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Punk Like Them

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Left: Suvy with a friend in the churchyard.
Right: Suvy playing in the rain on St. Marks Place.   

“Um, I don’t know.” Toast’s voice is tiny. Unlike some of the squatter kids, he’s never been arrested.

“You got any I.D.?”

“Yes, sir. In my pocket.”

The young cop rummages in Toast’s pants, while the other checks out his one-hitter for debris.

“Let’s go. You’re coming with us. Gonna spend the night in jail, all right?”

Alex asks if he can follow his friend to the station, but they cut him off. “What, you want to get arrested, too?”

The cops lead Toast away. For a few seconds, no one speaks. Then Miquel whistles through his teeth. “Dude, that was fucking nuts.”

“What the fuck was that?” Eric asks.

“Dude, we can’t stay around here,” Suvy says. “They know we’re all fucked up.” If there’s one thing Suvy hates more than anything else, it’s cops. In addition to the anarchy sign tattooed at the base of his thumb and the inverted cross on his middle finger, he has ACAB inked between his knuckles. All. Cops. Are. Bastards.

“Let’s just go,” he says. “Let’s go to this show. Where is this show?”

“Um,” Alex mutters. “I think the guy who knew just got arrested.”

Turns out the show is at a place called the Wreck Room in Bushwick, which wouldn’t necessarily be worth the subway ride to get there if it didn’t have the reputation as a decent spot to hear punk.

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” Suvy chants. Music is important to him; it’s what drew him to the punk scene in the first place. “Like, when I was a little kid, I had so much anger and shit,” he says. “I listened to a whole bunch of different music, but the only thing that really touched me was punk. It’s a good way to, like, express your anger.”

The thought of this concert gets him so worked up that he drops his beer. As the others egg him on, he kneels down to slurp it off the street.

In the L station at 14th Street and First Avenue, they wait until they can hear the train coming before jumping the turnstile, a trick to keep the attendant from having time to stop them. Eric, Miquel, and Alex squeeze into a car just in time, but the door closes on Suvy, Jamie, Greg, and Jazmin. Luckily, the guy on duty isn’t paying attention.

They reunite in Brooklyn, clambering out of the subway and back into the night, a ragtag parade of dyed hair and patches, ripped pants and piercings. No one knows exactly where the bar is, so they try first one street, then another, filing quickly past the low-slung warehouses, the gloomy garages. The night has grown blustery and rain darkens the deserted pavement. “Where the fuck are we?” Jazmin asks to a round of silence.

Finally, they see a glow of light in the distance: a storefront with fluorescent beer signs illuminating the window. From outside, you can hear the muffled pulse of a heavy drumbeat and the hum of a crowd. Jazmin grabs Jamie’s hand excitedly. Suvy smoothes up his Mohawk in anticipation.

Once inside, though, their faces fall. The front room is riddled with hipsters, the current incarnation of yuppie scum, lined up at the bar. In the small back room where the band is playing, there are only a handful of people, not nearly enough for a mosh pit. And even if there were, the music could hardly inspire any thrashing about. The band is a joke—a bunch of paunchy guys in their forties flopping around on a plywood stage. “I used to be able to jump higher, but I’ve put on some weight over the years,” the lead singer admits between songs.

This is not punk.

Suvy is disgusted. “I want to die young. Once I hit like 30, I want to start being really self-destructive and just see what happens. Like ride around in cars really fast and do crazy stuff—even though I already do that now, so I can’t really say I’m going to do it.”

The rest of them just stand there, dumbfounded, or plop down in the folding chairs that border the walls.

“Eric, you lose cool points for taking me here,” says Greg.

“Fuck this shit,” Suvy adds with disdain.

After five minutes, they decide that there’s no point in sticking around. They head back to St. Marks. It may not be punk anymore either, but as Suvy says, “It’s not gonna help it just by leaving, abandoning it, you know? You’d be just as bad as these yuppies coming in and making stores.” At least it’s got people, like them, trying to be punk. At least it’s got history, the faint residue of New York in the eighties. “And New York in the eighties,” Suvy says with authority, “was insane.”


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