The way we were

By ANTHONY PAPPALARDO  |  December 1, 2011
PHOTOSImages from Live ... Suburbia

When I was 10, we moved eight miles north to tax-free Salem, New Hampshire, with a giant strip mall lining Route 28, running through the entire town. It had bad concrete, nothing cool going on, and no public space. Just Kmart, tattoo parlors in trailers, and a hundred places to buy shit to improve your shitty three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath home that looked like everyone else's suburban bunker. It's not shocking that a state with nothing to do, the largest KKK presence in the Northeast, and bad legal tattoos spawned someone like GG Allin.

I was about to start middle school, was completely into metal and BMX, and starting to get interested in skateboarding. I got a copy of Thrasher on a family trip and convinced my mom to write a check for $9.99 so I could subscribe. There was now a new world being sent to me every month, a world in which the drips in my neighborhood weren't interested. These douches were too busy watching monster movies, feathering their dry, stringy hair, or bragging about fights that never happened. They didn't get "playing skateboards" and reading Puszone.

Moving from a city to a town meant access to the woods: a place without laws or supervision. My body was covered in denim on a brisk September afternoon. My new neighbor (and best friend by default) and I were sitting on a rock behind a scummy pond, deciding which mistake we'd make next. Like good New Englanders, we had worn out our Nice Price copy of Aerosmith's Greatest Hits and learned — or so we thought — from the lyrics to "Mama Kin" that you could smoke tea. Somehow, we knew more about making a pot pipe than we did about what to smoke out of it. After heating a penknife over a small open fire, we bored a hole through half of an empty plastic Easter egg. The shaft of a BIC pen was then inserted into the hole and some tin foil placed in the purple cradle. After punching a few holes in the foil, we were ready to pour the contents of one Lipton tea bag into the center and get higher than the Toxic Twins. The familiar scent of town fairs, concerts, and seedy bathrooms filled the fall air. It smelled like we were getting high, but with only a few stolen cigarettes under our belts, we didn't know what to expect other than a light head and hopefully hallucinations. It was apparent that the smoky taste of plastic wasn't going to result in anything but headaches and disappointments. We immediately vowed never to speak of our Lipton christening and opted to light things on fire instead.

The dry brush behind Bodwell Pond quickly ignited, but we weren't worried. At the very worst, we'd leave a burning monument to preteen ignorance behind a small body of water that would eventually fizzle out. Unfortunately, two idiots who had just finished smoking tea from a plastic egg aren't good judges of how flammable nature is, and the fire quickly took over a 30-square-foot region that Johnny Cash–ed us into a ring of fire. We decided it made more sense to abandon the mess and air drum to a dubbed copy of Dokken's Under Lock and Key in a friend's basement, hopefully getting a glimpse of the stirrup-pant-covered legs of his 16-year-old Bon-Jovi-concert-video-worthy sister, Liz.

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