Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dreams, Blood-red, Putrefication

When did this all go to shit? The scene, the people, the music. Where did it leap from the broken asphalt of near-forgotten avenues to the even concrete of freeway, smooth, even, palatable, contractually obligated to offend but not to harm, made-for-TV, turgid, glutted?

Nothing really wrong with the structure, the new adaptations, resurfacing of the same power chords, a polishing of the melodies. The people are the same jaded, creative, independent-minded thinkers, artists, survivors.

The scene, then. The difference lies therein, with its corporate sponsored, massive, televised, homogenized, super-shows, gelded and soul-less, Vans can go fuck itself, thank you, right there in its sweat shops, lubricated with the sweat of child labor. You have bought and sold the PunkAmerican Dream, Freedom's pimp, Liberty in name but not in action, antithesis of rebellion.

Is this fair, though? I mean, there are stockholders and employees relying on this machine, those with fates tied to this Corporation, and many others, even in the death rattles of the Music Industry Giants, Titans crippled and maimed, principles ignored; the lives of many depend on its machinations.

But the point is RIGHT THERE, nestled in Pandora's handbag next to the tissues and blood-red lipstick, Old-Lady smell and hard candies: Punks make the music but someone else, something else, makes the recording, packages it, sprays it with Eau de Dollar, the purpose is profit, not art. Rebellion sold is not rebellion at all, just more diversion, more masks for the machine. Gone are the artist owned labels, or if not gone, then crippled by infighting and creative control battles, ego, avarice.

The scene limps along, blind, beaten and bloodied, surviving on the hopes that control will return to these Punks, that they, WE, find a longer lever, and pry the fuckers off our art, our dreams. But the system has been bought, sold, signed for, and sullied, making it difficult to recognize the flashes of truth, making us question the nature of its aspects. And when we reach the apex, the point where we no longer recognize our own principles, when we hear them echoed back at us with new inflection, with twisted interpretation, there is only one course:


...and the two teams, laughing, jeering, point at the people, the "masses", getting ever fatter, ever gross, unable to move on their own but only by the million hands on their gilded litter...Freedom putrefies, Liberty is consumed, America is diseased.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ejaculate, Pentecostals, Summertime Reds

There is no end to the trouble in the world. Humans are trouble, and we aren't stopping anytime soon. We will do as we have always done, emotions annulling the logic, the warm, tawdry Caribbean currents taking over the cool industrious North Atlantic waters, temperatures rising, panties moistening, fists balling, the summertime of Humanity; sticky, turgid, violent, sexual summer, all the exchanges of fluid, the mapped veins of physicality twisting through the warm climates, exploding, an ejaculate of gummy feelings and caveman grunts. Cities brace themselves for murder, childbirth, and crimes of other passions. Even the prudish can smell it: that mix of sunscreen, Margaritas, and hormones, lurid and faintly sour, like sweat on dirty sheets.

When the UK Subs played a July show, sometime in  '85 or '86, in Washington, D.C., they seemed blissfully aware of the seasons. Spring, we know, is all about propagation, the seasonal equivalent of an Osmond, all giggly and proper; summer is more like a Hilton, filming its leather clad, lollipop boot-knocking and broadcasting it on WDCA to freak out the straight and narrow minded (sidebar: how boring must Pentecostal sex be? No "harder, baby", just "quickly before Jesus turns back around"). The setting was perfect, the stars aligned, chakras aligned, the feng shui...fenged. Let us kick off the Summer of Glove, shall we?

The first inkling of trouble came when I felt overwhelmingly as though that parking meter was eying me. What, you mechanical motherfucker, you got a problem with my hair? I will tear your vaguely Close-Encounters-of-the-Third-Kind head off. And that was on the walk to get in line. I had my leather on, obviously, it being armor for my nerdiness, and Elmer's Glue in my fuchsia mohawk, full of Rush and Mickey's Big Mouths and adrenalin, wiry, psychopathic clown. We got closer to the front of the line and I heard the speed-freak jabbering, the yappy-dog yammering of the skinheads, the slurred belligerence of the hammered, all waiting for the adrenal cue, the starting gun of mayhem.

The band didn't even get a chance to properly warm up. The temperature rose, skyrocket-like, the maniacal beat drove the frenzy. The city never had a chance. We spilled onto F St., a gangly, be-spiked swirling Chaos, cops shouting at us to remain orderly, OBEY, freaks! But the gate had been left open, the lunatics free of the asylum walls, run, Mr. Smith, the freaks have the capital.

The crowd exploded, destroying a cop car, kicking a mailbox over, more toppled parking aliens, Chaos, mayhem, burst piping of Democracy's infrastructure, freedom, albeit brief, wholesale anarchic release. The cops were temporarily routed. But that would end swiftly when the massive, 8 wheel, Chevrolet armored riot truck arrived...

And so the termination, the ejaculation, and the Lexan shields appear, the rubber bullets, the hoses. And everyone is calmer, the adrenalin subsides, wet, sticky, redolent with the smell of the spent energy. It was a show spilled into the street, inside-out Hardcore, art-life identity theft, sweet, honest Chaos. We left, no lingering feeling of having lost out on our ticket price, sated, for the moment, ready to slip into the sex-coma on the sweaty, dirty sheets. Release.

Summer approved, smiling in that infuriatingly crazed way, sweaty, sticky, and unrepentant.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Greasy rats, dope-sickness, the crazy is back

So this is one big fucking rat. I mean, huge, smaller than a dog but bigger than it should be. And the fucker is hissing, a greasy, vicious creature bent on escape. How he ended up in the barrel, I have know clue, but he isn't happy about it. I can see the claw marks on the inside wood. If I leave him, he will undoubtedly chew through the wood. But I can't watch it suffer. I know it will be back, trying to get to the relative safety and plenitude of my dry, sheltered house. Still...

I kicked the barrel over. The rat, predictably, tore off like a bottle rocket, straight to the wooded strip between our parking lot and that of the dentist's office adjacent. He is gone - for now.

Now, this wasn't any D.C. rat. Those fuckers carry children and feeble men off in broad daylight. I remember dodging those bastards behind D.C. Space, tails shortened by close calls with doors, always looking for the scraps left by the gluttonous diners.

Hardcore bands, the rats of the music business, never got a fair shake. Some of the real deal, fuck-you punk bands were too early or late for the party, their fates tied to the morality of their respective points in time. They had to live on the music industry scraps, at the mercy of whatever, dope-sick, desperate producer would give them a shot. Unless they were hardcore enough to go it on their own, make their own destiny, shove a finger in the airway of the choking music moguls and fish out some scraps. They were proud enough to refuse charity but opportunistic enough to grab the fuckers by the sac and pull. Real fucking hard.

I find myself at a place where I have had to make that choice. Do or disappear, explode or rocket forward. I have been absent, dear reader, for a bit, sorting through the wreckage of a failed marriage, taking a forced look in the mirror of twenty-odd years. Do I get back up and face this shit, like I once did, middle finger in the air, balls out, full speed and headlong into the brick wall just to see if I can take it; or do I make some pathetic attempt at the straight and stalwart, like I had in my marriage, in my life after the joint?

I think the choice isn't really a choice at all. The black spiked hair is back with some unnatural shade of defiance thrown in, the tattoos, the jewelry, the trappings of the FREAK, rolling in the Deathmobile in spirit if not in corporeal.


Much more to come...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fisting, Theft, Semantics

[every voice, every note, every wave of displaced air, together, disharmonious unity, repeated without meter, an affront to the orderly universe, physics fisted by Chaos' spiked glove, destroying the womb of reason...]

What the hell is that sound? Geoff tried to open his eyes, blinking away the crust of sleep, unable to move, sleep still governing his limbs, disabling them. The vestiges of his subconscious' nightly cleaning echoing in his mind, he was unable to properly label this disturbance, this sound, that rudely woke him.

Thud. Scrape. Long pause. Thud.

Geoff reached for his phone to check the time. His eyes refused to focus. It felt early. Or late, depending on one's perspective. Geoff viewed four o'clock in the morning as a beginning, his roommate saw it as an end. Apparently, this end seemed to have something to do with lifting very heavy things and dropping them, then dragging them down the hall.

Thud. Shuffle. Pause. BOOM.

"What the fuck!?", Geoff yelled, swinging his legs to the floor. His back screamed at him to slow down.

Thud. Scrape.

"What the hell is going on?", Geoff yelled, nearly tearing the door from its hinge. His eyes tried to focus on the view through his bedroom door, something wasn't right, the hallway wasn't grey before. And it didn't move very slightly toward one end of the house. He was almost sure of this.

"Hey, you think you could push from the other end? This fucker is heavy.", Jinx's muffled voice emanated from somewhere beyond the new, moving hallway.

"What...why are you...doing whatever it is you are doing?! It's four o'clock in the morning!", Geoff placed a hand on the wall that seemed to have appeared sometime in the night and was now preventing him from leaving his room.

"Just a sec." There was a sound like someone trying to squeeze through a small space, some grunting, occasional bouts of swearing.

"I'll push it over to let you out. Gimme a second." The new wall began to move very slightly faster, finally revealing Jinx at one end, leather and sweat and insanity.

"Morning, sunshine! Now, if you could give me a hand, I think we can get it through the door.", Jinx panted.

"What IS it?", Geoff asked, his mind finally clawing its way from his dreams, "And why, pray tell, must it move down the hallway at four in the morning?"

"It's a large metal cabinet and if it doesn't move down the hallway, you won't be able to get out of your room and that will make you cranky, and if you are cranky, I will have to hit you with something heavy. Like a large metal cabinet.", Jinx leaned against the hallway wall, catching his breath, eying the enormous cabinet, gauging whether it would, in fact, fit through.

"Where the hell did you get it?", Geoff asked.

"Found it."

"You found it."



"Behind a building."

"So you stole it, not found it."

Jinx waved a dismissive hand, "Semantics. That is for the philosophers to figure out. I need someplace to put my stuff. This cabinet only had a couple of things in it. It was made to hold a bunch of stuff. I have a bunch of stuff and no place to put it. Ergo, it was made for me. And since it was made for me, I felt my room is a better place to keep it than behind some fuel station."

"But this thing is huge! It will take up your whole room! I mean...Wait! What 'fuel station'?", Geoff hoped the answer wouldn't be...

"I dunno. The one over on First St. I think that's the name of the road. It's got a couple of pumps out front, but no sign."

"Mother of Christ! That's the city fuel warehouse! That is where the POLICE CARS go to fill up!"

"Shit! See, that is what is wrong with this country! A perfectly good object, purchased with our tax dollars, sits, unused, behind a building.", Jinx shook his head, "Fucking terrible."

Geoff tried to speak, but failed. His brain could not process the overwhelming combination of disbelief, surreality, anger, and fear that bashed him in the metaphorical groin area.

", you...wha..."

"Listen, I am gonna go get some smokes. You obviously need a little time to wake up before you can help. You need anything?", Jinx asked, wiping his hands on his pants.

"Yeah, could you kidnap a little girl on the way back? And pick up some crack, too. Since you are trying to get us both arrested, you might as well just pile on the charges.", Geoff shook his head and squeezed through to the hallway, intent on making some coffee immediately.


The cabinet did, in fact, finally settle into a place in Jinx's room, but not without having to remove the door from the hinges and tear off half the molding. Geoff had decided, sometime between glances out the window to check for the inevitable tactical assault squad, that rather than argue with Jinx, it would just be easier to get the damn cabinet into his room and pretend it wasn't there.

Geoff had forgotten that he had told Jinx they would go out for drinks. Now he deeply regretted saying anything at all. Jinx, for his part, was gearing up for a night out, asking about the number of women that might frequent this or that bar, bemoaning having to listen to what he referred to as "MTV Bullshit music", and generally helping Geoff develop some remarkable ulcers.

He just doesn't give a shit, Geoff thought. He is completely self-destructive. I am going to have to start a bail-money fund. Still, he liked the kid. I mean, at very least, life with Jinx is unlikely to be boring.

"What time are we gonna go out? I just need a bit of a nap before we leave.", Jinx asked, using a butter knife to remove some gum from his boot sole.

"Shit, I don't know. Probably ten or so. No one even starts going out until then." And if there is a large group of people, it is at least statistically less likely we will get thrown out or arrested, Geoff mused.

After a fitful nap and some food, the two roommates got dressed to go out. They looked somewhat ridiculous together: a kid in leather with Elmer's Glue in his hair, and a forty-something guy in shorts and a bowling shirt. They looked like a Coen Brothers' film, or a Hunter S. Thompson book, if either of those had listened to Minor Threat.

Bars in New Bern, North Carolina are very unlike those in DC or New York or even Atlanta. The liquor laws in North Carolina prevent an establishment from serving "hard liquor" unless they are either a private club or at least fifty percent of their income needs to come from food sales. Hence, most watering holes tend to be attached to restaurants, filling up with drunks and desperate lovers as the diners file out, a shift change at the Social Factory. The bible belt seems to think if it pretends to be wholesome and upright, the rest of the world will ignore its hypocrisy. In the meantime, what of the poor drunks and barflies?

Geoff introduced Jinx to his friends and acquaintances as his roommate, rather than his friend. He wasn't sure if a friendship could develop between people separated by so much age and experience. He liked the kid, sure, but friends have a common understanding, some idea of where the other is coming from. That is hard to come by with a chasm twenty years wide.

At first, as most evenings in bars tend to begin, everyone made small talk, asked after each others' families, commented on how good the others look. Everyone except Jinx, that is. He preferred to shout unnerving things at the assembled crowd such as "Where the white women at!?" and "Do you like pants? I really like pants!". Seemed to make many people nervous and piss off others.

"Hey, roomie! Tell this girl about my excellent ass! I know you watch me shower, you sick fuck!", Jinx screamed, then exploded in a fit of cackling.

"Where the hell did you find this retard, dude?", Kevin, Geoff's old neighbor, asked him, surreptitiously.

"Ah, well, I don't really even know, come to think of it. He just sort of appeared when I needed a roommate. Showed up at a coffee place and started talking to me.", Geoff replied, somewhat sheepishly.

"He's kind of an ass, man.", Kevin said, eying the manic punk.

Kevin's opinion notwithstanding, people seemed to warm up to Jinx as the night wore on. He had been aggressively trying to convince a couple of ladies that taking their clothes off and slapping him around with a length of rubber hose would be a fantastic way to end the evening. As the drink flowed, the group loosened up, inhibitions melting away with every emptied glass and not a little influenced by Jinx's erratic but extremely entertaining behavior.

Nearly every question Geoff fielded was about this lunatic he had brought along. Some scandalized, some curious, some even seemingly enthralled. Geoff glanced over to where is roommate was holding forth in time to see him cram his face between the ample tits of a recent divorcee, who giggled and feigned distress. From this vantage, Jinx seemed like a force of nature or the embodiment of some lascivious and maniacal Roman demigod, a mash-up of Priapus and Bacchus on a serious, unrelenting bender.

Around one o'clock things took a bit of a nasty turn. Jinx had chosen to bite the neck of a young lady (cough) who had not come alone. Her inamorata took exception to this behavior and said so, loudly, whereupon Jinx smashed a pint glass on his head. Chaos, inevitably, ensued.

Several young men, presumably the poor guy's friends, attempted to show Jinx exactly how much they disagreed with his behavior, but Jinx only whooped with seeming glee and bit an arm that had snaked around his neck. Uninvolved parties scattered, making way for the mayhem, pushing tables and chairs everywhere.

"FUCK.", Geoff shouted. For the moment, his psychotic roommate was holding his own but the tide would quickly turn. Geoff waded into the melee, shouting for everyone to calm down. Unfortunately, his protests where misunderstood. A well placed fist landed on the side of Geoff's head.

It had been years since someone had punched him, years since he felt that kind of anger, that fear-tinged rage. But he felt it then. Boy, did he feel it then. Many years of frustration, a sexless marriage, unfulfilled potential, disgust with society, with people, welled up quickly and threatened to overflow. A second punch, or maybe a kick, landed on his right-side floating ribs. The pain was intense.

Geoff exploded. Really exploded. A sound like a roaring animal echoed through the bar. Where there had been a tangled mass of bodies a moment before, there was a sudden space, in the middle of which stood Geoff, teeth bared in a snarl, eyes wide and crazed. He grabbed a nearby combatant, a thirty-something guy, gripping him around the waist and head-butted him, his aim not as accurate as he would have liked. He drew his head back up to reveal a cut over his eye. Jinx seemed to be charging at him, wildly, but at the last moment brushed by him and tackled another who had been about to punch Geoff.

Less than a minute later, it was all over. The bouncers had thrown everyone out and a few patrons had separated the two sides. Geoff leaned against the building pressing a cool pint glass against his swollen eye. Jinx ambled over and leaned alongside him.

"You fucking idiot.", Geoff said, somewhat quietly, gathering breath.

Jinx grinned and winced as the split lip he had earned split further. "Yeah, but it was a shit-ton of fun, wasn't it?"

Geoff glanced sharply at the grinning, still wild-eyed lunatic next to him. He said nothing for a bloated second. Then he laughed, softly.

"Yeah, I guess it was, a little. You prick.", he laughed louder.

Jinx clapped him on the shoulder, "Let's go, you old bastard. You're gonna need some extra sleep tonight."

The pair walked toward the main street to hail a cab. From behind them, someone shouted garbled obscenities. Without looking back, Jinx stuck his arm straight in the air, middle finger raised.

Jesus. I am gonna need better insurance, Geoff mused.

[reality's fabric, settled, somewhat, for an unknown time, smoothed itself, wrinkles receding from our arbitrary center, a wave of Chaos, off to render its gifts to another, distant locale. The center remains tense, vigilant, a moment exists in every space, but space is undisturbed by time's unruly, churlish game. It waits.]

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Nightvision, Found out, Suicidal fish

[laughter, a car horn, a resonant thud of a heavy object settling down, the click of a broken spoke, a muffled argument, release of steam, a screaming engine...overlapping, entwined, layers of a life, memory exposed; vortex physics in reverse, no gravity, elementary forces raped, Chaos, beauty for the jaded crowd, something ignored knows no limitations, like singing while falling, you will still land, hard, just keep your eyes on a simple, pleasant flash of life, the ship's wheel is spinning, madness and sanity chase one another 'round a maypole...]

A tiny movement, a flutter of the eyelids, the twitch of a finger, an exhalation. It is darkest now, just a bit past midnight, quiet polices the night. A dream unfolds.

Jinx feels nervous, sitting on the cold vinyl seat, his legs too short to allow his feet to dangle. The windows are down,air rushing in, the prelude to fall, a brief taste of cold air. Dad is in the passenger seat, up front, Tata is next to Jinx, he seems nervous, trying to soothe, almost scarier than silence, when an adult says "everything is ok". Something...

THE FLOOR IS GONE. DADDY, THE FLOOR...where is this fire coming from? The road is rushing by under the seat, variegated asphalt framed between his little feet, and flames, WE CAN'T STOP, DADDY, Tata is trying to pick Jinx up, WHO IS DRIVING? I CAN'T SEE THEIR FACE...the sound of the air rushing in, over it a sound of tearing metal, an awful noise, THE SEAT IS MELTING, faster, out of control, I CAN'T SEE THE DRIVER, THE DRIVER CAN STOP THE CAR, DADDY, Dad is holding the fish tank, the one from the den, the fish is gone, kept jumping out of the tank, it lay there making a strange sound, convulsing, I didn't know what to do, I am too little, HELP THE FISH, the car is making strange sounds now, like an animal breathing heavily, THE FLOOR IS GONE, I CAN'T MOVE, the view between Jinx's feet is a blurred mess of orange and red and gray and blue, WHY WON'T THE DRIVER STOP THE CAR, the jangle of a ring of keys, behind me, WHO IS THE DRIVER...a scream, a crash, the tinkle of glass, the smell of burning things, then...quiet.

"Hey! Wake up! You have a phone call!"

Phone call. What time is it? Why the phone? Why not just knock on the door? 

"Hey, dipshit! Get up! Drop your cock and grab your socks! Phone!"

"Who is it?", Jinx asked, his voice full of sleep.

"I don't know, nor do I give a shit. They asked for you."

"Nobody knows I am here. Must be a wrong number."

"Riiight. Which would explain all of those incidents I have been reading about, where people have been receiving cryptic phone calls in the early morning, a voice asking for Jinx. They have been calling him 'the Menace of the Law of Averages'."

Jinx stood up, stretching involuntarily, a powerful pressure on his bladder. He stumbled through the door, placing a hand on the paneled wall to steady himself. His left eye stung, dry and dilated, so he squinted and rubbed at it.

The phone was resting on the kitchen counter, next to an empty cereal bowl. There was a sweet, sickening smell of rot from the trash. The TV blathered on about possible hurricanes and other forces of destruction.


"Hey, man! It's Andy!"

"What...Andy...why are did you know where to find me?"

"Oh, I'm a detective, dude, Sherlock Fucking Holmes. You told me, you idiot."

This information did not seem accurate to Jinx. When he left D.C. he had no idea where he was going. He couldn't have told himself.

"What's up, man?", best to go with the flow, Jinx thought, "Where are you?"

"Philly. You want to...", the line crackled, "...with Cassie and...", silence.

"Hello?", Jinx asked, scratching himself idly.

He hung up the phone and rubbed his face.

"Good morning, sunshine. Don't you have to work today?", Geoff inquired, gathering his phone and keys from the desk. He looked tired. And old.

"Nah, Gene gave me the day off. Said the truck wasn't coming today because of the storm.", Jinx replied, perusing the refrigerator.

"Yeah, the Weather Channel says it will probably hit us directly. Fanfuckingtastic.", Geoff said, turning in a circle, searching for something. "You seen my handheld? Christ, I can't remember where I put shit anymore. My mind is always wandering off and playing with itself."

Jinx smiled. Geoff said some funny things. He should be a comedian. Or a DMV employee.

"Nope. As I have no idea what a handheld is, it is unlikely I can help you."

"Hey, when I get home this evening, do you want to go grab a drink? My treat.", Geoff asked, though even while he said it, he wondered if he should give this lunatic alcohol. Do not feed the animals, the sign said.

"Hell yes! I need to get out of the house, someplace that isn't work. Get a little crazy. Thanks, man.", Jinx located a box of Sugar Smacks and was now rifling, loudly, through the silverware drawer.

"Emphasis on the 'little', there, princess. I'll be back around five. Try not to get arrested in the meantime.", Geoff grabbed his handheld from behind the sofa and headed out the door.

"Don't call me princess, dickhead. I'll whip your ass.", said Jinx, struggling to get his sleepy hands to cooperate and open the milk container.

Geoff laughed. "Don't poke the bear, Jinx. I might just show you a little something."

Jinx smiled. He's a good dude. A little goofy, but a good dude.

"Hell yeah! Judge Wapner! Life is good.", Jinx said, tossing the TV remote on the sofa, and sat on a pile of mail, creasing some important looking papers. He chewed noisily.

[quiet seeped in, enveloping the void in its own regulation, masking the ripping violence of Chaos, an orderly lack, silent white noise on the screen, the mute feature of the Universe, a respite before the storm, the fish has stopped flopping, for now...]

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cereal, Cans of shit, the King of Poland

[A sound, like static from the Very Large Array, narrows in pitch, colliding with the monotony of the pulsars, injecting its Chaos into the system, a discordant ripple, generating from nowhere, everywhere...]

"Why don't we have any cereal? Christ, I just bought roughly eighty pounds of the stuff!", Geoff complained, rifling the cabinets, in his boxers and Clash t-shirt.

"We have oatmeal. You probably should eat that anyway. Keep you regular, you old fucker.", Jinx said, softly, glancing at the mixing bowl and spoon in front of him.

"Fuck me!!! Jesus Christ, you scared the piss out of me! Why the hell are you up!? It is four ay-em!", Geoff yelped, dropping the paper towel dispenser with which he had been prepared to knock the ever-loving snot out of the intruder which had decided that four in the morning was a good time to extoll the virtues of colon health and oatmeal.

"Haven't slept yet."

"You stayed up all night?!", asked Geoff, sniffing the milk jug.

"Wow, you have a keen sense for the obvious, my main apple-scrapple. Incidentally, we are also out of toilet paper."

"We aren't out of shit. I am out of toilet paper."

Jinx smiled in a crooked way which made Geoff slightly nervous. Though he had only known the reclining and somewhat smelly man-boy only a very brief time, that smile was worrisome. It was a smile that seemed to say "I am not really convinced that those drapes compliment the sofa. Let's burn the fucking place down."

"It is precisely because we aren't out of shit that I mention it.", Jinx stood and stretched. "Well, better hit the sack. That Golden Girls marathon isn't going to watch itself."

As Jinx padded down the hallway, Geoff heaped spoonfuls of cheap, American coffee into the coffee machine. Did I make a mistake? I don't know if I can live with this guy. Sneaking up on a body, up until ungodly hours, who knows what he does for money. Probably sells black-market human organs. Or worse, security guard at Walmart. Geoff sighed, plunking down in a chair to wait out the coffee machine.

Not that such musings amounted to a mouse fart worth of usefulness. Fact was, he needed a room-mate to help with the bills, plain and simple. Besides, there was something...compelling about Jinx, something that Geoff appreciated, as a detective might appreciate a well-planned but poorly executed murder. The kid certainly had a certain charm, but it was the sardonic yet sad glint in his brown, somewhat crazed eyes that triggered a kind of recognition and simpatico, like he just needed something stable in his otherwise chaotic life. Maybe it was just the parent in him, but Geoff felt vaguely protective of him.

Laughing to himself, Geoff poured a cup of terrible coffee and trudged toward the bathroom. Yeah, "protective" until he drugs me and sells my kidney.

"Well, I can't really use you in the front of the store because of But I do need someone to look after the lumber-yard, you know clean up, pull orders, the regular. I'll pay you six-hundred a month, part-time."

Gene,  the store owner, looked like the kind of guy who beat his kids but he was giving Jinx a job. You can't bite hands that poison you. Besides, if he hated it, he could shit in a can and throw it in the air ducts. Plenty of misogynistic, gap-toothed hillbillies need a punk-rocker to kick around.

"Hey, thanks, man. I won't let you down for at least a week.", Jinx said with "the smile".

Gene looked vaguely disgusted with himself but laughed nonetheless. He pointed to the office and walked away, shaking his head.

Jinx started toward the office, scratching the possibly infected nose-ring hole in his right nostril. Gotta pay the bills. The roomie is pretty cool, if a tad high-strung. Might put some roots down around here, never know. Heck, I was born not far from here. 

For the next hour or so, Jinx filled out forms and provided identification, as well as harassing the  poor receptionist by replying to every inquiry in a different, increasingly bizarre series of accents and claiming to be the King of Poland.

"I assure chou, madam, zet I am the usurped ruler of Poland, Ms. Wiscznicki, unt I must demand you adress me has 'His Royal Pants' at all zee times!"

It may, in fact, turn out to be the longest, most unnerving year for Geoff and New Bern, North Carolina. Stranger things have likely never happened.

[nobody at the controls, some unknown catalyst has set the thing going, the noise continues, Chaos might smile if it had teeth to do so]

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tearing the fabric, Room-mates, Sizing up the competitors

[An inexplicable occurrence, seething through the continuum, cutting and pasting, the universe's IT man, fucking with the rules, manipulating the cosmic programming, renders a circumstance, unforeseen and unnatural. Where does the time begin and end? Is time something we can even measure? Surely we must be able to calculate ORDER, right? How can such things come to pass? Where is the counter-balance that keeps Chaos in its natural stasis? But these musings amount to nothing in the light of this...]

Shit, I am getting old. I mean, I knew that already, but the changes of late have really painted it, hyper-realistic and saturated, on the wall of my life. Everything is sore. I can't see a damn thing. Everyone seems so young, so vital in comparison. The nearness of youth can do that, I suppose. Our reality is merely the contrasts we can measure with the subjective eye.

See, I got a new room-mate. I am not sure what to think of him yet. Seems, oh, I don't know, a good fit, I suppose, with me and my...acceptable reality. This whole sharing space thing isn't really new to me, I mean I have kids. But another adult (?), another male adult, in my space, sharing whatever wavelengths in my world, will take some getting used to.

You don't know him, so I suppose it best to, er, describe him. He's 19, a kid, really, but not a child, all innocence and fantasy. More a newly molted human animal, still trying to get used to the wings. Though he is young, I sense something strange in him, something older than he could possibly have inhabiting his psyche; a wisdom, the kind you get from pain, the acceptance that the world isn't quite as rosy as our parents might have made it seem when they still provided our daily necessities. I most often see this in people substantially older than he, people who have suffered, been to their own private hell and narrowly escaped, given to fits of laughter at those who toil through their simple lives, complaining about work, the kids, mates, taxes.

There is also something else about him that worries me a bit. He seems...unhinged. Unstable, as though he might just destroy everything around him in a fit of insane rage or cackling, wild-eyed glee. There is something of the animal in him, something base and feral, dangerous and devoid of the chains of empathy. And that seems oddly familiar. I have seen this before. A long time ago.

Oh, incidentally, his name is Jinx.

[Destabilized energy, cataclysm barely restrained, a sick sound like the heaving of metal and glass in an unstable skyscraper but with an unearthly pitch just under the surface...but not tangible, to speak of surfaces is merely to give it an understandable reference point, as describing the elementary Chaos inherent in quarks to a religious fanatic. It is hard to digest this disorder, this destruction of reality. the whine of complaint, time begging for normalcy, fluctuations...]

Yeah, so I kind of like this place. It's a little cramped, a bit too small for my predilections, but it will do. I don't know what to think of my room-mate. Seems pleasant enough, in a sharply rendered kind of way. Says some interesting things and has great taste in music, so the thing probably won't come undone with too much explosiveness. 'Course, he will probably try to molest me or something, or think he can order me around, and the whole thing will end in violence and screaming. He better not underestimate me. I'm not tall, I'm not muscular, but you will fucking KNOW you've been in a fight, old man.

Weird thing is, he seems really familiar. One of those people, I guess, that you feel inexplicably comfortable around. I feel like I have know him for a long time, like a character in a cherished novel, knowable and similar to some ideal, some icon, a personification of something, who knows what. Like Raoul Duke. 

But there is something else, something behind his face, something incandescent and volatile, a burning thing. Rage? Pain? Fuck if I know. But this guy feels like he could wink out on me in a quick minute. But I can see that he is holding it back. Seems to have a good handle on it. I hope. 

So begins my life with Geoff. We'll likely kill each other in some ritual of pain, but at least I'm not sleeping outside. And I can get away from the...weirdness outside the windows.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Shrimp Lo Mein, Agents of Chaos, Better Be One Dandy Joke

Jinx threw the apple core into the grass and scratched idly at the scar on the back of his head. The scar was a reminder of just how upsetting a little chaos can be to those who don't grasp its essential role, its language. The six or seven well-dressed, weak-minded assclowns that split Jinx's scalp didn't want to have a little fun, to beat on a lone Punk for the chuckles, they just couldn't accept the Chaos, could only digest the rules, the Order, this fucker with the mohawk is just WRONG, he shouldn't be, he doesn't fit in the machine, let's kick the shit out of him, use our reptilian brain. But Jinx could accept that behavior, realizing that they became Agents of Chaos even while trying to stamp (literally) it out. There is nothing more life affirming than getting the shit kicked out of you.

Chaos, the governing principle of the universe, madness in the continuum, sworn enemy of society, humans struggling against it, trying (and most often failing) to enforce their will against it, the incomprehensible behavior of quarks fucking with your mathematics, weather pimp-slapping the meteorologists, sweet, sweet insanity. Embracing this prime physic, this fundamental principle, takes a special mind: a mind that doesn't mind accepting the futility of existence but is still capable of persevering, if only for the sheer morbid hell of it.

Jinx had two distinct problems at this particular moment: boredom and a powerful hunger. Most humans would fill the need first, fuel the imperfect machine, then pursue some pointless game or "lucrative" endeavor, hide from the boredom, push it back, idle hands will do Chaos' work, assign meaning or the whole fucking thing just explodes, is wiped out, replaced with uncertainty and unfeeling mayhem, those beasts swimming just outside of your peripheral vision waiting to pounce on your rules, your order, and show you that it never really was.

But Jinx knew a little of the secret, knew he could satiate the physical need and throw a cherry-bomb in the toilet of society at the same time, make the bastards wonder, they can't think about it, only marvel that things they would never understand happen, that Chaos just flicked their noses, winked, and walked casually back into the void.

"Hey, Jo, I'm really fucking hungry. I want some Chinese.", Jinx said, over his shoulder.

"Uh, we're broke...", Jo replied, raising the pitch to make a question out of her words.

This was, in fact,  true. But an Agent of Chaos doesn't let facts interrupt his process, his essential function. He looked around, saw Jo's 35mm, some plastic bags, put a hand to his hair and excused himself to the bathroom. He emerged a few minutes later, mohawk flattened against his head, and grabbed several ziplocs.

"Ok. I am Frank Dubowski and you are Susan Brown. Let's get to the strip mall."

In the orange Volkswagen cruising along the suburban streets, Jo didn't even blink when Jinx revealed his plan, his mission of Chaos, to her. It was just stupid enough, just dangerous enough that no one would ever believe it, not even the cops nor, moreover, the owners of a stripmall Chinese restaurant in Southern Maryland.

They pulled up in the lot, Jinx donning a flannel shirt, the only piece of clothing he owned that would not immediately tag him as a freak, and Jo pulled a plain sweater over her shirt. She grabbed the camera and they set out across the parking lot.

"Ok, we gotta be straight. We can't go in there and start laughing or looking furtively around. Just take a few pictures and I'll get the stuff."

They entered the restaurant and asked for the manager. She appeared shortly.

"Yes, we are with the health department. We have some reports of some tainted shrimp that have been circulating around town. We just need to take a few samples.", Jinx announced, adopting his best out-of-work radio guy voice, "I am Frank Dubowski and this is my associate, Susan Brown."

Jo snapped pictures while aggressively avoiding eye contact with her accomplice. They were led to the kitchen where Jinx produced the empty ziploc bags with a flourish.

"Uh, yeah, just a few of those jumbo shrimp, I believe they are the culprits. And we better take some of the produce nearby, just in case. Yeah, green peppers, some of those onions, Ooo!, some of the hot peppers as well. That will just about do. We'll be in touch soon. Best of luck: to you and especially your patrons."

They turned and quickly left the premises. The Chaos would be pleased, Jinx surmised, grinning like a city rat in a baby crib. And we can eat a little something, to boot.

The scar on his head was nothing more than the mark of Chaos. They just couldn't see that they were completing the ritual, marking him as an Agent, bringer of the absurd and the senseless. He would flash the sign to the initiated, flaunt the mind-crippling charm of someone who just doesn't give a rolling turd about why the universe does what it does to the sheep. Oh, and, yeah: Fuck the bastards. I'll laugh at the very moment of my death if the joke is a good one.

Friday, May 4, 2012

It's been a few weeks since I last put finger to key. That's not to say that nothing has been going on - on the contrary, I have been busier than Jello Biafra at an anti-censorship fundraiser. I won't bore you with the details: nobody really cares and furthermore, I don't either. Let's just accept that I have been up to something, something rotten and nefarious, you can be sure, that has taken me away from you, dear reader, some Promethean endeavor, sure to end in misery and violence, like a Russian wedding.

Last we left our protagonist, the young and ever-flawed Jinx, he had sold his comic books for food money, literally trading his youthful hope for deep-fried reality, cutting off the infected limb to save the body, no matter that the limb looked full of life, gleaming, vibrant, even.

See, the thing is, he knew, deep in the hypothalamus, he saw the end of hardcore, the end of the line for the Punks, the screaming, violent descent into the gaping maw of commercialism and avarice, all those rebellions terminated in the second trimester, aborted for grad school and construction jobs. He could see the end ever nearer, face front you got the future, shining like a piece of gold, but I swear as we get closer, it looks more like a lump of coal, ah, Strummer, it even ended for you, long before you shuffled off to the great blackness.

Jinx had to live it, see it through to the inevitable sad conclusion, a Stanley Kubrick marathon film, knowing the ending doesn't make it any less compelling, driving straight into the storefront, in past the nervous mannequins, over the under-paid clerk, smashing through the 50% off racks, you know there is a wall somewhere just the other side of women's apparel, an immovable reality, this is going to hurt, a lot, fuck it, the squares all say one foot on the brake pedal, I had the fucker removed, it's a one-way trip, always has been, c'mon you fuckers, you're all going with me.

But enough of that morose shit. The point, the fucking POINT, man, is that he was there, you can't take that from him, you can make shit up about where you were, but he fucking knows, he rode that swerving wreck to the end, and he enjoyed knowing that nothing but an abrupt and rude stop waited for him, deadly in every way except psychically. It was the catharsis of the free-thinking youth of the era, the bringers of fire, tied to a rock is better than never having seen the fucking sun.

I think we will hear more about Jinx over the next few installments. Hell, even I have a little of that tragic embrace left in me, I know it burned me once, but I will be the first in line for the zinc oxide. Let's just see what happens, shall we? I think it best to see it on the big screen even on it's second run. Maybe it will turn out differently.....

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hunger, X-Men, Survival

Jinx gave the station-wagon more gas, revving the engine as he rounded the corner so as not to stall. The Key Bridge, fragmented and glittering in the broken rear-view mirror, receded and then swung out of view. The traffic was relatively minimal, for Georgetown, pedestrians and cyclists swerving and dodging the massive Chevrolet as it lurches menacingly up M St., a rhinoceros belching various dioxides, growling and roaring. The stereo screams out the windows, "...It's a Zyklon B-movie, straight out of the past...", British venom, caustic derision blaring, pushing the speakers to distortion. 

Jinx comes to a stop at Wisconsin Ave., popping the transmission into neutral, periodically pumping the accelerator. Gawking tourists from Florida point and stare from their late model Bimmer as though on safari "look, dear, a Punk degenerate! I believe they are the District animal", but he doesn't notice anymore, just sings along with the stereo, staring at the light. He lights a cigarette just as the light turns, guns it and screams down Pennsylvania Ave., swerving to miss a couple of drunken college kids, leaning on the horn. Finding 24th St., he turns right, speeding across New Hampshire Ave., past George Washington University, looking for a spot to park. Along the 700 block he spots a space and parks, throws on some mirrored sunglasses and grabs a backpack from the passenger seat. 

 Looking over his shoulder to check for murderous cabbies, Jinx walks across the street. It is a little chilly for April so he quickens his pace. He stops in front of a Deco building and presses the buzzer for 416. A tinny speaker squawks at him, he responds and slips in the glass door when it buzzes. The halls are covered in repulsive pastel wallpaper, the floor a forest green, floral patterned nightmare. He takes the stairs two at a time, steel-toes ringing off the metal risers, leather jacket creaking. Should an unwitting tenant poke his head into the stairwell at that moment, doubtless he would call the cops, "Come quickly! He looks like a cannibal or something! I think he is here to rape old Mrs. Jenkins!". Finally reaching the forth floor, he peeks through a crack in the door, and determining the hallway empty, walks quickly to 416 and knocks discreetly. A moment later the door swings open and he steps through, shutting it behind him.

"Hey, man. Fucking getting cold out there.", says Jinx, removing his jacket and tossing it on a nearby chair.

"You look tired, bro.", responds Mike, throwing himself on the sofa.

"Yeah. Sleeping rough these days. The Deathmobile is no place to catch zees.", Jinx said, easing down on a chair.

"So, let's see the books. I hope they are good ones.", Mike sat up and cleared a space on the coffee table.

Jinx removes a stack of plastic-sleeved comics from his backpack, vestiges of a misspent childhood. Stories of mutants fighting nefarious governments, the ultimate rebels, uber-punks. He felt a tiny twinge of regret as he spread them out on the glass coffee table, a release of shadowy memories, an admission of finality. Money had now supplanted the simple pleasures of youth, necessity overcoming childish predilection, a new sobriety.

"I'll give you two-hundred for the stack, man.", Mike said after careful examination of the comics.

Jinx hesitated. X-Men #129. The first appearance of Kitty Pryde. First Comics Elric, 1-4. Good shit. But he couldn't eat it. 

"Alright, man. Give me the money before I fucking change my mind."

The temperature had dropped while he had been at Mike's place. He hunches his shoulders and shoves his hands into his pockets. The regret is supplanted by the gnawing hunger of someone who hasn't eaten in two days. Goddam, I want some pizza, he thinks. 

The Deathmobile fires up after a couple of pumps on the accelerator, coughing great clouds of black smoke. He swings the monster into traffic, hard on the gas, salivating at the prospect of a meal. He reaches down and cranks the volume on the stereo. "...I got nothing to do, you got nothing to say, everything is so fucked up, I guess it's natural that way..." 

Punk had a way of exposing the flaws in society, the other face of the god, the dumpster behind the five-star restaurant. Teenagers, especially those bright enough to gain virtually nothing from a typical public school education, consumed the messages in music for their education, listening to the voices of an alternative understanding. But idealism does not feed the body nor provide shelter from cold. Because punks were uncompromising, unyielding to pressures of conformity, the narrow path of employment was even more constricted and diminished. Though the intransigence remained, the simple rules of survival forced the punks to accept some kind of authority, some kind of conformity. Some resisted longer than others, but they all realized that youth was fading fast and the world would not hesitate in its orbit.

But compromise does not mean defeat. Ideals survive, the vision is still clear, a tiny bit of hope in the distance. The punk survives, honest in the face of his beliefs, accepting of the limitations but always pushing boundaries. The punk refuses to die.        

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Gains, Wisdom, Real Power

The Hardcore scene was chaotic. It lived in the hearts and minds of the bands and fans, burned there, an explosion of questions asked with few answers given, unfocused rage, the blindly thrown hay-maker of youth aimed at the undefined times. I have described it as well as I could in this blog and elsewhere, its energy, its power, as well as its shortcomings. The eye of my youth, though a bit myopic from the intervening years, stayed fairly clear, I think. And though I have always been a bit too philosophic, a bit poetic in the face of the realities, I believe I have captured some small part of what it meant to be in that chaos.

So where does that leave me, now? I have pointed at it, cataloged it, shared some snapshots, but there is a big fucking 500 lb. simian in the room: what did I take away from those times? What, if anything, did I learn, bring out of the hurricane, drag along with me to my mid-forties? This seems to be the point of the thing, the result of the test, the goal.

First, I think I should point out just a few other observations. Though I have tried to portray the events and the feelings and the presence truthfully, I expect I have taken some liberties with my memories. I have not been completely fair to reality. There was some bad shit. Some really bad shit. Drugs. Excessive alcohol consumption. Violence. Lots of  violence. But these are echoes of youth, the demons we all faced as adolescents, brought, in large part, to us by the drug-addled previous generation, the musicians, the writers, the celebrities. I, for one, did not drag that particular pathetic, pimply, odorous, demon with me into my middle-age.  The violence has been, will always, be there. Posturing, showing your mettle, finding your place in the pack, a story as old as humanity. And we as humans continue to search for our place in the pecking order until we loose our vitality, our virility, and gain a little wisdom and discretion.

When I think about it, I mean really think about it, the list of things I took away from the music and the scene, the community, is fairly short. There is little any journey can provide you if you are not looking for something in particular. But though they are few, the things I gained are important things.

I was part of a community. Part of something larger than self, a symbiosis, the only important thing there is: the people around you, the acceptance of them, the belonging. We were in it together, that slavering, voracious beast, adolescence, growing up. It was our prehistoric pack, our hunter-gatherer community, the place we found our role in the group. It was the story of our wanting to do that shit OUR WAY, the rebellion against the expectations of  society, the finding of our own trails through the madness. It was growing up, not just growing older.

And there was no place better to do that than in Washington, DC, where our bands, the abdicating leaders, gave us things to think about that meant something to a young person. Not the political horseshit, the conspiracy theories, but the inner battles, the screaming, burning, frightening flight into adulthood, bucking the system, throwing out the rules the jocks and preps and assorted assholes in our schools perpetuated, the ecdysis of our childish skin.

I guess you might say that the thing I brought with me into adulthood that has meaning is the understanding that there can be unity among the marginalized, the introspective, intelligent people, the disenfranchised. Those of us who didn't want to live in a community of misogynistic jocks or to perpetuate the cycle of looking perfect for the perfect mate, broke away and found there were others like us, people who hated the status quo. We found acceptance and community, a place we could do our thing, the ultimate place to escape the blind categorization and numeration of society. We thought for ourselves.

And that, my friends, is real power, value that so many now ignore, the essence of being grown up and free. We didn't compromise, we deflected the pressure, bashed our way through the webs of convention and emerged unbroken. The more treacherous path is sometimes the most rewarding.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Power Chord

Strip the veneers away and music only gives you one of two things: a place to cradle your pain or a place to celebrate your joy. That's it. Pleasure or pain. Music is humanity's most fickle of inventions, its quiet, dark room or its temple to ecstasy, and they so often are the same place. Remember getting your heart broken and the songs you listened to and it will tell you a little about dealing with pain. Remember the best memories and the songs which accompanied them and you will know a little more about what it takes to be happy.

It's a strange thing, our mind. It can be our worst enemy and it can give us our greatest triumphs. Sometimes it does what it does with clarity, a clockwork device, a simple and to-the-point instrument. Other times it comes at us obliquely, a devious and subtle little imp. Dreams are said to be subtle attempts to persuade us from the sub-conscience, to enact our will when waking by guiding our vision while asleep, tiny and vague soldier making war on our consciousness. Music is the same: it is a dream we enter willingly, with forethought, with purpose, and in it we come to happiness or overcome pain, vibrating, smashing, uncontrolled.

I have found that I will be singing or humming a song I have heard only once, maybe just repeating a phrase or lyric because I only know that little bit. Later, I will buy it or borrow it and find out that it says exactly what I need it to at that moment in my life, Occam's razor cutting through the fecal landscape of the little lies I tell myself.

The day I heard Minor Threat - Out of Step I was in a buddy's car heading to the skate park. A girl I really liked had just shit on my heart and I couldn't focus on anything and I was going to go skate hard and forget. The song came on part way through and was followed by some GBH tune or something, so I really only heard a tiny part of it. I skated that day until my elbows looked like ground chuck and I was drenched in sweat. I got a ride home and collapsed on my bed, sleeping until the next morning, something like thirteen hours.

When I did finally get up I found myself singing "Out of step, with the wo-orld" over and over while I pillaged the refrigerator. While I chewed the fuel I found, it cycled through my brain, oscillating and reverberating. I finally called Dave and asked him for a recording of it so he taped it for me. I listened to it about twenty-five times in a row. It quite literally changed my life.

I bought the record the very next time I was in the record shop around the corner and never looked back. Hardcore became part of me, incorporated its intensity, its power, into my personality and, in turn, I became part of it during its brief and furious course. It was the way I banged out the moments of pain as well as being the wrench of my happiness. It was a violent, red flood in the corners, a coursing current of electric emotion on the basement steps, stomping, biting, flailing, and shoving my furious love and pain and rage and fear and sorrow, vision in the fog, a living part of the burning chaos in my head.

Jinx stands in front of the speakers in his basement, heavy boots sticking to the floor, shirtless, sweating, eyes burning, and the first note rings and hammers him in the neck, pulling up his foot almost against his will. He stamps down on the hard concrete, body coiled, arms pumping, a hurricane in Doc Martens. The speakers thump and crack and protest, waves of clear joy exploding from their paper cones, pushing him in the face one way, pulling him by the scrotum to another, all the fear and violence flying off his limbs in the form of sweat. He is alone, in the space of his mind, hurtling, a comet, picking up debris on the way, losing the material that weighs him down. Alive.
The first lyrics scream out at him I'm gonna knock it down Any way I can I'm gonna scream I'm gonna yell I don't want to have to use my hands reeling, flailing, a lone rioter, teeth gritted, the chorus pulls somehow even more out, energy, hatred, love, the current of the mind IT'S LIKE SCREAMING AT A WALL SOMEDAY IT'S GONNA FALL. And the pain blissfully is rendered.

Friday, February 17, 2012

GI Joe, Vomiting, Cones

As a teenager, my room was a strange, eclectic disaster. Like a lot of lower-middle class families, new furniture was not something we could afford to buy. I had a dresser that I had from the age of 6 or so, the bed was my Step-mom's bed from college, and one of my lamps was a pirate ship, of all things. To most kids, this would have been the source of many frustrations and whining about wanting more grown-up furniture, I'm sixteen, Dad, not four, why can't I have a new dresser, I saw one on Miami vice that was real cool, this sucks, you don't even care...In our house, the answer to this petty, childish self-absorption was pretty simple: get a damn job. But I was not your average kid (nor were most of my friends) and I didn't really care about getting a new Camaro or the latest fashion, much less a slick new dresser. I was a Punk-rock kid, a do-it-yourself deviant, a destroyer and a creator of my own environment.

I cut up hundreds of magazines and newspapers, pasting mashed up layers to the wall: a picture of Jon Bon Jovi with giant lemur eyes cut from a biology text stuck on his face, ransom style cut-out letters spelling the words "I LIKE VOMITING AND LONG WALKS ON THE BEACH" pasted over a photo of Christie Brinkley, a pair of squids replacing Jesse Helm's hands, Black Flag bars spray painted directly on the wall surrounded by show fliers, a Barbie head nailed to the wall. I had glued a couple of dozen GI Joe arms and legs all over the lampshade of my pirate lamp, transforming it into an electrified, nightmarish sea urchin. It was the nightmare of a person stuck somewhere between boyhood and the stark, frightening prospect of adulthood.

It was also the essence of Punk ethos, the ratty fabric of chaos, the blurred scenery of the Hardcore mind. It was unintentionally reflective of the turmoil and pain and violence of a teenager's angst, an imposition of my will on my environment. It was, as so many of the bullshit, pop-psychiatric parent's guides of the era will tell you, my expression of the changes I was experiencing. But really, I just liked it. It looked cool and it freaked "normal" people out.

Punk is doing for yourself, no mater what that may be. Don't have a Minor Threat shirt? Make one. Your leather jacket looks too shiny for your tastes? Tie it to your bumper. Don't have any money for expensive hair-care products? Elmer's Glue is just fine. The Punk just did it, whatever it was. He made do with what he could scrounge up. She improvised, never caring about a label name or a designer.

Like my redecorating efforts, Punk bands had to do it themselves, as well. Make their own records, often establishing their own record labels, and promote their own music using whatever resources they could find for free, that could be stolen or borrowed or recycled. It was an industry run by the artists, an insane bunch of parent's worst fears, a time-bomb of financial disaster. But then, the flame that burns twice as bright, burns half as long and most of the DIY labels imploded or faded away after only a few short years. They were uncompromising and idealistic and naive. But they had BALLS and they made some of the most honest, intense, and fantastic music that the world ever had to cover its ears to avoid hearing. They didn't need a damn job, just effort.

The station-wagon pulled away from a somewhat dilapidated suburban ranch house, stuffed to dangerous levels with wild eyed youths. It rolled through a stop sign and turned east, picking up speed, an economy caravan, a spray painted conveyance decorated with the feverish howls of teenage insanity. It squeals to a stop in the middle of a highway on-ramp, ejecting a skinny, blue-haired kid who grabs a pair of traffic cones and heaves them into the back. With a few cautionary glances up and down the road, he leaps into the open rear door to some muffled laughter and a couple of indistinct shouts. The driver check his mirror and stamps on the accelerator, lurching forward, headlamps shining out like spotlights, searching the darkness for anything.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Graffiti, Hurricanes, Bruises

Memory is a funny thing. I am never sure if an event remembered actually happened the way I recall it or not. I can recall in excellent detail the inside of the 9:30 Club, down to some of the graffiti on the walls, the way the stage came out at a crazy angle, the tile in the hall. Still, though, the shows I saw there are murky and fuzzy, car accidents of music, felt rather than precisely rendered. But such is the lens of adolescence and young adulthood.

The shows I remember best are those that really seemed to pull the hate and rage out of me and leave it flying off into nothingness, a hurricane force leveling everything in its path but leaving me standing quietly in the eye. Release. And that kind of power leaves the mind shocked, unable to understand the volatility latent in its soft confines, the raw emotion. To recognize that immense and uncontrolled power is a frightening proposition; it takes a strong individual to really deal with it, to acknowledge that they are a bomb in boots, a shotgun one finger-squeeze from explosion.

I listen to lyrics when I am at home, in my basement, at rest. Then I can absorb them and understand them and let them tell me their story. At a show it's all emotion undressed. I always took the time to read lyrics so that I could comprehend what the musicians were portraying in a particular song. Many times it spoke directly to me and garnered that little head nod, that agreement, the conversation with a peer. Sometimes it left me wondering if the writer really believed them, if it was a sham, a mask. It is the difference between Minor Threat and The Misfits.

The Descendants always seemed to hit me right in the fleshiest part of my brain. There was such an amazing honesty in their lyrics, a celebration of the writer's flaws, dealing with them head-on, no fear. But their shows: pure adrenalin and release and speed. It was a perfect combination of the things I would never say to myself (but secretly thought) and the raw rage I needed to unload.

I saw them in '85 or '86 at the 9:30, a show I remember as a hazy climb up some crooked staircase only to tumble down, bruised but smiling, punching the demons in the neck on the way down, reptilian and explosive. I don't remember who I was with, the date, where I was living at the time, the color of my mohawk, or the set list. But that memory is so vivid, so real to me, I will likely go to the old-folks home still smiling when it surfaces. That show was one that gave me something back and was worth the ticket price, the sweat and the bruises, worth twenty times what I paid for it or the record.

I can only hope my kids have something that slaps them and sticks like that. They need their own blurry memories in this world.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Express Delivery, Catalyst, Cabbies

I am a patient boy
I wait, I wait, I wait, I wait
My time is water down a drain

Everybody's movin'
Everybody's movin'
Everything is moving
Moving, moving, moving

Please don't leave me to remain
In the waiting room

MacKaye. "Waiting Room" Lyrics. 13 Songs  Dischord, 1989 

I took a job as a courier in late '89 to make ends meet. Where they met was never clear, I was always in a state of flux, never really pausing to look forward or back, riding hard toward the same undefined destination always, a bullet with no target.

It was so easy to throw myself into the pedals, with every teeth-gritting, rage powered revolution pushing down on some blackness, forgetting briefly the visions of my (it was assumed) eventual destruction, hurtling through the flashing sea of metal, lights, and fumes. I actually found it much harder to get off the bike and ride the elevator with some lady from Suite 1009 or the the really good-smelling guy from Big Law Office, trusting the cables and pulleys, fighting the calf cramps, thinking...well, just thinking.

I ate virtually nothing then. I didn't really do any drugs as most of them made me feel serious paranoia and usually resulted in a freak out of some kind (some of those were LEGENDARY, but do not bear relating now) but I drank a fair amount. I had just gotten back to DC from parts unspecified, feeling at home again, recognizing the maelstrom, feeling it, glad to know this Devil. There was a girl, as usual, who didn't really know me, though we had been together for a year or so. She was a good person, probably, but I didn't really take the time to figure that out, I had to know what she could do for me, how long she would last before she left; I, self absorbed, a fractured and fragile egoist.

A life is destined for tragedy if it is left unexamined, to wind down a path into the fog, a careless misuse of the magic of evolution. So we look for something to grab hold of, something to ignite our passion, to wriggle (often uncomfortably) in our minds, demanding attention.  Music has that power. It is a palpable thing, a force, a motor. It is a thing to which we have to lend no meaning, it gathers in the mind and grows and we do not understand it's source. Maybe it is tied to the rhythms of the electrical pulses between our synapses, some chemical reaction brought about by a process, a catalyst, unknown to us. Any way you look at it, it has power.

Hardcore appealed to some part of my mind, some convoluted fold of brain matter, that needed to move, to scream, to unload. It swam in the reptilian and mammalian parts, in Broca's area and in the medulla, taking over, releasing: a vicious, a primal force, a motor of adolescence.

Not that I even considered such philosophical bullshit at the time. I was a teenager, a flesh golem, fighting against unseen forces, wrestling unnamed demons. I wanted to fight, to fuck, to destroy, no time for thinking, if you think, you hurt, you burn faster and the whole process just succumbs to inertia.

As long as I was moving, hurtling down Vermont Ave., the thinking could not waylay me; I could not afford to be introspective, the cabbies would kill me. I was always gathering speed, never recharging, life and philosophy would chain me down otherwise. The wheels rolled, the rhythm never faltered, always fast, always screaming. Because if the wheels stopped spinning, the music would stop, inertia would win, the cabbies would pounce.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Zombies, New Wave, the Fashionable Punk

Return of the Living Dead released in 1985. Being a big fan of zombies, Jo and I got tickets and saw it at a seedy little strip-mall theater in Southern Maryland. It was fantastic; we laughed and cheered and stood on our seats with every gruesome spray of arterial essence, every absurd and hilarious death.

What was not to like about zombies for a Punk? The perfect analogy for 80s society: mindless consumerism, perpetual dashing after nebulous goals, a lack of self-examination, just the relentless drive for self-aggrandizement. The heroes struggle to escape being consumed and integrated into this animal world, still possessed of the cloak of humanity, violently striking against the seemingly inevitable tide, unbowed. And in this particular vision of the zombie doom the director had inserted leather clad, be-mohawked "punks", deviant through and through, like cockroaches post-nuclear Armageddon, one of the few surviving beings of this apocalypse. Looking back at this more than 25 years later, of course, these "punks" were nothing more than comic relief, a sort of nod at the pathetic youth of the day, clowns in leather and studs.

Fittingly, T.S.O.L. is prominently featured on the soundtrack, all Friday night hair and Monday evening attitude, safe punk rock, the masses can handle this, clean up the guitars, give them new amps, let's make a buck on this revolution. This is how Hollywood sees the punks, how they can digest them without ending up with ulcers, no sickening glances in the tarnished mirror held by Black Flag or Bad Brains or Black Market Baby, just a superficial tease of the hair, a liberal hand with the mascara.

The movie industry never got it, any more than the record industry did. The record industry abandoned the punks the very second "New Wave" lumbered out of the slime left by The Clash and the Sex Pistols and delivered it's first romantic and tearful ballad, something introspective and self-pitying, skinny and pale and languid. Don't worry parents, no more horrifically fast rhythms, no more primal screams, just pop-y, can't-wait-to-kill-myself-this-world-is-too-hard English fops.

It is snowing, nature trying to hide humanity, cold, quiet. The '74 Malibu Classic station-wagon eases out onto Hwy. 301, a massive spray-painted ark, two laughing fuchsia haired punks in the front seat, talking about the movie, smoking, hoping the dove comes back with something better than an olive branch. The apocalypse they hope to harken is a new beginning, a chance for humanity to triumph over it's own self-made undeath.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Demos, The Scene, The Total Package

I remember buying my first demo at a punk show. The Volcano Suns were in town, sometime in '86 or so, with two opening bands, the names of which are lost in the fumes of many bottles of Rush and rivers of sweat. One of the now anonymous bands was selling cassettes at the show (at the Complex, mayhaps?) and as I happened to have change leftover from Little Tavern, I bought one. It wasn't particularly good quality, neither by recording standards nor in content, but I bought it anyway (and played it, rarely) to support "the scene". It was an investment in something I cared about, a way to screw the record industry, and a poorly plastic-wrapped middle finger aimed at AUTHORITY, all for three dollars. The art was a mimeographed drawing of something unpleasant, a child being mauled by a circus bear or something, which had been painstakingly cut from a larger piece of cheap paper, conjuring images of heavily-mascaraed girls toiling away in the bass player's parents' garage surrounded by thick clouds of clove smoke, a suitably morose English New Wave song crackling out from cheap boom-box speakers, torn fishnets and combat boots, fashionably listless.

The scene. It was all of the bands that ever sloppily hacked at a guitar neck and screamed into a mic, sticky-floored dive bars festooned with a decoupage of thirty-thousand flyers, the several hundred (or dozen) teenagers in heavy boots, the thrift store, half a dozen record shops, the bondage boutique, an odd restaurant or two, and anywhere mayhem might coalesce. It was the seedy neighborhood across town from the record industry where talent scouts stared straight ahead when driving through to meet their immaculately quaffed clients, just there off of Russ Meyer Blvd., down the street from the Independent Publishers. It was not an exclusionary system, it was openly hostile, go ahead, see if you can survive the denizens of DIY St., you fat bastards, we are lean here, we smell your engineers' fear, you are too weak to make an honest record, we will use your fat rolls of money to clean the rat shit off the floors of our clubs, we don't even drive here, we have burned all the cars, you are not in L.A., you festering pustule on Rolling Stone's scrotum, you bubble-gum pop assclown.

And sometimes, even a blind squirrel finds a nut. Maybe it starts a business in a basement on 4th St., maybe it steals a copy machine and makes a free 'zine, maybe it just shares the nut with it's friends. Any way it goes, the music fan wins, has plenty for the cold winter months, and maybe has enough left over after Little Tavern for another nut.