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“Living out a dream ’bout the third world war…”

February 23, 2012

The Dead Boys, a punk rock band from Cleveland, Ohio, performing live at CBGB’s in 1977Source. Lyrics.

This has been going through my head for a lot of the last couple of days, which have been pretty stressful.* I ended up getting a copy of the album through the too-handy Amazon mp3 app–which while anything but punk as fuck, worked.

I used to have a copy, but lost it years back. And listening to it again brought back some very mixed memories, as music so often will. I’ve also been even more prone to reflection with another birthday just past, in what frankly seems like Monopoly chronological units to me a lot of the time. (Another story entirely.)

Hard to tell where to start.

As you may have guessed, I found punk in my early teens–around the beginning of the ’90s, when zines, mixtapes, word of mouth, and shuffling through used vinyl and CDs were the main ways of finding new and interesting music. Ah, The Record Exchange… Through most of high school, I kept myself in music by writing bits and bobs for their freebie newsletter/mag for store credit. Buy something interesting-looking, review it for the credit to buy something else. 😉 I never had the nerve to try to do interviews, especially once people other than the local store manager (who was at least laughing with me) found out my age. But, if I had the spare money and it were still available, I would totally buy this; my copy, along with the rest (and all my signed Ramones stuff, rare vinyl, photos, etc.), got lost in a house fire.

"A framed copy of issue number 12 from May 1990 of The Record Exchange Music Monitor, signed on the cover by Joey, Johnny, Marky and CJ Ramone." Click through for source.

Funny to think sometimes how much has changed in this respect. Mainly for the better.

While I’m on the little nostalgia trip, Cecilia’s Poem: We Grew Up in Coffee Shops made me smile. And I’m smiling again, rereading it.

A decent bit of the music-finding depended on the kindness of strangers. And one example of that is what I want to talk about some.

When I was probably 14, my mom worked with a guy who was in his 20s then, who, when he heard that I was getting into punk, was kind enough to send me mixtapes and dub whole albums from vinyl onto tape. One that particularly led me into some new musical associations had scratchy, occasionally skipping versions of the original “Carbona Not Glue” version of the Ramones’ Leave Home (rare then, more than a decade before the reissue), Dawn of the Dickiesand the Dead Boys’ Young Loud and Snottywhence the song that opens the post. All on a 90-minute tape, which I soon dubbed in case it got eaten.

Along with picking up Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation basically as soon as it was reissued on CD, that probably helped get me more deeply interested in the whole New York scene. Another kind of perseveration that doesn’t look as weird as, say, trainspotting? Yeah.

I never even met Rick in person, but I was very touched at the time. No doubt he remembered a little too well some of the recent joys of being a small-town punk kid, and his impulse was to send mixtapes. With no reason at the time to know about the addition of “fellow queer small-town punk, with all the extra angst that usually entails”, though IME there was a lot of overlap there. (With about the kinds of parental reactions you might expect, from reading on.)

And that last bit is very relevant. Because my mother, behind his back, consistently referred to him as Rick The Seven-Foot Queer. I don’t think I ever even heard his last name.

Apparently he got along well enough with her to talk enough to learn enough to know to do kind things he did not have to do for me. No doubt she was pleasant enough to his face. And she couldn’t see the person behind those obvious surface characteristics (yep, no doubt very tall and very queer!) any better than to come home and call him that. And she thought that bit of nastiness was clever, and would smirk as she insulted him, basically for not trying to pass and show that he was Just Like You, Really.

At the time, it was both horrifying and embarrassing. Now it makes me both very angry and sad. And ashamed on her behalf, even though I had nothing to do with that mess or the insecurity driving it and so many others.

As I’ve mentioned before, she liked to think of herself as an open-minded, tolerant person. And she did have multiple gay and lesbian friends (who would have been appalled at some of the things she said when they were not around, basically viewing even binary non-het orientations as an unfortunate affliction people can’t help). And I was honestly afraid to come out until I was 30+ years old and living across the Atlantic. Coming out fully to myself was complicated and frightening enough.

And, Rick The Seven-Foot Queer. *headdesk*

I keep being concerned that maybe I’m being too harsh on someone who can’t even answer back lately, but really. There is no way to pretend that’s right. And that kind of performance affects the people around you, especially when you keep saying one thing and doing quite another–through piss-poor introspection and a strong need to always be right (not Crazy and Wrong, like those other people–and like you’ve been called way too much), if not real hypocrisy.

But, yeah, just because you avoid blatant public assholery, that doesn’t necessarily make you a nice and tolerant person. (Though it’s still better than feeling free to abuse other people openly, in a lot of ways.) And there is a lot of xenophobia and hate out there.

Plus, there are the people who are kind to strangers just because, and help other people feel like maybe they’re worth it–and leave others inclined to try to pass it forward. Thank goodness for them.

But, both kinds of people (and so many others) can help you learn to bring more balance and authenticity into living. One way or another.


And the obvious followup. Source. Lyrics.


* We’ve had builders fixing some damp damage to a couple of outer walls. Yesterday they were using pickaxes, mattocks, shovels, and gods know what else to get the old stucco off there; today it was grindy power tools. And a brain-frying meltdown to the point that I’m still dropping stuff in the floor, so I’m not sure how well this post will hang together. I’m not looking forward to hearing what they’ll do tomorrow, no. Especially when I am in no physical shape just to take a long walk to get away from it.

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