Harry Jerkface – My Punk Rock Bowling – Las Vegas, NV – May 26 and 27, 2012

May 27, 2012

Harry Jerkface and Skippy SimonWell, it's that time of year again…  Las Vegas.  Where thousands of punks descend upon Sin City for a weekend of Bowling, partying and Punk Rock debauchery. This year I decided to fall back on my usual plan of saving money and getting into as much trouble as my little heart could stand. 

We left late on Friday, hoping to avoid some of the traffic; my carpool also had some unavoidable work responsibilities.  Once on the road, it was a nonstop playlist of party jams including but not limited to our classic and legendary heading to Vegas tune, "Viva Las Vegas," as performed by the Dead Kennedys. I mean, what Punk rock trip to LV is complete without that?  I'd feel empty without it.  We stopped once in Bat Country, to get some gas on the way up.  As we entered the final stretch toward the city, we were hit with a sense of excitement. What adventures would the weekend hold in store for us? 

We arrived sometime after 1am in downtown Las Vegas, checked into our hotel and immediately started drinking. We'd brought several gallons of whiskey, a large jug of gin and plenty of things to mix them with.  After a few hotel room cocktails, we decided to hit the bar.  Having missed all the Friday night kickoff shows, we were ready to have a kickass time. We headed over to the Golden Nugget Hotel, where we proceeded to raise hell until the wee hours of the morning.  I ran into so many friends that I hadn't seen in at least a year.  We laughed and chatted and drank until we couldn't drink anymore. The night was marred by some shitty dudes who were looking for a fight.  They instigated one, and were promptly ejected.  No one needs that!  Minutes later, the bar was back to its joyous self and we spent the rest of the night running around smiling, laughing and getting drunk.  We crawled our way back to the hotel room at 8am and promptly passed out.  There was an awful lot of bowling to do the next day, after all.

My alarm started screaming at me at 10:35 in the morning, I smashed the snooze button a couple of times, rolled outta bed, threw some pants on, grabbed myself an peanut butter sandwich and an apple and made my way over to the Golden Nugget to meet up with my team and head on over to Sam's Town.  We were bowling in the first round and had to be there by noon, and barely made it there by the skin of our teeth.  After a few warm-up throws, we were ready to get down to business.  The team next to us were really good.  I was (un)fortunately still quite drunk from the night before and was tentatively gonna take a break on the drinking for the afternoon…  until the first bucket of beer showed up on our lane. 

Sam's Town Bowling

I don't really remember too much more of our bowling, except for the fact that I did better than everyone on my team and I had way too many drinks.  After hucking rocks for the better part of 2 hours, we finally got through our 3rd game, and I was let loose to wander around Sam's Town and get into a bit of trouble.  We did some loose interviews on camera for Big Wheel TV and I ended up walking away from  there with a free ham sandwich, fries, 9 beers and a plate of nachos.

I got to see a ton of friends from all over the world, and we shared in beers and snacks and had a really cool time.  I watched a ton of teams doing their very best to score points with style, grace and attitude.  From sailors to wolves to straight up bowlers, everyone had their unique take on team spirit and uniforms. 

Sam's Town

I had asked a few people to look for me before leaving because I hadn't secured a ride back over to downtown, but with my lack of sleep and my inebriated state of mind, I had missed all my opportunities to hop in someones car.  I'm not afraid of public transportation, in fact, I often prefer it when I'm in a strange city.  It offers a unique perspective on the way that a town works, plus it has the added bonus of being affordable.  With that in mind, I made my way over to the bus stop and waited for one to come by bearing the name of downtown Las Vegas on its marquee.  Two dollars and 40 minutes later, I had arrived exactly where I needed to be.  I had planned on taking a nap before heading down to the music festival in time to catch one of my all time favorite bands, The Briefs, who have reunited after a 5 year hiatus. Now, there were a lot of good bands on the bill, but they were the band that I had gone to see, and I wasn't missing that set for anything in the world.  It was nearing 5 pm at that point and I made the executive decision to head straight to the festival.  No shower, no nap.  I didn't have a map or a guidebook or anything, so I had assumed that the festival would be located in the same area as it had been the year before.  I'm glad that I allotted the extra time, because I had made the wrong assumption.  The festival was located a few short blocks away and I only had to follow the echos of bass drums ringing off of casinos to find it.  I caught the tail end of Far From Finished as I stood in line to be patted down.  I was a little bummed about it, cause I hadn't seen them in a long time, and my old roommate Pesky is the bass player for them.  I love that dude.   The line to get into the fest at that point was awfully smooth, and I was let in with no problems; at a sharp contrast to the year before where I was forced to remove my studded belts and leave them behind to be stolen.  Once inside, I wandered the fest grounds, looking for friends and free drinks.  The booze and beers inside were reasonably priced, however the lines were extremely long.  I spent over 45 minutes in line waiting for drinks.  The Real McKenzies played, and people went pretty ape for them.  Dressed in kilts with bagpipes and welcoming attitudes, they blasted though a fun singalong set replete with high kicks and flashes of dongs.  You could see half the crowd cringe, as the other half cheered every time a leg lifted past knee level.  As they wrapped up their set, I had time for one last drink while my buddy Colin grabbed me another 2 cherry lemonade drinks.  I shoved my way up front; there way no way I was missing one second of this Briefs set. 

The Briefs took the stage and proceeded to blast their way through a fun filled set chock full of hits.  I had seen them maybe 4 times before that and was instantly transported back in time to a place where everything was magical, and nothing was wrong in the world.  From songs about getting crabs to shoplifting at Macy's, their set was everything I could have hoped for and more.  Chris Brief tore up his drum kit while singing his heart out.  They never skipped a beat.  With each member of the band taking their turn on lead vocals, we really got the full Briefs experience.  Everyone around me was pogoing and partying and screaming along to all the words of every song.  I couldn't help but notice that Lance Romance looked uncannily like Will Ferrell with a bass guitar.  It made me giggle uncontrollably to myself for the rest of the weekend.  Steve E. Nix was on point as his usual cool self, with shredding licks and high kicks.  The other dude was cool too.  Whatever.  I was so tired at that point, having gotten less than 4 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours, and needed to retreat to my hotel room for a nap.  If there was any chance that I was going to make it through the night, I had to take off.  So I did, missing sets by the English Beat, the Adicts and NOFX.  I wasn't terribly bummed out, having seen all of those bands before and NOFX in the past 3 months.  "Sleep it Is," I said to myself. 

After a refreshing nap, I got myself together and headed down to catch the Bombpops at the Country Saloon.  Good friends of mine; I was excited to see them take the stage amidst some of their most favorite bands.  The line was relatively short when I arrived, as so many people attending were still making their way over from the NOFX show at the main festival stage.  After breezing my way through the front door, I hurried up front.  They were at least 3 songs into their set.  I could tell that they were really excited to be playing, as I made eye contact with each of the players and we winked and nodded and made little inside jokes.  Neil's hops were on point and Josh looked like a madman behind that kit.  I decided to myself that he was channeling Animal from the Muppets and that I should probably throw something at him.   So, I tossed over some trash from my pockets.  It missed and I don't think he noticed.  Jen and Poli played through their parts impeccably and everyone in the crowd seemed to really dig it.  I heard quite a few people remaking on how impressed they were with the band, and everyone walked away satisfied, ready for Dead To Me to do their thing. 

At that point I decided to take off and make my way down to the Beauty Bar to catch the Matt Skiba and Friends set.  I love Alkaline Trio, and had some high hopes for who the special guests could be.  There were rumors flying around for everyone from Tegan to the Sekrets, and I was pretty excited to see what it was gonna be.  The place was fairly empty when I got there, and Joey Balls was setting up to play through a few tunes before too long.  Now I love Joey, and he's a funny dude, so once he broke into an R. Kelly jam, I knew it was gonna be a good night. 

He played through a bunch of covers and some Old Man Markley songs.  It started dragging after a while and the crowd was getting restless…  and then one of the Sterns brought up the list of teams that made it into the 2nd round of bowling and asked Joey to announce it.  He did.  In song.  It was brutal.  So.  After what seemed like FOREVER, he got through all 60 team names.  He may have played another song or two, but at that point I really wasn't paying attention to the things that were happening on the stage.  I was back to beer. 

Whilst drinking and schmoozing we started speculating on possibilities.   Things started flying around on the twitter, and we had a really good idea of what we were in store for.  Laura Jane Grace.  Ever since that Rolling Stone article came out, I was super curious as to what the new Against Me!  would be like.  Would the songs go through drastic changes because the singer had?  To be honest, I had lost all interest in that band years ago and was curious as to what they would be like in the year 2012.  They took a really long time getting their shit together.  The crowd started grumbling and getting a little rowdy when the dude from Riverboat Gamblers took the stage.  He launched into this long winded story about blowing a kiss to Bruce Springsteen who told him that he was a bad ass.  Good for him, but that was kinda a jackoff story with no relevance, to be telling.  No one cared. 

They were hungry for music and everyone wanted music now.  He introduced Laura Jane Grace as Laura Grace Gable and she grabbed up her guitar and belted through the best Against Me! set I'd seen in 8 years.  The crowd exploded with cheers and shouts as everyone sang their hearts out to every word. 

That set was so heartfelt and honest and oh so good.  It was loaded with all my favorite singalong songs from, "Baby I'm An Anarchist" to "We Did It All For Don" to "Reinventing Axl Rose."  Top to bottom.  Amazing choices.  I couldn't have asked for a better set.  She played a couple new songs, including the one that's been making it's way around the internet, "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" and "Black Me Out." 

We got sweaty and close and awesome all over that club.  In the middle of her set you could see police lights in the alley behind the fence, casting an ominous glow over the whole thing.  Which launched her right into "Those Anarcho Punks Are Mysterious."  After she left the stage, we were all pretty spent.  However, we were there to see some Skiba.   A few more beers later (and some water for a friend who needed to hydrate) Matt grabbed up his guitar and launched into a request only set which included "Snake Oil Tanker", "Blue In The Face" and many others.  There were a couple times where he backed up off the mic and let the crowd sing along, but it just didn't have the immediacy of Laura Jane Grace's set. 

Some of the magic was gone, and it just couldn't be recaptured.  It's not to say that it was a bad set, it certainly wasn't the worst Matt Skiba set I've ever seen; but it seemed a pale shadow of what came before it.  So I drank more and we stuck it out until the end, where people called for an encore, but Matt was like, "No.  I'm really done."  So we closed our tabs and dispersed, making our way back toward our hotels where we decided a short nap was in order.

After a couple of hours, I was refreshed enough to make my way back to the bar, although the harsh desert air had resulted in a massive nosebleed.  So I donned a suit, a tie and a sport coat, made myself a couple of gin and tonics and went out for some drinks at the Golden Nugget.  The bar was fun, and it was a good way to catch up with people I hadn't seen at shows throughout the weekend, but by 5am, I needed to call it a night.  Once again, back to the room for some sleep. 

We didn't make it into the second round of bowling, so I spent my morning sleeping in.  I rallied around noonish to meet up with Bad Cop / Bad Cop for an all you can eat/drink mimosa brunch over at the Golden Nugget.  That turned out to be a really good decision on my part.  Drink after drink after drink.  Infinite champagne.  And I was drunk again.  After about 14 or so mimosas I stumbled back to the room to get ready for the pool party with the Real McKenzies over at the Gold Spike, but instead passed out and slept right through it.  I woke up around 5 and got myself ready to go see Rancid.  You guys, I really legitimately still love Rancid.  This is their 20th year as a band and they continue to be the most fun and the best time.

It was most definitely time to party.  We shuffled down to the festival area and stood in line to get in.  The line was definitely longer than the one I had stood in the night before, but it moved and before too long, I was back inside the green fence.  I totally blew it though.  I slept right through the Beltones set.  FML.  When we arrived, my buddies in Old Man Markley were chugging along onstage; I caught maybe 3 songs once inside.  At least I could hear them from the line.  I grabbed my drinks wristbands and prepared for a long wait in line for beers.  Surprisingly, they took note of the insane lines the day before and doubled the staff working in the booze tents.  It made me happy.  The Street Dogs played and I kinda sat around drinking.

Having seen them many times over the past few years, I didn't mind that they were playing, but was not particularly excited about it either.  They played a lot of newer songs that I didn't really recognize, and I watched without much enthusiasm.  And then it was Hepcat time.  I love Hepcat a lot.  They were the 2nd big show I had ever gone to in my life, growing up in Hawaii, and they hold a special place in my heart.  They played so good.  Running through songs from the entirety of their catalog, we were treated to tunes such as "I Can't Wait" and "Dance Wid' Me."  Their sweet soulful ska sounds were just the right thing to chill me out in the middle of this party weekend.  Everyone around me was dancing their little hearts out and laughing and smiling and having the best time.  I was curious as to who would be handling bass duties for them, since their bass player passed away a few years back, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was the dude from Chris Murray's band.  That guy is a bass line champion.

I skipped out on watching any of the Cockney Rejects set in order to help take care of a few drunk friends who were pretty wasted at that point.  I spent their whole set in lines for food and water and coffee and the restroom, making sure everyone I was with was sober enough to hang through the hour + Rancid set we were about to experience.  After chowing down and watering up, we shoved our way up toward the front as the sound crew finished up their last minute preparations.  The strains of Tim's guitar filled the air and the crowd roared as they took the stage.  They kicked off with "Radio."  That shit is my shit. 

Running through a large portion of their catalog, relying heavily on their hits from "…And Out Come The Wolves," Rancid showed Las Vegas that they've still got it after all these years.  Tim's signature spins were ever-present throughout their hour long set.  I mean, what more can I say about it? It's RANCID.  Skinhead Rob came out for his rap on "Red Hot Moon," highly entertaining to say the least.  Lars' guitars were on point; he was cracking jokes about being the "new guy," 18 years later. Tim told stories about Operation Ivy playing in the desert.  Mat snuffled and growled like a bear.  It was perfect!  They even played "I Wanna Riot," which I hadn't seen live before.  That set was so much fun.  They came back on stage after they finished to jam out a couple more tunes, ending with "Ruby Soho."  I was completely and utterly spent after that.  Covered in dirt and mud and ready for a shower, we left the festival all smiles.

It was time to figure out what in the world I was doing with myself.  I dreaded the thought of one more show; I just couldn't do it.  It was back to the hotel for a shower and a nap.  After some nice air conditioning chillout time, we made out way back down to the Golden Nugget.  Jeff and I had arranged to show some friends the wonderful and exciting game of craps.  Which, by the way, is my most favorite gambling game in all of Las Vegas.  We sat there at the table for a good hour winning and losing, until all the chips were gone. 

It was then time to lick our wounds and have a few more drinks before making our way to the Dunkin' Donuts for 7am bagels.  We had to check out of our hotel in a few short hours, as no one in our car was staying through Monday's festivities.  After another catnap, we packed our things up and wound our way through the heavy traffic back toward the city of Los Angeles, another Punk Rock Bowling under our belts and the city lights reflecting in the mirrors behind us. 


-Harry Jerkface-

Big Wheel Contributor




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Punk Rock Academy Fight Song – Good Guys Don’t Wear White

November 19, 2011

Punk Rock Academy Fight Song - Good Guys Don’t Wear White“Show me a hero and I’ll prove he’s a bum.” That is one of my favorite quotes by one of my heroes. The man who spoke it was World War Two fighter pilot Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, a medal of honor winner with a reputation for hard drinking and rule breaking but also some one who quickly realized the inherent danger of putting people up on a pedestal especially if he was the one on that pedestal. Precisely the type of person any impressionable young Punk couldn’t help but be attracted to. I mean there was even a movie about the guy called “The Flying Misfits” if that isn’t some kind of cosmic match I don’t know what is. But over the years that quote took on more and more meaning and made more and more sense. It wasn’t just some one who was uncomfortable with new found fame and notoriety being self deprecating but instead it was more of a warning and also a bit of a blueprint for the type of people we should be looking up to.

Part of the allure of Punk rock has always been the fact that most of our heroes have always been slightly damaged and have always been keenly aware of that. Our heroes weren’t better than us they were us. We don’t have guitar gods we have mere mortals banging out three chords that seem to say “come on man get off your ass and do something...this is for everybody”. We don’t try to hide our frailties and short comings behind some facade of perfection but rather celebrate the fact that we’ve all screwed up but some how are better for it. If you start out with nothing you’ve got nowhere to go but up, right? That’s why I’ve never been a fan of the the golden boys, the perfect smile, perfect hair all Americans-because those guys are usually hiding something and the more people look up to them the harder it is for them to maintain the illusion of heroic perfection and people just cant wait to watch em fall-I think The Bangles even had a song about that. As most people find out the hard way there is no greater disappointment than finding out some one you admire or look up to is a Grade A screw up but if you already realize they are a screw up then once again there is only room for improvement and you can’t be that let down when they falter. Still most people still find themselves subscribing to the ideal that the clean cut Dudley Do-Right types (look him up kids) are those who should be admired for their supposed high moral character and ability to throw a ball, read a line or play a guitar better than the rest of us. Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t admire those people Im just saying that I personally choose not to because I can’t really relate to them.

All of this bring me to another badass, and another quote. At the risk of being cliche its from Johnny Cash-yup the man in black of course. Johnny Cash upon meeting Merle Haggard-who had actually done real time in prison, supposedly said to Haggard “Nice to meet you you’re who everybody thinks I am”. So even when we look up to people for being anti heroes we still run the risk of getting the myth and the reality mixed. This doesn’t make Johnny Cash any less cool in my book but rather even cooler because he was able to call bullshit on himself and the ideal of what people thought of him. At the end of the day we all need someone to look up to some one to provide us with hope and inspiration but I just prefer that person to be some one that's kind of like me instead of some one I know I can never be.

-Daniel N-
Big Wheel Staff Columnist

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Punk Rock Academy Fight Song – The Fun Was Never Ending

October 24, 2011

Punk Rock Academy Fight Song - The Fun Was Never EndingSo as most of you have noticed my brilliant musings have been missing in action for close to a month and a half. It hasn’t been by choice and it hasn’t been because of a lack of ideas but rather quite the opposite. The ideas and memories have been bouncing around my brain like a Chinese gymnast on speed. However every time I flipped open the computer and attempted to get started I’d wind up scrapping whatever I was doing and head over to Surfline and see what the waves were like in Costa Rica or i’d kill some time on Facebook. But I just couldn’t focusand whatever words came out just didn’t feel right. To me writing is just like making music if it doesn’t feel right then don’t waste your time going through the motions and who cares if everything is perfectly punctuated if you want perfection read the New Yorker and listen to Steely Dan. And after all we’ve all seen what happens when a band is just going through the motions and not playing from the gut for the fans. Not that I'm claiming to be some great artist but If your gonna take the time to read this I might as well give you what what deserve. Because once again Punk rock is first and foremost about heart and soul and not about virtuosity or perfection.

So a few weeks ago as I was stuck in my rut trying to figure out what to get out of my brain I hit the digital crack pipe known as Facebook and came upon a post from my cousin stating that it was the 15th anniversary of her brothers passing. So this ones for him. My cousin Carlos was killed in a car accident at the age of 21 but he packed more life into those short years than most people do in several lifetimes.If my friend Herman was my partner in crime then Carlos was my partner in good times. He always had a cat eatin’ smile a sharp comeback and would give you the shirt off of his back. He might not have been into Punk but he was as punk as they come. Always up for a good time, or no good, and always willing to back up his family. Our adventures and escapades are far too numerous to ever put on paper but that’s probably for the best cause half the stuff we did deserves to be kept under wraps and words just wouldn’t do justice to the rest. Although among other things he did teach me that in Mexico the best use for your seat belt is as a bottle opener. He also taught me that our families unofficial family motto was No Somos Machos Pero Somos Muchos-which roughly means we may not be tough guys but there’s a lot of us- trust me in spanish and when uttered at just the right time it’s funny as hell and makes plenty of sense. He was the type of guy that I pictured growing old with and bullshitting over beers-well we did that anyway- and visiting his family every summer just the way he did when we were kids.  The irony about his death is that I found out about it after a night of partying and it felt like some kind of hungover nightmare and as soon as I sobered up I’d find out he was alive and well and waiting for me to head down to Mexico and join him for a couple of ice cold Pacificos. The reality is that I miss him like hell and feel ripped off that i never said good bye but I also feel infinitely  grateful to have had all the crazy memories with him and I know he’s been looking over me like the mischievous guardian angel that he is. As much as this is about me finally paying tribute to some one its also for everybody else that's had a Carlos in their life come and go way too quickly. So like most of our favorite songs this ones gona be short, sweet and from the heart. Now go crank up Bro Hymn, have an Ice cold one and live like Carlos.

-Daniel N-

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Punk Rock Academy Fight Song – A Riot Of My Own

August 17, 2011

Punk Rock Academy Fight Song - A Riot Of My OwnAhh Yes the riot. Probably one of the most over used cliched terms in Punk rock. I bet there are more Punk songs about rioting than there are country songs about driving tractors and being proud to be a redneck. Side note- I really do like country music, just not the lame derivative type that panders to the lowest common denominator but I digress.  Seeing the recent civil unrest in London brought this idea to mind-that the term riot within the context of Punk rock has become hackneyed and trite. Wow I must be some high brow intellectual to be putting together such a phrase and as a matter of fact I am wearing a tweed sports coat with elbow patches and smoking a pipe as I write this.

But watching the news and reading the paper lately kind of got me to thinking about this term that seems to really be one of the cornerstones of the Punk movement and at the risk of pissing of a lot of people I'm about to call bullshit on it. Holy Strummers ghost I just went there! Because really it does all go back to Joe, Mick, Paul and Topper( yeah I know it was Terry Chimes drumming on the first album-geez) and if anyone knows anything about me then you know that I worship at the church of the Clash oops I might have offended some religious types but it’s not really a church just a small alter in my garage. So anyway I am faulting White Riot for the proliferation of crappy songs about rioting or having a riot or going to a riot that have kept on coming until this day that really have nothing to do with social change. See its not the word riot that bothers me as much as the idea of “hey look at me Im pissed I think I ‘ll go and run around like a fool and loot and burn stuff” instead of being proactively involved in real change. As we all know Joe Strummers intent was to spur kids into action instead of just sitting idly by as the world and its injustices kept going. Don’t just think about what’s wrong with society but get off your ass and do something about it. However I disagree that getting up and physically throwing a brick through a window is the best way to affect social change. Maybe its because I went to school “to get more thick” or maybe it’s my weak throwing arm and bad aim, but I agree with the idea and not the action of rioting even if the act is the result of frustration from intolerable oppression not because your favorite team just won the championship. I know you can get further with rallies and demonstrations than you can by burning down your own neighborhood and looting a new flat screen and pampers. On a smaller scale I get it all the time at work when students complain to me about rules they don’t like or understand and I  tell them yeah you can break the rule or ditch class or tell someone to F-off or you can put together a rational argument or sign a petition and tell me which one gets you farther. Unfortunately they usually just drop the subject altogether and move on to some other drama of the day but just once I’d love them to try.

But as much as I’ve gone to school to get thick, I’ve also thrown a brick-kind of. It was the summer of 94 or 95 and it was at the BlockBuster Pavillion in the lovely metropolis of Devore. It was the great Punk Show Riot started by security hating Guttermouth and ended by Face to Face who encouraged everyone to “fuck it and get on stage”. So I did. So I bulled my way to the front and attempted to climb up the beer and sweat soaked stage where I was eventually pulled up by the arm of Trevor Keith and started spraying us with fire extinguishers and the sheriffs deputies showed up. Obviously there was no big social cause for this behavior, no protest against tyranny  just a bunch of half drunk overheated kids. When I got home later the evening I found my mom watching aghast as the the eleven o’clock news detailed the riot at the punk rock concert-those damn weird troublemakers. “UH, no mom I wasn't at THAT concert I was somewhere else.” So there you have it I’m a bit of a hypocrite i was part of a riot. But really I do believe that we as Punks can be agents of change, music can make a difference I just hate seeing something so cool being defined by mindless idiocy. So no I dont really blame The Clash for anything and I do like some songs about rioting. I guess songs just sound cooler with the word riot instead of proactive change or rational protest. I've yet to hear an inspiring song about signing petitions. It just bothers me that rioting is usually just morons breaking stuff and didn’t Limp Bizkit have a song called “Break Shit”. And really nobody wants to ever be linked with Limp Bizkit-do they?

-Daniel N-

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Punk Rock Academy Fight Song – The Kids Are Alright

July 13, 2011

The kids Are AlrightIt seems to me like every generation falls into the same trap. We swear up and down that we wont do it. No way man, I'm not gonna be that guy. Be eventually what we think is maturity sets in and we feel it is our god given right or perhaps it is our righteous duty and we give in to that feeling in the back of our heads that we’ve been suppressing for years. And then when we cant take it anymore and we explode and out come that odious phrase “...Kids these days.” Its the sad acknowledgment that we are slowly evolving (or maybe devolving) in to responsible adults or we are becoming our parents or maybe just maybe we aren’t as cool as we thought we were. There are of course a wide variety of reasons why this phrase finds its way passing our lips and into the ears of anybody who has the misfortune of being within shouting distance. Cause when you say say something like that you just don't mutter it under your breath you practically broadcast it to the heavens. Usually its the result of switching from your CD to Fm on your car stereo and hearing some over produced auto tuned tripe that passes for “Pop Music” or maybe its when you scan though the pages of  magazines and all the bands have names that are paragraphs long and look like ...well now I am starting to sound old, but you get the picture. But guess what as long as there has been music there has been crappy music to rail against and as long as one cool band has looked and dressed a certain way there have been a thousand of lame one that have tried to cop their style and ride their coattails in vain hopes of success. But that’s all stuff that’s out of our hands and stuff that every generation will have to contend with. So what really raises our ire is that we view ourselves as keepers of a legacy that is greater than ourselves. We are the spiritual descendants of individuals who took nothing for granted and wanted to do something big against complacency apathy and even injustice so it rightfully pisses us off when people just don't seem to care. We are true believers and we hope those that follow will be as well. If your under the age of 25 and your reading this your probably thinking “ Wow! What an old blowhard-just shut up and tell us about something stupid you did!” but I'm getting to my point just bear with me while I pontificate some more.

For me this entire year has seemed like one continuous non stop “Kids these days” moment, only with a lot of expletives thrown in every time. The reason being that this year I had the dubious pleasure of being the 12th grade counselor at my school. I say dubious because I’ve known this group of kids since they were in the 9th and its more or less my responsibility to make sure that as many of them as possible graduate. Anyway from day one I was blitzed with with multitudes of comments about how bad this class was and how lazy and apathetic they were. And after a while I bought into it and started making the comments myself. Now I love my job and I'm the eternal optimist. A teacher once called me an idealist as if it were a synonym for puppy killer. I like to think I can relate to my kids without acting like I'm trying to relate to them. I often tell them if 30 something me could meet 17 year old me I’d kick that 17 year old punks ass. But after a while it really did seem like these kids just didn’t give a damn and felt that the world owed them something- the attitude was that we should be grateful that they even bothered to show up and do the stupid assignments-well truth be told there were a lot of stupid assignments that 17 year old me chose not to do but that's ancient history, right? As the year wore on so did my frustrations, How much brow beating, chasing and cajoling did i have to do before these kids would finally get it Probably the same amount that my teachers had to do with me. Well I may have been a slacker but I’ve never been apathetic or entitled and that's what really killed me-until graduation day. Now having attended many graduations in my life I prepared myself for the interminable and the often  intolerable “this is not the end but really a beginning” speeches. Instead I was pleasantly gob smacked when one of the speakers fessed up for slacking and breaking some rules and thanked their parents and teachers for letting them get away with it because they remembered what it was like to be a confused anxious 17 year old. So yeah kids these days... but as long as some of em are checking out the Street Dogs, reading Kerouac- and starting bands I think we’ll be okay. Oh and teachers that kid falling asleep in the back of the class you just might be working with him in a few years-its not that he doesn’t care he just just doesn’t care right now.

-Daniel N-

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Punk Rock Academy Fight Song – Wassup Rockers

June 14, 2011

Punk Rock Academy Fight Song - Wassup Rockers"Mr. N - What are You? What do you mean, what am I-? Yeah like what are you, you know where are you from? Oh I live in Long Beach but I grew up in  San Gabriel if that's what you mean. No Mr. N what are you, what's your nationality.  Well I'm American. NO, NO, No comes the exasperated response where were you born. Well I was born in Georgia but what does that have to do with anything". And so it plays out like an updated version of the old Abbott and Costello "Who's on First" routine whenever my students find out that I am in fact like most of them -Hispanic or Latino or Chicano or whatever the correct term is.The discovery usually happens when I catch them muttering some profanity in Spanish and respond with a quick " Le hablas a tu mama con esa boca" and their jaws drop in befuddlement. So after a few rounds of playing "what the hell is he?" I relent and finally reveal that my dad is from Mexico and my mom is from Guatemala and that is how I know what they are saying and why I can speak fluent Spanish. This revelation quickly changes things in my students minds-it instantly gives me some kind of credibility because now they know Im like them, but at the same time they know I'm still a little different. I don't look like any other teacher or counselor that they have ever met. I like to surf. I wear a shirt and tie but I don't look like a guy who wears a shirt and tie unless he's at work or in court. Then they ask me the most important question " What kind of music do you like" and upon hearing my answers they get it- "AHHH, Mr. N you're a rocker".

All truth be told I never made a big deal about my background and growing up no one else really did either. I grew up speaking spanish at home since before I can even remember and we took yearly vacations to visit family in Mexico. I know where bumble bee man from the Simpsons really comes from. I remember listening to Dodger games on the Spanish radio station whenever Fernando Valenzuela would pitch. At the same time I was raised protestant, sorry no Virgin Mary icons in my house, I used to root for John Wayne in The Alamo and my mom cooks great Italian food and I cant stand telenovelas. To me being Hispanic has never seemed to be anything at of the ordinary. So my parents are from another country-aren't most peoples? I'm sure as hell not going to say I'm white washed either cause that ones right up there on the bullshit scale with sellout. I prefer to call my self the undercover Hispanic. Anyway it wasn't until high school, when one of my friends on the football team overheard me calling my parents on the pay phone and asking them in Spanish to pick me up from practice, that my Mexican-ness really mattered. Up until that point i'd just been the goofy kid with the weird last name but the fact that I spoke Spanish was like unlocking some kind of secret password that made you a little bit cooler a bit more down. I was still the goofy kid with the weird last name that listened to that crazy music but I also was now the goofy MEXICAN kid- yeah yeah I'm only half but it gets to be a pain having to write Mexican/Guatemalan all the time and then you have to explain where Guatemala is on the map. So for the sake of ease I just go with Mexican (sorry ma). I've always been proud of my heritage even  if I did make my grandpa go out and buy me cornflakes because I wouldn't eat any of the traditional food my grandma cooked when we took those vacations to Mexico. I've also never known why some people think it makes you less Mexican to like things like surfing and Punk rock when you live in southern California.

Which brings me to a scrawny light skinned,  Mexican kid in the Adicts T-shirt at a middle school in North Long Beach and the best question I was ever asked. As I'm walking out of my classroom towards the end of year he says to me out of the blue "Hey Mr. N were you like me when you were a kid". Yeah, I was I tell him. He then responds with a quick nod of his head and a slight "cool" under his breath.

-Daniel N-

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