Another Anthem for the Disenfranchised


Todd Congelliere and some dancers in a makeshift venue in San Pedro

San Pedro is a good place to go when you’re looking for answers. It’s at the end of LA’s craziest freeway, south and central of South Central. It’s a tangled mess of dirty water and industry, glowing even at night in the toxic orange lights of the Port of Los Angeles. In a way, Pedro is America. It’s where the dock workers went on strike a few years ago and the president forced them back to work, arguing that America doesn’t run without the Port of Los Angeles. Of course, no one asked the question: if America really depends so much on these guys, why don’t we give them a raise? America doesn’t really depend on the president. Positions of power here are like the mythical hydra. Cut off Bush’s head and another corporate shill will sprout in his place. Cut off the salary of the Pedro dock worker, and we’re all fucked.

But these weren’t the answers I was looking for when I headed down to Pedro last week.

I went down there for two reasons. First, because Toys That Kill were playing with The Marked Men. A few weeks earlier, Toys That Kill played their record release show. I missed that one. The next day, though, I was hanging out with Razorcake columnist Jim Ruland and writer Roy Kesey. They’d both been to the show. It was the first ever punk show for Roy. He kept talking about it. He told me, “It wasn’t what I expected punk rock to be. No mohawks. No leather.” And: “It was the friendliest mosh pit. Kids would knock the shit out of each other, but stop and help up anyone who fell down.” I knew this about the show. I didn’t have to drive down to see it. Still, to hear Roy talk about it, to hear the amazement in his voice, felt like a clue of some sort. Another clue came from Ruland, when he talked about Toys That Kill playing the anthems of the gutted San Pedro kids. I listened to Roy and Ruland and kicked myself for missing that Toys That Kill show.

I didn’t miss the one with The Marked Men, though. Like I said, I was down there searching for answers. Or at least for a little insight. Because I’m worried about kids today. I’ll explain.

In typical Pedro fashion, venues changed on the day of the show. There was no listing for the show in any of the weeklies or online. The venue switch was publicized strictly by word of mouth. Still, word of mouth spread. Thirty or forty kids were milling around the venue before the first band had even played.

I forgot the first band’s name. They were from Boston. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t that good, either. Halfway through their set, the singer said, “I’m freaking out to be playing in the home of the Minutemen.” I was thinking, no shit; you’re copping more riffs off of Mike Watt than Mike Watt cops. I headed across the street to get a tall boy and brown paper bag to hold it in.

It was about ten o’clock on a Friday night. The local drug store was packed. It was obviously the spot where the locals got their booze. Different groups of kids milled around. I didn’t recognize faces, but I recognized the scenes: the goth girl with her pasty white skin and black eyeliner; the chicano metalhead who looked straight out of 1986; the mohawked punk with his pegged black jeans (who wasn’t headed over to the TTK show, by the way); the sad indie rockers with their Morrissey shirts; the hip hop kids; the dirty hippies; and of course me and the TTK refugees in our black t-shirts and jeans. Nothing new there. Nothing too strange except that I realized that every group of kids I saw was in their early twenties and ever scene they represented—goth, metal, punk, hip hop, indie rock, hippie—was in its twenties or older, too. These kids were dressed in the uniforms that their rebellious parents could’ve worn. And there’s something fundamentally off about that. It made me wonder where the next great youth movement was going to come from or if it would come at all.

Now, I know I’m basing my judgments on these kids solely on their clothes. I know that there’s more to a subculture than their clothes. I also know it seems like I’m looking down on these kids like the grumpy old man saying, “Goddamn it, get your own scene.” That’s not my intention. Because I don’t care. Dress however you want. Rebel however you want.

What concerns me about all these kids, though, is the time period when the fashions of scenes seemed to freeze. The mid-to-late eighties. It was exactly when corporations started to realize how to capitalize on youth movements, how to figure out exactly what the hot new trends were and how to repackage these trends so that it could be the corporations selling these trends back to the kids who started them. Over the past ten years, with the help cool hunting and data mining, this repackaging and co-opting of youth has only gotten quicker and more effective. Even the latest trend to promote independent music, Myspace, was purchase by Newscorp earlier this year. Newscorp (the media giant that owns Twentieth Century Fox and Fox News) paid $580 million for Myspace. They hope to recoup a lot of that money by selling demographic information from Myspace pages to advertisers. Take a second to think about that. Remember that old Jawbreaker line? “Selling kids to other kids.”

This repackaging of trends, this drive to sell our own culture to us, is having exactly the effect that you’d expect. Our music, our scenes, our lives become stagnant and superficial. It can get depressing. So I bought my tall boy and headed back to the show.

The Marked Men were setting up when I got back there. There was no sound man or sound board. Just a P.A. and a guy standing at the front of the stage, fiddling knobs. The venue was less of a venue and more of an abandoned space at the end of a rundown commercial building. Plaster flaked off the walls. The ceiling had holes in it. The floor was bare concrete. No advertisements hung on the wall. There was no doorman, no security. I don’t think anyone was actually working there. The only people dealing with money in the joint were the bands selling merch and the guy passing the hat for the bands. Nothing but the music and the people who came to hear it.

Enter The Marked Men. They’re definitely one of my favorites. When their album On the Outside came out a couple of years ago, it got stuck in my truck’s CD player. No malfunction on the part of the stereo; I just couldn’t bring myself to take the CD out. And since I pretty much only drove that summer when I was driving to the beach to go surfing, that album is etched in my mind as a sign of good things to come. They were touring this time to promote their new album, Fix My Brain. I hadn’t heard the new one yet. From the opening chords of their set, from the pure energy and excitement, from the kids swirling around me, going nuts, I knew The Marked Men were on to more good things to come.

There’s more to The Marked Men, though. They come out of a scene in Denton, Texas, that’s given birth to a few bands whose albums get stuck in my stereo: the Chop Sakis, The Riverboat Gamblers, High Tension Wires, The Reds. Now, granted, a lot of those bands have overlapping members, so the music scene in Denton may be smaller than I imagine. And, granted, The Riverboat Gamblers are on the Warped Tour this summer and, considering their amazing new album and live show, they are poised to be the next big thing, the next trend to be co-opted and sold back to us. That hasn’t happened yet, though. We’re still in that pure time when the Denton bands and their music have developed organically. It’s still a music scene that exists because we love the music, not because someone is trying to sell it to us. In a lot of ways, this was the perfect place to see The Marked Men—a word-of-mouth show in an abandoned commercial space. Nothing for sale but the stuff the bands sell to keep themselves on the road.

Up next was Toys That Kill. TTK is the band I’ve seen play the most in the past five years. Part of this has to do with the bands that TTK bring to town and play with. I guess I have pretty similar tastes in music with these guys. I have to thank them for bringing me shows with Dick Army, The Knockout Pills, Shark Pants, The Fleshies, The Arrivals, Tiltwheel, The Thumbs. The list goes on. Recess Records, the label that TTK singer/guitarist Todd runs, has put out albums by bands that have graced four Razorcake covers.

Most of the reason I’ve seen TTK so much has to do with how much fun it is to be at their shows. They have a following, a core audience that’s always there. I don’t know what to call this group. They’re loyal as deadheads and drunk as dock workers on their days off. I don’t know any of them personally, though I’ve seen them at dozens of shows. It’s enough just to watch them, to feel their energy, to see them singing along to every word of songs that are on an album that was released two weeks earlier.

And again, down here in Pedro we have something that mirrors Denton. We have a living, breathing scene that exists for the music and for the people who love it. It’s not flashy. It’s not what Roy Kesey expected to see at a punk rock show. And it’s not really punk rock in the original sense. It’s grown and evolved miles away from the original movement. The bands aping the old heroes draw yawns. The bands finding new ways to make high energy rock’n’roll etch the signs of good things to come.

So, yes, it’s a little bit of optimism. A show untouched by corporate culture. Anthems for the young and disenfranchised played in a way that they can’t be repackaged and sold back to us. It’s a beautiful thing.

But it’s not that simple.

On the long drive home, across the concrete expanse of LA, I kept thinking about it. Shows like The Marked Men/Toys That Kill one are a beautiful things. They’re connected to larger things, other scenes in other towns that are doing the same type of things. They’re signs of a living, breathing culture that exists because we want it, because we love it, not because someone wants to sell it to us. But when the sweat dries and the excitement wears off and it’s just me in my truck, rolling down another freeway, immersed in the cloned towns that engulf America like the repeating backdrop in a cartoon, I have to wonder if these little oases of culture can ever irrigate this dry society we live in, or is it just a matter of time until someone buys the oasis and sells us the water?


Author’s note: This is the eleventh chapter to a collection of Razorcake columns I wrote.  It originally ran in Razorcake #33.  For more information about the collection, read this post.

Portable Doom

Illustration from Razorcake #54 by Brad Beshaw

Illustration from Razorcake #54 by Brad Beshaw

Rain poured down, filling ditches and flooding the concrete quad with about an inch of water. I sat in the portable that was designated as faculty offices. It was Friday morning, one of my favorite times to teach a college class. Colleges and universities are about half empty on Friday mornings. It feels like the edge of Spring Break every week. I half-listened to the rain and half-read through my class notes and tried to remind myself that I would be a college professor for the next three hours and I should act like one. That’s when I heard the crash.

I couldn’t place it. It sounded like a wrecking ball smacking into the side of a building, but where would a wrecking ball come from on this rainy Friday morning? I raced outside the faculty offices and had a look around. My portable was one of eight that surrounded this flooded concrete quad. The rain padded against the inch-deep pond, jetted out of rain gutters, formed little streams in the ditches. No one was around to race out of any of the other portables and look at me so I could look back at them and shrug my shoulders and at least acknowledge that I too had heard a crash and we hadn’t been imagining things. Alone there on the west end of campus, I did what I could. I grabbed my umbrella, walked over to the portable where I’d be teaching, unlocked it, and had a look around. Everything seemed in order. I left, leaving the door unlocked so that my students wouldn’t have to wait out in the rain.

I went back to sitting on my broken office chair, half-listening to the rain, half-reading my class notes.


At break time, I went back to my desk in the faculty portable and ate an orange. Another professor was there by this time. He said, “Did you hear about the air conditioner?”

I couldn’t make sense of this. Air conditioner? It was February in Los Angeles. Who talked about air conditioners? I shook my head.

He said, “An air conditioner fell through the roof of #6 this morning.”


“Yeah,” he said. “I guess the gutter got clogged, the roof filled up with rain, and everything came crashing down. Crazy, huh?”

“Crazy,” I said, knowing that I’d have to spend the next hour and a half in portable #5, right next door. I left the faculty offices and stood in the quad in front of #5, trying to see where the rain gutters were and if they were clogged, trying to find the air conditioner on the flat roof, seeing nothing but the rain and the same dusky brown portable I’d been teaching in for a semester and a half. The umbrella kept my head dry. My Doc Martens kept my feet more or less dry. The rain smacked the back of my legs, though, sticking my jeans to the skin on my calves.

For about a minute, I thought about canceling the second half of class and waiting until the next Friday to see if the roof would hold on this forty-year-old portable. But I didn’t. I decided, all of this may come crashing down someday, and I’ll be under it or I won’t. In the meantime, all I could do was all I could do, which, on this morning, was teach composition to the youth of East L.A. who were trying to claw their way into the middle class.

I taught the second half of the class on the move, walking back and forth in front of the classroom, breaking the students off into small groups and wandering around them, trying to make myself a moving target for the air conditioner and the flooded roof. Since I didn’t know where on the roof the air conditioner was, any spot in the room could’ve been as safe or dangerous as any other. I knew this. Still, I kept moving.

The roof in #5 held for the rest of class and the rest of the semester. At the beginning of that summer, the roof repairs and my job were added to the long list of things that the college didn’t have the money to pay for. I found another job.

Seven years have passed since I’ve been to that campus. For all I know, #5 is still there, still defying gravity through another February’s rains.


I don’t talk about teaching much here in the pages of Razorcake, but I’ve been teaching since the first days. When I decided to move from Florida to California to help found this magazine, I quit my job teaching at a community college there. Quitting to start a punk rock magazine wasn’t as big of a deal as it may sound like. Teaching in Florida pays so poorly, it can hardly be classified as a job. It’s more like volunteer work with a monthly stipend.

With the exception of 2001, when I lived off of savings and worked full-time on Razorcake, I’ve been teaching from the time when I first started doing Flipside reviews until later today, when I’ll go to campus an hour early so that I can let my mind switch over from punk rock columnist to university professor. And, though I don’t mix the university and punk rock much, I teach there for reasons that are very similar to the ones that keep me tethered to Razorcake. It mostly has to do with my belief in democracy.

I know it sounds like a strange thing to say. But I’ll explain. At the core of this is the belief that most of us, individually, tend to make intelligent decisions most of the time. Of course we slip up now and then and do stupid things. Grown men decide to get naked on an escalator in a crowded Hollywood shopping center when they’re supposed to be headlining a show. Fresh-faced punk rockers read Maximum Rocknroll. None of us are perfect. Regardless, if we examine our lives in the big picture, it’s probably safe to say that, when we were left to our own devices, we did what we needed to do to get by, helping the people around us when we could and avoiding hurting anyone too badly. So, it follows logically that most of us can govern ourselves. And, if we can govern ourselves, we should. This is what I mean by democracy.

So where does Razorcake fit into all of this? Well, democracy is predicated on a free exchange of ideas. In order for individuals to make intelligent decisions, they need to receive and consider a wide variety of information. None of that information has to be objective. It just has to come from a bunch of different perspectives. One of the biggest threats to democracy in America is the narrow perspective of information that we receive. A handful of large corporations control almost all of the media, meaning they control most of our perceptions of the world that exists beyond what we experience firsthand. Fresh perspectives need to come from somewhere. Razorcake provides one of these. The ten thousand or so readers of this magazine are able to experience one of the few subcultures in America that still grows organically. It’s an American culture that exists beyond Wal-Mart and McDonalds, beyond Fox and Disney. It’s a culture that we’ve created rather than one that’s been sold to us. It’s liberating.

Universities work in a similar fashion. They’re the largest and most powerful places in society where a free exchange of ideas still exists. University professors have a tremendous amount of freedom with regards to what they study and what they teach. And, unlike most people who are given a pulpit in our society, professors actually have to research their topics extensively and demonstrate an advanced knowledge in their field before they can express their views. They can’t pretend to be an authority on a different topic every night like Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart and most bloggers do. They have to actually know what they’re talking about.

Most discussion about universities these days focuses around money and jobs. I’m not as interested in that, mostly because people ignore the facts in that discussion. The fact is, universities are a good investment. A typical California State University graduate, regardless what his major is, will make about a million dollars more in his lifetime than if he hadn’t gone to college. This means he’ll pay about $300,000 more in state and federal taxes. 90,000 students graduated from the CSU last year. Do the math. The CSU made the federal government and the State of California about $27 billion last year. The state invested about $3 billion. That’s a pretty good profit.

But, again, I’m not as interested in that. I’m more interested in the democracy element of it. Because we all eventually get jobs and make some money. And those are important things. But they’re far from the most important things in our lives. What almost everyone wants are things like autonomy, free time that’s genuinely free of work and stress, deep friendships and loving relationships. Money and jobs don’t go very far in granting us those things. What we need instead is a to find a way to create these meaningful things in our own lives without relying on money or jobs or consumables. We need to think critically and be imaginative. And some of the last places that exist where we have the time and freedom and freshness of perspective to do these things are Razorcake and higher education.

Recently, higher education in California has taken a huge hit. Mostly, that hit has come from a few members of the state legislature and from the action hero we elected governor. The CSU—the university I work for—had a half billion dollars cut from our three billion-dollar budget this year. All the economic forecasts show that, regardless of how bad the economy is, taking money from higher education makes things worse. Taking it from the CSU further ensures that people from poor or working class families get booted from higher education while most rich kids do fine. It also means that, as a society, our freedoms become fewer, our chances for meaningful lives become slimmer, and our democracy suffers.

I’m not sure what to do to change this right now. I’m working on it. I know a Razorcake column isn’t going to solve this problem. It’s not intended to. I’m just bummed out. Lately, every time I go to work, I feel like I’m back in that rain-soaked portable, waiting for the roof to cave in on me and my students.

I hope the crash isn’t inevitable.


Author’s note: This is the tenth chapter to a collection of Razorcake columns I wrote.  It originally ran in Razorcake #54.  For more information about the collection, read this post.

The Road to Rock’n’roll


Illustration from Razorcake #38 by Brad Beshaw

Illustration from Razorcake #38 by Brad Beshaw

I was cooking lunch when Joe Strummer’s publicist called. Todd answered the phone. I kept grating cheese for quesadillas. This was in the early days of Razorcake, when Todd and I each did half of magazine from the apartment we shared, when we were working on our fifth issue and still defining what the magazine would be. I didn’t pay attention to the call. I buttered a couple of tortillas, lay one on a frying pan, sprinkled grated cheese on it, and lay the other tortilla on top of it. This was also the days when any and all money we earned went back into putting out this magazine, back when I still considered Top Ramen food and would actually eat it. Quesadillas were a bit of a luxury.

Todd got off the phone just as I finished cooking. He said, “That was Joe Strummer’s publicist. She said she heard a rumor that we were going to interview him and put him on the cover of the next issue?”

“Was she calling from 1978?” I asked.

We both laughed.

The band on the cover of that issue: Super Chinchilla Rescue Mission.


My joke was had less to do with Joe Strummer and more to do with all the publicists who would call and try to play stupid publicist tricks on us. I was and am a Joe Strummer fan. I thought long and hard about that interview. Part of me wanted to do it. The second Clash album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, is the perfect punk rock album. It’s high energy, full of catchy melodies, has a nice mix of personal and political lyrics and the political lyrics are complex explorations of enduring issues like cultural imperialism rather than politics that come with an expiration date. The trade off of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones vocals are perfect. And, unlike every other Clash album, every song is great. There’s not one low point between “Safe European Home” and “All the Young Punks.” I got the album when I was still young enough to believe that punk rock could save the world. It still sounds great to my old and jaded ears. I’ve played that record so many times that the vinyl seems somehow thinner, more flimsy, like I can only play it another couple of dozen times before I wear completely through it. Still, it gets a lot of spins even now. I listened to it this morning.

In a sense, every album I buy now is a futile attempt to recapture that feeling I got when I first set the needle down on that record.

So I asked myself again and again, “Do you want to interview the creative force behind the perfect punk rock album?” And I always came up with the same answer.


Did I want to meet him? Absolutely. Was he a hero of mine? Of course. He still is. Did I want to bask in the glow of brilliance? Yes. But did I want to waste his time with a bunch of questions about something he’d done twenty-odd years ago? Questions that have already been asked a million times, that he’s answered and that I read the answers to? No. The truth of the matter was, I had no interest in his new project, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. I’d heard it was “world music.” One of the songs on the vinyl version of that album is seventeen minutes long. I wanted nothing to do with that. I didn’t even give the disc a spin when it arrived in the review pile. I had no interest. After some of those horrible songs on the Clash’s Sandinista, after living through a couple of decades of “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” and “Rock the Casbah” on high rotation everywhere, I felt like I was done with Joe Strummer. Sure, he’d written great songs since Give ‘Em Enough Rope. There are even great songs on Sandinista. And I loved him the in the movie Midnight Train. But world music? Come on.


After Joe Strummer died, we did run a feature on him in Razorcake. I didn’t write anything about him then because I felt like Eric Rife—who did write the feature—said everything I wanted to say. He said it beautifully. I did the layout for that article. I sat at the computer in my apartment playing every piece of Clash music I had, right down to a bootleg copy of the Clash at the U.S. festival. I photoshopped pictures of Joe Strummer, I moved layout elements back and forth. I read and reread Eric’s words. I spent more time on that layout than I did on any other layout for Razorcake. I don’t know why.


A few months later, I was in a coffee house in Cincinnati. It was at the end of a short book tour I was doing. There was a record store above the coffee shop. I milled around there for a minute and got to talking to the owner. He knew Razorcake. We chatted about the Joe Strummer feature. He said, “I have the new Mescaleros album. Just came in. Wanna hear it?”

I didn’t, really, but I said, “Sure.” Just to be polite.

He played the first song. “Coma Girl.” I thought, wow! This is a song I’ve been wanting to hear for twenty years. Holy shit. I made a huge mistake.


Shortly before Joe Strummer died, filmmaker Dick Rude went on the Mescaleros’ final tour and made a documentary on it, Let’s Rock Again. The documentary has been out for a couple of years, but I didn’t get around to watching it until recently. There’s one scene in the middle of the movie when Joe Strummer is in Atlantic City. He’s scheduled to do a show that night. He goes to a rock’n’roll radio station in hopes of promoting his show. He goes to the telephone outside the station and he talks to the D.J. Only Joe Strummer’s half of the conversation is audible, but the tenor of the conversation is clear the third time he says his name to the D.J. The D.J. clearly has no idea whom he’s talking to. Finally, Joe Strummer says, “I used to be in a band called the Clash.” Suddenly, everything changes. The D.J. is beaming. He welcomes Joe Strummer up. He tells Joe Strummer that the station is three songs away from playing a Clash song.

In the next cut, we see Joe Strummer in a radio station that serves as a metaphor for everything that ruins rock’n’roll now. There isn’t one piece of actual music around: no compact discs, no records, not even cassettes. All the songs are programmed into a computer. Behind the D.J., the afternoon’s playlist beams on a computer monitor. It’s the same playlist on every computer monitor in every rock’n’roll station nationwide. And there’s Joe Strummer sitting on the other side of The Booth That Ruins Rock’n’roll. He’s singing back up along with “Rock the Casbah.” He’s got a withering smile on his face. The sides of his mouth twitch and he does an admirable job of keeping his chin up. But, really, do any of us need to hear “Rock the Casbah” again? Especially when we compare it to all the great songs that the Clash recorded? And what could possibly be going through Joe Strummer’s mind? Does it break his heart to know that this is his legacy to most of the world? Or does it just break my heart?


Several times in the movie, it’s made clear that Joe Strummer has gone from superstardom to obscurity. He mentions that the first Mescaleros album, Rock Art and the X-Ray Style, didn’t break even. Hellcat Records actually lost money on it. He says that his goal with Global A Go-Go is simply to break even. “There’s more music in us,” he says. He just wants to cut one more album. We know now that he did. Sort of. The album, Streetcore, was never really completed, but it was completed enough to be released. The song “Coma Girl” is on that album.


Toward the end of the film, Joe Strummer gets redemption.

Both the D.J. in The Booth That Ruins Rock’n’roll and a really rude D.J. at KROQ have played a song off of Global A Go-Go (the last album Joe Strummer released in his lifetime). The cuts of the movie alternate between the two radio stations. The Mescaleros song “Johnny Appleseed” plays. Joe Strummer jumps around the booths, completely stoked. For a second, it’s easy to confuse this fifty year-old man with an eighteen year-old kid. He bangs his fists against the wall in perfect rhythm with the song. He shouts out, “We’ve got a toe-tapper here.” He opens the door and yells down the hall, “It’s a toe-tapper.”

Not a hit. Not a gold record. A toe-tapper.

And suddenly this becomes Joe Strummer’s legacy to the world: he shows us how to still be cool when you go from hero to zero. Or, more poignantly, how to understand that hero and zero are irrelevant. That what really matters is your art. He promotes an album, he tours, he does everything he can to generate press not so that he can be a star again, not to reclaim his former glory or to cash in one more time—hell, there’s barely a nod to the Clash days in the movie—but because he’s got more music in him.


And what about me? Do I regret never having interviewed Joe Strummer, not helping him out when he was a zero? Not even listening to his last three albums until after he was dead? Not really. An interview in Razorcake, even putting his mug on the cover of that magazine, wouldn’t have changed his life at all. The Mescaleros toured with The Who, their records were played on KROQ, every major weekly in the country wrote articles about them. People knew about them. One more interview in a fanzine that went out to four thousand people wouldn’t have made any difference.

By not meeting him, though, I think I got something better. I got to know him only through his art. Only through what he chose to give of himself. And that means more to me.

See, after that reading in Cincinnati—for which there was a big crowd, sure, but a crowd who seemed suddenly surprised that they had come to a reading and not just to a coffee house—I stayed the night in a punk house. The next morning, my tourmate Jennifer Whiteford and I hopped a Greyhound from Cincinnati to Chicago. The bathroom of the Greyhound had not been cleaned for six or seven thousand years. The smell permeated everything. It hit you as soon as you set foot on the bus. The only open seats for Jennifer and me were in the back, right by the bathroom. We spent four hours breathing this air. Imagine sitting in an ancient port-a-john and someone is outside, shaking the walls enough to make sure the odor never dissipates. That’s what that bus ride was like. We performed that night in Chicago. Six people showed up. I sold one book.

After the reading, I went to a bar with the guy who set up the reading. He bought the first round and I bought the second. The round I bought cost more than the book I’d sold. He apologized for the turnout, for the local papers and weeklies that had ignored the press releases and promo books I’d sent them. He lamented the state of literature today. I answered with a withered smile. The same smile I recognized on Joe Strummer’s face years later, when I watched Let’s Rock Again and saw him in The Booth That Ruins Rock’n’roll. Seeing that smile made me feel like a kindred spirit. I think I knew exactly how he felt right then. It’s a feeling I know well. In that smile, it’s clear to me exactly why Joe Strummer did what he did with his life and why I do what I do with mine. For a second, it felt like one of my heroes had come back from the grave, like he gave me a hug and said, “Man, everything’s cool.”


Author’s note: This is the ninth chapter to a collection of Razorcake columns I wrote.  It originally ran in Razorcake #38.  For more information about the collection, read this post.