Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Underground Punk Rock and Spontaneous Order—The Boredom, Dispatch 4
I woke up as the sun’s rays began to brighten the inside of a beat up Ford F250. I was folded up in the back seat while Midshipman occupied the front. He looked like a bear coming out of hibernation. We both climbed out of the truck and quickly ran out of the shade and into the warmth of the sun.
We got to the edge of the lower meadow when we realized the sunrise over the mountain valley was breathtaking. Midshipman and I split my last two cigarettes and stood smoking in silence as we took in the sun. It was a deeply reassuring feeling becoming one with nature.
This was Sunday morning—Day 10 of The Boredom.
After an indeterminate amount of time we piled into the truck and took a rocky dirt road over to the upper meadow, a mile or two away. There was a turnout on the road, trimmed by a ranch-style minimal wood fence that fed into a path. At the end of the path which took me a short way into the meadow stood a lone cabin.
The cabin was built there in 1859. William F. Holcomb and Ben Choteau, prospectors from Bear Valley, found gold in 1860 while tracking a bear in the next valley north. The discovery triggered a gold rush in San Bernardino County and by 1861 “Belleville” (the town named after the first child born in the valley). However, the boom quickly busted and Belleville was virtually a ghost town by 1864, and literally a ghost town by 1870. I suspect the folks there got caught up in the drama of the Civil War, which even affected California.
Breakfast consisted of leftover pizza from the night before—Midshipman heated up over the engine. We ate our pizza and let the warm sun and cold wind confuse and torture our bodies. Despite the elements being harsh up there, it was invigorating just being exposed to them. By 10:30 we began the bumpy trek down the mountain.
What a hell of a weekend it had been!
Monday, Day 11, was largely uneventful. I wrote and I worked on manuscripts, and I made excuses not to go to the gym. I put a metaphorical gun to my own head and wrote the third dispatch for The Boredom, which was published to the Rants blog later that evening.
I did attend my weekly Civil Air Patrol squadron meeting—the first Monday of the month is always Commander’s Call and awards ceremony. I took a ton of photos of CAP members just going about their business.
Chartered by Congress, Civil Air Patrol is the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, a civilian volunteer organization authorized to wear paramilitary uniforms and carry out search-and-rescue and disaster relief missions on behalf of the Air Force. I’ve been an auxiliary airman for three and a half years, on top of my two years as a military contractor and seven years in the state guard.
I spent the morning of Day 12, Tuesday, editing and preparing the photos from Commander’s Call for uploading to the squadron Facebook fan page. I spent a few solid hours working on manuscripts and an hour or two slaying orcs on The Lord of the Rings Online. Good times! Later that evening I prepared the thirtieth installment of Five Libertarian Ideas for next-day publication on the Rants blog.
Wednesday/Day 13 I went to the gym and worked out like a fiend. My body and mind equally needed it. While doing cardio on the machines I started a new book—War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges—as if I needed any more books to read. I still have a pile I either haven’t started or haven’t finished. Each and every one is outstanding, and I can’t put either of them down, at least until I find the next one.
That night I linked up with one of my close friends, Aqua Bat. He’s been a friend since childhood, from Scouting, and we really started hanging out a lot after high school ended. Aqua Bat is an interesting character. He’s a new-school stoner with a love for punk and ska music. His preference for Converse shoes, shorts, and brightly knitted Baja jackets and beanies give him the look of an orphan rescued and raised by a Peruvian flute band.
We drove down into a seedy-looking industrial area of lower Pomona—we were south of Holt Avenue and east of the 71. Our objective was the VLHS warehouse, an amazing little place tucked away in between shipping warehouses and welding garages, far out of ear shot in its location at this time of night. It’s the ideal place to hold a concert, throw a party, get wild, you name it!
VLHS—named after the show producer’s high school—is DIY (do-it-yourself) punk at its finest. As a matter of fact, this is full-on underground punk rock. There are no permits, no insurance, no mass-posted flyers letting anyone know the shows at this location are approved and open to the public. There is only a private lease paid in cash between the show producers and the property owner. The shows are promoted by word of mouth and Facebook, to a very limited extent.
The shows at VLHS are technically illegal. We don’t care. For us it’s about freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and voluntary association. Spontaneous order happens every night there’s a show at VLHS. It’s BYOB, and everyone’s either holding a beer can, a bottle of liquor, cigarettes (for your non-drinkers), and the harder stuff people are encouraged to do inside their car or on the other side of the building.
The “donation” is paid at the door, and all participants are aware that this is private property. Moreover, the DIY punk rockers and supporters here police themselves. Serious drama involves the cops, and the police typically frown on untaxed, unpermitted, unregulated concerts. So everyone solves problems between themselves and no drama ensues.
Aqua Bat and I hadn’t been to a VLHS show in nearly a year. It felt good to be back among familiar sounds and familiar faces. I love punk rock, not just the juxtaposed simplicities and complexities hidden in the chords and lyrics, but for its spirit of rebellion and a determination of individuals not to be ruled. Not bad for a Wednesday night!
Thursday was a blur—I went to bed late on Wednesday night and paid for it with a late morning. I shambled off to the gym, got in a decent work out, and reflected on Chris Hedges’ philosophical essays on war.
Day 15, Friday, I spent most of the day fine-tooth combing through some texts on the Vietnam War for a writing project that’s been slowly developing over the last few months. I’m nowhere near ready to announce this, but this project will be one of my proudest scholarly achievements.
Friday night saw Aqua Bat and I return for another show at VLHS. Punk rock women are some of the most attractive on the planet. There’s just something about the way they pull off leather and black without going full Goth Then their off-beat hair (usually dark with a neon highlight or two), and the whole mysterious persona they wear along with their torn jeans… Life is good.
Day 16, Saturday was an obnoxiously early start. It wasn't yet 6 AM as I tore myself away from sleep and started shuffling into my Army Combat Uniform. I picked up a large jerky stick, a Powerade, and a Red Bull and made the 45-minute commute to the National Guard armory I drill at once a month.
It was December drill, cut short by the usual annual family-friendly barbeque banquet. The banquet was at noon, so morning-time had a lot of ridiculous standing around. Whatever. I was at all the places I needed to be and I got my tasks done. Better yet, I had time to coach some junior enlisted soldiers about a few career matters involving the uniform. I find it ironic as hell that the majority of soldiers in the state guard are in their 40s and 50s—it’s Title 32 militia, after all. Then here I am, 25 years old, outranking dozens of people. I guess I really have been in 7 years!
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All photos used in this post are the property of the author.