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Another damp day in South Florida. The Calibrator cruises slowly down Dade Avenue on the campus of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, searching for the Student Housing Services Building. Two students happen by. "Excuse me," the Calibrator says, rolling down his window, "could either of you two ladies tell me where the Student Housing Services Building is?"

"Yeah," the short one giggles, pointing across the street, "it's right there."

A nondescript, squarish brick building. Big sign out front that says something to the effect of Student Housing Building. A few campus cops lingering out front.

"Uh-hmm," the Calibrator nods, "that's what I suspected."

The car clock says 1:05 p.m. The rave cop is probably already five minutes into "The Rave Subculture: Youth, Drugs, and Violence." The Calibrator has been looking forward to the presentation for days, and now, having taken a right instead of a left and gotten lost somewhere in the short distance between I-95 and the university, he is late.

"Are you a student?" the short girl asks. Her face is young and vulnerable. The Calibrator warmly recalls his lone semester at Bloomsburg University some years back and a cute young coed there named Lori Vitacco. All his friends called her "the Taco."

"Nope," he replies. "Now how 'bout a place to park. Do I need a sticker in the lot?"

"There's a visitor's space right there," the short one says, pointing to a vacant space 20 feet away. "That one with the orange curby thing in front of it."

"I think that's for handicaps."

"No, that's for visitors. Just make sure you put quarters in the meter," she adds, before she and her taller, silent friend turn and walk off. "There's, like, parking cops all over and they'll give you a ticket in, like, five minutes."

The Calibrator parks and pulls out from his backpack his clip from the Sun-Sentinel regarding the rave presentation: "Florida Atlantic University… Miami-Dade police detective… raves… all night music and dance parties… exposing teenagers to drugs… Detective Eladio M. Pais… 1:30 to 3 p.m. Thursday… Multipurpose Room…." Wait -- 1:30 to 3? One-thirty? Not one? Perfect. Twenty-five minutes early.

Three quarters for the meter. The Calibrator needs four. He puts the three in the meter, then strolls over to the university center to change a $20 bill. A Waspy, June Cleaverish sort at the coffee stand says she is simply not allowed to pass out change. "You'll have to go buy something in the bookstore," she chirps. "It's right over there."

The Calibrator hits the bookstore, where he hands over $20 for a 25-cent pack of gum. After tax he gets $19.73 back from the student cashier. He meanders back to his meter, smoking in the gray, misty day.

Detective Eladio Pais, a 15-year veteran of the Miami Police Department's narcotics unit, begins right on schedule. Dressed in a smart blue suit, Pais is stocky and balding. His appearance and demeanor are very much those of a professional authority figure. He seems comfortable and adequately sonorous as he paces the width of the Multipurpose Room in front of at least ten heavily armed Boca and FAU cops, maybe another twenty unarmed university employees, a few local media reps, and exactly one FAU student, a handsome young lad who will be portrayed on tonight's Channel 12 news and in tomorrow's Palm Beach Post as a sensible, well-spoken envoy of rave culture.

After he duly establishes his credentials as a font of knowledge on rave culture, Pais cuts into his introductory rap. He compares today's rave scene to "the hippie movement of the '60s…. Peace, love, harmony and unity -- it's all great," he says. "The only bad thing is drugs." He outlines the origins of rave culture in England at all-night dance parties in barns and warehouses and in America at similar bashes during the dying days of disco. People used drugs at these parties to heighten the effects of psychedelic lights, Pais explains, noting that their drug of choice was usually Ecstasy.

Ecstasy, he continues, goes by the street term "hugs and kisses." It produces excess serotonin in the brain. Serotonin makes us social and lovable. "Being touched enhances the effect of the drug," he states ominously, later adding that, "Those people who do 'X' say it's the greatest thing in the world. They say it's better than sex." The Calibrator wonders whatever happened to the Taco. She was such a sweet girl.

Pais holds aloft a baby pacifier and a couple Blow Pops. He explains that X makes ravers grind their teeth. "If you don't have something in your mouth," he says, "you're gonna chew on your tongue and lips." Now he brandishes a gauze surgical mask. Ravers on X coat the insides of such masks, he says, with Vick's Vaporub or some other "menthol inhalant." Then they "walk around with a mask on, inhaling the fumes of Vick's." This, Pais says, cools their bodies, which are often dangerously overheated as a result of excess X.

Ravers often mix drugs, Pais says. Ravers on X need water or they'll die. Ravers on X dig "any type of illuminator." Ravers will eventually seek other drugs, like heroin, to come down from their highs. Onto a wall Pais projects a photo of a roomful of kids at a rave. "As you can see," he says, "the insides of these events are extremely dark with a great deal of lights…. These places are all right until you go in and see kids freaking out, chewing on pacifiers, and hugging and kissing each other…. The subculture breeds death."

The Calibrator returns to his car 90 minutes later a wholly mollified man. Perhaps it's time he took the rave menace just a little more seriously. Then again, perhaps it's not. The rain continues. It always seems to be raining lately in South Florida. -- David Pulizzi

Send the good stuff to Calibrations, P.O. Box 14128, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302 or e-mail to: [email protected].