Skip to content

The Law of the Line


There’s always that one person who has a few too many at the party and pukes all over Mom’s new carpet. Before you know it, Mom’s pissed and the future of your epic house parties is crushed. Mom questions the people you hang out with and gives you the stink eye every time you crack open a beer. Consider the good ol’ times a thing of the past.

The puke-stained carpet leaves a lingering smell and begs the question, “Where is the line drawn?” Who’s to say that “that person” wasn’t enjoying themselves? As far as they knew, they were just on the party bandwagon with everyone else. But, to their misfortune, they will go down as the Lightweight. The Party Foul of the Year. The Ruiner of Good Times.

By now you might be wondering, “But Elizabeth, your days of underage drinking and house party mayhem are long behind you. Why the rant?” Well, I would say, it seems that this question extends beyond the years of high school and all the way to the parking lots of present day jam band concerts. No, I’m not talking about the misuse of pot or the ever-so-popular acid trip. Those drugs of choice seem to be okay. The problem, according to one Village Voice article, is nitrous oxide. More specifically and ever so dramatically, the problem is the Nitrous Mafia. Read the entire article by clicking here.

In short, the business of selling nitrous oxide from tanks in show parking lots has become quite popular and lucrative. The people running the N20 businesses however, are not so popular.

“‘It’s a sore on the scene,’ says Kevin Calabro, a Brooklyn-based publicist for jam bands. “It’s been taken over by dirtbags and Mafia punks. It used to be, in the old Dead days, that some hippies got their hands on a tank, and it was a mellow and loose kind of thing. Now it’s become some dirty-ass shit that’s too easy to abuse.'”

…”‘They’re sketchy,’ says one fan. “They’re shit,” says another. One fan cuts right to the point: “These guys don’t even know who Jerry Garcia is, and they never will.'”

Along with the illegal and immoral behavior sprouting from the Nitrous Mafia, my earlier concerns trouble me: who is deciding where to draw the line between what is and isn’t okay? Nitrous oxide was fine when it was just mellowed out hippies having a good time. Marijuana, LSD, and other drugs seem perfectly acceptable at these events. Is the distinction in who is selling and using? Hippies good, thugs bad? My guess is that the judgment lies in how bad the consequences are. However, the fact is, anyone involved in any of these activities, is breaking the law.

Ah yes, the Law. That’s where the line is suppose to be drawn. The law doesn’t always quite work for us though does it? Not if we’re a pot loving hippie who just wants to enhance the show experience and dance with other hippies. So, we get around the law and push the line further away by justifying what we would like to do as being harmless and in good spirit. Suddenly, the law doesn’t apply to us. As for you nitrous-selling, non-hippie folks, the law must be obeyed.

“…a vigilante group called the Wrecking Crew, born out of the Grateful Dead Family—fans who followed the band, year after year—retaliated by smashing up a truck with Pennsylvania tags and leading chants of “NO NITROUS!” to a chorus of festivalgoers.”

You see how this line pushing is getting a little messy…

Do I equate smoking a little pot with the behavior of the Nitrous Mafia? Absolutely not. In an ideal world pot would be legal, drugs wouldn’t be abused, and everyone could safely and happily enjoy the show. Thanks to a few Ruiner of Good Times, that just isn’t the case. So, what happens when we don’t agree with the law and the law doesn’t agree with us? Do we stand up to the powers that be and make our own rules or do we respect the law of the land, regardless? Or maybe, we just turn the attention to someone who’s doing a worse job at breaking the law than us. That seems fair, right?

Comment below or email me at

Resources and Links

Village Voice, Inside the Nitrous Mafia

“If the game is lost, then we’re all the same
No one left to place or take the blame
We will leave this place an empty stone
Or that shining ball of blue we call our home

So the kids, they dance, they shake their bones
And the politicians throwing stones
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down
Ashes, ashes, all fall down”

Throwing Stones

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 07/19/2010 7:04 am

    Wow now thats perspective! I think we often react in agreement or disagreement because of our emotions, but hearing another side, passionately presented, really makes us think!

  2. Stink Eye permalink
    07/19/2010 12:44 pm

    Very insightful interpretation. But remember, I have my stink eye on you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: