reflections from the southeast PA rural underground
Friday, January 2, 2009
Back in 89’ the punks hung out in malls. We had our metropolis too. It was called Big City. The inside was a fantastical maze of shops that mostly sold things we’d never admit we wanted and didn't have the money to buy anyways. The Limited, Benetton, Spencer Gifts. To be sure, some of the soccer kids at school would be stocking up via their parents cards for the back-to-school fashion show. But I never understood why all the girls wore Treetorn tennis sneakers and most of the soccer player guys wore L.L. Bean rugby shirts. The outside of the mall presented an open field of pavement for any of us who dared go skating there at night. No security at night. But you had to stay clear of the hessian kids and their monster trucks that would chase you around until you were pitted against a wall somewhere, the headlights glaring in your 14 yr. old face, scared to death. At Big City you’d see the skins and their skin chicks, hippies, acid dealing 15 yr. olds, and what seemed to be a lot of cops. Everywhere you looked it seemed like there were two more cops. Course it was probably just your imagination. Just whatever you had gotten into and had no business being “into.”
Mark and Lou and Bill and I went there on a Saturday night. The food court was where everyone congregated. Coming into this place from outside was truly like walking into Willie Wonka land. A Mecca filled with hundreds of people, mostly teens. We haphazardly picked a table to sit at. We didn’t know much. Just took it all in. My three friends seemed distant yet they sat just across from me at the circular school-cafeteria-style table. Bill talked about a road bike he was just dying to have. He was the picture of innocence. A healthy, geeky, happy, somewhat cartoon looking kid. So much youth and naivete in those brown eyes. But he wasn’t exactly one of the rest of us. He did not ride a skateboard.
“I think I’ll get a Trek, he said, they make these amazing huge frames that weigh like nothing!” The nervous energy of the place was high. He gleefully expounded on the bike and I looked at the cops again imagining that they were looking at me as well. There was Brian across the way. Kids talked about him all the time. Was he really dealing that stuff? Did he really have sheets of it on hand? He was only a sophomore. High school had gotten nuts and we were only in the first year of it. Brian’s massive tye-dye shirt wouldn’t protect him from the rocky future that lay ahead. The uncertainty seemed to be ever looming, as strong and inevitable as the Lancaster county winds. He’d get caught soon enough. It made me fear my own situation a bit. I looked at Mark and anxiously said, “We should get outta here soon.” The more I looked at the neon pink food signs for Chinese, Mexican, and pizza the more my mind raced and the sweat built on my hands and brow. It seemed as though all the sound in the room was muted. There was a low buzz. Everything was disconnected. Time to move.
“Holy shit!” Lou said after being silent for more than a half hour. “What is it man!?” I said. “Look there on the escalator, that dude is trying to get up through those cops!” “Damn,” I thought, why hadn’t we just left? It was hard to see what was really going on over there but the tall, lanky skinhead was holding what looked like a small knife and one of the police men was trying to restrain him. He would make it though. He would bust through them and head up the stairs running for a second chance at the night.
I remember hearing something about the knife incident later that school year. To me it was just par for the course. All of the skins were on the edge. They were older guys/gals. You just didn’t fuck with them no matter what. But then, none of us knew any of them personally. They were way too far out of our circle. That is until Mike and Joel came onto the scene. But even then we thought it was just a mistake, a phase. Things were always like that then. There were so many mistakes, so many phases.