PUNK: Lonesome American Memoirs

21: On the floor in the women’s bathroom

At the beginning, when I was just a kid, it wasn’t a good idea to hang around near the bar at a club. Even though I was tall, a decent bartender would spot me and ask me for my ID. What worked to get through the door (Mike’s birth certificate or my tight Levis) rarely worked with bartenders. So it was one of two places: The dance floor, or the women’s bathroom.

At the Mabuhay I made some friends in the women’s room. I’d be in there on the floor and people would come in and just use the toilet. Sometimes we’d strike up a conversation.

“What are you doing in here?”

“I don’t know.”

“This floor is gross.”


I was taken home and looked after by a few very nice women I’d met on the floor of that bathroom.

The women’s bathroom at tenth street hall was much better. It was bigger, and there was a little bench on the way in. So I’d just go straight there, shoot up and then lay on the bench. The line of girls would back up and I’d just be hanging out there making fun of the trendies, and letting my friends sit on me, or kick me and try to get me the hell out of there.

I thought it was charming. It was a great way to meet girls.

The bathrooms at the temple were nice too. I met a girl named Kari there. She was watching me act like a goof ball, mocking the hippie women who had come to the show. I was trying to get her to smile, but she wasn’t going to. No way.

I grabbed her as she was leaving the bathroom and pulled her down beside me on the floor. We just sat there together and people watched.

“Are you a vampire?” She asked me.


“I thought so.”

She was pretty and funny, and a little shy. I liked the beauty mark she had on her lip. I tried to wipe it off, thinking it was a mistake or maybe added for extra glamour.

“It’s a mole” she said and then looked down.

The bathrooms at Rat’s palace were filthy. Too filthy for me to sit in. Same with the Tool and Die. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t think I ever went into the bathrooms at the Tool and Die. There were tables, and it was a different scene.

Toward the end I was still doing this. I was still spending all night in the women’s bathroom. Only I was unconscious. Or I was in a stall hitting girls who couldn’t hit themselves. They would let me wash the baggies. And sometimes they’d actually buy me something.

I wanted to see a lot of bands at the On Broadway, really I did. So many great bands came through there. I never saw a single one of them. I was always at the show. But I’d be in the women’s bathroom, sitting on the floor passed out. It stopped being charming. I stopped caring if the floor was clean or not.

A bouncer would wake me up at two fifteen, my face covered in black bathroom floor gunk, and they wouldn’t let me wash it off. I had to get out.

One night I got there late, and Denz had taken up residence in the bathroom ahead of me. I leaned against the doorway and watched him in action. He was grinning like a dork, and flirting with everyone. He was digging through some trendy girl’s purse and she was giggling. I thought he looked so fucking stupid. But the thing is he had taken my spot. He was working my racket. He was doing exactly what I would have been doing if only I’d arrived there a little bit earlier.

So I went out and sat at a table. That poor, cranky cocktail waitress. No one ever bought a drink from her. That had to be the worst job in the world. Tess was out on the floor with Kenny and Glen. Glen was huge, and kind. He liked Tess a lot. I was glad that he stole her away from me. I had gotten into it with him a long time before over a ten-dollar bag of speed that me and him and one other guy were supposed to split. I got the whole bag by accident, thank you Leslie. After I couldn’t pay the guy back he tried to get Glenn, who really was huge, to rough me up and drag it out of me. I liked Glen. He was ok.

He had been telling Tess stuff like, “That guy’s a shit bag.” And “I would love you so much.” The thing is he was right. So I never made a fuss. I had no idea why Tess had ever hung around with me.

I kept looking over my shoulder to see if fucking Denz had come out of the bathroom or not. He was still in there. Fucker.

Some girl who looked older than most of the people bought me a drink and said, “You don’t remember me do you?”

I looked into her face. She had dyed black hair, but it was styled, all rockabilly. I hated rockabillies. She had familiar lips, and olive skin. Nope. I had no idea who she was.

Steve and Brad and a couple of my old friends walked though. They looked like they were having a good time.

I pricked up my ear for a minute to listen to the band. It was some weird, slow rock music. What was that? Black Flag was supposed to be playing, right? I didn’t remember anymore. I was just pissed off that I couldn’t sit in the women’s bathroom.

“Denz, dude, get the fuck out of here…”

“Why so you can sit here all night? Fuck you! I’m having fun.”

“Yeah, get out of here.”

I went and sat down at the top of the stairs. What the fuck was I doing here?

I watched Kris, Eileen and Rachel slug a girl for being trendy, and she went and got Dirk, the owner. There was a little skirmish and then Kris just hauled off and slugged Dirk in the face and dropped him.

He was an enigma. He had run the Mab for years, and was famous for walking up on the stage at one forty five whether the band was done or not and shouting, “Get out!” into the mic. He meant it. And he said it just the right way. So everyone would get out.

Watching Kris just paste him one like that, the squinted look that his face took on, glasses flying everywhere, made me feel old. My hair was getting long. I didn’t have any friends. I was shooting so much dope that I started to call myself a “Peace Punk” just to explain my shitty appearance. I was out of step, and times had changed.

The peace punk thing was just a lame excuse for being too fucked up to do anything. Sitting on the stool behind the counter of a record store was one thing, but getting up and walking around was another. I’d used it as an excuse ever since I got stabbed. I’d used it as an excuse not to back up a friend who took up for my band. He rushed the stage and took a couple of good whacks to the head. I held my dope sick sides and wept. I said I Was all about peace, but the truth is I was afraid now. Chicken even.

I slept a few afternoons away in the bathroom at Universal while I was supposed to be watching the store. I would run up and just do a little. I’d be sitting on the toilet or the floor an hour later and when I came back downstairs the door would be wide open, no music playing, and no one in the store. So I would put on another record and sit back down.

I left the On Broadway that night by myself and rode the F bus to Berkeley. I had no idea it would be the last time I would ever go there. The last time I would ever see any of those people. I just walked to the terminal feeling sorry for myself.

I met a guy on the back of the bus, a drunken Scottish guy. He sang ‘When Robert wears his trousers’ to me over and over. He also advised me about smoking. He explained that smoking was easy to stop. You only had to take a deep breath and hold it a minute whenever you felt like having one.

“Too bad that doesn’t work with liquor.”

“Aye, you got that right laddie,” He said with a grin.

The Specials ‘Little Bitch’


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