Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dum Dum Boys

It was one of the strangest ways that I’d ever found out that somebody died.

We were standing in the middle of the general admission crowd, jockeying for position in anticipation of the Stooges’ imminent arrival, when the wife pointed out the slide show going on over on the wall.

Up to now I’d only noticed ads for upcoming concerts and local eateries. But now there was a somewhat more somber black and white slide bearing the familiar face of a local punk rock promoter. In front of his name were the sad letters R.I.P.

It stopped me in my tracks as the fellow in question was someone I used to work alongside of at Endless Bore and Tedium, although not always happily. We did, however, share a mutual enthusiasm for punk rock, but our very different attitudes about it and, I think, life in general, meant that our friendship was always going to be a limited one.

Being 12 years his senior, there was a grudging respect on his part for the bands I had seen and the ones I could tell him about, many of which he’d never heard of. On the other hand, his dressed-in-black, nihilist, sarcastic take on what constituted anarchy and rebellion was something that was almost completely antithetical to the way I chose to see it. It was a pose that got tiresome quickly, but then again, there are probably one or two people still living who would tell you that they thought I was obnoxious at that age, if you can believe it.

Perhaps he grew out of it. I never had a chance to find out, as we had very little contact after he left EB&T.

Like me, he eventually forced them to fire him. He did it early on, though, while I hung on for years. I remembered thinking at the time, what on earth is he going to do? He’s got such a completely anti-social attitude, who in the world will hire him?

Turns out I had nothing to worry about.

Slowly at first, he began to build a reputation as a music promoter. He apparently did it very well, as it became more and more common to see him mentioned and quoted in the local weeklies.

I was a little puzzled, I’ll admit. Here he’d gotten canned from a secure job and been wildly successful, while I was still timidly hanging on. Was there a lesson here?

At the time of his death he’d become somewhat legendary and was well loved by many of the local bands that had gotten their first shot from him, if the service we attended the next day was any indication.

And despite my reservations about his behavior, I have some pleasant memories as well: like the time he let me know that Jon Spencer had a new band I should check out; and the time he showed me how the broadside I’d distributed about Public Enemy at the New Music Seminar became the focus of a Spin magazine article; and the one that makes me think of him most warmly, the time he played interference for the wife and I in the mosh pit of a Ramones show, after I’d stupidly antagonized the moshees (what, me make enemies at a rock show?) enough to make them single us out as targets. He stood there like an implacable tree and dared them to get past him.

All he really knew about me was I was old and nuts. He didn’t have to do it, but he did.

And he escaped from the living death of EB&T to do something he loved and be successful at it. I can’t say that.

The other day I googled an old acquaintance just to see what they were up to. I found a description that was filled with words like “marketing” and “professional development” and “project management.” I didn’t understand half of it, but it seemed like it paid well, even if it made me want to jump out a window.

I obviously was never going to amount to much in the hierarchy of Endless Bore and Tedium and neither was my late co-worker. But he got out early and followed a dream.

Whereas I hung in for the pleasure of irritating my enemies for as long as I possibly could.

One of these days, I’ll learn.


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