Tuesday, March 29, 2011

White Dope on Punk: Chapter 6. Go Back to Russia

By Greg Kim
The transition from big-fish-in-a-small-pond of Pleasanton, California, to little-fish-in-a-big-pond of San Francisco was not easy. As a big fish in Pleasanton, I was a spectacle turning heads on Main Street. I felt special and enjoyed the attention, even though most of it was abusive. In San Francisco in 1983, it seemed like everybody under 25 was punk, and I was one of thousands of grubby miscreants going to shows and starting bands.

It had been building for quite some time. I knew I had to leave and so did my parents. Everything sucked to me—the town, the people, the schools, my friends—but I didn’t want to do anything about. I needed a push, which came in the form of the Pleasanton Police.

Around 11pm on a Saturday night I decided to walk down the block to my friend Bob’s party. Bob was one of my oldest friends, but since my conversion from burn-out to punk our friendship had soured. It wasn’t a conscious thing; but when my favorite band was Minor Threat and his was The Doors, there wasn’t much we could do to salvage our relationship. He didn’t understand my change and I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t want to change.

I walked the short block just to make an appearance and say hi, hoping that his younger brother Craig was not around. Ever since my punk rock coming out, Brian was always aggressive towards me. Even though he was a skinny kid, he was mean and had disapproving eyes, and was fond of calling me faggot. I had witnessed many Bob and Craig all-out brother fights, where Craig would get pummeled, but he never quit. I figured if he came at me he would act the same way.

By the time I got there the cops were breaking up the party. There was one police car out front and one pulling up. The front door of the house was open, the bright hallway light spilling onto their front lawn. Streams of people exited the house in an orderly manner, walking to their cars. Unlike Hollywood depictions of high school parties, no one was running or jumping over fences.

I pushed past the people leaving and looked for Bob. I knew the house well and searched for him, but I couldn’t find him. After checking the back yard, I left, stepping into the flow of humanity that was exiting.

The front yard was filled with small groups of people discussing where the next party was, while the police threatened them with incarceration. They moved on, replaced by new groups leaving the party.

Leaning against the side of their car in front of the house, two policemen watched me as I walked down the steps and into the yard. I kept my head down, paranoid, but something told me they were watching me.

“Hey, Comrade,” one of them said as I approached.

Not sure how to respond to such a stupid statement, I grunted, “Huh, what?” looking perplexed.

In an angrier tone, he finished his thought. “It's because of people like you…parties get busted. Go back to Russia.” His words followed me as I walked by. I turned and indignantly replied, “Dude, I just got here.” I would later learn that cops didn’t like to be called dude, or homes.

As I quickly walked out of the Bob’s cul-de-sac, I heard the cop indignantly say, “Dude?” Looking over my shoulder, I knew this verbal exchange between the Pleasanton Police and I was not over. As expected, they got in their car and slowly followed me. It was like an excruciatingly slow chase. They never moved in front of me, careful to loom in the background like a storm cloud.

I thought of running, but I had nowhere to go except to my house, which needless to say would be bad. So I slowed my pace, looking back at them, shaking my head. I knew this would piss them off.

Walking across the lawn of my house, I picked up my pace, making a run for my door. They hit the gas and screeched to a halt in front of my house. I quickly opened the door and slammed it shut, running to the den to peek out the window.

They were halfway up the lawn and moving toward the door. The doorbell rang. My parents were out for the evening, but my sister Lisa was home. I ran out of the den and to the bathroom, where Lisa had just taken a shower.

“Get the door. What’s going on?” she questioned. She could tell by the look of fear and excitement on my face that whoever was at the door was there because of something I did. I quickly explained what was going on. “Bob was having a party. When I got there, it was getting busted. I went in to say hi, but he wasn’t around, so I left. As I was leaving, these two fucking cops told me to ‘go back to Russia.’ And they followed me home.” I knew this information would piss off Lisa.

Not one to think things through, Lisa moved to the door, wearing a lush, white robe and towel around the top of her head, hiding her hennaed hair. With her chin high, she seemed to savor the anticipation of confrontation.

“Yeah, what?” she said, opening the door a crack, exposing her turbaned head. The entry way was dark—she didn’t turn on the light—and I assume they thought they had disturbed my mother while taking a shower.

“Well, uh.” They stuttered, not expecting this. They were expecting someone a little more mom-like, not my angry sister.

“Leave him alone, he didn't do anything. You’re harassing him because of how he looks.” That was it. She shut the door and walked back to the bathroom as if nothing happened.

I ran back to the den and watched them get back in their car. Lisa ruled! But I had had enough. I had outgrown my hometown of Pleasanton. Three weeks later, I moved to San Francisco.

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