The Lusty Lady

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Back around 1990 I used to know this beautiful young stripper. She was the girlfriend of a good friend of mine. So that’s how I got to know her.

She was about 19, with a wholesome, girlish beauty. She had big, glassy cat-eyes, and short but thick black hair, and long long legs. She was a number. Generally she dressed fairly conservatively when she wasn’t working. But — like a lot of off-duty strippers — she usually had this subtle, little extra dash of sexuality to her look that hinted at her possible availability.

She worked at the Lusty Lady Theater in San Francisco. One of the hipper strip clubs (lot of women with tattoos and piercings). And we would sometimes have long conversations on the telephone, and she liked to titillate me with stories about some of the weird things her customers asked her to do (like pissing in a bucket or doing weird lesbian acts). I had worked at the Mitchell Brothers strip club when I was a young man (no, not as a stripper). So we had that mileau in common. So we would trade stories about some of the weird stuff we had seen. I was fascinated with the subject of sex back then and used to think about sex all the time (every now and then I could also think about sports, but that was about it).

We also both wrote columns for one of the more prominent punk rock zines of the times. So we had that in common, too. And we would exchange gossip about some of the local hipsters and scenesters that we both knew.

But I think the main reason she was interested in me was because I was good friends with her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend — the one before her. And i think she sort of viewed the ex as a potential rival. So she would sort of ply me for information about her character (and potential weaknesses) in case she ever got into a cat-fight with the ex over the boyfriend, and needed some weapons in her arsenal. She was kind of Machivelian like that, viewed the people around her as kind of chess pieces on a chessboard, And you always sensed that her interest in you was tied into whether you were useful to her. She had a cute, girlish manner, but you could sense a definite hardness under the surface. Something I guess you needed to survive in her profession. With its underlying premise of: You can use me if I can use you.

Like a lot of young lovers, she and her boyfriend had their fair share of drama and spectacular fights. And sometimes they’d break up, and she’d be crying and wailing and imploring him to take her back. I think my friend could never get used to the fact that his girlfriend was a prostitute (she was too classy to be a streetwalker, but I think she usually had a string of sugar daddies lined up on the side).

Anyways, they finally had one last big fight and broke up for good. And that was the last I ever saw of her.

Until around 1998. I was walking across the Berkeley campus when this attractive, young co-ed stopped in front of me and said “Ace??” Turned out she was using the money that she earned stripping to put herself through college. Which I thought was admirable. So many of the women in that mileau get stuck in that sexual underground. And when they lose their sexual attractiveness they’re pretty much used up. But when youre beautiful and intelligent and full of ambition (like her) all sorts of doors open up to you.

We sat on a campus bench and talked about old times. Her ex-boyfriend — and my friend — had ended up killing himself. “I don’t know what I saw in that loser,” she said (like I said, she was a bit of a hardened case).

And we talked about the punk rock zine we used to write for. I ended up having a falling out with the publisher, concluded he was slimy and dishonest and disassociated myself with his magazine. But he had recently died, so the local punk scene was buzzing with glowing tributes and hagiography in honor of the allegedly great man. So she asked me if that had changed my opinion of him. “Hell no,” I said. “I still think he’s a dirtbag.” (I guess I’m a little hardened myself).

And that was the last time I ever saw her. I have no idea how her life turned out. But if I had to take a guess, I’d say she married some rich guy and lives in a suburb somewhere, and is a prim and proper and respectable middle-aged lady. And most of the woman at the local PTA would probably never guess about her colorful past history.

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Rancid

 

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Whenever I see the Rancid logo I get a funny feeling.  And I’ll think back to this long-lost night around 1990.  I was hanging out at this little xerox shop on Fulton just up from Shattuck.  My punk rock friend David worked there, and he printed up 400 copies of my Twisted Image newsletter every month for free, when the boss wasn’t looking.  So I was killing time waiting for David to finish up the job.

This other young punk kid was at another one of the xerox machines.  He had a crude, hand-drawn logo for this new punk band he had just started.  And he was printing up home-made stickers.  He had a shaved head and a studded black leather jacket — the standard uniform back then.  And all I could think of was:

“Sheesh. Just what the world needs. One more high school kid starting up yet another punk rock band.  They’ll probably break up and be forgotten before they even get their first record out, just like the zillions of other punk bands before them.”

The guy’s name was Lint. And he was avid to talk to me, because I wrote a column for Maximum RocknRoll, a zine he probably had been reading religiously since it’s first issue.  And because he was a friendly, out-going type.  And because he had a sincere interest in anyone who was part of “the scene” (as we called it back then). And he was probably hoping I’d hype his new band in my column.

But I had just about zero interest in him or his band.  I had been following the Punk Rock movement practically since the beginning, since the Sex Pistols in 1976.  So by 1990 the whole thing had pretty much lost most of it’s fascination for me.  Let alone some kid who had played in some band that played at this little club called the Gilman Street Project, which I also had zero interest in.

David’s girlfriend was also hanging around at the xerox shop that night.  She was this incredibly beautiful young stripper who also wrote a column for Maximum RocknRoll.  And she, too, was avid to talk to me.   Mostly because I was good friends with David’s ex-girlfriend, the one he had been going out with right before her.  And I think she viewed her as a potential rival.  So she was avid to ply me for any information about her that I might have.

So every time Lint tried to talk to me, she would sort of rudely rebuff him. Like: “Hey kid, can’t you see that me and Ace are two very important people who write very important columns for Maximum RocknRoll and are trying to have a very important conversation. So will you butt out and go back to xeroxing your stupid logo for your nowhere band.”  Ha ha.

Of course, Rancid would go on to becoming one of the best-selling punk bands of all time.

So the incident always reminded me of how a situation can have a certain meaning at the time. And then, years later, it can take on a completely different meaning.

You know?

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Punk Rock 1982 Punk Rock 2002

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Originally published December 13, 2002

This crew of gutter punks have swamped into our scene lately, meaning sure doom for our campsite. Most of them are good guys; 18, 19, 20-years-old. But they all have this “Bad Boy” act that is almost laughable. They all think they’re such big rebels and non-conformists. And they express their rebellion mostly by getting drunk and trashing out the spots where we hang-out, and setting fires to the campus bulletin board, and pissing and puking everywhere. “FUCK SHIT UP!” is their credo, and they live by that.

They justify their brainless acts of destruction with sort of a vague, “anti-corporation/anti-society” ideology. I overheard a typical conversation between two of these “bad boy” Gutter Punks the other day.

“I never shoplift from, like, Mom-and-Pop stores, man,” said the one. “I only steal from the big, corporate-owned places. Like, I go into Andronico’s and steal big bottles of whiskey and vodka from them all the time. And I, like, give it away and share it with all the other kids, man.” Why, he’s a regular Robin Hood. And getting drunk and puking all over the sidewalk is a revolutionary act, man.

Most of the street people in my crew are older; in their 40s and 50s. Most of us have worked at mainstream jobs at some point in our lives. We have nothing AGAINST the mainstream, or mainstream people. We just prefer not to be part of it.

These punk kids, on the other hand, have a hatred of the corporations, the System, the Mainstream, Society, whatever you want to call it. “Fuck Yuppies!” they’ll yell at passing straight-looking people. The Enemy. You wonder where this pose came from….

And I flash back to 1982 and Tim Yohannon — publisher of Maximum RocknRoll. I have sort of a strange, personal connection with MRR, for my own publication, Twisted Image #1, came out at the same time as Maximum RocknRoll #1 in the fabled summer of 1982. We were both inspired by the energy and excitement that was swirling around at that time. But we both had completely different takes on the burgeoning phenomenon that was “Punk Rock 1982.” Whereas MRR constantly and enthusiastically urged young high school kids to “join The Scene,” I described the punk movement in TI# 1 (in a record review of the just- released “Punk & Disorderly” album) as: “…the perfect soundtrack to the Apocalypse.” No, I was hardly saying “Come and join the scene.”

Tim Yohannon was famous for (and probably proud of) his ability to indoctrinate impressionable young kids with his quasi-socialist, anti-corporation spew. Why, those corporations were evil. And any self-respecting punk who had anything to do with those heinous corporations was a “sell-out” or a “poseur” or worse. This was an odd stance coming from the mouth of Tim Yohannon, considering that he spent the whole time he was publishing MRR working for UC Berkeley, one of the largest corporations in Berkeley, if not the state of California. And he was entitled to retirement benefits and full health coverage, etc., even as he was spewing out his anti-corporate harangues to these impressionable young kids — setting them up to go charging down a blind-alley that led to nothing. But, as always, Tim Yohannon did it all for The Scene, so it was different.

He was famous for condemning and attacking anyone who “exploited the punk scene for personal gain, man.” And yet you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who profited more handsomely from the Bay Area punk scene than Tim Yohannon himself. Yohannon ran MRR for 15 years, called all the shots, controlled virtually every facet of it. But you see, MRR was run as a “collective,” and he had a band of stooges who rubber-stamped anything he wanted to do. So you see, Yohannon himself never TECHNICALLY gained personally from MRR. Why, MRR was proof positive of “socialism in action.” And besides, any benefit Yohannon derived from MRR was done, not for personal gain — oh heaven forbid no — but for The Good of The Scene, man. Because Tim Yohannon was such a wonderful, selfless man. Like the big house he owned — oh excuse me, MRR owned — where he called the shots and decided who lived there and who didn’t. But it’s not as if Yohannon was the de facto landlord. Oh no, it was all done for The Scene. Or the $20,000 in cash that he regularly kept in a locked box under his bed which he controlled, which he decided where it was spent and who it was given to. This, too, was done for The Scene. It was just one of the many great sacrifices he made on behalf of The Scene.

And he had all sorts of funny rules at the Maxi Pad, this too was all done on behalf of the scene. Like his rules that “couples” weren’t allowed to live there. This was done, no doubt, to break the bonds of the patriarchal, monogamous, White-Male-dominated Power Structure. No doubt. In theory. But in effect it meant that any teenage punkette that wandered into the MRR house was fair game for this 50-year-old weasel, Tim Yohannon, who would be waiting for them on his bed, with the $20,000 in cash stashed underneath, and the power to decide who gets to keep a roof over their heads and who has to leave, and you can be sure that the chicks knew what the score was. Why, Tim Yohannon was doing it for The Scene yet again. What a great man he was, this slimy little weasel. Now I don’t wish to be casting aspersions on anyone’s sex trip — Lord knows the power exchange between men and women is OFTEN a brutal exchange. But what was doubly slimy about Tim Yohannon was how his high-sounding, “selfless” ideology, always — miraculously — seemed to coincide with his own personal self-interests. Such a coincidence.

Another rule, of course, was that “corporate rock” was banned from the MRR house. Why, if some unsuspecting punk kid dared to enter the house with a Ramones album, or, heaven forbid, a Sex Pistols album (what phony corporate punks THEY were), he’d be Banished From The Scene (horror of horrors). Because the punk rock revolutionaries at MRR were against the corporations, man. Then Yohannon would turn on his television set and watch “Perry Mason” and all the other corporate drivel that spewed out of his TV set. But that was different, somehow (don’t ask me how).

And who can forget the special issue of MRR about punk chicks working as strippers and whores, with Tim Yohannon himself breathlessly interviewing the young girls. What a wonderful thing this was, according to the world of Yohannon. Young punk girls turning their backs on the horrible, sexist, corporate world to become truly independent and free-thinking riot grrl-type revolutionaries. What a wonderful role model this Tim Yohannon fellow was for his youthful and impressionable audience of teenagers.

In the late ’80s, early ’90s, I actually appeared in MRR for while. To be fair (to myself), I submitted my comics and writing to literally hundreds of publications, virtually anybody who wanted to print it. And I got published in an astonishing cross-section of papers, of which I take a certain pride. Leftwing papers, rightwing papers. Middle-of-the-road papers. Hippie papers. Punk papers. Anti-racism papers. Blatantly racist papers. Underground papers. Mainstream papers. My work appeared in everything from USA TODAY, to 8-page zines xeroxed off by high school kids. So, for about a year, my comics and writing appeared in MRR. Then one issue Yohannon wrote a column eulogizing and glorifying Huey Newton, this great, great man. In fact Huey Newton was nothing but a thug, a murderer, a rapist, a crack-dealer (though you’d never know from reading MRR). So in the next issue I mildly took Yohannon to task for this (not mentioning Yohannon by name, because I half-expected what was coming), as well as pointing out a few home-truths about another thug (oh excuse me, “’60s revolutionary”), George Jackson, who had recently been glorified in MRR.

So I get a phone call from Tim Yohannon later that week. Alas, “they” (not him of course) had decided to stop running my column. He, of course, wanted to continue to run my column. But that darn “MRR committee” had voted against it. It had nothing to do with my political views or criticism of him, he assured me (oh heavens to Betsy no). But that I had suddenly become a “bad writer that nobody wanted to read” and that my literary abilities were no longer up to the high standards set by the 17-year-old punk kids who largely wrote the magazine. He wanted to keep running my comics — which he could selectively edit, of course — but I told him I didn’t want to have anything more to do with a slimeball like him. And so, out of the hundreds and hundreds of publications that I allowed to run my work, MRR would go down as the only one that I WOULDN’T let run my work.

In truth, Yohannon was one of those slimy little weasels where virtually everything that came out of his mouth was a self-serving lie or double-talk. He was one of those guys who talked like a lawyer, endlessly shading his meaning, splitting hairs, giving purposely false impressions, saying one thing while manipulating the exact opposite thing behind the scenes. One of those guys you felt the need to take a shower after talking to him because you felt like you’d been covered with a layer of his slime.

What he mostly reminded me of was a 50-year-old loser who never got to hang out with the “Cool Crowd” in high school, so now at age 50 he finally could play at being the Big Man to 17-year-old kids, and now he got to decide who the Cool Clique was (with him as the coolest of the clique, of course). In truth, his only real talent was the ability to intellectually bully naive 17-year-old boys (or adults who still had the mentality of one).

On the other hand, there was something almost poignant and sympathetic about his partner, and MRR co-founder, Jeff Bale. Because Bale was so dumb, you sensed he actually believed it. He was the True Believer (whereas Yohannon spent so much time and energy covering up his double-talk, you knew on some level that he knew it was bullshit). Recently, Bale — 20 years too late — came to the startling conclusion that Maximum RocknRoll was pushing “a rigid, politically-correct orthodoxy” on the unsuspecting public, man (tell me its not SO, Jeff!). And that MRR was stifling the free expression of free-thinking iconoclasts (like him). So he began publishing a dull, generic, “alternative” rock rag to set the world on fire (alternative to WHAT, you might ask). Why, The Scene has been saved at last! This was so hilarious to me, I couldn’t resist getting in a few digs at Bale’s expense. To which Bale responded by bragging about the incredible “impact” he’s had on the world (unlike me, of course, whose criticisms of Bale were no doubt inspired by my jealousy at his great accomplishments…whatever THEY happened to be). I wrote back: “People like you and Yohannon are just typical politicians who saw the parade going by and jumped up in front and pretended to lead it; parasites who attached themeselves to the energy of youth-culture.”

In truth, the punk kids that fell for MRR’s political blather were just cannon fodder sacrificed at the altar of Yohannon and Bale’s worthless, “failed-60s-radical” political horseshit.

MRR is still being published to this day. And it is a most peculiar specimen to behold. It is as if the world froze in the summer of ’82. And there is Maximum RocknRoll. This dead thing. This petrified fossil from a bygone era. Like something you’d find under a rock. Where nothing new ever grows. Endlessly repeating the same endlessly-repeated blather. Forever. This dreary smudge of black newsprint. Strange, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, the gutter punk kids are flopped out on the streets of every city in America, begging for money and fucking shit up (but at least they’re not supporting The System, man). Maybe what they need is yet another anti-corporate, anti-America lecture from the political geniuses at MRR to set them straight

The Strange Case of Maximum Rocknroll


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(originally published May 20, 2008)                                                                                  

For years now, there’s been these clumps of  “gutter punks” flopped out on the sidewalks of Berkeley.   They sit there spare-changing and getting drunk and stoned and fighting.  But mostly they just sit there.  They remind me of a bunch of beached flounders.  They seem like some kind of stunted organism that has stopped developing.  When I look at them, I often get this strange acid flashback . .

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I saw the Sex Pistols last concert at Winterland in January of 1978.  I remember saying to a friend during the ride home:  “When punk rock hits the high schools, its gonna catch on like wild-fire.”  And then  . . . .   nothing happened.  So I figured I was wrong about Punk Rock like I was wrong about most everything else.

Then, in the summer of 1982, when I was living in quiet Humboldt County, I got an excited phone call from my friend Mary Mayhem.  “Its unbelievable!”  said Mary.  “There’s been all these punk rock shows with all these kids with mohawks slam-dancing and stage-diving and bouncing off walls!  Its wild!”

I was madly in love with Mary at the time, so I dragged my ass back to San Francisco and checked out a punk band called Fear at the Elite Club (formerly the Filmore West).  It was indeed wild.  And I decided to start an underground punk rock newspaper to capture the energy of this emerging youth culture.  I interviewed Fear and that was the big feature for what became TWISTED IMAGE # 1.  Around the exact same time, MAXIMUM ROCKROLL # 1 was published, with somewhat similar intentions.

So I’d always feel a weird connection with MAXIMUM ROCKROLL.  Like two seeds that were spawned from the same soil, but developed in quite different directions.  From the beginning, the differences were clear.  MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL saw the punk rock movement as a progressive social force.  They were constantly proseletyzing on behalf of “the scene” and urging kids to join up and get involved with “the punk rock community.”  I, on the other hand, could sum up my feelings by a review I wrote for the record “Punk & Disorderly” in TWISTED IMAGE # 1.   “Punk rock is the perfect soundtrack for the Apocalypse.”  Like a war reporter, I looked at punk as a fascinating, but ultimately dark and destructive, historical movement.  Join up at your own risk, kiddies.

So TWISTED IMAGE and MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL mostly existed as two seperate parrallel universes.  But then in the late-80s I was working as a free-lance cartoonist and writer and my stuff was getting published in hundreds of zines, mags, comics and newspapers.  So MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL started running a column and comics by me every month.  We were co-existing fine until one issue when the publisher of MRR, Tim Yohannon, published a glowing eulogy for the just-deceased Huey Newton, the former Black Panther leader, along with a glowing book  review of fellow Panther George Jackson’s prison diaries.

Well, this slightly irritated me.  Because, in fact, Huey Newton was a violent, crack-dealing, murdering lunatic.  No hero in my book.  And the same goes for George Jackson.  In fact, Jackson’s book was actually ghost-written by Fay Stender (a Berkeley activist), who later repudiated her own bullshit after she got shot and paralyzed for life by one of Jackson’s thugs for, allegedly “betraying the revolution.”

So I submitted a column for the next issue of MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL, mildly chiding them for glorifying this thug Huey Newton, and laying out the real story about Jackson’s book.

Before the issue went to press, I got a phone call from Tim Yohannon telling me they had decided to drop my column.  “It has nothing to do with your politics, of course,” he assured me.  “But the MRR collective has decided that you’re a bad writer that nobody wants to read.”

Now, I may not be Shakespeare, but my writing has been read by millions of readers, so it was mildly annoying to be told that my work was no longer up to the high literary standards set by a magazine that was mostly written and read by 17-year-old boys (and chronological adults who still had the minds of 17-year-old boys).  And plus, Yohannon was full of shit. And he knew it, and he knew that I knew it.  So I told him to get fucked, and I told him they couldn’t run my comics either (the only publication I ever denied my comics to, so there’s another MRR claim to fame).  It wasn’t like my ego was bruised or anything  —  hell, as a free-lancer, I’d had my work rejected and accepted by hundreds of editors, it went with the territory. But something about the whole deal stunk.

TIm Yohannon  —  the MRR co-founder  — was an interesting character.  He was one of those guys who talked like a lawyer.  Virtually everything that came out of his mouth (in my experience) was a lie, or double-talk, or purposefully misleading (then he could defend himself by saying TECHNICALLY he hadn’t been lying).  Just one of those types.   A little weasel who was endlessly described as “manipulative.”

This manipulative quality was a trait that came in good stead when, for example, he was working through all the buerocratic red-tape that it took to get the Gilman Street Project going.  And he was the driving force behind that thing.  I remember as early as 1983, when I was still a San Francisco bike messenger, Yohannon coming up to me and talking up the Gilman Street project.  And its still going today, perhaps the possitive side of Yo’s legacy.  For the East Bay youth now have a place where they can blast out punk rock power chords and scream and yell at ear-splitting volume.  As well as learn valuable life-skills such as how to publish a fan-zine and design rad band logos.  By all accounts, Yohannon was a hard worker, with excellent organizational skills.

I’m not sure what exactly irked me the most about Tim Yohannon.  For he was a man who inspired many, many irkesome reactions.  As well as many of the possitive variety, too.  He had been a radical, campus activist in the late-60s.  And now here he was in the ’80s, proseletyzing that same failed bullshit to another generation of naive youth.  He was always railing against “the multi-national corporations,” of course.  Which was odd, considering that Yohannon worked for one of the biggest corporations in the state —  the University of California  — with full health  benefits and retirement plan.  Something I doubt many of the punk kids who bought into his dead-end vision of anti-corporate rhetoric, would enjoy.

And, of course, anyone who came into the Maxi pad with a record from one of those “evil corporate record companies”  —  for instance, fake punks like the Sex Pistols, Clash, Ramones, etc  — was  instantly banned from the Maxi kingdom as a hopeless poseur.  Ahh, the evil corporate media.   But even odder, Yohannon would then turn on his television set and watch “Perry Mason” and all the other corporate junk that spewed from his TV set.  But somehow, that was different.

Probably nobody railed more than Tim Yohannon  against those “sell-outs” who exploited the sacred punk rock movement for personal gain.  But, oddly, probably nobody reaped more benefits from the Bay Area punk scene than Tim Yohannon himself.  Like the house he was able to buy for himself (oh, excuse me, it was owned by “the Maximum Rocknroll collective”).  And Yohannon decided who could live there and who got kicked out and what the ground rules of the house were (one of his odd rules were “no boyfriends and girlfriends allowed”  — which I guess meant that all the chicks were open season for the host).  Or the little metal box stuffed with $20 grand that he kept under his bed, and he decided who would or wouldn’t get chunks of the dough, as well as who would be beholden to him.

But Yohannon  — selfless saint that he was  — did this all for The Greater Good of the Punk Rock Movement.  So it was cool.  It probably all came down to the fact that he was a 50-year-old geezer who liked to hit on teenage chicks.  It usually comes down to that, doesn’t it.  But I’m sure he did this for the greater glory of punkdom also.

In truth, he reminded me of the nerd who never got to hang out with the cool clique in high school.  So now he was living  out his fantasy as a middle-age man, the head of the coolest clique of high school punks.  Weird when you think of it.

Yohannon called all the shots at MRR from beginning to end.  Then, the stooges and yes-men that made up “the Maximum Rockroll collective” would rubber-stamp whatever decision Yohannon had come up with.  So it was held up as a sterling example of socialism in action.  And here’s to the new punks, same as the old punks.

Finally, he ended up getting cancer and died at age 52.  I suspect, as it often is the case with these things, that his own body got sick of hanging out with him and checked out. Just as so many of his former friends and associates came to the same conclusion.  For his last request, as he lay on his death bed, he requested from his huge and legendary record collection, “The Ha Ha Song” by Flipper, those legendary nihilistic burn-outs.   And, on that note, he faded into eternity.

MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL, the magazine, still lives on today.  I stumbled upon a copy a couple years ago.  And it looks remarkably the same as it did in 1982.  It was a strange sight.  Like discovering a petrified fossil under a rock  — this dead thing, frozen in time, where nothing new can ever grow and develop.

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Ahh, these weird nostalgic musings as I pass the gutter punks flopped out on the sidewalk.  Its a long way from 1982.  Perhaps these gutter punks need yet another “anti-corporate” lecture from the political geniuses at MRR.  Or perhaps they need to get a job.

Karma

 

 

The more things change the more they keep getting weirder and weirder

(Originally published October 6, 2005)

Tim Armstrong
I was walking down Durant Avenue the other day and there was this gutter punk-looking kid wearing a derby hat, sitting on the sidewalk leaning against a building. As I passed I overheard a pedestrian say to him: “You look really familiar. You’re Tim Armstrong of Rancid!”

I looked back over my shoulder and gave Tim a quick look and a smile of recognition.  Then I kept walking. I was half-way down Telegraph by the Berkeley Market when I heard him come running after me (you know those punks with their clod-hopping boots, you can hear them from a mile away).

“Hey how you doin’,” said Tim. “I haven’t seen you in a while.” We stood there on Telegraph for a while making sort of awkward small talk. I shook his hand. “You really did good,” I said. “You’ve come a long way. I remember that time I was talking to you in that Xerox shop a long time ago, and you were Xeroxing off home-made stickers for your new band. And I thought:  ‘Another kid in his fucking punk band!’ And every time I see your picture on the front page of a magazine I think about that.” Tim sort of smiled at the memory, which suddenly seemed a LONG time ago. Another lifetime ago.

He offered me a copy of the latest Rancid CD.  Which I stupidly turned down.  “I don’t have a CD player,” I said.

“So what are you doin’?” he kept asking me. “You still cartooning? You got any of your stuff on you?” Tim Armstrong is really rare among “performer” types. He’s actually genuinely interested in somebody other than himself.

I asked him how he was dealing with “fame” and he sort of shrugged it off with a pained look. “Fame” is such an ironic joke after all, and it’s so different — so less satisfying, so much more mind-fucking — than most non-famous people would ever believe.

“My Dad’s dying. He’s 70 years old,” said Tim.”That’s why I’m back in town.”

There was always this keen yearning in his eyes. This painful, urgent longing. For something more. And this soulful look of emotional distress. Some people just have an extra charge to them. I’m sure it’s one of the things that compelled him towards his fame.

Tim Armstrong was always one of those punk kids I dubbed “from the Class of ’82.”  That first wave of Bay Area high school punk kids. And now, the “scene” had come and gone, and he’s still living out the whole Punk Rock fantasy. It always meant more to him, somehow. I could always tell. He BELIEVED in “punk.” And he had this camaraderie about his fellow punkers. His “people.” His “community.” I’m sure that’s what I mean to him, as somebody from the ancient past who was part of all that, a long, long time ago.  I’m sure he’s the spark, the glue, that keeps his band together.

Right before we parted he gave me a big bear hug.

“The legendary Lint,” I said. And I walked off down the street, feeling strangely buzzed.   Honored even.

It was doubly weird because just the other day I had a bad scene with this homeless ne-er-do-well who stole a bunch of stuff from my vending table and I had to chase him down the street waving a metal chair in the air. And so we have a war going and he’s been threatening me and I’ve been threatening him. And it’s just weird that on the one hand I have this total loser who comes up to me and degrades me, and calls me a “drunk” and a “bum” and “worthless.” While on the other hand I have this internationally-famous rock star who runs up to me to hug me and tells me what a great guy I am. Weird. And none of this life makes any sense, does it?  It’s like being on a movie set where one minute you’re in a Three Stooges episode and the next minute you’re in a weird futuristic science fiction space epic.

And I thought back to one of the last times I had seen Tim of Rancid. It must have been around 1990. I was at this Xerox shop getting my Twisted Image newsletter printed up.  My punk rock friend David worked there and printed up 400 copies for free every month.  David was 25, four years before he suicided.

Lint (as Tim was known back then) was Xeroxing off crude, home-made stickers of his new band “Rancid.” All I could think was “Another fucking high school punk kid with his punk band.” Lint kept wanting to talk to me, because I had a column in Maximum Rock’n’Roll (that crucial fanzine) so I was a Big Man in the little punk rock pond. I had never heard of Lint’s previous band, Operation Ivy, let alone his new band Rancid, and even if I had I hardly would have been impressed. I had already interviewed Johnny Rotten, Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins, Charles Bukowski, and R. Crumb. So I was hardly impressed by some punk kid who played in a band at Gilman.

David’s sexpot girlfriend Katie “What’s that smell” O’Dell was also there that night in that long-gone Xerox shop. She also had a column in Maximum Rock’n’Roll, so we were Important People on the Scene. This was back when Katie was a 21-year-old stripper at the Lusty Lady — she had long legs and glassy marble eyes — what a sex doll she was.  She kept wanting to talk to me about my friend Mary Mayhem. She was intensely curious about Mary, who was the Mysterious Other Woman in David’s life.

So every time Lint tried to talk to me, Katie would sort of butt in and put Lint down, like: “Hey, would you butt out, you little nowhere punk kid. Me and Ace are trying to have a very important conversation here!”

Years later, I would think back on that night in the Xerox shop every time I saw Lint’s photo on the cover of Spin or Rolling Stone or whatever.

What’s weird is how everything can change with every spin on the karmic wheel. On one spin, Lint is this nowhere punk kid and I’m this big hot-shot in the Punk Scene. And then, on the next spin, he’s this internationally-famous rock star, and I’m this homeless bum sleeping in the bushes. And who knows where any of us will be on the next spin of the wheel.