by crystal smith
If you ever wondered what a grumpy old bastard looks like, in case you don't know one, here's one. Cracking up in my favorite tshirt, because I look like an old biker or a Vietnam vet. I'm neither one, nor was meant to be. The only thread I know of that runs through bikers, vets and me is refusal to live a fake life denying true self in order to be obedient to the social hierarchical code. Patti Smith is singing in my head, Outside of society--that's where I wanna be! I believe this explains why I felt so at home, and by home I mean as comfortable as being at home, as I am right now, in the punk club with a hundred or more people of the same mind about the fake society we live in. They were not people shut out of society, but people who can't live in denial and want to separate themselves from the society of climbers, at least on the weekend. The people who have checked out, my people. I didn't know there were so many. I hear Johnny Moss, punk vocalist, telling me when we spoke briefly, "This is the future," referring to the loving spirit of community in the place Saturday night. My intuition felt agreement as he said it. I have felt this to be so. We are in perhaps the darkest time of human history, now. They say it's darkest before dawn, and I can't imagine a time any darker than the time we're in. Dark, I mean, in the human spirit. The 80s were a time of narcissism, though not among the working poor by any means. This time we're in seems best characterized by the word, venality: willingness to do dishonest things in return for money. The venal minded have always been about, but it looks like venality is the nature of our time, from the rich to the poor. It's why we the people cannot take our "representatives" in government seriously. The example they give as "leaders" is socially criminal. They're the kind of people that say punk rockers are a bad example for the young and Muslims worship a fake God.
I hear Bob Dylan singing, Something is happening and you don't know what it is. Corrupt to the core, Capitalism has run its course and is fading out of its own excesses, as foreseen. Capitalism has created immense global poverty in the human population while destroying the earth along with our human spirit. Balance will happen. The changing weather patterns is the earth coming back to balance. I'm feeling a groundswell of humanity is rising to say to the Capitalists draining our life energy, You've dampened our spirit too long. We're taking it back. I've lived my life in refusal to submit to control by my desire for more money. Before I started college, I knew I would never use my degree for a job. I wanted education for my life, not as vocational training. The thing that is happening that I don't know what it is, I suspect is social changes with the new generations of the young. From grumpy old bastard's perspective, anybody under 45 is young. I see in the younger people a consciousness of each other as valid individuals, judging being something other people do, accepting and supporting one another. It's not a hundred percent, but I feel like it is characteristic of today's young. I embrace it. In my fifties, I heard self start two sentences, the kids these days. The second time I heard myself say it, I said, this isn't going to happen a third time. I am not going to become a weary old turd that far separated from reality. I talked with myself quite a long time over it, a few years. I decided to go to a rock concert of the day on my 0 birthdays, starting with the 60th. I went to Ziggy's in Winston-Salem and saw Papa Roach, a California punk band, to get in there, shoulder-to-shoulder, jamming to hard-driving punk, the whole crowd as one. In that crowd I found the kids these days were cool. They had a whole lot more on the ball that the kids my days. They were a happy energy to be in the midst of enjoying some dynamite rock and roll.
dirty south revolutionaries
For seventieth birthday, I went to Charlotte to a small rock club to see Thrice, a hard-core California punk band. They rocked my world. I found a place I assessed the sound the best and stood there with the kids these days all around me loving the music as much as I was. They regarded me with no more nor less respect than they gave each other. It told me I must be a comfortable presence. That I could be everybody's grandpa didn't inhibit anyone. A time or two I felt the urge to say, I'm not a cop, but edited it out, because what it would mean is, I am a cop. One thing I love about white hair is nobody suspects juvenile delinquency of white hair. I get away with a lot. Several years ago a bunch of suburban women become exurban women got together in a club, the Sparta Revitalization committee. I wondered what the Re- was about. I don't know that Sparta had ever been vital, except maybe when they had hangings on the courthouse lawn. The revitalizers took big, ugly, plastic pots, terra-cotta colored, and stuffed a small evergreen in the dirt of each one, putting these in front of shops up and down Main St, known by signage as Highway 21. Half the evergreens died right away. They stayed in the pots dead for a few months. One day I went to the hardware store and got a can of spray paint day-glo orange. I took off my ball cap to show my white hair and walked down the sidewalk, an authority, stopped at the dead ones and sprayed them beautiful orange. It was two weeks before anyone of SRC noticed. Of course, I confessed. First question in great urgency: You didn't paint any of the green ones, did you? First answer: No. Next question: Why did you do it? Next answer: They were ugly and I made them beautiful.
The dawn coming after this time of darkness will be beautiful. I feel like the experience at the Milestone in Charlotte Saturday night was a peephole into the future. As the old Capitalist model of hierarchical, exclusive social behavior that only values money fades away, this new inclusive attitude toward life is coming on among we the people. What I believe Johnny meant when he said, "This is the future," was the spirit of inclusion, of love, of community, of people looking to the well-being of one another. No more tv anchorwoman hairdos. No more studying war. No more manhood meaning the power to beat down the weak. We humans have been out of balance for so long with our true selves, I'm believing we'll be coming back to balance. I feel like the Occupy movement that recently gathered 300,000 in NYC a week or two ago is a movement toward shifting into balance. Like when I'm standing and lean over a little to far and just about lose balance, catch myself and come back to balance. I feel like love energy is coming on among us and the hate energy of the dark time waning. Much hate is coming to the surface now, stirred by the right-wing propaganda machine. The hate has been there a long time. It needs to come to the surface to burn off and go away, get out of our system like a flu virus. It gives me hope in a dark time to see the younger generation of people carry amongst themselves a sincere regard for one another, inclusive, supportive, coming together around the music they love in common. I regard a punk rock band as valid an art form as a chamber quartet. In a country that does not encourage art, the art spirit springs up anyway. I felt like the Spirit of Art was alive and well, even flourishing Saturday night at the Milestone. I was as much in the presence of art as in the audience of Robert Wilson's Einstein On The Beach. The future looks good to me now. Thank you, Johnny.
daniel biggins talking between songs