The following is a selection of some of the more entertaining notes from my first official field research night. (The last post was a preliminary getting-a-feel-for-things outing.) I took out a lot of the reflections and will be putting those into a separate post. If any real anthropologists are reading this… Forgive the crude and candid nature of these notes. I have never been able to maintain the illusion that I am above using words like “clusterfuck”. I see no point in censoring my notes before the real analysis has begun in earnest. I’m sure that buried deep somewhere in Margaret Mead’s field notes, she talks about sick beats and squashing everyone’s buzz. She just didn’t have social media outlets to gloriously rip down the curtain that obscures the raw unfiltered human idiocy from which eventually crawls coherent insight.
Whether or not it’s a good idea, it’s happening.
For the same reason that motivates most of my decisions. Because it amuses me.
* * *
Arrival: 12:30 am. After a clusterfuck of ridiculousness involving forgetting my ID. They wouldn’t let me in. I had to go back to the house to get my passport. I should be happy that they’re being strict about IDs, but right now it’s just a pain in the ass.
Bathroom attendant is a black Caribbean woman. Again. What is up with this town? It makes me super uncomfortable since 90% of the partiers are white. A girl came up and asked her, “can I sneak a piece of that gum?”
“Tip,” she said flatly.
“Ahhh…” The raver walked away. I made eye contact with the bathroom attendant and she rolled her eyes. “I guess she didn’t want it that bad,” I said.
I can already tell that the bathroom is gonna be a gold mine for overheard conversations. If I’m only listening it’s not unethical right? I’m peeing, I can’t close my ears.
Coat check guy liked my shirt. Friendly. Though a guy once told me that any time a guy compliments your shirt, he’s actually complimenting your tits. He was really nice though so it didn’t seem offside.
The Uniform: Girls in short shorts. Guys in tanks or shirtless. Lots of hats. Reminds me of Thailand.
I’m more worried about my bag than I should be considering everyone in here is probably wealthier than I am.
Holy shit this DJ is really good! Frank Walker?
Dude with LED finger gloves! Ha haaaaa! I love his face, his enthusiasm!
I really will need better ear plugs. Fuck it’s loud in here. It also reeks of weed which is always oddly comforting, even though I don’t smoke anymore.
Second finger glover. This one is definitely high. He’s really working one girl. Do they use these things to get laid?
I can literally feel the heat emanating from the guys beside me. It’s like standing next to an oven.
More men than women here for sure. There’s a group of shirtless dudes dancing together. Gay? Bros? Who knows?
Guy in a giraffe mask. Love it. He is loving it too. I feel like a douche not dancing right now and writing things on my phone.
There’s a guy trying to catch my eye. I guess he didn’t notice my engagement ring. I just want to talk to him about my topic. …Ethical? Can I smile at him on to make contact, even though I know he’s trying to flirt? Use my female-ness to my advantage, since it’s not my goddamn fault that so many men have zero interest in making a genuine connection with another human being unless she’s DTF? I didn’t make the system and I don’t like it, but can I still work within it?
Ohhhhh 3lau. It’s really fucking hot in here. But 3LAU. Amazing beats. “London… I have a lot of Canadian friends who tell me that you guys party the hardest!” (He could say that everywhere, but London, ON is actually pretty well known as a party town.)
SERIOUSLY THIS DATA COLLECTION IS INTERFERING WITH MY DANCING. …OK that double shot kicked in pretty quick. That’s enough for tonight.
Sweaty muscley beef guy just sold some drugs behind me. I want to ask what but for several reasons I won’t.
How the fuck does everyone know and agree when a particularly sick beat is happening? I was getting so pumped up because it was awesome. And somehow everyone else’s tastes were the same. How much influence do we have on each other?
It’s so hot in here and I’m not even on MDMA. I can’t imagine how brutal it feels for everyone who is. This has to be… [interrupted by a guy telling me to get off my phone] I am squashing everyone’s buzz with my seeming phone obsession. Should have brought my shirt.
Made friends! Lewis*, who was the one to tell me to get off my phone, introduced me to everyone as “This is Hilary! She’s here on her own!” Which made me very popular. They all seem to just absolutely love how badass I apparently am for coming on my own at the last minute. Girls probably don’t do that too often. But because of it they’ve welcomed me into their group. Really friendly of them.
There’s a guy walking around with a folding fan, cooling people down with a big smile. This man is a best friend machine. I love him.
Guy says to me: “I know a guy who did that (mushrooms all the time) and now he’s retarded.” …..OK
Random people are still getting mad at me for using my phone. The night is supposed to be about getting away from the tech-obsessed, alienated world – me on my phone is like an affront to the rave ideals, it’s almost rude, indicating that I’m not as into the music and the atmosphere as everyone else. I might have to keep my phone usage on the floor to a minimum, and move to the side to take notes. Though Lewis decided that my research was an acceptable excuse.
Offered MDMA a couple times by guys in the group I’m hanging out with. Being offered in this context is really a nice gesture, truly – reminds me of the joke saying, “if a stranger offers you drugs, say thank you – drugs are expensive.”
“I’m gonna have to drink a Culligan jug tomorrow” – Lewis. He is indeed sweating so much he looks like he just climbed out of a lake.
A girl bumped into a guy and knocked his beer all over him. She started to apologize, but he smiled and said “no worries” and offered it to her! I’ve found Rave Jesus.
To break the ice, it always goes:
First question: “Are you having a good night?”
Second question: “What’s your name?”
Guys shake hands, girls hug – though this might be me taking the lead on the second one. I like hugs.
“Are you studying me right now?” Asked sort of jokingly but also hard to answer because, well, yes. Surely this is a question encountered by lots of anthropologists – need to get feedback on how to answer it.
Girl in the bathroom: “I’m never wearing jeans to a rave again!”
Accepted a paper towel from the bathroom lady. Awkwaarrrrdddd. I put a dollar in her jar.
I need a dancing break. Geez, I’m not even taking my own advice. I need electrolytes!
Gotta get in touch with those Colombian girls! Rave scene in Colombia? Anywhere else in Latin America?
I really need to work on my courage. I feel too shy to talk to bartenders or the bathroom attendant but they’d have lots of great insights.
3LAU: “For stealing my London virginity, this was awesome!” I love it when DJs are just as into the vibe as the crowd is.
After telling a guy that I’m an anthropologist: “Oh yeah, I went to see that T. rex in Alberta!” What I thought: …Sigh. Yeah I study dinosaur bones. At raves. Man, not all anthropologists are archaeologists, but archaeologists don’t even study dinosaur fossils, that’s palaeontologists! What I actually said: “Oh awesome!”
I should ask my optometrist if all these lasers are bad for my eyes. Lol.
Light finger guys who gave me a show… Wanted to ask more about it, why they do it etc. (pretty sure I have some ideas but still), but it felt like it would ruin the spontaneous experience to start digging into it, to bring the implicit shared bond out into the open. Once again this applies to so many little social situations… Saying it out loud changes everything, like explaining a joke, or pointing out that someone’s flirting.
When the music was over I went around looking at the garbage to see what kinds of leftover drug baggies were littered around. One of the guys cleaning up got excited when I told him about my project. “You looking for drugs? There’s lots! I’ll help you find them!” We swept the place for tiny ziplocs. He got an idea when I told him I had a test kit, and ran away and came back with some white powder crumpled up in tinfoil. “It’s a prescription drug from Russia we got online!” he said. We chatted about ‘cocoa puffs’ and how dealers put cocaine in weed to get you ‘hooked’. I’m not sure I believe it. Need to ask around.
I called out to the crowd leaving: “If anyone lives off Richmond, I have two spots in my car, I’m sober, I can drive you home.” No takers. One guy yelled out “STRANGER DANGER!” Hah. I’m both affronted and strangely proud of their reaction. Good little ravers, dont accept rides from strangers! Except when its a clearly sober woman. Enjoy your $30 taxi.
Drove Lewis and his friend home. He tried to invite me in. Lol no. “Nah I’m good.”
Going home. So tired. This research is really gonna mess with my sleep schedule. It’s also gonna be really fucking expensive. Gotta plan ahead so I can email events beforehand and tell them I’m researching harm reduction, maybe get in free. Maybe.
*Not his real name.
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