I have spent the last three weeks with my family in Southern California (laguna beach where 2 sisters and mom live) and Austin Texas (oldest sis, her family, and my dad and his wife). I went to Highschool in laguna beach – one of the most beautiful places in the world, but so unavailable to someone from NY. The conversations I still hear on the sidelines are mostly about what color nail polish should I get, or who does your plastic surgery… (tiny exaggeration). That’s why I left.
I moved to Oakland to study, but that is where I met my second family. A very close-knit group based on a common ground in youth that held us together through the years – Punk.
When I arrived in Oakland I made friends with Ed, Ben, and Jerry. They accepted me and pulled me into a world that made me feel normal- unlike the bikini tanned south. A belly didn’t matter, a crooked nose was sexy. They showed me that “good” looks were about character and not about perfection. They showed me what substance meant, what solidarity, loyalty, and honesty are. I was in my early 20’s, but this is where I grew up. It was a world of tolerance for oddities and a want for independent thinkers and creativity. I found a world that made sense. It was hard at first. The females at the time took a while to warm up to me. There were a few that accepted me right away. Enya was one of them. She taught me how to be less insecure about being different.
We went to shows and old man bars and had parties and barbecues. We played pool and went to the Parkway in groups watching films like Purple rain with 30 of us singing at the top of our lungs. We just wanted to laugh and have fun and feel accepted in a society where we felt like rejects for not agreeing with the “Norm” Main Stream Ideologies. It saved us to have places to see bands and events organized by energetic individuals who wanted to make things happen.
Since then a lot has changed. Almost everyone doesn’t “look punk” anymore, though some still do. Many have gotten good jobs and bought houses and some have started families. In the end, most all still meet up for shows and even protests. They may agree or disagree about politics, but they still believe in solidarity and how the scene gave us a place to be.
The good that comes with a large family of about 300 people (for me) can also be painful. Loving so many means that many more heartaches when they pass. Some by suicide, some by drugs or alcohol, and others mysteriously just pass.
On Sunday, a very important human to many in the scene died – Murray Bowles. He was the documentarian of the scene. He was almost always seen with a camera. When he took a photo of you, it made you feel a part of something big. He made you feel special with a click! He was also extremely kind. When someone needed money, because they were putting out a record, he helped. When one friend had to go home and take care of their family, he bought the ticket. He cared and that is golden.
From the day I met him in 1997 up until I saw him last April at a punk festival in Bath, UK, he was sweet and respectful still with an odd statement now and then. He was beautiful in his uniqueness. His death came as a shock for 1000’s of individuals (bands all over the world that he photographed over at least 40 years) that are mourning his passing. I wish I had an eloquent way of saying this, but all I can say is it’s so fucking sad to say goodbye and it sucks. RIP Murray.