Tripping the Light Ecstatic

E Radicals Journey Beyond the Rave

Most ecstasy users do it at home or in a club. Street life is a little too random and unpredictable for such a cuddly drug. See, with E what you really want is a combination of intimacy and intensity, a controlled environment and stimuli-overload: something like a cross between a womb and a planetarium. Which is what most clubs are like, come to think of it. These days, though, making rave culture your set and setting for Ecstasy is not only kinda predictable, it's likely to be a waste of good drugs on bad music.

So you've dropped your first E, want to go out, but don't want to rub shoulders with glowstick-waving teeth-grinders and undercover narcs or pay $5 for a bottle of mineral water. Maybe it's the middle of the day anyway. Where to? Well, it'd only be proper to point out that your next stop could be the ER, given that a minuscule number of people have a violent bad reaction to MDMA. But let's say you're in the majority and everything's rolling along sweetly. You could forget about the womb part of the above equation and go visit an actual planetarium, like the one at the American Museum of Natural History. And while you're there, feast your dilated pupils on the translucent, jewel-like undersea life-forms displayed in the Hall of Biodiversity, right opposite the simulated Rain Forest.

Manhattan is short on pastoral spaces suitable for chilled contemplation, but if you carry on down the west side of Central Park, you'll reach Strawberry Fields, the verdant Lennon shrine that's right opposite the Dakota. These undulant lawns and dappled glades are about as arcadian as Manhattan gets: Recline, enjoy the (almost-)silence, feel the flesh of the breeze. The rocky lakeside area's pretty bucolic too, though the wildlife is strictly the urban kind. From there you might wander south to that midtown square mile roughly centered on Radio City Music Hall, where, in some cases, developers are required to build and maintain public spaces—attractive arbors with trees, sculptures, and often fountains. Not quite bowers of bliss, but your gaze will be tantalized by the scintillating play of light on water. Make sure you visit during non-peak hours, though—at midday, you'll be engulfed by a swarm of worker bees hunched over their lunchboxes and lattes.

Illustration by Mark Todd

Ravers like some corny-ass shit, and in your discrimination-diminished state, you might get a kick out of Mars 2112 (1633 Broadway), the Red Planet-styled restaurant a few blocks north of Times Square, which has actually been the site of raves thrown by psychedelic trance outfit Tsunami. Only problem is you won't feel much like eating, owing to Ecstasy's appetite-suppressant effects. Take a bus downtown for 40 or so blocks, and at 676 Broadway you can visit eye-candy central, Lighting Plus. Annoy the sales clerks by oohing and aahing over the store's kitschadelic array of retina-tickling gewgaws: fractal PVC wrapping paper, colored-oil wave machines (so restful), laser machines, those lamps made out of filaments of fiber-optic cable that look like alien Afros, glass tubes full of Tesla-style miniature lightning bolts, green glow-in-the-dark skeletons, and for traditionalists, ye olde disco mirror balls. Be warned, though: In your easily enchanted state, you might come home with a fluorescent cactus (best to leave your credit card behind). Added bonus: The air-conditioning is top-notch, which is good because Ecstasy can cause overheating, dehydration, and organ failure if you're not careful.

When you feel a faint hint of your appetite returning, head to the East Village to the Indian restaurants on First Avenue between 5th and 6th, Milon and Panna II. These next-door neighbors aren't renowned for their cuisine so much as their window-light displays—a rivalry that has escalated out of control. A delight to passersby on a cold winter's night, the lurid dazzle of pinks, vermilions, purples, chili-reds, and oranges makes dining a somewhat queasy experience for the customers inside, but for someone enhanced like yourself, it'll be a trip. If it's after dark, you can skip the tandoori and pappadoms, and just stand outside with a Walkman playing some tingly techno—pretend you're at a rave.

If you're still buzzing after all this empathogen-oriented psychogeography, take the L train at 14th Street and First Avenue and get out at Bedford Avenue, then find your way to the waterfront near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge. Here you come down easy, gazing at the lights of Manhattan reflected in the languid ripples of the river. Just as well that sense-intensifying Ecstasy seems to have the least effect on smell, though, as it can get pretty whiffy around there. Then home, not forgetting to pick up a bunch of bananas on the way—supposedly they help replace some of the serotonin you've just squandered, softening the inevitable post-E blues. Oh, and maybe a Teletubbies video too.

 
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