Slingshots, Anyone? : Living in a Glass (Ware)House

What better way to start off a recent return from my month-long hiatus on the West Coast than with a house show deep in the recesses of Uptown’s Magazine Street? A couple ambassadors of the Iron Rail Book Collective— it would appear, at least– attempted to upstage me on this very punk show Candice of No More Fiction booked at Darin and Nathan’s house (former venue of Bryan Funck’s infamous weekly Tacos Night) by hauling out the distro themselves. Granted, with the collective’s own microcosmic “financial crisis,” I was conflicted as to whether to feel mildly affronted or exceedingly glad that others besides myself were seizing the tabling reins. But such boldness begs the question: Could it be, in my absence, these young Padawans were attempting to yank the rug from under me? Or were they actually– um– doing my bidding?! Know the answer I do not. However, recalling the Jedi Master’s famous aphorism about attachment leading to the Dark Side, I tried to forgo my irrationality and just enjoy the show with my newfound mobility. But needless to say– like a knight devoid of his noble steed– without my usual punk-rock sentry post I felt lost and directionless, aimlessly skulking about the porch and backyard. Like the typical New Orleans hipster without the compulsory alcoholic beverage to “break the ice” on any given social interaction, the lack of my Iron Rail tabling crutch left me feeling only confused and disoriented!

Oftentimes I relish straying from my comfort zone, but it was additionally distressing to find myself feeling out of place at a DIY house show. For the first time, I was forced to face feeling like a foreigner in my own community. Wow. Alliteration, anyone? How about this: Audaciously and anatomically alternating amongst alienation, awkwardness and apathy. Go ahead and say that one three times fast. Anyway… I spent the better part of the evening sulking on the front porch, trying to make sense of the situation and attempting to acclimate myself to the sudden culture shock of the Big Sleazy after being away so long. It just felt like something in me broke, like one of Azkaban’s Dementors had sucked all the optimism and cheerfulness from my soul. Acquaintances would approach me, and I tried not to seem stand-offish or determined to break the clearly celebratory mood. Locals Ixnay and Necro Hippies rocked the house, but in my sullen state of mind I couldn’t even bear to stand inside the sweltering living room to watch them. There’s this scene in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I’m sure you’ve seen it… Oh, you mean you haven’t? Gosh. Well, it’s this movie from the ’80s, a real classic… Anyway, there’s this scene where Cameron (Alan Ruck) is sitting in his car deliberating whether or not to drive to Ferris’ house. Unsure of what to do, in this comedic scene, he screams and curses and pounds the upholstery like a maniac. Well, at one critical moment in the night, experiencing my own mild panic attack, I stood in front of my bike, painfully debating whether or not I should unlock it from the fence and just pedal home. In the end, I decided to stick it out and just go into the house for the last band.

And, boy, am I glad I did! The headlining band was an Olympia act by the name of Gun Outfit, who play really twangy punk. I can’t really describe the magic that transpired in those twenty minutes. Suffice to say, like indie sorcerers conjuring a joyful spirit dance, with every chord struck and each incantation recited my mood soared, until by the end of the set– soaked in sweat and giddy with band crush– I felt nearly cured of my prior cynicism.

The show had nearly redeemed itself, and I was in much better spirits. After personally sharing with Gun Outfit the hormonal 180 their set had evoked and apologizing to a few others for my prior taciturn disposition, together with some of my persuading friends, I even walked to the dance party going down in the much-talked-about “synagogue” on Jackson Street. Somebody please tell me: Why does this town feel like a perpetual afterparty? I didn’t actually want to go out after the show, but I figured I’d at least check it out. It’s like NOLA’s most teetotaling partygoer (and my personal life mentor) DJ Brice Nice wisely told me later that night– the alternative to going out entails sitting at home. Sitting at home, sobbing yourself to sleep in your dingy Mid-City warehouse. Just like that Gorilla Biscuits song.

Arriving at this synagogue known as the Buzzard’s Nest a few blocks away, I definitely felt– in the words of Walter from The Big Lebowski— “out of my element.” Skaters shredded the gnar on a constructed half-pipe, a few agile souls skipped jump rope and the rest just danced to tunes the DJs queued up. See, here’s the thing: I don’t drink, and I don’t really like shaking my booty a whole lot. And sometimes it just feels like the social sphere of New Orleans outside of these two things is rather small. Then other times I think maybe I’m just selfish and want every one to conform to my idea of what “fun” is– like my militant insistence that every band play either female-fronted ’90s-style pop or moshy ’90s-style hardcore. You know, that reminds me– anarcho-fascism gets such a bad rap, I gotta say. I mean, what is so wrong with trying to impose my own biased, arbitrary worldview on other people anyway, huh?! Don’t these ungrateful inbreds realize it’s for their own good?! Yet, despite my general uptightness and disdain for anything remotely fun, here I was on this particular Saturday night– the Jewish day of rest, ironically enough…Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax, leading me to this moment in time– attending a raging dance party in a reclaimed synagogue! Shomer fucking shabbos, indeed.

Skip ahead to a couple weeks later, when fate would find me once again visiting the Buzzard’s Nest to table the show of another Northwest pop-punk band– Drunken Boat! Feeling such renewed interest in social engagement, I’d even gone out to distro Drunken Boat’s show at The Saint the night before– one I hadn’t planned on attending because– well– because I hate bars, but which I ended up really enjoying! Well, I didn’t particularly enjoy all four hours leading up to when they played. After all, like the foolish little faun that I doubtless am, I’d arrived at The Saint at 10pm, which was the show’s “listed time.” Psshh. OK, now every one point and laugh at this kid! Ha-ha, Derek! You biked out to the show four hours early– joke’s on you! In these situations, like the urban songbirds who build their nests with cigarette butts and debris, one just has to adapt to the environment. So, what does an “underage” kid do at the Saint while waiting for a punk band to set up? We play Street Fighter, of course! What else?! Friends kept me company off and on, and in between I pondered certain questions. Like, for example– What was stopping me from walking over to that stupid Deer Hunting USA machine and putting an “Out of Order” sign on its screen? Propriety? Lack of tape??? Well, there’s always Street Fighter, I guess…

Having lost my match to Ryu and already past the 1 am mark, Drunken Boat finally took the floor. And when they did, I came as close to “dancing” as my frail body is capable– awkwardly shuffling my legs and convulsively shaking my head as those dirty East-Bay-inspired melodies rang out into the night. Three long years had I lamented missing Drunken Boat at the legendary Coach Haus. And unlike that Rimbaud poem I never really liked, the Portland band whose name derives from it definitely did not disappoint!

So of course I caught them the second night in a row at the Buzzard’s Nest– which leads me, I believe, to the focal point of this entire article. This show went off without much incident. Rachel baked this incredible cake for Candice’s birthday. Drunken Boat played an awesome set, yet again. Their roadie bought a feminist book from me– the only sale of the night. But what most interested me took place after the show.

With the crowd dissipating toward the afterparty at (ironically enough) The Saint, as I prepared to head home on my bike, a gentleman I’d seen skating the half-pipe earlier in the night named Matt approached me.

“I’ve wanted to talk to you for a while about something that’s been bothering me,” he began. “In one of your articles, I feel like you said some belittling things toward certain members of our scene you call ‘crust punks’…” The piece he spoke of did contain some admittedly distasteful jokes describing how, like the F├╝hrer of the Third Reich, I wished to institute the state-sanctioned obliteration of all scumfucks. Matt went on: “I just felt like your attitude toward some of those people was perpetuating hate. And it bummed me out to hear that coming from someone in our scene.”

I first genuinely apologized that he had taken offense to my oftentimes mean-spirited jabs directed at perhaps– those he perceived as– some of his friends. There is certainly some dichotomy between who I am and what I write, and with the “voice” on the page I know I can get carried away with liberties I take for the sake of sensationalizing a story– bold statements which sometimes come, unfortunately, at others’ expense. I explained that what I’d intended to critique was actually– though, at times, unfairly using the “crust punk” as the scapegoat and embodiment of these traits– the alcoholic hedonism and apathy that plagues the city of New Orleans, which I do firmly believe to be the antitheses of radical community organization (or meaningful relationships in general).

“Of course,” I confessed, “it’s always easier to criticize others rather than yourself. And quite honestly, I’ve come to realize that a lot of my condemnation of certain characteristics of the ‘crusty’ are hang-ups that I see in myself.” Fact. If you need proof, Ethan Clark could attest to the fact that all I had on my person was a little more than a dollar– in change!— to donate to the touring band. I mean, c’mon— that’s got “scumfuck” written all over it. After all, I recognize these bands need gas money. Drunken Boat needs to get back to Portland. And Bywater natives in Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship deserve something after traveling such a long journey from home all the way to New Orleans’ Garden District! I truly did feel bad about my detrimental impact on the punk economy, OK?!

This fellow Matt and I spoke a while longer before thanking each other for the conversation and going our separate ways– a positive exchange, I felt, overall. I followed Axl Rose‘s advice and really took to heart my fellow punk’s constructive criticism; after all, I take for granted that a lot of my tongue-and-cheek “humor” may not always be approached with a grain of salt. It’s obvious, all things considered, how one could interpret some of– er, maybe a lot of?– my remarks as vicious attacks and/or overbearing self-righteousness. Or how my objective audience could read into my allusions to drug paraphernalia not as complete satire of its absurdity but instead as a glorification of my indulgence in illicit substances– in which case they would, undoubtedly, be correcto mundo! So just disregard the last part of what I said. But this exchange prompted me to reflect on how I could better utilize the platform I have access to, of how to make it not just entertaining but also meaningful. Communication really is the primary goal (and achievement, as far as I can tell) of what I am doing, and any and all correspondence means a lot.

So to those who have shared their thoughts on my writing– thank you. I encourage anyone who feels so inclined to engage in dialogue with me. Forever self-critical. Forever straight edge. With that said, I offer the first collection of memorable quotes I’ve heard from some of my “readership”…

“Tell your friend I said Thank you.” –Chuck “Scumfuck” to Andy of Thou/We Need To Talk

“He kicked you?!” –my mom, horrified by my written accounts

“I know you like to get in everywhere for free…” –Eric Martinez

“I like how you lambasted Thou.” –Jackson Blalock

“We read what you wrote about my husband; we all loved it.” –lady at Saturn Bar

“We really liked that article you wrote about getting in here for free, but you’re gonna have to pay.” –scathing security guard at One Eyed Jacks, right before I got into the show legitimately on the guest list, and who then refused to provide me with a table

“You paying the cover or what? I’m not gonna let you in for free so you can brag about it… I read your little ‘paper’..” –show promoter Matt “Muscle”

“Next time it’ll be five…” –Matt “Muscle” again, after I kicked down a compulsory dollar for entry