Friday, March 8, 2013

Never Mind The Bullshit, Here's The Punk Rock

A lot has been made of the Seattle Weekly article by  John Roderick proclaiming "Punk Rock Is Bullshit." When I became aware of it, I went to the original article and read it post-haste. My initial reaction was that the essay was so ridiculous that it must be a contrived and disingenuous work created only to get people talking about the author and his band, The Long Winters. To generate website “hits” if you will. And it worked, I have to admit, I went to The Long Winters page to see what Mr. Roderick is all about. Admittedly, I didn't stay long, just enough to determine that the band creates some well-done jangly and emo-ish rock. 

However, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt and take the essay at face value, that these are really his opinions, his feelings. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, ideally an opinion based on facts. Sadly, Mr. Roderick is flat wrong or extremely misguided in many of the "facts" that he bases his opinions on. His critique of punk rock ideals, accomplishments and ethos is primarily based on amateurish generalizations and a misunderstanding of punk.


Punk never ‘swelled into a Stalinist doctrine of self-denial.’  This is one of the lynchpins of Mr. Roderick’s essay and he is dead wrong. The punk rock I remember was about excess and living life to the fullest (Hello Iggy Pop. Hello Mike Ness). The fastest car, the loudest bike, the newest skateboard, the best turntable, if they could afford it. Of course, for every punk with this mindset, there are those who were “keeping it real” and living a modern-day ascetic lifestyle, but to generalize that this represents punk in its entirety is just foolish.    

Mr. Roderick has some 40-year old friends who don’t have savings accounts and he knows some punk rockers who suffered a failing business. Wow, I didn’t realize that these problems were exclusively ‘punk rock” problems or due to being a “punk.” I suppose he would support making generalizations about the 52-year old waitress or 23-year old painter I know who don’t have bank accounts. Here’s an idea…it’s poverty! It’s living day-to-day. Probably something this son of a politician wouldn’t know about. Speaking of politicians, how about the poster-child of failed business, failed oil tycoon and former United States President George W. Bush. Did his businesses fail because he has punk rock ideals?”

Punk did teach us to rebel against authority. Authority that was suppressing social justice and fairness. Authority did not include “everything,” let alone piano lessons and fire insurance.  Punks do not have contempt for every institution. Punks get married, have children, buy homes, and join the military. It’s funny that Mr. Roderick refers to Fugazi here as the one institution punks can agree on.  I don’t know Ian MacKaye personally, but I know he’s a smart guy. You can bet that he has fire insurance on any buildings that house his very successful Dischord Records music label.

I don’t know the people Mr. Roderick associates with, but this crowd that abhors happiness, has no pride and hates themselves sure seems like a downer. The punk community I'm familiar with loves a good party (karaoke even!) and includes artists of all types that KNOW their work is great and has value.Punks are so much more than the cliched gutter punk sitting in a doorway wrapped in a thrift store blanket. It's a shame that Mr. Roderick is blind to this.

Mr. Roderick’s knowledge of punk rock music is lacking beyond belief.  Contrary to common belief and group-think (his word), the Ramones were far from conservative.They adeptly took their signature punk sound and brought elements of other genres into it.  Listen to what they did with “Wall of Sound” producer Phil Spector on the Pleasant Dreams album. Listen to their take on hardcore punk on the Animal Boy album. Listen to what they did for Stephen King on the theme song for his film Pet Sematary. Sure, it’s not all great, but it’s far from conservative. Finally, if Mr. Roderick believes that he is listening to world-music or the antecedent to the Red Hot Chili Peppers when he hears the first two Clash albums, well I don’t know what to say.
More to come…

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh Fuck, Hank

I wrote this a few years ago when I first started writing a lot. This is the first of a series of (semi) autobiographical short stories. I'm working on four others right now. I'm trying to focus on watershed life moments (first concert, first organized sport team) through the fucked up lens of a lower-class New York City teenager. I realize it's been done before, so what.



“Oh fuck, Hank, what was that? “ The sounds of a great crash and the vibrations of what could only be described as an earthquake reverberate through the basement bedroom I share with Hank, my older brother. I glance toward the alarm clock on the small table next to Hank’s bed. Its pitch black down here, no windows. Great for sleeping, but not for getting up with a start. I can barely make out the hands on the analog clock across the room. What is that luminous stuff they put on the clock hands so you can see them in the dark? Never mind, its 2:30 AM. I guess its AM because I’m not in school Tuesday and last thing I remember is going to sleep Monday night. I still have to think about it though. It’s so dark down here, it’s happened before, assuming its AM when it’s PM.

Another crash and subsequent vibration rattles the walls. “Hank, what is that!?!”

“Sssshhhh!” Hank shushes me so forcefully I can almost see his index finger up to his mouth in the darkness. “Its Dad, I think he came home and fell down while he was eating in the kitchen.” Like magic, I see that Hank has silently moved from his bed to over near the light switch as the bright white light flashes on. He’s sneaky like that. We squint at each other as I silently curse my uncle, the owner of this house, for installing these horrible fluorescent white light bulbs in these bedrooms. If he made the effort to finish the basement, why’d he make it look like an office? Wood paneling, linoleum floors, fluorescent lights. Jeez, what a moron. Well, I guess I could buy a lamp with a real light bulb.

“Ed, get up!” Oh no, my Mom is up now. I knew she would get up, but I was hoping against hope she would ignore the commotion and stay in bed. Sitting up in my bed, facing the tiled drop-ceiling, I can see her, standing in the kitchen in her floral print nightgown, arms on hefty hips trying to stare down Dad with her milky-blue eyes. It never works though, Dad don’t give a shit what she has to say…except when she threatens to leave him.

“Where the fuck have you been? You get paid on Friday and don’t think you have to come home until Tuesday morning? Do you have any money left? How the hell do you expect us to pay the rent?” Rhetorical questions all. Mom knows the answers to all of them already. The bar and the racetrack. Nope. Nope. Rent?

The fact that she already knows the answers always seems to get her more pissed off. “Look at you, you fucking slob, eating cold spaghetti out of the pot with your hands like a fucking animal! Go to bed, on the couch!” For some reason, I don’t know why, Mom always leaves any leftovers out on the stove for my Dad. He usually eats it too, just like tonight, except not with his hands and most times he actually heats the food on the stove without incident.

“Jesus Christ. What the hell did I do to deserve this shit?” She says to herself in frustration. Now to my father, “Please just go to sleep, you’ve been up and out all weekend. Go to bed!”

“Life is as lovely as a tree….” Uh-oh. Dad is starting his poetry spiel. He loves this one poem that starts this way. Author and title are unknown, to me anyway. I’ve never asked him. I don’t want to encourage his recitations or even have him think about it. He does it in front of my friends too. He usually can get through two or three stanzas, but not tonight. He must be really fucked up. “Where are those sons of mine?”

“It’s three in the morning. They’re sleeping. Joe has to go to school in the morning.”

“Mmmmmggghh. Is there any more spaghetti? Let’s see what’s going on down there. Are they downstairs?”

“Yes they are, but they’re sleeping. Leave them alone.”

“Fuck you, mother-know-it-all. I’m not going to bother them. I want to see my sons.”

“Will you just leave them alone? You can see them tomorrow, when you’re sober.” I cringe as I hear what Mom has just said. An open accusation of drunkenness to my father when he’s in this condition is usually explosive. What the fuck is wrong with her? Has she not learned anything about how to deal with him through all these years together? I know what we’re in for now.

“What’s going on?” My oldest brother Eric, who sleeps by himself in the other room in the basement peeks out his door. Eric knows what’s going on. He just likes to play stupid to avoid confrontation. Usually a good tactic for him. He shuts his door. I can hear him putting pants on. Hank and I are already dressed. In a few seconds Eric comes out into the small hallway to join Hank and me. Eric is 14 years older than me and has had frizzy salt and pepper hair for as long as I can remember. Out of the three of us brothers, he looks just about 50-50 like my mother and father. He always seems slightly “off” with a far-away look in his face. He’s pretty smart but extremely introverted. He likes cool music but never had a girlfriend, well except for the one time he brought home this Puerto Rican girl he met at the laundromat. She didn’t speak English either. Hank says that this is the only reason she even was with him. Hank also says Eric’s weird because of a bad acid trip he had when he was 15. I guess I believe him.

All three of us look at each other in the harsh white light. We hear the door to the basement open. We hear the creak of the wooden stairs as Dad clumsily makes his way down the stairs. We hear my Mom making a last-ditch yet futile attempt to convince Dad to go to sleep. At least that’s what I assume she is doing. The sound of her voice is like the rush of a jet engine in my ears, indecipherable and meaningless as I focus on the arrival of Dad, the pounding on the stairs and his calling for out us incessantly.

“Eric? Hank? Joe? Wake up! Get up and talk to your father!” Dad half mumbles, half bellows. He’s almost at the foot of the staircase.

I race through options in my head. We can turn off the lights, shut our bedroom doors, get under our blankets and act like we are asleep. But shoot, we don’t have locks on the doors and this would just delay the inevitable. We can shut the fire door my uncle installed between the furnished and unfurnished parts of the basement. My uncle is sure concerned about safety. He installed a two inch thick steel door here to protect us from a gas heater explosion. Anyway, the stairs Dad is coming down are on the unfurnished side. We can lock him out, but Dad will bang and bang and eventually go upstairs and keep my mother up all night and she has to get up for work at 6:30. I guess we’ll stand here and deal with him.

“There you all are. What are you doing up? Your mother said you were asleep.” Dad’s stands at the entrance to the bedroom hallway, his hand propped up accusingly on the jam of the fire door. “She also thinks I’m drunk.”

“What are you doing up? You know its 2:30 in the morning?” Hank plays the spokesmen for our group. Sometimes I wish he’d shut up. He’s just going to make things worse. Hank is the spitting image of my father, in fact before my Dad starting showing some age in his face they could have been twins. Both have wavy black hair slicked back like some thugs in a Humphrey Bogart movie. They both have the same vices as well, drinking, and gambling, though not always in that order. The only difference between the two is that Dad is a lot more educated. I still don’t know how the fuck that happened. Hank is rail thin to a fault and is super conscious of this fact. He lifts weights all the time but never gets bigger, it drives him crazy. Despite this, Hank is the best fighter I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen him lay out guys twice his size up in the park I hang out in sometimes.

“I know what time it is. What are you doing up? You know Hank, Joe has to go to school in the morning. Just because you’re a worthless bum and dropped out and don’t work doesn’t mean you can keep Joe up to all hours of the night.” All three of us look at each other incredulously. The multiple ironies encased in these accusations are not lost on any of us. Eric and I continue to stare: half at each other, half into space. Hank looks down at the floor: half in anger, half in shame.

Eric comes out of his stare with a look of purpose. “Dad, you’re right, it is late. Why don’t we all go to sleep and hang out tomorrow?” Good work Eric, I hope this diffuses the situation.

“Edward! Are you still down there? Are the boys still up?” Mom screams down from the top of the stairs. Does she realize how grating her voice can be? This will not be helpful.

“No one is going to tell me what the fuck to do in my house! All of you need to know who I am!” The screaming is deafeningly loud. Every hair on my body stands erect and a cold chill flows through my body. Hank sets his feet to prepare for the worst. I turn to sit on my bed. I don’t want to hear or see anything right now.

Dad lunges the eight feet from the fire door entrance to Eric with his right fist clenched and swinging. Eric is not prepared for the attack and at the last moment tries to push our father away. A bad decision. In his drunkenness, Dad’s feet fall out from under him as a result of his lunge and Eric’s push. The swing lands anyway. The crunch on Eric’s jaw and nose is sickening. Blood trickles from his nose down onto the back of Dad’s worn out white dress shirt. Dad is prone on the floor and slowly attempting to get up. “You will remember who the parents are in this house!” The screams are not as loud now as Dad catches his breath and uses his intoxicated muscles to lift himself up of the floor. Eric stares down, holding his nose with a look of shocked sadness and nervousness. After about ten seconds of eternity, Dad is up on his feet. Nothing else has changed: Eric stares, I sit, Hank readies himself. For a split second, it looks as if Dad is composing himself and preparing to walk away. Just another fucked up night that Dad will have no recollection of and will deny for all time. I get up off the bed as he grabs Eric under his shoulders and violently wrestles him to the ground.

“Stop! Stop it! Calm down!” All three of us yell simultaneously. Eric is only able to get the first stop out of his mouth as they roll out of the finished hallway onto the cold cement of the front basement. They both get to their knees and are in an awkward clinch, not unlike a boxing match. Hank and I are both standing over them. Hank knows he’ll be the next opponent if he attempts to break it up. Waiting…waiting.

Suddenly Mom is in the basement as well. All three of us looking down at our father and son/brother tangled up by the limbs struggling for position. “Hllfffp!” Eric tries to speak, but the blood is coming out his mouth now.

“You fucking bastard! Is this how you prove you’re a man! Fighting your sons! Oh my god, I’ll kill you one day you piece of shit!” Mom bends over trying to pry my father’s grip from Eric while screaming directly in his left ear. It’s useless; Dad can’t hear or comprehend a thing right now. His alcohol induced rage has taken over. His eyes look like a caged animal fighting for its last taste of freedom. Dad clearly has an advantage, with Eric in a forceful headlock. It’s obvious to everyone in the cold, bloody basement that Dad is preparing to put some blows to Eric’s head. Eric’s not a fighter. Eric has no chance.

“C’mon you asshole. Get off of him. Don’t hit Eric. He’s your son. Let him go.” Within all the chaos, Hank says these words so workmanlike and mechanically. Hank tries to penetrate the mind of the rabid dog that is my father. Hank looks at times like these as only a job to do, a cross to bear.

“Yeah let him go!” Mom and I repeat this last part with urgency and emotion, hoping to get through the alcohol rage of my father. Hank reaches down and puts Dad in a headlock and pulls him up by his neck. He shakes and swings and pulls until the grip on Eric loosens. Eric slumps to the ground. He gasps for air and attempts to stem the flow of blood from his face. Eric slowly crawls to the corner furthest away from Dad and Hank as my mother hurries over to help him. It’s the first parent-like thing I’ve witnessed since this started. “Are you okay Eric? I’m so sorry...” Eric nods his head and grits his teeth, trying his hardest not to be a 20-something shell of a young man curled up on the basement floor crying in front of his Mommy.

Dad’s limp drunken legs sway back and forth, scraping the floor as Hank continues to hold him by his neck. The dim bare incandescent bulb that illuminates the boiler room is still bright enough to show the color draining from my father’s face. Hank has had him in a chokehold for almost two minutes and it looks like it has done the trick. My father is finally subdued. ”Are you calmed down now? You better not start this shit again, you hear me,” Hank says to emphasize the point. Hank slowly releases his hold and Dad slumps to the floor, cursing and muttering. He slowly turns around on his back. We all watch him intently and with bated breath, including Eric in the corner. We all watch my father as his eyes regain their focus against the yellow sour light.

“You idiot!” Drunken asshole!” “Serves you right!” “Why?!?” “Go to sleep now!” “This’ll be the last time!” “Fuck you Dad!” We all take our turn berating him as he slowly gets up and composes himself. He washes his face in the utility sink while talking nonsensically. Suddenly he turns.

“Hank I always knew you were a piece of shit, but to disobey your father when I’m teaching Eric a lesson. I don’t know why your mother keeps on letting you back in the house. This will be the last fucking night you stay under my roof. Who pays the rent around here?” He shoots my mother a glance as if to say ‘don’t even think about opening your mouth.” We are all caught flat-footed again. Dumbfounded we just stare. Just as suddenly he turns back to the sink and returns to washing. Seconds tick by. We wait.

All of us stand a safe distance from Dad as he washes, except for Eric slumped in the corner. Can any of us diffuse the situation? After all that has happened, the fighting and screaming, not just tonight, but forever, can we go back? I wish Mom would kick him out of the house permanently, never to see him again! But, that’s not going to happen. Look at her, she has no strength to start that right here, right now. She can barely look us in the eye, her own sons. What about just for tonight? Nope. No one is awake at this hour but the bookmakers and he owes all of them money, lots of it. My uncle would never let him spend the night either. Oh well. I guess we’ll all just stand here and silently pray he goes to sleep and hope for the best. God, why is it so hard to pray when you’re nervous and upset and most need to?

Dad turns around again, this time more slowly. Deliberate. He walks to within 5 feet of Hank. His arms are down on his sides. Calm and resolute. Does he finally realize what he’s done and the gravity of his predicament tonight? Will he apologize?

My father opens his mouth to speak.


Water rather than words leave my fathers mouth. He spits a mouthful of water in Hank’s face and instantly proclaims, “I disown you as my son for all time.” The over-dramatization of this statement almost makes me laugh even though it sinks my heart down through my feet into the cement. Hank has no time to react. My father has taken an old-fashioned boxing stance and is taken swings at Hank. He looks comical in his drunken state, but the powers of his fists are not very funny. He connects with a surprisingly quick one-two against Hank’s neck and chest. Hank shakes off the water and the blows and takes a boxing stance as well. With his 1930s gangster looks, Hank really does look like a boxer, a featherweight no doubt. They circle around each other in the small boiler room. They fight silently, each concentrating on the hands of the other. It’s not unlike fight night at Madison Square Garden. Sellout crowd of three.

Punches land for both of them. Hank is getting the better of Dad. The knockout punch the crowd hopes for does not come. They seem intent on battling like this. Either one could surely attack and instigate a wrestling match. But they chose this, a gentlemen’s fight to settle an uncivilized battle. The crowd is silent as well. We just want this to be over. “Get back,” Hank responds to Mom’s attempts to intervene. Hank’s eyes want revenge.

They trade hits like this for about 5 minutes.

Finally, Hank lands a furious set of punches at Dad’s nose. It’s clearly broken. Blood gushes from the orifice in pulsing bursts matching his heartbeat. He sinks to his knees. Hands on his face fail to stop the blood flow. Hank towers over him now. He wants to continue the beating. I know Hank. He’d like to beat my father to within an inch of his life. Hank glances at my Mom. Eric and I look her way as well. Now safe, Eric collects himself and stands next to me. Mom looks back at Hank. Her fear turns to sadness. “Stop,” She says in a barely audible whisper. She hates him, only not that much.

“UhhhWhhhaaaaaaaaa!! Ghhhaaaarrrrrggggghhh!” Dad is now wailing at the top of his lungs. So loud it hurts our ears. The guttural shriek is incessant. It sounds like an ambulance that has the siren on, but the battery is going dead so it’s out of tune and a little slow.

“I’m going to call 911. He needs a doctor.” Mom says, heading up the stairs holding her hands to her ears.

“No don’t. He’ll be alright. Let him sleep it off. If he needs to go, it can wait until tomorrow. We don’t need the trouble. Especially with Uncle Allen.” Hank rolls his eyes upward to indicate our Uncle Allen. Uncle lives on the top floor of this house. He owns it and rents the first floor and basement to us. He really dislikes his brother, but is nice enough to rent the place to us to help out my Mom. Our family likes to joke that Uncle thinks he is second only to Jesus for his charity toward us. Hank’s right, we don’t need to involve him. Mom nods in agreement and quietly turns back down the stairs. Dad continues to make otherworldly sounds from his mouth and writhes on the floor.

It’s too late.

“Knock Knock!” Uncle Allen verbalizes his action as he raps on the basement door and simultaneously comes down to join us.

“What’s going on here? Looks like my good brother has taken one too many drinks and has taken it out on his family. Nothing new there, right Katherine?” Uncle pauses slightly for effect. “How are my nephews tonight? Up late as usual. How will you ever get up for work?” Uncle adjusts his thick glasses as he looks sarcastically at Eric and Hank. “I on the other hand really do need to get up in a few hours and this noise will not do. What will you do with him tonight?” He doesn’t wait for an answer and walks over to Dad.

“Ed, get up. Enough fun and games. Let’s clean you up. And will you stop that screaming please? You woke me up you know?” Uncle helps Dad to his feet and walks him to the utility sink. He washes the blood from Dad’s face, careful not to get any on his person or pyjamas. “Joe, go upstairs and get some ice and a dishcloth, hurry.”

I open my mouth to protest and quickly shut it, silently. A cold vacuum of air in my cheeks rather than the complaints I so desperately want to voice. Helping uncle take care of Dad because he decided to be an asshole tonight is a betrayal of Hank, Eric and Mom. They took the heat for the family, for me tonight. They always do. Hank likes to joke after these nights, “Ya know Joe, you’re lucky because you’re the youngest. This shit’ll all be over when you’re my age.” He’s right, except for the guilt of escaping these episodes unscathed, physically at least. And anyway, I will definitely not be living at home when I’m Hank’s age. No doubt.

Reluctantly, I run upstairs. If uncle starts yelling about ice, dishcloths, some other bullshit we might have a brother versus brother fight. I reach the kitchen sink, grab the rag and chuckle. That might not be a bad thing. A fight to the death perhaps?

When I return, they are readying my father for the climb up the stairs. Dad’s loud scream has calmed to sobs and whimpers. “The ice will have to wait until we get upstairs, bring it to my kitchen. Then you three go to sleep and lock yourselves in with the fire door. Katherine, I know you’ll be getting up soon, try to get some sleep. Your father can stay with me for this one night only. I think his nose will be alright. I don’t want to hear any more noise tonight, understand?” All four of us nod quietly to my Uncle’s requests. “OK, good night,” Mom says as she pats Eric on the back.

Quickly and without saying a word, I bring the ice up to Uncle’s kitchen. The two brothers struggle like three-legged racers to climb the second floor stair case as my skinny frame squeezes past sideways without looking at either of them. I hurry down to the basement to the familiarity of my brothers. I gently shut the fire door and snap the deadbolt to lock it. Eric has retreated to his room as usual. Hank sits at the foot of his bed smoking a cigarette. The smoke billows through the dead air to form a cloud over my bed and surrounds my body, just four feet from where Hank sits. The smoke is strangely comforting. Our beds form an “L” in the small bedroom. If I wanted, I could sleep with my head this way and right near Hank’s feet. I usually sleep the other way though. Hank came up with this set-up. We always seem to be looking at each other, no matter which way we sit. It’s really cool and gives us lots of opportunities to talk.

“Are you alright?” I ask Hank.

Hank turns slightly to the right to prevent his exhaled smoke from going directly in my face. “Yeah, I’m OK. What a fucking night.” The silence lasts for about 20 seconds. Not an awkward silence. A calm serene quiet. The finished basement filters out all outside sounds. I think my Uncle wanted to create a music studio down here before we moved in. If the fight stayed in here, my Uncle would never have heard it. I chuckle to myself and consider telling this half-joke to Hank.

The silence is broken by a low short hiss. Hank extinguishes his butt in an old can of Meister Brau. “Joe, get to bed, you have school in the morning. Everything will be alright.” Hank stands at the light switch and clicks it off.

“Good night.”

“Good night.”


“Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang Bang!!”

“Thud Thud Thud Thud Thud!!”

“Whoa!” I scream out loud before I even awake from my short sleep. Quick glance at the clock again, 6:30. Must be AM. What the hell is that sound? Sometimes Mom bangs on the fire door to wake me up for school. This is definitely not that. In fact, this sound is coming from the back of the basement. There’s nothing back there. Noone could be back there.

Why does Mom even try to wake me up anyway? I get up when I feel like it regardless of her efforts. School is something I have to suffer through for what, 4 more years? If I finish. I hate going to school. I might drop out next year anyway. Some of my friends already have jobs. They make more money than I could ever get from my mother. I hate the teachers too. Like Mr. Simon, who ridiculed me in front of class because I made it into the best High School in the city even though I never showed up unless there was a test. “Alright, Mr. Kleinfeldt, since you are so, so smart, why don’t you come up here and teach today’s lesson.” Is he fucking kidding? I can’t believe he made me do it too. He was just jealous that I didn’t need his help to pass American History. It was the same with all of them and now it’s the same in High School. Except for Ms. Davis, 8th grade Chemistry. She was the best teacher I ever had. She’s really cool, even though she’s black, loud and BIG. She understood me. She didn’t care if I showed up, as long as I passed the tests. She had the same philosophy as me. Why waste effort if you don’t need it? The rest of the teachers called her a slacker, and worse, to the other students behind her back. Fuck them, Ms Davis rules. I should go visit her one day. I never got less than a B+ in junior high although I went only 5-6 times a month. Is it my fault I don’t need teachers?

“Bang Bang Thud Thud!!”

There it is again. I sit up in bed just as Hank turns on the light again. “Someone is at the cellar stairs in the back. I think its Dad and Uncle.” Hank says as he quickly puts his jeans on. “I guess this bullshit isn’t over yet. I’m gonna go back there and see what’s up. You stay here.” I get up and follow him anyway. In my underwear. Its cold. But I’m nosy. Hank doesn’t really expect me to stay here in my bed, does he?

The finished basement has a small carpeted hallway that goes around to the very back of the basement. A door here leads to cement steps that go up to the street. Big metal doors that come up off the street are at the top of the stairs. It reminds me of those really old movies where the little old shopkeeper is getting his goods delivered and they lower them into the basement from the street with some pulleys and stuff. When its shut it takes up half the sidewalk. Anybody walking past our house has to walk over these doors. We always make sure its locked and bolted shut otherwise any junkie on the street could get down here and try to bust the bottom door in. The banging is coming from the metal doors. Someone is pounding and jumping on the doors. I hope its not a break-in. Even though we…well Hank, would kick their ass, we don’t need the trouble. Not after what happened last night.

Hank looks at me with a curious raised eyebrow as we approach the back. “It looks like Eric’s gonna sit this one out.” I don’t blame him. The metal doors combined with the thick wood back door and the banging muffle the voices. We stand there quietly and wait for the banging to stop. It does temporarily, for about 20 seconds.

“Nobody pushes me around like that!” Its Dad, and he’s still drunk. “Come up here you piece of shit cowards!” How is he still drunk? He must have a bottle with him. He used to have a cool little metal flask, it held about a half-pint. I think he gave it to someone he owed money to. Now he just carries around a bottle, in the back pocket of his pants or in his sport coat pocket, if he’s wearing one. Dad doesn’t wear sport coats much anymore, he’s lost them all. He leaves them behind in random bars and gambling halls when he’s wasted. Funny thing, Mom says he used to be a pretty snazzy dresser.

BangBangBangBangBangBangBang! The pounding is furious. I wonder if he’s jumping or pounding the doors with his fists, or a bat, or some other weapon. After about 2 minutes, when we realize this may go on for a while, Hank and I cover our ears and wait for the respite. It doesn’t stop for about 5 minutes. When it stops, we make out our Uncle’s tinny voice. “Well, Ed, you certainly are in top position now. They are trapped down there in the basement and you are up here on top outside in the fresh morning air. You seem to have them right where you want them.” What the fuck does that mean? Is that supposed to appease him? Why doesn’t he tell Dad to stop? What an asshole. Both of them.

My father and his brothers, (three of them) my uncles, have always had a strange and awkward relationship. Dad is definitely the least successful of them all. This one works in local television (Allen), another is a small business owner and probably a millionaire (Andrew), the oldest is a war-hero (Aaron). Funny all their names begin with “A” except Dad. Did my grandmother have a premonition at birth? The thing is, despite their well-to-do lives and my father’s severe problems, he is the most popular and has the most friends and had the most beautiful girlfriend, my Mom. You’d never believe it now; I sure didn’t, until I saw the pictures. She really has let herself go. Hank says he really went downhill after he got mugged and stabbed in front of my mother 10 years ago. They were leaving a club after last call and got fucked up by three gang-bangers They stabbed him in the arm, right above the wrist. He lost the use of the hand for 6 months and hasn’t worked since. But that’s a sorry excuse. He’s been fine for years, but hasn’t done shit, except gamble and drink. What a loser. The funniest thing about it all is his tattoo, his one and only tattoo. Right where he got stabbed or sliced, however you want to describe it, my Dad had a tattoo that said Eddie, his nickname, in script. The stab wound left a big scar right in the middle of his name, perfectly dissecting the word. Now the tattoo says “Ed” “Die.” I think that is what’s happened to him since that day. He refuses to live a normal life and is trying to die a little bit each day. Is it a coincidence? Fate? Bad luck? Fuck if I know.

I’m standing on the tips of my toes, stretching to hear better through the crack in the door. The cold air that seeps through the crack feels good on my face. I’m hot and probably beet red in the face from stress. This shit makes me nervous, I don’t like to live like this. I look down at Hank, he’s sitting on the floor at the foot of the door. In fact, my crotch is right in his face., but I’m not moving. I want to hear any and every word from up there on the street. Poor Hank. He’s been going through these fights ten years longer than I have. He looks it too. He looks numb. He’s resigned to this. Not me. I have to get the fuck out of here. Soon, but not now. Not today. It’s just not possible at my age. I’m realistic.

Dad must have exhausted himself from the non-stop attack on the basement doors. I hear mumbling but can’t make out the words. It is definitely my Dad and uncle. There alone. Hopefully, Uncle is convincing Dad to go to sleep. Uncle would never call the cops. He hates the cops. I get that. When you’re a wanna-be neo-fascist, like my uncle, you have to hate the cops. Its like in the rules or something. I think. Well, the silence is a good sign. Hopefully this will all be resolved before my friends, my friends’ parents and my neighbors walk past our house to go to work. Why the fuck do we have to live right down the street from the subway station? There’s no hiding my family business in this house. In this neighborhood. There’s so much fucking traffic and people up and down this street. When I get the knowing looks of pity and kind words of comfort from the neighbors after one of these episodes, I want to shoot them. Don’t they realize I’d feel better if they acted like nothing is wrong. That’s what I try to do. Forget it and move on, just clap my hands and turn it off like that stupid “as seen on TV” infomercial.

Another sound, a kinder gentler knocking, breaks the silence from the front of the basement. I run barefoot to the fire door and whisper. “Hey Mom, you know Dad is outside in the back with Uncle? He’s banging and wants to fight us some more”

“I know, stay locked in here til he stops. It shouldn’t be long now. I just talked to your uncle. He says your father told him that he’s been up since Friday morning. He can’t stay up much longer. I’m gonna leave for work early to get out of your uncle’s way and let him fix this.. Your uncle’s got it under control. Oh yeah, you don’t have to go to school today. Love ya.” The sound of her feet shuffle to the staircase. I don’t blame Mom for cutting out. I would too. And besides, I wasn’t going to class anyway. I can visualize through the door my Mom slowly climbing the narrow basement stairs. After a few seconds, I hear the front door creak open and slam shut. Damn! Mom was already dressed and ready to leave when she came down here to talk to me through the door. She really wanted to get out of here. She never leaves for work this early. Again, I can’t blame her. She’s been living through this much longer than I have.

I head back to Hank, stopping at Eric’s room to relay the information to him through his door. I don’t expect a reply and don’t get one. I doubt Eric will show his face until nighttime. He does that a lot, even without getting his ass kicked by Dad. Hank remains motionless against the back door. I don’t know how much he heard of Mom’s conversation, “Mom left for work already and I don’t have to…”

The banging starts again, interrupting me. He’s pulling at the steel doors again. Other voices are coming closer from out on the street as well. These voices have a certain authority even without actually hearing what’s said. It must be the cops. “It’s the cops,” says Hank confirming my thought. “one of the neighbors must have called them, uncle is going to be so pissed.” Hank leans on me to raise himself off the floor. His hand feels cold through my thin t-shirt. His legs must have fallen asleep. “Let’s go upstairs and see what happens now.” The banging has stopped. In fact, it seems like a pleasant conversation is taken place up on the street. The police and my Dad and uncle discussing the weather and the latest current events. If only that were true.

Hank and I tentatively open the fire door. It’s silly actually, there’s no reason to be frightened, the police are with Dad upstairs. As we go up the stairs to the first floor, the strange voices become clearer. Snippets of conversation can be made out. “Neighbors complained. “Too much to drink?” “Use any drugs?” They’re questioning my father. They must be in the kitchen. The police. My Dad. All of them. Hank eases the door at the top of the stairs open and peeks out. The door opens silently without its typical squeak. I thought I was the only one who knew how to hold that door up and open it to keep it from making noise. Figures Hank knows that trick too. The staircase looks right into the kitchen from across a small hallway. I can see as well, from two steps below, between Hank’s legs. From my angle I see mostly feet. My father’s bare feet, uncle’s suede moccasins, and three pairs of shiny black boots. They are all in the kitchen. I stretch my neck to get a better look. I can see three men in uniform and my uncle standing around my father, who is sitting at the kitchen table. He’s sobbing now, through his hands. His head and hands together face down on the table. It’s not a pathetic sobbing, more like an exhausted release of emotion and guilt. I wonder if they’ll take him to the drunk tank? It’s happened before. Hank looks back at me as if to ask my permission to open the door all the way and enter the kitchen. I half-shrug. I don’t know what to do. I hate cops too and I don’t want to get involved in this any more than I have to. Before I finish my thought, Hank is in the kitchen, and is immediately questioned by the cops. I follow about 10 seconds later and receive the same battery of questions from one of the other cops. “What happened?” “Were you hit?” “Did he hit your mother or threaten any of you?” Hank and I, as well as my uncle, know the drill. “No. No. No. He just blacked out is all. He’s out of work and depressed. He got mugged and has never been the same. Blah Blah Blah.” Anything to minimize the situation. Maybe we should tell the truth after one of these episodes? I don’t know. Would it help? Maybe? Probably not. He’s been to prison before, long before the mugging. Grand theft auto, 1963. He was in prison at Ossining when Eric was born. That prison time didn’t help. Now that the cops are here, he’ll quiet the fuck down. Let’s just get the police out of our house and move on.

“How ya doin’ kid?” The skinny Italian cop questions me as I lean against the doorway between the hall and kitchen. What does his name tag say? Mizzuno? Yeah, he’s Italian for sure. He removes his hat and reveals a shock of slicked black hair not unlike my Dad and Hank’s. His movements are slow and calculated. Is this how they act around potentially abused children?

I straighten up and answer, “Fine.” Stiffening more to show strength than respect, but the display is hardly noticed by the officer. He has his string of questions to ask.

“Is anyone else in the house?” Asks Officer Mizzuno.

“My mother just left for work,” as I’m speaking, I see Hank flash a serious look in my direction, it looks like he’s about to say something. In my haste to appease the cop, I beat Hank to the punch and as the words leave my mouth, I immediately sink into despair. “and my brother Eric is sleeping downstairs.” What a stupid fucking idiot I am! Of course, I’m not supposed to mention Eric, he’s all fucked up. He has bruises, scratches, possibly a broken nose. The looks from my uncle and Hank are worse than the proverbial “daggers in their eyes.” The looks are overwhelming and crushing. I can’t remember feeling so pathetic and horrible in all my 14 years.

The tone of Officer Mizzuno becomes very inquisitive. “Sleeping downstairs ya say? Bailey, go downstairs and talk to…what’s his name, Eric?” I nod glumly. “Pretty sound sleeper this Eric. Any weapons down there? Any dogs?” I shake my head. Uncle looks as if he’s about to interject and chooses not to. It’s for the better he keeps his mouth shut. Things would be better if I kept my mouth shut too. Bailey stomps down the stairs in his big black boots. We’re fucked. Dad’s fucked. Poor Eric.

Mizzuno and the other cop examine my father and talk to my uncle. Hank and I take positions on the other end of the kitchen. We’re not directed to do so, it just seems appropriate. We can’t really hear them as they whisper. They’re debating on what to do with Dad and waiting on Bailey’s report. Drunk tank, arrest, handcuffs. All of the above is the likely verdict. I feel like shit, this is all my fault if Dad goes away. Well, not really but kind of. I should’ve stayed downstairs. I probe Hank’s face for forgiveness. Hank is straining his ears and lip-reading the cops’ mouths as best he can. Shortly, he feels my stare and looks down at me. His look has changed to a look of understanding. I feel a bit better. I can’t wait ‘til the cops leave so I can apologize to him and Eric. But not my uncle, fuck him. He doesn’t deserve shit.

Bailey returns, “Tony, everything is clear downstairs. The basement is used as bedrooms for the kids. Mr. Kleinfeldt, Eric, is not involved in the father’s situation. He says he’s been sleeping all night.” My heart jumps. Thank God! What happened down there? Is Bailey the dumbest cop on the planet? Or the nicest? Maybe Eric’s not as bad off as we thought. That would be really, really good. I can’t wait to ask Eric. The cops are wrapping things up now. The unnamed one writes a summons and all three provide advice and words of wisdom for my drunkard Dad. “This is a summons for disturbing the peace, you have thirty days to respond. Don’t be late or we’ll release a warrant for your arrest.” “Sleep this one off Mr. Kleinfeldt” “You have three good boys here, take care of them.” Ha Ha Ha! At last this night…aaah morning is over. And I don’t have to go to school! My father mumbles something to no one in particular and goes into the bathroom. Uncle leaves and as always has a snide remark for us. “Try to keep it quiet down here for once while I’m at work today. OK?” Hank and I head downstairs. I’m not tired now. I’m going to get dressed. Andrew and the Murphy brothers will be at the bodega by the high school in an hour. Once Dad’s asleep, I’ll search his pockets for cash. I know he has five bucks, definitely no more than that, but still enough for a six-pack.

Its quite ironic, I hate high school, the classes, the schedule, the teachers, and all the structure that comes with it, but I love getting up early and meeting my friends outside the school. There’s just something that seems adult and mature about meeting my friends and discussing our plans for the day. Plans that absolutely do not include attending any classes. The smokers bum cigarettes from commuters walking to the subway. The coffee drinkers, mostly girls, slurp down super sweet coffee that they get for 50 cents a cup from the Puerto Rican deli a few streets over. The drinkers start pooling together cash from the group for the day’s alcohol buy. Based on the money we gather, we’ll know how big a party it will be. Andrew always makes sure the party will be pretty good, even if he has to resort to unscrupulous methods. Andrew has a knack of finding kids at the school more socially awkward than us. He convinces these kids to let us throw a party at their house for the day. Why anyone outside our circle would let us in their house is beyond me? Maybe they think they can be part of the group? Well that does happen once in a while, the Murphy brothers are an example of that. Anyway, those are few and far between. Usually we fuck the place up. Flood the basement. Break the toilet. Empty the liquor cabinet. Twice these parties have resulted in the kid getting thrown in a group home. Whatever. Its fun.

“Did you talk to Eric?” I ask Hank as I quickly throw on jeans and boots and a new t-shirt.

“No, he said he’ll talk to us late because he has to sleep right now. What’s the rush Speedy Gonzalez? I though you didn’t have to go to school?” Hank asks, noting my haste with a jut of his jaw toward my boots which I’m rapidly lacing.

“No school, but Andrew’s up by the corner. We’re gonna hang out. Do you have a few dollars?” I hate asking him for money. He’s usually broke, but Mom didn’t leave any cash and just in case Dad really doesn’t have anything.

“Are you fucking kidding me? Just bring me home a beer, alright?” Hank slides deeper underneath his blankets now. Just his nose and eyes stick out on top. His eyes are heavy. I know he is so stressed. I should be stressed and sleepy too. For some reason, I have a second wind. I’m excited to go out this morning.

“OK. I don’t know when I’ll be home though. If Mom calls, tell her I went to the library.” I yell over my shoulder as I bound up the stairs. I don’t wait for an answer. I don’t need one.


I remember my plan just before I burst open the door to the first floor. Wow, I almost blew it. If I had trampled through the door, surely Dad would wake up, even if he is in a drunken sleep. His ears are always looking for trouble. He can eavesdrop on a conversation from three rooms away. Mom once said he had ears like a hawk. I had to laugh, even I knew she was getting the saying wrong. Slowly, slowly, lifting, lifting. I gently open the door just as Hank and I had done an hour earlier. It’s eerily quiet. I scan the rooms for Dad. I stand at the top of the stairs scanning, like the robot from that Earth Stood Still movie. Head still, only eyes moving, meticulously, deliberately. Passed out at kitchen table? Nope. Lounging on the living room sofa? Nope. Is he in the bedroom? I can’t tell from here. If I sneak up on the bedroom and he’s awake and sees me, I’m fucked. It could start a new round of battles with the drunken superstar. But I’m broke and I need some cash to contribute today. I know Andrew and the rest won’t care, I am part of the cool crowd after all. The cool crowd of derelicts, but cool nonetheless.

I walk the 10 or so steps to the bedroom. Heel, toe, heel toe. At least my prick uncle built this place with quality materials. No creaking floorboards, no squishy carpet, not like the last place we lived. On my last step, at the doorway, I crouch and peek around the corner. Oh shit, if he’s sitting at the edge of the bed, whoa! It’ll be on. I look, taking in the big master bedroom giving it the full-on robot scan. Unmade bed, overflowing hamper, ugliest bureau and mirror on the planet, no sign of Dad. Suddenly life flashes before my eyes. Thoughts race so fast. The bathroom door is closed, he’s in there. He has to be. Unless he’s finished in the bathroom and right behind me, right now! I can hear him, “What the fuck are you doing sneaking around my bedroom, I’ll kick your fucking ass!!!”

Instinctively, I jump out of the crouch and swivel around. I didn’t make a sound and Dad isn’t behind me. That must have been a worst-case scenario thought. Thank god it wasn’t real. The bathroom door is still closed. I retreat, tiptoeing to the basement door, like walking on water. I’m there in a flash. Safe for the time-being. I strain my ears to listen for any action in the bathroom. The water is running steadily, almost imperceptibly. It could be the ocean, but it’s the bathtub. It must be filling slowly because I don’t hear the splash of water hitting the bottom of the fiberglass tub. I camp out at on the top step to the basement, with the door cracked for a visual on the bathroom door.

The great debate begins. Should I leave the house broke or wait it out? He can’t stay in there forever. Go ahead and leave, you are in the cool crowd. Who cares? No way. I hate not having money, it’s embarrassing. What if Caroline is there and wants something? She likes wine coolers. All the cash will go towards beer. But if I hold back a few dollars, I can buy some wine coolers if I want. If Caroline wants. I can’t buy shit if I don’t have any cash. I can’t hold back what I don’t have. That settles it, I’ll wait. It won’t be long. Dad is just taking a hot bath and will go right to sleep, it will be easy. Damn, too bad he didn’t take his pants off outside the bathroom; I could take the cash right now and be home free.

How long has it been, ten minutes maybe fifteen? I didn’t even feel the time go by. What have I been thinking about? Wine coolers, Caroline, Greenwich Village, high school, Eric. These random thoughts are lulling me into a trance. This sucks, when I try to fall asleep in bed thoughts like this keep me awake for hours. Now it’s doing just the opposite. Shit! I could’ve been so busted, zoning out lost in my thoughts. I hope I’m not getting tired. I hope the lack of sleep isn’t catching up with me. WAKE UP JOE!

The familiar sound of the bathtub stopper released and the gurgle-gurgle of water whirlpooling down the drain snaps me out of my neurosis. It will be soon. Soon I will be on my way to high school with five, ten, maybe twenty dollars. I know he’s holding out on Mom and I’m gonna get it. The bathroom door opens fast. It catches me off guard. I almost fall down the steps. If I had not snapped out of my funk I just might have. The door reaches as far as it can go and hits the wall hard. Bits of plaster fly from the doorknob gauging a hole in the wall. Uncle will be pissed about this one. The door comes back the other way, slower now. The latch is just about to catch shut but Dad puts out his hand to stop it and exits. He comes out in a cloud of steam heat. Like an apparition. What’s that he’s wearing? A bedsheet? I can’t believe my Dad is wrapped in a bedsheet from his neck to his toes. Are we out of towels? Mom hasn’t done the laundry in ages, but I know we have clean towels. What a strange thing to do. He is drunk though and he’s definitely done more peculiar things. He walks over to the refrigerator. He might look ghost-like, but his movements don’t flow like a ghost should. He stumbles to the kitchen—a malnourished Hare Krishna who’s lost his way from the airport. Something’s really different though. More different than the bedsheet and the fights and the glazed animalistic look in his eyes. Dad turns and faces my direction, shoving a slice of wheat bread into his mouth. Oh my God! Dad’s head, he’s shaved it. Something else is weird too. Oh my fucking God! He shaved his eyebrows too.

His head is almost an eggshell white and perfectly round. Round with significant qualifications. The round shape is hopelessly disfigured with ruts and scars and dents, surely from countless fights, prison time, drunken falls, and Mom’s wedding ring. It’s downright scary. I’ve never seen him this way before and I want to say something, scream something, but I can’t. I want to run away. But I don’t. His eyebrows or where they used to be looks disgusting. The skin should be eggshell here too. Instead it’s bright pink from the stress of the shaving or whatever removed the hair. Dad returns to the refrigerator and shoves more bread in his mouth and loses control of his covering in the process. The sheet opens and he’s completely exposed to me, not knowing I’m peeking from the stairs. I turn away as quickly as possible, instinctively trying to give Dad some modesty. Modesty is not Dad’s problem. The split-second flash is more than enough time to see that Dad has removed every single-fucking-hair from his body. Legs, chest, dick, everything. Everything is completely bald. He’s lost it. He’s gone completely crazy. Why couldn’t I look away faster. I don’t want to see this. I have to see what happens next. I have to get out of here, fast.

I remember when I was five and Dad shaved his beard for the first time in 10 years. I had known him bearded my whole life. It scared the shit out of me. He leaned over the bed to say something to me. It was six in the morning. I was just getting up for kindergarten. I cried for hours and hours. Mom let me stay home that day. This is worse, a lot worse.

Dad has managed to make a little knot with the sheet to keep it on his body properly. He seems more comfortable now. He’s strolling around the apartment from room to room doing nothing in particular, eating more bread, fiddling with the radio. Just a normal morning in Dad’s demented, drunk mind. He disappears from my line of sight into the bedroom and returns with that awful book of poetry. Maybe he’s not going to sleep? Shit. This is the worst. No cash and Dad’s awake and crazy. Hank should know about this, I should go downstairs and tell him. But I can’t. I can’t take my eyes off this spectacle. I have this all to myself. This crazy fucked up moment. Safe on the stairs. Funny, he doesn’t look so imposing now. I’ll continue to wait for him to go to sleep. At least this is entertaining while I wait. Entertaining and sick.

I recognize the muttering as lines from the book in his hands. He’s reciting the poetry in a loud vibrato, taking turns raising his hands to the sky to emote as if a Shakespearean actor. First his right and then his left, stopping each time as he loses his place in the book with each hand-to-hand transfer. Suddenly, he opens the door that leads to the street. He enters the street and turns right, once again disappearing from view.

Please no! Don’t go out in the street. Andrew’s Mom and Dad are out there, Mike’s Mom, the mailman, those college girls who rent the apartment across the street. They’re all out there, with my Dad in his bedsheet, shaved from head to toe.

I jump out of my crouch on the stairs and race to the door. I almost fall flat on my face thanks to the needles and pins attacking my legs. I peek out to the right. Dad is halfway in the street, book raised to the sky in his right hand, left hand keeping his balance on the hood of some old station wagon. He doesn’t see me. He’s looking toward the tavern right across the street from our house. I wonder if he’s thinking about having another drink right now? Cars are passing. Are they slowing down to gawk or to avoid hitting him? Probably both. One look at him and you know he’s unpredictable. He could jump into traffic at any moment. I don’t think he will though and our streets not that busy. I glance to the left. No one is coming this way and most important at this time, my Dad’s not in this direction.

I sure wish I was able to get some money, but the heck with it. I step backwards into the kitchen, trying to keep an eye on Dad. He’s still out there doing his thing. He really seems to be enjoying himself. A few people are loitering outside the tavern now. They are not saying anything. They’re just watching. Waiting for something horrible to happen, no doubt. Do they know my father? Do they care?

I collect myself in the doorway. Do I have my jacket? Check. Do I have my boots on? Check. ID card? Yep. I peek out again to the right. He still doesn’t see me. I turn left. And run.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Naguib Mahfouz - The Thief and the Dogs

I’ve been reading a lot lately, more so than usual. My reading goes through topical spurts where I read nothing but a particular genre or author. In line with that, I’ve had this long-standing goal to read as much existentialist literature as possible. I’m not clear as to the deep-seated reasons why I have this goal. I do know that I enjoy these authors immensely and relate to many of the philosophical concepts addressed in their works. The entire works of Kafka and Camus are behind me and a significant dent has been made in Hesse and Sartre. That’s why I was so pleased to come across the work of Naguib Mahfouz in Harvard Bookstore last summer. Mahfouz was an Egyptian author who published over 40 novels and other works from 1932-2005. His Wikipedia entry is here. Two excellent novels by Mahfouz are “The Thief and the Dogs” and “Autumn Quail.” Much of his writing deals with politics, particularly the Egyptian monarchy and revolution. These two works (both written in the early 1960s) are classics of existentialist literature, both with the changing Egyptian political situation as a major plot element. Although Mahfouz was a devout Muslim, he was not afraid to critique Islam or address atheistic subject matter. In 1994, 5 years and 1 day after he won the Nobel Prize for literature he was attacked and stabbed in the neck by two extremists, but survived. “The Thief and the Dogs” is the story of a Marxist named Said, who is released from prison and seeks revenge when betrayed by his wife and best friend. Said works through the conflicts he has with the changes in Egyptian politics that occurred while he was incarcerated and his all-encompassing desire to kill the mother of his daughter for her betrayal. This novel is both beautiful and ugly, and fascinating yet disturbing. Other works by Mahfouz that have existentialist themes are “The Beggar” and “Miramar”

An excerpt from The Thief and the Dogs can be found here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

1.4.5. "Pink Invasion" 12 inch EP, 1981 Archive Label

1.4.5. is from Syracuse, New York and features Paul Armstrong from seminal powerpop band Flashcubes of “Christi Girl” fame. Christi Girl was released in 1978 on the Northside label. The “Pink Invasion” 12 inch from 1981 is the first thing 1.4.5. ever released, followed by the Rhythm n' Booze 10 track LP released in 1988. The band is still together and performed live in Boston last year. I was lucky enough to find 2 copies of this record in San Diego during the same week of 2000. Great loud and rockin' tunes that hold up to anything from the golden powerpop era. Another great blog “Crud Crud” posted these songs a while back but the links don’t work anymore. Check out the Flashcubes web site here. They have a CD of new material available.

Track Listing:

She Couldn't Say No

Lets Groove

Mom & Dad

Sorry Wrong #

1.4.5. is the logical progression. Damn right!
Pink Invasion rar file

UPDATE! Saw 1.4.5. perform at P.A.'s Lounge in Somerville last November during the International Pop Overthrow festival. The set was amazing! Loud and tight with great vocals by Paul. They've still got the harmony thing down after all these years. I was mildly disappointed that Christi Girl wasn't on the set. I know it's not a 1.4.5. song, but come on guys, it's a GREAT song! Despite this omission, the set was superb with blistering versions of all four "Pink Invasion" songs and two or three others. A short and sweet set directly aimed at the heart of any true rock n roll fan. I hope they make it back to Boston for the next IPO.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Long Blondes: Not so many "Singles"

Like many of you, I was saddened to hear that the Long Blondes cease to exist and even sadder to hear that their reason for disbanding was that wonderful lead guitarist Dorian Cox suffered a non life-threatening stroke in June 2008. What even made it stranger for me was that I had just seen them play a blistering live set at the Great Scott in Allston, MA in late May or early June (I forget exactly when). The show was fantastic with a huge crowd in attendance. It was my first time seeing them and I was impressed with Kate Jackson's singing and the entire band. I was really getting into the more dance oriented songs on the new (at the time) album "Couples" .

Long Blondes released the "Singles" album in October 2008, shortly after the break up announcement. I was excited and anyone who has done any research will know, the CD singles and 45s that have the non-album b-sides are pretty hard to track down. When I heard that this compilation would include rare b-sides, I was stoked. Unfortunately, its not comprehensive, missing quite a few great songs. It's still a good buy though, because it does have some rare tracks worth hearing. Particularly good are "Autonomy Boy" and "Appropriation." For those unfamiliar with it, here's the track listing:
Better yet, support the band and buy it here.
  1. "New Idols",
  2. "Long Blonde"
  3. "Autonomy Boy"
  4. "Giddy Stratospheres"
  5. "Polly"
  6. "Darts"
  7. "Appropriation By Any Other Name"
  8. "My Heart Is Out Of Bounds"
  9. "Lust In The Movies"
  10. "Separated by Motorways" (Demo)
  11. "Big Infatuation"
  12. "Peterborough"
Songs left off "Singles"

Whippet Fancier
Unbearable Lightness Of Building
Never To Be Repeated
I'm Coping
Fullwood Babylon
Five Ways To End It
Christmas Is Cancelled
All Bar One Girls

I have never heard "Last Night On Northgate Street" " Platitudes" or "Who Are You To Her." If you have these for sale or trade, please contact me. And yeah, I know some of these have been posted before, but never together like this.