Archive | June 2014

Banish Yourself to Punk Island

This Saturday is the Punk Island 2014 festival in New York City. It will feature almost 100 bands on seven stages all for FREE on Staten Island.

I have had the good fortune to have been a fan of punk rock music since I first heard ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ in the eighth grade. And 10 years ago I decided I would take a stab at being in a punk band of my own and started a band called Blackout Shoppers.

Full disclosure: our band is playing Punk Island and has played the festival several times, and we are friends with several of the principal organizers. But this isn’t world of laminated back stage passes and cushy green rooms. In the world of DIY punk rock music, the back scratching and mutual admiration dick sucking doesn’t earn you big rock and roll money; it maybe gets you a space on a floor to sleep on, and maybe a free beer.

The Punk Island festival for the first several years of its life was held on Governor’s Island. Governor’s Island is an excellent place to visit. A former Army base, airfield and Coast Guard base, Governor’s Island boasts lots of great historic sites and rarely-seen views of Manhattan and industrial waterfront Brooklyn.

Governor’s Island became off limits in the wake of the damage done by Superstorm Sandy and more recent park development by the city.

So last year, Punk Island moved to Staten Island. It takes place on a small strip of land and pier right near the Staten Island Ferry terminal. It was a long, hot day but it was well run and everyone had a good time. It wouldn’t be a punk show without a few fights and problems. But last year only one person went to the hospital and no one went to jail; that’s a win-win for a punk rock festival.

People have been fighting over what the term Punk Rock means since 1975. Punk Island has always featured a large cross section of punk rock music. There are “crusty punk” bands with members who my live as or at least appeal to the gaggles of itinerant homeless-by-choice youngsters who smell bad. There are beat-down hardcore bands that buy tattoo ink by the gallon. There are “pop punk” bands who may sound like Green Day though they probably don’t want you to tell them that. Punk Island even has a Brooklyn TransCore stage because trannies from Brooklyn have created their own punk scene. More power to them all.

Our band has agreed to help provide equipment for the Dispatches from the Underground stage, which we’ll be playing. So I will be there bright and early by 7 a.m. It will be a day baking in the sun with my ears ringing from the sounds of a multitude of punk bands. By noon I will be a disgusting miasma of sweat and coagulated sunscreen. It will be great. As much as my inner adult voice tells me to be more serious about life, and that punk rock is a young man’s game, I find it hard to tear myself away, try though I might.

Punk Island is a very short walk from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and it’s free and for all ages. It it will have all kinds of punk bands there. You have no excuse not to go.

Alice and Dave’s Wonderful Adventure

The roads and parks this spring and summer are filled with tourists and our highways are busy with people driving through our great land. Among them are my aunt Alice and her husband Dave Siewert.

Dave and Alice are going on a giant road trip and are seeing some of the great beauty of the Western United States. There are no people more worthy of experiencing all of the natural beauty of America than Alice and Dave. And this road trip is special for them because it will be their last together.

Bad news came fast for them at the end of last year. Dave was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and has not been given long to live. Alice is a cancer survivor and Dave had heart surgery years ago. They have more than paid their dues to the trials of medicine; they have endured enough health hardships to last two lifetimes already. This just isn’t fair.

If you look up the definition of “balls of steel” in a proper dictionary, the entry will have Dave’s picture next to it. Dave is facing certain death and has doubled down on embracing life.

No one would blame Dave if he holed himself up in a dark room and gorged on cheese curds like some kind of Midwestern Howard Hughes. Not a soul would find fault with him if he numbed himself from the specter of his own approaching death.

But that’s not how he does things.

Alice and Dave acquired a camper and set their sights westward, making the journey from their home in Wisconsin to Yellowstone National Park. Early on they had an accident due to a blown tire that delayed their journey. But what is a little traffic accident when you’re spitting in death’s face every day?

Dave has to return to Wisconsin every six weeks so his esophagus can be dilated to prolong his life. Yet he’s out there, rolling down America’s highways with no regrets and no apologies. He is boldness personified and the baddest badass cruising America right now because I guarantee you the toughest trucker or biker on the road today is not staring death in the face like Dave is.

At a time when it would be easy to voice bitterness or rage at life’s unfairness, they have remained a moving example of grace and love. The way they insist on living life to the fullest and refusing to be beaten down is itself like a great work of art. Like all great artists, they make it look easy.

But no one who knows them is surprised. Alice and Dave were married outside on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year. It somehow didn’t feel that way though. The breeze was just right and no one seemed to notice the temperature. Alice’s vows included a promise to support the Green Bay Packers. After the ceremony, Alice and Dave enjoyed their first dance together as a married couple. Before their song was over, Alice beckoned everyone to join them on the dance floor. She would tolerate no slackers. Even those guests who normally do not like to dance at weddings happily obliged.

Alice created a Facebook page to document her and Dave’s travels. She is a gifted writer and has posted comments and photos. “We can feel the petty retreating by the hour,” Alice wrote in a post. “This has not so far been a year too full of laughs. Yet we have been laughing and crying and learning things about ourselves and each other that the world of cubicles and chemo bays muffles somehow.”

“We are witnessing natural things that were previously beyond my imagination,” Alice wrote me in an email. “Talking stops and all one does is stare dumbly at a magnificence that renders your life, worries, ego all meaningless. It is fun to be on the road. But some day we come home for good. And that is a principle to wrestle with the starry night through.”

New York Summer Hate List

Summer is a time to burn with hate. The heat brings out the worst in us. The discomfort makes us loose our tempers, see the worst in everything. The constant sweat and stench of the summer boils our rage quickly.  In New York City, hate levels are at a natural high given the crowded nature of the city. The summer season pushes our hate levels to its highest levels; global warming will exacerbate this.

Here are biggest reasons you will rightfully be consumed with hate this summer:

Heat: Meteorologists forecast that this will be a long, hot, and humid summer. In the city, the heat is worse than elsewhere. The blacktop and concrete absorb and reflect the heat. Large buildings wall in hot air, car exhaust, and other sickly fumes and heat-emitting odors. We also have the worst of both words with our heat: we get very high temperatures and very humidity.

Crowds and Traffic: New York attracts lots of tourists and we need them here. I will go out of my way to help them and give them information. But they are legion and they don’t know how to move about the city. They clog our sidewalks, subways and escalators to an aggravating degree. Our city requires a fast pace and a knowledge of how to courteously use mass transit and otherwise comport oneself in public spaces. The German tourists who dumbly stand in front of an open subway car door at Grand Central Terminal risk being trampled into strudel stains on the platform. The Chinese tourists who don’t know how to stand in a line make me dread the shape of our future world. There are plenty of New Yorkers who are stupid and ignorant and invite righteous anger, but they’re a constant variable and can sometimes be shamed into compliance. Tourists don’t know better, don’t want to learn and think everything is a big joke.

Bugs: Our city is overrun with roaches. I once live in an apartment that was so roach invested that I developed the ability to kill them with my bare hands without registering an ounce of disgust. The hot weather makes roaches reproduce faster as their eggs don’t take as long to hatch. Did you know that you should spray a roach with bug spray after you crush it to death in order to kill its eggs? Yes. Do that. The heat also brings more mosquitoes, which can now spread diseases like the West Nile Virus. Joy.

School Being Out: When I was in school I loved the summer. Now that I have moved on to adulthood, summer marks the time when teeming masses of juvenile delinquents take up valuable space on subways and sidewalks. Yes, I remember being a young person on summer vacation, and I’m sure I was a big jerk back then too. All the good students are busy working jobs, going to summer camp or spending time with their families. The youth you see out and about in the city are probably being idiots or committing crimes in between getting one another pregnant.

The Happiness of Others: The yellow face of the sky burns us as it mocks our unhappiness. People who revel in the stifling heat and painful sun can’t help themselves in expressing how happy they are. The better humans who are turning red and blistering are looking for ways to get shade and are not cheering their increased chances of skin cancer. Let the heat of the sun consume those who find joy in the midst of our suffering. May their grinning countenances be melted into a rancid plasma that will flow like lava and kill some roaches.

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