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Author Topic: *REVISED* SEX.DRUGS.DJ (NA/LF?)  (Read 586 times)
blakeS
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« on: May 18, 2017, 07:11:03 PM »

**NSFW**  This is the revised beginning.


ONE

They tell me I was a gorgeous baby. You know that line all parents feel compelled to tell their children, regardless of how painfully ugly they were? It’s the claim parents make you were the most gorgeous baby in the world, and there was never a more gloriously beautiful child than you? Yeah, that’s the one. Well, having seen my baby pictures and applying unbiased, logical reasoning, I can safely say my parents were right—I was indeed a gorgeous baby.

I grew up in Chicago and honestly can’t think of a more vibrant and diverse city to have been a kid. The stereotypical white kid from the suburbs, grade school was fun, from what I can remember of it, and life seemed to be a blank canvas with limitless possibilities. I played soccer, made friends with the kids in the neighborhood and, of course, played a grip of Nintendo. The 80s gave us the Super Bowl Champion Bears, and I could go see Cubs or White Sox games all summer, but what made Chicago so amazing for me was the music.
Ensconced in it from a very young age, Disco never died in the Chi—that’s what we called Chicago—it lived on the radio well into the 80s, and God bless the radio stations that did. My mother regularly blasted one of those stations on the stereo at home, while my brother and I danced around to everything from The Bee Gees to Donna Summer. Disco, with the oh-so-recognizable high-hat cymbal, melded with a stair-stepping bassline and some sort of female vocal, was dance music, hard to ignore. But it wasn’t Disco that would shape my life forever; it was House Music.

On clear nights, I could catch WBMX on the radio at 102.7 FM, for my first taste of House Music. As other stations made the format change from Disco to pop music in the 80s, WBMX came to be the one that embraced the dance music genres and didn’t stop playing Disco overnight. That support helped the dance music evolve into what would become the everlasting style of music known as House Music.
Everyone has their memory of when they first heard House Music and felt that rush of excitement as the looped, electronic harmony caressed their ears. For each of us, there was a different era and mutation of the genre, but for me, that moment was on those clear nights when I was a kid in the 80s. From “Rockin’ Down the House,” to “Jack Your Body,” the WBMX DJs, known as the HotMix 5, brought listeners a mixture of new and old music. It was the world most white, suburban kids otherwise never knew existed. WBMX was the station that would later evolve to WBBM or B96, a station with a stronger signal that could reach the suburbs. I won’t bore you with a Chicago music lesson, but WBMX laid the groundwork for genres and sounds in the decades to come.
“Good Life” from Inner City was the song that made me fall in love with House Music. Part of the soundtrack from the cinematic classic Side Out with C. Thomas Howell, it’s the song that plays at the beginning of the movie, during the beach volleyball scene. I never particularly cared for vocals in songs, but Paris Grey found a way to make the words speak to me. Nevertheless, “Good Life” was but one of a multitude of House Music and Techno tracks on the radio in Chicago, produced by the very DJs that played them.
As a teenager, I sat for hours in my room and recorded songs from the radio. Sometimes full, unmixed tracks, other times recorded from the middle of a DJ's mix, I didn’t know how the guys on the radio mixed the music together, but I tried to emulate them with my tape deck. Sure, I knew what turntables were and saw DJs use them in Run DMC videos, but I had no idea that’s what they used on WBMX. I tried my hardest to make tapes for myself that sounded like those radio mixes, sometimes with more success than others.   

   So I was a normal kid, from a normal neighborhood, and I did normal sh**. Well, mostly. There was a battle with cancer, as a young child, which put me in the hospital for a few years. Nevertheless, the details aren’t imperative for my story as an adult, other than knowing that dark chapter as a child left me with chronic pain that remained ever present through adulthood. The struggle with that hardship led to my teenage angst, anger, and unhappiness, which also filled me into adulthood. 
    To escape the unease and displeasure of growing up with that kind of pain, I found solace in smoking pot. Sure, it was common for many teenagers, but for me, smoking weed offered the flight from reality that I needed and wanted. Being high allowed me to let go of all the baggage that weighed down my soul and in those tiny, intoxicated moments, I was happy. Even more enjoyable was listening to my beloved House Music while high. Holy sh** it was it epic. I understood why my parents’ generation smoked weed and listened to The Doors or The Grateful Dead—music was different when weed was involved. My hearing changed when I was high, though it seemed as if it was the music that morphed. The mind-altering chemicals unlocked a depth of the music I couldn’t hear while sober. On the other hand, maybe I was full of sh**, and there was no difference at all. I don’t know for certain, but I didn’t care. Music sounded fantastic when I did drugs, and that was the point.   


TWO
April 9, 1988

   My cousin James told me about an event with Techno and House DJs from WBMX on the bill. He referred to the event as a club, but I had my doubts they would let someone my age enter. I didn’t know anyone else from my school that went to sh** like that.
   “Can I get into it?” I suspiciously asked. 
   “Yeah, don’t worry about that. It’s at a warehouse on the south side. They won’t care about age, as long as you’re cool, oh, and if you can find the place.”
   I perked up, “Yeah?”
   “Yea, bring your deck. You can probably skate there, too.” 
   “So it’s not really a club, then, is it?”
   Confidently, he said, "No, I guess not. But you’ll like it." 
   Sold.

   A ride through some questionable areas of the city and the car stopped at a dark area off 43rd and Halstead, in the McKinley Park area. James pointed out a building, but it looked like a dirty, crack-house and I let him know my concern. However, that astute observation put it lightly. The venue was a boarded up, run-down warehouse that I wouldn’t dare to go into in the day, let alone at night. Still, when it came to their music, these people meant business, because someone ripped boards off one of the doors and that was the entry. There was a steady stream of people walking to the entrance, where an impressively large man stood and waved people in as if you had to pass his test before you could be allowed entrance into the secret hideout. It was incredible. A seemingly innocuous warehouse, yet droves of people knew what was inside. The whole affair was intriguing and exhilarating. I couldn’t wait to see the inside.
   Once inside, however, I was immediately underwhelmed with the building and setup. Dirty and drab walls gave me the impression the business that previously operated there had long since closed. The floor was concrete, but looked almost like asphalt, from the years of grime and dirt accumulation. Sitting down was not going to be an option. The rest of the warehouse didn’t offer much else to see, other than speakers on the ground, next to each side of a table that held the DJ setup. But there was something electric in the air. The empty space was filled with sound that pulsated and pounded rhythmically as if it called me in for a closer inspection.
   I threw down my skateboard and rolled over to people that hung out in the back of the warehouse, removed from the hundred or so others that danced close to the speakers and DJ. I wasn’t the only kid with a board either. Others zipped back and forth in that rear section of the warehouse, unfazed by the rest of the crowd. We seemed to be diametric from the dancers, yet none of them care that we weren’t dancing. The mixture of music, skating and dancing were nothing I had ever seen before. 
   Through the course of the night, I smoked two joints and eventually joined the dancers’ section. It took a little time for me to let loose, but when one of the DJs played “Get Busy” from Mr. Lee, the urge to move my feet that couldn’t be held back any longer. From then, I was lost in the music until the early morning, as the DJs played a mixture of some songs that made me feel like I was listening to WBMX. 
   James rudely brought me back to reality with a request to leave when it was 5:00 am, but I didn’t want to be anywhere but at raves like that one. I couldn’t explain it, but I felt attached to the dirty, sh**ty warehouse. For a moment in the sea of teenage trepidation, I found a place to call home. In those hours, I could escape all that bullsh** in my life, and I wasn’t judged or mocked. I was free. That was where I belonged, where I wanted to be and that was my first rave experience.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2017, 01:26:34 PM by blakeS » Logged
samcantcook
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« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2017, 09:48:29 AM »

**NSFW**

Morning. At least, it appeared to be morning. cliche to begin with a character waking up. It works if you subvert what's otherwise an overdone beginning, but nothing unusual happens here. I opened my eyes and allowed the daylight to pierce the darkness except he's not allowing the daylight to do anything. It's a natural cause and effect: he opened his eyes, if there's sunlight, by default, he's going to be able to see... that encapsulated my mind as if my eyelids were curtains, whipped open. A few sentences in to this and we are still describing a character waking up. Well, the light met one eye, because the other was buried in a filthy carpet that smelled of spilled beer, cigarettes, mud and a little sh**. Almost in tandem with the visual and odorous assault this feels overwritten to me, I was greeted by a throbbing head that made it hard to process my predicament. Even so, I could tell it wasn’t nighttime, and I wasn’t in my bed; that’s when the post-party shame set in. 
It couldn’t have been a coincidence; I swear I had been in that position before. Not the exact spot in the same place, per se, but the taste of alcohol on my breath and lightheadedness reminded me of a time oddly familiar. It wasn’t even the headache that bothered me; rather being in a mildly incapacitated state that I had experienced before. 
A scan of the surroundings was attempted, but my brain and the Sun operated in a tandem conspiracy, as they had many times before, no doubt to punish me for a night of overindulgence. To make the job easier, I slowly rolled over to my back, and my body let out a quiet groan, telling me to “knock that sh** off.” Believe me, body, would that I could. Left to my own devices, I would have stayed with my face plastered to the disgusting carpet and drifted back to a safe and relaxing slumber. However, I didn’t have that luxury; I needed to know the day and time. The whole process was a f**king struggle until I successfully completed the delicate maneuver and a sigh escaped my mouth, consisting of equal parts disdain and relief.
On my back, the popcorn textured ceiling of the ordinary-looking suburban apartment offered something for my eyes to lock onto, as I tried to regain my wits. Head-throbbing overpowered rational thought, and just like that, I lost track of my body’s agenda. A headache took on a melodic rhythm that was reminiscent of the numerous songs from the previous night and memory seeped back into the foreground. Oh, right, I need to find my pager.
A quick survey around and I could locate my Motorola pager, face-down on the carpet. Not far from my location, I snatched the pager from and tried to read the screen, but my eyes fought the maneuver, every step of the way. Barely able to make out the numbers displayed, I still thumbed through the calls. With the pager memory cleared, the pager showed the time as 11:38. Judging by the Sun’s devilishly bright appearance, I correctly surmised it was AM, rather than PM. The f**king sun in California has no pity on the hung-over man.
I sat for a moment and considered my position. F**k, it’s Monday. That meant the previous two nights were spent at this very location—Greg’s apartment—on a bender. That revelation wasn’t a surprise because it certainly wasn’t the first we used Greg’s place was transformed into a rave-den of drunken, drugged debauchery. But that hardly offered solace for a headache and sick feeling in my stomach.

It all started innocuously enough, as weekends always did. Friday evening brought the routine of sorting through new records, to determine what would be played throughout the weekend. Somewhat lazy, I knew that most kids wouldn’t remember if I played the same song at different events and those who noticed wouldn’t care. But that bit of DJ optimization meant I didn’t have to return home each night, to swap out music. And more often than not, I didn’t.
After records had been packed, my roommate Adam joined me to grab a bite to eat at Wienerschnitzel. Definitely not the wisest of decisions, but hot dogs were cheap and easy, plus the restaurant was near a liquor store. We picked up various shooters, a fifth of vodka, and it was off to Greg’s to “consume and boom." 
 Like any other night, we showed up around 11:00 pm, complete with a selection of pills and coke. Most people had the expectation that our arrival would deliver the medicine cabinet style drug selection, if only for the selfish reason of a reliable sales point. Greg’s other guests brought beer, booze, weed, whatever they fancied, but Adam and I were the ones that brought the hard sh**.  So far there's not conflict, just descriptions of his state after a night of debauchery.
In between the drug sales and use, we drank too much and played the same records over and over, in a rotation of DJs that spanned all hours of the night. The futile process continued until sometime in the early morning when the party had run its course. It was easy to spot the eventual wind-down: one by one, people took up temporary residence at Greg’s and passed out in various locations. They dropped like flies from lack of sleep, too much booze or a fun combination of both. Whatever their reason, Greg’s floors and his solitary, comfy couch became the resting place of the unconscious, unwashed ravers, deep in slumber after a hard night of partying. 
 Following those few hours of sleep, the mass of party kids slowly awoke, fighting dehydration or a hangover in their own way. Some brave soul always made the pilgrimage to Del Taco for a few 12-packs of cheap tacos, and we were quick to gobble down as many as our weak stomachs could handle. Batteries were recharged, and a nap usually followed. 
On each night of this social expedition, DJs played on the modest sound system Greg had in his apartment. But that was about all he had in that place. Furniture was sparse, and it was painfully obvious a DJ lived there. There was a small, worn-out, leather sofa in the living room, aka “the comfy couch,” but there was no other furniture to speak of. “All the more room to dance, man,” he often said. 
During the span of the weekend days, I’m pretty sure Adam and I left Greg’s to play a gig here and there—we were regularly booked at events—but whether or not I remembered them was a different story. My days were spent sleeping; nights were a blur and all blended seamlessly into each other, like waves of memory, draped in a cloak of forgetfulness. Each gathering was an exercise in intoxication, one more ridiculous than the last, but too often, the weekend ended as quickly as it started, leaving me to wonder where the time went.
My life wasn’t always like that. I wasn’t continuously engaged in a dysfunctional escalation of poor decisions and regrets. There was a time when I didn’t constantly ride waves of intoxication, looking for myself in a sea of inebriation. I can’t say when exactly it happened, but believe it or not, there was a time when I was a normal kid with normal issues and normal hobbies. Somewhere along the way, I deviated from the path expected of me and went down the trajectory of music, drugs and partying. Maybe I should probably back up a bit to explain. This sentence is a sure sign that the story hasn't started in the right place. I get what you're going for. It almost has a Tarantino aesthetic. But you're not writing a movie, and the plethora of false starts doesn't have the same grabbing effect as it does in film.

They tell me I was a gorgeous baby. <<-- This actually makes for an excellent first line. I would start the story here. You know that line all parents feel compelled to tell their children, regardless of how painfully ugly they were? It’s the claim parents make you were the most gorgeous baby in the world, and there was never a more gloriously beautiful child than you? Yeah, that’s the one. Well, having seen my baby pictures and applying unbiased, logical reasoning, I can safely say my parents were right—I was indeed a gorgeous baby. Wait, that’s probably too far back.

Another false start. Get to the actual story. I grew up in Chicago and honestly can’t think of a more vibrant and diverse city to have been a kid. The stereotypical white kid from the suburbs, grade school was fun, from what I can remember of it, and life seemed to be a blank canvas with limitless possibilities. I played soccer, made friends with the kids in the neighborhood and, of course, played a grip of Nintendo. The 80s gave us the Super Bowl Champion Bears, and I could go see Cubs or White Sox games all summer, but what made Chicago so amazing for me was the music.
 Ensconced in it from a very young age, Disco never died in the Chi—that’s what we called Chicago—it lived on the radio well into the 80s, and God bless the radio stations that did. My mother regularly blasted one of those stations on the stereo at home, while my brother and I danced around to everything from The Bee Gees to Donna Summer. Disco, with the oh-so-recognizable high-hat cymbal, melded with a stair-stepping bassline and some sort of female vocal, was dance music, hard to ignore. But it wasn’t Disco that would shape my life forever; it was House Music.

Some of your writing is very poetic. But I think the overall narrative is suffering from overwriting and starting in the wrong place. Beginning with a character waking up just doesn't work. Not anymore. Not unless you somehow make the waking up bit unusual and reverse our expectations. The false starts feel like riding in a car with a stick shift and a new driver. We keep getting jolted around before getting grounded in the setting.

"It all started innocuously enough," but that's not how you want the reader to feel. Conflict should be established early on. You might be going for literary fiction, but still, it's best to open with some sort of conflict. I'm not talking about gun fights or heists or "action." But we need a situation that sets the stakes, demands that we keep reading to find out how the protagonist is going to get out of the conflict/overcome it/rise above it/or be defeated.

To clarify, I'm not saying your writing is bad. I enjoyed the thought that went into your sentences--they're obviously very meticulously crafted--and, as I said at the start, there's a kind of poetry to your style even among all the grime and drugs. But I do think the pieces that are overwritten should be reworked. For example, too many semicolons. Way too many. Namely in the first few paragraphs. They felt unnecessary. I know they are stylistic, but I would stick with the good ole "period" and sprinkle in the semicolons.

You've got a lot of good stuff here. But start your story in the right place.

My one cent.
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blakeS
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« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2017, 10:08:43 AM »

Nice one, thanks, man.  Initially, I started to write this as a movie script, so the jumping made sense there, but I can see how in a novel, it doesn't set a smooth pace.

I felt the same about all those damn semicolons and probably shouldn't have relied on Grammarly so much for technical cleanup, but figured that system would know better than I.   Angry
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« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2017, 10:30:09 AM »

I would actually love to see this as a movie script. Some of the projects I work on fall in the same vein so I, too, struggle with getting them to feel more like books than movies sad Which is probably why I had a lot to say.

You really should keep working on this. As I said, there's a poetry to your words and a lot of beautiful images. Do you mind if I inquire how far along you got with working on this as a screenplay? Sometimes I find that working in that medium helps stretch my sore writing muscles.

I feel like there is going to be a good payoff to what you're writing though. I can sense the buildup that I like so much in older movies. Maybe try it as a screenplay just for the hell of it. I think there's so much that a camera would add to this that I would feel compelled to at least try it out.

At any rate, good luck. And let us know of any changes, whether you simply work on the prose or adapt the prose into a script format. I'd be happy to see progress in either form!
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blakeS
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« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2017, 10:54:41 AM »

I'll PM you to discuss more.  Smiley
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blakeS
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« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2017, 08:54:03 PM »

Revised start posted.  :D
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