PUNK: Lonesome American Memoirs

9: No More Heros

The lights are out, and no one is there. I’d heard on the radio that Darby Crash was dead, and there was going to be a candle light memorial at the record store. So I went up there with Mike. But no one was there.

The streets get quiet at this time of night. Nothing happens. People quietly walk from one place to another without pausing to talk.

I was still wearing my ‘Sid is innocent’ button when Darby Crash died. The Germs were one of my favorite bands. Fuck they were good. At least the album was good. But there was no one there. No one showed up.

Why didn’t they show up? I mean, I showed up. Michael got out of bed and came with me. We were there. Another dead idiot. Another good band finished. Another artist, poet, queen in a straight tough guy costume, dead on the floor of a bathroom. Whatever. Who cares? I don’t care. But I was there.

A cop car drives be slowly, and I just stand there smoking a cigarette. Looking at the cop looking at me.

First Sid, that stupid idiot junkie, and now Darby. What’s the point of looking up to anyone? Deciphering what they write, what they’re trying to say. When Darby snarled and spat out those poetic lines of prose they sounded so hard, and rhythmic. They sounded masculine and punk rock. When you read the words, they were complicated, and it seemed impossible that those were the same words he was saying. Somehow he’d managed to fit the words into a smaller space by slurring them all together into some kind of indecipherable tongue of a language that resonated with angry young people.

The world was being pushed around by Reagan; he was a detestable and shameless puppet for an administration whose only interests were war, lies, and money. They talked about values, gods, families, and freedom. They talked about that all the time. But what they did was gas the Kurds, bomb the middle east, economically blackmail an alternative system of ideology, and solve the American drug problem by writing off anyone over 8 years old, and tell the kids who were younger than that to “just say no.” They cut the funding for public rehabilitation, built more prisons, and when the farmers in the plains states lost their farms because public subsidies were being withdrawn, they flew out there to see the poor bastards to tell them that it was a shame.

Whining and crying about it, however poetically, didn’t make any difference. Gathering together in halls, and plazas shouting, chanting and demanding justice didn’t make any difference.

I remember when a young kid was arrested in an anti apartheid protests on the UC Berkeley campus. The people felt that the arrest was unfair. A mob of people flooded the streets between Bancroft Way, Telegraph Avenue, and Durant Avenue. The police car couldn’t move. Backup couldn’t arrive. It was a showdown. The people pounded on the car chanting “Let-him-go! Let-him-go!” Eventually there was nothing the cops could do but uncuff the kid, and release him. I’d never seen what the people could do until that moment.

But to sing about it, and cut your arms up with broken bottles, to look cool, or to shoot up in the bathroom and never come out didn’t make a difference.

The cop car rolls away. I’m just standing there by myself. Michael has gone. The store is closed. There are no candles. No people. Just me. I was there.

I was sorry to hear that you died. How you died didn’t matter. Why Tim and Jeff were laughing about your death on the radio, laughing about you, I didn’t understand. I began to feel that the things I placed value upon, the really important things might not be important. The people who I’d always looked to as a surrogate set of teachers, or examples, we just as self destructive as I was. Maybe nobody understood. Maybe nobody cared. I had always thought that to say ‘I don’t care‘ meant that you absolutely did care. That the world had its head up its ass, and there was some sort of truth in the street corner. To stand here, day in and day out, frowning, spitting, yelling, handing out coupons, spray painting Hari Krishnas, chasing off the trendies, and jeering at the hippies was my love letter to the world. My closest companions were often the homeless, and the insane.

I walked from 4th street all the way up to the Ave. with a guy who told me all about Sterling Moss, the fastest race car driver in the world. He was eating this chow mein he’d scored out of a garbage can and kept trying to share it with me. He had this little plastic case full of reasonable sized cigarette butts. He’s light them one after the other, offering them to me after he lit them saying “You smoke? It’s pot.” I’d decline. We spent a good two hours together. There was no greater symbol of political action or social momentum that I had to offer than to spend my time. To give my presence. To offend the mundane, and shoo off the detestable. Of course it was more like stamping on floors and patting on walls to clear the room of cockroaches. As soon as you stopped tamping and pounding they would just come right back.

But to grab a hold of a man and make love to him. Feel the bristle of his razor stubble against my face, my back, my arms, and to imagine that this was some kind of love meant nothing. What taboo was I breaking? What difference did it make to anyone?

To go home with the one leather queen in Berkeley, a very sad little bookish man who walked the streets at night in his leather jacket and chain looking for love in the darkness. To cuddle with this man, drink his apple cider, keep him warm for a night, steal his loose change, and the bills in his wallet and be gone before he woke up was not a crime. It was an exchange of affection. A soothsaying of the ordinary. That man had more courage in his blue vinyl cock ring than any preacher, or pig I’d ever met, seen, or heard about.

To take a woman’s legs, and slowly spread them apart. To look into her vulnerable eyes and then dive into her with my mouth and caress her with my hands. To feel her softness, her smooth skin against my bony, awkward, and very skinny body and to imagine that this was love, or beauty meant nothing. But to take someone up on her offer to come back to her house, eat her food, listen to her new wave records, and then agree to get and give a back rub, which turned into fragile, vulnerable, and delicate love making meant something, didn’t it? She never spoke to me again. I never saw her again. She chumped me. Her boyfriend, Craig, saw me again. He was more than happy to get into my face and tell me about anything and everything with venom and bitterness, but never had the courage to say what it was he was really angry about. She was brave, and courageous. She asked me to come. She asked me to come inside of her. She took me. I didn’t even say a word. I would have stayed. I would have joined her. But that wasn’t why I was there. I was a segue. I was a viaduct. She just watched me with one eye open while I rifled her handbag, and grabbed a stack of her records and let myself out. The meaning was in Craig’s foul heart. It began and ended there. It didn’t mean shit to me.

To scream at the moon, run up the street as fast as I could with tears running out of my eyes, track all over my arms, scars all over my body, shit in my pants, piss down my legs and imagine that I was making some sort of sacrifice for truth, or giving myself with devotion to art and an expression of something vivid, modern, and real meant nothing. If there wasn’t anyone there to see me. If there was no proof, then it may as well have never even happened.

Allowing his hands to reach around me and caress my scrotum. To smell his cop cologne and cigarette breath while he does his thing behind me was a means of accepting that I was nothing. That this meant nothing. Maybe in the mind of the pig, he was enjoying some fantasy of dominance. He was living out some helpless, decidedly little dicked dream of power, control, and filth. He was a married cop. But he needed me. He needed some degree of touching, intimacy, compliance, resistance, struggle, and surrender. It was what made it work for him. But it was nothing to me. It was only an infection in his own needing, wanting, shivering heart that had value. Just lust. Just a primal, helpless need. Nothing I imagine he had ever really thought about. Nothing he could face. Nothing all the gin he was drinking could erase.

The idea occurred to me that maybe the protest against debauchery, frivolity, and excess. My jealous hatred for the beautiful people in discotheques and polyester pant-suits, bra-less 70’s boobs, people with money, people with hope, people who could look at themselves in the mirror and feel nothing but respect and love despite their own detestable participation in a world which doesn’t care, could give a flying fuck about anything but bank balanced, credit reports, property, and power was nothing more than a selfish and petty pantomime of self hatred.

Fuck you. Why did you kill yourself? You shit head. We’re all as confused as you are. We’re all as totally fucked up and strung out as you are. No one knows the answer. And yeah, the pain is almost too much. But you fucking chickened out. You pussied out and took a powder. And I believed in you. Wanted to be like you. I was listening carefully. But you were full of shit.

“The mistake Sid made was that he believed in all this bullshit” was the quote. Some clown with a half afro slobbering about what had gone wrong. What the fuck do you know? I figured that if Jimmy Pursey could see the ignorance and horror of his skinhead movement, turn around and create music about equality and truth, then fucking anything was possible. It’s not really uncanny that the new Sham 69 music sucked, but somehow when you have a change of heart, the music has to change too. I didn’t have to understand it, or even like it. No one did really. ‘The Game’ was a terrible album. But it reflected something that I was proud of. Gave me hope that there might be something besides racism and hate. But then again, nothing really felt quite as good to me as really dirty, hateful music. Pain. Pain was the path. An expression. Globalizing my insides, without developing a language to discover myself, but to blame the world. And resonate with anyone I could find. More often than not I was left alone. Like now. Like right here. Just standing here feeling chumped, duped, had, hoodwinked, stupid.

If you don’t believe the bullshit, then what the fuck is there to believe in?

I believe in a needle. I believe in a bag of dope. I believe in nothing. I fucking hate you. Fuck you. You cop. You faggot. You sell out. You shit for brains little no-good piece of shit.

So when there was no one left, and I was tired of standing there trying to feel something.
Something I just didn’t feel.

I went home.

I didn’t give a shit

The Germs ‘Lexicon Devil’


Table of contents
Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23, Chapter 24
Musicology, Errata