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Where It's At--for the Teen Set : Hangouts range from quiet to raucous

January 10, 1991|BRIAN ALEXANDER

Some things never change. Teen-age boy wants to meet girl; teen-age girl wants to meet boy, and they hope to meet this weekend.

But some things do change. Like where they are when they meet, and how much supervision they'll have when they do.

Among the ways North County teen-agers are spending their weekend nights out: drinking in parking lots or at house parties where there are no adults; dancing at clubs that prohibit alcohol and enforce a dress code; discussing poetry and sipping coffee.

For some, school activities take center stage. And, on any given Friday or Saturday night, there are thousands of teens who've gone to the movies with friends, or are at home eating pizza and watching videos.

As in every area, North County has its teen hangouts. Some are comfortable, some charged with danger. Here is some of what was happening on recent weekends:

THE PARKING LOT

Cindy (not her real name) is 15 years old and looking a little concerned. As she crosses her legs at a picnic table set up outside Roberto's No. 2 taco stand along Escondido's East Valley Parkway, she wants to know if she looks fat.

"Why?" asks a visitor.

"I don't want to look fat in case the cops come by."

"Why would you care if the cops thought you were fat?"

"I wouldn't want them to see this."

From underneath her brown wool jacket, Cindy pulls out a fifth of whiskey. Her friends are inside Roberto's buying cups of ice. It's 9:30 on a Saturday night and time to party.

"Are you 21 yet?" Cindy asks. "I just want you to hold it for me if the cops come."

Cindy's friend, age 14, thinks that's a pretty good idea. She doesn't want the cops to take her home, where her parents would give her trouble for drinking.

Collin (not his real name) is 19 and a veteran of the parking lot. Unlike the other heavy metal head-bangers standing around smoking and revving the engines in their old muscle cars or Harleys, Collin has short hair. He's in college.

"I just hang around scamming on chicks," he says, explaining why he comes to stand in a parking lot on a cold Saturday night. "If it doesn't look like I'm going to get any, I just go home."

"You see her?" he says, indicating Cindy. "She's the one, I think."

A teen-age boy with black, fingerless gloves talks about the fight that broke out in the lot the night before. His account is studded with expletives. Just when he had his man down, somebody pulled a 9-millimeter pistol. An Uzi was flashed. The fight calmed down.

A friend of Cindy's who is 17 walks out of Roberto's with the cups of ice. She's wearing a black leather jacket, cropped blond hair, four or five earring studs in each ear and a ring in her nostril. She places the cups down on the picnic table and begins to pour.

"If there's a party, that dude's goin' to, let's follow him," says a boy in a Metallica shirt as another boy in a turbo-charged Chevy peels out of the lot crunching beer bottles along the way.

The gathering begins to break up. It looks as though Collin will go home empty-handed. The boy who described last night's fight approaches another boy with a modified Mohwak haircut.

"You Mike?"

"No."

"Good. My friend told me to try to find a guy named Mike with a flattop and beat the (expletive) out of 'im."

THE DANCE CLUB

At the Distillery East, a teen dance club on Metcalf Street in Escondido, three burly security guards watch the door. One patrols the street and parking lot. A strict dress code forbids anything looking like gang attire. Even school letterman jackets are out.

Not that anybody would wear school letterman jackets. The dress inside is more GQ and Vogue. Girls in tight miniskirts and high heels, with carefully placed hair and makeup, dance slowly with each other or in groups. Boys in black wingtips and trendy jackets circle the dance floor watching the girls dance. The girls outnumber the boys 3 to 1.

"That's the way we like it," smiles Todd, an 18-year-old from San Clemente. "We come down here every weekend."

Juan Perez, chief of security at the Distillery, explains that he tries to maintain a "good environment for the kids." A no-drinking policy in the surrounding lots is strictly enforced, and police are called at the first sign of trouble.

Rival gang members used to come to the club and fight, often with baseball bats. Now, says Perez, everybody is patted down for weapons, and security guards keep an eye on things inside and out.

The result is a safe night spot.

"We have a lot of parents who come and drop the kids off and pick them up," Perez says proudly. A pickup cruises by slowly, and its occupants flash gang signs. "We don't let that in here," Perez says.

THE COFFEE HOUSE

John Hoffman, 17, and his friends are drinking coffee at the Metaphor coffeehouse on 2nd Street in Escondido. His friend Tyrone, "The Man," is intent on a chess game with another friend, Mike.

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