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Punk Like Them

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Left: Jamie and his girlfriend, Jazmin.
Right: Greg, left, showed Suvy good places to squat.   

“You guys should have been here the first day I came to New York, like right after I got out of being locked up,” he drawls, looking over to make sure she’s listening. “My alcohol tolerance was so low I’d be passed out every day, like drunk in the middle of the sidewalk. I’d be yelling at people, like, ‘Fuck you!’ ”

The girl, Mariya, giggles and twists a strand of streaked hair around her finger.

“Fuck you!” Suvy yells, inspired, at an unremarkable hipster walking past. “I fucking hate yuppies.”

“Yuppies are assholes,” Miquel agrees.

“This is St. Marks. They should go away.”

“They have no culture. They have no history. They’re like plastic.”

“Of course, I don’t discriminate,” Suvy reasons, grinning at Mariya. “I hate everybody besides punks.”

Punk, says Suvy, is “the only view that makes sense to me.” Work is for yuppies. Rent is for yuppies. Shelter is a basic human right. The government is bullshit. Corporations are bullshit. He “fucks capitalism” by pissing in the corner of the Dunkin’ Donuts.

“No one has a right to tell anyone else what to do,” Greg says. “Like, it’s your life, you should be in control of it. I don’t pay for anything—just drugs. They don’t tax drug dealers.”

“Hey, you guys want to see that punk show?” Suvy suddenly asks. Rumors have been circulating of a free show that night in Bushwick. The question is how to get sufficiently blasted to appreciate it. Greg thinks he knows where they can get ecstasy for $15 a pill, but who has that kind of money? Eric agrees with Suvy that Elmer’s glue or rubber cement might be the best solution, if they can find some.

“You should come to the show,” Suvy tells Mariya as she nestles next to him.

Make no mistake: A house punk, who can go home at night, is not a punk punk. “MySpace punks,” Jazmin calls them. “Like, ‘Oh, Mom, I want a pair of bondage pants!’”

She grows suddenly shy, peeking out at him from behind her bangs. “I sneaked out,” she admits. “I have to get home.”

“Man.” Suvy looks crestfallen. “The show’s free.” He pours from a brown-bagged Colt 45 into a McDonald’s cup, and she downs it in one gulp before writing her number on his arm in black Magic Marker. When she leaves, she gives him her glove and a quick kiss.

“Mariya’s a hottie,” Miquel comments, watching her go.

“She’s a mall goth,” Jazmin tells Suvy, disapprovingly. “That’s so lame.”

Suvy glares at her. “I don’t care, dude. I still like her.”

“You like her for who she is, right?” Jazmin asks, rolling her eyes.

Alex and Toast are waiting for them on the steps outside Saint Mark’s Church on 10th Street and Second Avenue. Alex goes to college, but during summer break he comes down to the city from Westchester to get stoned. Toast lives in Queens and wears Armani glasses and calls himself Toast “because I’m always toasted.” They’re both house punks, meaning that they have homes they sleep in every night and at least some money, and for this the squatter kids—even the ones from the city who can go home when it rains or if they need a good meal—find them both slightly suspicious and also intermittently useful for buying things like beer and weed. But make no mistake: A house punk is not a punk punk. They water down what’s left of the scene.

“Now it’s a bunch of fucking kids who are like, ‘Ooh, I’m punk, I’m punk!’ ” says Greg. “They think they know a few bands and they think that gives them the right to call themselves whatever they want and they fucking run around and then they go back home to their white, suburban comfort zone.”

“MySpace punks,” Jazmin calls them. “Like, ‘Oh, Mom, I want a pair of bondage pants!’ ”

The squatter kids mostly get by with spanging (spare-changing), especially Greg, who’s disconcertingly thin. Suvy picks up cash from the tourists who come to St. Marks hoping to see someone just like him and who pay, a dollar a shot, for the privilege of taking his picture to show the folks back home: Look, punk is still alive!

Tonight they and their limited funds haven’t managed to scrounge up anything stronger than alcohol, but Toast has pot, which he’s packed into a one-hitter—a small pipe painted to look like a cigarette—and there’s a chance that he’ll share. He holds the pipe covertly as the others gather around, lounging on the clammy steps. The churchyard usually makes a good place to hang out—far back from the street, enclosed by a fence. But tonight proves unlucky. They had barely settled in when two stocky cops amble out of the darkness and pull Toast to his feet.

“You got any more weed on you?” the younger one asks, cinching a pair of handcuffs.


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