January 14, 2004
Salt Lake City once had a really big punk scene in the 80’s. My friend Brad in junior high school had older brothers, unlike me, that were into punk and I found them fascinating. The allure of the rebel figure and the power he wielded held me terrified and enamored. It made me giddy to vicariously enjoy seeing someone saying fuck you to the world. I wasn’t quite old enough to really enjoy the SLC punk scene in its heyday, but I feel I was cognizant enough to at least appreciate it as much as I could as an awkward and uncool seventh grader. I would record punk off late-night alternative radio onto shitty tapes overwriting them with Fear, Black Flag, SNFU, DRI, and The Dead Kennedys. And then I had my goth period, but this was before there was the word ‘goth.’ At the time, I really could think of no pursuit more intuitive than the exploration and exploitation of ones own angst and ennui. All this really amounted to was a lot of embarrassingly bad poetry and a penchant for young goth girls that I don’t think I’ll ever overcome. (see: suicidegirls.com) Lori Cannon of Boise, you changed your name and I don’t know where you are now. You started all this with your This Mortal Coil, Clan of Xymox and My Bloody Valentine. The Last Unicorn made you cry and you gave me the nick name ‘Luck Dragon’ because of the way I would curl my lip. It seems to me uncoincidental that I would dream about you, drive to Boise that same day, sleep in the parking lot of your apartment in my dad’s tiny silver car with my best friend Mark as my copilot, only to find the next morning when I knocked on your door that you had been wed the night before. I need closure, dammit! I still dress in all black, but now it’s because I live in New York City. Holy shit, did I just type all that?
During the 90’s, the most notorious of youth scenes in Salt Lake was the straight edge scene. Teen angst was channeled into ridiculously hypocritical and violent value systems where suburban pathos was tattooed and pierced into a nazi-like slipshod ethos. I was in college (the first time) during this period and fell in love with a college-radio art-rock band called Shudder to Think. I went to a live show they played at a shithole venue in Salt Lake where the straight edge band, Integrity, opened. What a strange mix that crowd was. The booking agent must have still had the needle in his arm when he planned that line-up. All I remember was a kid with a tattoo on his back of the H. R. Giger painting of the woman crucified on a pentagram to an upside cross. These kids didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, most were vegetarian and usually vegan and the most adherent were celibate. So it should come as no surprise that they would beat up just about everyone in sight for any number of vapid reasons rooted in a thinly-veiled but deep sense of self-loathing all in the name of spearheading some sort of social change. Yeah, whatever.
Since I just turned thirty, I have to admit that it’s possible that I have no idea what goes on in the realm of those younger and hipper than me, but last I checked the recent thing in Salt Lake (and everywhere else) was the emo thing. Yes, it’s short for “emotional” which I think is funny because I find your average Staind radio-play-overkill more emotional than most ’emo’ stuff and I also think it’s funny that Dashboard Confessional is considered too emo to be emo, or so they say. I’m sure these kids are completely beyond calling it ’emo’ anymore, but I don’t have time to be lectured on the difference between post-core and punk-core and emo-core and all that label-evading circumlocution, so I’m just gonna call it all emo. All you need to know is that you will never be cool enough to even begin to understand the complexities and subtle nuances of emo, so don’t try to front like you know emo, just put down that The Promise Ring CD and go buy the new Linkin Park like you wanted to you no-taste RIAA-blowing pop culture slut. I’ve always been bothered by how silly it is that social groups of the young, especially in suburbia, revolve so heavily around music genres. But that’s a discussion for another day. We have war to talk about. But not just yet.
So my friend Mikey-O in Salt Lake has a couple jokes that I love. They go like this:
Q: How many straight-edge kids does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Straight-edge kids don’t change a thing.
Q: How many emo kids does it take to change a light bulb?
A: What, you don’t know?
The second joke I especially like. Let me tell you why.
My company motto is “Let’s Roll.” Or at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe. We yell it when in company formations. I cringe every time I have to say it. But I cringe less when in battalion formations and Delta company yells their motto of “Death by Wire”, which is meant to signify them killing the enemy with wire-guided TOW missiles, I think. Or them hanging themselves with piano wire instead of going to Iraq, or maybe them always calling their cheating wives on the telephone (wire) and them eventually eating a bullet. I dunno. Since “Let’s Roll” is our motto, we use it colloquially, sadly always sarcastically, but still, we employ it regularly in conversation. But I have noticed for quite a while now a few other phrases used on an even more religious and fervent basis. Some of them go like, “What, you didn’t get the word?” or “What, you didn’t hear?” or “You’ve been here three months and you still don’t know that?” or “You’re an infantry team leader and you didn’t know that?” All this time I thought when guys asked these questions they were being condescending patronizing assholes trying desperately to fight for the alpha dog position by leveraging themselves ever-so-slightly with even the most miniscule of information advantages like a bunch of petty little bitches, but now I realize they were just being hooah and quoting the new company motto: “What, you don’t know?”