There are no more babes in these woods.

Eight years ago today, the city of Asheville lost one of it’s most beloved freaks and the queer community was never the same. I’ve been writing a piece about Talya’s death so and its aftermath for years. At this point, it’s so sprawling that I think it will only work as a book. The story ended up being as much about gentrification and the loss of community as my friend’s beautiful weird life and untimely death. This is the conclusion.

I traveled to the city of Asheville for the first time in the summer of 2004. I was a fresh faced 23-year-old punk rocker from the big city, hitchhiking my way through the south. My friend and I were sweaty and dirty when our last ride dropped us off at the gas station just off the Merrimon Avenue exit. My friend and I had vague walking directions to our friend’s house where we would be staying, so we hoisted our backpacks over our shoulders and started walking. Small towns made me nervous. While some of my most exciting, and formative years were spent falling wildly into punk rock just five hundred miles to the north in Rural Pennsylvania, those years were also stifling and sometimes downright dangerous for a young weirdo. I came to hate small town life. My mother and I moved to a bigger city just before my 17th birthday and I endeavored to never return to a small town again upon leaving Appalachia.

Yet here I was, making my way through the familiar Appalachian architecture and sleepy neighborhoods of a city that I had no idea how much would affect my life for the next fifteen years. I first heard tell of the city of Asheville in 2003, while on a different hitchhiking trip. My partner and I were headed cross country to South Florida for a protest mobilization in the city of Miami. We were to meet up with three friends who had left a week earlier than we were able to, riding trains instead of hitch hiking. In an age before the ubiquity of cell phones (and even worse, smartphones) we kept one another informed of the progress made in our journeys through a series of emails from library computers and calls made from payphones using pre-paid calling cards to either dial in voicemail services or to the rare punk with a cell phone.

I remember distinctly calling from a truck stop somewhere in Alabama to inquire on the wellbeing and whereabouts of our friends. Two of them had indeed made it to Miami. They had gotten separated from our third friend somewhere on the road. The voice on the other end of the line sounded almost haunted through the payphone connection and against the din of the nearby highway. “We got separated from Justin when he caught on the fly, and we couldn’t. He’s okay though. He ended up in Asheville and will make his way south in another day or two. That place is a mecca. I think they put punk in the water there or something.”

I could hear the slight envy in my friend’s voice before I returned the receiver to the cradle and walked back to the highway to put my thumb out. I began to wonder if there wasn’t something magic happening in Asheville and if I shouldn’t reassess my relationship to small towns.

Less than a year later I was on Lexington Avenue, stomping up the stairs leading to Rosetta’s to eat a seven-dollar plate of vegan nachos with two friends, a massive plate of food that would keep all three of us free from hunger for the rest of the day, a major concern considering we were all broke vegans who never ate enough. When we were finished eating, we headed up the street to the ACRC to grab some zines to read during long hours on the road. We stayed at the Little Side house, and cooked Food Not Bombs with the punks who lived there and headed north a few days later (incidentally, to the city where I now reside.). At the time this was all fairly standard fare in the life of a young punk rocker on the road, save for a few glaring differences.

I was young and idealistic, but also viciously depressed and deeply insecure at the same time. The insecurity originated in simply not knowing how to exist within a wider culture that so relentlessly stamps out the sensitive individuals who cannot conform or simply refuse to do so into fucking powder. I didn’t know how to be, in college. I didn’t know how to function at some job, or around kids my age outside of the small subculture I surrounded myself with. I didn’t know how to talk to them, to outsiders. I found that I could let my real face show just a little bit more in punk, but still struggled even there. What shined through in Asheville though, was the overwhelming friendliness of the punks I encountered. It shone through with an authenticity that I didn’t see in other cities. I was used to feeling alone in a crowd, even amongst outcasts but I noticed the ways I felt less guarded around my new friends, and I felt grateful for it, especially after a week’s journey essentially at the mercy of strangers who likely picked us up for company or someone to talk to for their long drives.

My friend and I hit the road after a few days, and Asheville became a place that I would return to often before finally coming to call it home.

I arrived on East Chestnut Street for good in September of 2008, just after the financial collapse that ushered in the great recession. I was driving west on I-40, despondent from leaving a toxic relationship in another town behind (but so unaware I was running straight to another one!). All of Western North Carolina suffered a gas shortage, with empty pumps and long lines at the few stations that did have gas, giving the countryside along I-40 a foreboding, almost apocalyptic feeling. There were few cars on the road, and the people I encountered at rest stops all seemed stressed and wary, the opposite of the usual politeness one encounters in the south.

My heart, all of our hearts really, were broken by the recent grisly murder of a person dear to the scattered community of traveling punks of which I was a part. She hovered somewhere on the plane between acquaintance and friend for me, but I was devastated. We hadn’t been as tight as I had been with some of the other people around me who cared about her, but we shared some times that shaped, and stayed with me. When the news came that she was gone, I was devastated, not just at the loss of our friend, but at a brutal reminder of how much evil exists in the world, and how little we are all actually insulated from it. We chose to live our lives on the outside looking in, and here was a reminder that we had done so: When our friend’s body was found, the pigs barely investigated, instead making statements to the media questioning her drinking habits and sexual proclivities, essentially asking if she had somehow been the instigator of her own assault. The law left a void, where a crew of punks to did their job for them and apprehended our friend’s murderer. Apprehend him they did, beating him within an inch of his life before dragging him to the police station where he would eventually be charged with second degree murder. I spent a lot of those first few weeks drinking and in tears, occasionally cracking my knuckles trying to punch out the windows of the abandoned building that now houses the Moog museum.

The city had an empty, the party’s over, hungover feeling all that fall and winter, but the warmth and kindness of the punks often thawed any reminders of winter when you were in their company. The love in that small city was staggering, unshakable. Having lived a life accompanied by a sense of loneliness that runs soul deep, I had never seen anything like it. From that first day on Chestnut Street, until this one, I have still never felt so wholly embraced by a community, and so quickly. Surrounded by a sense of almost romantic despair against the world around us, but one that seemingly lacked hopelessness, the punks existed on a different plane entirely from the citizens around them. They could see into our world, and we could see into theirs, but we knew some things they would never know.

We should have known it couldn’t last though. We watched the Hotel Indigo go up on the corner of Haywood and Montford. We had a perfect view of the construction from Josh’s bedroom window overlooking the city. At night the steel girders that made up the building’s skeleton stood silent and eerily illuminated by a few lights on each vacant floor. I’d glance out the window, and get the feeling that someone was trying to sneak the construction in under our noses before anyone noticed. We often joked about what a shame it was that punks didn’t have access to heavy weaponry. A cruise missile, or even a rocket launcher might do a thing or two about that shit set to ruin our neighborhood in another few years.

We went on though, finding cheap rent where we could, with the ever-unfolding crisis of late capitalism as the backdrop. To say that the personal tragedies and global disasters spanning the years of this story affected each and every sensitive character in deep and life altering ways would be an understatement. To say that those disasters coupled with having been raised in this malignant culture, along with every other external force beyond our control did not affect our abilities to relate to, and not damage one another would also be grossly dishonest. To put it very plainly, and to reference a beloved punk rock song: We were fucked up kids. Past that, we were fucked up kids that reached an adulthood so many of us never expected to see. In trying to escape the violence that molded so many of our lives, it was inevitable that we would bring some of those phantoms from childhood to our refuge with us. In our powerless to effect the real and lasting change we so desperately screamed for at the world outside from the safety of our punk houses and show spaces, we turned inwards and cannibalized one another.

Case in point: While attempting to jog some memories for this work, I came across an old photograph taken less than a month before Talya’s suicide, July 13th, 2012. The photo is a crowd shot from the first show of a short-lived band which my friends and I made music in. The smiling faces frozen in the photo now look like a virtual who’s who of Asheville punks and queers who would go on to lay waste to one another in under five years’ time. Some of whom did so with such a casual ease, that one couldn’t help but think it mirrored the discarded pile of empty PBR tall cans in the recycling bin outside the door at the end of the show.

I’m aware that I am not always charitable with some of the characters in this story, many of whom are based on individuals I have loved, or continue to love deeply. To this I would point out to the reader that the characters in this story based on myself do not exactly paint a charitable portrait of my own conduct either, both within fiction, and outside of it. While I refuse to grovel like some spineless fuck, forever beholden to the shaming ceremonies radical communities and the greater left love to drink themselves to death on, I am also in no way holing myself above reproach here. I have fallen to such depths of abuse and self-abuse that it has taken years to crawl back out of. In some cases, I am still atoning for harm done to people I love.

With that I say again, to the individuals reflected in this work who I have hurt: I am so sorry. I didn’t know better, and will forever regret that the lessons bitterly learned in how to be better, all too often come at the cost of those we care for. To the people reflected in this sorry who have hurt me, I say this: I forgive you. That’s it. No conditions. No fine print. Just the season for moving on.

Captured in that photo and in this story is a ghost of a community on unknowingly standing on the precipice of devastating loss and catastrophic transformation to the landscape of their city. Gone are so many of the punk houses, the show spaces, the community centers. All bulldozed and renovated, “revitalized” to make way for another brewery, boutique, or fancy restaurant; terraforming the city to a playground for monied and privileged outsiders. Seven years later, and so many of us have moved on. Pushed out of the city by rising rents and lack of opportunity. So many of us are gone, drifted away, or driven apart. As I write these words alone in my apartment in a different city, the nightmare police state and eternal wars we screamed about in songs and graffiti is no longer some distant future or worst-case scenario, it’s here.

There are fascists on the streets and another clandestinely (or not so much so) directing them from the white house. Our every move is monitored daily by an all-encompassing surveillance state apparatus, and none of us are truly safe. There are concentration camps on the border while modern day Gestapo prowl our streets looking for immigrants. Seven years later, with the world burning faster than ever and most of us aren’t even friends the way we used to be. This shit couldn’t have gone down better if the architects of COINTELPRO themselves planned it. It would not surprise me in the least to learn in another 30 years (should we all live that long) that somewhere, some soulless company maggot figured out how to manipulate subcultures to self-destruction and has been successfully repeating the process for fifty years, much to the delight of power. The last generation’s LSD and heroin are this generation’s infighting and aiming our guns at the soft targets closest to you, both literally and figuratively. That is to say, it is easier to, and carries less consequence to lash out at, without empathy or mercy the oppressive behavior your loved ones have learned since birth than it is to strike against the forces running our cities, our countries, and our very world into rot.

And lash out at one another we did.

All the while, the prisons stand unburned. Police issue firearms snuff out black lives with impunity. The cop cars prowl the streets. Appalachian mountaintops are obliterated through mountaintop removal. Fracking poisons our air and our water. Plastic fills the ocean while carbon dioxide clogs the air, literally burning the world to death.

My friend Cinder once argued that Asheville’s heyday was short lived; roughly 2003-2006. Aaron Cometbus and Cindy Crabb arrived sometime in the late 90’s and laid the groundwork for a thriving DIY community, setting up shows and enticing touring bands to stop in the mountains on their way out west. A few years in, other lonely freaks began to gravitate towards the city from elsewhere, and a punk mecca was born. When Mosca Avocado died just at the end of summer 2006, many brokenhearted punks and queers moved on. Their ache and their loss just too huge for this tiny town to contain. I would argue that Asheville’s heyday lasted until sometime in 2012 or 2013. I am not making that argument because that’s when I left, or because I think Talya’s death just at the end of summer, 2012 was any more devastating than Mosca’s untimely passing. It has more to do with the perfect combination the emotional devastation of an entire community, and economics. While we were drinking alone in our bedrooms, or commiserating in bars, the developers and breweries moved in.

Though there are similarities between these two lost friends that remain undeniable. Both were beloved in their communities. Both were loved by punks and queers alike. Both individuals radiated a unique and beautiful strangeness that made them impossible not to love. Both of them exhibited the kind of rare and quirky genius and independent spirit that somewhere deep down, you always worried might never last. Most of all, both of these beautiful individuals had precarious relationships with their own mental health and a suffered lack of resources or options that would allow them to thrive instead of simply survive. That their spirits would be crushed to the point of annihilation until they felt they had no other options, other than to go to early graves came as no real surprise. Talya’s ending just happened to coincide with a wave of gentrification that forever marred the soul of Asheville.

While I have always been angry at the injustice of these two endings, I am angrier still at the city of Asheville’s willingness to commodify and exploit the unique spirits that once flocked to it, giving it the “character” so craved by tourists and developers. The rebellious spirit once carried by all the punks, queers, freaks and outlaws became ever more commodified and watered down, used as a selling point for developers and real estate moguls. The unique spirit of what a city once was became an enticement for tourists and outsiders, while all our friends who serve the drinks, play the music, and make the art are denied affordable housing, living wages and healthcare. It’s like the city wants it both ways: Come here to be your freaky rebellious selves, but you better be ready to work sixty hours a week to afford a $1,600 a month one bedroom apartment and don’t you ever talk back to tourists while you’re here.

Talya’s death coincided with an influx of money flowing freely into Asheville, but nobody I know saw any of it, regardless of how hard they worked.

So many of my friends are gone, destroyed at the hands of one another, their dying dreams driving them elsewhere, or death taken them. So many of them toil onward into annihilation.

So many more now do not expect to make it to old age.

For this, I am unforgiving.

 

 

MAZUZ!
Talya and Hope.  Spring, 2010.

Untitled.

Baby, tread soft
For here lie our fondest dreams

Lost

To love gone
The way of restless ghosts
Lingering like a breath of wind
With a kiss of sea and Salt
Across spectral lips

The lasting scars
Worn into a soul
Like and endless march

Cut deep and dark
Read and angry
Left by the harm
Hurt people cast
Like stones to break bones
upon
Hurting people
Goes on and on

There is no love left
Lingering at the edges
Of a long memory, here.

Just images fading
From the horizon
Succumbing to a dying light
Where rivers of time lost
Flow into an ocean
Of desire gone dry

Still
There are warm rooms
Built by memory
Bathed in flickering light
Unchained from the flow of time
Where mingling ghosts meet
To dance in the ether
Like dead friends dancing in heaven

There is no forever
It’s true.
There are beginnings and endings
An eternal wheel turning

Immortal hearts
Blessed with death
To be born again

Indestructible souls
Destroying
To begin again.

5/11/20

In the living room
With a mattress
Too wide for the narrow
Stairs of our corner row house
Laid on the floor
Until we figure out
Just how to cram it up
There on our own

“The Living Room Bed”
We call it
Making believe like we
Live in the lap of luxury
Rather than the belly
Of the beast
Trapped in the gears
And arbitrary cruelty
Of this dying machine

Last week
We fucked hard
And fast
And filthy
Spread across
The living room bed

Frenzied and desperate
For connection
Right before depression
Set back in
The dogs sleep on the couch above us
I got a feeling
They find this all pretty amusing.

Pandemic Days

I can write okay, except when I can’t.

I haven’t seen another person aside from my partner in almost two months, which feels a little crazy making.

Some days, I write all day, look back at the pages, and still feel like I got nothing done.  Some days I stare at a blank journal.

Sometimes making lists helps.

List One:

5/1/20 (Late at night)
I miss:
Crossing the Los Angeles County line (Any time of year, or day)
Avi’s cassette copy of the first Motley Crue record, played loud, while Crossing the Los Angeles County line.
Jacob, talking about The Cure
Luna, in the passenger seat
My Elders
Budd Inlet
Priest Point
Crain
Gas Pump Graveyard (Gone)
That one Secret Spot under the 6th Avenue Bridge in Denver (Also Gone)
Shows
Punk
Punks
Skinheads
Friends in general
Lexington Avenue
Malibu, with Pocket
Pocket
That Malibu Taco spot, with Pocket

List Two:

5/2/20 (AM)
In My Head:
Summer of 2013
Seven years bad luck (are they related?)
The end of the world
The desert
The mountains
The Ocean
Rust
That time C and I were in the desert, and Hope got her little face in a cactus and we had to pull the barbs out with my Leatherman and Hope was such a trooper about it
How I should call C
Worrying about Hope on the stairs
Dirty’s weird toenail in my bedside drawer, next to the dildos.
New Wave
No Wave
Darkwave
Anxiety Anxiety Anxiety!
Shaving my head again
How stubble feels on my face now
As opposed to 7-8 years ago
It’s pretty okay actually
And I can deal
I don’t hate being man adjacent
The way I used to
I exist in a body
And turns out, I like it just fine
The world still
Freaks me right
The fuck out
Especially these days
I don’t leave my house enough
I guess I haven’t had a lot
Of Say in that lately

The Rust Belt

I had a dream last night
About my best friend
How maybe I should write
The two of us another story
This one will be fiction too
I want to write us something new
A story about our lives
With all the tragedy excised

Because
We have both
Had enough of all that.

Subculture Soundtrack- The Road Trip

Playlist for a drive to Vermont and Montreal: been feeling a UK82/ No Future vibe lately.  I think because I feel as bleak lately, as I did when I was fifteen. I revisited some old tunes on a long drive. I’ve been thinking about how so many generations before my own have struggled with the same fears of being the final human beings to inhabit this planet. I wanted to go back and revisit the music and art of a generation of punks, the “kids of the 80’s” if you will who feared the nuclear fire next time.

The ExploitedPunk’s Not Dead.  The first Exploited record I actually heard was The Massacre.  Melanie got a copy of it when we were 14.  Her and Forrest and I scratched our shaved little heads thinking “What the fuck is this metal shit?”.  I didn’t like metal at all for a long time, based on the washed up heshers in faded Slayer shirts that would try and fight us for being “Punk Rock Faggots”.  It was funny when we tried to play the tape in Forrest’s Mother’s car and the track “Sick Bastard came on only for Forrest’s mother to ask us if Wattie was screaming “Shit Master”.  Might as well have been.

Oh yeah.  I was talking Punk’s Not Dead.  A baby punk rite of passage, at least in the 80’s and 90’s.  I don’t know anyone who liked The Exploited in earnest after they turned 18.  God this record is dumb, but it’s got its moments.  I maintain Out of Control and Dole Q got some genuine angst.  So do a few other tracks.  I Believe in Anarchy is just plain silly.  Fuck the mods is one of the more boneheaded throwaway songs ever written. I would rather listen to The Jam’s “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” nowadays, hands down.

The ExploitedTroops of Tomorrow.  I liked this record when I was fifteen.  I traded Dan Jenkins an Alien Workshop t-shirt for a cassette version of this record and an Exploited T-Shirt.  I still think I got the better deal. I thought I was so cool. The cassette cover had a picture of Wattie playing live wearing a t-shirt of Sid Vicious wearing a swastika shirt.  Yikes.  Not cool Wattie.  I looked up the tape on discogs a while back.  It’s worth like $30 now.  I have no idea where mine went.  In tenth grade, Jamie Buckmeyer told me how she heard The Exploited toured the US with Skrewdriver back in the 80’s and we maybe shouldn’t like them anymore in case they were Nazi sympathizers.  I always kinda thought “Hitler’s In The Charts Again” was maybe an antifascist anthem, but I couldn’t make out what the fuck Wattie was saying.

I know now that 1. Skrewdriver never ever toured the US.  They had a hard time even playing England without getting some well-deserved ass beatings and 2. The Exploited toured the US with Agnostic Front, a skinhead band with far less reprehensible politics.  Life before you could just google anything you wanted to know was wild, and rife with misinformation, but maybe a bit more mysterious.  3.  I was about a year away from outgrowing The Exploited anyway.

The ExploitedSingles Collection.  All these songs are still pretty decent.  Dead Cities is The Exploited at their rapturous, apocalyptic best.  Romanticized hopelessness.  I still see the appeal in this song nearly 40 years after its release and 25 years after I heard it for the first time.  Rival Leaders gets you pumped for nuclear Armageddon. Computers Don’t Blunder warns of a nuclear holocaust brought on by computer error.  Nowadays I don’t know anyone who doesn’t’ immediately think of the all-seeing surveillance apparatus we willingly participate in with our smartphones and social media when we think of computers.  I still maintain Attack is such a catchy, weird punk tune from a band that just wrote a lot of the same song.

The ExploitedLet’s Start a War… (Said Maggie One Day). I never listened to this as a kid.  This record is fine. I might be able to concentrate on it more if I wasn’t driving.  This record came after The Exploited lost their classic lineup.  Only Wattie left.  I like the samples in between songs.  I like that the record is almost exclusively centered around opposition to the 1983 Falklands War. Rival Leaders got pulled off this record as a single. It’s just as fun here. The chorus of “10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1… here we go!” Gets me just as pumped for watching ICBMs raining from the sky here as it does on the singles collection.

Where other punk bands wrote protest songs, so many Exploited songs have this air of lackadaisical nihilism to them. We are all going to die. Whatever. Might as well keep doing drugs and screaming in infantile rage about our impending doom.

I can’t help but admire that right now.

The ExploitedHorror Epics and Death Before Dishonour.  These records are fine for mid-80’s punk fare, starting to veer just into metal territory, but not nearly as tragically as Discharge would around the same time.  Horror Epics is a really stellar record title and I always liked the cover.  Three punks sitting in an old school movie theater with a vampire looming creepily over them. Really, so much of what I loved about the 1980’s is right there in that cover. I like that they wrote a song about Margaret Thatcher that just says Maggie Maggie Maggie you’re a cunt.  Is there a historical figure more maligned within punk rock then Margaret Thatcher? Maybe Ronald Reagan. I hope teenage punk kids are out there somewhere in a thousand basements and garages writing songs about stabbing Jeff Bezos to death in a post climate change wasteland.

I don’t remember anything about Death Before Dishonour.  The cover, Margaret Thatcher embracing the grim reaper in front of a haunted looking church is pretty great. All The songs on both these records kind of sound like the band was just mainlining speed and putting music to Wattie’s paranoid ramblings.  I’m kinda into that, given how I struggle with paranoia.  Do I have a kindred spirit in Wattie Buchan?  Fuck.

Broken BonesSingles Collection – I heard Broken Bones for the first time on one of those Cleopatra UK82 comps put out in the 90’s.  For whatever reason, my friends and I thought buying a record without having heard the band first, just because you were curious or whatever, meant you were buying the record because the band’s logo looked cool painted on some other punk’s jacket and therefore you were just buying the record to be cool, and you were definitely a poser.  I could give a shit about this kinda thing now, but I will cop to having been a pretty insecure kid.  Comps were a loophole to hear bands before you bought the record, thus saving yourself from poserdom.  I guess it also saved you from the possibility of buying a shitty record based on seeing the logo painted on some other kid’s leather.  Anti-Nowhere League, for example were on the same comp, and their track demonstrated to me that they in fact sucked, despite the frequency with which I saw their logo painted on Jackets.

The Roberts brothers really saved themselves a lot of humiliation by getting out of Discharge while the getting was good.  Broken Bones did the whole crossover thrash thing well, without veering catastrophically into hair metal territory like the aforementioned Discharge.  I like all the songs on this record.  Perfectly dark with tons of killer riffs.  I don’t really know how to write about music.  The opening riff of “It’s Like” feels huge and dark, like a plunge into a black leather abyss.

On the topic of painted leather jackets, I saw a kid outside an Aus-Rotten/Stratford Mercenaries show at Stalag 13 in Philly way back in 1997 in a leather trench coat with the Broken Bones logo painted elaborately across the back.  I wonder where that jacket is now?  Where are all the studded leathers of yesteryear?  I sold mine for $50 when I was hard up for traveling money at 22.  I wish I hadn’t now.  The buyer at the thrift store even tried to talk me out of it.

Broken BonesDem Bones – Started to get highway hypnosis while this one was playing.  Thrash thrash thrash.  Had to skip over the title track due to its silliness.

Broken BonesBonecrusher – I like this record more.  Probably because it contains a lot of the singles I had been listening to for a long time.

BlitzVoice of a Generation – Okay.  I still listen to this record pretty regularly.  An Oi/Streetpunk classic.  Most of the hits.  A few filler tracks that I normally skip over at home.  I can do without the almost surf rock vibe of “T.O?”, and whatever “Vicious” is.  Ironic though, because I do admire Blitz for being willing to experiment Blitz musically, coming from a scene seemingly full of knuckle draggers more looking for a soundtrack to a brawl than branching out musically.  I mean…  They literally have a song named “Fight To Live”.  Blitz will always epitomize so much of the No Future vibe emanating from the second wave of punk for me. Maybe it was the bleakly tough promo photos, or how seemingly fast they self-destructed, despite being remarkably prolific for a group of broke punks and skins.

BlitzSingles Collection – This is my first and favorite Blitz record.  Not a bad track on it.  Someone’s Gonna Die introduced my friends and I to both the Oi chant, and the entire genre when we were fifteen.  Somewhere lost to time, or a Pennsylvania basement, there’s a demo recording of my first punk band.  We set a boombox at the top of the basement stairs for the clearest (yet still terrible) sound.  If one were to unearth those recordings today, they would hear the static empty air hiss of the cassette as the spindles lurched to life to record our messy teenage tunes, immediately followed by our drummer shouting “It’s recording!  Oi! OI! OI! and stomping down the stairs to take his place behind his drumkit.  His snare head was constructed almost entirely out of duct tape and sounded gloriously awful.

Listen, I even like the New Wave singles at the end of this record.  I’m not afraid to admit it.  They’re solid songs.  Maybe not on par with New Order, but I think these singles and the Second Empire Justice LP would have done better had the members of Blitz who ended up with the name when the initial lineup split had recorded the records under a different name.  As it stands, the new wave records were resoundingly rejected by Blitz’ established fanbase and the records, and the band faded into obscurity.  Most of us didn’t even know about later period Blitz until well into adulthood.

One Way SystemAll Systems Go – Give Us A Future is a classic anthem of desperate youth demanding a better world.  Stab The Judge is one of the best punk revenge anthems of all time.  “What we gonna do if it all goes wrong, keep on running for how long?”  When I was young, I think I romanticized my emerging punk rock life as one which would inevitably end in tragedy.  My friends and I talked about murdering at least one our tormentors with a casual ease. I never saw any kind of happy ending to that story. I wanted to go out in a blaze like the unnamed character in this song, striking out against oppressive authority figures.  A punk rock last stand. 

I never imagined making it to 18, then 21, then 15, then 30.  Now I’m almost 40 and have been in proximity to enough tragedy for two lifetimes while our collective future feels more uncertain than ever and I feel like I want to cling to consciousness harder than ever before.

I always thought Stab the Judge would work great covered as a darkwave track, but I don’t know how to make music.

DischargeHear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing – The almighty D-Beat was born right here. There is nothing I can say about this record that has not been said a thousand times by writers more talented than me.  Discharge’s masterpiece, their plateau before a disastrous descent into hair metal territory.  The opening bass lines and guitar riffs of The Final Bloodbath sound like the mouth of hell opening (or an enormous door slamming?) and it remains one of my favorite urgently haunting hardcore punk songs of all time, a desperate warning for humanity (or at least the punks) to recognize the imminent danger posed by war mongering leaders and ravenous corporations.

40 years later, you wonder if anyone heard it, or if we’re all just so beaten down by trying to survive that it saps our will to resist.

Syndrome 81Beton Nostalgie – For whatever reason, my car’s stereo system would switch to this record whenever I got a text message.  I was gonna listen to it at some point during a long ass drive anyway.  A compilation of all of Beton, France’s Syndrome 81’s recorded output so far.   Everyone knows France’s punks and skins are producing some of the best Oi! and Street Punk in the world these days.  Syndrome 81 are no exception, save for adding a healthy dose of dark/post punk into the mix.  These songs sound like what I think Blitz could have done following the New Age single.  Dark punk with a slightly thuggish edge.  These records remind me of Olympia.  I think mainly because I’ve read in interviews with Syndrome 81 that Beton is a port town where it rains all the time.

 

 

 

Subculture Sunday Vol. 7

I have been writing these short posts about subcultures I have been a part of, or respect on my personal social media for a few weeks now. It’s just something fun to do to practice writing.

I’m going to repost some of the longer entries here.

I still feel a certain way whenever I see the distinctive cover art for the early Sisters Of Mercy singles. I am forever taken back to that twinge of clove cigarette and leather scented subterranean excitement upon coming across one of these gems in the record store. They felt like these beautiful black pillars, shaping what the goth subculture that my generation of outsiders inherited looked like. We were just a decade too young ⁣to catch this band in their prime, but so much of the scenes we loved were influenced by those deep and dark bass lines and Andrew Eldritch’s just slightly overwrought baritone. ⁣

I know this band means a lot of things to a lot of people. I still remember where and when I heard them for the first time – a candlelit attic room in a farmhouse in New Freedom, Pennsylvania on a frozen night in January. I will always love how they took so much what I loved about punk and turned the lights down on it, adding melodrama and a healthy dose of brooding melancholy. I was an obnoxious punk kid; hyperactive and an opinionated loudmouth, but also hypersensitive and insecure. After the shows, or late at night alone these records were the perfect soundtrack for laying to rest the hundreds of tiny heartbreaks from the day. They still are, even with my youth long behind me.

For a while when I was sixteen, one of my best friends was this burly skinhead kid who would just destroy himself in the pit at whatever show we had been at that night, especially if there were anyone we suspected of being Nazi skins at the show to tussle with. Later, we’d get home, and he’d take his boots off and collapse on the fold out bed in my room, claiming to be too sore to move. “Oh… if you can’t move, you can’t stop me from putting this Sisters Of Mercy tape on…”, I’d laugh in the dark. He would swear he was going to kick my ass in the morning for subjecting him to my gothic rock, but he never did. The tape would run out into the night and we were always friends again in the morning, listening to more knuckleheaded Last Resort and Blitz records to greet the day.

Andrew Eldritch is arguably the most hard headed shithead in all of goth, and that’s saying a lot, not only because he’s always claiming to not be goth (scroll all the way down to see two pictures of him and his bandmates looking very, very goth. He supposedly wrote all the lyrics to their first full length in a few days while on an epic speed bender. When the first incarnation of The Sisters Of Mercy acrimoniously split up, he wrote a throwaway record under the similarly named “Sisterhood” in an attempt to snatch up the recording advance for the unreleased follow up to that first LP and so his bandmates couldn’t use the name. He then reformed the band without them and continued to put out new music until the early 90’s when conflicts with Warner Brothers led him to simply stop recording rather than put out new music that would financially benefit the label at all. I remember reading an article he wrote in the 90’s where he listened to contemporary bands and pointed out where they must have taken influence from him.

The Sisters Of Mercy also played a horribly matched gig with Black Flag that Rollins wrote about in Get In the Van. I have always wondered who booked that show, and just… how that happened. They went on a brief (and very awkwardly received) tour with Public Enemy, and made a rad shirt saying Nazis were not welcome at their shows sometime in the early 90’s.

I’ve been arguing with one of my childhood friends for something like twenty-five years about how good these records are. If he’s reading this, here’s to another twenty-five, buddy.

Like Andrew, I am also maybe just a bit of a hardheaded shithead.

A love letter written to survival and community.

I have been living with this broken-toothed grin for fifteen years as of this morning.

I had just locked up my bike outside of the Villa Kula house to cook Wednesday Food Not Bombs. I was probably looking forward to baking vegan banana bread or something. I always enjoyed to the sense of connected purpose that Wednesday mornings brought.

Nobody was awake at the house yet, so I decided to walk up to Auraria Campus and check my email. Remember what it was like before we all voluntarily started carrying these nightmare boxes that allow us to stay connected to absolutely everything much to the detriment of our mental health, all while they monitor our every move and we had to go places to check our email?

I don’t remember what I was so distracted by when I stepped off the curb onto Colfax Avenue, but I remember hearing a woman standing behind me scream “No!” and feeling the truck hit me. The last thing I remember before blacking out is a passing thought of “shouldn’t getting hit by a car hurt worse than this?” I met that woman later and she told me how after the car hit me I sat up and tried to pull myself off the ground before I passed back out. I’ve always thought trying to walk off a broken pelvis and two lacerated internal organs while basically blacked out tops the list of ridiculous shit I’ve done to prove to everyone I’m the toughest tiny person they know. She told me how when she went to work that day and the first thing she said to her co-workers was “I think I just watched some kid die.”⠀⁣

I came to on the street with that woman holding a napkin to my bloody face, doing her best to assure me that I would be okay. I immediately got this sinking feeling that I’ve thankfully only had a few times in my life. There’s probably a concise word for it in another language, but it’s the feeling that comes immediately after doing something as innocuous as crossing the street, something that seemed so innocuous and normal, and your life changes forever. There was your life before that thing, and now there is your life after.

I wiggled my toes inside my boots and felt a sense of relief at knowing my spine wasn’t broken. After that i became aware of a pain in my mouth and stuck my tongue out to check on my teeth. They weren’t entirely gone yet, but they were mangled. Doctors told me later that the impact of hitting the street face first broke my teeth, ramming what was left of them into my jaw, necessitating their complete removal. They also told me my teeth absorbing the shock of my hitting the street saved me from death or a traumatic brain injury, for which I have always been so thankful. I remember that gratitude on the days when my back hurts, or my shoulder won’t sit right riding my bike.

The weeks after that day, the crew of punks I ran with in Denver, and all around showed up harder than I ever could have imagined. I remember yelling at the doctors before they would let anyone see me that I was so scared and I just wanted my fucking friends. You can imagine the relief that rushed in when I finally got to see familiar faces in the ICU. I remember feeling so thankful to be alive and to be surrounded by the love that pulled me through the scariest day of my life.

I endeavor to carry that love with me always, to carry all the love living through that accident allowed me to experience and share over the last fifteen years, on days where life on this planet leaves me so drained and demoralized, that it’s all I can do to keep living on it. I wish I could say those days have been few and far between, but they have not been, and I’ve always had a problem with being dishonest. I endeavor to offer that love back to everyone in my life, and I’m not afraid to admit that I fall short in that more often than I wish I did. I think of how many of our friends are gone, and I’m grateful for not having joined them in the hereafter, regardless of the ache their absence leaves.

If you’re reading this, I love you. Thank you. For all of our friends who are gone, I’m glad you aren’t one of them. Thank you for the privilege of our crossing paths. Thank you for the love and light you have shared, that you bring to your people. Thanks for hanging in. All we have is each other and that’s really not the worst thing in the world.

Untitled

How many graveyards
Of the soul
Live on
And on
In your skull

Every night

Are you tired
Worn down
From the years
Spent dragging your
Heart through
The abyssal dark
Alone

All the late nights
In cold rooms
Lived in loops
Playing the same
Sepia soaked scenes
On repeat

I don’t want them anymore

I’m tired, baby
Just so tired
Of restless ghosts

Falling forever
Through the firmament
Of the lives
We could have
Should have
Lived

Here’s to the past
Raging beneath tired skin
Like an ocean
With no end
The tides of comfort
That never come in

Here’s to the futures
Lost and mourned
Faded and yellow
Brittle
Maps to a country
That never existed

Twenty-Eight

Ugly people
Haunt you
Just enough
To remind You
The day you left them
Felt
Like a first breath
Back
From the shadow
Of the valley of death

There is magic
Living
Breathing in
In this world
I know this much
Is true
Too bad
There’s none left
Living in you.

Tropical Appalachia

January, and it’s that proper cold
Flick my tongue out, taste the snow
Frozen Reassurance of a world spinning on
Offered from the gray expanse above

A throwback
To the kiss of winters long gone
Icy winds blow ill
Crossing the threshold of my lips

Wishing to breathe the clock backwards
Before that cataclysmic industrial thaw
Ushered in the unease of
A Tropical Appalachia

71 degrees in January, Just last week
Everyone knows something is very wrong
As the minute hands crawls
Ever closer towards a colossal Midnight

My best friend’s paws
Hallow
Hold
Every inch of ground
She walks upon

I’m not ready.
I’m not ready.
I’m not ready.
I’m not ready