Issuu on Google+

Reckless Chants no. 19 ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! History lesson, part 2 


August 2013

!

I mentioned in Reckless Chants #18 that, after years of trying to stop writing about punk, I had started writing about it again, and that since then, punk is all I want to write about. That was almost a year ago, and I feel the same way right now.

!

My pal Luno and I were chatting a while back about the negative aspects of punk. They said: “Even in punk, it’s a straight white dude’s game. So what do we do? Frankly, I’m a little discouraged at the moment.” I didn’t respond to that, but I’ve been stewing about it since then. They’re right, of course - punk is, as ever, dominated by straight, cis, white dudes. Also, for a subculture that purports to be different from the mainstream, there is an awful lot of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, rape culture, etc., in the scene; not to mention your garden-variety punker-than-thou assholes thinking they get to decide who’s punk and who’s not. (Sing along with me: “You’re not punk, and I’m telling everyone.”) I get discouraged, too. But then something happens to make me fall back in love with punk: I hear a kickass new album or read a zine that explodes in my heart like a Molotov cocktail, I go to a show where everyone dances to the music and buys each other drinks between bands, I meet someone who is fighting the oppressive parts of the punk scene or someone who’s a dorky, fucked-up mess like I am. Something like that happens and I realize, yeah, there’s a lot of bullshit in punk but there’s a lot of good shit, too, and I can’t give up on it. I think it’s important for those of us who are railing against the negative aspects of punk to continue carving out space for ourselves and people like us; to continue trying to eradicate the racist, sexist, homophobic dude-bros from our scene. Yeah, we all need a break sometimes, we all need to step back from punk


sometimes, but stepping back from it doesn’t mean giving it up forever. Even when I take a break from it, it’s in everything I do. Punk shaped me as a person, for better or worse. Furthermore, other than the labels of writer and zine-maker, punk is the only identifier that has felt so right to me for so long. I’ve struggled with how to define my gender, my sexual orientation, my political views, but through it all - I’ve always been a punk. (Even when I was pretending I wasn’t. Let’s continue the song: “Save your breath, I never was one.”) Maybe that’s silly, maybe it’s childish, but fuck it, that’s what I’ve got.

!

Speaking of silly, childish stuff: sometimes I wonder why I still make zines. Not only did I once attempt to quit writing about punk, I also once attempted to quit writing zines. I mean, why the fuck do I still make zines? Zinemaking is a fool’s errand. It doesn’t pay for shit. It consumes way too much time, time that could be spent on other, more grown-up endeavors, like trying to find freelance writing gigs that do pay, or looking for a real job. It consumes time that could be spent on other, more fun endeavors, like fucking or taking late-night bike rides or hanging out with friends. And the powers-that-be in the lit world still don’t consider zines real writing or publishing experience. So why do I still make zines? There are two main reasons: 1. I’m trying to make some human connection. I’m a lonely weirdo and I want other lonely weirdos to read my zines and maybe feel not so alone, and if I’m lucky maybe they’ll even write to me and tell me about themselves. 2. I have the compulsion to document and mythologize my own life. I think it’s important for all of us to document and mythologize our lives and the lives of the people we cross paths with - cos these days, unless we’re big-name celebrities, no one’s gonna do it for us. Fuck the starmaking machine, we’ll turn ourselves into stars. We’ll turn ourselves into fucking legends.


!

*** 


What can you expect to find in this issue? A lot of punk stuff, duh. A lot of music-related stuff. (There’s so much music-related stuff in this issue I think maybe it’s the first time my zine could truly be called a fanzine; then again, the music is all looked at from a personal angle.) A lifetime’s worth of nostalgia. Stories about friendship, family, and love. I’d suggest you proceed with caution, as there are brief mentions of things like rape and self-injury and suicide. There are also several stories that involve drinking and/or drug use. I don’t do drugs anymore (well, none of the bad ones, anyway), and I don’t drink as much as I used to, but I am not sXe, and many of my stories involve some form of intoxication.

!

Who am I? I’m the zinester formerly known as Jessica Disobedience. I’m punk as shit and twice as emo. I drink too much coffee, I cut the sleeves off all my T-shirts, I think I wear one of the two denim vests I own at least every other day, and I’m obsessed with stick and poke tattoos - I’m a goddamn cliche. My gender is a weird grey area, but I refer to myself as a girl and go by she/her/hers pronouns. (Don’t even get me started on the ‘girl’ thing - I’m 31 and I feel like a girl a lot, but never like a woman.) I’m a Midwesterner/Rust Belt-er (southeastern Wisconsin, Chicago, and Michigan) with a dash of Philly and Oakland thrown in for good measure.

! *** !

Okay, enough introduction already. Let’s get on with the zine.

! !


!

X to tha mothafuckin’ O, -Rust Belt- Jessie Lynn

!

!


Sound system

! Operation Ivy - “Sound System” !

Sound system gonna bring me back up. One thing that I can depend on.

!

I can be feelin’ so down and this song will bring me back up. The bass plays fast and loose and then Lint and Jesse chant the chorus, and Jesse starts singing super high-speed and it brings a smile to my face and it makes me want to dance, or, if I’m in my car, it makes me want to roll the windows down and blast the music so everyone I pass can hear it, can fucking hear it and maybe they’ll feel better, too.

!

Try to describe to the limit of my ability: it’s there for a second, then it's given up what it used to be. Contained in my music somehow more than just sound, this inspiration coming and twisting things around.

!

I was nine when I first heard this song, when I first heard Energy. It was the first punk album I’d ever heard. It would be another five years or so before I devoted myself to punk, but in my preteen body I could feel the stirrings of something, some vague sense sitting in the back of my mouth with the last of my baby teeth, that someday, this would be important to me.

!

Because you always know that it’s gonna have to go. You always know that you'll be back in the cold. Point of departure sublimated in a song. It’s always coming to give me that hope for just a second - then it’s gone, but sound system gonna bring me back up. One thing that I can depend on.

!


My best pal Ali had an older brother, Nick. He was three years older, which now sounds like nothing, but to a nineyear-old, a twelve-year-old is, like, totally grown up. And to a twelve-year-old, a nine-year-old is still a fucking baby. Nick hated when Ali and I tagged along with him, I mean what self-respecting almost-teen wants his annoying baby sister and his sister’s annoying baby friends hanging around? But, see, Nick’s best friend, let’s call him Cody, didn’t mind if we hung around them sometimes, and anyway he was the main reason we hung around. Ali had a huge crush on Cody and I just wanted to be him - he had a skateboard, and he wore checkerboard slip-on Vans, and ripped-up jeans or board shorts, and from time to time he even sported a porkpie hat. He was into good music - punk, rap, ska, all kinds of stuff, but it wasn’t the mainstream shit you heard every fuckin’ where. He was cool. One lazy afternoon, I was over at Ali’s house, and Cody showed up. He had a cassette tape in the back pocket of his jeans, and he pulled it out and started waving it around. “You guys have to hear this, it’s so fucking cool.” (He probably didn’t say ‘fucking,’ after all Ali’s parents were around, but he was so stoked on the tape that I’m adding the expletive in retrospect.) Nick protested a little about the two of us joining them but Cody was adamant that we all hear the tape. So Nick relented, we grabbed some root beer from the fridge, and we filed into his room. He plopped down on his bed and Ali and I sat on the floor, Cody stuck the tape in the boombox and pressed ‘play.’ He paced around the room while “Knowledge” played; what I remember of my first impression of that tune is that it had a swear word in it and I thrilled to that, it felt so grown-up to be listening to music with ‘bad words’ in it. Track one ended, track two started, and there it was. “Sound system gonna bring me back up, right.” Cody danced to it, did a bizarre combination of skanking and slam-dancing all by himself, he looked ridiculous and awesome at the same time, the rest of us sat entranced by the music and by


Cody’s moves. (I didn’t know what either skanking or slamdancing were, back then; it was only looking back on the experience that I understood what he’d been doing, and that made me even more impressed. How did this twelve-year-old know how to skank? I didn’t get the hang of skanking ‘til I was, like, sixteen!) “So who is this?” Nick finally asked, as the tape slid into “Jaded.” “Operation Ivy,” said Cody.

!

Static pulse inside of music bringing us escape. It’s always temporary, changing nothing in its wake. Just a second where we’re leaving all this shit behind. Just a second but it’s leaving just this much in mind: to resist despair that second makes you see. To resist despair because you can’t change everything. To resist despair in this world is what it is to be free. Sound system gonna bring me back up. One thing that I can depend on.

!

To resist despair. I could just tell that Operation Ivy would remain important in my life. I could tell that punk music would be important in my life. (A couple years ago I found the diary I kept when I was nine, and right around the time of this memory I wrote: “I love punk rock!” I surrounded that sentence with doodles of hearts and flowers. Gimme a break, I was nine.) To resist despair. That day, sitting in Nick’s room with Ali and Nick and Cody, nothing else mattered. It didn’t matter that my parents fought all the time, that my mom was considering taking me and moving us back to Michigan, away from Pennsylvania, a place that felt like home. To resist despair. None of it mattered, not that day. I had my best friend, I had a sugar buzz from the root beer, I had this music like nothing else I’d ever heard. To resist despair in this world is what it is to be free.

!

Wake up, turn my box on. Bust the shade, let the sun in. Times getting tougher, ‘bout time to start runnin’. Box in


my hand, music by my side. Skanking to the rhythm of the music by my side.

!

That is what “Sound System,” what Operation Ivy, still does for me - helps me to resist despair. I can be so down low, so damn lonesome, feeling like nothing will ever turn out right. Then, I throw on some Energy, and I think of Ali and then all of my other friends, and I feel a little better. Maybe not a lot better, maybe still lonesome and sad, but there’s a hint of hope glimmering inside the pain. I may not get to see my friends often enough, but sometimes it’s enough to know they’re out there, somewhere. The world, and my life, may be fucked up, but the music is still fucking good.

!

Sound system gonna bring me back up. One thing that I can depend on.

!

!

!


American music

! Violent Femmes - “American Music” !

Do you like American music? I like American music. Don't you like American music, baby?

!

Not counting my experience with Operation Ivy, it wasn’t until I heard the Violent Femmes that a band or a song felt like it belonged to me. I was a kid in the early to-mid ‘80s, so I put on my jelly bracelets and put my hair in a side-ponytail and danced around to the Go-Go’s and the Bangles, and I daydreamed about meeting Billy Idol someday and having a White Wedding of our own. All of that was fun, but it didn’t mean much. By the time the late ‘80s came around, I was into my short-lived New Kids On The Block phase, because all the other girls my age listened to them and there was no escape from their sugarcoated music or squeaky-clean faces. In 1990, we moved to Pennsylvania, and I found a decent radio station, and I liked the Cure and Red Hot Chili Peppers and They Might Be Giants, but still, it was all just fun, none of it felt essential. When we moved to Wisconsin toward the end of 1992, I started listening to hip hop and R&B; that’s what most of the kids I went to school with listened to and I did whatever I could to fit in. I liked some of it, but it didn’t speak to my experience, y’know, it wasn’t mine.

!

I want you to hold me. I want your arms around me. I want you to hold me, baby. Did you do too many drugs? I did too many drugs. Did you do too many drugs, too, baby?

!

I can’t quite express how miserable I was in ’92/’93. I was lonely - I had very few friends and what was worse is that my best friend was back in Pennsylvania. School was hell.


Some of the boys sexually harassed me and the others ignored me, some of the girls beat me up and most of the others teased me, I got in trouble for finishing my assignments ahead of time, even when I answered every question correctly. There was something else, too, something dark and frightening, welling up from inside me - I didn’t know where it came from, or how to deal with it. I spent most of my time staring out my bedroom window, imagining the clouds were mountains and that my best friend was waiting for me on the other side of them; when I wasn’t doing that, I was writing poetry about suicide in my journal.

!

You were born too late, I was born too soon. But every time I look at that ugly moon - it reminds me of you. It reminds me of you, ooh ooh ooh.

!

Yes, suicide. I started thinking about killing myself in the fifth grade. The loneliness, the kids who tormented me at school, the darkness inside me, plus some traumatic memories from my early childhood that were just beginning to surface, it all added up to thoughts of ending it all. It would be another couple years before my first suicide attempt, but I thought about it, nearly every day, and turned it into wretched poetry scribbled in my journal with red pen.

!

I need a date to the prom. Would you like to come along? But nobody would go to the prom with me, baby. They didn't like American music. They never heard American music. They didn't know the music was in my soul, baby.

!

Toward the end of fifth grade, things got a little better, for a while. I made some friends in my neighborhood. The mean girls at school started leaving my alone after I snapped on one of them and hit back. One of the boys who had ignored me all year walked up to me at recess, told me he had a crush on me, and asked me if I wanted to go steady. I


said ‘sure,’ he was a cute short kid with freckles and orange hair and a curly lil’ rattail; plus, having a boyfriend meant I wasn’t as much of a social pariah as I’d thought.

!

You were born too soon, I was born too late. But every time I look at that ugly lake - it reminds me of me. It reminds me of me.

!

Then it was summer, and me n’ this boy, we were going steady. What going steady meant to us, then, was that we hung out a lot and rode bikes together and sometimes sat on a front porch holding hands and drinking lemonade, and in a way I think that’s what I’ve been looking for in every relationship since then: someone to ride bikes with and sit drinking on front porches with. Many times, it was just the two of us, crashing our bikes and getting skinned knees, wandering by the lake looking for trouble. When we hung out with other people, we hung out with my neighborhood friends, or with his older brother and his brother’s friends. His brother’s friends, my neighborhood friends, they were older. They were older, and they knew music.

!

Do you like American music? We like American music. I like American music, baby. Do you like American music? We like all kinds of music. But I like American music best, baby.

!

So one day we were sitting with some of the older kids on some front porch or other, watching the older kids smoke cigarettes. (Though it would be another couple years before I had my first cigarette, that summer was when I started to romanticize smoking. The older kids were so damn cool, and they made smoking seem cool, too.) Someone had a crappy tape player, and someone had an all-Violent Femmes mix. It fucking floored me. The lyrics were hilarious and angry and sad, all at the same time. The music was kinda sloppy and


punk rock, but also kinda folk. (Holy shit, the Violent Femmes were folkpunk before folkpunk was a thing!) “Blister in the Sun” was so much fun; a year later, when I started playing guitar, “Blister” was the first song I figured out how to play. “Kiss Off,” oh man; like I said, I’d been contemplating suicide, and the pure rage of that particular song was brilliant, it made me feel as if I could blame the world for the feelings I was having, rather than blaming myself. Most of all, most of all, there was “American Music.” Somehow, though I hadn’t yet done any drugs, or tried to get a date to the prom, I got it. The song was both upbeat and disaffected. The song was mine. One of the older kids told me that the Femmes were a Milwaukee-based band, and that drummer Victor DeLorenzo was from Racine and had gone to school not far from our neighborhood. So when I heard Gordon Gano sing about ‘that ugly lake,’ I knew he was singing about Lake Michigan, and I knew he understood.

!

You were born too late, and I was born too late. But every time I look at that ugly lake - it reminds me of me. It reminds me of me. Do you like American music? It reminds me of me.

!

! 



Nothing feels good

! The Promise Ring - “Nothing Feels Good” !

I don’t know east Texas from Louisiana. And I don’t know Alabama, or where Atlanta lies, where Atlanta is, tonight. And Indianapolis - summers in park and recreation pools, and carsick vacations in size eleven, in “I’m going to heaven” shoes. And I don’t know god, and I don’t know anyone. And I don’t know god, and I don’t know if anything at all will be all right.

!

If one song encapsulates my teenage years, it is this song. This song takes me back to smoking cigarettes on the garage roof, mixing stolen brandy in with my coffee. It takes me back to writing zines late at night in my bedroom, typing away on an old IBM Selectric. It takes me back to getting called an emo kid and then trying to reclaim that term; I took a black Sharpie to a white T-shirt, scrawled: “Don’t call me emo. It makes me cry.” I used to worry that I wasn’t punk because I listened to stuff like this, stuff that was kinda too pretty and too poetic to be tough the way ‘real’ punk was supposed to be. When I listen to it now, it sounds more authentic than a hundred other punk bands I’ve heard in the ensuing fifteenodd years. It starts out with vocal cords strained and a guitar strummed soft, then, 24 seconds in, here comes the full band and they sound urgent and lazy at the same time. It sounds like music that should be coming from a garage in your neighborhood on the hottest day of the summer or the coldest day of the winter. At the 1:30 mark, it begins to fade out again. The song is only two minutes and three seconds long, and it is both a perfect pop song, and a perfect punk song.


It’s not pop punk, but it is both punk and pop. Pop in its sweetness, punk in its alienation.

!

I don’t know Billy Ocean, and I don’t know the ocean floor. I don’t own any albums. I don’t know anything. I don’t go to college, anymore.

!

The lyrics mean something different to me now, now that I’m a 30-something punk and my teenage years are long past. I don’t own any records - well, not many - I had to sell off most of my vinyl years ago, so I could afford things like food and rent. I don’t go to college, anymore - though I graduated late because of the time I took off to travel and have nervous breakdowns, I haven’t been in college in nearly six years. My current sadnesses are different from my teenage sadnesses. My teenage sadnesses were furious; my 30something sadnesses are much quieter.

!

And I don’t know god, and I don’t know anyone. And I don’t know god, and I don’t know if anything at all will be all right.

!

It means something different to me now, but it has lost none of its old meaning. This song doesn’t just sound like my teenage years, it sounds like the teenage years of all the punks in southeastern Wisconsin. It sounds like ill-fitting thrift store clothes and filthy high-top Chucks; it sounds like bike rides to Lake Michigan with the March wind slapping your face, like drives and bus rides to Milwaukee. It sounds like not knowing god even while living in the Christian midwest; it sounds like dealing with your neighbors’ covert racism and homophobia. It sounds like making mix tapes for your crush, like staying up all night at Denny’s, like smoking cigarettes behind the YMCA. It sounds like getting hassled by the cops for skateboarding in parking lots; it sounds like searching for rainbows in oil


puddles. It sounds like a loneliness so large and existential that you’ll never escape it, but I’ll be damned if there’s not some kind of beauty in all that loneliness, too.

!

I’ve got my hands on the one hand - and I don’t know where to put them.

! ! !

! 



You don’t meet nice girls in copy shops

! for girls (and others, but mostly girls) who write zines !

1. don’t date anyone who requests you be silent. not even if they do it politely. not even if they only hint at it.

!

2. write about everyone and everything in your zine, everyone and everything that’s important to you. write about the mix tape your first love made you. write about bike rides to the lake; about getting drunk and ripping your stockings. write about the night the moon was the same color as the strawberry-kiwi Mad Dog 20/20 you were drinking, which also happened to be the same color as the hair of the girl you had a crush on at the time. write about everyone you’ve ever fucked and everyone you’ve ever loved. write about your traumas, your scars, protests and arrests and abortions. write about your favorite dress, your favorite hoodie, your favorite pair of shoes. make your zine a confessional. make it so personal other people feel a little guilty for reading it, like they’ve stolen your secret diary.

!

3. or don’t. write surreal tales about murder and circus freaks and mermaids. write poems about magicians and motels. put disclaimers in your zine: “this is fiction.” don’t tell anyone that the stories are closer to reality than they might think.

!

4. change everyone’s names. give them new names that represent who they are deep-down: Dark Eyes. Calloused Hands. The Moth Boy. Barefoot and Beautiful. Evan Williams. when they read it, they’ll know who they are. if they don’t know, they’ll ask you. don’t tell them.


!

5. when your ex-lover comes to you and says: “I can’t believe you wrote about me that way. I can’t believe you’re letting strangers read about our history,” say: “I told you from the start you should never fuck a zine-writing girl, but you thought I was joking.”

!

6. when your current lover comes to you and says: “how come you never write about me in your zine?” say: “because I can’t ever write about relationships ‘til they’re over.” don’t say: “that means I’ll never be able to write about you,” because you know - the fact that they asked that question means it will be over sooner rather than later.

!

7. when the person you have a crush on reads your zine and stops calling you, think: “good riddance. if they couldn’t handle that, I’m better off without them.” try not to cry.

!

8. when your mother wants to read your zines to are any ‘lesbian undertones,’ only give her the boys. say: “this is all of them.” she will then you’re straight, and never ask about your zines

!

see if there ones about believe again.

9. when your girlfriend reads your zine and says: “all you ever write about is punk rock and crushes and road trips. where’s all the political stuff? I guess you’re not very committed to the cause.” casually gesture toward your anarchy symbol tattoo, so she remembers that you were at least committed enough to get it permanently etched into your flesh. then, take her to a punk rock show. if she sees how much the music means to you, she’ll understand.

!

10. when that same girlfriend reads a different issue of your zine, reads about one of those road trips you so often go on, and gets mad because you ate a burger in a roadside diner and therefore aren’t a pure vegan like she is, dump


her. then go out to a diner, eat a bacon cheeseburger, laugh about it. then feel sick to your stomach. try not to cry.

!

11. when your boyfriend reads an issue of your zine that’s more overtly political than usual and scoffs at you, saying: “you’re so naive. I can’t believe you think anarchism would ever work in the real world.” start singing “Only Anarchists Are Pretty." when he rolls his eyes, spit coffee in his face.

!

12. when your boyfriend gets jealous because you write so much about your former lovers, and tells you he’s afraid you’d rather be with one of them, reassure him that the past is just a good story, and that you’re very happy being with him. when he tallies in his head the number of past lovers you’ve written about, decides it’s too many, and calls you a slut - leave him. take all the beer in the fridge with you.

!

13. when your best friend (and sometimes-lover) reads your zine - an issue that you’ve stated is fiction - and comes to you asking which stories are fiction and which stories really happened, say: “they’re stories.” when they keep pestering you about it, do not yell. say: “they’re STORIES.” decide that someone who can’t accept the blurred line between fact and fiction without explanation isn’t worthy of being your best friend, or your lover.

!

14. when you’re doing a zine reading and your other best friend - the one you spend so much time with that everyone thinks you’re secretly dating - says: “read a story with me in it,” laugh, say: “which one?”

!

15. finish your next issue. even if you’re terrified. even if it’s the most personal one you’ve written in years. finish it. even if you fear your honesty will get you in trouble - an honest girl is always in trouble. if you’re


afraid that the people you’re writing about will guess at their pseudonyms and get angry about the stories you’re telling, write a disclaimer. state it simply: “you’re so vain, you probably think this zine is about you. it’s not.” finish it. stay up all night, if you have to. drink coffee ‘til your hands shake. stare at the computer screen or the blank page ‘til you can’t see straight. finish it, if it’s the last zine you do.

!

16. don’t date anyone who demands your silence. don’t date anyone who demands. don’t date anyone. just write.

!

! 



I Break a lot of things

!

Come late January, like every January since 2009, I was gearing up for Punk Month. What the hell is Punk Month? In Aaron Cometbus’ novella-zine, Double Duce, he has this idea to have a month where he and his friends get back into the practice of being punks. This entails things like dancing at shows, hanging out on streetcorners, shaving their heads, and listening to all their records. You know, punk stuff. In February 2009, I decided to have a Punk Month, myself, because I needed to break the work-bar-cry myself to sleep routine I’d fallen into, and because I needed to remember why I fell in love with punk in the first place. It worked so well that every year since then, I’ve had a Punk Month. I do it as a way to get myself out of any rut I may be stuck in. I do it so I have an excuse to work on all the projects I want to work on, and have all the adventures I want to have, and if I have to lose sleep to get it all done, I can say: “Screw sleep! You can sleep when Punk Month’s over!” I do it so if I’m feeling sorry for myself, I can summon the Undying Spirit of Punk Rock and say to myself: “Get over it and do something rad, or I’ll kick your ass.” Sometimes it winds up lasting longer than a month. It doesn’t have an official start date, since it’s a made-up thing, but I always start it around the end of January or the beginning of February, cos that’s the time of year when I need something to cure the winter blues and shake me up.

!

I know, it’s silly, but if we can’t create our own silly traditions in this life, then what’s the point in living?

!

So, in late January, I started sketching out ideas for the Punk Rock Tarot patches I’d been talking about making for years, listening to old hardcore records, drinking cheap beer, and wondering how I was going to celebrate the


officially unofficial start of Punk Month. I got a text message from my pal Waza, telling me about an upcoming show in Milwaukee. “February 2,” she said. “Could this be the perfect kickoff for Punk Month?” Hell yeah, it could.

!

Allow me to travel back in time for a moment. Right before I started doing the Punk Month thing, I was at a show in Chicago, and it just so happened that one of the bands playing was Pistofficer, a Kenocore group of drunk punx that I’ve known for fuckin’ ever. They were introducing their next song, and said: “This song is for a friend of ours who passed away last year.” I thought: “If it’s someone from Kenosha, it’s gotta be someone I know, too.” Sure enough... “This one’s for Beautiful Bert,” they said, before launching into “The Bert Song.” Beautiful Bert passed away in the spring of 2008, and I found out about it at this show in January 2009, and it made me fucking sad. It’s not like he was my best friend, but, back when I still did drugs, we did drugs together sometimes, and I saw him at the bar a lot over the years, or at shows, and I gave him cigarettes and he gave me stories. Part of what prompted the initial Punk Month was thinking about punks (both those I knew, and those I didn’t know) dying; doing all the dangerous and awesome punk things for a month seemed like a perfect way to celebrate their lives. Then, on February 4, 2009, the day before my first Punk Month began, Lux Interior of The Cramps passed away, and all the punks mourned him, played Cramps songs on the jukebox at their favorite bar; I mourned him, blasted “Bikini Girls With Machine Guns” while driving around in my car, thought about the 4 a.m. Cramps dance parties Ratticus and I used to have in The Sick Room - a room which we’d christened as such in part because of a line in “Bikini Girls.” As if that weren’t enough...on February 7, I was up in Milwaukee, poking around Rushmor, my favorite Brew City recordshop. “Hey,” Dan said to me, “did you hear about Reed from Avoided?” -”Hear what?” -”He passed away two


days ago. There’s been no official statement about how he died, but everyone’s sure it involved drugs.” Of course it involved drugs, of course it did. Reed was never a close friend of mine, but we ran in some of the same circles, so we’d met each other on many occasions. He was a year or so older than I am, and sure he had this pure burning rage he channeled into his music, and sure he liked to get fucked up, but he was also a sweet, scruffy kid with a goofy side to him. Goddammit. Two days in, and Punk Month was already turning into Stupid Punk Rock Death Amnesty Month.

!

The show Waza told me about this year was an Avoided tribute show, featuring Avoided (sans Reed), some other Milwaukee punk (and punkgrass) bands, and a couple Kenosha bands cos us southeastern Wisconsin punks stick together. “I’ll be there,” I said. “With bells on, er, with studs and boots on.” Then, I shot an email to the music editor at The Shepherd Express, saying: “Yo, can I cover the Avoided tribute show?” He said yes, and I laughed, cos - I rarely get paid for my writing, and when I do, the money is scant; so, when I do get paid to review shows I want to be at anyway, it is fucking amazing. I mean, how cool is it that sometimes I get paid to write about music I love? Anyway, February 2 arrived and I was rarin’ to go, ready to get tore up and do foolish things, except, well - I’m a nostalgic person by nature, no shit, and without even meaning to, I started coming down with a nasty case of the sad sort of nostalgia. I started thinking about Lux Interior, and how sad his death still made me, and then I thought about Sid Vicious, because it was the 34th anniversary of his death, and though I wasn’t actually sad about him being dead, thinking about Sid made me think about being sixteen and Ali stealing leopard-print underwear for me from a Walmart and sending me one half of her pair of handcuffs, and then I missed Ali. That turned into me thinking about Reed and Beautiful Bert, and how they wouldn’t be at the show, and


then I started thinking about all the people who wouldn’t be there - whether it was because they, too, had passed away, or because they’d moved away or dropped out of punk. My fucking thought patterns are brutal, man, I tell you.

!

!

!

Good thing I was able to summon the Undying Spirit of Punk Rock and snap myself out of it. I made a mix to listen to on my drive up (which ended up being an eerie foretelling of


some of the events of that night and in the month to follow, and it wasn’t the first time I’d ever prophesied my own life with a mix), I printed a test run of the Punk Rock Tarot patches to give to my Milwaukee punk babes, I put more studs and patches on my battle vest, and then I put on my leopardprint jeans and way too much eyeliner for my own good, and I got in my car and drove north.

!

Picture a small, dingy barroom with crushed cans of Hamm’s and Pabst Blue Ribbon strewn everywhere, like offerings to the dark gods of punk rock. The room is packed wall-to-wall with people; everyone reeks of cigarettes and body odor. There’s a tiny stage shoved into the corner, and a band on that stage, illuminated only by an eerie blue light. Such was the scene at Quarter’s when Waza and I showed up. We stood against the wall for a while, sipping our cheap beers and waiting for other friends to show up and for bands we knew to play. We scoped the crowd, and things got awkward, for a minute, as a lifetime of my ex-whatevers and onenight-stands filed into the room. Scenes and towns can be so small and incestuous, even more so when you fuck your way through them the way I once did. So that was awkward, yeah, but no regrets, and the night got better. Old friends and acquaintances arrived, and bought us shots of rotgut whiskey or beer fancier than the kind we could afford on our own. Strangers showed up, people we didn’t know but enjoyed watching: the old punk dudes with faded tattoos and missing teeth, the cute punk chicks who did weird, excellent dances to whatever band was playing at the time, even when no one else was dancing. Yeah, the kids (metaphorical kids, I mean, most people at the show were over 25) do still sing and dance, drink and fuck, smash it up in the homeland.

!

Those of us that partake of tobacco products froze our asses off outside, huddled together under little smoke-clouds in the well-below-zero midwestern winter night. Sometimes


smoking makes me feel like an asshole - so damn desperate to get my fix that I’m willing to risk frostbite for it - but on the other hand, there’s a camaraderie to it, and I was drunk enough at that point that I didn’t feel the cold. During one of the smoking huddles, I was introduced to a super-rad girl - a dirty punk girl named after a gem, with DIY tattoos and a Cristy Road patch on her vest, who works as a sailor on a tall ship, and goddamn if she didn’t intimidate the shit out of me. She seemed like a girl right out of one of my stories, and that’s always dangerous. I was lighting a second cigarette when I heard someone ask: “Who’s playing next?” “Some fuckin’ Kenocore band,” someone else responded. “Hey, fuck you, don’t talk shit about Kenocore,” I said. I’ve never lived in Kenosha, but I have spent so much time there and made so many friends there over the past sixteen years that it feels like home, and I am fiercely protective of it. I finished my cigarette and ventured back into the bar, after all I didn’t want to miss that fuckin’ Kenocore band, Pistofficer. I went a little nuts in the pit during their set, and my drunken state, combined with all the beer coating the floor (when, oh when, will someone invent combat boots that won’t slip in spilled beer?), meant that when a burly dude slammed into me, I went down. People helped me up right away, but ouch. My left ankle. I figured it was a sprain, I’ve sprained my ankles a million times, no big deal, I figured I’d just lean against the wall, ride the pain out, jump back in. That’s exactly what I did.

!

Pistofficer finished their set and I felt an arm slide around my shoulder. “Hey, how ya been?” It was an ex- of mine, a fella I knew would be there cos he’s kind of a fixture in the Milwaukee punk scene. “S’alright, s’okay,” I said. We started chatting, small talk at first, but then he bought me a beer and a shot, and the booze loosened our tongues. Our conversation grew more personal, and then talking turned to flirting. There are some exes that I’ll


always have a spark and a sexual tension with, this fella being one of them. I wouldn’t want to be with him again, and lord knows we made a rotten couple, but talking with him that night I realized I had missed his messy ‘hawk and big nose and cartoonish laugh, and his fantastic taste in music, and even his filthy apartment. (To this day, his apartment remains the filthiest living space I have ever seen, and that’s saying something, cos I’ve lived in punkhouses!) It gave me a warm feeling to know he’d missed me, too. He drifted off to talk to some other folks, I hobbled over to have a beer with Waza and Itty Bitty. Someone had set up a projection screen on the stage, and they were playing a slideshow of photos of Reed: Reed hanging out bein’ goofy, Reed going wild with Avoided, Reed looking pensive. I got a little sad again, for a second, but then thought: “If Reed could see us all here tonight, getting fucked up and tearing shit up, he’d be happy and proud. I’ll drink to that.” “Whiskey me,” I said to the bartender.

!

Sometimes I think that us midwest punk rockers are, as a group, more self-destructive than either the east coast or west coast punks. It’s so cold for half the year, here, we have none of the sunshine and beaches and poetry of California to brighten our spirits. Unlike the east coast, which is packed with major cities and the culture and community that comes with them - here in the midwest, there are all these vast expanses between everything and it gets damn desolate. So we turn to drugs and drink to help us get through, to give us somethin’ to do, some way to not feel so bored and alone all the time. Speaking of selfdestruction...I was so drunk I was beginning to see double, twin images of every punk glowing in the dim blue light, and man, my ankle really fuckin’ hurt. I had to piss, and thought that sitting down for a minute might be a good idea. Just as I was about to enter the bathroom, the dirty-gem girl came up behind me and said: “Is it okay if I come in


with you? I need to change my shirt.” “Uh, sure,” I mumbled. I sat on the toilet while she stripped down to her bra and searched through her patched-up messenger bag for a different shirt. “We’ve been in here a long time,” I said, “people are gonna think we’re either doing drugs or fucking. Or both.” “I wish,” she said. “You wish which?” “Uh...drugs. Yeah, I wish we were doing drugs.” I wished we were doing drugs and fucking. We talked about how delicious it would be to have some cocaine, or some speed. I don’t do those kinds of drugs anymore, but a punk can dream.

!

Liar’s Trial was the next band. They were a three-piece band so new they didn’t even have a demo tape available yet, which I was bummed about, cos they were damn good. They banged the shit out of their acoustic instruments, made their gothic country-folk sound dark and angry and more punk than punk. The frontman/guitarist spouted hellfire and brimstone like a southern preacher. Maybe I should mention that the frontman is Bryan, who is also the bassist for Avoided.

! ! ! ! ! ! !


!

!

After their set, I talked to Bryan for a bit. He asked how I was doing after my spill in the pit; I think everyone in the joint saw it happen, and I was a little embarrassed, but what punk hasn’t had a pit injury or two? Then he said “You look familiar.” “You’ve probably seen me at shows here in Milwaukee.” “Nope, that’s not it. You’re from Racine, aren’t you?” “Uh...yeah.” “So am I! I remember seeing you at all the shows at the YMCA and shit, back in the day. You were the cool girl who did the zine.” “Oh, yeah, that was me.” Wait, what? I was the cool girl who did the zine? I


mean, I did a zine, yeah, but here I spent most of my middle and high school years thinking the reason I didn’t have many friends in town is cos I was a dorky writer-girl, too uncool for anyone to talk to, and it turns out they thought of me as the cool girl who did the zine. Makes me wonder what other long-held beliefs about myself and the world stem from misperceptions.

!

Highlonesome played next. There’s something a little disconcerting about watching crusty punks play banjo and sing songs about the devil and riding the rails, but it works, especially when they’re as good as Highlonesome. Then, Avoided. Before the show, I wasn’t sure how they would sound without Reed. I was afraid they wouldn’t be at all interesting to watch or hear without Reed’s savage stage presence, without his bluesy growl. My fears proved unfounded. Avoided still have their trademark heavy, brutal, ‘80s hardcore sound, the kind that smacks you around and jolts you awake. Justin and Ben still shred their guitars, Bryan still plays bass so furiously you think his hands might fall off, and DB is a vicious drummer. Like so much essential music, Avoided’s songs are about pain - the pain of being a drunk junkie screw up, the pain of dwelling in a cold midwest, the pains of being alive in this world. To deal with the pain in a punk rock way means that rather than whining about it, you scream about it, you take other people into it with you. Avoided still does that; they brought it all to the stage that night, all that pain, along with the pain of being there without Reed and all the other friends and loved ones we’ve lost. But they brought joy, too - the joy of being a little (or a lot) buzzed on a Saturday night in Milwaukee, the joy of sharing a primal moment with a crowd of people who get it. As Avoided blasted into “Whiskey Me” (which is one of the best drinking songs ever written), and the crowd drunkenly swayed or violently slammed into one another, I thought, again: “If Reed could see his band


bringing it so hard tonight, if he could see the audience responding this way, he’d be proud.”

!

The show ended, and I found my ex- and managed to persuade him to drive me and my car to Waza’s house; I was so blearyeyed from booze and pain that I didn’t think I should attempt to drive across the city. He said he’d do it, as long as he could crash there, too, and Waza said ‘no problem,’ so we headed toward Bayview. When we got to her place, before he passed out on the floor and I on the couch, he said: “Maybe you should go to the hospital tomorrow, if your ankle still hurts that bad.”

! *** !

My ankle did still hurt in the morning, and was so swollen I could barely get my boot on. I managed to drive back to Racine, back home, and when Patrick saw how fucked up my ankle was he reiterated what the ex- had said: “You should probably go to the hospital. What if it’s broken?” A couple hours at urgent care later, I found out - it was broken. A spiral fracture. I told the doctors I’d slipped on the ice, because I didn’t know how to explain the whole pit thing to them. They put a temporary cast on it ‘til I could get to the orthopedist and get a real one. Shit. Punk Month 2013 had turned into 2013: The Year Punk Broke (My Ankle). I remembered a conversation I’d had years before, with a guy who let me use the flash arm from his camera because mine was broken. “I have no idea how I could have broken it,” I said. “Neither do I,” he said, “but then again, I don’t live the punk rock lifestyle.” “And I do,” I said. “It’s true, I break a lot of things - cameras, bottles, hearts...” And bones.

!


I love her and cigarettes so much

!

I used to watch Lissa walking the halls of Parkside, with her spiky purple hair and her patched-up pants, and I knew she'd understand me. Maybe it was a superficial thing, y'know, I saw the Subhumans patch she had and thought we might have something in common. Maybe it was wishful thinking; my boyfriend didn't understand me, and I was on the lookout for someone who would. So, yeah, maybe it was wishful and superficial, but I wasn't wrong. The semester ended, we were free for the summer, and we started hanging out. We drank coffee in diners, haunted the dusty racks of thrift shops, smoked cigarettes in empty parking lots, went to punk shows, took trips to Milwaukee and Chicago, and talked talked talked about everything. It wasn't long before we admitted that we liked each other as more than friends, and we kissed, and then she was my punk rock girlfriend.

!

We were just a couple of screwed-up punk rock kids, back then. Getting high on the rocks, looking over the lake glowing in the twilight, ranting about communism and anarchism. Me with my ubiquitous leopard-print whatevers and she with her ‘fuck white supremacy’ shirt. My fingers were always stained with typewriter ribbon ink from producing endless issues of my zine. Some nights we’d get so high we’d have to go to Taco Bell. Taco Bell sucks but we were broke and they had cheap-as-hell bean and cheese burritos. I was so lost so much of the time, had no idea where my life was headed, but when we smoked one last cigarette in my car before I dropped her off at home and she leaned her purplepixie-haired head against my shoulder, I didn’t give a shit about any of that. The world distilled itself down to her hair, my fingers in it, greasy junk food wrappers, cigarette


smoke, her root beer lips, whatever song was playing on the mix in my tape deck, and all the other bullshit fell away.

!

I fell in love with her that summer. So much has changed since then, but I am still in love with her. She gets me. There are very few people I can be myself around, and even fewer people I can tell everything to without fear of being judged. In many ways, we're very different, but there's an understanding between us that's hard to come by, the type of closeness you're lucky to find even a few times in life. So much has changed, for both of us, superficially and otherwise. She no longer has purple hair, and these days I wear lacy dresses more often than bondage pants. I traveled and moved around the country a bunch before building a nest back here in southeastern Wisconsin. She has two jobs and lives with her boyfriend, I'm married and a mom. Yet we still have those moments. We sit on her sofa, bellies full of nachos from Tacos El Rey, drunk on rum (for her) and whiskey (for me). We listen to the most recent mix I made her, tell each other all our sorrows and joys, fears and dreams, and she rests her head against my shoulder, and all the other bullshit falls away.

!

There are times when I think I haven't had a real relationship with a woman because my relationships with them are always much different from my relationships with men. I've never lived with a woman I've also been in a romantic or sexual relationship with. I've never been in a monogamous relationship with a woman. Often times, my relationships with the women I've loved have been fluid. The physical aspect of those relationships ebbs and flows, and sometimes it fades completely and we become, to the outside observer, 'just friends.' But then, aren't those things cohabitation, monogamy, and sometimes even sex - just heteronormative standards for relationships, anyway? I'm not saying cohabitation or monogamy (or sex) are bad or wrong,


what I am saying is: there are infinite ways to have relationships, and those are only a few of them.

!

Lissa and I have told each other that, no matter what happens in our lives or who else we’re with, we’ll always be in love with each other, and always be attracted to each other. Which got me thinking: shit, when you put it that way…Lissa is my longest-running romantic relationship. We've never lived together, we've never been monogamous, and we've gone years without being physically intimate. However, we have seen each other through the worst times, and we’ve had jealousy issues that we worked past, and through it all, we’ve always been in love and attracted to one another. I’d call that a real relationship. And it’s one that has lasted thirteen fucking years.

!

! 



Memories are Sacred

!

In February, my grandmother, my mom's mom, the last of my grandparents still living, had a heart attack. It wasn't until two weeks later that anyone even knew it had happened, because my grandma, the badass, went about her daily life without complaint, and my grandma, the stubborn woman, has always refused to ask for help. When she let on that she wasn't feeling well, she was rushed from her home in Battle Creek to the hospital in Kalamazoo, but it was too late. Heartbreak is often used as a metaphor, but in this case, her heart was broken. Damaged beyond repair. The family gathered at her bedside. It was difficult to reconcile my image of my grandmother with the way she looked in that sterile hospital room, with tubes and wires sprouting from her body. She always seemed so formidable, she had such life-force, that I'd never thought of her as mortal. I knew that she wouldn't live forever, but the reality of her mortality didn't hit me until I saw her there, in that hospital bed. She looked so fragile, her skin all withered and pale. She looked so tiny, that was the oddest part. This tall, broad-shouldered woman, this German, French-Canadian, Mohawk woman, this tough and warmhearted woman who had lived through the Great Depression and every war from WWII on, who had buried many of her siblings, her parents, her husband, and one of her sons, and continued on with very few health problems 'til the age of 95, she was suddenly so tiny. A pile of ash and bones. She could barely speak. When she did open her mouth, it was to apologize - no surprise, she was deeply Catholic, and spent much of her life apologizing for her very existence. "I'm sorry I'm so difficult sometimes," she said. "We're all difficult sometimes," we, her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, echoed back. I'd found a medal at her house the night before, and thought she might like to have it with her, but she was in and out of


consciousness too often for me to give it to her, to place it in her papery palm and tell her how much I loved her. So I stuck it in my pocket and when I felt tears coming on, I rubbed the tarnished silver, tried to read the embedded words with my fingertips. O Mary Conceived Without Sin Pray For Us Who Have Recourse To Thee.

!

!

!

On the drive back to Wisconsin the next day, passing through Chicago, I glimpsed some graffiti high high up on a brick building, big block letters that read Memories Are Sacred. Sometimes the universe has a strange way of giving you what you need, if you’re open to it, and that sad cold day, headed back to the western shores of Lake Michigan, that graffiti was what I needed. Memories are sacred. After all, what are we humans made of but stories and memories? Even the bad memories are sacred, because they are part of the larger stories of our lives, and each memory, each chapter,


is essential. Without them, our stories would be different, and so would we.

!

Family ghosts and memories kept me company for the rest of the drive. Memories of my grandmother, of how kind she was. Childhood memories: the time I saw a rag doll I wanted but couldn’t afford, and she helped me make one like it using scraps from her sewing basket. Memories of my teenage years: when she found out I was vegan, she made a vegan quiche for me, no questions asked (and it was so delicious, tasted as eggy and cheesy as real quiche, I wish I had that recipe). Through all the years of my life, she loved me and was proud of me, no matter how many tattoos I got or what kinds of funny things I did to my hair. Other memories, the bad ones: memories of some of the worst traumas of my life, traumas that happened over and over and over again, at my grandmother’s house, so that, though I loved her, I never felt safe in her home. A memory of the time I told my mom about what had happened there and she said: “You can’t tell you grandmother. It would kill her.” Though I wish she hadn’t brushed it off that way, she was right. My grandmother would have blamed herself, and even if it didn’t kill her, it would have wounded her for the rest of her days. Memories of her house, that tiny house on a sloping street in Cereal City; memories of the backyard where I played during the day and the bedroom where I slept fitfully at night, watched over by porcelain figurines of Jesus and Mary and yellowing photographs of my dead grandfather and uncle; memories of the basement, that basement, that trauma. I thought about how I would never stay in that house again, and part of me thought, good riddance, burn that fucking house down. Another part of me felt a pang of emptiness at the thought of never staying there again. Through my 31 years of existence, through all the states and cities and buildings I lived in, her house was the only constant, the only thing I could be sure I would always return to. Then I


wondered what effect that must have had on my psyche, the fact that the site of my deepest trauma was also the only constant in my life.

!

I thought about my grandmother’s memories, her stories, all the memories I never knew enough about, all the stories she would be taking with her when she left. Stories of her father, the baseball-playing beer-brewing German; stories of her mother, half French-Canadian, half-Mohawk, whose tiny fingers could sew like a dream. Stories of how she met my grandfather, stories of the music she liked, the big bands and the crooners, stories of train trips to Chicago and how she survived having all those children.

!

I thought about my family, and about Michigan, about bloodlines and geography, about class and ethnicity and race. I come from the rural poor, dirt floors and farmhouses and trailers. I come from the cities in the belly of the rust belt beast, working class in cereal factories or the automotive industry. I come from a tenuous grip on the middle class; some of my family, including my parents, were able to become middle class, some even upper-middle class, but it has never felt like a safe thing, especially now, with the middle class of this whole country eroding away. I come from the yellow light of laundromats and the dank smell of the Great Lakes. From pine trees and car fumes. From party stores and pop. Gears and cornflakes, coal trains and grainers, smokestacks and silos, MC5 and The Stooges, Latin Dogs and Small Brown Bike. I come from alcoholism and denying your history to become White Americans. I come from Catholics, a legacy of guilt and forgiveness; from Protestants, a legacy of repression and stoicism. I come from Welsh and Irish and German and French and Mohawk (Kanien'kehake). From heaping piles of mashed potatoes and sauerkraut, from corn cakes, from putting up cans for the winter and the hard times because food is how we show


affection even when there is no money to be found. All of it is in me, all those sacred memories and stories, both good and bad.

! *** !

Pauline Esther Daniel (nee Doll), my grandmother, held on for a few more weeks but her heart was broken and she was just so tired. Tired of working, tired of worrying, tired of fighting. She needed to rest. She passed away on March 22, and though she is gone, her memory will live on in the hearts of the family she lived for and the friends whose lives she touched. If I have inherited even a small portion of her love and selflessness, I will consider myself blessed. Amen.

!

!  


Wild Child

!

The fairy godmothers in Sleeping Beauty give the infant Aurora traits like beauty, wit, grace, and poise. There were no fairy godmothers present at the birth of my little one, but my cousin Kara gave him a gift of a different sort. Inside the front cover of the copy of Ronia the Robber’s Daughter she sent to him after he was born, she wrote: “Baby - may you be a Wild Child and drive your parents crazy.” I didn’t notice the inscription until very recently, and I laughed when I saw it: he is a Wild Child, no question. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Baby D is a Wild Child, but he’s got Peter Pan for a mom, so it works out.

!

I’m a 30-something mom but I refuse to grow up; I don’t know how to cure my severe case of Peter Pan Syndrome and I wouldn’t want to even if I could. People lie when they say parenthood changes you. Or, they lie about the ways in which it changes you. No one tells you that it will change you every day, in a million ways you could never even imagine before it happens. Raising children busts you open and rebuilds you again and again and again. But when they say you’ll become a different person, usually what they mean is that your old interests and passions won’t matter to you anymore, that your child(ren) will become your entire life. For me, that hasn’t been quite true. Baby D is the most important thing in my life, and some other things have become less of a priority, but I didn’t lose any of my interests or ideals, and I think being a mom has just strengthened my convictions and desires. I still love music and adventure, still need to travel and write as much as possible, still require the occasional raucous night out with friends. I think it would be unhealthy, for me and for Baby D, if I gave up everything else I love - because then I would end up resenting him. Pursuing my passions is more


difficult, now - I don’t get many moments wherein I can travel or write or hang out with my pals. But the rarity of those moments makes me appreciate them more; and I procrastinate less often, because I don’t have the time.

!

The things I find most difficult about being a parent, other than lack of time for myself, are that I am in a position of authority over someone (which is not easy for an antiauthoritarian like myself), and that I have to teach him that life is unfair and that he can’t always get what he wants. I am trying my best to raise him to respect other people yet question authority - yes, even my own. I don’t want him to unwaveringly follow what anyone tells him to do, but rather to look at every angle of a situation and make the choice he feels is best. I want him to respect other people, not because their needs and desires are more important than his, but because his are no more important than theirs. Whenever possible, I want him to try to find ways to do what he wants without hurting anyone else. I want him to know the most important things to me are that he doesn’t get hurt, hurt anyone else, or go to jail; to know that I don’t believe ‘illegal’ is the same thing as ‘wrong’ (or ‘legal’ is the same thing as ‘right’), and so if a law or rule is unjust or even just ridiculous, as long as he is careful and respectful and doesn’t get caught, he should go right ahead and break those unjust laws. As far as teaching him that life is unfair, that’s even more difficult for me. Because there’s still a large part of me (that never-growing-up part that thinks adults and rules and jobs are useless) that rails against the unfairness of it all, that wants to stamp my foot and wail when I can’t do what I want, especially when it’s for some stupid reason like lack of money or a scheduling conflict. I don’t want him to learn to be okay with not getting what he wants to the point of no longer striving for it, but I do want him to roll with the punches better than I do, to not become someone like me -


someone who can be brought to tears by such small disappointments as missing a show I wanted to go to.

!

There are frustrations, yes, moments when I wish he would stop running around and climbing on all the furniture so I could have some peace, but many of my parenting frustrations have less to do with him and more with the way other people judge me for my parenting and life choices. Like the people who give me the side-eye at the grocery store, who think I can’t be a good parent cos I have a strange haircut and some tattoos. Like the people who freak out when they find out my partner and I co-slept with Baby D when he was an infant, even when I explain that was the only way we could get him to sleep. Like my mother, who criticizes the way I keep house, and who doesn’t understand that her high standards for cleanliness and order are not something I will ever live up to. Like the ultra-crunchy, all-natural folks who look down on me for having had to partially bottle-feed him as an infant because he had a hard time getting all he needed from the breast. I mean, fuck, you can read all the parenting books you want, but when it comes down to it, you just have to learn as you go along, and do what is best for both you and your child.

!

Parenthood is the most challenging journey I have ever embarked on, but it has many rewards, too. For one, I am learning patience. Patience isn’t one of my strong points. When I’m waiting for something I’m looking forward to, I get so anxious that I sometimes make myself sick, because I want it to happen right now, this minute. It is often a challenge for me to be patient with other people, when I am trying to teach them something, or tell them something - I wonder, why can’t they get what I’m saying through their heads? Baby D is teaching me both kinds of patience: I have to be patient about future moments because I don’t want him to feed off my energy (which he does) and get anxious, himself; I have to


be patient with him, because he is just learning everything, and learning takes time. I am learning along with him. Another thing he has taught me is the joy of naps. I never used to nap, even when I was so exhausted I couldn’t see straight, I was anti-nap. “Sleep when you’re dead!” was my battle cry. Well, when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy I had no choice but to nap, my body forced me to, and since he’s been born, I have often cuddled up with him to get him to take a nap and ended up falling asleep myself. I don’t even feel guilty about it.

!

There is so much joy in watching him discover things and do things and navigate the world. Watching him feed goats at the petting zoo. Watching him draw, and when I ask him what he’s drawing and he says: “bird.” Hearing every new word he speaks. Watching him get excited about snow and mud puddles and books and rocks. There is so much joy when I see the ways in which he is like me, even the ‘negative’ ones: he’s stubborn, and a little bit of a drama queen, and he’s a total imp. He loves adventure, and has been on quite a few road trips already, for being not even two years old, yet. He loves trains (or “choo-choos,” as he calls them). He loves many kinds of music; he can kinda play the harmonica!; and I’ve seen him do silly dances to all the punk and hardcore I listen to. A few weeks ago, at Taste of Wisconsin, he got his first show injury. He was rocking out and sort of head-banging to a song, didn’t pay attention to his surroundings, whipped around, and smacked his head on a metal pole, and the song that he was rocking out to...was about whiskey and women. A week after that, running around outside in Michigan, he got excited by the sound of a train going by and shouted “choo-choo!” and a few minutes later he tried to climb into a dumpster. Yep, he’s my kid for sure.

!

So, the Wild Child and the Peter Pan mom, we’re gonna continue to have adventures together. We’re going to teach


each other better ways of living and loving. To paraphrase Mischief Brew, we’re going to only shout when spoken to, curse our way through church and school, and mess around with father’s power tools.

! !

! 



! Ben moves to California ! The Broadways - “Ben Moves to California” !

I woke up the other day, walked out to blue suburban skies. Skies filled with dreams and butterflies. And I wondered to myself, how do I fit in this game? Just a nameless face or faceless name.

!

This song is maybe my favorite song on Broken Star, which is a near-perfect album to begin with, if you’re into the whole ‘melodic punk rock with gruff vocals’ thing, which I am. This song is maybe my favorite because it’s lovely in its despair. It’s about getting fucked up and missing your friends but it’s also about blue suburban skies and if you’ve never seen a blue sky in the Midwest suburbs let me tell you: it can be impossibly blue, so filled with shades of cobalt and cerulean that it hurts you to look at it, and then when those little wisps of cloudlets go skirting across it...oh. This song is maybe my favorite because, if I’m being honest, I always liked the non-Brendan Kelly songs a bit better than the ones he sang lead on.

!

Then I remembered an old friend of mine, how we'd watch TV all night, and tell each other about our dreams - but I don't see him no more, no.

!

I had a friend. We met when I was 14 and she was 16, and for a year or so, we were inseparable. We got drunk on booze snatched from our parent’s liquor cabinets, we plotted our eventual escape from Racine, we made split zines about how much we hated our hometown and loved the Violent Femmes. Then, right around the time I began listening to The Broadways, our lives forked off in disparate directions. She


started hanging out with some born-again Christian kids, and I started getting stoned and fucking girls and I got myself an electric guitar. Sometimes, she’d still get drunk with me, but then she’d place all the blame on me. “I’m going to hell,” she’d say, “and it’s your fault.” I stopped telling her about my dreams, and we no longer spent much time together.

!

Light a cigarette and watch this day go by, burned another six minutes to the sky. I need a fucking answer, but I guess that's why we live this life - a constant search for something right. Now my mind is wondering, how am I going to get fucked up today? Light a bowl and see it all fade away. It happens every day.

!

Much like “Nothing Feels Good,” this is an iconic song of my teenage years. It sounds like taking the Metra train to Chicago, to bum around on Clark and Belmont. It sounds like losing a friend I thought would be with me for life. It sounds like wasting time with cigarettes and weed while being surrounded by the secret beauty of the suburbs and the small towns, surrounded by that beauty that I hated and loved. It is the most straight-up pop punk song on Broken Star, Dan Hanaway with his throaty voice and the upbeat, fuzzy guitar chug-chug-chugging, and the whoah-whoahs. Then Brendan’s croaking vocals chime in for the final 40 seconds, mumble-singing something unintelligible about ‘drink another drink,’ blah blah blah...

!


! When I see you again, will you still be my friend? No. ! ! !

!

!


So I’ll drink to the wonder, while I wander

!

On June 28, I drank a beer on the Amtrak Hiawatha Line, while headed south to Chicago for 24 hours of nostalgiatripping and punk rock. I drank a beer because that 24 hour period was gonna be my summer vacation, but also because I was trying to calm myself down. I’d convinced myself I was gonna cry at some point that evening. I thought I would cry because you know, I was gonna be in Chicago, home of my heart; I thought I would cry because I hadn’t been to Chicago since November, because I hadn’t been to Clark and Belmont in over four years; also it was the one-year anniversary of another time I had been in Chicago, a time when I realized I had fallen in love with someone I shouldn’t’ve; also I was going to see Naked fucking Raygun at Metro - a venue I’ve been going to for half of its, and my, life, a band I’ve been listening to for almost as long. If those things didn’t bring tears, I figured just traveling through all the layers of memory I have in that city would make me so happysad that I wouldn’t be able to handle the flood of emotion. So I drank my beer, listened to the ultimate Chicago punk playlist I had on my headphones, looked out the window as fields turned to suburbs turned to warehouses of the city with Very Top Secret graffiti scrawled on their brick backsides.

!

Aaron met me at Union Station. We pushed our way through a sea of red shirts - the stragglers from the Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory parade - and made jokes about it. “It’s a shame,” he said, “red shirts everywhere and not a-one is communist or Star Trek-related.” He told me about the rioting hockey fans that had thrown bricks through windows and set things on fire the night the Blackhawks won the cup, and I said: “For once, no one can blame the anarchists.” We


made it to CVS, bought our One-Day Fun Passes. They cost $10, they used to cost $5, I guess fun costs more nowadays. We hopped on the L, rode to Pilsen, got some grub at a proper Chicago-style greasy spoon, bought some beer and drank a few before getting back on the L and visiting my old stomping grounds.

!

I’d told Aaron that we needed to head up to Belmont and Clark early, so we could bum around a bit before the show. Walkin’ around Clark and Belmont before the show has always been an essential part of the Metro experience, and I hadn’t been to that part of the city in so long. Aaron warned me that it had changed, and not for the better. I said I was prepared, that it started changing years ago. “It’s even worse, now,” he said. Sometimes visiting my old haunts bums me out, but I always do it, anyway. I think it’s kinda important, to revisit places I once knew and make new memories in them, so at least I have more recent things to be nostalgic about. Almost nowhere in the world - certainly nowhere in Chicago - is as much of a haunt, is as thick with ghosts, for me as Belmont and Clark, because I started hanging out there well before I lived in Chicago; I started hanging out there half my life ago, now. I do realize that the Belmont and Clark I was so in love with back then, the place I mythologize to this day, wasn’t ever as great as I made it out to be. It was great, for me, because of everything that happened there, and all the people I met; and I felt safer there, as a queer, as a punk, as an artist and general weirdo, than I did in most other places. It’s a stupid place, I knew that back then too, but I loved it, deeply and irrationally, because love is irrational; Aaron said it had changed for the worse, but I said I had to see it for myself.

!

We took the red line to the Belmont stop, and disembarked. Aaron was right, it had changed. Change is inevitable, and


that part of the city started changing years ago: it changed in 2001, when my favorite coffeeshop closed down and became an overpriced, trendy shoe store. It changed in 2004, when Clarke’s remodeled and started serving daily specials. It changed in 2006, when developers began building condos a little farther west on Belmont, half of which sit empty because right after all those condos were completed, the bottom dropped out of the economy, and no one could afford them. It has changed, again, since 2009, when I was last there. It’s so shiny, now. It glimmers with a false respectability that terrifies me. The Belmont/Clark area is going the way of so many places in so many cities - you know, neighborhoods that used to be kinda scummy, where all the punks and artists and freaks hung out, that have now been scrubbed clean.

!

I still like it anyway. Aaron and I wandered and shared stories of our pasts in that part of the city, talked about change, about how ‘shit gets different.’ Shit got different, but Clarke’s is still there, that diner can survive anything; as Aaron put it: “There’s enough grease in that place, it’ll still be there after the apocalypse.” Egor’s Dungeon is still there, hawking sex toys and supplies for stoners. The Alley stores are still there, selling punk rock fashion accessories and fetish wear. The Jesus People are still hanging around, too, selling salvation to us sinners, but, as I wrote in a piece about Belmont that appeared in my zine eleven years ago: “Sure, Jesus loves me, but in a strictly platonic way, and so I’d much rather just buy myself a new pair of handcuffs and some flavored condoms, thank you.” Dunkin’ Donuts is still there; it can’t rightly be referred to as Punkin’ Donuts, anymore, not since they added the Baskin Robbins and started having security guards patrol the lot, but the mere fact of its continued existence warms my heart. My ghosts are still there - I caught glimpses of that damn dirty sailor, and my pink-haired ex-


girlfriend, and the skinhead boy of my dreams, and Ratticus and Lissa and Ali and Liam and Gen. And, among the Jesus People and tourists and suburban sports fans, there are still plenty of punks and skinheads and metalheads and bikers and queers and winos and weirdos; and the sidewalk is still crusted with grime and cigarette butts and Styrofoam cups and a fine layer of glass shards from broken bottles of Wild Irish Rose. So try to sanitize it all you want, but filth will out, and punx win.

!

We continued north on Clark Street. We stopped in Chicago Comics, a great shop chock-full of comic books of both the big-name and underground varieties, as well as toys and zines; it’s where I bought copies of Cometbus when I was a wee young punk. I choked up a bit when I saw that my old pal Billy Da Bunny has his very own shelf there, full of his, as they put it, prolific and profound work. We smoked cigarettes under the big rusty L tracks between Bolat African Cuisine and Leo’s Pantry, the same stretch of L tracks I’ve always loitered and smoked beneath, the place where I once wished I could just turn into smoke and hover there forever, a Chicago ghost indistinguishable from the gray Chicago sky. Speaking of ghosts - we were on our way to see Naked Raygun, but I had an Effigies song stuck in my head, the one that gets stuck in my head every time I’m in Chicago. This is a haunted town.

!


!

!

Around this point in our journey, the Chicago sky began turning from gray to black, and we didn’t want to get caught outside in a thunderstorm, so we decided we’d go to one of the non-Cubs bars in the area and have a beer or two. We talked about heading back south on Clark and popping into Jake’s Pub, a bar I used to frequent (for many reasons, one being that Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers sometimes drank there), but then realized it was dumb to head further away from Metro, so we opted for The Gingerman Tavern, a bar which is right next door to the club. To get there, we had to venture deep into the heart of Wrigleyville. If I used to feel safe and at home around Belmont and Clark, well, Wrigleyville was the opposite extreme - I have rarely been anywhere else in the world where I got harassed as often (for being perceived as a woman, and for being a punk) as I used to in Wrigleyville. That June night, the sidewalks were crowded with drunk sports fans. Not just the usual Cubs crowd (who, even though the Cubs had an away game that night, thank fucking god, felt the need to get wasted on Clark Street), but also all the Blackhawks fans who were


still in the city. Yikes. Look, I’m not anti-sports or even anti-sports fan; I, myself, have been known to enjoy a baseball game. What I am is anti-asshole, and many sports fanatics act like assholes, and from my experience, Cubs fans are the worst of the bunch. I have had numerous encounters over the years with drunk bros and yuppies on Clark Street, catcalling me with comments about the length of my skirt or the way my tits looked (and sometimes more graphic descriptions of what they’d like to do to me), or, if they were the type who thought my scruffy-tomboy-femmepunk style was weird rather than attractive, they hurled insults at me, insults like ‘freak’ and ‘dyke’ and ‘fag’ and ‘weirdo.’ The catcalls I found more unsettling than the insults; unless someone threatens to attack me, I can handle the vitriol. Almost nothing makes me feel more secure in my identity than pissing off squares. Don’t feel like punk is a threat anymore? Take a walk through Wrigleyville and revel in the shocked stares and inane comments! Most of the disapproval we received that evening was of the nonverbal variety, just wasted dude-bros glaring at us and their wasted girlfriends cringing when we walked past. I flicked my lit cigarette at the feet of one guy in a Cubs jersey and hemp necklace who shouted: “Fuckin’ freaks!” at us. We had to dodge a couple fights that dude-bros were getting into with other dude-bros, but we made it to The Gingerman Tavern unscathed. What a bar it is: a punk island in a sea of yuppie sports bars. I knew it was the place to be as soon as we stepped inside - it was crowded with punks and skinheads and rudies and rockabilly folks, and half of them were familiar to me, people I knew from ye olde days of the Chicago punk scene. The bartenders were blasting an Undertones tune, and the one television in the bar was playing not a Cubs game, but a White Sox game. Yes, in deep Wrigleyville, the Gingerman elected to watch a game by the only Chicago baseball team that matters. Between beers, we went outside to smoke cigarettes in the warm smelly Chicago


rain. Our beer buzzes made us even more impervious to the stink eyes being thrown at us. Cos yeah, they like the Cubs and think that makes them real Chicagoans, but have they ever heard Naked Raygun? Fuck them, it’s our city just as much as it is theirs.

!

We finished our second round, and then it was showtime. Entering Metro was another walk down memory lane, or, uh, a visit to memory venue. I started going to Metro when I was 16. I can’t even remember all the shows I’ve seen there, that’s how many there have been, but here are some highlights: The Queers and The Mr. T Experience, November 1998, my first Metro show and also the first time I hung out on Belmont all by myself; Sleater-Kinney, June 1999, I traveled down with my sweet library girl and her sister and was so happy to be surrounded by so many queer kids, and I so wanted to hold library girl’s hand but didn’t have the courage; The Queers, The Lillingtons, The Explosion, and a few shitty hardcore bands, summer 2000, Ali and I befriended a smiling straight-edger and his purple-haired pal, and got injured by stage-diving hardcore kids; the Chicago Winter Nationals, December 2000, Blue Meanies and The Tossers and The Arrivals and The Lawrence Arms, god it was fucking epic, I ran into everyone I’d ever known from hanging out on Belmont, Gen got me drunk on mystery booze, I cried when The Tossers covered “Fairytale of New York”; Jonathan Richman, September 2001, where a dude I was friends with on LiveJournal showed up and sorta stalked me; Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros, October 2001, best show ever, cos it was Joe fucking Strummer; The Distillers, early 2002, where I interviewed The Distillers for my zine and thought I was gonna faint cos of my close proximity to Brody; Subhumans/ Tossers, April 2003, where I interviewed The Tossers and Dick Lucas, watched a pregnant skin byrd with a Sid and Nancy tattoo smoke cigarettes, Dick Lucas taught me how to open a beer bottle with a lighter, and I met the person who


would, months later, become my lover, and ultimately fuck me up so bad that for a while I was pretty much ruined for anyone else. All those memories slam-danced in my head, along with other things I was reminded of by all the familiar faces in the crowd that night, some of them just casual acquaintances, but more than a few of them people I knew in the biblical sense. I’ve had too many lovers, and...

!

Like Belmont Ave., Metro has changed over the years. It used to be all smoky and sneaky; a blue haze of tobacco and clove and weed smoke hung over the stage, and it was easy to smuggle in things like bottles of booze for cheap or underage drinking purposes, or Sharpies for tagging the bathroom wall. Not so, now: I mean, you can’t smoke inside any establishment in Chicago, anymore, and at Metro, you can’t even go outside for cigarettes cos they no longer allow reentry. They’ve also cracked down on bringing anything fun into the show; most people get their bags or pockets searched as they enter. It made me feel sad for the punk kids who are comin’ up now. It used to be so much easier to cause a little trouble; I just hope the kids find new, creative ways of fucking shit up.

!

The opening band was The Crombies, a Chicago ska outfit featuring a couple past and current members of Deal’s Gone Bad. They were fun, I sipped on my beer and watched the skinheads dance. Fucking skinheads, man; I used to have a thing for skinheads (I am speaking of antiracist and trad skins, not Nazis), until I realized that all of them, even the antiracist ones, can be fucking obnoxious and stupid. Still, I lust after them, there’s something about the whole boots n’ braces and close-cropped hair thing that gets to me. After them came the Zero Boys, the best-known punk band to ever come from Indiana, and they put on a hell of a show. Then we all waited, waited, drank beer, waited for Naked Raygun to start playing, cos they were the band we were all


there to see. I was awhirl with alcohol and adrenaline - it was my first Naked Raygun show. I chatted with my friends and some friends of theirs; we discussed which NR songs we most wanted to hear that night. We all mentioned “Wonder Beer,” because it is one of the best NR tunes and we’re all drunks. Some people said they wanted to hear “Vanilla Blue,” or “Metastasis.” I said: “The song I most want to hear is the song I turn to whenever I need a sonic kick in the ass. I wanna hear ‘New Dreams.’” Some of the folks I was talking with, who had seen NR several times, said “Oh, they never play that one,” and I was bummed, but determined to enjoy the show no matter what they played.

!

When the houselights dimmed and the stage lights flamed, Eric and Pete and Bill filed onto the stage. They noodled around with some instrumental stuff, then, from stage right, Jeff arrived. He said a few words, the music swirled into a glorious cacophony, and Jeff sang: “Check me out, ya know, I’m a major world power. Watch me as I swing my hips around.” The crowd erupted into chaos, everyone pogoing or slamming or just shouting along.

!


!

!

For most of the set, I danced in the back, a safe distance away from the pit; ever since I broke my ankle at that show in February, I have been a little wary about entering into the fray, but hey, at least I was dancing. When they played “Wonder Beer,” I was tired of holding back, so I said, to whatever punk rock gods were listening: “It’s okay if my fishnets get ripped as long as I don’t break any more bones,” and then I jumped into the pit and slammed and sang: “So I’ll drink to the wonder, while I wander. If there are gods they must be drunk. Rev’ling in the madness, you and I.” At the end of the set, they brought out a special guest - I’d been thinking about him earlier in the evening, and there he was...Jake Burns, of Stiff Little Fingers. He took over vocal duties for a blistering version of “Suspect Device.” There were encores, two of them; combined, they were almost as long as the initial set. For the very last song of the second encore, for the very last song of the night, they played the one I longed to hear, the one


everyone told me they’d never play. I leapt into the pit one last time, and shouted as loud as I could: “Got new dreams and I’m gonna make ‘em real!”

!

With that, the show was over. The houselights came up, everyone chugged the dregs of their drinks and stumbled outside. We loitered out front for a few minutes, dazed and ecstatic, chatting a bit before Metro security kicked us off the sidewalk. I didn’t talk much; instead, I leaned up against the wall of the building, like so many nights in the past, smoked, and pondered everything swimming in my brain. I thought about how the show made me realize that life could still be amazing and that getting older doesn’t mean giving up on punk rock. I thought about how Naked Raygun were so brilliant that night, so the perfect figureheads of Chicago punk, that they became one of my favorite bands of all time. Not just Chicago, not just punk, but favorite bands, of all time, of all cities, of all genres. Period. I thought about punk nostalgia, and how, after that show, I have a different view of the whole thing. A lot of people have been talking shit in recent months, about old punk bands reuniting and cashing in on our nostalgia. Granted, some bands are doing that - the competing Black Flag reunions are a prime example - but if a band is still passionate about the music and having a good time themselves, what the fuck is wrong with it? Why shouldn’t they give people who didn’t get to see them back in the day a chance to do that, and people who did see them but want to do it again that opportunity, and maybe earn a little money while they’re at it? I wasn’t there for the early days of Naked Raygun, but I’m here now, and that’s no small thing. I thought about Chicago, the same kinds of thoughts I always have when I’m in Chicago: no matter where else I roam, it’s my home, and I long to live there again someday. Then again, maybe I’m better off having a longdistance relationship with the city, cos this way, I can visit her for wild times but not have to deal with any of


the day-to-day bullshit. I thought about punk, and how, no matter how old I get, I’ll never be able to give it up. Punk rock changed my life, and it will always be part of my life.

! *** !

I didn’t cry that night, but I did cry the next day on the train back to Wisconsin. I was listening to the second half of that Chicago punk playlist, and a Tossers song, one of their many love songs to the City of Big Shoulders, came on. I wept, for Chicago, for Belmont, for punk rock, for myself; for the ways in which we’ve changed, and the ways in which we’ve remained the same.

!


Looking for coffee and trouble

!

I drank a cup of coconut mocha-flavored coffee today, and the taste brought so many memories with it, it was like one of those damn commercials where two people are sitting at a table sipping their coffee and sighing: “Doesn’t this remind you of...” No, I wasn’t reminiscing about that cute waiter in Paris or a sunset on a tropical beach - I was reminiscing about driving around the mid-Atlantic with my best Ali. I don’t often drink flavored coffee. I like my coffee to taste like coffee, not like fruit or dessert; and most flavored coffees leave a gross aftertaste. Somehow, though, flavored coffee tasted good when I was with Ali. I drank more coffee with her than I did with almost anyone else, and any kind of coffee, plain or flavored, tasted better when I was with her. Maybe because, if I was drinking coffee with her, it meant we were either in the middle of an adventure, or about to embark on one. She’d brew coffee in her dorm room, hazelnut or chocolate or vanilla coffee, and we’d pour it into our travel mugs (hers a Descendents Bonus Cup mug, mine from Fuel Cafe in Milwaukee) and hop into her car. We’d put on a punk rock mix tape, light cigarettes, smoke and drink coffee and drive across the rainy mountains, on our way to Baltimore or D.C. or Philly. Or we’d be wandering the grimy winter streets of Philly for hours, on occasion stopping into The Bean or The Last Drop for warmth and fuel. Or we’d drink coffee at that place in Baltimore with the barista who looked like Judd Nelson, then go out and take pictures of all the strange sights of Charm City. Or we’d be drinking gas station coffee on our way back to her mom’s house from a show in Baltimore or D.C. or Philly. Or we’d brew coffee at her mom’s house, put it in our travel mugs, and go out walking through forests and creekbeds, dodging snakes and hunting ghosts and discovering the secret viny places. When


she visited me, things were much the same. The history of our friendship is, in large part, a history of coffee and adventure. We’d brew coffee at my apartment, put it in our travel mugs, and go get our hands and clothes dirty exploring the underground streets of Chicago. Or we’d brew coffee at my parents’ house, put it in our travel mugs, and go climb around in abandoned buildings or construction sites. Or we’d brew coffee at my apartment or my parents’ house and drink it while staying up all night and working on a split zine. Or we’d sit outside Leroy’s in Door County, drinking coffee until we were brave enough to leave notes and zines and mix tapes on the cars or bikes of people we wanted to talk to. Or we’d hang around Fuel Cafe in Milwaukee or the Pick Me Up in Chicago, drinking coffee before or after a punk show. If I wrote a zine about all the places I’ve spent time drinking coffee and the most interesting things that happened at those places - and I’ve considered it - half the stories would involve Ali.

!

!

!


I miss Ali, all the time, no matter what I’m doing. I also miss having someone to share certain things with, things like caffeinated drinks and ruckus-raisin’ and art-making. I miss having a friend that will sit with me for hours on end, at my house or their house or a coffeeshop or diner, working on separate or shared creative projects. I miss having a friend I can take exploring with me, a friend that likes to climb around in construction sites or the rubble of halfdemolished buildings, that likes to spraypaint cryptic messages under bridges or wheatpaste things to telephone poles, that likes to take long bike rides on overgrown pathways. I miss having a friend that will jump at the chance to go out looking for coffee and trouble. 


Can't hardly wait

! The Replacements - “Can’t Hardly Wait” (Tim version) !

I'll be there in an hour. It'd take half a month there on foot. Watering hole, scummy water tower. Said I'll avoid, if I could. I'll be sad in heaven; you won't follow me there.

!

“Can’t Hardly Wait” has such an ache in it that it makes me wanna scream; the Tim version has an ache even more raw and ragged than the Pleased To Meet Me Version. It’s the ache of waiting for love, for friends, for home, for hope. It’s the rust belt ache of living in a cold, decaying nowhere city. It’s the ache of feeling like the world is passing you by. It’s the ache of watching the sun set on the horizon, a horizon that you’ll never reach.

!

Jesus rides beside me, and never buys any smokes. Hurry up, hurry up, I've got enough of this stuff. Ashtray floors, dirty clothes, filthy jokes.

!

“I realized today that I am such a small-town punk,” I wrote in my journal, thirteen years ago. “I hang out at skate parks, I smoke cigarettes in mall parking lots, I travel to shows with the rare kindred souls I can find, I see the beauty in oil puddles. This is my life.” Since then, I’ve lived in a few different big cities, but that didn’t take away who I was at the core, and the core of me has always been this punk kid who grew up in suburbs and mid-sized midwestern towns. Us suburban and smaller-town punks get shit from punks that grew up in more urban environments. They wonder what we have to fight against, what we have to be angry about. We have a lot to fight against. So do they, it’s just different stuff. I won’t tell you what big city punks have to fight against, cos I didn’t grow up as one.


Small town and suburban punks have to fight against a multitude of things, not the least of which is the very act of trying to be different, trying to be yourself, in an environment that wants to whitewash everyone’s differences and make us all the same types of people, with the same likes and dislikes, the same jobs, the same quaint houses and manicured lawns. “Can’t Hardly Wait” has that ache in it, too. It does for me, anyway. I don’t know what aches Paul Westerberg was feeling when he wrote it, I only know the ones that I heard the first time I listened to it, and the ones I hear when I listen to it, now.

!

Lights that flash in the evening - I guess we'll follow them there.

!

I used to get so crazy sometimes, sitting with my Kenowhere friends at the same diner (or, later on, the same bar) every damn night. I would get so anxious, so itchy, to do anything to break free from the routine, that I’d leave the diner and take off running. I’d run out to the end of the pier, out to where the tiny lighthouse was, and I’d scale it. It didn’t matter that it was covered in spiders and seagull shit; I didn’t mind when, on chillier nights, the wind off Lake Michigan made my cheeks sting and my ears hurt. The spiders and shit and wind were part of it, so was the ache in my leg muscles from climbing the lighthouse. All of it reminded me that I was alive. I’d climb the lighthouse and perch as near to the top as I could, and then I’d scream at the top of my lungs. “WAKE UP!” I’d scream, and I was screaming it to myself as much as to anyone else, so it didn’t matter that the words got lost on the wind.

!

I'll be sad in heaven, if I don't find a hole in the gate. Climb on to the top of this scummy water tower, screamin': I can't hardly wait. I can't wait...'til it's over.

!


“Can’t Hardly Wait” is a song with an ache, and a song about waiting. It’s a song about the ache of waiting, and in my younger days, I did a lot of that. I waited to move to a bigger city, where there was more cool stuff happening. I waited to find a job, and then I found a job, and I waited for my shift to end so I could go to that diner and see my friends. I waited to have some big epiphany about what the fuck I was gonna do with my life. I waited for my life to start. I wasted a lot of time with all that waiting, when I should have been appreciating the here-and-now. Now, I try to live my life as it comes, rather than waiting for an imaginary future moment. I’ll climb to the top of the scummy lighthouse, screaming at myself to wake up, reminding myself that I’m still the ‘cool girl with the zine’ who goes to as many shows as I can. I hang out at skate parks, I drink coffee in diners, I see the beauty in oil puddles. This is my life.

!

!


and etc.

! Thanks !

She’s spending money on cigarettes and such thanks to Lissa. Bonus Cup thanks to Ali. This is a haunted town thanks to Aaron Cynic. I got new dreams thanks to Naked Raygun. You can’t label my essence thanks to Ratticus. Punk Month thanks to Waza. Hobo Love thanks to Emchy. Ripped stockings and ripped dresses thanks to Dion. As long as I have you thanks to Patrick. Children play with matches thanks to Baby D. They fuck you up your mum and dad thanks to my mom and dad. Thicker than water thanks to my family, blood and chosen. Precious Thing thanks to J. Yummy yummy punk rock girls thanks to Tina. Word Attack thanks to Kelly Dessaint. 17 on the wayside thanks to Todd. Worse than queer thanks to Luno. Is this punk rock? thanks to Joe Briggs. The world according to nouns thanks to Jes Skolnik. Hang the DJ thanks to Yoni. You are practically saints thanks to Tee, Katie, Em, Gillian, Stacey Marie (and everyone else who has waited patiently for me to get this thing done!). Screaming into the void thanks to all my online and zine pals. Every time you walk the streets thanks to all the punx (especially the Brew City, Kenowhere, and Chi-town punx). And zinesters don’t say “I love you” thanks to you, for reading this.

! ! Info/Credits !

A note on the type: I used the font skateboarding for the titles, because it looks rad, and the font Typewriter_Condensed for the rest of the text, because it is easy to read yet has that retro typewriter vibe. The subtitle of this issue is from a Minutemen song by the same name. All song lyrics and album covers used in the pieces


about specific songs belong to the bands that created them. The photograph of me under the L tracks in Chicago was taken by Aaron Cynic and then fucked with by me. I totally ripped off the way Razorcake does thank yous, cos I’m an unoriginal motherfucker. And that Memories Are Sacred graffiti I saw in Chicago - well, I didn’t use it in the zine so much as use it to inspire the zine. Everything else is by me, excluding a few song lyrics thrown in here and there. If you’d like to use one of my stories or photographs, please don’t steal, cos it’s a shitty thing to do. Contact me and we’ll work out some form of credit and compensation.

!

Further copies of this issue are available for $5, ppd., or a good trade (yr zine, if it’s a longer one, or if it’s shorter, two zines, or a zine + a mix tape or something like that). My zines are also always available at Quimby’s in Chicago, and can sometimes be found other places, too.

!

Send all cash, trades, feedback, and love letters to: Jessica McMains, PO Box 85278, Racine, WI, 53408, USA If you prefer email: coeur.de.fantome@gmail.com To find out what else I’m up to, visit: rustbeltjessie.tumblr.com

! ! !

! 



Punk rock changed our lives

! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

(c) 2013 Rust Belt Jessie/Jessie Lynn McMains


Reckless Chants #19