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Punk Rock Lives!

I have always loved punk rock.  The music.  The culture.  The clothing.  The hair.  The pogo.  All of it.  I think, even though I may not have always appeared to be very punk rock on the outside, my insides have always been loyal to the cause.  Deep within my psyche and soul, there is an anarchist just endeavoring to survive the day within the establishment.  I have made my peace along the way and you can judge all you want.  Truth is that punk rock is about more than how you look, it has and always will be about how you feel.

And for me, the kindredness of that spirit has always been this great divide between how I feel, how I am seen and who I really am on the inside.  Deep within me I have lived a rebel’s life.  Contrary, friction producing and a great willingness and demand to go against the grain.  All the grains, all the time.  And I, like many of the punk rock generation, could be accused of selling out.  I am pretty bougie today.  And that is disappointing to admit.  The comforts I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy because of my willingness to conform, to become (at least on the outside) vanilla.

But make no mistake, inside there is a leather clad, blue haired, safety pin wearing girl who knew what she wanted and had a great deal of grand ideas about how I was going to get there.  My boyfriend Lee in high school had a giant mohawk and we spent our time, dancing, clubbing, fighting and raging against, well whatever was in front of us at the moment.  Our drug and alcohol infused angst rose up just a little less than it brought us crashing down.  He was outspoken, unwilling to conform and while that was an exciting and exhilarating ride at 16, it was not a ride I wanted to commit to...and I guess that is and was a good thing because he died in a fiery crash at the very young age of 18.  And had I not opted for a more socially acceptable guy and lifestyle, I would have died with him that night.

Looking back there really was no other way I saw Lee’s life go.  Fighting everyone and everything all the fucking time takes its toll.  But fuck if he wasn’t cool as shit, smart as hell and fucking excruciatingly difficult to be around.  Everything was hard.  Loving him.  Hanging with him.  Living in his world.  And while I got him and it and all the drama, I also found myself more and more interested in peace.  He offered me a lifestyle that was fucking rad and explosive and turbulent and nuts.  And I loved it, but I could see at the age of 16 that it wasn’t sustainable, for him or me or anyone really.  Anyone who stays that particular course, dies young and tragically.  There is just no other ending possible.

And so it was with him.  And it still makes me sad.  I can see him driving in his car, Sex Pistols blaring.  Or maybe Black Flag or Suicidal Tendencies.  Drunk as fuck.  Chain smoking, pounding on the steering wheel with his mohawk poking holes in the fabric roof of his beater car.  And that is likely exactly how he was right before he hit the tree doing 100.  I have always prayed it was instantaneous.  I have always prayed he suffered not at all.  His short life of 18 had already been painful enough, several lifetimes over.

I went to see Bad Religion and Social Distortion Wednesday night with all the other aging punk rockers.  We definitely still have it in us.  Mellowed by age and the trappings of success, the moshpit did not resemble those of the 1980s.  No one lost a tooth or was stomped into oblivion.  No one.  When someone fell, everyone helped him up...instead of using the downage as a freebie for a swift kick to the head.  Both shows were great.  Bad Religion killed it.  I mean they just fucking killed it.  Despite the fact that they looked like Dundar Mifflin.  Seriously, they looked about as punk rock as I do now.  And I guess that is just how it goes.

I truly admire those of us who are still killing it with the hair and clothes and shit.  Really.  How you have made it in this world dressed like you survived the apocalypse, barely, warrants deep respect. Truly.

Social D is putting out a new song about gratitude, and that pretty much says it all really.  We are not the grown up versions of our misspent youths.  We are now something else, which isn’t really better or worse, just very, very different.  In the end, we were all shaped by the anthems of our youth:  the disenchantment with the status quo, our parent’s generation and ideals and the idea that every single day of our lives we all worried about whether that day would be the day the nuclear holocaust wiped us off the face of the earth.  And our music and misanthropic zeal was appropriate and it saved us, that is if it didn’t kill us.

As I stood ringside to the moshpit, I was tempted to get in the ring.  I mean fuck, do I really need ALL my teeth?  A black eye would be kind of cool, right? I would love to have to explain that to my clients...or my boss.  But I didn’t get in the fucking ring.  Instead, I watched, which in truth is something that I did back in the day also.  I was always punk adjacent.  I was always more of a voyeur than I was an active participant.  Lee was the real punk rocker.  And I was just some girl who wanted to live and die for the cause, but had too much sense and desire to live to really ever make it all happen.  I was in until I was out...which I can see today, was all of our experience.  The bands playing last night had to get out too, at some point, otherwise they wouldn’t have still been there to perform.  And like so many of their cohorts, they too would have died in a fiery crash, auto included but not necessary.

So last night I got to go back in time, to a place where I was a very different version of myself.  And I got to spend some time with the idealized girl with the blue hair and safety pins through her ears.  And I got to listen to the music that transcended my upbringing and fear and loathsomeness.  I got to revisit my past and that always feels like a good use of time.  I have so much more perspective on why I was so angry, of why I was so anti-establishment, of why the music fueled me in ways that it still absolutely does.

Punk rock is a lifestyle.  Not one I could sustain.  But one that lives on inside of me each and every time I hear the anthem of my youth.  There will always be that punk rock girl who rocks on in my interior, always.  She shall always have two middle fingers raised, ready to fight anyone and everyone who tries to tell her what to do!  But, in today’s world, she mostly only lives in that interior...and she no longer controls my hair, my attire or my use of safety pins in somewhat concerning ways.

And while she shall spend the rest of her days locked within my interiority, know that every single time she hears an anthem of my past, she comes fully alive, so much so that I am not sure I can really be held responsible for what she does next...a rebel's heart never dies.

And just like that I am transported back through time and space to a place where the rebellion was real, and right and fucking daily.  And with every guitar chord, drum beat or lyric sang, she rises, oh, fuck, how she rises...



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