I live alone, 23, bachelor. Blooming. Sure.
The dishes are in the sink; the stench effuses from the drain, somewhere beneath the jenga tower of grimy plates and pots. I won’t mention the toilet, the laundry, the bath tub, the floor, the socks I’m wearing. My mother is probably reading this.
But hey, this is my place, and at my place, no rules. This is what I always wanted as a 14 year old; freedom. I can cover my body with tattoos (if I had cash, alas) and hang all kinds of metal rings and studs in every begging place on my spry, somewhat malnutritioned body. I can stay up late! Go to shows! Pierce my nose! Employers have to deal with this shit now. They literally can’t complain, they have no choice, everyone wants to be punk, man. Your bosses probably have not-a-few obnoxious, regrettable tattoos, themselves. This is the 21st century; very demented, very punk.
I’m a blogger, from which you can infer that I was a strange, maladjusted, outcasted youth. (The correspondence on this is amazing, do a survey.) Anyways, I was most definitely not punk. I was a quintessential poseur as a teenager. I didn’t have the confidence to really be punk, I was too downtrodden, my face pushed into the dirt too many times, too introjected to really brave defiance. I probably hated myself too much, which suited the emo fashion of the time much better, anyway. But my best friend Vince was punk, definitely, he had a skateboard, working-class parents, and a horrible black devilock (just like the Misfits!). Even his dad was fucking punk rock.
Vince accepted me and my morbid weirdness. We started a band, in earnest, called Controlled Environment. He played guitar. I would either bash the drumset like only a dangerously unmedicated teenager can, and occasionally, ‘vocalize’ with his very cheap microphone, screaming like some tortured zoo animal, being flayed alive on the boiling asphalt of my native Phoenix, Arizona. We fucking rawkeddd.
This drove my father, an actual musician, insane. I look back and can’t help but chuckle, but really, at the time, it was pretty serious. He would look at my drainpipe skinny jeans, which I treasured so, and talk to me in his Stalin-esque Eastern Bloc accent about the dangers of a low sperm count. During dinner, one night, he called me out for being a conformist. He told me to cut my hair, to not be an ant. He also said that it’s not good enough to just dress like a rockstar, you have to actually be a musician, too. It stung, for a few years, it did.
Of course, my dad is way more fucking punk rock than I am, in his way. But his talk wasn’t the end of identity-hunting for me, no, so many years of new music styles, new social media, new ideas of ‘cool’ were in wait for me. I probably did it all, from punk, gradually getting worse and worse and more heavy and extreme, into death metal, through several forays of band-starting’s and try-outs and, of course, moshing. I can still two-step like a motherfucker. As that gradually became un-cool I rather unconsciously glided into indie hip hop and the local music scene. For a few years, in college, I was a white rapper. (for shame, for shame!!)
I must raise a caveat in my own defense, though. I was thoroughly an earnest poseur; I always just didn’t know better, I was sincere, in a way, in my desire to be accepted and loved by other human beings. I never wanted money or fame. Just a way to belong. Somewhere in all of this is buried some secret of my existence, which explains it all about me, probably the future, too. As a wanna-be punk, I desired, in one and the same move, to be inconspicuous, accepted, a member, and also rebellious, too-cool-to-care, special. For many teens, I think, punk is the perfect go-to, ready-made identity to pull off the shelves of your local mall (or the merch stand at a show, if you’re really into it.)
I remember standing in a line outside of a local punk show, another teenager dipped in all-black, listening to the older kids in front of me discuss a certain absent friend. ‘Alec is such a conformist! I wish he could just be himself, he’s always trying to be so-’
I remember laughing at this in a mocking way, dissociating myself from their worrisome, paranoic, ‘am I real enough?’ signifying. too close to the bone! I remember taking a long view of this weird music we all seemed to have in common and asking what the point of all this was. There wasn’t one. Something was planted in me that would take a while to really bloom.
Sometimes I still rock out to some punk music, and it’s not purely nostalgic. I like it. Still. I appreciate now the attempt of anti-consumerism, ‘anarchy’, and DIY of punk rock. All punks, even the wanna-be’s, if they aren’t of the shitty skin head variety, are anti-racist, anti-sexist,anti-homophobic, anti-war, anti-fucking-people-and-life-over. It’s really a remarkable cultural phenomenon, no matter how much the aesthetic gets expropriated by multinational corporations. Unfortunately for everyone, punk as a fashion is a bizarre warping of what it’s really all about; the marketing meetings and focus groups have successfully turned punk inside-out, into a docile fashion statement instead of a subversive anti-fashion.
I figured all this out way too late, when I was twenty, trying to authentically express myself with rap, being an ‘actual musician’. Which turned out to be only another folly and paradox for me. (And so here I am, blogging, trying to be a freelance writer, which is not nearly as fun, way more difficult, and pays much less. But it feels more real.)
I’ve long been wondering at the spectacle of Hot Topic, that particular ‘punk’ and ‘alternative’ store in every mall in the universe, where you can consume your dosage of anti-consumerism. Capitalism is really weird like that.
But punk rock will keep attracting its demographic of weirdos and misfits, and keep reinventing itself, bursting just beyond the wall of commercialism that seeks to co-opt the ethos and potential market. Like Hip Hop, it will always be underground, living, one step ahead, resisting, offering a fresh breath and a peek at something authentic, not made to be sold, just felt.
Probably punk rock is partly to blame for my later delve into leftist philosophers and decision to study sociology. I would like to say, maybe, that I’m really punk as fuck now, if not a wanna-be writer philosopher guy. Peace. ((: