Punk Rock Saves Lives

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:


School of Punk

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…

Too Cool for School

I just went to parent/teacher conferences and was reminded just how much my kid and I are alike. She has been talking for weeks about her Latin teacher and how cool he is. When I met him, I couldn’t help but notice he was a lot like her dad, both in looks and sense of humor. Within five minutes he told a story about how he described an ancient poet as “punk rock” to a group of eighth graders. When they asked what that meant he explained how punk was an attitude. He went on to say that he does a presentation where he teaches the differences in poetic styles by playing music. He gives his high school classes a taste of epic poetry through the Who with their seven minute rock operas and the Sex Pistols with their ninety second in your face anthems. I warned him not to refer to anything as “punk rock” around my kid unless he wants to hear her twenty minute monologue on the subject. The good news is he will most likely be her Humanities teacher next year combining one of her favorite subjects with one of her favorite teachers.

My child has always brought her big personality into the classroom with her. In third grade she gave a rock a nose ring and mohawk and named it “Punk” for a science project. In fourth grade she persuaded her music teacher to include a music history lesson on the roots of punk rock music and helped pick songs that were appropriate for a group of Catholic school kids. And now, in fifth grade she has a Latin teacher who talks about the philosophy of punk. I’m expecting by next year she’ll be writing a paper on why “Get In the Van” is one of the most important pieces of American literature. I’m glad she has the freedom to do this, because I certainly didn’t when I was her age. Granted, there weren’t a lot of nuns and 70 year old teachers who had great taste in music, and the punk genre hadn’t even been around that long, but I can’t remember a single young, cool teacher that I connected with. Luckily I get to live through this self-expression with her. I show up to help once a week in her art/design class where she is making a skateboard from scratch. A bunch of fifth graders are using saws and power tools to build their own skateboards from gluing the layers of board together to screwing on the trucks and wheels. They are even using a CAD device to laser cut designs into their boards if they choose a logo that’s too intricate to hand sketch. I’m hoping I get to tag along when these girls bring their boards out for their maiden voyages.

Seven years ago my husband and I researched pre-schools like our life depended on it, and we ended up right where I started school in second grade. Within a few years we realized that we created a mess of anxiety in those preceding years for nothing. By kindergarten my daughter was being taught music by the wife of the studio owner where all of my bands recorded. Her after school activities were led by a retired musician who reminisced about the best and worst venues with me and dubbed my kid “Rockin’ Riley” after she jumped behind a drum kit like she owned it. Somehow a bunch of amazing, artistic people made their way to the same school under the direction of one of the wisest, most loving headmistresses in the country. It’s a small world for sure. Sometimes I still get side eye when I show up at a lacrosse game wearing glow in the dark skull Vans and a Pennywise hoodie, but I think I can safely say that would happen anywhere my kid ended up. It’s hard not to look twice at the middle aged mom dressed like a teenage boy. At least the teachers can match the kid to parent when my daughter shows up the next non-uniform day in a Distillers t-shirt and camo joggers. If anything, they are thanking their lucky stars she hasn’t developed my mouth just yet. Never fear, there is still plenty of time.

**I wrote this blog while thinking about my formative years and listening to my favorites from my middle school years – GBH**

US Out of My Uterus

I get some weird junk mail and spam mail. A few years ago I received a handwritten letter by someone I had no recollection of that claimed to have been a classmate in high school. Since I also have a limited recollection of my high school days, I took her word for it and looked her up in the yearbook. That is when I discovered she was a no good filthy liar. She had picked the last name of a classmate of mine, but had a different first name. She also claimed to have attended grade school with me at a school I never stepped foot in. The best part about this letter is that she was writing to me about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was lying about who she was to recruit me into a cult. Clearly she did not know me at all or she would have known that not even a cult would take me in and put up with my nonsense. A few months later I received another handwritten letter from someone claiming to be a 12 year old boy telling me how he wanted to share his love of Jesus with me. I kind of miss the days when they would just knock on your door. At least that way I could have warned him that his cult would never allow him to see an action movie or listen to music and that he had a lifetime of missionary sex and doors being slammed in his face to look forward to. Maybe I could have recruited him out of Kingdom Hall if he had knocked on my door instead of trying to lure me in with his pathetic letter. Then again, the 12 year old boy was most likely a 70 year old granny, the same one who wrote me the first letter. Catfishing must be exhausting.

I have also received quite a few postcards for some far right republican politicians which I always find interesting. I am not opposed to receiving propaganda from either side of the aisle, I just wonder how I got on some of these lists. Political “information” is always pretty comical to me, but absolutely nothing has topped the latest letter I received from Ted Cruz asking me to donate money to his ridiculous foundation. Every other line of the letter reads like a billboard claiming our vice-president is pickpocketing me to pay people to murder babies. His letter was in fact begging me for money to support the defunding of Planned Parenthood. I could make a lot of statements here about how Ted Cruz probably never had to worry about something like an unwanted pregnancy since no woman in her right mind would let that little slime crawl on top of her, but I won’t. Instead, I am writing Mr. Cruz a thank you note which reads:

Dear Mr. Cruz,
Thank you for informing me about the goal of your organization to defund Planned Parenthood. This is something that I was unaware of and most definitely plan to do something about. I know that you were hoping to receive a check from me, but all I can offer to you is a photocopy of a check. Please find enclosed a photocopy of a check remitted to Planned Parenthood. I had an abundance of money at the close of the year and had been considering several worthy charities when I received your letter. I had completely forgotten about all the good work Planned Parenthood does until you so generously reminded me. Thank you. Merry Christmas and God Bless.

Now onto my letters to the Jehovah’s… I’m thinking as a gift a subscription to Hustler may be in order. I also just realized that these kind of shenanigans are exactly how I get on all of these lists.

**Something the Jehovah’s would never allow… a little Slayer!


I’m beginning to think my phone number has made the rounds at an online pirating convention because I have been getting scam calls up the yin yang. I get a call a day from Amazon making sure I meant to make a purchase on my account (which I do not have). I do have to say, when having a stressful day, messing with some asshole trying to steal people’s credit card information is a perfect remedy. My conversation today went a little like this:

“This is Amazon verifying your purchase of $399.89. If you did not make this purchase, you can speak to an Amazon customer service manager by pressing 1.” And you better believe I pressed 1. So forcefully, in fact that I almost threw my phone across the room in the process.

Asshole: Thank you for choosing to speak to customer service today. This is Jerry. How may I help you?

Me: I’m not sure. You called me about a purchase.

Asshole: Yes ma’am. A purchase was made today using your Amazon account. Did you purchase an iPhone 11 for $399.89?

Me: Oh no. I didn’t. What do I do?

Asshole: Well ma’am, unfortunately the parcel has already been sent out so you will need to fill out a form to cancel the charge on your account. You can fill out the form online. Are you near a computer?

Me: Yes

Asshole: Okay, now you are on Google Chrome correct?

Me: How did you know that? Are you in my computer?

Asshole: No ma’am. No. Most computers have Google Chrome. So you can go to the search bar at the top, the white bar and type in U as in unicorn, L as in lima….. (and several more letters that I didn’t listen to, but I did hear ice cream at one point). Now, can you repeat what you typed in?

Me: Oh, I wasn’t typing. I thought you wanted me to write it down. Can you repeat that?

Asshole: Yes ma’am. U as in unicorn, L as in lima…

Me: Wait, did you say lima? Do you mean lemur? You didn’t send me lemurs instead of puppies did you? I ordered a box of puppies. That’s what I ordered from Amazon, not an iPhone.

Asshole: What are you talking about puppies? No ma’am. There are no puppies. Can you tell me the address you typed?

Me: I didn’t type anything. I was writing. Where am I supposed to be typing?

Asshole: On your keyboard ma’am.

Me: Oh, my keyboard… you want to hear me play on the keyboard. Hold on.

I then proceeded to bash on the piano for a full minute at which point my daughter started yelling from the other room wondering what the noise was.

Me: What do you think?

Asshole: Ma’am, what are you doing? Are you at your keyboard. I need you to type the address.

Me: I was at my keyboard. Did you like my playing? So, you said the parcel went out. Where are my puppies? Do you have my puppies? You better not have my puppies.

Asshole: Ma’am (now with a raised voice), I don’t know anything about any puppies. But I am going to need you to type the address on your computer to fill out the form. Are you at your computer?

I was not at my computer. I was actually trying to free my leg from my cat’s jaw as he chomped on my achilles tendon. I think he heard me talking about receiving a box of puppies and was feeling insecure and angry. Or my piano playing really set him off. It’s hard to tell.

Me: No. I’m at my keyboard. But I’m going to need that address again. I couldn’t understand you. 

Asshole: Ma’am, you need to be at your computer. Do you have a keyboard?

Me: Do they send you to special scammer training to learn how to deal with difficult calls? I mean in Bangladesh or wherever you are, do they teach you special skills to rip off little old ladies and get them to give you their credit card information?

Asshole: (finally catching on that I was being a dick) No, in Pakistan. We go to the Technological Institute.

Me: You must be really pathetic to do this for money. I bet your mom is super proud of you.

Apparently I hit a nerve because he got agitated at this point. He said something about hiding it from his mom and hung up on me shortly thereafter.

So, you’re welcome to whoever was next on the call list. I spent 15 minutes of this scumbag’s time and reduced my stress by at least 50%.

I should have just played this over the phone…

Dr. Feelgood

My daughter had her first wellness checkup in two years last week. We had switched pediatricians a few years ago after I got fed up with the snarky receptionist at the office we had been going to for the first seven years of my daughter’s life. We made it to her seven year wellness visit at the new office and haven’t gone back since. I’m not anti-doctor, but I view them the same way I view the police, only contact them when necessary. Since my kiddo has remained relatively healthy over the past few years, we really had no reason to visit our new doctor.

I was feeling pretty proud of myself for getting my daughter to her nine year visit an entire month before her ninth birthday. This would have been impossible if she had gone to her eight year visit, especially since insurance will only cover one visit in a twelve month period so we keep getting one more month behind. At some point I’m pretty sure our health insurance company will require that the doctor be seen at the hour of your birth annually to be covered. We pay a small fortune for coverage and they cover virtually nothing. My health insurance company has single-handedly made me defend socialism on more than one occasion. I am fairly certain I could break a bone per month and still not break even.

To the new pediatrician’s credit, she didn’t even mention that we skipped over a year of office visits. Instead, she asked my daughter a whole slew of questions about her lifestyle. Not surprisingly, my daughter revealed that she listens to a lot of punk rock music in the car and hears all kinds of swearing and that her mom lets her do unlimited dangerous things. When asked if she enjoyed her hip-hop dance class she actually went into a 10 minute dissertation about how the other girls wanted to hear terrible music like “dance monkey” (whatever the hell that is) and she would prefer to hear some heavier music for warm-up. My child is an almost nine year old music snob. Part of me was incredibly proud while part of me was horrified knowing I would be on the receiving end of this filibuster in the not too distant future. She talked about her friends and how she really likes the new girl because “she lets her freak flag fly” and explained a game they play at recess in great detail. Her doctor listened to every word and took notes. I can only imagine what she was writing but “call Social Services” or “send referral for therapist” were probably just a few of the pieces of chicken scratch. My kid had this entire conversation while sitting casually on a leather couch. I watched as she became more comfortable and her feet spread further apart. At one point she had her elbows on her knees, leaning completely in to the conversation. It was like watching a mini Hunter S. Thompson talking about politics, simultaneously relaxed and intense.

The pediatrician ended the visit by asking my daughter if she had any questions. I’m surprised my inquisitive and thorough child didn’t ask to make another appointment just to gather her list. Instead she asked a series of questions all about the doctor’s family. Within 5 minutes my daughter learned more about her pediatrician than I know about most of my friends. Before leaving my daughter requested that on her next visit she be placed in the Harry Potter themed room. She actually asked if we could move the exam into that room about halfway through the appointment and was told that she could be there next time, so apparently it was a high priority. In the car on the ride home my daughter said “that was fun. Why don’t we do that more often?” I think I am going to have her call the insurance company to have this conversation. If I can’t get my money’s worth out of them through services, I can certainly get it through time and entertainment.

*I wrote this blog while listening to The Misfits. It has been a nice change of pace since the wee one has been blaring the Zombies 2 soundtrack for the last three weeks…