72-Hour Party People

Page 2 of 7

The rush of Shabu itself is freakishly powerful. A single minuscule hit — about one-tenth of a gram, vaporized and inhaled — is enough to keep a weekend warrior like Nick riding the lightning for twelve hours.

The statuette on Nick's coffee table, cut into tiny pieces and smoked, holds about 250 hits.

Like opium, Shabu is relatively exotic in the United States (except for Hawaii, where it rivals cocaine in popularity), but in Asia, it's cheap and prevalent. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency claimed earlier this year that 11 percent of the Philippine population uses Shabu. The drug is popular in Japan and Thailand and is so pervasive among the professional classes in Indonesia that the government of that country last year instituted mandatory Shabu-specific drug testing of all public officials.

Nick discovered Shabu during a 1999 vacation in Bali at a full-moon beach rave. He took one hit, danced all night, frolicked in the sand and surf the next day, and didn't do the drug again for more than three years — until early this year, when he learned of his amigo's Hawaiian connection.

Since then, he's become a Shabu vector in his social set.

Shabu is radically addictive. Yet Nick seems unfazed by his own estimate that in less than half a year, he has personally introduced the drug to more than a dozen people who now smoke it with him all weekend long at least once a month, if not twice. He and his party posse burn through a 25-gram chunk of Shabu every three or four weekends, which means they've each cultivated about a $300-per-month habit.

Nick doesn't see himself as a drug dealer so much as the self-appointed ringleader of his own private Cirque de Shabu.

He's thrown nine Shabu parties since March.

The tenth begins tonight.


The seven eager speed smokers who converge on Nick's pad during the two hours before sunset defy the myth that crystal meth is a white-trash drug. They have cool hair and stylish attire. They have college degrees. They have all their teeth.

They do their lift-off hits upstairs, kneeling around the steel coffee table alone or in pairs, shaving flakes off the statuette, melting them in the pipes with a mini-torch, inhaling, holding, holding, holding and then blowing out colorless vapors that smell subtly of rotten roses.

Invariably, a second after they exhale they grin a wide, scheming grin, not unlike the demon's. And then they begin to jabber, free-associating at warp 9.

"Oh, my God, you know the fucking war, right? The liberation, the occupation, whatever? And the Palestinians, right? And the Israelis and the Muslims and Hindus and all the hate and the fucking guns and the bombs and the, uh, the, uh, you know, all the children with their legs blown off by land mines in Afghanistan, right? You see what I'm saying? I mean, you all know, you've all seen like a million times that one picture of that little boy from Afghanistan, right? And he's in his little purple robe, with his little white sheepherder's hat, and his little Christmas Carol, um, what do you call it? His Tiny Tim crutches, you know, right? And he's got these, like, you know, like these little sad, brown, puppy dog, fucking abused-animal, dog-pound, take-me-home-please eyes, right? I mean, God...okay, right now, let's get online, and let's find out who he is and where he lives and, and, and, let's find out what we need to do to buy him a new leg, right now! Who's got a laptop?"

Bonnie is 27 and a florist. She has her own business arranging and delivering flowers for high-end caterers. This marks her second weekend at Nick's. She's done cocaine before, but had never tried any form of speed until her boyfriend brought her to this place for an after-party the morning following Rave on the Rocks, the electronic dance-music festival at Red Rocks this past July. Shabu, she says, is "like sticking your brain in a huge pencil sharpener and grinding it and grinding it and grinding it until everything you see and think is just super, super sharp."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
David Holthouse
Contact: David Holthouse