(Re)Collection #18: Sex Pistols
Updated: 6 days ago
In my 13th year on the planet, life changed in strange and ugly ways. My family ceased to exist. A war of attrition. Parents divorced. For the second time. My dad died. My sister ran away and disappeared for good. And I retreated inward and pretended like none of it was happening. None of my family friends could really understand. I was alone. So I found a friend. He was quiet like me, but he was confidant and free-thinking. He and I ventured into petty juvenile delinquency together. It never amounted to much, but I got a taste of what that life might be like. I kind of enjoyed it.
Ty was my partner in minor crime. We both were relatively quiet, skateboarded, loved to play bruising, full contact games of crushed soda can foot-hockey and lived near each other. He lived very close to the Chevy Chase Community where we would meet up to play heated games of ping pong and pool in the basement game room. I was a sore loser. He was better than me in most sports, so he tortured the hell out of me. As boys do. He was my buddy, just not when we were playing games.
Ty had liberal parents who had money. His dad was a lawyer and I don't know what his mom did. They lived in a big house, and Ty always had cash in his pocket. We could count on him to pay for a couple of bags of super greasy fries at the fast food hole-in-the-wall across from the Safeway grocery store on the way home from school. I used to feel guilty about it, but I had no money so I just kept on freeloading. And I was always hungry.
Ty often accompanied me up to Bethesda to the video arcade or Shakey's Pizza to play Galaxian. Although his specialty was Defender and Missile Command. I sucked at those games, so I played Galaxian. I probably had a dollar in my pocket on a good day so it is no wonder why I wasn't good at any of the games. He had better means with which to pursue his 10,000 hours towards mastery.
Ty was good natured and generous. He had to be to hang out with me. He regularly invited me to sleep over at his house on weekends. Because he had that disposable income, he also bought a lot of records. I was introduced to the Sex Pistols, the Dead Kennedys and the B52s there. I loved each one of them. And the music did not scare me like my sister's classic rock did. I don't know why. People vilified punk then, but I think I found it interesting and fun.
We would eat tons of candy and bounce around listening to Planet Claire, California Uber Alles or Anarchy in the UK. The Sex Pistols were a particular favorite though. Anarchy in the UK. We had no idea what it meant, but we liked it a lot. It was alien and cartoonish. We understood the rambunctiousness. It got us jacked up for our late night adventures.
If I stayed over at his house, his parents didn't police us too closely. It was easy to sneak out. They went to sleep at around 10. His room was up in the attic. We would take our shoes off, clutch them and our skateboards close to our bodies so as not to bang into anything, and tip toe down the stairs and out the back door.
We did a lot of late night, long distance skateboarding. It was our preferred mode of transport. I loved that feeling of bombing down long hills in the darkness lit only by streetlights. The air would get cooler and more dense as we descended. It felt thick like water against my sweaty skin as I carved the asphalt. I imagined I was riding a really long wave. Movement and freedom.
One of our late night adventures was to the wilds of Georgetown. We were in 8th grade and had heard that Georgetown was where the punk rockers hung out. We hadn't ever seen one in person. If Georgetown was the center of all that, then the Rocky Horror Picture Show was ground zero. The show started at midnight. To be perfectly honest, it was not my scene at all.
We got there late, drenched in sweat. The only seat left was in the front row. And it didn't have a back. So I sat bolt upright through the whole movie, delirious with fatigue. It seemed to last forever. Even as a 13 year old, I was not a late night creature unless I was doing something physical like riding a bike or a skateboard. It was a muggy D.C. summer night and I foolishly wore a t-shirt with freshly cut off sleeves. A vest of sorts. It was very well air-conditioned in that theater. I froze.
All the people were really into the show. Many dressed up, acted out the scenes and knew all the dialogue. The most intrepid came up to the front and put on a show within the show. They were right in front of me. I was half-awake, freezing my ass off in this ridiculous sleeveless t-shirt, and all I wanted to do was get back out on the street and ride my skateboard. If this was what punk was, I wasn't sure it was for me.
Ty and I were also aspiring vandals. Under cover of darkness, we would climb up on the Safeway roof and throw bottles into alley. Or hang our legs over the edge of the building and spit on shoppers below.
Some nights we would skulk into the Safeway, huddle around the canned whip cream and take turns inhaling the nitrous. Then we would steal a couple of cartons of eggs.
We stole the eggs for our mission: to hide behind the bushes in front of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and throw them at cars as they drove around Chevy Chase Circle. We were little shitheads for sure. But it was really fun.
Every time we got a direct hit, we would erupt in shouts and dance around. When drivers realized they had been hit by something, they usually slammed on their brakes and looked for the cause. Very few spotted us despite our celebrations.
One dude in a new blue Corvette was not at all pleased. If he could have driven through the bushes and run us over he would have. He floored it all the way around the circle, tires squealing and shot down the side street next to where we were camped out with our eggs. When I saw he was coming for us, I elbowed Ty in the ribs and took off towards the alley and back to his house. Ty followed close behind. I left the eggs behind the bush, but Ty didn't. He still had one in each hand.
As the driver slow-rolled down the street with his head on a swivel, he saw us run through the bushes and into the alley. He reversed the Corvette and gunned it down the alley at us. Instead of immediately running, Ty looked right at the car and threw the two eggs directly at the car. Both hit, one on the windshield and the other on the hood.
I froze in disbelief then regained my wits, and we both hauled ass towards the church and jumped over a fence and into a back yard and hid behind the garage under the bushes. I could not believe that Ty had done that. He was my hero.
The Corvette dude circled that block for what seemed like an hour. Meanwhile Ty and I were beside ourselves, giggling in the dark. What a night. I like to think that maybe we tasted a little of the spirit of punk rock that night. We grew a little bolder. A little anti-authoritarian streak was born. Freshly minted 13 year old, middle class anarchists. I don't think we needed the Sex Pistols to inspire us. We would have done it regardless. The thirst for destruction, however innocent and insignificant, was in our blood.