Since I left my nine to five job in January I have become pretty carefree. So much in fact that my husband has been calling me “The Dude“. I can’t really blame him. I have taken up wearing a uniform of sorts which consists of pajama pants and a CBGB tank top with a sweater that looks like a homeless man was wearing for years before handing it over to me. When I leave the house I throw on a pair of workout pants to “dress it up a little”. It usually stops people from trying to hand me dollar bills at the grocery store. I’m not going to lie though, on occasion I just throw on yesterday’s pajama pants. Don’t judge me! (more…)
I love when you walk into a space and find your people. I do it a lot at punk shows, church basements and a little book store that sells mental health books. My kid did it last night at a restaurant in town. We sat down at our table and our waitress immediately asked her about a shirt she was wearing and then started speaking a language that my therapist/mom brain could not comprehend. It was apparently Japanese because they were talking about 7,000 anime shows and manga graphic novels that they were both familiar with. Every time the waitress came back to our table she stopped and chatted with my daughter for a few minutes.
During the dinner my daughter mentioned what a great waitress she was and when she stopped back my mother-in-law made her stay with us for a few more minutes so my daughter could tell her what a fantastic server she was and how enjoyable she made our dinner. You would have to know my mother-in-law to understand just how common it is for her to strike up a conversation with a server or cashier, but she is a people person and she makes friends everywhere she goes. If there was an extra chair at the table she probably would have asked the waitress to sit down and she would have finished her shift while she chatted with my kiddo. I actually would have found this very entertaining to watch my socially awkward husband try to manage that interaction. As it turns out, the waitress also has social anxiety and she told us this after she received the compliment about her serving skills. She also showed my daughter photos of her in multiple cosplay costumes which about sent my daughter over the edge since my daughter spends much of her time cosplaying and making videos in her bedroom.
When the waitress showed her a photo of herself dressed as Velma from Scooby Doo at a cosplay convention I thought I was going to have to clean out the guest room for this young woman to move in. My daughter dressed like Velma for a full year between the ages of 3 and 4, including the glasses. She wouldn’t answer to anything but her stage name and chose a Christmas ornament with the name Velma that still hangs on our tree 8 years later. I guess I should have seen this whole cosplay thing coming way back then. While other girls dressed as princesses, my child wanted to be the nerdy girls and villains. By the time she was 5, she was wearing her Hogwarts uniform to the grocery store and casting spells on shoppers in the produce department.
When you are the cosplaying, artsy punk rock kid it’s not easy to find your people at school. Especially when you attend a small Catholic girls school. She has a friend in 10th grade that cosplays and the two occasionally go to the local roller rink where they are treated like royalty for being their freaky little selves, but I hear about how this older friend is literally tortured by half of the school for her individuality, including girls much younger than her. A few weeks ago a couple of 8th grade bullies had the poor girl in tears while they ridiculed her and a group of the girls in my daughter’s class chased her down the hall videotaping her for “fun”. These are the same girls who keep walking up to my kid asking her to show them some dance that she did in a cosplay video. I told her she needed to tell them to watch her YouTube video if they wanted to see it again and when she did she got the satisfaction of watching their jaws hit the floor while they questioned how she had 17,000 views on a video. It’s kind of ironic that the same girls are begging people to like their photos and videos and my kid doesn’t want kids from school to even see her photos, but they all follow her. She likes what she likes, and she does what she wants without much thought about what other people think. She blows my mind with her DIY spirit. I think we have a new punk rock queen in the house.
**In honor of my little riottt girl, I listened to Bikini Kill.
Multiple day music festivals are more common than crop tops on pre-teens these days, but when I was a young music fan, there was no such thing. The first time I went to a show with more than three bands and one stage was Lollapalooza in 1991. My memories are limited, but include being among the 100 people actually stoked to see Henry Rollins before breakfast and a girl getting hit in the head with a lime and barfing next to me on a blanket. I do remember that Butthole Surfers and Jane’s Addiction both played and had stellar sets. From there, I went on to many more Lollapaloozas, Warped Tours and Tibetan Freedom Concerts (thanks Aunt Sue). Multiple Day music festivals became one of the highlights of my summers and sometimes whole years. Somewhere along the line I got too old or too lame to spend three days in the sun trying to soak up boob sweat while keeping my hair from gluing itself to my face. I’m going to blame this on my husband since the last festival I attended was Milwaukee Metalfest a few years before we got married where a guy in my party stole King Diamond’s hat and wore it in the van on the way home. Granted, I was working at that show manning a merch booth and babysitting a bunch of drunk musicians, so that could have been why I quit going to festivals, but it took until my daughter was 5 to get back to one. My little punk rock girl went to her first true festival to see one band play – The Interrupters at Warped Tour 2016.
I had been trying to get my husband to take me to Punk Rock Bowling since my kiddo’s first punk show, but his idea of a good vacation does not include standing in the sun with sweaty dudes, while avoiding drunk 20 year old girls spilling beer on our shoes for three days. Sometimes I have to ask – who did I marry?!? When I saw the lineup for 2023 and knew we weren’t going to see the Interrupters in Detroit this year I talked him into getting tickets since I knew it was the one band that would get him to go. So we jumped on a plane with a suitcase full of band Ts and Chuck Taylors to stay in the most degenerate buttcrack of the US in Downtown Las Vegas. You heard me, not the strip, the old, lawless, anything goes, Freemont Street, Las Vegas.
We arrived at the Golden Nugget just in time to see some showgirls try to get a skinny kid with a pink mohawk to take some photos with them and a man who looked like he just crawled out of a sewer get dragged out of the casino across the street. My daughter had her first viewing of a homeless man on PCP getting talked down by the police on the street, roving bachelorette party girls with glowing dick highball glasses and boas, and the entire cast of Chippendales dancers all in one evening. We had a lot of nice chats that night about how the police were doing good work at handling hard situations, how people make money dancing half naked, how bad choices and bad luck sometimes come together in a perfect storm and people end up asking for money in the streets, and how half our country is worried about something so innocent as drag queens reading books to their kids. We also got to see an old punk smoking weed outside of our hotel and being a dick to a nice family walking by, and I had to point out that even old punks can be assholes. We’re not all perfect.
But on to the music… Day one highlights were seeing the Interrupters and Bad Religion. I also got to see Fishbone whom I have not seen in 25 years and Me First & the Gimme Gimmes who are both hilarious and talented. Although we didn’t get as close to the stage as I would normally get, we were able to get up close and personal with Greg Gaffin earlier in the day while he was doing book signings and we were picking up merch that I pre-ordered. I have to say, for me watching the Interrupters is always amazing but watching my kid see them from her first time as a five year old with only about 20 people watching to now with a huge crowd singing all of their songs along with them is one of my favorite things to watch. She no longer lets me film her singing along like she did at five years old, but I did manage to get a stealthy little clip which I promised not to share with anyone publicly ever. My kid has grown up with this band as they have grown, so they will always be something special for me.
Day two was a later start for us since we didn’t care about seeing most of the early line up, so we swam with sharks at the hotel pool for a bit before doing some damage at the vendor booths and food trucks. I’m pretty sure my husband ate his body weight in dumplings and my kid drank about 400 watermelon slushies while I bought a few more band Ts and punk rock crew socks. We did manage to catch Face to Face, GBH, the Damned and of course Rancid. I’m pretty sure my kid has a crush on Tim Armstrong and she never even saw him in his prime. The girl has good taste though. He is a talented musician, artist and all around good human for doing all he does to help young bands grow and keep punk rock alive. The kids got so excited up front that they caved in the barricade and Rancid had to take a break while security got it fixed. The good thing about this is we got to do a little single along acoustic with Tim and make friends with our neighbors in the crowd, who were all fun and respectful of each other. My daughter and an intoxicated 30 year old made fast friends singing and dancing all night. There was even a little mini punk rocker in the pit with his dad having fun. This was also the night that we stopped by the Punk Rock Saves Lives booth to chat about their organization. They were swabbing people to donate bone marrow, which I am already on the list for, but it was great to learn more about their organization and how they help in their community. Mental health is one of their platforms and as a mental health professional, working with adolescents struggling with self-esteem, peer pressure, drug and alcohol exposure, social media and hormones, I wanted to hear how they are helping. They are a great organization, making positive changes in communities, and I couldn’t agree more with the statement that punk rock saves lives. It saved mine for sure.
Day three was a lot of me dragging my family around to see bands they didn’t care about seeing, like L7 and Agnostic Front until Dropkick Murphys played and brought the house down. I did get to show my daughter the difference between a punk rock pit that’s fun and safe and a hardcore pit full of dudes with anger issues that she should avoid getting close to during Agnostic Front’s set. I had not seen Dropkick Murphys live, and they blew me away. Ken Casey is a force to be reconned with and the band is full of talent from bagpipes to strings. Ken does a lot of talking between songs which I love and we learned that he was going to be a special ed teacher before punk rock sucked him in full time. We were lucky enough to get a view of some of the artwork being auctioned off by their Claddagh Fund earlier in the day and he shared that over $14,000 was raised to help addicts make their way to treatment centers that weekend. You gotta love that a bunch of people passed up the beer tent to buy art and help someone in need. Another great example of punk rock saving lives.
I was surprised at how well my kid held up over the four days in Vegas. She didn’t complain much or get herself worked into a little anxious ball like she tends to do with new things. She rolled with the punches and had a good time. She met new weirdos who accepted her with open arms, with all her awkward tweeness, and she danced and sang along with abandon. I expect in a few years I’ll have to drag her out of the pit when it’s time to leave, but I was happy she wanted to hang out with us and that she still stole my shoes to wear herself instead of being embarrassed by them. She even asked if we could come back next year. I told her as long as the Interrupters are playing….
**It took me over a month to write this because in that month we lost a cat, gained a cat and sold our house. It’s been a month, but I’ve been listening to a lot of punk rock to keep me sane – mostly this:
Way back in November 2022, I won an overnight stay at a waterpark and promptly forgot about it because it was Christmas. When I found the envelope again I remembered that I had just assumed that it would be a trip for me, my husband, my kid and my parents because it was an overnight stay for a family and 5 waterpark passes, and we have been there together already. Plus, I’m a little co-dependent and bring my parents everywhere, like every normal 50 year old woman does, right? I think my parents probably assumed the same thing because my Mom seemed a little surprised when I told her I was going to take my daughter and two of her friends for a girls weekend after my husband prompted me to do so. It was a fun time and I got to see how three tween girls interact with each other when being partially supervised by the mom who was trying to hop on the floating lily pads with nobody noticing and going down the slides first to make sure they were “safe” for the girls. Nobody drowned, nobody got sick, and we were not asked to leave after I let the girls fly an airplane through the lobby, so I chalked up the trip as a success. I also need to send thank you notes to the girls’ moms who actually entrusted their kids to me for a weekend, because they have in fact spent time with me, and know what a risk that was.
Within 24 hours of our return, my parents informed me that their basement was flooded. I’m fairly certain they were trying to make their own water park to get the girls to come play at their house. Or maybe the universe was just trying to make sure I keep taking my parents with me everywhere I go, like every other normal 50 year old woman. Either way, it was a mess that needed my attention (co-dependency and all). I promptly pulled my husband out of his office to run over and help (unprepared and overdressed), and as usual he asked questions like “have you contacted the insurance company?” and “have you taken photos and called a restoration service?” while I took off my shoes and headed for the Beatles albums on the lower bookshelves. My Dad was of course MIA throughout this process picking up supplies at the other house where flooding occurs regularly, since it’s on a lake. He called a plumber to fix the sump pump and went straight for the power tools for the inevitable clean-up. Within an hour my husband had helped my Mom make phone calls, I had soaked my socks and pants while determining that a drain was not working and we had 3 shop vacs ready to pick up whatever water the plumbers couldn’t remove.
It’s now a full week later and the basement is mostly dry, the carpet is gone and the Old Man has cut out half of the walls after returning with a carload of power tools from the lake house. What I have found most interesting about the whole thing is that my Mom’s first text to me included “I guess God is telling me something” in reference to her tendency to save things. I would have expected her to be more upset, and apparently she knows even God is like “hey, lady, do you really need to save the program from your daughter’s 4th grade play?!?” I have for years made fun of my mother and called her a hoarder, but I have to say, going through some of the old things in the basement has been enlightening. My parents had an entire rubbermade storage bin full of photo slides from the 70s and what appears to be a bin stolen from the Post Office full of empty binders. Of the 27 plastic storage totes full of holiday décor, they only lost one, and it was for Thanksgiving which was fine since nobody has time to notice if there are turkey shaped dishes holding my Mom’s once a year greatest ever stuffing in the universe.
As my parents worked their way from corner to corner of the basement, they have rediscovered items I’m sure they haven’t thought of for years. And some of these items have made their way back to my house. I’m fairly certain that my child has the hoarder gene after she returned home with a poly mailer full of my high school papers and a grocery bag of beanie babies. But the best item was a picture of me at the age of two. The Old Man discovered it while cutting paneling out from around a built in bookcase full of an encyclopedia set from 1982 and bobbleheads of the Russian Five. Apparently in the seventies and eighties, artists just hung out at malls selling portraits, and my dad was the guy that stopped to have me sit for them, on a fairly regular basis, because they have a few of these framed masterpieces in their collection from various ages. The weird thing is the face on the child in this portrait is not even me, it’s so clearly my daughter at the age of two. I have a picture that her father took for her two year photo-shoot with the exact same face sitting on the bookcase in my bedroom.
I’m not sure if it was worth the thousands of dollars in damage for my daughter to see, but when I saw the portrait of myself and my daughter’s face appeared, I cried like either one of those two year olds would if you grabbed their favorite stuffed animal. I was looking at the little girl that was so well-loved that her parents stopped in the middle of a mall for an hour to capture her face every chance they got and seeing the face of another little girl with half of her bedroom on the living room floor after her parents tried for an hour to get a smile while cutting teeth. I’m grateful that my Dad always made the effort to capture those moments on film and canvas the same way my husband does now, and I’m grateful that my mom saves it all, even if it takes multiple houses to store the memories. I haven’t opened the poly mailer from high school and I don’t know if I want to at this point. I might just sneak it into one of the color coded plastic storage totes I keep by year of my daughter’s steps through life for her to find years down the line when she comes to rescue me when my basement floods. I just have to make sure to keep it away from my practical husband who brings the industrial sized fan to dry out the carpet because he is the guy who keeps asking me why I am saving the proof that she at some point thought I was superwoman, as evidenced by a first grade art project. Just when I was convinced I am turning into my Dad, the universe comes along and shows me I might just turn into my Mom too.
**I would like to say I wrote this while listening to the Beatles, but I am a riot girl at heart…. please read while listening to the one and only Bikini Kill
Last month, I showed my daughter a new skirt I bought and she told me I looked like a homeless person. It wouldn’t have been so bad except she was kind of accurate. It’s an army green skirt made of nylon with draw strings. It does kind of resemble a Hefty bag. Now I feel bad about telling my dad he dresses like a hobo for the last 30 years.
I have come to the conclusion no matter how cool I think I look, my daughter sees her mom as perpetually challenged when it comes to all thing fashion related. I’m pretty sure I felt the same way about my mother when I was my kid’s age. Granted, my mom was trying to put me in pink polos and plaid skirts while I was lacing up my combat boots and shredded band shirt, but I still wear combat boots and shredded band shirts and my kid is giving me a hard time while she stands in front of me in the same outfit.
Needless to say, the first day I wore my new garbage bag, I received more compliments on an outfit than I had in months, from colleagues to clients to the receptionist at my Mom’s doctor’s office. Even my husband said I looked like I should be on a runway, although I think he meant it in an ironic way. Either way, I’ll take it, and I’ll take my kid calling my skirt a trash bag every time I put it on. She’ll be sorry the next time she asks me to wear my combat boots!
**Writing is more fun with good music. Today it’s Mikey and His Uke doing Op Ivy!!
My mom took my kid shopping a month ago and tried to buy her a Bob Marley sweatshirt. My daughter thought about it for a second and said she couldn’t wear it since she couldn’t name three Bob Marley songs. Some parents have rules about playing with matches and screen time. We have rules about what bands you can sport on your chest. Most of my daughter’s band shirts have either come directly from concerts or from me and I have always only bought her shirts of bands she actually knows well. This goes back to her first band T at age two. At the time she liked three bands so I had the choice between Black Flag, Devo and Sublime. She attended her first concert at age three and picked up a Vampire Weekend tank top that she still have stuffed in a drawer somewhere, and she has had at least a half dozen shirts from her favorite band, the Interrupters who she has seen every time they have come through Detroit. I distinctly remember her walking through the gates at Disney World and the age of three wearing a KISS shirt and schooling the attendant when he questioned her knowledge of the band. And that guy is exactly why she has to know and love a band before she can wear their merch.
I have come to realize I may have created a monster. Within the first two days of school she had questioned each of her friends about band shirts they were wearing. Only one of the girls (a Green Day fan) could name three songs from the bands they advertised on their chests. After the first day of field hockey practice she jumped in the car and proclaimed a girl on the team was wearing a Rolling Stones shirt and she knew the girl didn’t even know who the band was. It made sense to me after seeing an advertisement for a trendy store that sells old punk band shirts on their website. I had to explain to my kiddo that she might see a variety of classmates walking around in Pink Floyd shirts because they liked the logo. I told her that she can’t get in everyone’s face yelling “name three songs!!” or her friends will think she’s an asshole. She responded with “well, you do that” and I think we both see that I proved my point…
*Listening to a music snob while writing about a music snob might be music snobbery at it’s finest…
Theme parks really bring out the worst in people. Half the people are wandering around clueless and lost and the other half are running you over to get to the front of the line. For those of us in the middle of these two groups, it’s a bit of a war zone. We spent Easter week at Disney and most of that week we spent either dodging people staring at their phones while running through the park, or tripping over people as they stopped to figure out where they were. I was almost flattened by multiple scooters as Grandma let little Bobby try to steer his way through a crowd at 12 miles per hour while eating an ice cream cone. I love Disney, but that week was a little traumatizing.
One of the enduring themes throughout our stay was watching people attempt to get on rides that were full. We watched a group of teenage boys climb on to an overly full safari jeep and literally sit on each others laps while forcing small children over the rails on the other side. One older couple ended up completely surrounded by sweaty teen boys yelling at each other to scoot over and make room. If they had waited their turn, they would have ended up occupying the two rows ahead of us, so I was happy to see them go, but I wouldn’t be surprised if grandma never made it past the giraffe crossing. Another woman tried to climb onto a two seat roller coaster behind me and drag her daughter along. She just looked at me for a minute before realizing that she had to wait for the next train to arrive. I’m not sure how this happens since they have numbers in each ride queue and they always stack people two loads deep. My rule of thumb is if you don’t know the person in front of you, don’t follow them on a ride and try to sit on their lap. It leads to discomfort for all parties involved.
The rides with younger kids were the most problematic. We watched a little girl dressed as a princess with a birthday sash force her family to change seats on three separate rides. She was climbing over seats and attempting to get her 300 pound grandfather to do the same. One of the cast members finally told her to pick a seat and stay in it after she had a tantrum about not being close enough to the front. I had to laugh a few minutes later when she got soaked, unaware that the front of that ride was probably not the best seat in the house. Two little boys followed my daughter and me on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and tried to get on the ride with us in a two seat car. When they realized they didn’t fit, they tried to turn around and one got squished in the door. I watched as their parents stood on the other side completely oblivious that one of their kids almost just lost an arm. That was probably my favorite episode of Kids Gone Wild at Disney.
I think what prompts people to behave this way is they want to have the best experience they can and are impatient to have their experience. They don’t stop to think that cramming themselves into an overly full truck or climbing over other people to get to the best seat is not going to do it. I watched the birthday girl spend her time looking at all of the other kids to see if they were looking at her rather than enjoying the ride. They weren’t looking at her, and the ones who were (like my kid) were mostly commenting on what a brat she was. I heard three different dads get reprimanded by cast members for putting their kids in danger. While on the safari a man had to be told that the animals around us were real and dangerous as he held his baby in the air near the alligator pit. I’m sure he was making sure she had the best possible view since babies are really into alligators and all. Another man had to be told that his child needed to sit multiple times on the Jungle Cruise. It took an entire boat of people staring at him for him to finally comply.
We are fortunate that our kid is past the age of caring about the characters so we didn’t have to stop for any photo ops. I saw some of them, and it was similar to the fourth circle of hell. It doesn’t help that only about half of the characters are making appearances. We spent enough time waiting in line for our little foodie to taste frushi, seared scallops and avocado toast. Although we didn’t encounter many hangry little monsters in these lines, there were a couple bitchy bros with man buns. Disney really does provide entertainment for everyone, even if that entertainment is being a judgmental asshole. By the end of the vacation, my kid was already talking about visiting Universal instead next time. I see many more trips to theme parks in the future, with rides for bigger kids and trading in pushy princesses for sweaty teenagers. Somehow I know this is going to be a grass is greener situation the first time a stoned 15 year old barfs near my shoes.
**Since theme parks are a bit like a pit, I had to listen to some good old fashioned hardcore while writing this piece.