Friday, September 23, 2016


This weekend was educational. I learned a good many things.

I learned that I make a lousy caregiver. I learned that Iowa is often larger than I realize. I learned that strokes are awful. And most importantly, I learned that I might be getting a little too old to rave.

Fresh out of college, I supported myself for a time by promoting all-night dance parties that were all the rave in the early Nineties. If you or your child spent much of that decade in baggy clothes with baggy eyes, that was probably my doing. Sorry 'bout that. Actually, no, I'm not sorry. There was nothing as electric as finding an unsuspecting empty building and then testing its structural integrity by filling it with teenagers and bass bins. At over 100 raves around the Midwest, the promotions group I co-founded brought love through sonic chaos.

I look back at those days fondly, and I apologize for nothing. Nowhere else could you find a more disparate group of kids coming together without judgement, bullying, fighting, or drama -- all for the shared love of pulsing dance beats shoved into one's earholes at a ridiculously unhealthy volume. Back in those days, promoters treated one another with respect, and we did our best to maintain a great relationship with all the nearby party planners. So when the guys who used to throw raves up in Cedar Falls announced a reunion party, complete with one of all my all-time favorite DJs (Chicago'S "Mystic Bill,") I had to be there.

Just one problem: I'm old, and so are my friends. Most of my former party animals now have families and priorities and better things to do at 2 a.m. than rupture their eardrums to the sweet bliss of house music. I wasn't about to make the drive solo, so as a last ditch effort, I posted to Facebook to see if anybody wanted to tag along. I was shocked and surprised to immediately hear from my friend Kev.

There used to be two major rave promoters in the QC: MY group, and Kev's group. We weren't besties or anything, but the healthy competition between our groups constantly pushed us to throw the best events we possibly could. A true Midwest rave reunion would be incomplete without him, so who better to accompany me to Cedar Falls?

But here's the thing. One year ago, my friend Kev suffered a massive stroke. You might even remember the benefit we had for him last year. I'd heard tales of the progress he's been making, so when he texted me his address, I was more than happy to be his chauffeur for the evening. But little did I know that the address in question was to a neurological care facility where he was now staying, and checking him out meant signing a form assuming responsibility for his well-being.

This is marginally intimidating, because I often have difficulty assuming responsibility for my OWN well-being, let alone another human being. That's why their next warning made me gulp a little: "Kev tells us he plans on getting drunk tonight. Now, we can't legally stop him, but keep in mind that he's on some pretty serious meds, so don't let him go TOO crazy." In hindsight, I should have really asked for a precise definition of "TOO crazy."

Life can be unfair, and strokes are pretty high on the grand chart of unfairness. Kev was once a brilliant graffiti artist, and tragically the stroke cost him the use of his drawing hand. Despite the challenges, though, he's still the same Kev. He might move a little slower, he might not find all the words he wants, but he's the same mischievous troublemaker as ever. I learned this the hard way, when we stopped at a gas station and he excused himself to go to the restroom, but instead came back with a freshly purchased 6-pack that I wasn't certain he should have.

Eventually we made it to Cedar Falls, and the venue was perfect -- an unused farm building in the middle of nowhere literally pulsing with house music. Kev and I might be aged ravers, but so was everyone else there, and the love we felt walking into the place was palpable. It was great to see old faces, and everyone was elated to see Kev back in action. Still, I was a bit worried. The two of us were never THAT close, yet I'm pretty sure my signature on that form made me his legal guardian for the night. Happily, I talked him into leaving the 6-pack in the car so I could monitor what "TOO crazy" meant.

For the record, "TOO crazy" equals three beers. No sooner had Mystic Bill brought the crowd to a frenzy when Kev tapped me and simply mouthed, "Uh oh." Seconds later, those three beers made an unfortunate re-appearance in the most unpleasant of ways. It was time to get him home. I pulled the car around and a group of us quickly got him loaded in.

I was in a near-panic. Way to go, Shane. Legally in charge of someone, and now that someone was on the verge of passing out in my car. I really didn't want my first experiment as caregiver to end in an emergency room. Thankfully, mere minutes after we pulled out, Kev rallied. In retrospect, I think his problems may have owed more to the relentless sound and dancing lasers than the three beers.

"Sorry," Kev said as we set sail for home. "Stroke... sucks."

Like I said, it was an educational weekend. I learned that getting home at sun-up in your 40s is a little harsher than it was in my 20s. This may have been my last all-nighter. But I also learned that nothing makes me feel more alive than standing outside in the middle of nowhere at 2 a.m., staring up at the sky and letting music fill my soul. The only thing better was getting a hug and a thanks from an old friend. Strokes might suck, but Kev's not letting this one win, even if I'm there to help screw it all up.

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