i was either fourteen or fifteen. i lived on a commercial chicken farm. after a squabble with this retarded stoner ska fan named robby my punk rock ass vandalized the drum set that he played in band class, turning one of the rack toms into a huge crass symbol, and scrawling "SKA SUCKS" on the snare. this ended up getting me suspended from school for a day.
as i kicked around the house, i turned on the local college radio station and went about the tasks assigned to me by my parents for punishment for my juvenile misdeeds. perilous cheryl was playing some old stiff records groups adding bounce to my step as i swept and mopped the kitchen floor. it was then that she interrupted my rocking and announced that she was giving away a pair of tickets to see the ramones' last gig in providence, rhode island. the broom dropped and i was franticly dialing 91.7, WHUS. i was the first, if maybe only caller and scored my pass to see what will always live in my mind as the greatest show i will ever see in my whole life.
i meekly stepped up the hill to the main building and approached my stepfather, then 27 years old; a look-a-like for willie nelson and kind of a "rocker." i told him that i had won a free pair of tickets to see a rock group and shyly added that i was terribly sorry for my misbehaviour and would he find it in his heart to forgive me and maybe drive jeremiah, the guitarist for my band at the time, and myself to providence so that i might see the band that i had been blaring from my room for the last two years. surprisingly, he grinned and agreed. my mother on the other hand, was far bitchier and couldn't believe that i was going to see a punk rock band for free on a monday night when i was suspended from school for vandalism. as anyone knows, sometimes a parent will curry the favor of a child when there's a marital dispute. jeremiah showed up at seven and my stepfather, mother and two juvenile punkers were headed to The Strand to see the ramones.
jeremiah and i were so excited. as we rolled into coventry, rhode island to pick up weed from my uncle, my parents puffed on a bomber joint as my cohort and i cackled on at the terrible music playing on the radio. if i remember properly, the collective soul song that had that video where the speaker cone turns inside out and the nursery rhyme song by korn played back to back.
when we arrived i was practically shaking: my first concert! as we made our way in, there was a sign outside advertising a 311/cypress hill concert the next night. i felt almost crushed against the ground due to the sheer size of the place. i guess it used to be a theater: there was a balcony and the ceiling was elaborately painted. the ground sloped downward towards the stage. jeremiah and i made our way to the front. i had freshly magic markered a germs logo on the back of my denim jacket and was wearing a spiked dog collar. i wasn't scared of the older crowd but it was certainly a world i had never dreamed of. people with crazy facial piercings. green hair. leather leather and leather. unapproachably beautiful punk rock girls and their scary boyfriends. stoners. pillheads. drunks. fortysomethings who had probably seen the ramones one hundred times before.
jeremiah and i were snotty juvenile punks at that time respecting only ourselves and pretty much only listening to PUNK FUCKING ROCK and ridiculing most of what was not (although we secretly loved the dumb classic rock that we grew up on) so once the terrible hardcore metal started coming out of the monitors, our tongues were flapping as we watched this weird leprechaun-like dude up front gyrate and flick his tongue to the music. he seemed to disappear as the opening act began to set up. i was standing next to a man of about 35 who was already "in his altitudes" who was clutching a half full pint glass and cheered as "sonic reducer" by the dead boys hissed out of the monitor and swirled around my pubescent mind. the club grew dark and one of the worst bands i have ever seen-"gren"-began to play. they were reminiscent of bush with died green dreadlocks and terrible stage banter about drugs and forgettible licks. as i remember, they were boring, tragic and i feel bad for anyone else who wasn't so bombed that they were amused for maybe a second. four years later i would see their cd in the cutout bin. whouldathunkit. i later heard that joey ramone actually asked them to go on tour with them. poor, poor idealistic joey. old punks fall out of touch, too.
after the gawdawful racket of "gren," everything was still besides the growing drunken revelry of our older peers. my hair seemed to stand on end (not in a GBH sort of way) and again, the club grew dark as the first strains of ennio morricone's theme to "the good the bad and the ugly" began to pound through the monitors. the ramones were about to take the stage and if i died at that moment i could have cared less. the crowd surged forward and my bandmate and i stayed close together while my parents sipped beer in the back.
the lights kicked on and there stood the four gods of my teenage mind, banging out "durango 95" before ripping straight into blitzkrieg bop at a speed nowhere near the record and not stopping until six songs had been dusted off and the audience was already covered in a sweat. it was the first time i had ever slammed and i felt exhillerated (sp?) the older punks were doing a dance that i had read about and still to this day have never seen since: you would run across the room to the opposite side, someone would catch you and propel you towards the opposite bank like a human pinball, but you just kept bouncing around due to the inertia of the dance. there were no elbows or feet. just bouncing back and fourth occasionally knocking someone or your self over. everyone picked up anyone who fell over and you just kept shooting around. i wish people still danced like this, it was some of the most fun i'd ever had, and all the while the ramones blared away. i swear they must have played the entirety of their first three records. joey was an animated stick on stage. it was shortly after jerry garcia died, and johnny was wearing a shirt that said "i'm greatful jerry's dead." dee dee was a solid rock of 1-2-3-4's and the drummer... played drums.
they were and will most likely be the loudest band i have ever seen live, ever. after my ears calibrated the wall of distorted static i began to recognize the songs a little easier and i was in heaven. my stepfather approached me and yelled into my shredded ear that my mom was being a raincloud and wanted to go home. IT WAS THE FUCKING RAMONES!! he was completely cool and took the full brunt by telling her that we were not leaving until the fruit of her womb was thoroughly rocked by his favorite band. go dad. a punk girl grabbed me by the throat and we did the grapple. i screamed "swallow my pride" as it shattered my eardrums. there were some rather douchey skinheads getting macho in the pit and jeremiah later told me that he produced a pencil from his jacket and stuck one of the skins with it, later inspiring a trilogy of oi! songs in our band.
as the ramones finished their third encore, jeremiah and i made our way, bruised and jubilant, to find my parents and head home. my ears rang like they never will again and our bodies were sore but we had just seen the most fantastic concert of our entire lives. my ma bitched and moaned on the way home but my stepfather gleamed at my rock and roll rite of passage.
upon arriving home, jeremiah's dad was waiting. we laughed and exchanged fake nazi salutes saying; "oi skins. gren rules." for the next four days i would have to turn my stereo up to 8 to hear anything out of the speakers due to my ringing ears. my parents had the same problem, so it made for an interesting household.
i will never forget that night or the impact it made upon my life.
rest in peace, fellas.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
"you know, when i drink alone i prefer to be by myself." -joan of arc, saint
sitting ominously atop a grassy hill, and sprawling across the street stood the northampton lunatic asylum. this building was designed brick by brick upon the model of the infamous bedlam asylum, from where we derive the term "sheer bedlam." it had opened sometime in the mid 1800's and closed sometime around the early 1990's, when the last remaining inmates (about 30) were ejected out into the world to become the insane street people dotting every corner of the quaint pioneer valley town.
in the heyday of "modern psychology" people were sent to this place for everything from schizophrenia to masturbation. here they experienced abysmal conditions, green walls, electro-corrective therapy and shock baths. i once saw a photograph taken in the basement of a dungeonlike door, about four inches thick. the window looking into the cell was cut into the shape of a heart, and bars set inside of it separating captor and captive.
when i moved to town it seemed like just about everyone i'd met had broken into the now-defunct nuthouse, and frankly i was a little jealous.
a friend of mine had broken into this place so many times since it's closing that he had mapped the entire place out, and was more than happy to take a few people for a little day trip. i was psyched and at the same time a little scared. i could feel my adrenaline pumping through my veins as he regaled me with stories of what waited inside. a basketball court. a morgue. an amphitheater. a network of tunnels underneath the complex. cells. double locking gates. rubber rooms.
it did not take too long (a few minutes) to get two more interested individuals in on the excursion. on a cold and icy winter day, i filled a backpack with supplies: flashlights, extra batteries, water, handkerchiefs for our faces, trash bags to tie around our feet, a screwdriver, a hammer, a crowbar, a knife and some gloves. the four of us met in front of a popular burrito restaurant around four and walked up the street past the campus and across the athletic field where a small path into the woods appeared. my friend warned us about security guards and the possibility of getting arrested. we rolled the dice.
we made our way up the path, towards the central building. it was here that the most volatile patients were kept. the criminally insane. shit-throwers. hair-pullers. night-screamers. high-risk types. suicide watch. we waited in the brush for a security car. it was as dead calm as the sargasso sea. when it seemed that the coast was clear we dashed between two buildings and found what seemed to be a blind corner. i opened my bag and got to work on the thick piece of wood bolted over an entrance. after a few genuinely strenuous efforts with the crowbar, the bolts whined as the barrier began to pull away revealing an open door just out of our reach.
and then we heard the car. i threw my bag against the building and laid flat on my back in the grass. the rest of the gang began to walk away from me, distracting the attention of the security guard who was just rolling up in her patrol car. i could hear her mumbling something to the other three. they nodded and began to walk back in the direction we had come. she told them to leave. once the guard drove off, i grabbed my pack and slipped back between the two buildings, hoping to rejoin my friends. they were walking about thirty feet in front of me. as i stepped out into the opening, the security guard came around the corner, spotted me and swung the front end of her car directly in front of me. she rolled down her window and said the stupidest thing that, to this day anyone has ever said to me.
she said; "stay right here, i'm calling the police."
i stood looking dumbfounded and said; "okay." as she pulled out and headed in the opposite direction to the security kiosk, it was at this point that two things happened, one after the other: the 20 milligrams of speed that i had taken kicked into roaring life, and then i began to run like hell. i slipped over the ice and crashed through the snow, i ran through briars and brush, barrelling past my friends shouting to them; "she's calling the cops on me! i'll meet you back in town!" i can think of other times that i've had to run as though my ass depended on it, but i induct this into the hall of fame. i was BOOKING, not looking over my shoulder, treading sheer ice.
and then suddenly i heard the sound of a speeding car behind me. she was chasing me down. later, friends would tell me that she was flying after me like a bat out of hell. there was a direct right angle in the service road ahead. if she kept speeding after me, she'd crash into the woods. she'd have to brake, because there was no way that she could take such a sharp turn at the speed she was going. i decided i'd run into the woods ahead and try to escape into the underbrush. i was close to the athletic field from where we came in. my adrenaline buzzed in my ears and my heart felt like it was ready to explode. at the last second, i jumped into the woods to realize that i had, in fact, just jumped down a very steep embankment. i had no time to gasp, as i had to focus on how i was going to land. i hit the slope with the balls of my feet and went head over heels, landing on my back and rolling towards the bottom on my side. i swear i must have rolled through six briar patches before finally hitting a tree. i used this painfully sudden stop of momentum to gasp for air and try to get back on my feet. i was scratched up, and knew that the warm drip coming from my nose was blood. i could hear the patrol car at the top of the embankment. i took the two liter bottle of water out of my bag and tossed the knapsack, tools included, into the woods. i heard the car door slam. she was getting out to look for me. i tried to stop gasping, and laid flat on my stomach against the leaves and snow, the hood of my dirty army jacket pulled up over my head. for about ten minutes, she paced. and i waited, too. eventually she got back in her car and drove away, but i didn't trust the path when this woman was looking for me. i stayed close to the bottom of the embankment, always looking up as i trod the edge of a frozen pond. once i reached the field i collapsed on a bench and drank about two thirds of the water and lit a cigarette. my muscles felt like they were on fire, speed was rocketing through my system thanks to an overworked circulation and i was covered in snow, dirt and scratches. as i stumbled back into town, mild amphetamine psychosis set in and i was looking everywhere for cops. they never came. i met up with the other three and we laughed about it all, smoking pot and drinking black label. about a year or so after all of this, i did finally succeed in two explorations of the state hospital, but that's another story. catch me if you can.
my name is steve. i'm new to the blog thing, so don't expect literary dynamite. i usually laugh over how utterly mundane a lot of personal internet posts are; "i just toasted a bagel," and such thus i'll try to be some semblance of interesting in my entries.
i guess i should write something about myself as an introduction. i was born in willimantic, connecticut and went to school in lebanon. i was raised poor white trash, and will most likely die that way. in my formative years, i was surrounded by 70's muscle cars and spent my time riding my bicycle, harassing girl scouts, dabbling in vandalism, playing in the woods, and listening to death metal. i was kind of a social pariah in school until around thirteen i got into punk rock. and i'm not ashamed to admit that it was nirvana that showed me the way to black flag, MDC, and flipper. and i still listen to nirvana. one cannot deny their cultural relevance, and unfortunately the bullshit wasteland of music that they ultimately inspired.
so, i started going to punk rock shows after a while and found my niche. people actually treated me like a human being for once, and i felt a sense of community. this is how i met many of my friends who i'm still in contact with to this day, and met my first girlfriend at sixteen.
my love of music led me to play in a lot of stupid teenage bands that were fun at the time. at eighteen, i took my first hit of LSD and it turned my brain upside down. i can't remember how many times i'd tripped between then and the age of 2o, but it was a lot. i moved to boston for a while and took a bummer. i moved back to the woods in connecticut for a spell to get my head together, when my friend brett called me and told me that he shattered his pelvis skateboarding. he lived in northampton massachusetts. a lot more exiting than ashford, connecticut. i assure you. so i moved up to mass to take care of him and find a job. we were poor. we got drunk and raised hell. we would take speed and talk about breakdancing. we ate out of dumpsters and stole pumpkins off of people's porches to make soup. i worked as a dishwasher in a tyrannical yuppie pasta restaurant before getting an awesome job at a copy shop. after seeing the movie "driller killer" (watch it) i wanted to start a band, and stumbling upon two other miscreants at a drug party freddy and the landlords were born. a minor label signed the dumbest band in the world and looked on in horror as everyone (exept the singer) slit their fingers open and signed the contract in blood. we made a racket, fucked shit up, did whippets on the train tracks and disappeared leaving a wake of graffiti and alienation.
these were the days of ALLSCUM, our apartment of iniquity located above a chinese restaurant which aside from the 7-11, provided our meals. my roomate bill and i formed a two man band called "druz" with me on guitar and bill drumming on a padded chair. we wrote over two hundred songs in about a year. we only played parties and called ourselves "apartment rock." i developed a budding heroin problem that would plague me sporadically for years. i played in a few other bands; to name a few- the bourgois heroes, the cheater's club, true grit and the dirty needles. i fell in love, or so i thought and was married. we moved to athens, georgia and were together for three years before a divorce. in that span, i travelled through beautiful southeast asia where i saw shit that blew my mind, ate food you probably would not, and attended cooking class in cambodia (i'm told i make some pretty bitchin' asian food) and briefly owned a house, acting as a landlord. i also started a fast thrash band with some georgians called AMERICAN CHEESEBURGER, which is very fun.
to sum it up, i'm a broke-ass cook living in a basement apartment on a quiet street scraping change to buy cigarettes and fix broken equipment, obsessing over the occult, movies, shooting guns and an unabashed nerdiness towards finding obscure records. go figure. welcome to my life.