Whatchu Know Good — Part 1, Chapter 7

The most PUNK!

I met Edward in ninth grade art class and that changed everything. I was a rebel without a cause and Edward gave me a cause. That cause was Punk Rock. I knew very little about punk before meeting Edward. I can remember seeing it on the news a few times; hearing about the Sex Pistols and thinking that even just their name was crazy!

I had been listening to pop music — Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, or whatever was on the radio at the time — and my father’s tape and record collection — mostly oldies, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Cliff, and Buddy Holly. Around my Bar Mitzvah, my musical tastes expanded. Seth had gone to the Talent Identification Program at Duke University that summer and had brought back mix tapes with U2, REM, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Camper Van Beethoven on them. We discovered New Wave and it was amazing!

New Wave laid the foundation for my reverse journey through musical history. Punk had preceded New Wave, but I was getting them in reverse. Edward was a Punk Rocker. He had a Mohawk. He wore a leather jacket with studs and white out writing on it. I’m sure there was an anarchy symbol somewhere on his jacket. He wore ripped jeans and work boots. He wore white t-shirts and suspenders.

Edward had attended the private Carolina Friends School until high school, when he transferred to public school. He knew Paul and David, who also went to Friends School, but started public school in junior high. At Friends School Edward had a nine-inch-high, liberty-spiked, orange Mohawk. When I met him it was a more modest size, and dyed jet black. Edward played bass in a punk band called the Celibate Commandos. They regularly played at punk shows all around Durham and Chapel Hill, even though Edward was too young to drive. Edward stayed up all night writing poetry and getting into fights. He was an anarchist and a communist. He lifted weights and studied Hung Gar Kung Fu. I wanted to be just like him.

I would follow him around the school, trying to glean little bits of knowledge from him. I would hang out with him and his girlfriend at lunch. He had a girlfriend! That was enough to keep me intrigued. I had “girlfriends” in elementary school, but none that I actually went out on dates with. I had my first kiss in elementary school, but it was just kid’s stuff, nothing serious. No tongue. The girls who I went to school with didn’t like me, because I was not popular enough apparently. I learned this in eighth grade when I asked Ashlee, a girl from my science class, out on a date.

A friend of hers, a mutual friend, told me that she had a crush on me. It took all of my courage just to call her on the phone and ask her out. I had to have Seth in the room with me. She just said no, with no explanation, and then hung up. I was devastated. She had a crush on me, why would she say no? I found out later, when I asked another girl out in eighth grade.

Lauren was new to our school. Her family had moved to town just that year. She didn’t know anything about me. She started in the middle of the semester and was in the same math class with me. We were doing a computer programming block in our math class. The class had been divided into teams of two, but I didn’t have a partner because there were an unequal number of students. I didn’t mind not having a partner. I had been working with computers since I was five, when I learned basic programming and logo in the room behind the reptile room at the Museum of Life and Science, and was much further along than my classmates. When Lauren started the class, she was partnered with me.

I was enthralled to have such a pretty girl who knew nothing about me as my partner. It felt like a clean start and we got along extremely well. I made her laugh and taught her computer stuff. Our conversations came easily and naturally. After a few weeks of working together, I decided to ask her out on a date. After class one day, I asked her for her phone number so that I could call her to ask her out. I didn’t tell her the reason, I just asked for her number. I had no idea what I was in store for.

I was eating lunch in my usual spot; the small courtyard that was part of the junior high school. Suddenly, I was accosted by a cluster of junior high school girls. I was completely taken by surprise. They interrogated me as to my intentions in getting Lauren’s phone number. When I relinquished the information that I planned on asking her out, they informed me that was not going to happen. I was not popular enough to go out with her. I didn’t really understand, but I don’t think I ever called her to ask her out. If I did, she said no, because we never went out. I didn’t know what being popular had to do with going on a date, but I was determined to become popular so that this would never happen again.

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