The other day, in the parking lot of a bookstore, I strolled by a small group of militant old-school punks drinking on the hood of an old beater. These guys were classic. Mohawks, studded leather, overweight girlfriends.
I wanted to walk as near to them as possible as I passed them on the way back to my car because I wanted to communicate to them (my blazer and flip-flops aside) that, in some cosmic sense, I was one of them.
Or anyway, I wanted them to know that I sympathized with them enough to not avoid them outright. I tried to emit early Ramones vibes at them as I strolled by plucking the price sticker from my book of Sontag essays.
The lead punk, his primacy evidenced both by his size and his possession of the plastic jug of vodka, greeted me with a “hey, man!” and I returned it with vigor.
“Isn’t this a magnificent evening?” he offered up lankily.
I replied that it was, but beginning to question my wisdom in instigating the exchange, I veered slightly and made for my car as casually but as quickly as I could.
The punk had a parting query for me and I’ve thought of it intermittently since:
“Don’t you wish everything was free?” he asked me in his hale timbre.
When I climbed into my car (a convertible), I took especial care to turn down the volume on the Belle and Sebastian song then playing on my stereo; I didn’t want to offend or rile the punks.
I muttered something supportive to them and drove away.
Afterward, I made for the dinner party I was attending that night at the Hometown Buffet.
I'll let that sink in.
The terrors were legion.
The place shared a wall with the 99cent store. Pay at the door and then take as much food as you like.
Lemme give you the tour: Here’s eggs. Here’s pot roast. Here’s spaghetti with ketchup. Here’s a vegetable - no, wait, that’s a chicken finger.
At one point a woman (one hopes) in a large bee costume sat down next to me and gave me a sweaty hug. The pilling felt of the costume’s gloves was used to caress my cheek. The black tights of the outfit had pooled around her ankles and spilled over the oversized sneakers. The smell was reminiscent of nothing so much as the ancient t-shirt I once discovered under a seat cushion on a houseboat.
Point is, I desperately wanted to be somewhere expensive as all sin. I think that punk had the wrong of it; I don’t want everything to be free, I just want to always have enough money to dine at an establishment where I can eat food that hasn’t been sitting under a lightbulb for a week and a half and takes less than an hour to chew.
But you can’t say that kind of thing to a punk, not when you have a haircut like I have.