August 7, 2007
Punk rock. Without it, many of us would be in jail.
The first time I ever heard punk rock with my very own ears also coincided with my first makeout session.
On vacation with my churchgoing parents and their equally wholesome friends in Daytona Beach, Florida, I sunned myself out on the sand a couple yards away from my folks … when I found myself playing eye hockey with a lithe, tanned surfer boy I thought far too good-looking to be in my league.
Eye hockey: how brazen; how exciting. He might as well have been a magazine picture of a surfer; I sported braces and a perm, and a bony body and giant feet.
I thought it was a joke. I’d seen the Lilli Taylor movie about the pig party.
Much to my surprise, the surfer dude came over and introduced himself to me AND my parents. Let’s call him Rocco DiMezzo, Jr. — playboy teenage son of a playboy personal-injury lawyer with a pink stucco house right on the beach.
He spoke to my folks like an adult, and not even in an Eddie Haskell way — so my dad actually let me agree to meet him later. Only for half an hour, but still. It was something.
We met up that night in the hotel parking lot, and sat together in his surfing-friendly Volvo and listened to music and kissed. On the tape in the car stereo, over an army of guitars with a metallic buzzsaw tone I’d never heard before, a rowdy hooligan growled on a cheap microphone:
“I SEEN AN OLD MAN HAVE A HEART ATTACK ON THE STREETS OF MANHATTAN — WELL HE DIED WHILE WE JUST STOOD THERE LOOKIN’ AT HIM …”
Guitars bee-swarmed in the background, and on the chorus, a pack of wild young boys screamed along with the hooligan, all pissed off about everything: “I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU! FUCK YOU!”
“Who’s this?,” I asked.
“Fear,” Rocco said.
“I SEEN MEN ROLLING DRUNKS, BODIES IN THE STREET — I SAW A MAN WHO WAS SLEEPING IN PUKE AND A MAN WITH NO LEGS ROLLING DOWN FIFTH STREET” —
Rocco put his hand on my leg, bit the lobe of my ear, and crept his fingers up underneath my Daisy Dukes to the soft hairs at the tippy-top of my inner thigh. I’d been kept from ugly, inner-city, dregs-of-society scenarios my whole life, and this dude on the tape player was singing about them as if they were no big deal.
“I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU! FUCK YOU!”
Fear. I didn’t know whether Rocco was telling me the name of a band or giving me a command, and with that, I was instantly, honestly turned on for the first time ever in my life. For a socially-awkward Sister Christian, I sure had a lot of body parts that began to pulsate in ways I never experienced until just then, whether because of Rocco’s wandering tongue or (more likely) because of Fear’s naked rage.
I didn’t even know what to do with my body, or what Rocco was going to do, or could do, with my body, in the 15 minutes I had until my father would come out into the parking lot and drag me away from the car if I hadn’t returned to the hotel room. I also had a strong suspicion Dad was having my mom periodically check on me from some dark balcony, so I didn’t let Rocco go too far.
I only knew the sensations in my groin and in my brain were probably a result of me doing a bunch of things God said I wasn’t supposed to be doing at once, and I didn’t care if Rocco’s fingers went any further as much as I cared about turning the volume up or putting some big fluffy headphones on and finally getting to listen to punk rock while my parents weren’t around.
Here I was, at last, making out with a boy who could drive a car and at the same time listening to the Bad Kid punkers, the ones I’d heard to stay away from — the neglected, angry spawn of the Me Generation, breaking bottles in alleyways and experimenting with illicit substances and celebrating the dark side while I played handbells at church banquets and practiced piano and studied advanced math.
Rocco’s tongue explored my braces, and I marveled at the smoothness of his rippled brown chest peeking out from his open white button-down shirt while Lee Ving, Fear’s animal frontman, roared about the horrific realities of city life.
Grim vignettes and caveman choruses shouted out loud with all voices and instruments echoing the frankness about the way things were that nobody was allowed to point out in my community without putting it all on ‘Satan.’
I think I also realized Rocco DiMezzo, Jr. didn’t care about me. Fuck me. And more importantly I realized that was okay, because it was just making out for 15 minutes, second base only, and God wasn’t involved and probably didn’t care about me — fuck me — or whether or not Rocco DiMezzo, Jr. kept trying to put my hand on his stick shift.
I tasted my first kiss from a bad boy’s mouth, one who would stomp my heart to bits if I “let” him, and in the background, Rocco’s car stereo was busy being honest about his emotional stance so he didn’t have to. He might not have said what I wanted to hear or done what I wanted him to do, but at least he wasn’t lying about anything.
It was the beginning of my awakening.
That night, I started to be able to put name to my anger. And from then on, punk rock was there to help.
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