Thursday, October 22, 2009




It is not as bad as it sounds but I think that I am going to chime in here with a small rant about things. Remember, rants should be a highway to more positive things to come, and not just some going off, grinding-of-gears, about shit that pisses you off. So with some luck you will see the silver lining in this fluffy cloud over the mountainous Montana Sky.

While I used to be an avid "journaler" on my trips across the country and Europe, I gave it up for the direct experience. Telling my journal what I was experiencing at the time amounted to telling my journal what I wasn't actually experiencing, but was writing. It was my own MST3000 (remember that show) sort of dialogue with the world at large. Instead of living, I was talking about living. I was documenting my talking about living. I wasn't living. There is a difference.


I know way punker people than myself. My friend Allen, who really taught me the ropes about Punk Rock in the very early 80's, was fearless. I am not fearless. I am to the degree whereby I might drive my car into a deep mud bog knowing all the while that I can call a tow truck to pull me out, right..? Allen was fearless. He was the kid at the shows who would dance in the pit when the skinheads stood in the center and scared the rest of us off to the corners crying. He would carry knives to show, would bring a bag of wheat flour to a show and throw it all over the audience just when they were at their apex of sweaty and fucking up a lot of people's nights. To some Allen was a monstrous fuck up, fly in the ointment, flaky, coolest-kid-in-the-scene. He had the raddest girls, the best records, and the most fucked up stories. And it is maybe to Allen that I dedicate this book and this trip because I've become a lot like Allen was to me in the 1980's, now.

Real Punks come/came/will come in two basic varieties, but with way more evolutionary stalwart-types. For the most part, at least on the visual-aesthetic level, you either find your way into it because you are really, really messed up or, conversely, you find your way into it because you are really, really smart. This world favors the average. Thinking outside the box for a normal American doesn't even come remotely close to the day-to-day thoughts of alternative types that LIVE OUTSIDE THE BOX. No matter whether you found your way into punk from the "messed up" end or the "uber smart" end, you always knew that you were different. You knew from an early stage in life that you didn't fit in and all of us chose different ways to express that FUCKED-UP-NESS.

When we found Punk (or it found us), we were ready. We were so fucking ready that many of us just jumped in without testing the water. I, personally, had been dying to find something like the punk-rock-underground for years before I found it. I was the biggest (and I mean tallest and most freakish) weirdo at my school. I was tall, lanky, zitty, and not so beatiful. But to make a point of all of this I didn't much give two shits about the sports that everybody seemed to think that I should be playing or the academic-stuff that I was being encouraged to learn. None of this stuff seemed particularly relevant to a bombed-out shell of a kid that seemed destined to become homeless before he was 20. I was a weirdo living in an ultra-conformist utopia in a south-central Pennsylvanian farm town.

My story aside, we all know/knew that we didn't like the world-story that was being offered to us, so we rebelled. By 16 I was a DEVO worshipper and by 17 I was a punk. At my first show I felt that I had found my tribe, and this, too, was a double-edged sword. Nobody told me that only the strong survive int he scene. Your tribe was filled with pussies that would bail out in a hot-mintue at the point they realized that if they liked a more like-able style of music, dressed a little more preppy, or whatever, that they would get laid more often. And so in our own little utopia there was this factor of folks coming and going to the degree that you never really knew who your friends were on a wider scale of THE SCENE. However, when you met a person at a show or at the record store, and that friend seemed firmly planted in your world, well, you had a friend for life.

And, so, this is the premise of Barred For Life as a documentary and a cultural entity. Here we are years after its inception, its high points, and its most awesome displays of saying FUCK YOU to popular culture, and we still don't know who our friends are. We are lost. We are scared. We are meeting our destinies, individually and collectively. We are in need of direction. And, well, the Black Flag Bars are this secret handshake to the secret knowledge; the booty that is a future that we can all live with and that we can generally agree is good.

After meeting so many freaks and geeks on this trip I have remet my tribe. Even if we remove the words Black Flag from the discourse, the Bars carry an important message of I HOPE THAT I MADE THE RIGHT DECISION WITH MY LIFE. DID I...? And we can all say to one another, shaking, lump-in-the-throat, I THINK SO. RIGHT...?

As for me most frequently I look like a normal dude, though I've photographed some that look way more "NORMAL." As well, I shot some really fucked up looking people too. And, then, I've shot everything in between. So one thing has made it through the filter of my camera, and my conversations with my people, and that is that while the disguises that we wear as punks, undergrounders, or whatever you want to call it, the desire remains to not buy in, and to stand strong with a set of ideas and beliefs that are not NORMAL, not AVERAGE, and not altogether American.

Maybe the most important thing that I have learned on this trip is that those of us who still believe that our individuality, our individual fucked-up-ness, is a postive trait, well, we still believe in something greater and are making moves toward an out-of-the-box future that is still light years ahead of popular culture. So, if we remove the words Black Flag, and the words Punk Rock, and maybe even sub-culture from this dialgoue I have been having with people across the country, what remains is a segment of the population that is so far ahead of the pack that the path we/they are blazing seems a bit daunting. And there is fear. And there is indecision. And there is an willingness to let the pack catch us. But we all know that what we are doing is far more awesome than these other things. We are not only progressive but we are smart, clever, shrewd, and motivated.

With only 1/3 of this tour completed, and Europe not even fully planned, I may end up coming out of this episode of my life feeling empowered instead of daunted by the masses that don't get me, you, and we collectively. More on this later.

As for the trip, um, what can I say..? Stefan and I have seen the following awesome things. COG world-industry HQ, Peter's awesome family and beautiful home in Milwaukee, our first BF BRAND on the former singer of 309 Chorus and owner of High Hat Garage, a bunch of amped punks in Minneapolis, a street where a tornado touched down in August and ripped the rooves off of most of the houses, Jack Daniels being shot from shot glasses shaped like cowboy boots, Fargo, North Dakota, a long, flat, fucked up plain called "the rest of North Dakota," the Montana (big sky country) border, a definitive change in landscape from boring to holy-dramatic, a deserted rest area that became our abode in what turned out to be one of the coldest nights of our trip (and I spent it in a tent), a Montana State Trooper that didn't like that I had set up a tent and woke me up to tell me so, Mountains, more big, beautiful mountains, some trains, a few rivers, a lot of ranch-land, tons of animal carcasses on the rolling roadsides, and finally Bozeman.

We are staying with a cool cat named Nate that used to drum for Steel Pole Bathtub. Steel Pool made up this story in the early 90's about their van flipping, thus killing all of the band, and I believed it. So, when they toured a bit later I was mystified as to how this was possible. Now Nate has a cool home in the skirts of Bozeman, in sight of the mountains, and we are hanging out there.

Now, fuck you and go start your own revolution. I am way ahead of you.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic entry. This is the kind of stuff your book makes me think about, too. Also, I'm beginning to recognize some faces from my own tours across the US in your photos. It gives me a sense of a stable community in an often fluctuating "scene". :)