Punked-Out Punk: Part One

Reagan Youth

Reagan Youth

Went to Hollywood last Sunday to see Reagan Youth and 13 Scars play at Los Globos.  Attached my portable oxygen tank to my walker.  Laced up the Martens and left the Miracle Ear at home.  Always dug Reagan Youth.  They were from Queens.  Aaayyyy! Fuckin’ Ay.  Woodhaven, yo!

However, the main reason was to meet up with Dave Gurz and Michael Essington.  They were going to be there signing copies of  Under A Broken Street Lamp.  Both cool dudes.  Real people.  Interesting thinkers.  I’ve enjoyed their writing.  This would be my first chance to get to hang out with either of them.  The next day, friends from Santa Fe were going to be in Hollywood.  Perfect.  I figured I’d rent a roach box to comfort in for the night, and then see Brisa and Dennis the next morning.

Okay. This was going to be fun.  I had a lot to look forward to.

You wouldn’t know it by the way I left the house.  You’d have thought I was going out to die for the last time.  I don’t know if it’s old age or being sober.  Probably the synergistic effect of both.  I have a hard time getting my lazy ass out the door these days.  There’s just so many irritating things that can go wrong “out there.”  And nothing that really seems worth it.

Not like here at home.

Sure, if I stayed at home I would probably wind up having to chase out dog-sized racoons from the kitchen, break up a cat-fight between Louie and Boris, poke-out a hissing possum with a mop handle, or swat at bats with a broom.

Actually, I make Lori do that last one.  I have to hold a blanket up by the stairway so the bats don’t fly up to the second floor.  She’s not tall enough to get a good seal.  So that leaves her with broom duty.  I’ll hear her swatting and swearing.  Knocking shit over.  But she always gets them out.  She’s pretty good at it.  That’s because she’s from hillbilly stock.  I’m better behind the blanket.  I’m from Queens. Aaay.

My point is that it can be sheer chaos here at the house, but it’s my own…cozy chaos.

Some might say I like to isolate.  I call it tactically withdrawing from an oppressive consensus reality.  Whatever Post-it note you want to attach.  I prefer desolate places.  Where I can sit hunched on a jagged rock.  Alone in the world.  My webbed wings beaten flat by the Broom of Life.  Now and then sighing deeply.  Beholding the sheer majesty of the Wasteland of Woe.  Bitter winds salting the desert with the dried tears of its victims.

Only friendship could coax to come out from the sorrowful sands of Bou-Saada.  And go to a punk rock show.

It wasn’t going to be cake walk.  Not for me.  Somewhere between February 1st  2004 and last night, I misplaced large portions of my edge.  I needed to prime myself.  But with what?  What was left for me? What could I safely use to torque myself into the proper state?

I bought a bag of Brazil nuts.  I read they naturally raise testosterone.  I think because of the Selenium.  I don’t care.  I just didn’t want to go to a punk show while suffering from low T-levels.  I wanted to get my Agro on.  And everyone knows that Agro is just thwarted horniness–from too much testosterone.  A rage few men over the age of fifty get to enjoy.

These Brazil nuts better work.

So I can want to rip somebody’s head off.

Because I really want to kiss a girl, instead.

Okay then.  That takes care of the head.  Now what about the gut?

I stocked up on salami and beans. Old-school fuel.  Liquor store war rations.  Protein.  Fat.  Salt.  A slow-burning carb.  Plus nitrates to add a toxic edge.  An army can march on a bellyful of that.  No wasting time preparing it.  Or waiting for somebody to bring it to you.  The preferred grab-n-go of go-getters around the globe, Plug.

Motel room service

Motel room service

Before I left, Lori insisted I take her Mercedes.  She was afraid my 2001 Suzuki Esteem wouldn’t make the 47 mile journey.  Well, it’s one of the many things that keeps us together as a couple– being afraid of the same things, so I agreed.  But reluctantly.  I hate to drive her car.

Of course it’s a thousand times better than my rattle trap.  That’s the problem.  I’m scared I’ll somehow wreck it.  I have to be extra careful driving, and Lori already laughs at me.  She says I drive as slow as an eighty-year-old woman stoned on medical brownies.

That’s not true.  I’m just cautious.  I’ve been in so many car wrecks, starting at age five, that the idea of getting into one no longer seems far-fetched.  Not like to the ass-holes weaving through lanes with inches to spare.  They are immortal gods playing a video game.  They don’t care about the sacks of meat hurtling through space in sharp metal boxes around them.

Well this time I wasn’t as concerned about wrapping it around a pole as I was about pulling up at a punk show in a Mercedes.

Besides the ironic social comment it would make, I didn’t want to park it near any roving gangs of anarchists.  I could just see one of them keying “Capitalist Pig” into the side of it.  I don’t know why I could picture it so clearly.  But it made me nervous-er.

One more thing that could go wrong in a scarey world gone mad–having to deal with people like me.  Oh God.

At that point I knew I needed to get a grip.  Stop the frettin’ and knuckle rubbin’ and man up.  Who is this worried little twat?  How did he get into me?

Truth is- that quivering worm was always in me.  Wiggling just under my sternum.  I used to beat it into submission with beer.  But eventually, it learned to beat back.  Now I have to lay the smack down differently.  Have to find a new way to connect with my inner Beasthood.  Then strangle The Worm.

I thought about how I could do that.  Perhaps drink once more from the fountain of Reagan Youth.  Regain the unrealistic ideals of my deformative years.  Recapture the rage.  Electro-paddle the passion back into arrhythmia.

I hit the signal.  Cautiously merged into the Sunday afternoon traffic on the 101.  Slowly dragged my Brazil nuts south for the night.

(To be continued)

Rage on.


Farty Pints a Day!

Biddy Mulligan's, Woodhaven, Queens.

It was an amazing sight to see.   Six or seven bar patrons thomping on one dude. Some were trying to drag him out of his car, others swatting and poking him with pool cues.  It might have seemed unfair and unjust, but when you knew the whole story, it was actually a beautiful thing.

I love the Irish.  Even though hanging out with them has almost killed me many times, they have my utter devotion.  These mischievous Elves of Eire have always lifted me up when my life had me hammered down.  “Dere, dere, Mahreeus, sorry tah here about yahr troubles.  It’s nat ahl tha’ bad. Cheers!”  A pint of Guinness would appear, and somehow, from the ocean’s depths, I would rise again.

Biddy Mulligan’s is a working-class bar located three blocks from my grandparent’s house in Woodhaven, Queens.  People of Irish descent tend to frequent the place.  So do people of an Irish disposition.  If I die and become an earth-bound spectre, unable to reunite with the Source of All, I’ll probably drag my ghost ass to Biddy’s.  There I’ll haunt eternity, drowning my disappointment among the other lost souls. It’s a special place.

I discovered it during one of my trips home.  At first, I was a little hinky about going in.  These local bars are often very tribal. There’s a whole elaborate dance you have to do as an outsider to get any love.  Oh well.  It was time to dance.  The first part required tipping big and keeping my mouth shut. They’ll be a time for storytelling, jig-dancing, and lass-squeezing, but not now.  It was time to let people get used to seeing me, and critically, seeing me not do anything but drink.  A strange thing happens when I people watch. I turn into a single floating eyeball.  I become nothing more than a point of perception, a mere mathematical cypher.  Existing sure, but only in theory, and certainly not a threat to any established bar hierarchy.  Meanwhile, I’d wait for the generous tips to strike a spark, a wee tiny one, with the bartender, then cup my kindling and blow.

The Irish have traditionally made good kindling, certainly for revolution and disorder.  That’s my favorite part of them.  The music is lively too.  Yet even among all that riotous disorder there were certain set rules.  There was a difference between going “totahlly wide-o” and really crossing the line.  With all the fighting,  fussing, and frolicking,  some things were still sacred. I noticed that everyone left their money on the bar. The bartender peeled away bills and gave back change from the pile.  People would go to the bathroom, step outside to talk business, make phone calls, pick a fist fight, whatever, and leave their pile of money on the bar.  People coming and going,  but the money staying right there.  All this in New York City, in a fairly rundown neighborhood in Queens.

One old guy went on about it to me later.  “Marius, in here, a fuckin’ man can fuckin’ leave his fuckin’ money on the fuckin’ bar!”  He said you could take off for three days and come back to find your money where you left it.  I was impressed, and sort of believed him.

Now, honest to God this really happened.  Shortly after this chat, a guy walked into the bar.  A greasy sort of lowlife, with lots of pawn shop jewelry.  He ordered his drink, and put the money back in his wallet instead of on the bar. I noticed that. He’s drinking next to me, and starts running off some shit to me about being a cop, and being able to do whatever he wants.  He pulled out a NYPD detective card and handed it to me.  A lieutenant.  Probably not, I thought, but maybe.  Cops in New York run the gamut.  I’m sure there’s more than one bad lieutenant out there.  He starts talking about all the guns he owns, but I don’t see him printing anything through his shirt.

I was trying to size him up when a big, sweating and puffing fat boy came rolling in.  A lovable load in a wife-beater, name Al.  He orders a double scotch and hands the bartender a hundred.  He announces that he just won six hundred bucks at the track.  And then mumbling  “It helps make up for the beating I took yesterday.”  He lumbered toward the bathroom.

“Can you believe that fucking Pollack bragging about $600?” the bad lieutenant says to me, then reaches over and takes a twenty from Al’s pile.  I was shocked, but the brazen way he did it freaked me more.  Maybe he is a bad cop who can “do anything.”  Holy shit.  Al comes back from the head and looks down and right away notices he’s twenty short.  He never questioned the bartender.  He turned to the two of us. He said he was going to go back to the bathroom and when he came back he expected the money to be there, then left.  Pretty classy.

Now the next part is hard to believe, because it happened in front of me and I didn’t.  The bad lieutenant says to me “Why the fuck would I take his chump change when I got plenty of money?” and reaches over and takes another twenty!  Ok. Ok.  What the fuck is going on here?  He has to have an angle to pull this shit off, especially in this joint where they make such a big deal about trust.  I thought about putting in $40 of my own just to make this situation go away, but Al had come back.  He looked down, and then looked up at the two of us pissed.  I didn’t know what to do.  If this thieving fucker really is the heat, he could ruin my vacation.  On the other hand, I saw what I saw.  I took a chance.

“I saw this dirty fucker take your money, Al.”

The bartender came over.  “If Marius says it’s so, it’s so,” she said.  People appeared around us. The bad lieutenant started yelling.  Somebody grabbed his arm and the place went off.  More people had been watching than I realized, and nobody seemed worried if the guy was a cop or not.   A construction worker picked him up by the back of the belt, rag-dolled his ass out the door, then Dublin Dropped him face down into the street. People were pulling on his pocket trying to tear out his wallet as he struggled to get in his two-toned LTD oil-bleeder.  He finally peeled out and away, pool cues still banging on his car.

You don’t steal money off the bar at Biddy’s.

There was much rejoicing, and the man of the hour was a hometown Lithuanian.  Rounds of Guinness keep materializing in front of me all night, and my money pile never shrank.  A girl named Shannon told me I looked “suitable for framing,” and Al kept pulling me into his sweaty arm pit. I made it. I was welcomed into the tribe. I wasn’t Irish, but I could still put away “farty pints a day.”  And I could be trusted.  I may have been an alcoholic loser, but I still had some people’s trust.  I hung on to that.  I didn’t have too much else.

The Rose of Tipperary

Big Joe from Kokomo and Jimmy Shannon. Check out the headline.