because I had an attachment to Galaxy, and I expected to have a prosperous future there. I was at least getting somewhere though. In just a few months, I became a vital asset to one of the biggest crews on the east coast. Despite the recent drama, I was still proud of what I accomplished, and I was still excited about what the future would bring. I was also still holding out hope that Mickey and Charles would be able to set aside their differences, for the sake of saving a business relationship that could be very beneficial for them both. As the sunlight began to break through the blinds, people slowly filtered out of the apartment until there was only a few of us left. Mickey and his crew had started their voyage back to Philly, and everyone was asleep except for me, Caylee and my old friend Matt, who I still had to give a ride home to at some point.

We were sitting on the floor passing a blunt around talking about trips and sharing war stories about our experiences with various psychedelics. When the conversation naturally came to acid, and we ran out of our own experiences to talk about, Caylee shared a story that she recently heard from a friend of hers.

“Oh yeah! I totally forgot to tell you this crazy story! So, I got a call from a friend recently who doesn't really party, and she asked me what the symptoms were for someone who was on ecstasy or acid. I told her and asked what was up, and she told me this story about some new kid that they hired at work. Apparently, he came in one day saying all this crazy shit about fate and the universe and Jesus, and he started quoting all these random songs from the 70s,” she said in between laughs.

Matt listened intently and quietly as Caylee told her story, but when she finished, he said something that shocked us both.

“Ya know, it's kinda funny, everyone thought I was on drugs, but I wasn't…I guess that's why they fired me. I was just saying weird things, I guess, so they thought I was on drugs. Trust me, I would tell you guys if I was actually on drugs, but I swear I wasn’t,” Matt said.

Me and Caylee both sat there with our mouths wide open with no clue what to say. He was the guy from her story. None of us were expecting that, and I’m sure Caylee had no clue that the person she was talking about would be in the room, but luckily he was cool about it and found humor in the situation.