A Punk’s Tale
NOTE: For the record, I am not a punk, nor do I claim to be one. If any genuine punks are reading this, I hope I did not offend them with any inaccuracies contained herein. Thanks and enjoy.
Punks never get any respect. We’re known more for what we aren’t than for what we are. People think punk and they think pink Mohawks and safety pins, but do they think about the music? No (or, when they do, it is in terms of the lamest, most poseur bands imaginable that could even remotely be classified as punk…thank you Good Charlotte). U2, Sugar Ray and No Doubt all started off punk, but to the millions of drooling idiots who buy up their albums and go to their concerts nowadays, do you think that makes an ounce of difference? Nope. Punks have never been and never will be accepted, but that’s OK. That’s what punk is all about.
I went punk almost 4 years ago, around the time high school started. Everyone started changing around then. I think people took one look at what they were up against (high school, that is) and figured, “well shit….there’s no way I can handle this alone.” Cliques were formed. Some kids went gangsta, some kids went Goth. Me and my friend Robbo (neé Rob) went punk. We dyed our hair and started listening to a lot of underground bands. We began to alienate our family and friends (most of whom accepted us regardless….a great big ‘fuck you’ to those who didn’t). We had, in short, adopted a mission. Punk became our life, man.
About the same time Robbo and I made this great discovery, Cori discovered us. Going back to junior high, Corrine Henderson was anyone’s last choice to go punk. Shit, she seemed to have everything going for her. She was popular, she did well in school, her family had money. She was even cute in an innocuous sort of way (blonde, petite, small voice, etc.). In other words, she didn’t seem likely punk material.
Robbo and I, on the other hand, seemed to fit the mold much better. From junior high going way back to elementary school when we first met, we were always on the fringe (not going to use the term ‘outcast’ because that’s how everyone likes to think of themselves these days). Robbo was, and still is, overweight and wears thick glasses. He’s also clumsy and a bit on the slow side sometimes. Like I’ll tell a joke and he’ll give me this blank look and then start laughing a minute later.
As for myself, I’m the odd man out with everyone. I’m a Jew surrounded by Catholics and Presbyterians, but I’m not Jewish enough for the other Jewish kids. I’ve always done all right for myself gradewise, which automatically made me too much of a dork to hang out with the really popular kids. And I’m not enough of a square to hang out with the nerds. Ergo, punk seemed like the only option.
So there you have it: the three of us with our backs against the wall and only each other to hang onto. Woah….that’s deep. Maybe too deep. But yeah, we’ve been through a lot and we’re tight and it looks like we are going to stay that way. God I hope so…
Let’s do a little time warp here. Its November, senior year. The weather was getting nasty, my parents were on my case and I was scrambling like mad just to pull through this final year of oppression. I was feeling like a sprinter who was running out of steam in the end, but goddamn if I don’t cross that finish line.
Let me set the scene for you. Close your eyes and imagine a nice little single-family home in suburbia. There are two cars in the driveway, a small flower garden in front and a flag displayed proudly on the porch. The inhabitants of this all too familiar dwelling are a Mother, a Father and me, their slightly errant Son. I have a sister, Judy, but she was away at college and is thus not part of this scene.
Dad is 41 but looks younger. His high temples make him look like he’s balding, but he has the same amount of hair he did five years ago. It hasn’t gone gray yet, either and is still a healthy (albeit boring) brown. Dad is a lawyer, and, even worse, a corporate lawyer at that. He’s commandeered the guest bedroom in our home and converted it into an office/study. I can venture in there at any given time and see him pouring over a stack of legal documents, at least six inches thick, with his silver-rimmed reading glasses perched awkwardly on his face looking as serious as a heart attack. Of course, when he isn’t working, he’s a pleasant enough guy. He likes to take it easy. A real chill guy is my father.
Mom, on the other hand, is 39 and is just starting to look her age. It’s weird: all throughout her thirties, she looked just fine. Friends used to joke about her being my sister, which wasn’t funny but was at least endearing. She has wavy blonde hair and green eyes. Recently, however, that hair has begun to show a few strands of gray and wrinkles have begun to appear around those eyes. No matter though: my mom isn’t about to enter any beauty pageants. She works in real estate and holds a grudge against Annette Benning for giving her profession (and, more specifically, real-estate dealing housewives) a bad name. Mom, too, is nice enough most of the time, but I try to stay off her bad side.
That brings us to me. I’m about 5’10" and physically unremarkable. Sure, I lift a few weights, but its mainly because I can’t stomach (no pun intended) turning into Robbo. Mr. Universe I am not. My hair, naturally light brown, is combed forward and streaked with blonde. Sometimes, when I’m feeling inventive, I’ll spike it up and freeze it with a liquid ton of spray gel. November, however, was not one of those times. I like to accessorize, too. I wear a metallic beaded necklace, spiked armbands and occasionally a studded belt. I also have a long chain that connects my wallet to a loop on my pants. All of my friends have one too. We’re a regular posse.
So you look at my parents with their straight laced jobs and you look at me letting it all hang out and maybe the conflict becomes apparent. Or…maybe not. I don’t hate my parents like Cori hates hers or fear them like Robbo fears his. I just don’t get them. You see, they used to be kinda like me. I’ve seen pictures, honest to God pictures, of them shortly before Judy was born. Dad had long hair and a leather jacket; Mom looked like she was president of the Cyndi Lauper fan club. Both of them used to be heavy into the Ramones, the New York Dolls, the Stooges…and even the Dead Kennedys. It must have pissed my grandparents off to no end. Every time I see those pictures though, the same question comes to mind: what the @$#%&* happened?!
Here’s where the real conflict comes into play and it often seems like nothing more than a matter of semantics. Dad calls it growing up, I call it selling out. Dad calls it looking at the world with his eyes open, I call it being blinded by materialism. Mom says it goes with being a parents, I….don’t really have a defense for that one, but it pisses me off anyway. It pisses me off, I think, because I’m scared I’m going to turn out like that. And, while a part of me screams, “dude, no way!” another part sees it coming already. But I’m not going to give up yet. I’m stubborn.
Anyway, on this brisk November day, all three of us were getting ready to leave the house at once. Mom and Dad had their suits on and briefcases gathered; I had a Bad Religion shirt and a battered backpack strewn across one shoulder.
“Don’t forget to make an appointment with Mr. Wilson,” Mom reminded me.
“I won’t,” I said, rolling my eyes.
Dad must have picked up on that, for the next thing I know he’s giving me the look.
“I won’t,” I reiterated. “Really.”
“Seth,” Dad said. “This is important.”
Arg….I felt another lecture coming on. Fortunately, as we all had to get going, there simply wasn’t time. I blew past my parents and walked to the corner, where Robbo’s car was already waiting. I hopped in and we geared ourselves up for another day of oppression. Needless to say I did not go to see Mr. Wilson.
Mr. Wilson, in case you are wondering, is my guidance counselor. My parents wanted me to see him to talk about college. I’d been blowing it off for quite awhile and they were starting to get worried. Time, they said, was running out.
I wasn’t too sure about college. There was a big schism over it in the punk community. Some of the guys were like, “college is just more oppression, man, only this time you’re paying for it.” And others were like, “no way. College is freedom from oppression. Get educated and you can fight the system and make a difference.” While I tended to agree with the latter, I still had my doubts. For instance, what kind of school would I be able to get into? Despite slacking off for the better part of the past 3 ½ years, I still had a 3.5 GPA and high test scores. That put me in line for a good school, which meant I’d actually have to work when I got there. Shit…I didn’t want to do that. On the other hand, if I slummed it at a lesser institution (like say community college with Robbo), I’d pass through without learning a thing and it’d feel like a waste of my damn time. I was really in a bind. In some ways, I envied Cori. Her parents were sending her to their alma matter (despite her attempts to get out of it via intentionally failing a few tests) no questions asked.
College had me all shook up and it was a pesky proposition too. Like I’d try to give it the old, “yeah…who gives a shit…whatever…” and it’d just keep creeping up on me (or my parents would continually remind me). It had me bummed out alright, but thankfully there were other things in life to raise my spirits. Such as a concert.
We were all pissed off. Cori was pissed, Robbo was pissed and I was pissed. Of course, we were all pissed off about different things and, true to form, we were all trying to vent to each other at the exact same time. It made for some pretty interesting incomprehensible conversation.
“…can’t believe she said that to me….”
“….am sick and tired….”
……and so on.
Time for another pop-visual. Picture the interior of a suburban high school. It is named after a president and its many corridors are long and foreboding. The day has just ended and students are milling around the hallways, their lockers, the stairwells….pretty much anywhere they will fit. Teachers stand in their doorways and peer stealthily into the masses, hoping to find that one kid who owes them a detention. In the middle of this mess walk the three of us: Robbo on the left, Cori in the middle and me on the end closest to the anonymous wall of lockers.
Let’s do Robbo first. Robert Narone Jr. is hella-big: over six feet with weight in the mid-200s. Sadly to say, not very much of that weight is muscle either. He wears thick glasses, often with a piece of decorative tape above the bridge of his nose, and jeans that look large enough to house a family of five. His dark hair is in a pseudo-Mohawk: he cut the sides short and left the center long. And, while it looks kind of gay, I give him credit for trying.
Next, we move onto Cori. She’s all of maybe 5 feet, toothpick thin and somewhat flat across the chest. Her hair, already naturally blonde, is amplified by at least two shades and cropped short. She has pink press-on nails and sneakers that have seen better days. She chews gum more often then not and likes to stick it in weird places (behind peoples’ ears, over pricetags in stores, etc.). I once asked Cori why on earth she decided to become punk. Her reply: “because I’m tired of life being so pathetically easy.”
It’s interesting to note that while none of us smoke or use drugs, we aren’t what you’d consider “straight edge” (“Eco-punks” as Robbo calls them). Instead, we occupy a gray area filled with minor contradictions and a proliferation of common sense. For instance, none of us are big fans of animal products. But, by the same token, we all realize that we aren’t contributing to the amount of entropy in the world by grabbing a burger at Mickey D’s every once in awhile. We’ve also been known to have the occasional drink (hey…who doesn’t), but we don’t take it to Sid Vicious-like extremes. The one thing we don’t have is tattoos, as our parents would all kill us if they found out we got them. Our current modes of self-expression already push the boundaries of what is permissible and we’ve reached a healthy impasse with the forces of conformity…for now.
So, on that day, after school had ended, we left the building walking and ranting, ranting and walking, completely oblivious to everyone and everything around us. We left the building and headed towards the parking lot, where Robbo’s car awaited. Robbo drove an '89 Ford Probe. While it was easy to knock, it might as well have been a Mustang in my eyes. I couldn’t wait to get my own wheels. Cori’s folks offered to buy her a car, and, naturally she turned them down. “It was lame anyway,” she explained. “I’d rather get my own.” Amen to that.
We were about two feet from said Probe when we were greeted with the ominous visage of someone sitting on the hood. Robbo looked like he was going to shit for about two seconds before relaxing into a warm smile. It was only Hardcore Dan.
“Get off my wheels, maggot,” Robbo jokingly shouted.
“You’re lucky I don’t key this piece of shit, Tubbs,” Dan retorted. “Cori….Seth….how’s it hanging?”
“Good, man, good,” I replied, lying through my teeth because I was anxious to hear what Dan had to say. “Whatcha got for us?”
“What makes you think I got anything?” he asked with a cocksure grin.
“Quit fucking around,” Cori snapped.
“OK, dudes,” Dan relented. “Here it is……”
He proceeded to rattle off the list of names that would be appearing at a concert next week, capping it off with the revelation that he could score us some deeply discounted tickets. Holy shit, I was about to have a heart attack!
“There’s only one catch,” he told us. “One of the bands is making a video at the concert, so they don’t want anyone else bootlegging it. Which sucks, I know, but they’ve gotta eat somehow. So anyway, what I need from you dudes is to show up early and scour the parking lot. If you see anyone, and I mean anyone with a video camera, kick them the fuck out. I don’t care if it’s an 8-year-old with a Handi-Cam. They gotta go. If there’s trouble, look for me. I’m helping out with security and set-up and shit like that. So are you in?”
We all replied that we were and exalted Dan with the highest praises our vocabularies afforded us. Only after he’d split did we begin to search our minds to see if we’d actually be able to make it to this show.
“I might have to work,” Robbo said grimly. Robbo worked (and I use that term loosely) at a supermarket…alongside his mother. She was in charge of produce; he swept up and occasionally ran a register. While they rarely ever saw one another at work, it nonetheless was cause enough to spawn a whole slew of “haha…. you work with your mom” jokes.
“So?” Cori replied. “Get someone to cover for you.”
“Howabout Finch?” I suggested.
“He won’t want to do it,” Robbo said blankly.
We just stared at him, waiting for him to get the idea. It was a classic Robbo moment.
“He owes you money,” Cori finally pointed out. “He HAS to do it, unless he wants you to rat him out to Kyle for what he did last Friday.”
“Meanwhile, I probably can’t go myself,” Cori continued. “Its so stupid, too. My parents are going to give me shit about going to this concert, but if Caroline wants to go see Justin Timberlake or Britney Spears then its hey…no problem. First of all, all those Britney fans dress like sluts and I KNOW my sister is going to get hit upon by some skuzzy guy. Second, I’m 3 ½ fucking years older and should be allowed to do whatever the fuck I want. Ah….screw it. I’m going.”
“Howabout you, Seth?” Robbo asked. “You in.”
I took a moment to deliberate. My parents probably wouldn’t be wild about me going to this concert either, but I had a trump card I could play against them, a trump card that began with a capital C.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m in.”
So it was determined: I’d be paying Mr. Wilson a visit after all. Had to get moving on those applications…
Concerts never fail to be interesting. Even bad concerts aren’t without their entertainment value, be it in the form of a crowd on the brink of riot or a band so far gone that collapsing on stage in a pile of vomit seems only moments away. I’ll never understand those people who claim to like music but don’t go to any concerts. Never.
I started going to concerts around the same time I turned punk. Hardcore Dan turned me on to the whole thing. I knew him as just plain old Dan from around the neighborhood. He’s two years older than me: Judy’s age, but not one of her friends. Even when I was little, I thought Dan was the coolest, most brilliant guy ever. You could ask him anything and he’d have an answer for you. How far is it to Mars? Why do volcanoes erupt? What’s the meaning of why? It’s amazing the shit he knew.
Not long before I reached high school, Dan changed. He used to have this semi-ominous long, dark hair, but he shaved it all off and got an eyebrow ring. He started hanging around with weird new people and listened to music from bands I’d never heard of before. He even changed the way he talked, interjecting the words ‘society’ and ‘revolution’ into almost every other sentence. Dan, the smartest guy I know, wound up repeating the 11th grade because he wouldn’t apologize to a teacher for a remark he made and she failed him. Now that’s hardcore.
My parents and I had reached an agreement: if I had at least three applications in the mail by the time of the concert, I’d be able to go. Three applications in a little more than a week seemed rough, but I knew I’d get it done. All of the sudden, I was scurrying like mad to get it all together. I bugged Mr. Wilson for copies of my transcript, filled out paperwork til I got a nasty cramp in my wrist and got cracking on admissions essays. Truth be told, I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. I just picked whatever looked most acceptable to my parents (they’d be paying for it after all) in hopes of being able to back out of it later. The essays were all bullshit too. I gave them what I thought they wanted to hear. Sure, I probably could have done a very interesting self-encapsulation, but that would have freaked them out big time. I just hoped my friends were making out better than I was.
As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. Come concert night, Robbo’s Probe pulled up right on schedule. He had NoFX in the CD player and was nodding his head along to Fat Mike’s garbled wail. I couldn’t help but crack up laughing.
“What?” he asked, becoming suddenly defensive.
“Between you and the CD and the car….its all too much. You’re killing me, man.”
“Ya know…” he began.
“Take it easy,” I urged. “I can’t help it.”
And on that note, we went to pick up Cori. She was pissed, as usual, and fresh from an argument with her parents. Right away, I noticed something unusual about her attire. Cori was usually a flared jeans and t-shirt kinda gal, but on concert nights, she tended to break out a skirt and fishnets. That night, she had on neither, opting instead to go with a pair of carpenter jeans that looked like they had been buried in the bottom of her closet and a decidedly uncool pullover. At least she still had a studded belt to give her some style.
“Shut up,” she started in. “Just don’t say anything.”
“What?” Robbo and I replied in unison.
“I know you were about to comment on what I’m wearing and I don’t want to hear it.”
“Okay,” I said, figuring it was a bad topic.
Much to my surprise, she tendered an explanation less than a moment later.
“So I’m all ready to go,” she began. “And my mom, fucking bitch that she is, flips out on me. I was doing, ya know, the skirt-and-fishnets thing, and she goes, “Corrine! Do you have any idea how cold it is out there?” And I’m like, “chill, Mom, I’ll take a jacket.” No good. We get into a big thing and she makes me change. And you know what the worst part of it is? Fucking Caroline can go out with her friends looking like Lolita and Mom won’t say shit. She thinks its all innocent fun. But, because I’m older and I’m going out with guys, I have to show some modesty. Urgh, do you believe that?”
Neither of us said a word.
“Why did you pick that to wear?” Robbo asked a moment later.
“Spite,” Cori replied. “And besides, at least I won’t be cold.”
We got there early but the parking lot was already starting to fill up. I wasn’t surprised: some of the more hardcore fans will show up to a concert a few hours in advance and linger a few hours afterwards to party. They make it an all-day thing.
Dan was talking with some roadies and techs. He saw us and called us over, giving us a quick introduction to the crew.
“Hey dudes, glad you can make it,” he said hurriedly. “You know the drill, right?”
Robbo nodded. He’d donned a cap that said SECURITY on it and glanced authoritatively at the gathering swarm of vehicles.
“Take that shit off,” Dan chided.
“Why?” Robbo asked.
“Because you look stupid,” Cori told him.
“Like you should talk.”
“Hey guys,” I said. I’d spied a familiar car pulling up and directed my friends’ attention towards it. “Isn’t that R.C.?”
“Yeah,” Robbo sighed.
“If anyone is going to bootleg this concert, its him. Let’s go.”
Randy “R.C.” Cappolo is one of the biggest poseurs I’ve ever met. He’s ten times worse than Trev Finch, who hangs around us like a leech hoping we’ll let him in(we never do). R.C. thinks he’s already in. Like Cori, he comes from a family with a little bit of dough. However, whereas Cori has real issues with her familial units and had made punk her raison d’être, R.C. has never been more than an actor (and a bad one at that). He plays this bad boy shit to the hilt, drinking and acting horny every chance he got, all the while lacking the balls to do anything truly reckless and daring (ala Hardcore Dan) or particularly original for that matter. He was no punk, but his presence at this concert didn’t surprise me. He was probably just here to piss of J.T. I’m not going to get into that now. My brain hurts just thinking about them.
“Seeeeeeth!” R.C. bellowed, greeting me as if we were old friends (which we were……back in kindergarten!) As if his presence wasn’t bad enough, he’d brought a posse with him. There were a couple of WASPY girls trying to punk it up by wearing Taking Back Sunday t-shirts and a few future frat boys, one of whom, surely enough, was holding a video camera.
“Hey Randy,” I said, cutting right through the bullshit. “Lose the camera.”
The big shiteating grin evaporated from his face and an indignant scowl appeared in its place. “What the fuck, dude?” he asked. “Are you telling me I can’t make a little video?”
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s what I’m telling you. One of the band’s is gonna be shooting footage for a DVD, so nobody can film anything. Technically, I’m supposed to throw you out right now, but….”
“You’re such a sellout,” he said.
I stared at him, burning with hate for a good minute. Sellout? HE is calling ME a sellout?! I thought Robbo would have to hold me back to keep from lunging at his throat. Fortunately, he got the message and nudged his friend with the camera. It was promptly placed in a leather bag and deposited in the trunk of his car (an Infiniti I might add). Just when I thought that would be the end of our troubles, however, he decided to further irritate us by hitting on Cori.
“Corrine Henderson,” he said, knowing full well she hated her full name. “It’s been awhile….”
Great. He was going to reminisce now. Before Cori could tell him to go fuck himself, however, Robbo’s big-brother instincts kicked in and he stepped in front of her.
“Back off, man,” he said.
“I’m just saying hi,” R.C. sneered. “What’s it to you, lard-boy?”
While he pretended to be my friend and could fake affection with Cori, R.C. didn’t like Robbo one bit and allowed his contempt to show.
“Just back off,” Robbo reiterated.
“Hey Rob,” he said. “Maybe I’ll stop by the market someday and your mom will let me feel her cantaloupes. She still works produce, right?”
This sent his friends into stitches of unctuous laughter. I watched Robbo’s face grow red and it soon became obvious that I was going to have to hold HIM back.
“Come on,”" I said, joining forces with Cori in tugging him away. “Let’s go.”
Man, what a concert! Granted the first two bands up there were pretty sucky, but what followed was well worth the wait. I hadn’t seen such an inspired display of punkitude since my first Warped Tour (its gone downhill since). It was flat-out balls, energy and music with nary an ounce of bullshit crowd-pleasing or faux-celebrity posturing to be found.
Sometimes, I wish I was older. The 70’s might have seen its birth, but the 80’s was a great decade for punk. Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion, the Misfits, Suicidal Tendencies, Sick of It All….forgetaboutit. Instead, I got into the scene too late. Most of the punk bands nowadays are either going pop and selling out completely (the GreenDay Syndrome) or are refusing to give a shit about their music because they think punk is about their ‘message’ (the Anti-Flag Syndrome). The old-timers (and by that I mean 40+ year olds) that sometimes show up at these concerts have it even worse, as they’ve had to suffer through this great decline as well, in addition to the various obstacles that preceded it. When I hear horror stories about GG Allin, the Mentors and Wendy O. Williams, I can’t help but question my own sanity.
The concert might have been great, but that isn’t to say that the night went out without a hitch. In the parking lot after the show, we ran into R.C. again. He was still sore about the video camera thing and was looking to cause trouble. None of us wanted to deal with him, but nor were we about to turn and flee. We were accustomed to eating shit from people like him in school. This, however, was OUR turf and we were prepared to defend it.
“Hey guys,” R.C. said. He had a beer in one hand and was already half on his way to being loaded. “Kickass show, right?”
“Right,” I replied, hoping to appease him.
“Fuck yeah it was,” he shouted, tilting his head up towards the moon. “Fuuuuck yeah!”
“Not like a bunch of poseurs like you would know,” one of his friends muttered. It was one of the girls. She looked absolutely synthetic in her store-bought pre-ripped jeans and equally mass-produced belt with an embarrassingly oversized buckle (featured a cartoonish skull). She was a plastic punkette if I ever saw one.
“Heh….good one,” Robbo retorted. They were drunk and we were perfectly content to let it go. Cori, however, had other ideas.
“Excuse me?” she asked, her eyes flickering with anger.
“Yeah…look at you,” the other girl taunted. “With your pullover and your tacky dye job. Yeah….you’re punk all right.”
Robbo and I exchanged panicked glances. This was about to get ugly and there would be little we could do to stop it. Enraged, Cori flung off her pullover, revealing the tanktop she had on underneath.
“All right, bitch,” she snarled, putting up her fists. “Let’s go.”
All this in 40 degree weather, mind you.
“Ladies, ladies,” R.C. interrupted, his speech already beginning to slur. “No need to fight. Why fight when you can fucking DRINK?”
It was a bad idea. I knew it was a bad idea, Robbo knew it was a bad idea and probably a part of Cori (the part that wasn’t livid with murderous rage) knew it was a bad idea as well. Nonetheless, we went ahead with it. Why? Because for all of its babble about nonconformity and individualism, punks have a group reputation to protect. We’re supposed to be the most hardcore. Granted, sometimes we’ll get into a (both literal and metaphorical) pissing contest with metalheads and concede a loss every now and then, but R.C. was no metalhead. There was no way we could lay down.
As much as I hate the prick, R.C. did come prepared. He had a cooler in the trunk and plenty of booze to go around. Like a pack of wild animals, we began to chug away. Gradually, a circle formed around us to watch the action. We were given cheers and jeers, words of encouragement and dismissal. A drinking contest is always fun to watch……just as long as you aren’t involved.
Robbo was sitting this one out, as he had to be sober enough to drive us home. It was Cori and I against two of R.C.'s cohorts and we were matching each other shot for shot. I could feel my head starting to buzz and my stomach catching fire, but Cori seemed to be doing just fine. She might be pint-sized, but damn could that girl drink. As I looked into the eyes of the guy I was up against, I could tell he was feeling similarly exhausted.
“Dude,” he finally said. “Let’s let the chicks finish this one out.”
I looked at Cori and she shot me back a thumb’s up.
“Fucking fine by me,” I answered, retreating to prop myself up on the hood of Robbo’s Probe.
The rest of the contest was no contest at all. About five minutes after I threw in the towel, the other girl puked and had to pull out.
“Whose the poseur now?” Cori taunted, grinning in glassy-eyed victory.
Apparently, this struck a nerve with the poseur girl. Maybe there was some real punk in her after all. Without an ounce of warning, she dove to the pavement and lapped up a dollop of her own vomit.
“Beat that,” she gloated, trying to sound prideful whilst puke ran down her chin and onlookers turned away in disgust.
Cori, of course, refused to be topped. In my horrified/amused stupor, I watched as a wicked smile befell her face. What was she about to do next? Lap up the rest of that girl’s vomit? I cringed at the possibility, but, half-curious as to what the stunt was myself, did nothing to interfere. While Cori did spare me that rather repugnant scene for all ages, she did do something that was fairly nasty in her own right. She stood very still….and began to wet her pants. I watched as a big wet spot, illuminated by the Probe’s headlights, began to spread across the crotch of those hideously fugly jeans (perhaps she was doing them a favor) and a smile appeared on Cori’s face.
“I just pissed myself,” she declared triumphantly.
The other girl had since recovered from her moment of stupidity/insanity and now eyed Cori with disgust (ironic given her activities of just a moment before), as did R.C., the rest of his posse and a good number of the people surrounding us too.
“Seth,” Robbo whispered.
I nodded. Even in my state of inebriation, I couldn’t help but think this was fucked up and could only get worse.
“Let’s go,” I said, grabbing Cori by the arm and pulling her away.
“I won,” she squealed. “IwonIwonIwon! Byeee Randyyyy!”
The night’s chaos (and the pending hangover) was almost all worth it for the moment when R.C., embarrassed beyond belief, turned away and pretended not to know us. He had shown his true colors at last.
By the time I was able to haul my ass out of bed the next morning, it was a quarter to one. I was groggy and it felt like something died in my throat, but I was otherwise OK. I found my parents doing a crossword puzzle of all things (even their free time was lame).
“'Morning,” Dad greeted.
“Have fun last night?” Mom asked.
I nodded. I could tell from the way they were looking at me that they had a fair idea of what I had been up to. After all, as they were fond of pointing out every chance they got, they were young once too.
I took a long, scalding hot shower fried up some eggs and decided to give Robbo a call. It was three rings before he answered and the voice on the other end of the line sounded dead.
He sounded down.
“What’s the matter, man?” I asked.
“I have to go to work in a few minutes,” he grumbled.
I couldn’t believe it. On a day like this after a night like that, he was actually going to work.
“Tell me about it. You hear from Cori?”
“Oh. Cya Monday I guess.”
“Party on, dude.”
I hadn’t heard from Cori nor did I expect to right away. Knowing her, she was either a.) still asleep or b.) engaged in another domestic squabble. I was fairly confident she’d give me a call later and fill me in on the latest bout of parental fascism she was forced to endure.
With half the day gone and having nothing better to do, I figured it couldn’t hurt to actually do some homework for once. A psych paper needed my attention, as it was due before Thanksgiving and I hadn’t even begun to gather sources. I was doing it on responses to authority (what else). Fortunately, the library had plenty in the way of source material. Unfortunately, most of it was drier than burnt toast.
Saturday passed into Sunday. I forced myself to read, I lifted a little and I organized my ever-expanding mp3 collection. Cori still hadn’t called to bitch about her folks, but I wasn’t worried. Speaking of folks, mine took me out for dinner. It was nice. Awkward, but nice.
“You know, Seth,” Dad said in between bites of steak. “I hear (insert college name here) has a pretty good political science program).”
“Oh,” I replied with ennui. “Cool.”
Political science? What made them think I had any interest in that? Sure, I’d plucked a few leaves from Dan’s tree of knowledge and spouted some jargon every now and then, but it was largely shallow observations (‘the government is evil’ and such) and rhetorical bullshit.
“Well?” Mom asked.
“What DO you want to do?”
Oh crap….here we go again. I rolled my eyes.
“Let me tell you something, Seth,” Dad began. “College is not merely a luxury. It’s an opportunity to better yourself. Your mother had to drop out after two years to raise Judy. She’ll tell you what she went through when all of her friends moved on to bigger and better jobs.”
“He’s right,” Mom echoed. “I wish you would take this seriously and…”
“I don’t know, OK?” I snapped. “I just don’t know.”
No one said a word for the rest of the meal.
School on Monday was more grueling than it should have been. I was actually starting to freak about this college shit. It wasn’t easy, but my parents had managed to break through my solidly built wall of apathy with Howitzer shell-sized dollops of nagging and concern and now I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Fuck.
Robbo looked dead tired when he came to pick me up.
“What happened to you?” I asked.
“Work,” he said. One word seemed to sum it all up. The dark circles under his eyes and the red creases on his palms told of a weekend of steadfast laboring at the ol’ supermarket. Sometimes, I felt like I could almost pity Robbo. His parents were long divorced, his family had no money and his mom and whatever boyfriend du jure she was with were often not the nicest of people. Add to that his weight problem and other foibles and it made me feel like a major asswipe for complaining about whatever was wrong with my life. Still, he bore it all down pretty well. Besides, he’d have tried to strangle me if I attempted to lay some pity on him.
Neither us had seen or heard from Cori, nor did we expect to until lunch. Her mom dropped her off in the mornings and we didn’t have any classes together until 6th period.
“You think she’s sick?” Robbo asked me as he pulled into his parking space.
“I dunno,” I replied. “She was pretty fucked up Friday night.”
“Yeah, but she’s had time to recover. Right?”
I endured another pointless round of (mis)education, daydreaming and scribbling down various thoughts in a spiral-bound notebook all the while. I’d learned long ago it didn’t matter what you actually did in class. In order to get a good grade, all you needed to do was ace the tests (piece of cake if you’re willing to read a little) and hope you had a teacher who wasn’t an asshole. Fortunately, not many of my teachers were. Unfortunately, many of my peers more than made up for it.
J.T. Neumarr is a prime example. Yet another child of yuppie love (damn 80’s), J.T.'s parents were part of the same set as the Cappolos and the Hendersons. In fact, back in junior high (and possibly before then), Cori, R.C. and J.T. used to be really close friends. Cori even confessed (with an air of disgust) to having dated each of them at various times. However, shortly before high school started, Cori broke off from their group and the two of them had a major falling out. No one knows what happened exactly (nor do we really give a shit), but they have been at each other’s throats ever since. Its constant oneupsmanship: J.T got a new car so R.C. had to get a newer one. J.T. tried to pass himself off as a homeboy (laughable if you think about it), so R.C. pretended to be punk. It seemed like it would never end.
I bring up J.T. because he had been bugging me that day for information on what went down at the concert. He wanted dirt on R.C. and he wanted it bad.
“Come on, Seth,” he pleaded. “My parents said he really made an ass of himself. You were there. What happened?”
I merely smiled and shook my head. I didn’t give a damn about R.C., but I wasn’t going to give J.T. any satisfaction either.
“Pfft,” he said, waving his hand dismissively. “Forget you, yo.”
The ‘yo’ was purely cursory, as if to remind me that the white, blonde, bespeckled, khaki-wearing creature before me had some kind of street credibility. Right….
Lunch came and passed and still no Cori.
“Maybe she IS sick,” Robbo reiterated.
“Nah,” said Finch. “I saw her earlier. She didn’t say anything to me though.”
Robbo had already begun to laugh. “Dude,” I said. “She never does.”
It was no secret that Finch, a skinny, ratfaced nebbish with a Kurt Cobain haircut, had a throbbing crush on Cori that he tried to pass off as “she just seems like a cool chick to be friends with.” It was one of the many things that made him often unbearable to be around. The others were his tendency to pick at his teeth with his fingernails and constantly interrupt people. Still, we tolerated him more than we did people like R.C. and J.T. because his heart was in the right place and he at least had a little fucking humility.
“So what happened at that concert?” he asked.
Robbo and I fed him a whopper, embellishing as we went along. We watched his eyes practically bulge out of his skull and had ourselves a private laugh later about it. Poor Finch. Sometimes, I just wish he would get a fucking clue.
The final bell came and rang and Robbo and I were practically flying out the door. Mondays are the worst, man. We walked to the Probe (sans Cori), put on some Black Flag and motored on out.
Traffic was bad, so Robbo ended up taking a whole bunch of side streets. He (I swear to God) almost ended up getting us lost in our own hometown.
“I told you not to make that left,” I chided.
“One more word and you’re walking, pal.”
What could have been an amusingly diverting argument was cut short as we passed by a park.
“Hey,” I said. “Pull over.”
“I know where I’m going this time, Seth.”
“No. It’s Cori.”
He pulled over and we got out. Surely enough, there was Cori sitting on a bench staring down at her feet and looking quite miserable.
“Forget about us?” I asked as we approached.
“Hey,” she said wearily. She sounded more tired than Robbo looked. We stared at her a moment waiting for an explanation, but none came. “Sorry guy. I’m out of it. Just not in the mood.”
“I know what might cheer you up,” Robbo said, grinning deviously.
“Don’t you dare,” Cori sternly rebuked.
For all of her tough-girl posturing, Cori has two very marked deficiencies. She is extremely ticklish and she had a morbid fear of heights. We knew this, of course, and used it to our advantage from time to time. One of Robbo’s favorite things to do to piss Cori off was to simply pick her up and sit her on his shoulders. She’d then scream frantically for him to put her down, complaining that she was going to fall and crack her skull and calling him every nasty name she could think of. Of course, she joined us in laughing about it afterwards. There was no harm intended.
I could tell from Cori’s tone of voice that she truly wasn’t in the mood, but that didn’t register with Robbo.
“Don’t,” I whispered, but he didn’t seem to hear me. He effortlessly scooped her up and began to lift her onto his shoulders. Instead of letting out her customary whoop of anxiety, Cori began to kick and twist in an effort to get away. Robbo finally got the message and began to set her back down, but not before she came free of his grip and tumbled to the ground. She landed face down and lay there for a good 30 seconds without moving.
“Holy shit!” Robbo exclaimed, his eyes wide with concern. “I didn’t mean to drop her.”
I nodded, but something else had caught my attention. Due to her thin build, Cori’s butt had always been somewhat on the flat side. Looking at it now, however, it seemed somewhat round and puffy. There was also a thin band of white sticking out over the top of her pants. If I didn’t know any better, I would have guessed she was wearing a diaper.
“What the…” Robbo began, making the same observation I did.
A moment later, Cori was on her feet flailing at him angrily. There were tears in her eyes and her face was deeply reddened as she swung and clawed. Robbo tried his best to sidestep her blows. She might have been short, but she was also vicious.
“You fucking fuck couldn’t leave me alone!” she yelled.
“Jeez, take it easy,” a distressed Robbo snapped back.
“Cori, come on,” I said. “He didn’t mean it.”
This didn’t seem to slow her down any and I realized I would have to step in. Sighing, I walked behind Cori and seized her wrists. She struggled, and for a moment I thought she was attempt to claw MY eyes out. Instead, she let loose a final groan of defeat, turned and buried her head on my chest while continuing to weep away.
Robbo and I were stunned. We had never seen Cori like this (well…not since she turned punk anyway). The Cori we knew never cried and never backed down. Now, she was doing both.
I didn’t really know what to do, so I allowed her to continue to use my shirt as a pillow/Kleenex. When she didn’t show any signs of letting up, I placed a cursory arm around her and patted her on the shoulder. A minute later, she finally quieted and took a step back.
“God,” she said, still sniffling. “I really fucked up.”
“Look, I am really, really sorry…” Robbo began.
“Forget it,” she told him. “It’s my fault. You were just trying to help.”
“Are you sure you didn’t hit your head?” I asked. Cori wasn’t known for being apologetic.
She patted herself on the head, examined her arms and smiled. “Nope. Not a scratch on me.”
Robbo and I remained silent. After what had just happened, neither of us had a fucking clue what to say next. Fortunately, it seemed as if Cori was finally ready to talk.
“Guess I owe you guys an explanation,” she said. “About me being in diapers and stuff.”
Diapers? Did she just say diapers? The shock of the word bounced off the inner walls of my brain as Cori began her long and tragic narrative.
Cori was pretty fucked up when we dropped her off Friday night. Come to think of it, we all were. Even Robbo had a glazed-over look about him and he’d stayed sober. Because of that stupid drinking contest, however, Cori had it ten times worse than the rest of us. She bid us goodnight, staggered inside and collapsed facedown on her bed, where she remained passed out til morning.
“You’re lucky you didn’t choke on your own vomit,” I interrupted.
“That almost would have been better,” she replied.
At 10 AM, Cori found herself being none-too-gently shaken awake by her sister. Caroline suggests what Cori might have looked like if she grew her hair out, injected herself with estrogen and never went punk. Though no giant herself (she is all of 5’2"), she’s often been mistaken for Cori’s OLDER sister. It pisses Cori off to no end.
“Whaaat,” she moaned. Too groggy to be angry, she pinched her eyes shut as a (ultimately futile) defense against the morning light.
“You are so busted,” Caroline gleefully informed her. The dislike Cori had for her was easily reciprocated. Come to think of it, I don’t know a single member of her family that Cori actually gets along with.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Cori muttered, rolling over and forcing herself out of bed.
Caroline’s nose crinkled in disgust. “Eww….what’s that smell?” Cori hadn’t bothered to change her pants from the night before and reaked of booze and stale urine.
Ignoring her, Cori went about procuring some coffee. No sooner had she set foot in the kitchen, however, than did her parents ambush her. Like CIA spooks, they were laying in wait to fire the opening volley. And, unfortunately for Cori, they scored a direct hit.
“How COULD you?” her mother started in. Mrs. Henderson is a bottle blonde who relies on an abundance of cosmetics and a personal trainer named Sergio to help escape her ‘bored housewife’ designation. She has the spoiled-brat leer of an ex-prom queen and, beneath her polite smiles and delicately honed manners, is really quite nasty. I’ll never forget the time when I was at Cori’s and overheard her refer to me in a phone conversation as “that unscrupulous Jewboy.”
“Huh? Wha?” a confused Cori replied.
“I had to hear it from Jim Cappolo down at the bank,” her father said sternly. “You really embarrassed yourself in front of his son’s friends.”
Like my father, Cori’s dad is a serious man. Unlike him, however, Mr. Henderson was always that way. The dude looks like he was born at age 50. No matter how nice I am when I’m over there, all I get from him are scowls. He’s even given me the ‘stay away from my daughter’ look when all Cori and I have EVER been are friends. What a total fuckwad!
“I embarrassed myself?!” Cori shot back. “Randy was the one who brought the beer and started acting like an asshole. He…”
“Enough!” Mrs. Henderson interjected. She and her husband were doing a good job of working the one-two punch. They would have made great trainers for a boxing match. You hear that, Stallone? “I don’t care who started what. The fact of the matter is your behavior was atrocious. I will not have you dragging our family’s name through the mud, Corrine!”
“Your mother is righ,” Mr. Henderson continued. “Now I think we all know this ‘punk’ nonsense has gone on long enough….”
Cori’s mouth dropped open. Her parents might have thought of her involvement in the punk scene as a “disgusting fad”, but to her it was religion. She could not see herself living without it any more than she could a liver or a brain.
“You guys suck!” she shouted, fleeing the kitchen and retreating to her room. Flopping back down on the bed, she put on a Sick of it All CD and stewed in the juices of her own bitter resentment.
It wasn’t much longer before her parents came a’knocking.
“Corine!” her mother hollered. “Turn that down. Tell her to turn that down.”
“Turn that down,” her father bellowed.
Spiteful thing that she was, Cori turned the volume up.
“Stop it!” Caroline squealed in the background. “It’s hurting my ears.”
This caused her father to finally lose his cool.
“GODDAMN IT, IF YOU DON’T TURN THIS DOWN RIGHT NOW……”
A moment later, the music was off and Cori was standing before her parents with a sweet smile on her face. She was still angry on the