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Between Punk Rock and a Hard Place

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It was an important historical point. And yet as we sat at the Smith and 9th Street F stop, the highest in New York, looking over at the bright lights of Manhattan, I thought that the only thing lamer than a museum-ified CBGB would be no CBGB at all. There’s a reason people in Finland want CBGB to stay here, and it’s not because they need a brick-and-mortar referent for their T-shirts. In the psychic economy of the known universe, there needs to be a place, even if you never go there, devoted, even if no one actually does it, to getting up onstage and screaming out your heart.

I remembered the scene at the conclusion of the building inspector’s visit. His final report was delivered by Kristal’s son-in-law Ger, an affable bearded Dutchman who used to run a photo lab.

Said Ger, “He said we need vents in the bathroom. For clean air.”

“But there are holes, aren’t there?”

“Those are holes. He wants vents.”

Kristal took this in. At some level, it was preposterous, unjust. But outside on the Bowery, the luxury-apartment hunters and test-prep centers and university-dorm builders were creeping. Surely there was a bit of punk-rock wisdom that could be helpful here—“Kick out the jams, motherfucker”? “I wanna sniff some glue”? “John Wayne was a Nazi / He liked to play SS / Kept a picture of Adolf . . . / Tucked in his cowboy vest”? So they wanted vents. This was how they broke you down—Kristal knew, he knew. “Okay,” he said with a sigh, in his little front office, another lonely tenant in a city full of sharks.


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