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.