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**

The Girl at the Rock Show

My daughter’s first concert was at an outdoor venue a few months after her 3rd birthday. My husband and I took her to see Vampire Weekend since they were one of her favorite bands. She still likes them and walks around the house howling along to White Sky fairly often.

Tour dates were just announced for the 2020 Vampire Weekend tour so I thought she may like to see them again. When I asked her if she wanted to go she had several questions including if it was at an indoor or outdoor venue, what time they would take the stage and if the seats were up close. After much deliberation her final answer was a firm “maybe.”

The conversation closed with thoughts from my daughter that perfectly sum up how she thinks. She said concerts are fun but would be a lot cooler if there was a way to lie down and relax while listening and watching the band. This is not surprising considering her favorite way to eat dinner is lounging on the couch with a tray on her chest. I can see her now – “Excuse me, guys, can you move the mosh pit over there, I’m just trying to relax here.” or “Can you people stop singing along so loudly, I’m trying to hear the band.”

She is a little old lady in a child’s body. Concerts are fun but having to put pants on to go out is just too much effort sometimes. She loves live music, but she would never survive a packed punk show with sweaty shirtless guys in close proximity without throwing up. The last concert we were at had seating in the back so she was content but I doubt she would have stood for three hours without complaint. Luckily there was no line in the bathroom or she would have started a riot. She also gets hungry for dinner before 4 so it makes sense.

I don’t think I have ever wanted to lie down and take a quick nap while at a concert, but I am usually too busy shaking my butt. I’m also usually just excited to be out after dark. I guess I should just be happy that my daughter has always wanted to go out to concerts and that she likes the same music that I do (for the most part. I could live without Taylor Swift.) My poor Mom had to sit through more new wave than Gary Numan. I could be suffering through mind-numbing pop concerts or worse yet, hip-hop. I am lucky that my kid has good taste in music. Now I just need to toughen her up a little in preparation for three days of punk music all day and all night in Las Vegas this May. I have been begging my family to come with me to Punk Rock Bowling for years now and I think this year may finally be the year. I’ll have to check to see if we can get some couches to lounge on in between sets. From what I have heard, pants are totally optional.

 

*In honor of the upcoming 2020 Punk Rock Bowling, I wrote this while listening to the Circle Jerks

Bleach

The view and the aroma was good in my corner bedroom!

As I lie in bed last night reading my book I could smell bleach as if there was a bowl of it sitting next to me. I thought maybe it was coming from the bathroom where I had cleaned earlier in the night so I walked in to take a sniff, however, there was no bleach smell at all. Apparently I didn’t clean that well if the smell had already dissipated. I went back to bed and picked up my book again only to find the bleach smell invade my nostrils once more. I quickly took a whiff of my hand and found that the smell was indeed emanating from me. This is typical. I probably got more bleach on myself than I did on the surfaces I was cleaning. I’m sure I will also find splotches on my pajama pants in the morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell of bleach. I am one of those weirdos who likes the smell of bleach, gasoline and paint. In fact, the smell of bleach reminds me of moving into the loft that I lived in before moving in with my husband. This isn’t because the place was so clean it smelled of bleach, truth be told, the place was probably not technically fit to house human beings. It was above a bakery, so most days it smelled of freshly baked bread and cinnamon rolls. It was also a party house, so it smelled of stale beer and cigarette smoke too. But, for one night, it smelled so much like bleach that I got lightheaded from the fumes.

It was the night that I moved in, on my 30th birthday. My parents were coming over the following day and after a bottle of wine and cupcakes with a few friends I had determined that the place was not presentable. I was already nervous about my parents seeing the place where I had chosen to live. I was not known for making good choices about my living arrangements. After living in a co-op with a worse reputation than the Faber College Delta House my sophomore year in college, I had tried not to let my parents visit often. As a matter of fact, I don’t think my mom ever came to that house after my dad warned her about the fact that $150 of the $250 per semester rent went to cover the cost of the kegs that were regularly replenished in the walk-in refrigerator.

Maybe the bleach peeled the paint…

So needless to say, the fact that I was moving into another space that would host parties on the regular was not information I wanted to share with my parents. Unfortunately it was hard to hide with a mountain of empty beer bottles piled on a corner counter in the kitchen and a freezer full of Jagermeister. Also, I couldn’t guarantee that a gaggle of musicians wouldn’t show up in the middle of my parents’ visit. The front door didn’t even have a lock – which was why my dad was coming over to install a deadbolt on my bedroom door. Literally, there was no lock on the front door, but that’s not to say we didn’t have a security system. Our alarm was a floor that was caving in right inside the front door where our old ping pong table stood at an angle. Any would-be robber would take one look and assume nobody actually lived in the loft.

Looking around the loft I wasn’t quite sure where to start but the floors seemed to be something I could handle. The kitchen floor hadn’t been scrubbed in possibly forever, so I started there. It was of the 1950s linoleum variety, so it was pretty easy to scrub. Within a few minutes the floor went from brown to yellow and I almost regretted cleaning when I saw the actual color of the floor. It completely clashed with the once cream colored carpet. Plus, the stains on the carpet really stood out next to the sparkly linoleum. I evaluated the carpet and determined that the camouflage pattern was not intended, it was beer stains and dirt. I vacuumed until my hands were vibrating and the stains were still as black as ever. I finally decided that the best option would be to treat it with bleach, so that is exactly what I did. I spent the remainder of the night scrubbing at the stains on the carpet with diluted bleach. By 3 am I had scrubbed out the majority of the stains and I was delirious from the bleach fumes. I dumped my dirty bleach water and headed to bed.

Ted Nugent could have passed out on our floor and never been discovered!

I awoke the next morning and walked out to find all of the stains back in their camouflage pattern throughout the living room and down the hallway. Apparently the dirt from the base of the carpet crawled right back to the surface once the bleach dried. I debated pouring more bleach on the stains but I opted to let them do their thing. I would rather have my parents see the filthy carpet than have them wonder if I was trying to cover a murder scene with the overwhelming smell of bleach wafting through the loft. Interestingly enough, my parents never mentioned the stained carpet or bleachy smell.

I never tried to clean that carpet again. As a matter of fact I think I only vacuumed a few times after that day. I once handed a guy a bucket full of bleach water and a sponge when he made a mess all over the floor one night. He laughed until he saw the look on my face and he quickly got to work. Those stains were still there on the day I moved out.

I only lived there for about six months, but the smell of bleach still makes me think of that long first night. Other things come to mind when I think of my time living at the loft like watching drunken idiots jump down into the bakery with no way to get back upstairs, 6′ tall guys sleeping in my giant clawfoot tub, people cleaning cake off the walls while being carried on another person’s shoulders with a mop, and sledding down the stairs on bread racks. But those are all different stories for different days.

 

 

Punk Rock Music Will Save Your Soul!

Sarcasm. coffee & punk rock in the morning…

I don’t know how old I was when I fell in love with music, but I was young. I don’t remember a time when there was not music in my house. As a child I heard a lot of the Beatles and Beach Boys, Elvis and Neil Diamond. I remember driving on winter days with my Dad, heater cranked up, windows down rocking out to Roy Orbison. In second grade my favorite aunt took me to see the first concert I chose to go to on my own – The Stray Cats. I was certain at the young age of seven that I would grow up to marry Brian Setzer. I blame him for my undeniable attraction to musicians. It is clearly his fault that I grew up to marry a man who sings and plays guitar. I won’t even mention the fact that they both have killer hair and to die for eyes.

How could I resist a man with a guitar?

Almost every memory I have in life has a song or a band attached to it. I remember the Christmas I got my first bike whenever I hear “Surfin’ Safari” and the time I was brought home at 3 am by the police when I hear the Talking Heads. Violent Femmes remind me of dropping in on a half pipe on my hot pink Steve Caballero board, eating the ramp and bleeding all over my favorite Descendents t-shirt. “Jesus Saves” by Slayer reminds me of getting caught skipping school as a sophomore and Ministry brings me back to my senior prom. My life has always had it’s own soundtrack running behind the scenes.

 

Prom circa 1990

My favorite Powell Peralta

My favorite music has always been fast, loud and angry. Even as a kid I couldn’t stomach pop music. I didn’t want to hear vapid lyrics about dancing and falling in love. I wanted substance. By the time I was a teenager I wanted to scream about social injustice and being marginalized. I was drawn to the music that expressed how I was feeling. I knew I was different from my peers by the time I was eight years old. I rode a motorcycle and performed daredevil tricks on my banana yellow Schwin. I wore muscle shirts and jeans instead of polos and cardigans like my classmates. My rejection of all things mainstream became more fierce as my teenage years approached. This is when I began my life long love affair with punk rock.

Punk has been compared to the mafia, in that once you are in, you are in for life. It’s not a genre or style, it’s something that seeps into your bones and becomes part of your very being. To me it is like a religion. Listening to Black Flag gives me the same sense of belonging as reading the Bible or listening to a lecture by the Dalai Lama. My places of worship are St. Andrew’s Hall and the Magic Stick watching Negative Approach or Refused. The difference is that you leave these holy grounds sweaty and possibly with a new t-shirt that smells vaguely like dirt and gasoline.

I spent quite a few years trying to be something that didn’t suit me. I will never do that again. I had forgotten for awhile that I am and will always be a punk rock kid deep down in my soul. I will never really fit in with the people around me and that is okay. I am who I am because somewhere long ago I became aware that being myself was more important than fitting in. Believing in myself has always been all I have ever needed. I don’t need anyone else’s approval.

I am watching my daughter learn these lessons today. She told her Dad yesterday that the kids in school think she is weird and they just look at her when she talks about the things she does at home, mouths agape. He told her that one day she will come to appreciate all of the things we do at home, from jamming to punk rock in the basement to sitting around creating art together. We are a little weird and there is nothing that’s going to change that. That’s okay. One day she is going to look back at our time together in the same way I look back at jumping on a motorcycle at three years old with my Dad and picking up a skateboard at thirteen. One day punk rock is going to seep into her bones too and she will remember the times we took her to the Warped tour and to see the Interrupters. I have no doubt that one day she is going to do great things and that starts with being herself no matter what anyone else thinks.

 

 

 

 

 

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