Saturday, October 31, 2009


and in San Fran it just eats the city whole

Years ago I was in a band called Railhed. We were early on the "emo-core" scene, but far behind the great bands from DC that made that gave the genra legs in the
middle-1980's. We were lucky enough to play a few songs at Gillman Street with Jawbreaker, and I must admit that I was more than a bit honored. However, the luke-warm greeting, appreciation, and the attitude of the folks that were hanging outside really turned me off to the Bay Area scene.

We were staying in Oakland near the now-famed Arkansas House
that was established by the band Econochrist, and we were invited to a party at said home. The kids that I met and with whom I conversed were a brazen mix of Arkansas-onians and rich-punks-cum-runaways-from the northern hills. I grew up in a rigid middle-class, working-class home in south-central Pennsylvania, and we had just what we needed, and then a bit more; but not that much more. So, when I am in a situation where I am forced to rap with drunkin 18-year-old run away kids who are running away from a LOT OF MONEY, and will most likely be able to return to that LOT OF MONEY somewhere down the road, well, I am not really into it. To have a kid tell me, "yeah, all that my parents care about is money. I am not really into that so I ran away..." is not that interesting.

Here is mine, "I grew up in a place where punk didn't really exist. I hunted and hunted, and then it found me. I got beat up, fucked with, hit from behind, fucked with somemore, could not get a date, and was teased incessantly in school, oh, and yeah, my family is just breaking even." Not that I think that my situation is better or worse then, but my situation didn't
have a trust-fund clause built into it. Yeah, so my first taste of the Bay-Area was not a pleasant one.

On top of that, the house where we were staying had a previous infestation of lice. Yeah, so there goes the romanticism of being a Bay-Area punk for me.

For years I eschewed that same Punk Rock romaniticism, which was only made more intense by the major-label antics of such acts as Samiam, Jawbreaker, and, let us not forget, Green Day. Yeah, it was rather epic for me to believe that SF and the Bay Area had nothing to offer me personally, and so I wrote it off. End of story.


Stefan wanted to make the drive to SF from Portland before daybreak, though we really didn't have a place to stay. Not to mention, I really wanted to visit this place along the Oregon coast called Newport, just to check it out and see what my feelings are for it some 12 years since I visited there last. However, with Stefan offering to drive to the border, and it being like 11pm, I just didn't really want to fight it.

The drive down the FIVE was awful. I tried to sleep but with all the mountain passes and road construction, and trucks, and twists and turns, and all of that shit, well, sleeping was nearly impossible. So instead of
insomnia, on this night I was having massive amounts of bad dreams; crazy, hurried, rushed-to-the max, anxious dreams. After 6 hours of driving, at around 5:30am Stefan handed the wheel over to me. I had no interest in taking it. I was tired, disoriented, and most of all I was pissed. I got over it eventually, but I didn't really want to drive. I just wanted to put my tent up in a rest area and try to get some sound, un-crazy sleep.

The next 5 hours were just me sitting behind the wheel thinking of just how much I didn't really want to be in the Bay Area. On top of that, just days
before, my contact here in SF informed me that she thought that I was dealing directly with the venues and, well, the shoots had more-or-less not been put on the schedule at either Mama Buzz (Oakland) or Modern Time Book Store. Figuring that we wouldn't shoot a soul in SF I just basically condemned my stay here at a split second of purgatory before winding up in SoCal.


Getting in to SF was not such an easy endeavor since the Bay Bridge was out of
commission. New routes were formulated and we found our way in via a more obsucre bridge in the deep south. Upon making it to the home of our hosts, we set up shop and decided to stay awake all day instead of trying to take a short nap before trekking over to Oakland to see if anybody actually showed up to the cafe where we were to shoot.

As predicted, there was to be no shoot at Mama Buzz but we made our way over to Oakland anyway, where I was to meet up with my friend's little brother. The call that I placed earlier in the day confirmed that not a soul had scheduled our shoot so we were just there as a cautionary measure. Yup, Oakland had let a bad taste in my mouth once again.
Back home we trekked with a shit-ton of photographic equipment and no shots to document our trip across the bay.

Home to bed we went.

The next morning I awoke to a call from some friends from a band from back home in Philly called HOOTS and HELLMOUTH. They were still in SF from a show the night before and we devised a plan to meet up for lunch, which we did, and then some.

As Rob, their mandoline player told me, "a taste of home on the road is an unbeatable experience," and I couldn't agree more. Ever since our meeting my spirits have been super high. It was just the fuel that I needed to make it the rest of the way home over the course of the next month.

These MODERN TIMES, they are a changin:

HOOTS and HELLMOUTH gone I started making calls to my east coast friends to put
out their feelers and get people to the MODERN TIMES shoot in the Mission District of SF, proper. I called Modern Times and, as predicted, they also had no idea what I was talking about but would accommodate us anyway.

Stefan and I humped it down to the shop, set up shop, and eventually a handful of folks showed up to participate in the project. Each one of them had individually repsonded to the offers put out there by my east coast contingency, except for my old friend Richard, who was responding to his wife's request for him to make his way there.

Knowing very well that there are probably hundreds of BF tattoos in the Bay Area, scoring a handful, while not ideal, got me to thinking about the nature of BARRED FOR LIFE. And this is what I've determined...

Originally, BFL was going to be a joke mag about people with really poorly executed Black Flag tattoos. While funny, I didn't find the stories behind the tattoos at all funny. In fact, what I found when I started talking to people about their individual work was that these people are passionate about whatever it is that THE BARS mean to
them. Whether Black Flag was their favorite band "back in the day" or whether they believe that The Bars have transcended all of that, these tattoos are intensely personal and, therefore, the book changed its focus toward documenting this personal nature and perspective.

As the idea for the tour began looking like a reality even I found that I was taking the project quite personally; to the degree that I was willing to quit my job and up-end my life to make it a reality. Yeah, it became that personal.

The tour started out solid enough with amazing turnouts in most cities. However, when turnouts began to drop (in Detroit) I was super bummed. Moving across the rt 90-94 stretch between Minneapolis and Seattle, and with poor turnouts along much of the coast, well, I had to once again rethink this project.

Now, sitting in SF for the third day it has dawned on me that I am back to the original purpose of the project; to document a very personal thing that seems only personal to those who possess the tattoos, or are part of this subculture. To those that feel most strongly about their beliefs, and those beliefs are connected to this tattoo, they are
the ones that make it out to the shoots and make it into the book, period. The book is not a documentation of the American Hipster trend to eschew things that don't make sense, or of me traveling to people's house and begging them to participate in the shoots. In fact, this book is about those people who get out and do shit much in way that the bands "back in the day" made punk rock tour routes (before thought impossible), possible.

So, off we go to sunny So Cal tomorrow. With my new love for San Fran, well, now I don't really have any geographic hangups tagging along with me on this trip. Guess that the tour starts today then.

PS. A call to my mom back in PA yielded the following information: "You got a magazine in the mail. Tattoo's For Men I think it is called...? And there is a page about your project in it. And there is a picture of a girl, a tall girl with blond hair, with the tattoo on her leg in the middle." Haha, the beautiful Audrey Dwyer found her way into the mainstream media yet again.

Thursday, October 29, 2009



The insomnia persists. Every little sound that chimes out of the night’s silence wakes me up in a flash of brilliant blue and white. It is like an electrical storm in my frontal lobe that is accompanied by a pang of adrenaline shooting out of my gut and into my bloodstream. One lucid thought propels itself into a million more, and the next thing that I know I am worrying myself awake into a shallow panic.

Now, while all of this sounds a bit on the painful side, generally I am getting a solid 5 or 6 hours of sleep before these waking episodes have my faculties on high alert. Normally that would be plenty of sleep for me but, well, for some reason I am operating under a condition of constant exhaustion. At any rate, if I said that I wasn’t having the time of my life on the road I would be lying. If one desires to combat all of their fears all-at-once one simply needs to give up his/her normal life and take off for points unknown for a little while (three weeks is recommended). One is sure to find his/her fears illuminated very quickly. While confronting human fears and such might sound kinda shitty, overall it is an amazing experience to know where you need to focus your energies, and actually start doing so. After all, what else do you have to do while driving from city-to-city..? Well, besides sleep and read..?


What to say about the northwest..? Well, it is beautiful… I mean this is the land where the seas-meet-the-trees afterall, and that is a fucking beautiful site. There has been enough of this repetitively beautiful landscape to push me to a drunken bender. I can visualize myself sitting high atop a mountainside in a field of wildflowers, dancing, singing, chanting, and running around naked in such a landscape in some messed up lucid, lack-of-sleep, hippie dream, but enough already. Wherever you might live, living in the mountains just isn’t a reality for a east-coaster with citified tendencies. So, then what..?

The skies…? Yeah, the sky is fucking beautiful. Gray as gray-can-be for 10-minutes, sunny the next 10, snowing lightly 20-minutes later, and then sunny again 5-minutes after that. Sometimes while driving the clouds blend so perfectly in the distance with the Cascade Mountains that it is more than difficult to tell where the mountaintops end and the cloud bottoms begin. It is mind-bending for the most part. Yeah, but it isn’t about living your life looking at clouds either.

The people..? Oh, fuck, the people are all so beautiful. Styled out women and the hippest dudes. Trailer trash side-by-side with urbane fucksters. It is a weird mix. Tons of homeless people. Liberal attitudes butting up against mega conservative mid-western overspill. While the east coast has basically segregated such element, the northwest seems to exist in a state of all-at-one-ness, and I am not sure how well neighbors treat neighbors. It is just weird. I dunno. It all seems so safe for a second, and then there seems to be this undercurrent of danger a second later. Everything human appears to change like the weather here. Guess that makes sense.

The cities..? Ah, the clusters of humanity all trying to make this thing work. Tons and tons of human energy boxed and crated and channeled and deluded. Human energy going straight into keeping up a front. Where you live, who you know, and how you go, just like back home. However, there is a rub here that rubs me the wrong way. I cannot put my finger on it but I am actually happy to be getting out of the northwest in the next few days. A recap of our time in the great NW might shed some light. Allow me to shed.


Rained from the border until I reached an uncharted town where I met a really old guy that told me a rich and vivid history of said town. He knew everybody. I took a lot of pix of seals in the water and of men fishing for salmon with gill nets. He told me that “east is that way” when I thought that it was the other way. I love, LOVE, LOVE being lost and having somebody point me in the right direction. I adore being humbled by my surroundings, which is why I go in search of such adventures more often than not.

Anyway, arriving into Seattle proper and making my way to the Funhouse was like driving to the docks to make a drug deal in a television show or movie about drugs. And then, all of a sudden, poof, the NEEDLE. There is it, a Seattle landmark. And, across the street, the FUNHOUSE.

At the Funhouse I was reacquainted with Stefan and we both had this less-than-encouraging feeling that we were going to end up in a fist fight. While the happy hour crowd was mostly punky-alternative types, it was these types in a gnarley-aggressive attitude. As I remember of Seattle from my last visit, lots of long hair and ratty facial hair (think Alice In Chains, or grunge in general). Once we were finally shooting people, the handful of folks that did make it out on a Monday night were pretty fucking rad. The rest of the place was littered with I-don’t-care types. I dunno. It just didn’t seem all that up-and-up to me. For the first time since we left the coast we couldn’t get anybody to put us up. That alone is a rather strange thing, right, given that is just two of us. Not that the people who couldn’t put us up didn’t have healthy reason why, but we just couldn’t get anybody to put us up.

Then, at the last minute, as we were packing up and ready to drive to Olympia to find cheap beds, two old friends from Detroit showed up and summarily took us to their house for some sleep, but not before taking us to a favorite watering hole for some drinks. As I like to say, my time in the Midwest in the early 90’s yielded some rather awesome, and far-reaching friendships.

After sleep it was off to Olympia, but not before driving to Aberdeen; home of Nirvana and the Melvins, and to see the beaches of the west coast for the first time on the trip.


Dirty, industrial, crack-heads-running-amuk, and free internet at the local grocery store.

The beaches were cold, scary, and beautiful. Waves so angry that they made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Oysters and huge crabs. If Aberdeen wasn’t so dirty and depressing I would move there and make it my surf-and-destroy wonderland.


Don’t get me wrong, I don’t “hate” as a rule, but I think that I “hate” Olympia. Hippie kids spare changing. Flakes. Our host was cool, and accommodating, but the person/people that requested that we come to Olympia to photograph their Black Flag tattoos stopped answering emails about two days ago and did not show up to the event. WHAT THE FUCK..? What would you do if the pizza guy didn’t show up after you ordered (and were charged for) a pizza via your phone..? Same shit different perspective. Sorry people. Just not really interested in this brand of childish flakiness. Call me an east-coaster, but shit has got to get done and it doesn’t get done on lip-service. It might start that way but it doesn’t get finished that way. WALK-THE-WALK, people…

Yeah, while I try forcefully not to judge, I don’t think that I will be spending any time in Olympia any time soon, and I am kinda glad that our “friends” didn’t show just so there will be no “Olympia” section in Barred For Life. In fact, the only mention of Olympia that I will make in the book will a be shout-out to our host and venue, and a footnote about how I will never visit Olympia ever again in my long, long fucking lifetime for any reason whatsoever. So sue me for judging. Bummer.


Just got here. I have about three friends here. People are pretty and styling. Lots and lots of bicycles. In a Whole Foods-wannabe grocery store. Prices are a bit higher than WF but I got some pretty awesome Greek Yogurt with fig preserves, which happens to be my favorite amenity to Greek Yogurt. I would like some raw honey and granola to mix into my ambrosial concoction. So, let’s see what tonight brings.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009



A rather riotous border crossing behind me, yet my heightened need for sleep and massive headache still on board, I entered Vancouver at 11pm on Saturday night. Honestly folks, I don’t party like you do. I drive long hours on Saturday nights. I call people at absurd hours of the evening and ask them to let me into their homes so that I can go straight to sleep and then allow them to get back to their Saturday evening. That is a party to me; disrupting somebody else’s good time (kidding, but it happened).

As bad as that sounds it wasn’t all that bad. Larissa is a friend of a friend, Juls, who I met last year right after my home had been broken into and vandalized, and right before I moved into the warehouse (more on that some other day). Juls keeps on turning me on to these really fucking rad people across the country that either have The Bars tattooed on them, or are just cool as fuck people in general. So, Juls turned me on to Larissa; Vancouver scene stalwart. Larissa turned out to be VERY FUCKING COOL.

Larissa met me at her doorstep, let me into her home, made me feel totally welcome, and then went back to her party. I went straight to sleep. Larissa never came home so the next morning when I awoke at like 6am, I had this sort of major WHERE THE FUCK AM I (?) Moment. If you remember, I wasn’t really in the best of mindsets when I arrived at the border, and was even less conscious when Larissa allowed me into her house, so it seemed rather okay that I had no clue where I was when I woke up. And, so, I sat up and did what anybody would do; I called my mom (haha).

Anyway, my adventure to Vancouver was two-fold; (1) to photograph a handful of people at Scratch Records (a very cool record store in downtown Vancouver) and (2) to interview Ron Reyes (aka Chavo Pederast). While on this trip I have slated interviews with a few former Black Flaggers, and some people just close to the band, and Ron was to be my second (Dez was my first) interview, and supposedly the first interview he has given on his Black Flag years since he left the band. HONORED..? HELL YEAH I WAS HONORED..!

In 1982 or 83, just as I was getting into Punk Rock, I picked up Jealous Again at a record shop in York, PA. I didn’t know much about Black Flag, except for what I had heard about them through some skater kids at a local, abandoned skatepark. So, I bought it, brought it home, put it on the old record player that my brother gave me, and I wasn’t sure what to think. Honestly, I had never heard anything quite like it, and, again, honestly, I didn’t really know anything liked it existed. AND I WAS BLOWN THE FUCK AWAY. There wasn’t a second’s hesitation; This was what I wanted to be. Fuck the Clash, the Cars, even DEVO (just for a minute though), Black Flag, and the plethora of records that I bought afterwards, was my point of entry into American Hardcore Punk.

And, so, predictably, Ron Reyes (called Chavo Pederast on the record) sang intense and aggressive lullabies to me in the form of Jealous Again, Depression, White Minority and the others. Ron’s words and delivery were like the first words that I heard after coming out of a 16 year sleep, and that feeling never left me.

It may sound a bit “fan boy” of me, but I never saw Ron Reyes as a guru or anything. Even recently when I contacted him it was purely a respectful partnership. While he only lasted 6 months in Black Flag, what music he recorded, and the image he portrayed in Decline of Western Civilization, was really what made me like American Punk so much. Mostly, I wanted to gain Ron’s perspective on where Black Flag was headed when he was in the band, since it earned its greatest audiences under their 3rd vocalist, Dez Cadena.

Did Ron see Black Flag headed for near-legendary status…? That was what I wanted to know. And after an hour and a half interview with Ron I walked away realizing that unless Ginn had a revelation somewhere along the way, nobody ever thought in terms of status down-the-road. They were more worried about surviving to play their next show.

I gave Ron a ride home. He is a family man now, and he is just now coming to terms with his time in Black Flag. As he mentioned to me a few hours earlier, “Stewart, if you would have approached me about this last year I would have said that I wasn’t interested,” and now he is. And that is cool by me. Not only did I get to finally meet a man that changed my destiny as a run-amuk teenager, but he was just an amazing person in general; a very 3-dimensional man.

So as I dropped him off at his home and continued back to Larissa’s house for dinner, I felt that if everything else were to fall through I was happy just having met Ron and talked to him about everything from Punk Rock to graphic design. It was an amazing experience.

The next morning I packed up my stuff, loaded it into the car, and met up with Larissa and Dunkin at the coffee shop. I bid them both farewell as I prepared to meet up with Stefan once again in Seattle. Off to the border where my car was searched again (don’t the US and Canada exchange information), and made a valiant shot down the 5. Along the way I receive a text, “Stewart, I will be in touch. You have a great project. Ron.” Amazing.

Monday, October 26, 2009



The story goes that a Manhattan doctor gets funded by the state of Alaska to do earn his medical degree at Columbia University in exchange for 4-years of indentured servitude in Alaska in order to pay his bills. Yes, if you are old enough to remember this show, Northern Exposure, then you are pretty old (like me).

Northern Exposure was my favorite television show back in the early 90’s, and I would even interrupt band meetings to drive back to my girlfriend’s pad in order to sit through an episode on a Monday night and drink in the sites and sounds of being in the relatively untamed wooded world. I lived in Delaware at the time and the wooded mountains of Alaska seemed a million miles away from me. No matter; I still wanted someday to visit Alaska, or at least some place where there were big mountains and women that flew air planes from one small town to another small towns just to deliver mail.

So, a few years later I was in a band called Ambassador 990 and we were touring the US. On our way out of Seattle I followed the advice of a friend in California and hopped off rt. 90 in the middle of the night in order to take a gander at Roselyn, Washington to at least see the town where Northern Exposure was filmed. At 3am, with the entire band sleeping in the van, I dropped off in Roselyn, snapped some pix, and as our band leader woke up, he demanded that I jumped back in the van and continue the drive to Missoula, MT, which I did pretty much without aid. I was pissed, and I vowed to visit Roselyn again before I died, and Saturday was my chance.

We left Nate’s place at around noon for a 9-hour drive to Seattle. I had a massive headache, and suffered another night of no sleep, so I did about an hour and a half behind the wheel before I handed it over to Stefan. After a few hours of driving through some pretty barren Montana wasteland I retook the wheel. Headache in tact, I pulled a marathon drive session that would take us right to Roselyn so that I could enjoy a meal at the Brick Tavern (yes, it really does exist, though it is not called the Brick). That was my goal; to simply stop at Roselyn, Washington one more time before I die, and I drove right past the exist. WHAT THE FUCK…? I DROVE PAST THE EXIT..? Apparently I did.

Now, 5 hours behind the wheel, no food since noon, and entering Seattle (on a Saturday night) to drop off Stefan before I drove the next three hours to Vancouver, and I was a fucking mess. Two times zones in three days. Two night of insomnia. Big headache. Yeah, all of that and so much more.

Getting Stefan to his abode was the easy part. A few turns onto some Seattle’s hippest streets and we were there. Backtracking, I was back on the 5 on my way Vancouver. I’ve never been to Vancouver so this was going to be yet another addition to my experience collection, and I was a fucking mess. Not only was I hungry-as-fuck, sleep deprived, and pissed off that I drove past the Roselyn exit, but I looked super CRACKED OUT. I was tired, tired of driving, and tired of not having getting a break on the crowed 5 on my way to the border.
Okay, so here is where shit gets good. I drive up to the booth at the border and there is a very attractive young woman in combat gear standing there. She asks for my papers. I hand them over. She looks into my bloodshot eyes and makes me respond to the same question a number of times. I am barely coherent in my speech. I am barely able to keep my eyes open. I look like I’ve been smoking crack all day long, and this I know because I can feel it. I know that I am gonna get searched, which is fine because I have nothing to hide. And, as predicted, they take my papers and give me a slip. Pull over there and take this to Gate A and they will process you. Nice. Here I go. All that I want to do is sleep and I am about to be hastled for the next hour at least.

Where you going Stewart? Vancouver. For what reason? To Visit a friend. Where does your friend live? Vancouver. Do you have a street name? No, I don’t really know her. She is a friend of a friend. So you are going to Vancouver to visit a friend of a friend? Do you know that you have a rental car? Where is your vehicle? My vehicle is at my dad’s house in Pennsylvania. Why are you renting? Because I am on tour with a friend doing work for a book. Where is your friend? Why isn’t he with you? Well, he is not allowed to leave the country right now and so I had to drop him off at a friend’s house in Seattle. Okay, I see, and so what do you do for work Stewart? Um, nothing. I quit my job to go on tour. Okay, Stewart, um, can we have your keys and are you aware of the contents in your car…? OH FUCK, here we go again.

Back in the early 90’s I had a similar experience coming back from Toronto. In this episode I have dreadlocks down to them midrift and looked a bit like a crazy-man, and was also driving a rental car. Always the rental car. It gets me busted so easily. Anyway, same basic situation, same silly questions, same me unable to formulate sentences because I WAS FUCKING NERVOUS. Yup, “pull over, give me your keys, check in there, and prepare to be searched.” Fuck, I thought that meant my car to be searched. Nope, while my car’s contents were being eviscerated, I was preparing to be STRIP SEARCHED. “Mr. Ebersole? Please step into this room and take off all of your clothes. I will be bringing a witness along into the room for the search. HER name is (???) if you have any questions.” And, OH FUCK, it was on.

The head search was fine. Mouth open, eyes rolled, etc, etc. Then came the thing that me, as a young man, feared most in the world. “Stewart, reach down and grab the backs of your knees.” FUCK, FUCK, FUCK. “Now cough for me a few times Mr. Ebersole.” Cough, cough, cough…! And nothing. I was being fucked with for looking like a fucking hippie. I was thinking of showing them my Straight Edge tattoo but, well, what good is that gonna do in a world that doesn’t have a fucking idea what that means…? An hour later it was all over. I am given my walking papers, and a chuckle by the border staff, just so that I could go out to my car and clean up the mess that they had left on the pavement beside it. Everything was open. Everything was searched. Everything was a fucking mess.

Anyway, I was expecting that last night given how cracked out I appeared, but after some begging and pleading, and telling them that I couldn’t lie my way out of this one; “yes, I quit my job, gave up my apt, and I am 42.” After an hour, and no strip search, the nice woman handed me my keys and said have a nice day. My second longest retaining session in my life at the border and all for not (again). Luckily Vancouver fucking ruled but, well more on that tomorrow.