People tend to focus on the glamour of rock and roll but let me tell you, while it’s true, I’ve been kissed by Anna Nicole Smith and been converted completely to Christianity by Little Richard in the lobby of an upscale Hollywood hotel, I’ve also been to my fair share of dumps. I’ve mentioned some of them in this space before (search the entry entitled ‘sleep, that’s where I’m disgusting’ for detailed descriptions of the Rabbi’s house and the fat band of dreaded masturbation enthusiasts from Tennessee) and today I’m gonna go there again. I’m gonna show you people the truth about rock and roll. It’s not all Little Richard and Strawberry cocaine. A lot of rock and roll involves garbage and feces. A lot of rock and roll involves dumpsters and the smell of spilt beer while you eat breakfast in the same gross room where you played the night before. A TON of rock and roll involves people that won’t stop talking to you even though they have nothing to say, or people who just have a few snide things to say and who insist on getting in your face to say them. These people are called punishers. They’re the worst scourge on the face of rock and roll. You’re probably a punisher. Yeah, you probably are. There’s really no shame in it. Being a punisher is kind of like having genital warts: more common than not these days and every once in a while, really irritating.
Okay, full disclosure, I’ve punished my fair share of people. I punished Jeff Pazzatti from Naked Raygun pretty mercilessly at the old Bottom Lounge in Chicago a few years ago. I was, thanks to my super-cool celebrity status, able to sneak back into the dressing room and hang out (something I would have never done were I not super excited and kind of loaded) and I proceeded to sit next to Jeff (someone I greatly admire but don’t know at ALL) and just punish the shit out of him. It was kind of on purpose too. I knew he was uncomfortable with all the “dude! You’re awesome”s and the random enthusiasm about old raygun songs and shows and attempts to hug him and stuff, but I didn’t really care. That evening culminated in me stage diving and the crowd parting just in time for me to hit the floor like an extremely handsome and annoying ton of bricks.
I also punished the dudes in Propagandhi pretty mercilessly at the Fat Wreck thirteenth anniversary party. They needed someone to play foozball against and my drunk wife and I decided to take them on. We were sloppy and annoying and those dudes are hands down in the coolest band in the world and I was thinking to myself “hey, I’m on fat too, we’re contemporaries, these guys are gonna love my sloppy charm, and we’re gonna be friends. This is AWESOME.”
um, no. They did not love anything about me. Their little foozball men quickly vanquished ours before they, visibly irritated, escorted us away and went off to shotgun beers Canadian style (I’m guessing, as we were not invited).
Point is, we’ve all been horrible punishers at some point and you’re no exception. I dig it though, when you get in the situation where you’re talking to someone you really admire, you want it to be awesome, but the truth is, you don’t know them and they don’t know you and sure, sometimes it’s effortless and like talking to your best friend, but a lot of the time, people just don’t have the chemistry to strike up a great chat as strangers. The fan (me, in the case of the above stories) tends to become a bit desperate to make the conversation progress naturally to a point of true connection and the result is a kind of strained weirdness that makes the non-fan feel vaguely uncomfortable and trapped.
This is one kind of punishing, but it’s hardly the only kind that you come across. There’s also the entitled punisher who asks for your clothes, or your skateboard or other personal items and gets pissed when you won’t give him anything. He’ll say stuff like “you owe me. I listen to your band.” This is one of the worst people at any show. Firstly, I’m not made of hats or pants. It’s not easy to find stuff that I like to wear, and uh…not to state the obvious, but I’m wearing this shit right now. What am I gonna do, walk around with no pants? Or worse, trade you for your dumb pants? No thanks. I’ll just not give my pants to a stranger instead, how bout that? This really happens, by the way. Here’s a word to the wise, nobody likes strangers asking them for their stuff. It’s like panhandling, but even more invasive. Just never ask someone for their hat or their pants or their belt buckle or their jacket or shirt or skateboard or anything. Just don’t.
There’s also the guy who has just been waiting to tell you that he thinks you’re an asshole, or that you’re not good anymore or that you’ve gotten fat or that you’re ‘so wasted’ or dead wrong about something or that Dave Hause was just in town and he’s way more fun than you or whatever. these people are often super aggressive and for whatever reason, more common in Germany than anywhere else I’ve ever been to.
Now finally, punishers can be found anywhere. They’re not just people at shows, and I’m sure that you’ve been punished, even if you’re not in a band or an actor or pro snowboarder or anything. That girl at the party that won’t shut up about how awesomely important she is, that’s taking you hostage in the bathroom line? Punisher. That creepy guy at the diner that keeps interjecting into your conversation even though you’ve tried very hard to make it clear that you’re really doing just fine, and no, we wouldn’t like to talk to you, random dude: Punisher. Panhandler that won’t take no for an answer/dude with elaborate story about why he just needs fourteen dollars to get back to the suburbs and then he’ll mail you the money: Punisher.
Now, keep in mind, I’m not saying that if you approach someone in your favorite band or if you’re homeless or if you’re excited about meeting someone, or if you really need some money or some pants that you’re automatically a punisher. There’s nothing better than true fan appreciation and lord knows there’s a lot of people out there that need financial help and that’s cool too. Punishing is an elusive time burgling complete with a sense of creepiness or desperation or claustrophobia that can’t be easily quantified, which is what makes it so hard to avoid.
I dunno. I was gonna write about this place where we partied in Omaha that had human poo everywhere, but I got kind of sidetracked. Maybe tomorrow.