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.

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