teen angst, part 1

After a brief blog hiatus, during which I finished content editing THE FLATS, did a couple of freelance editing projects, and finished all of my spring grading, I’m back to the blog. I’m setting a new goal, too: write at least one entertaining blog post a week. It’ll be up to you to tell me whether I meet the “entertaining” requirement.

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I was thinking this morning, on my way to campus and possibly prompted by the death of Chris Cornell (one of two remaining grunge** icons who just died in an especially sad way—please stay with us, Eddie Vedder!), about the first—and only—‘zine I ever participated in writing.

The year was 1993, and I was a freshman in high school who had the good/misfortune of befriending mostly seniors. On our way home from a Nirvana show on Halloween (no lie), four of us decided that, in response to the escalating threat of a real and permanent dress code at our public high school, we should rebel. We should start a ‘zine.

“They’re doing it all over California and those places,” my friend K. said.

“Yeah, we should do one. I think people would dig it,” my friend T. replied.

“What do we have to do?” B. asked.

You have to remember that this was in the days of primitive dialup internet, so it isn’t like we could just go online and find examples. We had no touchscreen computers in our pockets (as a result, I have no photographic evidence that I saw Nirvana on Halloween of 1993, though I assure you that I did), and . . . NO GOOGLE.  

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I had subscriptions to Rolling Stone and Spin, though, so I thought I had all the answers. “We get people to write and draw stuff, and then we put it together. Like a magazine.”

That’s exactly what we did. I no longer remember the title of our ‘zine, but I do know that we assembled a bunch of anonymous stories, poems, and illustrations (most written by K. and me), cut them up, and went to Kinko’s to make copies. We handed them out at school. I’m pretty sure no one read them, but we treated the project with the seriousness it deserved . . . we were in DIRE NEED of this ‘zine, and I was prepared to blow my curfew to get it done.

I wrote a poem about how dress codes in schools was akin to orange jumpsuits in prisons. I’m pretty sure I drew a picture of the school with bars on the windows, too. This took on what felt at the time like national-security-level-importance, especially when we were (permanently and in a decidedly real way) kicked out of Big Boy, where we would drink coffee and smoke cigarettes for entire evenings.***

Shortly thereafter, I joined a “punk-rock collective,” which was a sort of Marxist rebellion against what I now recognize as late capitalism, but which also exemplified the DIY aesthetic of the mid-90s punk rock scene.

Lately, I’ve been ruminating on and returning to my roots. I’m starting a band called Gutter Smut and, though we have yet to write any songs or even practice, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a punk-blues band. Largely prompted by the fact that the Great Medical Drama of 2015 appears not to have killed me, I’m getting tattoos again—my logic is that life is too short to behave like an adult (whatever that means) all of the time, and I can balance paying the mortgage on time by having art inked onto my body.

Many of my favorite bands and artists from back in the day are coming back in a major way (Sleater-Kinney, PJ Harvey, Helium, Pixies, the Breeders—I’m looking at you), and I’m going to shows again, because life is too short not to.

What I’m not doing again? Smoking cigarettes. That shit will kill you.

It occurs to me that middle-age, which I’m approaching with terrifying speed, is kind of like adolescence, something to which I’m fairly certain anyone who has experienced a midlife crisis, first- or secondhand, can attest. Just go with me. I’ll write about that in a forthcoming post.

**One of my interns recently informed me that I am “grunge.” What she doesn’t know is that I’ve been waiting since approximately 1997 to be cool again. She didn’t say I was cool; I’m making that inference.

***We picketed the Big Boy and I was featured in our local newspaper, brandishing a sign about restaurant fascism. My dentist, of all people in the world, kept the photograph in my dental chart until he retired.

Published by kbirdsall

I write fiction, short essays, and the occasional academic article. I teach writing at a large university somewhere in the Midwest.

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