Friday, April 29, 2011

White Dope on Punk: Chapter 18. You Are the Hot Animal Machine

Tom was driving, Mel was shotgun and George and I were in the back, but crammed near the front as we pulled into the parking lot of the show. No matter how tired we were from the endless driving on tour, the anticipation of seeing where we were playing always perked us up. Upon seeing the venue, it was met with one of two reactions: “It doesn’t look so bad” or the more common “This is gonna suck.” There wasn’t a lot of middle ground in our snap evaluations.

“Pull over there…by the van with the trailer,” Mel said, pointing to a lone van in the parking lot. The trailer and out of state license plate was a dead giveaway that it was a band van. We were playing with The Rollins Band, All and The Dough Boys, so it had to be one of their vans.

As we pulled up, we could see that someone was in the passenger seat with their feet up on the dashboard. George and I moved closer to the front to get a glimpse. Tom put the car in park and Mel abruptly pressed her head tightly against the bucket seat. “Dude, it’s fuckin Rollins,” she excitedly announced. George and I scrambled to the side back window to get glimpse and Tom peeked out the passenger side window. It was definitely him. He was intently reading a small, hardcover book. I guessed Henry Miller or Gore Vidal.

I had seen Rollins many times in his band Black Flag—cutting his stomach with a torn-in-half coke can during “Life is Pain” and generally acting like a caged animal on stage. Just recently I walked by him on Houston Street in New York City. It was the dead of winter and he was wearing short-shorts, a T-shirt, and wispy Adidas Gazelle sneakers and he moved in a determined, bad-attitude way. He wasn’t someone you wanted to fuck with, so we stayed within the confines of the van.

A father and his young teenaged son approached the van. We saw them crossing the empty parking lot and immediately knew that someone had tipped them off about Rollins. Leading the way with his father trailing behind, the teenager had what looked like a journal in his hand and was making a beeline for the passenger door of the van. When they got near, the teenager fell back and let his dad do the talking. George and I rushed to the front of the van and peeked out the side window, blocking Tom’s view from the driver’s seat. It was obvious that this kid wanted an autograph and God only knew how the brooding Rollins would react to such a request. It definitely wasn’t punk rock to ask for an autograph but he was a kid, so he had that going for him.

Rollins had to notice the looming figure next to him. The window was open and the dad was standing there, dreading having to ask for his autograph. Rollins held tight, even more intent on what he was reading. Finally, the dad must’ve coughed or said “excuse me” because Rollins looked up, reaching for the journal and the pen in the dad’s hand. He signed the journal, gave it back and returned to reading. No chit chat or pleasantries, just a forced smile.

We unloaded the equipment, going out of our way to act like it was no big deal that Rollins was in the adjacent van. All and The Doughboys were already there, and the Rollins Band was on stage setting up. We dumped everything in the front of the stage and waited for them (and Rollins) to sound check. We were first on the bill, and would set up our equipment in front of theirs when they finished.

The venue and the stage were unlike any others we had played. It wasn’t a club, but an old beachfront hotel that was in disrepair from the sand, wind and the elements. It loomed large against the ocean and at one time was probably the place to be, in the hip part of town. Things had obviously changed. It was perfect for us.

The show was in the basement, a low-ceilinged, expansive room with a stage in the corner built of plywood and two-by-fours. The carpet was dark, which didn’t help with the cavernous underground feeling. When the doors opened and the room filled with people this gloom would dissipate.

Rollins joined the band on stage for sound check and they ran through a few songs to get levels. As they struggled to get the right stage volume, workers from the hotel were using a staple gun to attach chicken wire to an internal frame of two-by-fours that enclosed the stage like a cage. It was straight out of a Texas Honky Tonk in The Blues Brothers, except you got the feeling that it wasn’t there to protect the band from the audience but to protect the audience from Rollins. It was a first for us and we were looking forward to taunting the audience to throw things at us!

By the time Rollins and Co. finished their sound check, a good size crowd had gathered out front. We quickly set up and hastily flew through one song, making sure the monitors were loud and that we could hear ourselves. It was a big bill—four bands—and we were scheduled to go on once the doors opened. As the crowd filtered in, we ran backstage and grabbed as many beers as we could carry.

As we played our first song, half the audience approached the stage. The Rollins devotees, in their tribal tattoos and Black Flag T-shirts, hung around the back with their arms crossed, tolerating us.

The chicken wire was disconcerting, creating a barrier between us and the audience, but we trudged along and played our brand of post-punk California rock. A half hour later, we moved our equipment to the side of the stage and went back for more beers. The show was ok, but our dream of beer bottles smashing against the chicken wire didn’t happen. The audience needed some time to get liquored up before the first bottle flew.

Tom and I grabbed more beers—two to a hand—and flitted about the club, talking to girls and generally acting like asses, things we would never do on our home turf. Everything appeared sparkly, amplified and bright from our early drinking. As with all shows, we ended up backstage, occasionally peeking outside to listen to a song that we liked.

Backstage was a like a house party, bands and friends on the guest list huddled together, drinking beer and earnestly talking. We made friends with the guys in Rollins’ band and were razzing them about having to hide their drinks from Rollins, who was straight edge. As we talked, I noticed they incessantly looked over our shoulders, eyeballing the door leading to the stage. Rollins walked in and his band hid their beers, stashing them on a ledge.

Rollins told them to get ready and they moved toward the door, leaving their full beers on the ledge. Once they were gone, we grabbed their beers.

Rollins walked over to the nearest wall, next to the door. He was wearing short black shorts and a tight T-shirt, showing off his iconic tattoos from Black Flag. He crouched down in a fetal position with his back against the wall, squeezing his legs with his arms. His body was taught and his fists were clenched, periodically flexing his whole body and grimacing. It was obvious that he was preparing the show, working himself into a physical frenzy. Conversely, we prepared for the show by drinking beer and laughing.

Everybody in the room did their best to simultaneously watch, while appearing to ignore him. His head was usually buried in his knees so this was pretty easy. If the room could talk, the general consensus would be, “What an idiot.” It was way overboard and reeked of dysfunction and drama.

Rollins went on and, despite our eye-rolling over his dramatic behavior, we crowded the side of the stage (behind the chicken wire) to get a look at the spectacle. He didn’t disappoint.

Like an orangutan, he climbed the chicken wire and perched on a cross board of the internal frame. Looking back to his band and then at the audience, his eyes were wild and he seemed non-human, in the moment. He looked back again at the band and yelled, “Come on, let’s go!” The band launched into the first song. He would repeat this phrase to his band after every song.

Not content with just climbing the chicken wire, Rollins pulled back a triangle of the wire from the frame, sticking his head outside and them pulling it back quickly, usually in rhythm with the song. When he wanted to emphasize a lyric, he would pop his head out and then retract it. It was like the old arcade game where a gopher popped his head out of a hole and you tried to bop it on the head with a mallet.

Tom and I eventually grew tired of the theatrics and went backstage to drink more beer and gather our equipment. The rumblings coming from the wall dividing the stage from backstage stopped and shortly thereafter The Rollins Band walked through the door, sweaty and with their guitars in their hands. The room paused and most people said the obligatory “good show” and "good set,” even though many of them had never left the room. Rollins was nowhere to be seen.

Mel and George joined us backstage and we talked about the show. I grew more and more manic and obsessed with Rollins’ behavior. From the fetal position before the show to popping his head out of the chicken wire, I tried to wrap my drunken mind around this tense little man. The band egged me on. Something had to give.

I caught the eye of one of Rollins’ band members. Stepping away from Tom, George and Mel, I pointed directly at him and yelled, “You are the hot animal machine, not him,” gesturing in the vicinity of the stage where Rollins might be. (Hot Animal Machine is the name of a Rollins Band record). I continued, “You are, not him.” The room again paused, not knowing if Rollins was going to walk in and kick my ass. Feeling pretty good about myself, I yelled, “You, you and you," pointing to the other members, “are the hot fuckin’ animal fuckin' machine, not him! Hot fuckin’ animal machine!” I was on fire. I grabbed my guitar and planned to exit in a blaze of glory. On cue, Rollins walked through the door. As I moved to go past him, I dramatically threw up my hands, as if to say, “See, he ain’t so special.” My guitar cased opened, the guitar spilled onto the floor, and I tripped, landing face down on the case. Everybody laughed; Rollins had no idea what was going on. Tom and Mel quickly helped me up, put my guitar back in the case, while I gave a victory wave to the room. Rollins moved passed me, suspicious of my cockiness.

In the parking lot, Tom said, “Jesus Christ, Foot, you could have got your ass kicked.” Feeling giddy, I sluggishly smiled, my eyes slow to focus and said, “Yeah, but how cool would that have been top get my ass kicked by Rollins.” Tom looked at me like I had a point. In our drunken state it almost made sense.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

White Dope on Punk: Chapter 17. All for a Ring with a Marijuana Leaf on it (Full Version)

By Greg Kim
I walked out of the Chatterbox, leaned on a parking meter and looked down at the sidewalk and thought: “Hey, that looks comfy.” I was drunk—really drunk—and making bad decisions. I stumbled back to the wall and laid down, content to stay there for the night. I had never slept on a sidewalk, but it was good rock-guy behavior—behavior that was talked about the next night by friends and acquaintances and could elevate your status in the scene. Being a fuck-up was something to brag about. It wasn’t really a choice for me; I was in no condition to get home. For the minute I was on the ground, I was content.

Sara was my new girlfriend. A bike messenger friend of a friend, she was tall, pale, and boyish, with red hair. She had a quirk where she would blink her eyes at the same time, in a dramatic fashion. It was disconcerting at first, but like a scar or crooked teeth, after a while you didn’t notice it.

Thirty seconds later Sara followed me out the door of the Chatterbox, in way better shape than I was. She found me, her new boyfriend, settling down for a night of rest on Valencia Street. She gently kicked me a few times and helped me to my feet, where we walked eight blocks east to catch the 9 San Bruno bus to her house. At this point in the game, she was happy to take care of me; possibly she even found it endearing.

I awoke and Sara and I were on an empty bus, my head leaning against her shoulder. I looked up and caught the bus driver’s eye in the rearview window. His face was stoic and disapproving. I was just one of many drunks that he had taken home that night. He wouldn’t be the first bus driver who disapproved of my behavior.

A few years later on St. Patty’s Day, I went over to my friends’ house to watch a boxing match on TV. I put $10 dollars in a jar that was placed on top the TV, to help defer the cost of the Pay-Per-View fee, and proceeded to watch the fight. I wasn’t a boxing fan, but it seemed like a fun thing to do at the time, like going to the shooting range— something very un-San Francisco and therefore novel.

At 4 am, drunk and tired, I left and walked to 16th Street to catch the 22 Fillmore bus home. It was pouring rain and the two blocks to the bus stop left me drenched. I waited for about five minutes and then, knowing that the bus ran only once an hour at this time of night, walked toward home, following the path of the bus line.

At 16th and Julian, I paused, leaned against a lamppost and looked across the street at Pancho Villa, my favorite taqueria. On countless occasions, while getting my regular super veggie burrito, I had witnessed burritos being thrown away due to problems with the order. While standing there, this visual popped in my head. I was hungry—drunk hungry. And I wanted a burrito. Despite being long closed, I knew (for some odd reason) that their dumpster was in the alley next to Esta Noche, a Latino drag bar. And, in my mind, I knew the dumpster was full of super burritos wrapped in tinfoil. I just knew it.

The streets were empty except for junkies looking to score at 16th and Mission. Before entering the alley, my streets smarts kicked in. I stopped, peered in the shadows and moved forward. It was still raining and the only light was from the street lamp across 16th.

The dumpster was enclosed by a 10-foot chain-link fence. It was green with a black plastic lid and was not locked. I knew burritos were in there. I grabbed the fence and pulled myself up but my sneakers slipped on the wet chain. I tried again and again, my hunger driving this futile act. I eventually gave up and continued walking the bus line.

At Church and Market I made the decision to stop and wait for the bus, no matter how long it took. The rain had stopped and continuing on meant going through the Fillmore and Western Addition at 4 am on the biggest drinking holiday of the year—not a good idea. I sat on a bench on the edge of the Safeway parking lot and waited.

The bus eventually came and I took a seat behind the back door. Looking out the window, the streets were empty except for fellow drunks going into Safeway for frozen pizza and chips. The bus wasn’t moving. As we sat there, I fiddled with the zipper on my jacket, ran my fingers through my damp hair—anything to occupy time. I was thinking, “Dude, what the fuck? What are you waiting for?” It was a legitimate question. It was now 4:30 am and I seriously doubt somebody was running down the street trying to catch the bus. Finally, I couldn’t take any more. I reached up and rang the bell three quick times and cried, “Come on,” sustaining the word “on” for a few seconds. This type of behavior was unusual for me, as I was usually polite, especially to the workingman. I watched his reaction in the rearview mirror. Slowly, the back of head tilted, looking into the mirror. Our eyes met and he slowly shook his head side-to-side in disgust. We both went back to doing nothing.

Back on the 9 San Bruno going to Sara’s house, she rang the bell, indicating we needed to get off at the next stop. She rented a small house in Visitation Valley, which I thought was weird. I knew no one who lived in Vis Val and no one who lived in a house.

She unlocked the front door and I went straight to her room and fell asleep. It was late and I knew that I couldn’t stay at her house when she went to work. Sara was a bike messenger and had to be at work by 9 am. I went to bed dreading how I would feel in a few short hours.

At some point in the night, I woke to us having sex. She was on top, but it wasn’t Sara, it was my friend Janet, who had at least 100 pounds on skinny Sara. I couldn’t figure out why I was having sex with Janet and how Janet got into Sara’s house. I mumbled, “Janet, what are you doing here?” Almost immediately, Janet jumped off me and revealed herself as Sara—a very pissed Sara. I was either dreaming, in a blackout or just plum crazy. Like in a romantic comedy, she pushed me off the bed onto the floor. I hit the ground hard, adjusted and quickly fell asleep. The floor was carpeted.

The next morning was what you’d expect. I was hung-over, almost to the vomit stage, and there was the little problem of last night’s sex incident. Sara spewed, “Get up, let’s go,” throwing my jacket at me. We silently walked back to the 9 San Bruno bus stop.

The bus was crowded, but we got a seat. At 23rd street, in front of SF General, I said, “I‘m getting off here, I gotta throw up.” With no sympathy for me, she barked back, “We’ve gotta talk.” I quickly exited through the backdoor and vomited in between the vertical metal pickets of the fence, while the morning commuters on the bus watched. It was over with Sara, but all I could think about was my shitty Carlos acoustic guitar that I left at her house. It was good as gone; I knew I would never go back and get it.

That night we had loose plans to see the Sea Hags at the Nightbreak in the Haight. We talked that day and agreed to meet in the panhandle, a sliver of green space that leads into Golden Gate Park, to talk about our relationship issues before the show.

Sara was waiting for me when I got there. I was just starting to feel better from the previous night’s indulgence. The repulsive beer thoughts from the morning were gone and I was considering a pint or two of Red Hook at the show.

Instead of sitting on a bench, we chose to stand in the middle of a grassy patch near Oak Street. Like future girlfriends to come, she insinuated that I had a drinking problem and that it wasn’t working out. In an attempt to garner sympathy and pity, most of my responses were consistent with your typical rock-guy, bad self-image problem behavior: “Yeah, I know, I suck. I hate myself.” It never worked and usually made things worse.

While emphatically making a point, I gestured with my right hand, like I was throwing a Frisbee. An ill-fitting ring flew off my hand and landed about 15 yards in the grass behind Sara’s left shoulder. I made a quick note of where the ring landed and committed it to memory.

She didn’t notice the flying jewelry. There was plenty of gaudy jewelry still left on me: shitty DIY nose and ear piercings, shoelaces and other found stuff around my neck and wrists and as many thrift store rings as my fingers could handle. (It wasn't until I watched Tim Robbins’ repulsive ponytailed character in High Fidelity that I was finally convinced to get rid of the garish accessories.)

This wasn’t any ring, though, it was the piece de resistance of rings: large, orange and black, with a mosaic marijuana leaf on the face. It was a constant source of conversation. I didn’t smoke pot—never really did. It was kitsch…it was ironic…it was funny?

After the ring flew off, I couldn’t concentrate—nor did I want to—on our “talk.” I didn’t want to be rude and say, “I need to look for my marijuana leaf ring. Hold that thought.” She already despised me; I didn’t want to make it worse, so I quickly wrapped it up: “You’re right, let’s be friends.”

We walked up to Cole Street together, under the pretense of starting our friendship immediately at the Sea Hags show. At Haight Street I stopped and feigned sadness: “I’m too depressed, I’m gonna go home.” I don’t think she really cared. She went right, toward the club, and I went left, looking over my shoulder back at her. I waited until she crossed the street and then I ran back to get my ring. I didn’t want it to be another casualty of this relationship.

That was the last time I saw Sara and my guitar, but I found the ring.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

White Dope on Punk: Chapter 16. Short Dogs Suck

By Greg Kim

Joe quit the band in El Paso. After extending the last of his automotive skills by changing the starter in the parking lot of an auto parts store, we jumped in the van and drove to the airport. It was a long, silent ride on a hot, hung-over morning. All mornings on a Short Dogs Grow tour were like this. We said our goodbyes—void of bitterness and blame—and said we’d see him in two months. We were determined to finish the tour, drummer or no drummer.

Only one week into the tour, things had fallen apart quickly. While leaving a Motel 6 in Albuquerque the morning before, two cops cars appeared out of nowhere, blocking our van from leaving. They exited their vehicles, guns drawn and said, “Is Greg Kim in there?” I was in the back of van, lying down, hung-over from the night before. Mel and Tom were in the front seats with their hands up. Both looked scared. I slowly opened the door.

They abruptly pulled me out and said, “Why did you use a stolen credit card?” I frantically shook my head, not saying a word.

Finally I said, “What are you talking about?”

They shot back, “Who is George Kim?”

“That’s my dad,” I said incredulously. They holstered their guns, which helped the situation.

The night before, knowing that we had a guarantee of $150 for our show in Albuquerque, we reserved a room at a Motel 6. My dad had given me his credit card to use in case of emergency, and we used it to reserve the room. Little did I know that the card he gave me was expired. Regardless, we only used the card to reserve room, paying cash when we got to the motel.

They took me downtown and I waited in a holding cell until they could contact my father. The band waited out front, while my family members tried to locate my dad. They found him at a sales conference in Denver. He was paged and things were settled. It was late afternoon and we left for El Paso.

Knowing there was plenty more of this bullshit in the coming seven weeks—trouble seemed to follow us on tour—Joe was probably already thinking about leaving.

It was a short drive to El Paso. We arrived at the club at 10 pm and loaded in our equipment. The opening band was playing to five people—their friends. They finished, loaded their equipment and left, taking their friends with them. The promoter told us that Cheap Trick was playing across town for free and apologized for our show being five bucks. He said there were two paid admissions and, if we didn’t want to play, he would give the two people their money back. This was a first for us. A promoter had never given us an option not to play a show.

Mel was at her wits' end. It had been a long day of jail, the stolen credit card mix-up and lots of waiting. Playing to two people didn’t sound like a lot of fun and she wanted to cancel. Tom and I argued that we had played to fewer people and that two people had paid to see Short Dogs Grow and that we should play. Joe was indifferent. We argued and yelled and then Joe quit. We didn’t play the show.

With nowhere to go or stay, we drove toward downtown El Paso. We stopped off at a pay phone and made two calls: one to our booking agent and one to the promoter in New Orleans, where we were playing in ten days. We told our booking agent to cancel our gigs in San Antonio, Dallas and Houston and we asked the promoter in New Orleans to find us a drummer for the rest of the tour.

Having no place to stay and knowing nobody in town, we decided the smartest thing to do was to park our van at the border and go to Juarez and get drunk. The next morning I woke up in a car in Las Cruces, New Mexico, 40 miles from downtown El Paso. I was missing a shoe and had no idea how I got there. Next to me, in the driver’s seat, was a strange woman. On the drive back to El Paso, she filled in the previous night’s adventures. Her name was Sharon.

We had met Sharon and her friends at a bar in Juarez. We drank and carried on as clueless Americans do in border towns, disregarding the locals. One problem, though, was that we chose a local bar instead of a touristy gringo place like Senor Frogs or Hussongs. This turned out to be a bad move.

In our drunken haze, while belly-up to the bar, we noticed small objects of all kinds flying our way, some hitting us and others ricocheting off tables and chairs, coming to rest on the dirty floor. It was all small stuff likes pesos and pieces of food. We didn’t know where they were coming from, but we suspected it was from many tough looking hombres at tables throughout the bar. I turned to Tom, our singer, and said, “We should get out of here. I’m gonna throw a bottle at those guys when we leave,” gesturing toward three guys with cowboy hats in the corner. The beer was making me braver than I was. Tom gestured like he was stabbing me in my belly. He said, “Have you ever been stabbed in the stomach? No? Well, it hurts.” We left without throwing any bottles.

Tom and Mel assisted me over the border. It was around this time that I lost my shoe.

Somehow I heard of a party in Las Cruces and convinced a local that we had met at the bar to drive me there. That’s all I could remember.

We arrived at Sharon’s air-conditioned studio apartment, a 60s motel-like building with cement hallways and metal banisters, sometime around mid afternoon. Without knowing her living arrangements, I deduced that she lived by herself. There was one bed and no signs that a boyfriend or roommate lurked in a walk-in closet or laundry room in the back. I plopped on her couch and dozed off to the sounds of her checking the answering machine. Beep after beep, the same message rang out: “Where’s our guitar player? Give him back!” It was Tom. I knew he was more pissed about me sleeping in an air-conditioned apartment than anything else. They probably slept in the van or bushes in a park. Since there were no cell phones at the time, his last message told us to meet them at a surf and turf bar at sunset. He specified a time.

I woke up dehydrated and disoriented, and reintroduced myself to Sharon. The sun was setting and night was near. While on tour, we tried to avoid the day as much as possible; drinking every night until daybreak helped us achieve this misguided goal.

On the way to bar, I found out that Sharon was unemployed and played in a local all-girl band. We had nothing in common except our need for companionship: I enjoyed the girl-attention and she liked hanging out with someone from the big city of San Francisco. I’m sure she mistakenly found my dreads, gaudy rings and piercings exotic. El Paso was a very small town.

We arrived at the bar and the band was happy to see me and already had a few beers in them. I had asked Sharon to invite a few of her friends and band mates to the bar. They were there, hanging out with Tom and Mel. Like the night before, we drank and carried on. This went on for three nights.

On the fourth day we got a call from the New Orleans promoter saying they found us a drummer. We decided to leave the next day.

The band picked me up at Sharon’s apartment. There was a hurricane watch and it was raining. I said goodbye to Sharon and thanked her for the place to stay and for entertaining us while we were stranded. She handed me a sealed envelope and asked me not to open it until we were on the road. I was intrigued and a bit nervous. The van's horn cried out. I turned and left, thanking her one more time.

I jumped into the back of our pop-top, baby blue Econoline van. In unison, the band, or what was left of them—Mel and Tom—yelled, “Foooooot.” Foot was my nickname, given to me because, in the right light and naked, I looked like Bigfoot. I hung my head in a rare display of shyness, knowing that the way they said “Foooooot” was in reference to me having hooked up with Sharon. We had a band rule that if you had sex, you had to ride in the back of the van (which lacked a passenger seat) until somebody usurped you. It was 700 miles from El Paso to Houston and another few hundred miles from Houston to New Orleans. I assumed I would in the back the whole way. But Tom was very handsome and charming and there were many rest stops and gas stations along the way…you never knew.

I showed the band the envelope from Sharon. Anticipating a nasty letter, I was reluctant to open it. The band, though, were more than happy to read it. Any form of distraction— negative or positive—was welcome. I handed them the envelope.

Much to my relief, the envelope contained a picture, not poison. My relief quickly turned to dismay. In ballpoint ink was a picture of me (the dreads and jewelry gave it away) with my pants down—privates hanging out. In my left hand was a bloody knife and in my right hand was a heart. I was wearing a T-shirt that said “Short Dogs Suck.” Next to me was a woman lying on the ground, sans heart. I would assume this character was Sharon. It was scary and priceless. We taped the picture on the ceiling of the van, next to the Denny’s menu, and sped away.

On the way out of town, a tornado loomed in the far distance. Many cars had stopped under overpasses; we joined them. When it became apparent that the tornado was moving in the opposite direction of where we were headed, we continued on, driving as fast we could…for the next 700 miles.

The promoter in New Orleans was a friend of a friend that we had become friendly with in the past week, due to our incessant phone calls asking, “Have you found us a drummer yet?” She took in all in stride and assured us that she would find us one.

She failed to mention that the drummer she eventually found would be wearing a denim vest with marching band medals attached to the breast pocket and no shirt underneath, short jeans shorts and beat-up tennis shoes without socks. His name was George Finley. We called him Finfuck.

By the time we got to New Orleans, George had already learned the material from our record and was ready to play. We settled in and practiced for a party in Baton Rouge and our scheduled gig in New Orleans. Both went extremely well. George was a really good drummer, a nice kid and liked to drink. Plus he was willing to uproot his life and go on the road with us for seven weeks.

We left for Mobile, Alabama, early Saturday morning, after our gig at the VFW Hall in New Orleans. George waited curbside in front of his house, wearing the same denim attire that he sported when we met him. We were a little bummed about his fashion choice, but he was a drummer and we assumed his drums would hide his “outfit.” We pulled up to the curb, loaded his drums in the back and headed for Interstate 10. We let George sit in the front since he’d never been out of the state. He was very excited about seeing the Appalachian Mountains. We told him to reserve his excitement for the Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas.

Despite the constant hazing he endured from us—writing in a Sharpie pen all over his body while he slept, sewing his leather jacket to the floor with him in it, piling chairs and other shit on top of him while he slept, etc.—George stayed with us and managed to get “hipsterfied” by the time we crossed the Bay Bridge back to San Francisco, changing his denim vest for a leather vest, the short jeans shorts for knee-high jeans shorts, and dirty tennis shoes for black high-tops. He also adopted a bandana head scarf look a la Brett Michaels of Poison.

George took up residence in San Francisco, toured with us a few times before eventually returning home to New Orleans with a bad drug habit. He took with him many horrible tattoos, a receding hairline and wonderful memories of tall mountains.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

White Dope on Punk: Chapter 15. The Gilman Punk Trial

By Greg Kim
Before he agreed to join our band on tour, Sayer presented us with ten questions. He pulled out a lined piece of paper and read from top to bottom:

1) “Will we sleep in motels?” he asked, more hoping than asking. “No, we’ll either sleep in the van, on the side of the road, a park, at someone’s house, or, if you’re lucky, with somebody from the show,” I said matter-of-factly.

With guarantees ranging from $150 to zero, all the money from playing shows went to gas, food and beer—not necessarily in that order. Sleeping in hotels was a luxury that we didn't enjoy often, although higher paying gigs resulted in the occasional Motel 6 or the rare Super 8.

2) “Will we be able to shower?” he asked longingly. “No, but we will probably swim in the ocean.”

Swimming definitely counted as a shower. Being dirty was part of the look and showers were not encouraged. This question caused some concern.

The best question was saved for last:

10) “Will I be able to get a tan?”

This one was unsettling. We all knew Sayer, but I knew him best and had suggested him to the band, so I had to vouch for his coolness factor. Sayer was definitely cool, could handle his liquor (important) and was a way better musician than us (we were people in bands, not necessarily musicians).

Sayer was a Tom Waits guy. He usually wore a vintage lapel jacket, disheveled button-up shirt, some sort of wrinkled slacks and well worn work boots. He liked whiskey and was prone to carrying a paperback copy of Naked Lunch in his back pocket. It was a good look—just not our look. We wore skinny, torn jeans, flimsy T-shirts, unwashed hair and high-tops—and no one was tan.

Tom, Mel and I looked at each other, not knowing how to answer this question. Finally, Tom said, “Well, there’s a lot of down time, I guess you could lie on top of the van.” It seemed like an appropriate answer; it was definitely hot up there.

Right there, we knew he wouldn’t last in the band, but we desperately needed a drummer to play two shows at Gilman Street on Friday and Saturday—both really good gigs, which we did not want to cancel. We could deal with finding a permanent drummer later, or beg the old drummer to come back.

Gilman Street is a punk/hardcore, non-profit, collective, multi-use club thingy that was built on idealism, dogma and good intentions in 1986. It filled the need for an all-ages venue for touring and local bands. At the time of its inception, I was living in a quickly deteriorating anarchist collective. We knew the people involved with the club and were excited to help out. A bunch of us went to their initial meetings and signed up to help with construction.

On the day that I was scheduled to volunteer, I arrived not knowing what I was going to do. I had helped build-out our warehouse—hammering here, swiping putty there—but all the measuring and angles stuff was left to my working-class roommate Joseph. He had one of those leather belts that held tools, so he was in charge.

Even though I was a sensitive peace punk anarchist vegan, having once started a men’s anarchist group to talk about men’s issues in effort to breakdown patriarchal society, there was still enough man in me to feel a little insecure that I had no construction skills and pretty much no ability to fix anything. My dad was a salesman so our family joke was that we would use the phone (to call someone) to fix everything.

We arrived and there were bunches of older, punk-looking guys with leather belts and a chalky look from hanging drywall. It was a big empty warehouse with double-doors in the front and a concrete floor.

As with all volunteer opportunities, we walked into the fray with look that said, “We’re ready to help. Where are the stamps to lick?” A punk carpenter guy approached us and asked us if we had any skills. By his approach, he was obviously not a volunteer coordinator, who would have made us feel like our contribution to Gilman was equal to overthrowing the state. Joseph ran down his litany of skills and I just said no. Joseph and the guy bonded and I started thinking about feigning illness. Alcohol or a large dose of Paxil would have helped this situation.

With a pasted smile on my face, I tried to interject humor to their conversation. Finally, after throwing out words like “flush” and “plumb,” the punk carpenter mentioned some things that needed to be done. I chose using a jackhammer to destroy the bathroom floor. I was a big guy and figured it would be as easy. The jackhammer was phallic, manly, had an awesome name and was what I needed to show my value. I would make my men’s group proud.

The punk carpenter showed me how the jackhammer worked (squeeze for power, let go to stop), gave me gloves and said, “I assume you don’t have any safety goggles?” Before I could answer, he was walking off toward some construction guys that looked like they were getting paid to do this. They exchanged a few words, turned around and looked at me and then one of them fiddled around in a bag and pulled out some badly scratched safety goggles. He gave them to me and left me to my own devices.

The jackhammer was a lot heavier than expected. I assumed it was light, and cut through the concrete easily. I was wrong. At the first burst of power, the hammer danced crossed floor and crashed, making a spectacular noise. Not waiting around to see the reaction I quickly picked it up and fiddled around with the body, implying that there something wrong with the beast and I was working on fixing it.

One of the professional-looking guys approached me, gently took the jackhammer and gave me some pointers: “Don’t force it; let it guide you; go with the flow. Let it do the work.” He was like the Yoda of construction and lot nicer than the punk carpenter.

Taking his advice, I gently clutched the throttle. As it tapped the ground, I ran with it across the room instead of letting it fall. After a while I got the hang of it. My technique may have been unorthodox and my look awkward (I stuck my ass out and the position of my hands looked like I was getting a manicure), but I started to get it and even enjoyed myself briefly. Jackhammering was quite painful and mind numbing and pretty much the worst physical day of my life, but my stubborn Scottish background persevered and I finished the job, which took hours. I would assume there are some OSHA laws preventing you from using these things for prolonged periods.

That night my body relived every burst of the jackhammer. It felt as if my organs had dislodged from my tendons and muscles and were attempting to leave my body; my hands were balled in fists from desperately gripping the throttle of the jackhammer. I fell asleep and relived that horrible experience in dreams.

After listening to Sayer’s tour questions, we decided to go to the Chatterbox bar in the Mission to talk about him joining the band and his need for tanning. We walked in and were greeted with Johnny Thunders’ autograph in house paint, stretched across a crossbeam. Alfie, the owner of the club, was a big New York Dolls fan. This attracted a lot of Thunders devotees. I think that was the idea.

We were rational people and knew it was completely snobby to judge Sayer on his look, but look was 90 percent of the music and having a Tom Waits/Bukowski looking guy with dirty work boots and a wrinkled wool suit jacket was not gonna work in the long run. Given disheveled versus dirty, we preferred dirty. Like all relationships, we decided to compromise and go into it with a “we’ll see.”

On the day of the show, we picked up Sayer at his dad’s house. While moving his drums in the van, we noticed that on his drum heads the word “Dad” was written in permanent marker. Even for us, this was kind of freaky. The heads were littered with deep indentations from hard hitting. It was assumed that Sayer had issues with his dad.

The show was good and well attended. Sayer knew the songs and played them impeccably—maybe a little too well. As a band, we relied on a little white noise to get us from verse to chorus. We were brought up on a healthy dose of the Replacements’ looseness, so tightness and hearing musical transitions made us uncomfortable. We longed for the sloppiness of our old drummer.

After dropping off Sayer at his flat in the city, we decided to cancel the next evening’s show. No matter how good he was, it just didn’t feel right.

Since we were filling in for a band that had originally left Gilman in a lurch, they were not too happy about us cancelling the day of the show. Tom explained our predicament, but it didn’t hold any weight since we had played there the night before. The club responded with dramatic threats of banishment.

I called Sayer at the same time and, like all breakups, didn’t tell him the whole truth. I said he was too good (first, inflate the ego) and that we were a bunch of scumbags (the equivalent of saying, “I’m not good enough for you.”) He took it well. He probably knew it wasn’t going to work.

That day we decided to drink off our drummer woes at the Oakland Coliseum with Motley Crue, Whitesnake and Poison. We met our friends Lord Jim, Steve Bitch and Insane Jane, a motley crew in their own right, and scalped tickets on 66th Avenue. None of us owned a record of the any of the bands or even particularly liked them; to us it was kitsch—anthropologists studying the hairspray locals. At least that’s what we told ourselves. All of us, except Jane, were making the awkward transition from anarchist punk to civilian life. Some of us found college rock and others got their pop culture fix with hair metal.

Baking in the hot Oakland sun, I laid on my back watching the jumbotron flash: “Take It Off, Take It Off.” Bret Michaels from Poison was leading the chant and the jumbotron followed suit. I surveyed the crowd and, yes, a few girls on the shoulders of tanned boys had taken their shirts off. All was right in the world of arena rock.

Launching into “Talk Dirty to Me,” I jumped to my feet and screamed, “I know this song!” It seemed like an appropriate response for somebody who had only heard the hits from the band. But to the real fans, who surrounded me like a storm, I could visualize the word “Poseur” spilling from their disapproving looks. The effect of pre-show alcohol and marijuana had reared its ugly face and was holding my self-control hostage.

The Crue pranced in from the side of stage, perfectly coiffed, giving the crowd the international metal sign and pointing to the third deck. I had read in Rolling Stone that they did push-ups right before going on stage, to make their biceps a little more attractive and wondered if they were out of breath from just doing a round of reps. They were tanned, their hair flowing and looked like they were about to have the time of their lives.

“Oakland, how you fuckin’ doing?” Vince Neal, lead singer, squealed in that metal voice. It was just the first of many “fuckins” to come. He knew how to work the crowd.

Not to be outdone by Poison and their “Take it off” shtick, Vince, still court-mandated sober for killing Hanoi Rocks’ drummer in an alcohol-related car accident, broke it down in the middle of the set:

“Do you motherfuckers like to party?” The word motherfucker is always a crowd pleaser and gets a positive reaction from even the most lackluster crowd. “I can’t drink, Johnny Law says so, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to party and have a good time [screams from crowd].” The pace of his phrasing sped as he climaxed at “good time.” “Well, my friend Tommy [drummer] likes to drink, oh yeah!” Tommy stood, pointed his drum sticks at the crowd and cupped his left hand behind his ear, while his right hand urged the crowd to make some noise. Giving that open-mouthed look of excitement that only drummers can do, he came out from behind the drums, displaying an outfit consisting entirely of short shorts. He confidently grabbed a bottle of whiskey from Vince’s hand. Vince squealed, “Fuckin' down it, Tommy.” I look at the jumbotron and sure enough, it was flashing “Down It, Tommy.” The crowd chanted “Down it, Tommy,” while he took several large gulps of what was probably tea. He spit the last gulp in the air and returned to his drums.

Vince high kicked over to Nikki (there’s something about tight spandex pants that makes hair metal guys run in an affected manner) and put his arm around him, his clenched fist resting on his torso—a very guy way of showing affection. “Now this motherfucker is crazy.” He handed Nikki the bottle. “Fuckin down it, Nikki!” The crowd went crazy and the jumbotron followed suit.

Vince grabbed the bottle from Nikki and thrust to it to the sky, his extended arm the sole focus of 50k fans. He looked at the half empty bottle and then back at the band: “Fuckin pussies!” Vince gets a laugh from the crowd. Ba-boom!

He walked over to Mick Mars. “Now, you might not know it, but this motherfucker is the craziest of us all.” Mick, looking one-third Elvira, one-third Emily Strange and the rest Uncle Fester with a black wig, grabbed the bottle and took a quick swig, quickly returning the bottle back to Vince. Vince looked a little annoyed and confused, not knowing what to do. While the jumbotron flashed, “Down it, Mick,” Vince ran offstage and gave the bottle to a roadie. Eventually the jumbotron stopped flashing. Mick had blown the end of the Jack Daniels bit. Pure performance art! Back to the rock.

I returned to lying down—drunk, high, dehydrated and sunburned—and watched my friends painfully move closer and closer to each other for a drunken hookup.

The next morning, my roommate Ramin knocks on my door: “Brotha, I went to Gilman Street last night and there was a sign on the door that said Short Dogs cancelled because they went to Motley Crue at the Coliseum.” My heart sank. In the world of Gilman Street, this was unconscionable. I'm pretty sure it was even listed in their rule book: "Thou shall not go to the Crue!” I called the other members of the band and alerted them about the sign on the door. The general consensus was “Fuck ’em!”

Word trickled down that we were banned from Gilman, but we would be given a trial to explain our version of why we cancelled the show. It was very PC and very Gilman.

The band decided that only one of us should attend the trial. Since I was versed in the vernacular of revolution, was still vegan and had straight edge credentials for once having lunch with Ian MacKaye, it was obvious that I should attend.

On the day of the trial, I gave careful consideration to my appearance. I dressed for the part in my cloth shoes and anarchist Haymarket Gathering T-shirt. On the way out, I paused and considered putting two large Xs on the tops of my hands, but I figured it would be obvious that I was pandering to the crowd. I grabbed my Powell Peralta skateboard and caught the bus down San Pablo. A skateboard was a necessary accoutrement for this occasion and a nice seat instead of the cold floor of Gilman.

Much to my dismay, it wasn’t a trial but a general meeting with an agenda. I was last on the agenda. We sat in a large circle—most of us on our skateboards—in front of the stage. There were friendly, familiar faces in the crowd: Fat Mike, my friend Jerry, and lots of the Maximum Rock-n-Roll crowd. Some were avoiding me and others were oblivious as to why I was there.

When my turn came around, I did my best to downplay the Motley Crue part of the story and accentuate the new drummer not working out part. At first, they tried to be civil, but they just couldn’t get over us seeing Motley Crue and Poison instead of playing the show. No matter how many times I said, “We went to the Coliseum after we cancelled. We could’ve very well gone to get burritos and it would’ve been the same thing.” Despite my attempt at logic, I knew it had nothing to do with us cancelling and all about us going to an unapproved rock concert. It wasn’t punk rock. They had me.

They voted to ban the band, which I also took as a personal ban. I grabbed my skateboard, never to return to Gilman Street again.

Monday, April 11, 2011

White Dope on Punk: Chapter 14. White Punks on Hope

By Greg Kim

Ali was a British Crass-type punk—definitely not American looking. She based her look off bands like Conflict, the Exploited, GBH, etc. It was a street punk look that’s still in vogue today amongst homeless punk runaways and vegan junkies. When you met her, you wondered why her name wasn’t Spike or Spit or something punk like that. She was just Ali.

Ali’s hair was always dyed in some fuck-with-me color and cut into a Mohawk or spiked six inches in the form of liberty spikes (named after the Statue of Liberty). She wore a leather jacket with hundreds of cone studs attached to both sleeves, giving it a textural, robotic look. When she moved or took off the jacket, the cones rubbed together loudly. Amoeba-shaped leopard print patches were arbitrarily sewn on the jacket, like they had fallen off a tree and permanently landed on her leather. Cracked blue and red paint adorned free space in the front and the back of the jacket. Written on the lower back of her jacket was “White Punks on Hope,” a play on words from an old Tubes song and an announcement that she was a political punk. Her pants were always plaid or black bondage pants; Doc Martens never left her feet.

Like Brian Adams, her adolescent years—I assume—were not good to her. Her cheeks were riddled with deep pockmarks and her skin appeared almost grayish, like she was on medication for a liver problem. It was something you noticed about her right away. To combat this, she wore lots of makeup, including heavy mascara to draw attention to her eyes and away from her ashen cheeks.

What intrigued me most about Ali was her car: a BMW, which she concealed from most people, especially her punk friends. San Francisco is filled with slumming punks and she may have been one of them.

Ali was a frequent visitor to our warehouse and supported our stringent anarchist views. Not many people could deal with us because we had such a strong sense of right and wrong. Many nights, she and her friend Judy (a blond version of her) would visit and stay late, eating fried potatoes and listening to music. This night she was there to see a band. Our neighbors rented another space in the warehouse to put on shows on the weekends. Somehow they managed to get good bands like the Meat Puppets, Soul Asylum and Beefeater to play, along with countless hardcore shows. Since we were anarchist snobs, we didn't always make the scene. We were too busy burning ATMs, spray painting walls and writing “comrades” across the globe to shuffle our cloth china flats downstairs. On this night, though, we had just got back from Santa Cruz. It was 1986, my 22nd birthday, and it was customary to make the sojourn south to Santa Cruz for all of our birthdays. At the time, it was the only place in the Bay Area that sold vegan pizza.

Ali Punk Rock knocked on our door and told us there was a good band playing next door and that we should come down. We obliged and made our way to the downstairs hallway, across the makeshift bridge of two-by-fours and out the knobless door into complete darkness that led to where the band was playing. This is what not paying rent will get you.

As we watched the band, Ali said she had two tickets to see Aerosmith at the Cow Palace and asked if I wanted to go for my birthday. Having been a big Aerosmith fan in my youth, I accepted and off we went across the bridge, careful not to let anyone know where we were going. Aerosmith was definitely not anarchy; however, all of us had bands in our closets that we listened to on the sly. Even bands like Black Flag were considered sexist and not appropriate to our beliefs.

The early 80s were a dark time for Aerosmith. Steve Tyler was in the throes of heroin addiction and Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, founding members, were long gone, pursuing failed musical projects.

As expected, the show was horrible. Half the seats were filled and the people who did attend mirrored the ragged bunch they had paid 30 bucks to see, but I was happy to be away from the warehouse. It was my birthday and seeing Aerosmith conjured memories of Creem magazine and Days on the Green.

During the encore, they played a new song called “Angel.” This was the first of many soft rock, over emotional ballads Aerosmith would churn out in the next two decades; although this one never became that big of a hit. As the piano started, a giant neon “A” (for Aerosmith) lowered from behind the stage. Of course, “A” was my favorite letter; I even referred to myself as an “A,” short for Anarchist.

Perched behind Steven Tyler’s head, the “A” was like a full moon. I raised my hand in the air, touching my thumb to my ring finger, forming a circle. I lowered my hand a few inches in front of my squinting right eye and circled the giant “A” on the stage. Since the circled "A" is the symbol for Anarchy, I believed that every “A” should be circled. All around me, people were holding up Bic lighters. Ali looked at me and wondered what I was doing. I chose to say nothing, keeping my outreached hand extended. It was my own personal not-so joke. I was a very serious young man.

We drove back over the bridge listening to Flux of Pink Indians, transitioning from has-been arena rock back to warehouse punk. Appreciative that Ali took me to the show, I invited her up to our space. Christ on Parade was playing across the hall and we peeked in to watch a few songs. Having seen them hundreds of times, I suggested that we leave and see what my roommates were doing. On the nights of shows, our place served as sort of a backstage or VIP lounge for our friends and the anarchy intelligentsia. Our warehouse had an air of mystery and clout, which people gravitated toward. For a Pleasanton punk, I had hit the big time.

We found Judy, who we left at the gig, and went upstairs. As expected, everybody was in our living room listening to music and eating bland vegan food; some were drinking beer. Some of us were straight edge, which caused a rift in the house.

As the night wore on, everybody left except Ali and Judy. Ali was making noise about being tired and wanted to stay over. Judy was whining about having things to do tomorrow and was lobbying for a ride back to SF. Some friends were up from LA and were sleeping in the living room, so space was tight.

Our version of punk treaded a fine line between punk and hippie. On one hand, we dressed the punk part and listened to punk/anarchist music; on the other hand, we were vegans, stunk like shit and were prone to nakedness. The only thing that kept us on the right side was our severe lack of pacifism and lack of rooftop garden. However, we were a collective and had a hippie ethos of welcoming comrades to our home, so there was no way I could tell Ali there was no vacancy.

What I was most afraid of was where they’d be sleeping. If they were staying, I knew it would be in my bed, so I did my best to convince them of the rats that came out at night and the shoddy state of bedding. Ali was not fazed and suggested, “Why don’t we stay in your room?” Ugh.

Since we didn’t pay rent, we had frequent visitors who slept with us in our beds, and she knew this—I couldn’t say no. The anarchy god would not allow it. I reluctantly agreed and quickly walked to my bedroom to get a bed position next to the exposed wall.

Ali and Judy were not big girls; at least I thought they weren’t. It was hard to tell with their big leather jackets, boots and many layers of clothing. They could have been waifs, but you wouldn’t know it.

By the time they got to my room, I was already in bed. I was wearing turquoise thermals, with a large hole in the back of the lower thigh, and one T-shirt—having taken off two others. With only one shirt on, the smell from the lack of bathing was strong. The covers were pulled up to my chest and I was feigning sleep.

I barely knew Judy so I was hoping that Ali would take the middle position, even though I kind of got the feeling that Ali wanted more than sleep. I wasn’t attracted to either of them and didn’t have any fantasy of having a three way; however, I was a boy and like all boys could be a dick-for-brains at times, so I had no idea of what was going to happen. I was extremely nervous and pulled the covers to my neck to hide sudden bursts of shivers.

As they took off their leather jackets and boots, I jumped out of bed and went to the bathroom. The anxiety of what might happen gave me the runs.

I returned and both were lying down, facing the door. Their boots and shoes were in a nice pile on the floor, side by side, and Judy was doing a poor job feigning sleep. I felt bad for her. She didn’t want to be in this situation, but had no choice. Ali, on the other hand, was wide awake and chatting up a storm.

I climbed on the loft bed and jumped over Ali and reclaim my position by the wall. Ali, knowing my intentions, leaned back, touching the wall. I had no place to go except the middle. I pulled the covers back and reluctantly took the middle position. It was like a punk rock sandwich and I was the vegan meat. I reached up and flipped off the shop light that was clutching an exposed two-by-six. Darkness.

Ali and I lied facing the wall and Judy faced the door. There were no windows in the room and the darkness was complete. I’m sure they could feel my heart beating. Finally it happened. Ali rustled a bit and I felt her hand on my hip. This could be harmless as we all were vying for space in the crowded twin bed or my hip could be a launching pad for deeper exploration. I decided to wait it out while the nervous shivers returned.

Like a long-legged spider, her hand moseyed down my hip, giving lots of warning of where she was headed. I braced for the touch and my penis preemptively responded, knowing what was about to happen. I’m sure Judy could tell that Ali was making her move and she was petrified that she could either get involved in this or have to lay there while Ali and I quietly humped beside her.

She fondled my penis, which was erect—not helping the situation, while the rest of my body stood motionless. It was very non-sexual and felt weird. I stood motionless, hoping she would stop. After what seemed like ten minutes, she stopped and turned over in a huff, facing the wall. Judy let out a sigh of relief; Ali responded with another hmphh!

The next morning, Ali’s knee was touching my back, the weight of her body moving across me. She made no effort to quietly get out of bed. I laid still and clandestinely watched them put on their clothes, pulling my pillow close to my face. And I spread out, taking advantage of a bigger bed.

They laced their 18-eyelet boots, adjusted their leather jackets and reconnected the bondage straps to their pants. It was very militaristic and fascinating, like watching a cop put on his uniform.

Eventually Ali gave up the San Francisco Punk Rock dream and moved back to Florida with her parents. By the time she moved, we hadn’t seen each other in a while. I only learned of this information through mutual friends.

A few years later, when touring through Miami with the band, I called her and asked if we could crash at her place. She said no problem, not divulging that she still lived with her parents.

The night of the show, she met us at the club. It was good to see her. Because of the hot Florida weather, she was forced to tone down her look a bit. She was wearing black jeans, a single black T-shirt, and creepers. Her hair, no longer spiked, was shoulder length and unruly.

After the show we followed her home. She still had her BMW. Luckily, her parents were out of town. There were many times on the road when people invited us back to their house to sleep. More often than not, you would drive a long, long way out of town, arriving at a suburban house. Once you got there it was pretty easy to deduce that this dirt punk that was offering you sleeping arrangements didn’t live by himself. They would explain that their parents probably wouldn’t mind if we spent the night. Mornings were always awkward and short. Because of this, we started asking invitees if they lived with their parents. If they did, it was always better to sleep in the van. A main part of after-show activities was finding somewhere to sleep.

Ali’s parents’ house was everything you would think a Florida ranch home would look like: colorful, expensive carpet, Hollywood regency décor and a perfect temperature of 72, to combat the humidity. We were in heaven. Luxury like this was rare and, by the size of the house, we could each look forward to our own bed.

We came in and sat around the kitchen table, talking about San Francisco and the good ol’ days. As we talked I kept thinking about the sleeping arrangements and it kind of worried me. I was tired and needed sleep and wasn’t looking forward to another “reach around.” We had traveled from Gainesville that day and were expected in Pensacola by 6 pm for sound check the next day, so we needed to get up early.

The conversation eventually petered out and Ali led us led us down a long hallway, where every door was closed. In the clean, sterile house, we looked extremely filthy, which made us self-conscious. Ali had to be thinking the same thing and worrying that we were somehow going to irreparably dirty the house. As each door passed and she didn’t stop, it was becoming evident that she was leading us to a rec room or the garage. Finally she opened the last door on the left, revealing the master bedroom with a king sized bed. A thin, cotton comforter covered the mattress. If we all slept sideways, it was big enough to accommodate all four of us. Ali held the door as we filed past her, the light from the hallway flooding into the dark room. We stood in the middle of the room and waited for instructions.

“You can sleep on the floor, ok?” That was it. No “Greg, you come with me,” or “Feel free to sleep on the bed.” Nothing. She left the door ajar and went to her bedroom.

That night we all took up positions around the bed. If we couldn’t sleep on the bed, at least we were going to be near it and touch it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

White Dope on Punk: Chapter 13. Spot Skips School, Seeks Stardom

By Greg Kim
Ali Punk Rock – that’s what we called her - was waiting for me. I jumped off Muni and we walked toward the Quad at San Francisco State. It was early and the campus was bustling with students arriving for class. The pervasive fog formed a low ceiling, casting a white blanket into the far corners of the rectangular buildings. We were both students and had planned an action to coincide with other protests throughout the city. Ali looked exactly like the last hundred times I saw her: punk as fuck. We called people like this PFL—Punk for Life! They found a look and were sticking with it until death.

Inside the Student Union, we found a table against the wall, in a corner. A smattering of students speckled the abundant tables, books open, feverishly cramming before their 9 am classes. The lights were dimmed to give it a nightclub feel, a respite from the normal academic environment. It was a good place to discuss clandestine information.

Ali placed her backpack on the round table. Inside there was a plastic bag from the Canned Food Warehouse, a discount grocer where all canned products appeared to have fallen off a truck. Inside the bag were two badly dented cans of creamed corn. She opened the bag just enough where I could see them. A while back we decided that creamed corn was most consistent with vomit and that’s what we were looking for. She closed the backpack and dropped it at her feet.

I grabbed my satchel, a heavy black denim bag, and placed it where Ali’s bag had been. With the opening toward Ali, I revealed two cans of spray paint: black and red. The colors of revolution!

This was my last day at State. My bad student tendencies hadn’t changed and I was way too interested in extracurricular activities like music, specifically my band Short Dogs Grow, to study. The band was doing well; we had just put out a record and we were going on tour. Why stay in school? The two classes that I was still attending were falling apart and it was only a matter of time before I said “fuck it” or got kicked out of the class. I had a history of challenging teachers or shouting down other students, when I felt I just couldn’t take it anymore and I could feel that urge knocking at the door again.

A week prior in my Ethics class, I answered the door:

The teacher was asking us our thoughts on certain actions and if we thought they were a crime or not.

“OK, murder? Do you think it’s a crime?” he said, grabbing a piece of chalk. On a portable blackboard, in tiny letters, he wrote the word murder in all lowercase letters. Being that this was the first question in a series of many, all of us thought it was a trick question. We looked around, afraid to answer. It was obvious that it is a crime but in the back of our heads we figured the response to our answer could be: “Well, you know, in certain cultures murder is considered virtuous and a rite of passage.” The teacher was wearing a wool jacket with elbow patches that gave him kind of an Ivy League look, a look that said, “Don’t fuck with me, Kids, I went to Princeton and got a minor in Ethnic Studies.” A brave soul finally said, “Yeah, it’s a crime.” He put a small check mark next to murder.

From there it went on to Rape. Check. Kidnapping. Check. Bank Robbery. Check. Check. Check.

When we got down to “Litter, Jaywalking and Adultery” I raised my hand. Up to now, the class seemed like common sense, right or wrong answers to simple questions. Any idiot would know the difference. I had had enough and a semester's worth of boredom and frustration was about to be addressed.

“Yeah.” I always like to start out with “yeah.” It buys me some time, if I want to change my mind. “You know, isn’t this all common sense? Doesn’t everybody know that murder —killing another person—is wrong? And for that matter, kidnapping and every other crime?" I paused, silence. The teacher stood there, staring at me. Most of the class bowed their heads, not wanting to get involved; the other students were wide-eyed with anticipation. Filling the air, I continued and made it worse: “Furthermore, hasn’t this whole class just been common sense? Come on!” I stopped. Silence again. I was careful not to take my eyes off of him, while he stared me down. If I did, he would have me. His look was a mixture of shock and hatred.

Finally, he moved, grabbing his bag and said, “If you’re so smart, why don’t you teach the class?” It was a classic line—a cliché at best. On his way out the door, he paused and looked at me, waiting for a response. I shook my head and mouthed, “Come on, man. Give me a break.”

After five minutes, it was obvious that he wasn’t coming back. I grabbed my bag and went straight to the registrar's office and demanded to be withdrawn from the class, even when it was way past the withdraw deadline. I claimed that teacher could not fairly grade me after our incident. They agreed. I saw the teacher a few months later at the grocery store. Suffice to say, it was awkward.

My other fledgling class was some Chilean-1973-Noriega-Falklands-Bautista-Cuba-Che-Allende-Noriega hybrid class. It was very San Francisco State. It was taught by a visiting professor that wrote a book on the subject, which, of course, we were using as the text. The book was dry, intellectual and, I thought, unreadable. I’m sure many students ate it up.

The teacher was bearded, and I assumed bearded greats like Fidel Castro and Karl Marks were his inspiration. He had that exotic, revolutionary vibe; he wore tight button-up shirts and was prone to not using all of the buttons. And he was always a little sweaty. If ever got close to him, it was sure thing that he was smelly.

The students were a mishmash of opinionated, dogmatic lefty types, so his open shirt and liberal use of sexist language didn’t bode well with the feminists, or the feminist sympathizers like me and the other “empathetic” men in the class. Because of this, he was shouted down many times and there multiple dramatic exits from students, yelling, “Sexist pig!” The drama was about the only thing I liked about the class. Since there were many people like me who were prone to attacking the teacher, I let them do the dirty work. Coinciding with my Ethics outburst, I decided to stop attending this class too.

My last obligation to SF State was not a class, but a group that I was part of. At the beginning of the semester I posted flyers around campus advertising for students who were interested in Animal Rights. I posted a date, time and place to meet to discuss forming a student group around this issue. The flyer had a small caricature of a punk (the Circle Jerks punk) spray painting ALF (Animal Liberation Front) on a brick all. Back then, it was always a brick wall.

One person attended the initial meeting—her name was Jean. We sat around and waited for others to show, but nobody did. We talked and decided to form an animal rights group on campus, even if it was just her and I. I had already given some thought on a name and suggested SCAR—Students Concerned for Animal Rights. It was aggressive and, I thought, it represented direct action. And, it was called SCAR.

Jean and I were very different. She dressed in nice clothes, had long, straight blond hair and was very innocuous looking. She was one of the first “straight” people I met, who wasn’t punk but had somewhat radical views, specifically when it came to animal rights. She wouldn’t liberate animals, but she would provide the tools and write the press release. I was a brick thrower and she was a letter writer, but we found common ground.

To become a recognized group on campus you had to get a teacher to sponsor you and have a president and vice president. I found a sympathetic Health teacher, but the president issue was a big deal. Jean didn’t want to do it and I couldn’t do it because of my anti-authoritarian, anarchist beliefs. Eventually, we settled on both of us being vice president and made up a fictitious name for president.

Now that we had a fancy name, which was bound to attract new members, we scheduled another meeting. We posted flyers and encouraged “all to attend.” The night of the meeting I picked up Jean at her Clement Street apartment. She opened the passenger side door and stopped.

With a look of disgust, she said, “What’s this,” gesturing toward the lush sheep skin seat cover. I had seen the pictures of sheep, spread-eagled on a torture-type device, when being shaved for wool; however, when I received the seat cover for Christmas I hadn’t put the two together. It was soft, cuddly and would cover my gross passenger seat.

She refused to get in the car until I took it off. I quickly unclasped the back and threw it into the back seat. The ride down Sunset Avenue to State was long and quiet. I tried damage control, explaining that it was a gift and that I’d never purchase something that came from an animal, but it was futile. Right there our friendship was over.

At the meeting, there were a few new faces, which helped defuse the sheep incident. However, we soon realized they took the “all to attend” part literally and they were there to debate us. Plus, they were rather angry.

We held our own—arguing computer modeling, moral obligation and that most tests were trivial. They ripped into us. There were more of them and countered that the benefits of animal testing outweighed the moral issues. Looking us up and down for any signs of animal products that we wearing, they called us hypocrites. One of them said his mother had cancer and that if experimenting on animals would help his mother, he was for it. How do you argue with that? Fuckin’ great. We lost.

That was the last SCAR meeting. The sheep incident and debate defeat were hurdles too big to overcome. Jean and I went our separate ways. As far as I know, SCAR may still be on the books at SF State.

All these factors led up to this moment of me and Ali Punk Rock sitting at a table with two cans of creamed corn and two cans of spray paint in the Student Union.

We left and walked north to the Psychology building. There were unconfirmed rumors that they were experimenting on animals on the fifth floor. We took these rumors as truth.

Entering the double doors, I pushed the elevator button. On the fifth floor, Ali stayed with the elevator, holding it until I was done. Walking down the hallway, I glanced through the glass window doors, looking for students and teachers. The floor appeared to be empty. I took out the spray paint and wrote “Meat is Murder” and “ALF” on the walls, while slowing walking back to Ali. Alternating between black and red, I ran a continuous line of paint, slogans and just pure wanton graffiti. I reached Ali and the open elevator door and we were off.

Once out of the building, I ditched the spray paint in a trash can. We walked briskly to our next stop—the building that housed the office of the ROTC. I went into the bathroom to wash the remnants of paint off my hands. Pulling out a small container of turpentine, I scrubbed the red and black paint from my fingertips. I walked back outside and disposed of the turpentine container in the trash. We were careful to discard everything that linked us to the spray-painted Psychology building. Back inside the ROTC building, Ali was waiting. We huddled together and reiterated our plan. I pulled the two cans of creamed corn out of Ali’s backpack and held them as she used a can-opener to peel back the lids.

We burst into the ROTC office, a square room with two large wooden desks, one occupied by a man in uniform—a Marine I think. He rose as we pantomimed throwing up, gagging, holding the cans close to our mouths as we sprayed creamed corn over the walls and floor. When the cans were emptied, we fell to the ground in a dramatic die-in. We lay on the ground and watched large splats of creamed corn drip down the walls.

The Marine calmly got up and walked to the front of his desk, where we were laid out on the ground, eyes closed, bags at our side. We were giggling from nerves. He walked back to his desk, sat down and called security. Something told me that incidents like this were a regular occurrence at the ROTC.

Security came, stopped at the door and hovered. They asked us a few questions but we didn’t respond. Knowing that we’d eventually leave, they left. Cops have learned the hard way that sometimes it’s better to just sit back and watch or have no presence at all instead of engaging. Dragging us out kicking and screaming wouldn’t have been good for anybody.

Right behind them was a student photographer for the school newspaper. She tried to talk to us too but we gave her the same silent treatment. After taking a few pictures, she left.

It had been a long day for me. I had gotten up early and was very tired, so I took this opportunity to take a nap. It appeared that Ali was napping too. After two hours, I looked at Ali and nodded. We both got up and bolted out the door. And that was it. Nobody was in the hallway or waiting for us out front. We went out the back door and disappeared in the darkness. That was my last day at SF State.

The next week Ali called and said that we were on the cover of the Golden Gator, SF State’s weekly newspaper. She brought over a few copies. On the front page was a big picture of Ali and me lying in front of a big wooden desk in the ROTC office. Behind the desk, a Marine was writing dutifully in a ledger. The juxtaposition of us and him was great. We were very proud.

Coincidentally, I also appeared in another article of that Golden Gator. A few weeks prior our friend Mitzi had interviewed my band. She had got wind that two of us SF State students were quitting school to go on tour. There was a big picture of the band and a half-page article, and the headline read “Spot Skips School, Seeks Stardom.” It was a fitting end to my college career and my transition from anarchy to rock.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

White Dope on Punk: Chapter 12. Fridge Left, Bathroom Right

By Greg Kim
(I read this last weekend at Lip Service West)

Towards the end of my anarchy/vegan/warehouse days, when people had fallen into drug use, drinking and, God forbid, college rock, I invited my high school friend Eileen to live with us. Joseph, or King Anarchy as we called him because he was the most responsible of the group and the most dogmatic, had moved out in a huff due to our lack of commitment to the cause and a problem with a phone bill. Somehow it’s always an unpaid bill that breaks up friendships. We had only four months left on our lease before we were legally evicted, so it didn’t really matter that Eileen 1) had a penchant for dried flowers and Stevie Nicks; and 2) was only a vegetarian. We compromised our pristine values and invited her into Joseph’s old, windowless room.

One week after she moved in, I left to go on tour. My roommates, Amir and Frank, knew Eileen and were happy to have a female presence in the house. Despite our feminist stance (“I know how you feel”), we were all closer to being adolescent dicks-for-brains than men in our 30s, so a pretty, blond hair California girl was a welcome presence. Even if she did eat dairy.

Before I left, I warned them to pay all the bills and to answer the record label mail. We hadn’t paid rent in 30 months, but we still managed to keep the lights and phone on by paying the bills. With Joseph’s departure, I became the defacto leader, or the most responsible one of the bunch.

When the tour ended, I came home—dirty, tired and hungry. They were happy see to me and within a day or so things were back to normal: late night fried potatoes, breaking windows and spray painting. We were back in the anarchy groove.

Late one Friday night, while Amir and I were responding to the backlog of label mail at the dining room table, we heard the front door open. It was around 3am—not an unusual time for us to be up working—and we assumed it was Eileen. Unlike us, Eileen went out with friends, got drunk and stayed out late.

The trap door to the kitchen creaked open and slammed shut. We heard the natural rustling of cupboard doors opening and closing, looking for a late night snack. We figured she was making a sandwich or heating up some bland veggie pasta.

She hadn’t come in and said hello, which was odd. Eileen was very outgoing and friendly. Amir and I went back to answering the label mail from like-minded peace punks across the world, ending most correspondence with the inspiring “Keep Fighting,” the sophisticated “In Revolution” or the embarrassing “Uhuru!”

Then I heard something that sounded like water, falling water. I jumped up, startling Amir, and found Eileen with her pants down, ass in the refrigerator with the crisper drawer pulled out, peeing. Standing in the doorway, more concerned than appalled, I said, “Are you alright, Eileen?” The blank look on her face scared me. “Eileen, are you alright!” I said with more force.

Like suddenly being woken up in the middle of the night by a fire alarm, she jumped up, looked around and wondered why her bare ass was halfway in the refrigerator. She quickly pulled up her wet pants and ran past me, down the stairs and out the door.

Amir joined me in the kitchen. “Brotha? Is she OK?” Amir was one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet, although this didn’t stop him from breaking windows, spray painting and burning things. He just did it in a nice way and was always laughing. He came to America from Iran in 1979, had problems with plurals (“Brothers, I got new pair of shoe!”) and hated police, specifically BART police, the transit police who patrolled the rail system in the Bay Area. His family was very conservative, living in a high-rise condo in the next town. They disapproved of his behavior and his friends. Then again, pretty much all of our families frowned on our choices.

“Brother, did she pee in the fridge?” Amir asked incredulously.

“Sure looks like it,” I said. I was still a bit stunned and not sure what happened. I was almost sure that she had drunk too much, drove home and blacked out somewhere in between. The anarchist side of me, the sensitive side, in tune with women’s issues, thought that maybe she might have been assaulted and this was a result of the assault. Of course, I was completely wrong, but it made me feel important to show empathy for the oppressed, even if it was my white roommate from Pleasanton.

Amir and I did our best to clean it up. Lacking any real cleaning supplies, we used an old T-shirt as a rag. Luckily the majority of her urine formed a rather large puddle in the bottom of the crisper. There was an old head of lettuce bathing in the diluted, pale yellow urine—a tell-tale color of a night’s drinking. The rest of the pee splashed on the front of crisper, forming a trail to where the trap door and concrete floor met, falling about six feet to the bottom of the stairs and then to the hallway. She had a lot of pee in her.

We dumped the pee in the crisper in the toilet and wiped up the floors, fridge and stairs with the T-shirt, rinsing it with water in the sink every so often. It wasn’t spotless, but neither were we so it didn’t really matter.

The next day I called Eileen’s mom’s house. I figured she was hiding out there until the pee incident blew over. But she knew that I lived for moments like this and it would never be over; although, she knew that I really didn’t care either. It would just be another story that I would bring up years from now.

The phone rang multiple times and eventually went to voicemail. I left a message: “Eileen, this Greg. It’s no big deal, we all pee in the fridge every once in a while. Come on back, nobody cares.”

Eileen returned late Sunday evening with a grocery bag full of food and made a point of divulging that she watched "The Simpsons" with her mother. TV was unacceptable in our household, it was considered brainwashing and she knew it, so it was odd that she mentioned it. She almost appeared defiant, like she was testing us.

She shrugged and apologized for peeing in the fridge: “Watcha gonna do?” There really was no right answer to explain peeing in a fridge. It was new, untested ground.

That night Eileen cooked Mexican food for us: corn tortillas, lardless beans, veggie rice, avocadoes and sour cream. Both Frank and Amir looked at me when Eileen got up from the table and mouthed sour cream. None of us touched it, even though the thought of having a large dollop was enticing. Sour cream of course contained dairy and dairy came from cows and that was a big no-no. Our warehouse was completely void of animal products of any kind. She was testing us.

Since she had just peed in the fridge, we gave her a break by not saying anything. We cleaned up and she nonchalantly put the leftovers in the fridge. She never asked if the fridge was clean.

A thick wall of 18 inches divided the kitchen and bathroom. I had posted a sign on the wall that said “Fridge Left, Bathroom Right.” Closing the fridge, she noticed it. She looked at me, shaking her head and said, “Fuck off.” We all laughed.

Later that week, Frank and Amir approached me and said they were really upset about the sour cream in the fridge. They mentioned nothing of peeing in the fridge. We came to an agreement that I would ask Eileen to leave for bringing dairy into the house.

The next day I pulled Eileen aside and told her we were upset about the dairy and that she needed to find a new place by the end of the month. She took it well and moved out without making a fuss. Eileen and I remain good friends and she doesn't hold a grudge for her eviction, but I still make a point of reminding her which one is the bathroom and which one is the fridge whenever I get a chance.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

White Dope on Punk: Chapter 11. Avenging the Haymarket Martyrs

By Greg Kim
2500 miles away in Philadelphia, Jimmy Page was butchering "Whole Lotta Love." His “G” string was flat, which made every stroke of the guitar uncomfortable to watch and hear. He wore an oversized button-up shirt, flowing white high-waisted pants and a white scarf that got in his way—he looked a little like a skinny Gonzo from the Muppets. Zeppelin was finishing up their set at Live Aid. The event would eventually raise 84 million dollars for starvation in Africa.


On the West Coast at the Club Foot, my band was playing a benefit for the first Haymarket Anarchist Gathering in Chicago. It was a coincidence that both gigs fell on the same day, but we took full advantage of letting people know that Live Aid—or as we called it, Band Aid—was all about the entertainers’ careers and nothing about helping people. People seemed to buy it.

I was wearing a black peacoat, cloth china flats, which had holes where my big toes met the fabric, and the standard black pants. I utilized a pink tube top to pull back my dreads into a nice ponytail. This was as fancy as I got, and friends commented that I looked nice. The darkness and the nice cut of the jacket had something to do with the compliments. In the right light, I almost looked ethnic because of the tube top. The pink tube top was my flair and looked down upon by some friends. The anarchist scene had a uniform and pink tube tops were not standard issue.

As was customary with Anarchist Peace Punk events, we set up an information table to peddle our ideas: animal rights, women's rights, anarchism, music, etc. The other bands—Trial, Atrocity, PLH and Sleeping Dogs—all had tables, too. Most of our products were free. If they did cost money, the price was printed on the record or pamphlet, so the consumer couldn’t get ripped off by the retailer. This was a customary practice of all Peace Punk bands: Pay No More Than $2.00! To help defer printing costs of the free material, we hung a small sign from our table that said “Donations Excepted.”

One of the guys from Trial, who hailed from Berkeley and probably had some academic pedigree in his family, told us it was “Donations Accepted” not “Donations Excepted.” For some people, this may have been benchmark moment, sending them running back to school; however, I don’t believe any of us really got what he was talking about, so there was more confusion on our faces instead of enlightenment. We changed the sign to “Donations Acceppted.” The Trial guy didn’t have the heart to correct our spelling. It was the thought that counted. This was indicative of our brand of anarchism. If you pressed us on our knowledge of Anarchism, eventually it would end with: “I didn’t learn how to throw a brick from some dumb Anarchist book.” We were doers, not readers. To us, it was about the freedom to fuck things up and a little about theory!

When it was our turn to play, we set up our banners on the wall behind the stage: “The Urge to Destroy Is a Creative Urge" (Bakunin) and “Destroy Power, Not People" (Crass). We talked revolution and the Haymarket martyrs and how their deaths would be avenged (even though they had been dead for 100 years). Our music was loud and discordant, but despite this, most people sat down and listened intently to the lyrics, as was customary with these events. It was mostly a very peaceful scene of young people, not many over 25 years old.

As we launched into ”Take Action,” our anti-music anthem preaching direct action over letter writing, one the banners (The Urge to Destroy…) behind me dislodged and partially covered me and my drums. I continued playing, despite the hindrance, until the song was over. Anybody with a sense of humor would have to think that the banner was trying to stop us from playing. But we played through it, expressionless. We really were a god-awful band. In some ways that was the point. Or at least that's what we told each other.

That night, I met a woman named Rachel. She was young, a senior at Berkeley High. We talked, got along and I asked her if she wanted to come over to our warehouse and have dinner with us. “Us” was me and my roommates. Our warehouse had some cachet in the peace punk scene, so I assume the warehouse was as much of a draw for her as any attraction to me.

Having Rachel over for dinner was a big deal. Joseph was the only one that had girlfriends and guys outnumbered girls in the punk scene 10 to 1. In the peace punk scene, where not adhering to veganism and anarchism were deal breakers, the ratio went up to 20 to 1, so when somebody new appeared who met our standards, we took notice and started acting our age again. Girls trump Anarchism, in the end.

On the day of the date, Ramin, Jeff and I made a big pot of spaghetti and red sauce. This was my idea. When I met Rachel, I didn’t look myself. I was put together, my dreads pulled into a cohesive stalk. This image was far from who I was and I wanted her to see the real me when she came over. Like the spaghetti, my clothes were calculated. I wore cut-off pajama bottoms, a few ripped shirts and kept my dreads down. My dreads were not fashion dreads. They clumped together forming branch-like patterns and cow patty clods. They weren’t pretty. (A few years later, I was prompted to cut my dreads when the owner of a Laundromat mistook me as homeless and offered me clothes left by customers—that and all the Berkeley Rastas saying “Hey Mon!” when addressing me.)

Instead of buying Rachel flowers, I went to the Co-Op and bought her a nice bunch of carrots, the kind with a bouquet of greenery. I thought this was creative and went well with our vegan vibe.

Rachel looked the part: black jacket, black jeans and cloth shoes. I wonder if she gave some thought to what she was wearing. She was younger in the daylight and, like all the Berkeley Peace Punks, had an air of sophistication. Most of them had parents who were academics or at least hippie parents that took them to the Museum of Modern Art instead of the Water Slides on the weekends.

Whereas many of these kids bordered on arrogant, Rachel was friendly, smart and not pretentious at all. I gave her the carrots and she blushed, not knowing how to respond (as if anybody would). I filled up an old spaghetti sauce jar with water and placed the carrots in it like flowers.

The spaghetti was bland and the talk was of revolution through violence, which we thought was imminent. Even though she may have agreed with us, our statements were made to differentiate ourselves from her and to alienate. We knew we were in a bubble and relished our standing. And through extremist talk about revolution, we constantly reaffirmed who we were. Without it, we were poor and lost.

She told us that she was going to Sarah Lawrence in the fall. All of us responded, “What or who is that?” College was something we dabbled in, but never took seriously. We would start a class and then drop out.

When conversation turned to college and the future, we deferred to her and grew silent, our differences becoming apparent, waking our deep-seated insecurities. Even though we were strong in our beliefs, deep down we knew that what we were doing wouldn’t last. Our future was either jail, change or, worse, being a 40-year-old anarchist. When people talked about a future that involved change and a life outside of the present, it made us rethink our future and what we were doing. Because of this, outsiders were kept at bay. This was an unconscious thing.

Rachel went to Sarah Lawrence and we continued eating bland spaghetti.

The benefit raised $300 dollars for the Haymarket Gathering, which Steve and I would personally bring to the event. It wasn’t Live Aid cash, but for anarchists, it wasn’t bad.

Many months later, Steve and I packed up my 1981 Plymouth Champ and the $300 donation and headed across the country on I-80 to Chicago. Having very little money, we either slept in the car or on the side of the road. On the first day we made it into Wyoming. We had traveled hundreds of miles and needed to sleep. There were no rest stops, so we pulled over, reclined the bucket seats and slid into our sleeping bags. Not being able to fully stretch out, I grabbed my sleeping bag and headed for the ditch on the side of the road, used to catch run-off when it rained. It was cold and windy, but at least I’d be able to stretch out. The zipper on my sleeping bag was broken, so I woke up Steve and asked him to duct tape me into my bag. He gladly obliged, tightly wrapping me like a burrito. The next morning I laid duct taped in my bag until Steve got up. He had done too good of a job and I couldn’t get out. I tried yelling but the roar of the freeway was too loud. I had to wait for him to wake up and release me.

We stopped off and met some other anarchists in Des Moines, Iowa and caravanned the rest of the way. Locals put us up in the second floor of an abandoned apartment. We dumped our stuff and headed for the opening party. When we returned, all of our belongings were gone except our sleeping bags.

At the opening party, a local acquaintance pointed to a guy that would accept our donation. He was wearing a Fidel Castro/Che Guevara-type hat and carefully chosen working class clothes. We approached him and attempted to give him the money. He was talking to another look-a-like and was emphatically making a point: “It’s 3 am, you’re at stop light and nobody’s around. And you wait until the light turns green?” By his look of distain, it was obviously clear that anarchists—in his view of anarchy—ran the light. Who knew such topics as running lights at 3 am would be discussed? We edged a little closer until he looked at us. Enthusiastically I said, “Hey, we had a benefit and raised $300 dollars.” It was short and sweet. He took the envelope, barely acknowledging our presence.

Steve and I were not happy about this and it fueled our dislike of these snobby book anarchists. It was the mid-80s and these older anarchist types had no knowledge of punk rock and especially us peace punk anarchist types. I’m sure they looked down on us. They were used to union organizing and talking shit about communists…the good ol’ days.

The next day Steve and I were arrested for rioting and assault. During a protest downtown, we got bored with the chanting and pleas from the liberal anarchist for Jobs and Justice, so we decided to have a little fun and do what we were good at—breaking things. As we ran through the streets, not knowing where we were going, we knocked over garbage cans, magazine racks and picked up whatever we could find and threw it at storefront windows. Having no real plan, we ran into a mall and caused mayhem. Security chased us as we ran past startled shoppers, looking for an exit. Exiting the mall, the streets were filled with sirens and cops and protesters running. We ran one way, stopped, and bolted onto a side street, depending on where the cops were. While turning a corner, we blindly ran straight into a pack of cops. A paddy wagon was waiting for us curbside. Within a minute we were cuffed and in the back of the wagon with other unfamiliar protesters. While shutting the door, the cop said, “I haven’t had this much fun since the ’68 convention.”

In jail, they took our shoelaces (so we wouldn’t hang ourselves) and I had to take out all my piercings and relinquish my gaudy jewelry, so they couldn't be used as weapons against the police. It was May 1st and it was still very cold. They served us bologna sandwiches, which we refused of course. We enjoyed acting the part of political prisoners.

There were six of us in the cell. Besides me and Steve, the other four were radical faeries, a gay counterculture group. Naturally inquisitive, I asked them rather naïve questions. My suburban upbringing was showing. The obvious was first: “What’s a radical fairy?’ Instead of lambasting me for my ignorance, they were patient and answered my questions without derision. I wouldn’t have been so generous.

Eventually the topic turned to Gay. As much as Steve and I were open-minded and supported gay issues, we were both suburban boys and had little to no experience with gay people growing up. Our small scene of Anarchist Peace Punks was essentially straight anarchist peace punks. These gay, anarchist radical faeries were a whole different gay than we were used to, nothing like the ubiquitous Castro leather clones and queens.

In a monumental moment of pandering, I stated, “You know, sometimes I have gay dreams.” Unbelievably, they did not laugh or say the obvious, “Well, maybe you’re gay.” Instead, one of them admitted to having straight dreams and said it was ok to have both. Jail was turning out to be a growing experience. Still, at night when the faeries huddled together to stay warm, Steve and I took opposing sides of the cell for a restless, cold night.

The next day we were bailed out by the armchair anarchists. We learned that there were heated debates about what to do with us. The older, peaceful types wanted to have nothing to do with us while the younger people applauded our actions. Ironically, one of the biggest arguments was on semantics. There was a big fight over the term "paddy wagon." The early PC types were offended at the use of the word and the others were just plain dumbfounded that somebody would be offended by this. They settled on calling it the "police truck." So, correction, we were arrested, cuffed and thrown in the police truck.

Steve and I jumped bail late that night and went home, running every red light on our way to I-80.