Somehow I didn't die, but life caught up to me, and all of the little things I picked up along the way have become not only acceptable, but quite easy to obtain. My records and old t-shirts are worth so much that they could put my non-existent children through college. At any given matinee, more elbows than not own a spiderweb. Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, and Doc Martens stores are all within walking distance of my house. Sometimes I miss being an outcast. I miss the hunt, but more importantly — I miss the fight. All of the genres at the Record Bar, all the gambles and choose-your-own-adventures of burning out in suburbia have come full circle. Without warning or want, here I am. My feet burn and itch in antique Nikes. I own a denim vest with patches from travels all over the world. A few years ago my liver gave out, which made the straight edge tattoos more meaningful. The print on my Cro-Mags shirt is illegible, and when I do venture into a show, I still skinhead skip like it's 1988.
We all go back to the first thing that really turned us on. For me, everything stemmed from music. There is always a soundtrack the headphones of the forever young. Records inspired us all. Songs markers for many significant moments in life. The ritual of the needle dropping kept me alive. That crackle still tells me that everything is to be alright. Music blocked out the sounds of my parents fighting and me hope that other people out there hated pigs, teachers, and organized sports. There were anthems to prepare me for and get me through puberty blues, high school halls, and nuclear war. Records are the ultimate handbook for growing up. Whatever we were into, there was solidarity in an outsider; allies against Reagan Country. A rite of passage for some another wasted night for others, but ultimately we're all just shrapnel of the same explosion.
Over the years I've mellowed out of such extremes as ditching all my metal records for punk ones and then my punk ones for skinhead ones. Sure, I might look back periodically and blow a bunch of money trying to revisit Mentholated Suburbia, until I realize why I got rid of some records in the first place . . . My mom might have been right about the Dayglo Abortions. On the other hand, there are those staples in each genre that survive the test of time and now can sit peacefully together my newfound, custom-built shelves, not unlike the eclectic collection friends I've amassed over the years.
At the end of the day, when the highlight reel plays, one might go back to better times. We are all guilty of this. Victims of the past, still searching and still collecting. Dreaming through modern landscapes, I often visit road trips and long-forgotten record stores. We are astronauts, forever cataloging. Just last night I was restlessly thinking about some Crumbsuckers shirt that disappeared to God knows where. Why that means something 23 years later is beyond me. I guess certain things stab themselves into our souls.
We can all say, in one way or another, that we still live suburbia.
Excerpted from Max G. Morton's essays "Welcome To New Grenada," originally published in Live...Suburbia (power House Books). Order a copy at powerhousebooks.com.