Where They're At
They're everywhere, these kids: Seattle, Milwaukee, Reno and Austin, New York and LA and Chicago, Atlanta, they congregate wherever there's urban ruin; Rochester, Pittsburgh and Springfield, Mass, if they thrive anywhere, it's in the rubble left behind departing industry; Lincoln and Boise and Mason City, they're as likely to linger in small towns, Oshkosh, as in sprawling cities like Dallas; Racine and Lansing and Philly and Bridgeport, they're as likely to hide out in midwestern cow-towns as to riot along the DC to Boston nexus; Missoula, Boulder, Berkeley, they smoke on the steps of schools they don't go to; they learn by osmosis; they teach by example; they freeload pitchers and crash parties, after-hours, trashing freshman dorm rooms and laughing in the faces of the students they've impressed, the students they've taken advantage of.
They're pirates; they love to rape and pillage; they love to fuck shit up. They're local and they're not--they're from the suburbs, they're from the next city over. They live with their parents, unless they've escaped, in which case they live with their friends' parents. Rarely, the truly adventurous, the ideological, addicted, despairing, truly unwanted unite in ditches and squats where they try to create utopia. They winter in Phoenix. They summer in Portland. They tour the country like their heroes once did, in search of oblivion, enlightenment, some cross between the two. The truly cynical and nihilistic follow, throwing firecrackers at their feet.
I've seen them. They are the pierced. They are the tattooed. They are of the clan of the shaven head, sometimes, the rainbow dreadlock, the feathered mullet, sometimes, the bottle blond spikes, the clan of the unwashed, the uncut, the unkempt, but really they belong to no clan at all; they're loners, each, all of them. They don't trust anyone, especially not each other. This one's got green hair and this one's got fuscia hair. This one's got no hair on one side of her head. They're not chasing fashion, though, post-punk is in with the Pokemon crowd, these kids are way beyond that. No, they're staving off boredom and hiding the dirt, because, oh, are they dirty. Rancid is not just the name of a band they like; it's their condition, an over-ripeness that extends way under their skin. They don't wash on principle, sometimes, though not often, out of necessity. They've got dirty fingernails, chronic dandruff, and black snakes of buildup in the creases of their elbows, their knees, and their toes. They steal their clothes from the Salvation Army; they like them ripped and worn anyway. They inflict themselves with cigarette burns; play chicken while so drunk that they can't feel it. The holes in their eyebrows, their nipples, and their nostrils are often infected but squeezing the puss out is part of the fun. Hygiene's a concern for people who give a shit, not them, they've got more pressing concerns; they ask themselves big, metaphysical questions like If I can't remember what I did last night, is it fair to say that I didn't do it? And If I can forget I'm alive for a long enough stretch of time, can I then consider myself to be dead? But they don't want answers, answers are boring, they want to extend their state of not knowing to include the rest of their lives.
To this end, they try to be always drunk. Or high on something, they don't care what, any Rx they can find. When it's offered, they don't ask what it might be; they pop it in their mouths, they pull it up their nostrils, smoke it up, cash it and wait for whatever to happen. No drug is bad; a spinning head, a parched throat, stomach cramps, tremors, vomiting, it's all cool--when their bodies rebel, they're at least feeling something. Any sensation is better than dull blunt sobriety. With or without drugs, they rare to fight. Adrenaline is the best surge of all. If you asked them, they'd say they're warriors, at arms with the platoons of Abercrombie & Gap, but really, that's an excuse. They are the notion of Anarchy taken to its most reductive extreme. They're easily riled and uncontrollable. They bristle at and break things that they are threatened by: fur coats, SUVs, cell phones, Adidas. Each other. They've got split lips, and often, black eyes. A box to the ear is a sign of affection, a bite, one of adoration. They find the sight of blood--especially they're own--invigorating, and why not, self-destruction has this allure: Death is more interesting than what they're living.
Joshua Furst is the author of The Sabotage Cafe and the collection Short People