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Electric Habitat

Enough already

By Amanda Nowinski

RAVERS AND THE Endup rank highest on my list of obsessions. Friends and relatives scold me for it, always telling me they can't bear the tired stories any longer. But there's nothing I can do, because the more I reflect back on and sift through the parts of my identity connected with those people and that place, the worse the obsession becomes. And although I haven't been an active raver since 1993, and rarely go the Endup these days, the symbolism sticks to my skin (and my liver) with a stubborn permanence.

The Endup is the savage, archaeological jewel of the club scene. Its nearly 30 years of hardcore grinding, sweating, smoking, and lord knows what else are imbedded in the building's damp gray bowels. A dark, musky history envelops you the moment you pass through its black rubber curtains and enter the realm of the 24-hour exhausted, the bizarre, and the unknown. The painfully sunny back deck was a Sunday convergence spot for the red-eyed early-'90s underground, and everyone knows that if the Endup hadn't existed, they would have a lot fewer crazy stories to tell.

Despite its age and collection of weirdoes, the Endup has always been relevant because, even when the dance scene ebbs, as it is right now, the Sunday T-dance has remained effortlessly consistent. And that's mostly because the continuum of dance culture (running from disco to the present) is an integral part of the gay scene's roots, and no matter how many cheesy, straight Walnut Creek clubbers show up to bum out the trip, the Endup will always maintain its essence as a dingy gay dive.

When I arrived last Sunday at 5 p.m. to catch some of David Harness's set, the dance floor was swinging madly in some outer planetary plane. Sound and motion perfectly coalesced into breathing, symbiotic parts of the groove. The sun had almost completely dipped away, and the January air was deathly cold, but waves of body heat rose from the dance floor, providing warmth for all the shirtless freaks on the deck. I leaned on the steamy glass door, detachedly soaking it all in, as an off-duty stripper in red stilettos worked her thing next to a haggard old leather queen. It was seedy; it was wrong. In other words, it was completely on, and I got the reassuring sense that I was home.

If my incessant yapping about the Endup annoys people, my ravers rants probably take the cake. Raver is a term that old ravers reject, and one that nonravers and the mainstream use to describe all those cracked-out, white suburban teenagers that dance manically to the most insipid music on earth. By the time rave culture expanded into the late '90s, it had already long ceased to be an urban phenomenon, and consequently, lost its connection to the pulse of genuine street culture. The cops, of course, have a lot to thank for rave's ruin, but every subculture maxes out at some point.

Still, while the Endup is half of my neurosis, the hippie raver in me holds tight to memories of wicked full moons, warehouse parties in Hunters Point, and after-parties where I actually believed that this whole thing was about unity and a higher (and I do mean higher) way to live. But I have recently discovered that no matter how long you stay away from the mix, the feeling stains you forever like an irremovable club stamp on your wrist.

Send comments or tips to amanda@sfbg.com.