November 11, 2004

Snapshot II: Let Them Eat Jellybeans!

(Does two in a week count as a "series?" I think it should count.)


It's late 1984 and I am o-v-e-r my prior support for Ronald Reagan. Over it.

I wasn't too into the election, because even I could see that Mondale was a loser of a candidate. Props to him for choosing a woman for his running mate; shame he never had a chance in hell of winning against that fascist Reagan. Did you know if you count the letters in Ronald Wilson Reagan, you get 6-6-6? The number of the beast. Tell me that's a coincidence. Ha!

I have been shown the way. I have been rehabilitated. I have seen the light.

I have accepted Joe Strummer as my personal savior.

I am so punk rock. See? Right here: Here's my copy of Let Them Eat Jellybeans. Sorry I could only find it on cassette. It'd be much cooler on vinyl, huh? I mean, uh, actually I don't, uh, really like most of the songs on it--but that title, isn't that title awesome? That caricature of Reagan on the cover, isn't it priceless?

And don't I have my copy of Never Mind the Bollocks? And not just any copy; not just that lame pink-and-green U.S. version all the poseurs have, oh, no--the British release, the import. Take that! Oh, sure, it's not actually any different in track listing from the U.S. version, but . . . but . . . but it looks cooler. And it comes from the U.K., from which all good things come. So there. You could've had it yourself if you'd only made the effort, but I guess you'd rather be a poseur.

And look, look at this: 45 RPM singles from Britain. Look at the little tiny holes they punch into them instead of our big you-need-an-adapter-to-play-this ones. Aren't they adorable? And I don't need an adapter to play them! They'll play just fine on my hand-me-down stereo from my parents, the one that actually comes with an, euwww, eight-track. No, those Brits know what they're about with the small holes. Doesn't it just prove how resoundingly stupid the U.S. is? How lame? How fascist? Of course it does. Q.E.D.

I have saved up my babysitting money and ridden my bicycle nine miles each way to a little independent record store near ASU to collect all this stuff, which isn't very punk rock at all; but can I help it that the Phoenix metropolitan area has virtually no public transit outside the core of the city? Fascists!

Yes, I am very punk rock in my own estimation. And it has to be in my own estimation, because I have only one friend, and she thinks I am ridiculous. She thinks I should be listening to Split Enz instead. I think Split Enz are all right in small doses, but they're not exactly going to change the world the way my bands will. Hell, they're scarcely known now; what are the odds that anyone will ever hear from any member of them ever again?

Not that there aren't other punks in school, but they hang in their own little clique and are suspicious of outsiders, of poseurs. I wish they could see that I am no poseur. I am genuinely, sincerely, wholeheartedly down with the punk movement, even if it did flourish originally in the mid-70s, when I was seven years old and still listening to Andy Gibb. But that's not my fault. My parents should have had me sooner. And they should have been British citizens.

I am torn between secretly admiring the other punks (they hate to be called "punk rockers," a label applied to them by the Man) and secretly thinking something isn't quite right with them. They all have the same leather jacket from the same store, the only store in town selling jackets that are punk enough, and they all do more or less the same thing with their hair, usually some variation of the mohawk. No way in hell am I cutting my hair into a mohawk. First of all, my parents are angry enough that I colored it jet black and second of all, mohawks are kind of ugly. But that's okay! Live and let live. Punk is all about expressing your individuality.

Because I don't have $100 for a sufficiently punk leather jacket, I make up my own outfits. I raid my mother's closet in search of anything retro 60s. It's not easy; my mother is extremely organized and no pack rat. Most of what lingers in the closet is from no earlier than the 70s. This of course won't do at all. Why can't I have a mom like Marci's? Marci parades around like Jean Shrimpton at a biker's ball. No, a biker's ball crashed by the Sex Pistols. That's it.

It's so unfair. My mom is so fascist. And the nerve of her, yelling at me for snagging that be-yew-ti-ful black skirt that's allll-most a mini, that forms an unbeatable yeah-you-wish-you-were-me combo with my fishnet stockings . . . her getting all upset just because it's the skirt she was married in, I mean, honestly. How fascist can you get?

Although, she did buy me the fishnets. And that's the problem with all this: My parents are not nearly as intolerant of how punk rock I am as they ought to be. Oh, we aren't exactly getting along: It seems they take issue with my penchant for removing the screen to my bedroom and sneaking out the window in the middle of the night to go walking around the neighborhood, just thinking about stuff--like how fascist everything is. They're not pleased with my habit of blowing off school, either. As if it were somehow my fault that school is totally fascist!

They don't like me wearing all this black, either. They are worried it means I am a Satanist. I'm so tired of explaining to them that it's the Ozzy fans who are the Satanists and dear God in heaven, do NOT lump me in with those losers. Those are the kids who smoke pot in the smoking area at school. I want nothing to do with them. Nothing. They do not express their individuality like I do. They don't express anything beyond the desire to get really, really high. Ugh. Losers. I'll bet even Satan doesn't want them.

Despite all this fascist tension in the house, my parents are pretty tolerant--too tolerant--of my passion for punk and new wave music. Christmas and birthdays occur much as they always did, with me handing them a list of records I want. I try to hit them with the big-ticket items, naturally, but I also try to spare them the trip to Roads to Moscow, the indie store. They would just haaaate Roads to Moscow. I try to pick things that are just this side of mainstream; things they could pick up in those fascist chain record stores like Wherehouse or Musicland.

For Christmas, 1984, one item tops my list: Sandinista!

"Sandinista?" my mom asks, in That Tone.

"Sandinista?" my dad echoes.

HAH! I knew that would get them. My parents have been more or less Republican all their lives. On occasion my father has been suspected of voting for Democrats, but no one's ever been able to prove it. As for my mother--

"What is it, an album by communists?" my mother wants to know.

"I doubt it," my father laughs. "Communists couldn't get their act together long enough to produce a record album, much less sell one in this country. They have bread lines to stand in."

I am long practiced in ignoring my father and his smartass remarks. "It's by the Clash," I tell my mother cooly. "Want me to write it down for you?"

"Oh, I think I can remember that. The Clash? Again? I thought you had everything by them already."

"This is the only one I don't have. It's a triple album."

"So that's why we get to pay for it," my father grumbles.

Perfect! I can never resist an opportunity to lecture my parents on the evils of capitalism and the goodness of the Clash.

"You won't find it that expensive, actually," I tell them. "You see, most Clash fans in England are very poor--"

"Because they don't work." My father is starting to grate my nerves with the smart remarks. He certainly doesn't ever let me make smart remarks, which makes this whole conversation unfair from the start. Unfair, and fascist.

"--because Thatcher's fascist policies have taken away their jobs, you mean, and so what the Clash did, because they are not heartless thugs like Thatcher and Reagan, was record a triple album, but demand that their record company release it in a single sleeve to keep the costs down."

"I'm sure the record company loved that," my mother says.

Really, no wonder my parents are so ignorant of the plight of the poor: They're too busy making jokes about it. How sad they are. How bourgeois. Have they no shame at all?

"I think it's nice that a band would care so much about its fans that they would take on the corporate greed machine like that," I tell my parents.

"Oh, no one's saying it isn't nice," laughs my father--has the man been laughing this entire time? What is so funny about this?--"it's not like your mother and I work for the record company. It's no skin off our asses to pay less money for this crap--"--this crap? Did he just call--"so tell the Clash your mother and I said 'thanks.'"

"I didn't say thanks," my mother corrects him. "I can't believe we just agreed to buy her a record called 'Sandinista.'" She turns her attention to me again: "Do you even know who the Sandinistas are?"

"Sure," I bluff. Well, not really bluff, exactly. I mean, I have an idea--

"Do you even know what country they're in?" Oh damn, damn, damn my father. That fascist! But wait--wait, something I heard on the public radio (the nonfascist radio!) the other night--

"Nicaragua," I say proudly.

"That's not bad for a kid who only ever reads the leisure section," my father admits.

A kid. God, they're so--"Oh WHAT," I sneer, "I should be like you and read the Wall Street Journal?"

"I'd settle for you reading your homework assignments once in awhile."

"Whatever. At least I care about what's going on in the world."

Oh hell. Why did I say that? Why did I say that? I just know I have let myself in for it with that one. I don't know anything about what's going on in the world. My father is right: I only ever read the leisure section. And music magazines--Creem and Rolling Stone and Trouser Press when I can find it.

But I care! I just need to become better informed is all. It'd be easier to do if I weren't stuck here in Mesa, the heart of Mormonville after Salt Lake City. Here in Mesa, with all the fascists.

Fantastic: Now my mother's laughing at me. This is a disaster. It is a difficult thing to do, to make my mother laugh.

"If you care so much about Nicaragua," my mother wants to know, "then why don't you care how many Nicaraguans were killed by the Sandinista regime?"

"And starved," my father puts in.

"And jailed," adds my mother.

"That . . . that isn't exactly true," I tell them. What exactly did that professor guy on the radio say the other night? Oh!--"That's just an excuse Reagan used to justify . . ."--oh, help me, Lord; to justify what again?--"to justify that whole deal with the Contras." There. With any luck the vagueness of "that whole deal" will cover most of my bases on this one.

I remember another thing the professor said and add, "You can't trust what you read in our papers, because they're biased in favor of the Reagan administration,"--will my parents stop laughing for one minute?--"but anyone who really wants to find out what's happening in Nicaragua, who really cares about the truth, should just go there and see for themselves."

My parents stop laughing. Finally! My mother sighs and says, "Well, you're going to have to make do with the papers--"

"--which she doesn't read--" I give my father That Look. "Don't give me That Look," my father snaps. "You don't read them."

"Well, she's going to have to start reading them if she cares so much," my mother tells him, "because she's not going to Nicaragua."

"Of course she's not going to Nicaragua. You think I'm gonna pay the plane fare? She doesn't even have a passport."

I give up.

My parents are so fascist.

But I'll show them. I'll show them! One day I will be 18 and there'll be nothing they can do, nothing at all, to stop me from going to Nicaragua. I will do just as that man on the radio said, and go see for myself how revolution can heal a wounded people.


Of course . . . of course . . . didn't someone tell me there's a lot of jungle in Nicaragua?

Jungles. Jungles have . . . insects.

Thousands of insects, probably. Large insects. Bigger than the ones you see camping, maybe. They probably fly right at you . . . .

Eh. Maybe I'll just try to tune into NPR more often. Let someone else go to Nicaragua.

Someone who's not, you know . . . fascist.

Posted by Ilyka at November 11, 2004 04:17 PM in navel gazing

ROTFL!! I'm glad you pulled away from the SIMS long enough to post so much, because this one is brilliant, not to mention hysterical.

Posted by: Ith at November 11, 2004 05:18 PM

"If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." - Somebody who wasn't Winston Churchill

Posted by: Jim at November 11, 2004 07:36 PM

Well, that "somebody" sure was FASCIST.

Posted by: ilyka at November 11, 2004 07:47 PM

Damned fascists!!

Posted by: Jim at November 11, 2004 09:06 PM

LOL! Flashback time--I was big into punk in the early 80's as well. Attitude way out to --HERE--!

Posted by: Desert Cat at November 19, 2004 04:50 AM