Life as a Middle-Aged Punk Rocker
"I don't climb mountains to prove I'm a man, I tear them down." - Unknown
Not sure who said that or when but it has be a motto for sorts for most of my life but increasingly when I've taken a close look at my current tearing down mountain progress and wonder if those days are behind me. I really wonder if there is a true difference between being established and having already left your mark on the world and being a wash up or a has been. Now don't think that this is some self pity or debasing exercise that I'm going through. I've done a lot and have been blessed with being in the right place at the right time more times than I'm even interested in counting and maybe more than anything that is why I even begin to question my relevancy in the first place. It's just more and more often, I find when I'm posed the question, "What is new?" I have less and less to report.
Now I have to bring up age, I'm 42 and in a little over a month will be 43. I have noticed that I volunteer this information much more than I should. In part because I'm proud that I have made it to this point and because people seem to always think I'm younger based almost completely on my clothing and interests. I still dress about the same as I did in 1988, 501s or shorts and band t-shirts. The only thing at really changes is maybe my foot ware. In the summer it's the old school tie up Vans or Steel Toed Shoes and in the winter it's Creepers or Steel Toed Shoes. Basically it's a style I developed which is part punk, part Skinhead but mostly gas station attendant. Now this style seems to float in and out of style much to my undying hatred because it usually means I have to pay more for something I buy because it was affordable and last forever.
For the most part my interests haven't changed, I keep up on music, movies, video games and countless other pointless topics. With Punk Rock it's really not that hard to keep up on it but I'm not really that much into the new bands but that's nothing new. For a majority of my punk listening days, I've listened to older bands. When I was 18 or 19 my band selection was mostly made up of bands that were at least 5 years old. In fact I was very resistant to anything that was produced after 1985 up until around 91. It was like I went to music college and majored in Southern California late 70s punk with a minor in punk and Oi!. I read and listened to anything that I could get my hands on and it took a while for me to warm up to anything new. In a way, it was this useless knowledge that made me effective as a promoter and advisor. If there was an obscure punk band from the period, I was called upon to answer questions.
For a majority of people that were involved in the punk scene it was a stage in their life. A passing fancy which outside of their musical tastes did not effect much else in their life. Which is fine, nothing is more punk than living the life on your own terms but for me, living life on my own terms meant having Punk as my culture. Now that might make me sound like a nut but Pop culture has been completely irrelevant to my life. My friends, my news, my art, my films, my profession, my life view. my politics etc.. came into my life in some minor or often major way because of this punk rock thing. The sub-culture exposed me to a great number of things that I wouldn't have found in pop culture because it simply wasn't hip. Sometimes years before it entered pop culture. So it's strange because so many times I was well ahead of the hip factor.
The thing with punk rock is that there is always a point where you have to wonder how long can you keep this up? I look back and realize that often I choose life paths basically because I was unwilling to give it up. At times this was a self destructive path. Not in the traditional way that most people think of as being self destructive. Sure I've drank enough to get the population of Des Moines drunk. No it was a discipline and unwillingness to give up freedoms either in dress or attitude. Mainly this has effected me financially. There's this underlying idea that is at the core of punk that some how success is some how selling out and if you succeed it must be completely on your own terms. There have been a number of cross roads in my life that I took the less profitable path because it would be on my terms. Also I guess in a lot of ways I can blame punk on my ethical ideals which has also limited my profit. I've been told more than a few times that I was too honest to be rich and the older I get the more I realize this is true.
So I started piercing not only because I had a desire to do it but also to allow me the freedom to continue being, well Punk. The Axiom has in fact allowed me a lot of freedom to achieve a lot. My involvement with Safari Nite Club and then Hairy Mary's wouldn't have worked well with a normal 9 to 5 job. This web site and the Underground Archives wouldn't have existed. Also it's allowed me a lot of time with my son and my family that I may not have had otherwise. There was always some side project or interest that I was working on and maybe my current dissatisfaction is in part based on the fact that I not working on some new project to throw myself into.
So maybe that's it. I don't know but I think one of the biggest factors is that the people that I had all these great experiences in the past with and were my playmates and collaborators are increasingly less like to come out and play. I have to admit that I'm guilty of this too. All of our lives have changed, we all have kids now but I really wonder if it isn't a jaded case of be there and done that? Or is it simply that the present won't ever live up to the past. That time is long gone. Those times were a combination of the first time around but more than anything it was the combination of the people. Sure the bands played a part in it but what made it what it was, was that group of people in that room at that time. A lot of the people have moved away, moved on to bigger things and some are sadly, no longer with us which makes this impossible.
This is not the first time in my life that I felt this way. I've been through a number of up and down turns not only in the punk scene but in my social life. I guess the hardest part is getting off the couch and in fact going out. For years I went out 2 or 3 times a week because I was afraid that If didn't I'd miss something. The thing is that there was a time when I would have missed something and increasingly I've noticed most of the things I'm missing are worth missing. Maybe it's cause I'm the old guy at the club but that's nothing new when you consider I was in my mid 20s when I started promoting all ages shows. I remember dancing at the first US Bombs show at Safari and realizing that a majority of those around me were at least 10 years younger than me. Now that would be closer to 25 years. Which is kind of creepy.
The thing that I've noticed is that when I interact with anyone that shares my music interests the age thing becomes a mute point. At least for me. I've never valued aged over passion and if I share that passion then it doesn't matter to me if they are 15 or 85. You see that's the interaction that I crave on a social level and it seems that the older I get the less younger people are willing to engage with me in conversation. Now I do have a stand offish personality and some would say that I'm not the friendliest person. However, I had began to think this was some kind of generational gap.
So I've been trying to find signs in my relationship with my son as he at the begriming stage of teenage. He at that journey of musical exploration and finding his own thing, not only in music but in life. Now he has been exposed to a great deal of music from his mother, his step dad and of course me and now I'm beginning to see the influence of his friends as they expose him to different music. The kid has lived in two households where music is a big part of daily life. So I don't know if he is a good test subject but unlike my generation he seems more eclectic in his choices of music. Sure the vast exposure to different types of music has played a part but also access to Spotify and other sources has been a big factor. Also I've noticed that the terms of teen subculture seem to been broken down.
Not this is not new in the least, I've been noticing it for sometime that as pop culture has swallowed up everything that was once considered underground. The availability of access to sub-cultures through the internet has created a situation where there is no delay in the period of time between the creation of something new and the discovery by the rest of the world. It's created a level of equality that makes one wonder if the days of something being a easily defined movement are gone. I'm on the fence as to weather this is a good thing or not. There is just something empowering about being an outcast and knowing deep inside that regardless of how the mainstream views you, you are in the know. That you have something that is yours and that you stand apart.
Who knows what the future will bring or what new adventures it has in store for me but I know for sure that I'm who I am and that ain't changing any time soon. My son will continue to tell me to turn down the music and every time there is a band some where that just is on it, I'll wish I was there. I will always crave action, the wonders of conversation and walking through a crowd with a smile on my face because I'm in on something they don't really understand.