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The Punk

Betty Hill | Age: 19

Description: "Short story based off an encounter I had that left a lasting memory."

That Saturday didn’t start out any more or less special than all of the Saturdays before. I woke up at 7:30 to pour baby powder into my hair, teased it until it stood straight atop my head, and gelled and hair sprayed until it was the perfectly imperfect mohawk. We would head out around 9 to make the drive from Ewa to Kaakako, that’s where my job used to be.

At this point I had been working at the record store for around a year and a half, I had talked with many people about all sorts of pop culture moments and types of music. Of course I’m a punk and, being a young punk girl, I became a “fan favorite” of customers. I hadn’t gotten to talk with too many full punks but a lot of people who appreciated me or at least their idea of what punk was.

On this day though, something else was in store. Call it blind faith, destiny, or just the inevitable. A man who looked about 85 to 90 came in wheeling a roller bag behind him. He asked me where the cds were and spent the next 20 minutes choosing 2 Clash CDs. My shift ended right as he was checking out so we spent some good time talking outside, illuminated by the overhead lights starting to turn on.

“You’re a real one” he said over and over “You see back in the day the problem was getting beaten up by guys that thought you were gay, and that that was something worth getting beaten up over” I nodded recounting my own experiences and he continued “But now the problem is all of those same guys, guys that would have beaten us up, are wearing the shirts of your favorite band, and that’s really rough kid.” I nodded again because boy was that true, so many kids I had met who were clearly spouting the incoherent conservative ramblings of their parents would than try and impress me by giving unsolicited opinions on who they thought were “posers” and what they thought was “lame,” and that ended up being everything. The man continued again “But don’t worry about them, one day they will all wake up and decide they don’t want to be a punk anymore, and you’re never going to have that option. That’s going to be hard too, but it means the real ones are going to look to you like a fucking mystic, in a way, you kind of are.” I could only nod appreciatively and listen.

For the next half hour he told me his life story. He started as a hippie, as all punks do, in Frisco, then discovered British Invasion as it was happening and moved to New York, snuck into England, came back to New York, tried Canada, then back to California, then somehow ended up 87 on Oahu. He worked as a janitor, baker, gas station attendant, taxi driver, chair lift operator, and many other odd jobs. His favorite though was working as a ticket booth in an opera house, because he got to see a free opera show every night 4 nights a week for a year. I was supposed to listen to opera too, and to never think less of any music genre for arbitrary reasons. I already lived by that mindset and had listened to opera but he didn’t need to know that. He didn’t claim to have met anyone famous or to have beared witness to amazing historical events, just the life story of a real original punk rocker.

The wisdom he passed on to me that day was really something special, I haven’t seen him since that day and he had never come in before. I knew it to be true everytime I listened to music or went outside but, it was still so nice to know someone else besides my dad could completely understand what it meant to be a punk. It’s even nicer to see someone I relate to not have a life that ends in tragedy. Meeting him reassured two things, that I was a real punk and that I was going to be just fine.

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