When I started at RHS some years ago, I was surprised by the number of Punk kids. I expected a few Ramones heads but Mob 47 and Unholy Grave? It was a pleasant surprise. One morning I’m talking to a teacher in the R-building and this kid passes by and politely greets me. He’s wearing a Varukers t-shirt. I smile. This teacher makes a stupid crack about the kid. I didn’t laugh. The funny thing was I had the same t-shirt underneath my “work attire.” Why? Don’t you believe in One Struggle One Fight?
I’ve had several conversations about punk rock with students. It just happens, especially if there are some shaved heads or a mohawk in the room. If a class finishes a test early or we are in homeroom, it can begin. It usually starts with the innocuous question:
“Hey Mister, what kind of music you into?”
I give em the universally pathetic response.
“I like a little of everything.”
They sigh, just like I do when I hear that lazy, bullshit response. Then I’ll start it off.
“You know, Little Joe and the Latinaires, Brenton Wood, Mary Wells …”
A chola looks up and gives me the once over.
“Sabbath, Creedence, Hendrix…”
A long-hair looks up from his book.
“Segundo Rosero, Los Wawanco, even Charlie Zaa…”
Some in the LED group look my way.
Poor Righteous Teachers, Mindclouders, PsychoRealm…”
Hip-hop heads and doo rags side glance me.
I blabber any name that comes to mind, some heads turn away. I wait for them to tire of my yammering and maybe open a book, making sure not to mention any punk bands. This is fun. They stay with me.
“That sounds like all old stuff, mister. What about from this century?”
They laugh at my lust for originality. Why is youth wasted on the young? I give them their little moment of gettin over on the old-timer. A laughing, bobbing mohawk and a couple of dangling piercings jingle with youthful triumph. Little fuckers. I give em a half grin, but I’m cracking up inside.
Class is almost over and as I finish my boring list and start to walk away from these all-knowing punks, I’ll turn my head and say, “So I like old music. Bad Brains or Citizen Fish or even Dead Silence or Atoxxxico. That 80’s Italian hardcore really gets me too, you know like Declino and Blue Vomit.” I landed perfectly, like a pubescent Romanian Olympic gymnast with her parents watching. 10!
The WTF? on their faces is hysterical but the bonding will soon begin. The rest of the class will start to ignore us as we compare favorite bands. The admiration for Crass and Minor Threat and Crudos goes unabated. It never fails after all these years. If they look around to show others how “punk” they are, I’ll give it to em a little.
“Nah, Final Conflict’s demo is way better than the Ashes to Ashes cd. The last time I saw Ron was…” or “Yeah, the old Brazilian stuff, some serious hardcore. And what about the more recent stuff?”
Rarely do I enjoy blank stares in a classroom. But come on, little shits gotta be checked. Plus, you ever see a mohawk freeze? Well, it’s fuckin’ funny.
But most of the time it goes down smoothly and enthusiastically.
I sometimes feel like the 16 year old as I remember all those wonderful bands and friends. Does last week’s Coacción show at The Blvd. count as a memory? So we appreciate that thing called personal autonomy (even in school!?), the distorted three chord attack, and the aggressive lyrical stance:
“En El Corazón, Con La Razón” (Tragatelo)
¡Aquí va a parar el miedo que tengo al caminar de noche sola
Con temor a que un enfermo se le ocurra quitarme la diginidad!
Aquí vas a empezar a aprender lo que siento cuando me chiflan por las calles
Aquí dejaremos nuestra paciencia, aquí dejarás tu ignorancia
Aquí dejarás tu ignorancia, aquí aprendarás que no aguanteremos más
Y que nosotras mismas castigaremos a violadores y a esos hombres que no nos dan el respeto que tanto hemos luchado por el.
!Aqui es donde todo cambiara, aqui es donde terminara!
But it is much more. How many times have I burned the Massacre 68, Deadstare or DropDead discographies and handed ’em to a kid who didn’t have the ten bills (or any bill$)? 50? 75 times? As soon as that young hand opens and grasps it, you remember sharing is caring and sometimes punk.
It’s like finding a new friend. (Can teachers and students be friends?) Weeks or months later, if these punks are in a class I’m covering, it’s just kindness on an exponential level. Some humanity returns to a coerced environment, such is the impact. Wait! Is that teaching? Oh shit! Hey, does it help when one of their own is in front of the room?
Some of these suckas know so much about the advent of punk rock, either from their crusty parents or from googling. It blows my mind. Not just that, it’s good to see young, curious minds with good taste in music.
Let me introduce you to two of my new Roosevelt punk comrades.
I met F. in Miss Stepanovich’s class. He and Alonso were two loud ones but they eventually understood the situation. Out of the blue one day, F asked me if I liked Los Crudos. Things happen like that. When I told him in fact I was friendly with all those guys in the band, the eyes of this sophomore lit up. Class would begin and we got back to The Raisin In The Sun.
S. I met in Mr. Lopez’s class I believe. Like me, he is into metal and hardcore. Especially the 80’s. He’d finish his assignment and he would call me over and whisper, “Mister. Do you like Metal Church?”
I’d say Kirk Arrington was the best drummer from the 80’s Bay Area thrash scene and Lars Ulrich is a poser. “What about Slaughter? Did you like ‘Strappado?'” Then we’d compare Canadian thrash bands. Kid knew alot. But when I gave him a copy of the Raw Power Discography, well that really blew his mind. Next time I saw him, he proudly showed me his Raw Power patch.
Incidents like that can brighten up a tired teacher’s day, yes? Yes. Here I am with my new friends.
They happen to be 2 of the wisest and most respectful students I know. And they happen to be punks. What a coincidence. Not to us.