Recently, my mom brought over two journals of mine from when I was a kid. One was from 8th grade, the other from 9th grade. Whoosh, what a psychic trip that was. The pages of the earlier journal were filled with a junior high attempt (circa 1991) to channel the dark energy of the ‘60s through poetry, PG-13 noir, crude drawings, and reprinted Doors lyrics. It wasn’t even private, but actually a part of an ongoing English class assignment. The first few pages I held it together, but after a while the writing got, um, a touch obsessive. The Doors, the Grateful Dead, Zeppelin, Jimi—all this music I was discovering at the dawn of puberty had engulfed me. Daniel, I’d like to talk with you about some things in your journal, wrote my teacher. You can tell she was trying to be patient, but I wasn’t giving her much to work with. After what looks like a particularly intense fever where I rated each Doors album according to some metric I don’t even understand now, she wrote Daniel, I’m ready for more conventional entries. Especially in format: three full pages, reasonably coherent. I responded with a rant about how my older brother had shot up my black velvet Jim Morrison poster with a bb gun.
(Today, if someone read a fraction of this journal, they’d probably call in the SWAT team. I’d be toast.)
The second journal documents the year I found punk rock. Same male adolescent-fueled rage, except now it was all about skateboarding, Filth, Blatz, the woefully misunderstood zinester, and strangely enough, a piece about Saved by the Bell.
Revisiting these journals was a totally embarrassing but enthralling exercise. Of course I can’t help but wince at the self-righteous rantings of a punk rock freshman, but I’m happy to share some of it now with y’all for a few reasons. First, I’m really grateful the internet wasn’t around for this period of my life. Not to be that dude (though, let’s be honest, I am), but as awkward as all this writing is, it’s a relief that it stayed in those pages, and I can tuck it all back into the closet when I’m finished. It won’t haunt me from the public domain. How kids deal with that today is beyond me—though kids are always a lot tougher than we olds give them credit for.
It’s also shown me that little has changed in two decades. Amidst all the scribbles and junk, I did come across one thing that actually made me proud of my younger self. It was a “how to” on house shows, something I felt entitled to write after hosting exactly one. That show was a double bill with Baton Rouge’s Clown Nation and Andon, a New Orleans hardcore band that was the focus of my punk obsession (I used to call WTUL all the time to harass them about playing their 7”). I was still in high school, so the show was actually at my parents’ house. Afterwards, I jotted down some notes on the day, the best of which went like this:
You can have shows that are alcohol and drug free, but there will always be a ton of smokers. That’s okay, but you should either have an ashtray for every square foot of your yard or be prepared to do some serious clean up.
People don’t vanish when the show is over.
Bathroom: this was complicated for me because I don’t have my own house/ apartment, so I was real nervous about people tramping around my parents’ house. So just plan for people to have pin-sized bladders.
Neighbors. You’re legal til about 10 o’clock or so, but it’s courteous to drop a note in their mailbox to let them know.
In this month’s issue you’ll see a lot more reminiscing and dare I say nostalgia. Don’t take that the wrong way: the cultural activity, especially in the “underground” of New Orleans is pretty awesome now and I’m especially thankful that well into my 30s, I (along with the rest of the AG crew) still seem to be bitten by the bug of scene appreciation and documentation. It’s just that those early days opened my eyes to an entirely new family, all bonded by these crazy little shows and crazy little zines. As you’ll see in this month’s issue, I was hardly alone. As I hope you’ll also recognize: it’s all still happening. That family continues to grow.
I’d like to thank my mom for bringing that stuff back to me. It’s not easy to look at, but it’s nice proof that I was on to something, even way back then. She, my dad, and even my older brother were pretty patient with me. Parents, let your kids—and their friends—be a little weird and scary sometimes. It might be the only thing saving them.