GROWING UP AND GETTING ON
And still fucking shit up 110%
Nathan Howe has been a most awesome host here in Bozemen. Nate and I grew up in much the same way, with respect to being small-town punk rockers, and yesterday during an adventurous drive to Fairy Lake we had a chance to hash out our styles and where we’ve ended up as punk rockers that have grown up and gotten on, but are still tied into subversive ways of thinking.
Bozeman is as landlocked as a place can be, and so my surfboards and Nate’s skis are essential synonyms for where we’ve ended up now that we are both in our middle years. Years ago both of us carried skateboards, punk’s weapon of choice, as part of the common uniform. Without knowing him back then I would imagine that he, like me, like thousands, wore cut-off jean/camo-pants, a shredded band tee-shirt, a flannel shirt, Vans or Converse, had some sort of funny hair, and that was just what was expected. The image was so common in the 80’s hardcore underground that it had a name; Skate Punk, and its own bands; Aggression, JFA, Ill Repute, etc, etc.
At any rate, skateboarding was the official live-by-the-sword lifestyle choice of landlocked punk kids until it was co-opted in the mid 90’s (think; Tony Hawk 360), toned down to meet the expectations of upper-middle-class parent nationwide, and put on display at the X-games, and given “SPORT” status. No more would skateboarding be a radical way of life. Now it was a “look,” a “product,” a “consumer choice,” and oh so very “mall punk” in the most clichéd way imaginable. To lifers, however, the co-opting of the skateboarding lifestyle meant that it had to be trashed from our common dream, and then had to be replaced by something that meant as much to each of us as individuals.
Note: I am not saying that to some skateboarding has not remained totally part of their radical way of life (think Vallely, Jesse, Roy, many others). What I am saying is that by the late-80’s and mid-90’s it no longer defined punk rock (and punk rockers) like it did in the early-80’s. What radical activity Punk “WAS,” then, needed to be redefined, but, well, never really was. We all seemed to set out on our different paths.
For what it was worth I chose two-wheeled urban transit in the form of the bicycle, and then found my way into surfing later on. Nate found two skis, and he stuck with it. As we talked on our drive into the mountainous winter wonderland it became more apparent that our paths were not only destined to cross, but that both of our lives had come full circle. And here we were on some of the craziest snow covered roads (if you wanna call fire access dirt roads in Montana roads) I’d been on in a long time and we were talking the exact same language. And it was refreshing.
There were times when he and I could finish each other’s sentences by simply exchanging the word surfing with the word skiing, or the word snow with wave. The concepts of “energy” and of “nature” just weaved a storyline that sounded, on the outside, a bit like the language of the stereotypical hippie, but instead seemed totally natural because there are few other words to describe what we do for fun. We don’t go out into the ocean or onto the slopes to “tear shit up” anymore, but we go out to “blend in” and to “take part” because it seems like one of the most subversive things to do these days is to actually work with nature, to respect it, and not simply look at everything as though it is an obstacle to surmount, co-opt, and tear up.
In fact, as it turns out, surmounting, co-opting, and tearing up are quite common threads in what is making America a rather disenchanted place to live (think politics, foreign affairs, economy, bank bail outs, and so many other newsworthy catchwords appearing in the media-eye these days), and what could be more punk than to eschew all of that anger and aggression and redefine what is radical and what is subversive.
Besides Nate, I have had the pleasure of speaking with a lot of older punk kids (a term used to describe punks who are no longer kids) and the verdict is the same. Amy in Boston spoke of her changing role in a scene that she has been part of for 20 years, and the folks at the Trumbull Plex in Detroit talked about looking at these tracts of abandoned urban green space as an opportunity to get back to the basics of urban farming, Peter in Milwaukee has become a family-man, who so fully embraces bicycle culture that he has been publishing a VERY respected journal (COG-Magazine) about its international (and underground) appeal. Pro-natural, back to basics, and green seem to be the new Punk objectives (and have been for quite sometime, tough quite under the radar). Oh, yeah, and documenting things. We cannot forget about the importance of documenting things, can we now…?
So, while the old uniform has faded away, and the old tools of the trade were co-opted and reformatted, older punks have been curiously finding new, and more subversive, social implements (implements that on the surface appear to be rather commonplace) that actually seek to erode society’s current trend toward total disorder in no-time-flat, and THAT IS FUCKING PUNK…!
I have chosen surfing and cycling. Nate has chosen back-path-skiing. My friend Doug has formed a Philadelphia off-shoot of Dharma Punks. My friend Chris has chosen to write a book about his former scene. Peter has chosen to push COG. Trumbull has chosen urban homesteading. And, as you might imagine, the list goes on and on and on.
Creative, WAY-outside-of-the-box ways of thinking: This is the cutting-edge. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is what a bunch of once-angry-kids (now up there in years) that were once connected by PUNK ROCK have determined environmentally friendly, productive, and worthy of their efforts. This is DIY, not that other shit that is “called” DIY. DIY is DOING, not “being called DIY.” There is a difference and it is not so subtle, and I am counting on you to be conscious of it. Is that asking to much..?
Okay, enough ranting.
Now off to Pacific Northwest in search of the elusive Ron Reyes (aka, Chavo Pederast). Photos and interview to follow.