Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reflections, The Scots are Coming, Little Tavern

In 1985, I could easily ignore the massive edifices of government crowding me as I rode my bicycle down Constitution Ave. Granite federalist-style facades, tattooed with phrases reflecting their importance, great, stout temples to Democracy, the living manifestations of rebellion against tyranny. Washington, DC is the very epitome of a struggle for freedom, an unshackling, even the names of the avenues are the whispering ghosts of revolution and sedition. But to my sixteen-year-old senses it is just more big fucking buildings that are filled with people who don't understand, who don't see the bicyclist with the fuchsia mohawk and homemade Fear shirt weaving through traffic, riding off the terrors of adolescence, a revolution of one. As I turn onto 17th St., I wonder what Thomas Jefferson or John Adams or Thomas Paine would make of the Punks, crackheads, gang violence and the apathy of the post-60s youth. I bunny-hop the curb, cutting through West Potomac park, evading the vendors' trucks lining the curb, a Pakistani man waving a Lincoln Memorial shirt, shouting "symbol of A-mer-eee-ka!" in preposterously accented English leaps back from my advance, startled tourists gaping in my wake. I ride to the Pool and, sitting on the concrete retaining wall, I stare into the placid water, my reflection staring up at me, the water warping my my expression into one of cartoonish, raised-eyebrow inquisitiveness as though wondering whether the Founders could have imagined me, in my tattered Van's and bleached jeans and unnaturally colored hair, staring into the great mirror of democracy a few hundred yards west of the Capitol. A very fat woman in shorts and American flag tank top asks me in a flat, mid-western accent if she can have her picture taken with me as her two teen-aged daughters roll their eyes and sigh "Mom!", embarrassed and a little freaked out by the weirdo in front of them. I stare at her for a minute and say, "This isn't fucking London." Her husband immediately becomes engrossed in reading his Map of Tourist Places while she backs slowly away, herding her daughters along as from a suddenly snarling dog.

The Exploited were playing that night (a show that would become their live record, "Live at the Whitehouse", the cover of which, oddly, depicts the Capitol), the flame to the Punk moths that night. More F St. chaos, a finger to the eye of Washington politics, unnoticed by all but these young pariahs, congregation of the other side of the decade, gathering for the sermon of violence and rebellion, an anti-kaleidoscope, stark realism and sedition under white light, no hiding in lyrical abstraction. But the voice was different that night, a voice from Great Britain, where DC bands struggled for some ridiculous "legitimacy", only the Brits know Punk, own it, all snottiness and Real Revolution, Sid and Wattie and Rotten, the triumvirate of Punkitude, this DC Punk thing is not a threat. Even Dischord had to find a British press, but still we were true to our sound, the pulsing angry beat, our thing, we speak to our audience not the government, we concern ourselves with each other, we are personal, I against I. This is not fucking London.

The station wagon is a comfortable place to sleep after a show, drop off Jo and Billy and Danny, hunker down, wait for dawn, for the clearing away of the show-glow, time to worry about the next meal and gas money and cigarettes, it would be nice to have some meat, Little Tavern, daylight and a friend's couch, maybe a call to Chris, find a place to stay for a few days, some mischief. The wagon speeds down the Whitehurst, the marshmallow American made suspension bouncing across the expansion joints, "...In the city there's a thousand things I want to say to you, but when I approach you, you make me look a fool...", a sound of young lust from the back seat, to Rosslyn and beyond.

Back soon, reader.

1 comment:

  1. You paint a wonderful word picture of DC. Great stuff!! I loved that you wore a purply-pink mohawk and reminded folks that this is not fucking London!! I'm going to get my friend Kelly to follow your posts. You and she followed similar paths long ago.