This dude walks up to me at Twenty Tap, a neighborhood tap room and restaurant with awesome-possum beer, and asks me if the four black bars on my arm represent the punk band Black Flag. Yes, yes they are. And here I’ll tell you why.
About 1 in 8 people (rough estimate, this is not Nielsen) recognize the black bars on my arm as a Black Flag tattoo. I’ll admit that Black Flag wasn’t popular while I was growing up no matter how old I was. It doesn’t matter what year I was born, but by the time I was lets just say Henry Rollins wasn’t as buff and tuff as he used to be.
Lots of people went through a punk stage. There’s an irresistable FU to punk music, a “stick it to the man” attitude that is always going to resonate with a teenage crowd.
But I bet your mom didn’t buy your first punk CD.
Long story short, because this is a blog and all long stories are shortened, there is an amazing music store in my hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana called Headstone Friends. It’s ultimately what has survived the test of time more than the music itself. It used to scare the crap out of me when we went in there – low lighting, incense burning in a big pseudo-head statue just to the left of entering the building, clerks with long gray beards that reach their tummies and cases and cases of CDs (which probably held vinyl 20-30 years ago and even 8-tracks), and it’s tiny, so so tiny, that you’ll easily pass it up on the street if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
My mom used to go here and get used CDs of music she couldn’t find at any other mainstream music store, because if you remember back to pre-online days you’ll know that there was that time when we HAD to buy music. I know, right? Crazy. What did I do before Spotify?
Anyways, my mom would take me there. And she bought me CD’s that she probably shouldn’t have bought if she knew what they were.
Me: “Mom, can I get this CD?”
Mom: “What is it?”
Me: “Jay-Z’s The Life and Times of S Carter.”
Mom: “What’s this Explicit Lyrics label? Are you sure this is okay?”
Me, likely 14/15 at this time: “Yeah I’m sure it’s fine no problem.”
Now, I’m not saying I swindled my mom into buying this CD. At this time I totally had a job and could have paid for it myself, but I also wasn’t entirely sure what that label meant either (I was 14 whatever okay this was pre-Napster). Regardless, my mom bought my first Jay-Z and Black Flag CDs from Headstone’s and I would continue to go back there until I left my hometown for Indianapolis. I should make a visit back.
There was thought behind my Black Flag left forearm tattoo. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing to me, but all of my tattoos represent a period or chapter in my life where something changed or differed, good or bad. The punk-ness reflects that independent, I-will-do-what-I-want-and-you-can’t-tell-me-not-to mood.
And now I work a 9-5 and have health insurance. Wah wah wah….
But the punk is there, in fact right here in this blog, and every time I look at it (since it’s on my arm, and isn’t going anywhere), I’m reminded of why it’s there and why I should keep fighting for my passions, no matter what they are.