Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tail of an AfGhaN DOnKEy

And you can see his sickness

Hovering there

A cloud over this room

Like the whimpering and pathetic

Cry of a child

The faces are old

And new

Different at other tables

The beer is the regulator

His protector, fortress and shield.

Let me tell you a story you won’t understand

The faces now quiet

Eyes like stricken children

He has pounded his fist again,

And all of that excitement

All of that excitement

May he never forget

Those things that never happened

The day he didn’t

Fight like a brave.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Punk Rock War Child

I was in a Southern California music store and fourteen years old in 1999 when I picked up the Dead Kennedy’s album, “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.” In the year before Napster’s big boom, the only way for a young suburban adolescent on a search for a new music genera to buy an album was to present it to the father faculty and hope for acceptance. I was among the last of the paying for music world. My father looked at the CD, the cover was a black and white frame of cars on fire. I must have had the puppy dog eyes on because he looked at me and knew this was important, he bought the album that changed my perspective on life. We took the back road home, through the Angeles Forest Highway, a long and winding road that is the spine of Los Angeles County to the rolling desert of Palmdale, my home. I looked at the cover, wrapped in cellophane, and could not wait to return to my home, I had a feeling something I was looking for was locked inside the disc on the floor.
At the time the music was twenty years old, I heard it and a shockwave ripped my soul and spoke to my adolescent need for subversion and growth. I started going to punk shows, and bought every album I could beg my parents for. In school I met a friend whose uncle had been in the LA punk scene in the eighties. His uncle supplied my friend with an endless collection of punk, and my friend and I embarked on a new way of thought.
I loved the way people fought fair in the punk mosh pits of my youth. We were moved by the music, so we moved, and kicked the shit out of each other but if somebody fell down we picked them up and none of the violence of my scene was in hate. The music of twenty years before was political and complained of the arrogance of modern American society and many times prophesized a fall from grace through our own arrogance. The music of the proceeding generation echoed the same themes but seemed lost in recognition from a commercial market, which is what kept the music pure. Many of us throughout my city started punk bands and continued the tradition, mine was Out Of Ammo.
I would go to school with my “Dickies” pants, different colored “Chuck Taylor” high tops and the most offensive shirt I could find. My usual was from my favorite punk band “Bad Religion”, a white shirt with a red and black depiction of two nuns kissing. The most appealing part of the scene was the never ending narration of the disillusioned American, that this country had not lived up to its expectations, and I listened and heard it but felt compelled to put this hypothesis to the test.
I fell in love with a punk rock girl, we shared the same ideals until I joined the Military. And I left and went away to war. I listened to my music and met a friend in The Marines who shared the same music and values. I asked him in Kuwait what he thought about maybe going to Iraq and he said that he hoped we would not go. We both loved the punk scene before we joined the service. My last show was shortly before I graduated in 2003. My friend and I joined his Uncle in Hollywood for a “Circle Jerks” show. We drove up after school, ate junk food and when the LA skyline appeared I knew I was at home, with the people; the people who questioned authority and were smarter than the morons.
Soon after I signed my Marine Corps contract and met my friend who was my leader, he was killed and the music sings the pain. We tested a system and both got bit by the thing we never believed in. That is the shame, we always knew better but had the guts to go and see if we were right. Pat Tillman did the same. I stayed in my dead friend’s room after the war. A “Black Flag” poster still hung on his door and I remembered a man with a better hope for the future. I slept in the room and recalled a trip I took with my Father and Sister to John Steinbeck country in Monterey California. The year was 2000 and my sister and I explored Monterey by ourselves. I read John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl” on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, and then my little sister and I hit the music shops. We walked into my future as I picked up a “NOFX” album and Bad Religion’s “New America” and I knew that I knew it all. Me and my sister walked into the dawn of a new country, and I paid the price when I knew better. This is the shame and the message that needs to be sent to my future children in a new America.

For C.J. and Michael Cohen