November 18th, 2002


Old, missing friends

There’s that cliché about truth being stranger than fiction. Unfortunately, sometimes truth is just too predictable. I saw someone on the street the other day that reminded me of another missing friend. Maybe it’s the photo lab reminisces that put me in a nostalgic frame of mind, but I found myself thinking about Scott and once again checking the obit archive in the local paper.

Scott, was from my teen punk rock crowd. He was probably 5 years older than me and grew up in Novato, a working class kid in a small city that was rapidly changing from a farm-based community to a suburban commuter town. I’m not trying to be all we-pogoed-ten-miles-in-the-snow-to-get-to-the-Flipper-show about it, but it wasn’t easy being punk rock in a town like that in the early-mid ‘80s. Not only did Novato boast more SF cops as residents than any city except SF, but their local brethren targeted the freaks and weirdos. Two other friends lost their licenses and motorcycles because whenever they’d head onto the main drag they’d get pulled over. Those were the days before the mandatory helmet laws and flying an orange mohawk was seen as provocation.

Anger boiled right under the surface too. The long-term families, especially those who didn’t own homes, could see displacement coming in the form of the original self-satisfied yuppies, who moved to town interpreting the Reagan Mandate as their personal quest to flaunt their wealth as ostentatiously as possible. Of course, many of the old timers and farmers voted for Reagan and took out their anger not on the yuppies but on anyone who was different but still poor enough to cross their path. The first Dead Kennedys show there was met by rednecks armed with axe handles. Punks didn’t go to the bathroom alone at the Novato Denny’s, the only place in that area open all night, after two kids got jumped and beaten badly.

Amusingly, Scott’s uncle was a SF cop. At that time in SF, cops waited outside punk shows to arrest minors. This often set off near riot situations when the punks, getting all hepped up on revolutionary lyrics and beer, were forced to walk a gauntlet of cops and show our fake Ids in order to leave the area. We’d be there, the situation tensing and escalating and all of a sudden Scott would be all, "Hi Uncle Pete!" From under the riot mask would come, "Hey Scott, hey kids."

Scott was the pretty one in our group too, born to wear a studded leather jacket and swagger around. He made friends easily at bars. At first we didn’t notice that he seemed to know people at every bar we went to. Though we were a fairly tight-knit group of punks, Scott would occasionally enter a non-punk relationship but these never lasted long. Worryingly though, when he started one, he would disappear on us for a bit of time. He’d always return though, usually with tales he could eat out on, like when he tried to become a born-again Christian for five minutes and a yuppie for ten.

Scott was one of our first friends to have a real-life job. He worked the mailroom at a big real estate company. When the late ‘80s layoffs came he ended up being the only mailroom worker. This gave him sole access to the company van which took a pile of punks to every decent show in the Bay Area for years. Scott also used the oppressor’s resources in other ways. We sent out the Bay Area Anti-Racist Action newsletter and other radical lit with the real estate company’s bulk mail permit. Luckily Scott worked the mailroom or he might have gotten fired when somebody actually wrote a "Thank you" letter to the real estate company saluting their commitment to anti-racist work.

Later, when I moved to SF, Scott would visit and we’d go to shows. He’d show up with a half-drunk bottle of peppermint schnapps. I’d start drinking and he’d continue. I’d give him a key so he could return to my apartment whenever he needed to. Even if I set out a blanket and cushions for him, I’d usually find him the next morning face down on the floor with his jacket and cowboy boots* still on.

I was with Scott when I went to one of those life-changing shows that punks, dead heads and x-tians love to talk about. I convinced him to come to the Women’s Building for one of the Chumbawamba shows on the "Slap" tour. To be honest, my interest in punk was at an all-time low** and I was searching for a new, and more political scene, to be a part of. We’d been going to shows together for almost ten years but all it took was one song before when looked at each other and, without talking because it was too loud to talk, knew we were seeing something amazing, inspiring, and energizing in a way we hadn’t seen since, say, the Rock Against Reagan show at the1984 Democratic Convention protests. Weirdly, it was at that show that I met the people who would become my new punk friends as the scene I grew up with disintegrated

(continued tomorrow. . .)

*I always interpreted his fancy cowboy boots as a tribute to his background. He switched from the typical punk army boots to cowboy boots in his early 20’s. I don’t believe Scott, like many of my California friends, ever traveled East of Las Vegas. They’d give me shit all the time for being born in Michigan and not moving to California with my family until 1970 when I was 2.5 years old.

**Except for maybe now.

Hey Bay Area Folks,

(the rest of the "Scott" story will be posted tomorrow.)

Last minute notice! One of the best movies in the world will be playing tomorrow .If you've never seen "Times Square" you better be there.

here's the info:

a special screening of...
the original riot-grrrl flick! a hard-to-find '80s teen classic!

2 teen girls bust out of a mental institution & attempt to save Manhattan's
Times Square from corporate clean-up... by blockading it with punk rock!

Cool new wave style !
Lesbian undertones !
Tim Curry !
Patti Smith & The Ramones on the soundtrack !

@ El Rio
[3158 Mission St @ Precita, near Ceasar Chavez]

DJ @ 7:30 (X-Ray Spex, Comet Gain, The Fall, Joan Jett...)
MOVIE @ 8pm