Blasts from the Past - Decidedly Unpunk
Here's another creative piece, one for an assignment dubbed the Age of Innocence. I wrote this in the style of David Foster Wallace, with excessive tangents taken in footnote form. Hey I liked it.
In the shifting chemical landscape of my brain during my middle teenaged years, I had somehow decided along the way that I was a punk. I’m not entirely sure how it happened or of any particular events that triggered it, but punk I became nonetheless and all of a sudden, with no call ahead to warn my family of the change. I was never ‘in the Punk scene’ so to speak, nor was I particularly scene adjacent, but I was aware that there was a scene somewhere out there, and that was enough for me to claim myself a dedicated adherent. I was a quick learner of the Punk philosophy, in that I learned quickly to label my already conspicuous antisocial behavior and dislike of authority as Punk and the skip whatever else Punk represented that didn’t fit already into my personal worldview. (1) My one man rebellion began at school where I defied the status quo by cutting lunch (2) to peruse the internet on the school library’s computers or, if they were all occupied, to read Field and Stream magazine, the most Punk ‘zine available in the school’s periodical section. In this way, I educated myself as one could in the early 2000s, isolated as I was from any actual punks; by reading Punk webcomics and finding scans of random Punk ‘zines hosted on Angelfire pages alongside spinning anarchy symbol GIFs and flashing McDonald’s banner ads. From these sites I got a taste of the Punk lifestyle and a long shopping list of music to which I should listen. Gone went the wild mishmash of Napstered (3) mp3s, which were downloaded more out of
compulsion than appreciation. Instead, I choose to spend what little money I saved up at the paper route I worked every now and again (4) on any punk sampler CDs I could find in the bargain bins of my semi-local Media Play and The Wiz (5) and other extinct retail dinosaurs that still walked the earth back then. By listening to these choice few CDs repeatedly on my shoddily held together discman that I smuggled into school each day, I rapidly internalized their inherent messages of The Man-fucking (6) and going my own way, damning anyone who tells me to conform. But internalizing such things is only a half measure, if one truly wants to be punk, they have to look the part as well. I already wore torn up black jeans, which barely maintained their structural integrity thanks to ample amounts of safety pins, alongside scuffed up work boots and my ubiquitous Black Flag and Dropkick Murphys t-shirts. My parents adamantly refused to allow me to get any tattoos or to pierce any part of myself for what they hoped would only be a transitory phase of my adolescence. However, I did wheedle out of my parents the permission for at least one significant body modification. I would be allowed to dye my hair.
By this point, I would not have been the first member of my family to tint the top of my head in such a way. Precedent had been set by my ever dramatic eldest brother, who arrived home from college for the summer previous with bleached blonde hair. (7) Not to mention my mom, who had been fooling no one for the previous half decade into thinking she was a natural blonde herself. In fact, if I were to follow those two down that path of radical follicle repigmentation, we hair coloreds would form a majority in the family. Plurality is decidedly unpunk. No I would have to go further than either of them dared if I wanted to proclaim my true individuality. Ignoring my mom’s copious eye rolls, I bought a bright blue hair dye from Hot Topic along with some bleaching agent so that the color would stand out even more. When we got home I set to work in the bathroom all by myself, wanting to at least shock the household with the transformation itself, since the undertaking was already being underwritten by them. I began with the bleach, which was easy enough to rub in and let sit. After a while, I stepped in the shower and washed the remainder out and was presented with a full mop of bleached blonde hair and slightly tingling eyes, to which I paid no mind. I couldn’t resist the temptation to present this stage of my punk self’s pupation and showed my family. My mom said that it looked fine and that I could stop there. But I didn’t do this thing to look fine, I did this thing to look punk. So into the bathroom again I went. Again I set about rubbing the coloring agent into my hair, this time being extra careful to wear latex gloves, since I knew that this gel would dye any skin it touched as soon as it would dye my hair. I let the gunk sit for the prescribed amount of time and then stepped into the shower and washed the remainder out.
Congratulations to whoever can guess what happened next (8), you have more foresight than teenage me did.
As this step was taking longer than the previous, my family inquired if there was anything the matter. I was too busy rubbing whatever cleaner I could find under the sink onto my face and upper body to answer in anything resembling coherency. When I finally relented after being utterly unsuccessful, I opened the door to raucous jeers and hooting. My mom called me a Smurf.
Smurfs are decidedly unpunk.
1 Which, in hindsight, was more Punk than conforming to any sort of strict standard. Good job 15 year old me.
2 I wasn’t going to cut classes, they take attendance for those. I could’ve gotten in trouble.
3 In the piracy interregnum after Napster was shut down, but before torrenting sites like Pirate Bay became popular, if one wanted to discover new music that wasn’t played on the radio, one had to throw the dice on an unknown physical CD. Sure you could hear snippets of tracks if you scanned the CD at one of the seedy headphone stations distributed around the music area of these stores, but the combination of tinny quality of the headphones, sparse track availability and the creeping worry of when the store last disinfected these headphones that any scuzzbag could slap on in order to distribute a fresh brood of head lice to the next unsuspecting customer, one could not make an objective assessment of a CDs quality.
4 Nominally the route was my eldest brother’s due to me not being of an age to legally work in the State of Connecticut at the start of my employment. This caused my paycheck to be written out in his name and more than once he cashed in a misplaced check, even though he never delivered paper one. Not that I did much either, I placed more value on sleeping in that scant extra hour each morning.
5 By the early 2000’s, the now defunct electronics retail chain had dropped its braggadocious title of Nobody Beats the Wiz, that it had adopted during its boom period in the nineties, due to ever mounting evidence to the contrary.
6 Which is not to be confused with menfucking, which unfortunately when combined with the rest of my rotation; consisting of homophobic luminaries such as Eminem and Public Enemy, was not an act nearly as appreciated by CD collection.
7 As well as carrying a hundred fewer pounds and sporting a shit eating grin when he successfully walked right up to us at the airport without us realizing who he was, until he dropped his bags at my feet and told me to get to stepping.
8 In the short term, the correct answer would be an obscene amount of powdered Lava soap and dedicated scrubbing eventually rendering me more or less presentable. The answer in the longer term would be that the dye faded away quickly after a couple weeks of me washing my hair, which turned out be yet another blunder I perpetuated on my head. As it happened, my hair slowly evolved into an ever increasingly snot-colored green, which persisted until I gave up and shaved my head.