Monday, June 16, 2008


high times.

Coincidentally, a few weeks back when taking the underground (subway) back home with Rosa and the kids on a Saturday evening, I watched a young teenage guy and his girlfriend slouched on the platform waiting for a ride in the opposite direction.

They looked a little high, or maybe just pumped with adrenalin and trying to weather it out.

The guy was wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with the MC5's colors. Striped pants and leather jacket. Very cool. Very "retro".

I'll admit I had to wonder for a second if he was really into Wayne Kramer and the Detroit five, or whether he'd just picked the shirt off the rack in some hip clothes shop ; like all these pretty adolescent girls who were running around in Ramones t-shirts a few years back, owing to the fact that some high street fashion buyer had just saturated the chain stores with another seasonal marketing ploy. None of them seemed to know who Joey Ramone had been at all. They all looked like they'd just stepped off of a San Fernando Valley porn set.

Really, I think I was just jealous there for a second sitting on that train. Jealous of the fact that t-shirt wouldn't have fitted me these days, or clung instead to all the wrong places. It's not a pleasant trait. I know. I felt vaguely like some decrepit cynical Roman sat in the senate.

Or Nero mincing about in the Ampitheatre ; thumbs up, thumbs down.

It was all immaterial to the guy and his girl. Quite rightly so.

I hope they had a great night out. Kicked out the jams.

For an honest to goodness reality check, check out what Jon has to say here. I think he would have been pleased.

MC5: SHAKIN' STREET from "Back in the USA" LP (Atlantic) 1970 (US)



Your driver said...

Thanks Ib. Theo, my tattoo artist, might seem like that hipster on the underground platform, but he's a little older (38) and he has some real depth. His parents were original SF hippies and he grew up in that city. It could be claimed that I never was cool. Maybe I wouldn't have looked so good in that MC5 shirt. I don't know. I know that Shakin' Street is part of my story. It came out when I was in high school. My friend from down the street, Bob, got a scholarship to U of Michigan and he was off to Ann Arbor, home of the White Panther Party. His girlfriend followed him. Her best friend followed her. Her boyfriend followed her and I found myself running out of friends. Ann Arbor really was the home of Shakin' Street and I was bored and running out of friends. What a town that was! Free concerts every weekend. Iggy Pop jamming with former members of the MC5 in clubs at night. White Panther party dances with 4 bands and all the beer you could drink- $2 for a six hour long dance at the Ypsilanti Carpenter's union hall. In the daytime we hung out with a range of radicals: Trotskyists, members of The Weather Underground and local independent anarchists who would recruit us to go out at night to cut down advertising billboards by the side of the freeway. Lots and lots and lots of drugs. I knew someone who went through $10 thousand worth of drugs in a week. He and a couple of friends stayed impossibly high and didn't sleep for a week. Back then 10 grand was a good year's pay. We had a big closet lined with mattresses that we used as a retreat when we were too fucked up to be allowed near hard surfaces, never mind sharp objects. In the midst of all of this, I'm sure I was the only person in town who didn't manage to get laid. Everyone was fucking everyone else. We all listened to David Bowie and Lou Reed and there were lots of us experimenting with our newly found sexuality. Lots of guys dressed in women's clothes. Lots of women worked as part time prostitutes er, I mean massage therapists. My friend, Kimmie, was the popcorn girl at a theater that showed a double feature of Deep Throat and The Devil In Miss Jones for a couple of years. Those were their only movies. Old truck drivers would hit on her and she would give them the address of a gay bar and tell them she would meet them there later. In the midst of this, there was plenty of abuse. A lot of seriously traumatized Viet Nam vets could explode at any time. We were all so high that we could behave badly without even remembering what happened. Damn. I've run out of time. Have to work. What a time that was. Didn't last long. It couldn't.

ib said...

Only the strong - or the very lucky - survive.

Thanks for bringing the detail to the table, Jon. Your pedigree is to be saluted.

Your driver said...

But wait! There's more! Kids, do not try any of the things I mentioned earlier at home. My friends and I were paid stunt professionals. Also keep in mind that these are the senile reminiscences of an elderly man who has lived a life of soul deadening routine for decades now. Don't make the mistakes I made! Deaden your soul right now! The earlier you start, the less painful it will be! Your teachers are right!

On a less serious note. I should also say that we had no idea how much fun we were having. At that time, the hipster consensus was that the White Panthers were a joke, John Sinclair was a pathetic figure and Iggy Pop had destroyed his career with drugs. The truly hip listened to jazz/rock fusac, ate health food and played backgammon. Most of my friends were little more than street kids, living in pathetic squalor and doing ourselves drastic damage with drugs, alcohol and violence.

I did not exactly pull myself together either. I was not a druggie- too good for that-- instead I drank myself into the delirium tremens at the tender age of 19. We were easy prey for all sorts of parasites. I ended up spending the next five years in a tiny trotskyist cult, working at dangerous industrial jobs and handing over half my income to our supreme guru. That I survived the '70's is absolutely a matter of luck or grace.

Finally, it has to be mentioned that there was an awful lot of really really bad music being taken quite seriously in the '70's.