The way we were

Staying hardcore in the land of the stripmall
By ANTHONY PAPPALARDO  |  December 1, 2011


How to explain Live . . . Suburbia? Compiled and written by Max G. Morton and Anthony Pappalardo, the book is a collage of all the hardcore hopes and wasted dreams of a misspent youth in the suburbs of the 1980s and '90s. Skateboards and skinheads, dirt bikes and teased hair, strip-mall karate and heavy-metal T-shirts — they're all here, in a blurry mix of essays, photos, and found objects.

Pappalardo, who grew up in Lawrence, says that he and Morton wanted to explore the pop-culture engine that is the suburbs, and its symbiotic relationship with urban centers. "It's celebrating the fact that the kids in the suburbs are the creativity and the fuel behind the things that start in cities," he says. "Every subculture in the book — whether it's goths or skinheads — has to grow in a suburb."

The book came out last month, and December 10 will see a Live . . . Suburbia art show at Orchard Skate Shop. If you ever pored over a waterlogged Playboy you found in a ditch, if you thought it was cool to give the camera the finger when your friend took your picture, you might see a little of yourself in the following excerpt.

Before settling in Salem, my family lived about 25 miles north of Boston in a city called Lawrence, Massachusetts, or "Law-Town," as any white dude with a goatee and House of Pain cassette called it. Despite the nickname, Lawrence lacked laws, or at least no one gave a fuck about them. The city became famous in the 1980s for having the second-highest car-theft rate in the US. It was also the birthplace of Robert Goulet, and had some insane race wars in the mid '80s, which resulted in houses being burned down.

>> PHOTOSImages from Live ... Suburbia <<

There was a VFW hall not too far from my parents' place. I remember waiting at a light in the back of their metallic green station wagon and seeing a bunch of kids in front of the hall. They looked a lot like the punks I saw in a copy of Rolling Stone. I thought punk rockers only existed in the UK, or on episodes of CHiPs and Quincy. A few weeks later, I was walking through Kenmore Square with my dad on our way to a Red Sox game, when I saw a similar gang standing out in front of the Rathskeller. These dudes looked tough — less about mohawks and more about bald heads. They resembled soldiers more than artsy junkies. I stopped to tie my shoe just so I could soak it all in. I didn't recognize any of the acronyms written on their jackets and shirts — it was all some insane mystery to me. It didn't even dawn on me that there was a show going on in that club; I just thought these dudes were hanging out looking cool and angry.

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Related: Photos: Images from Live . . . Suburbia, Interview: Alice Bag of Stay at Home Bomb, A talk with Sam McPheeters, More more >
  Topics: Books , Books, punk, Anthony Pappalardo,  More more >
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