EcoPunk #72

    This past Summer Solstice, I turned 26. Usually this time is somewhat somber and morose for me (not because of my birthday, but because of the Moon and Stars pulling at my blood), but this one was especially so.
    Me and a couple of loved ones went up to one of the most gorgeous places in the Southern Oregon Cascades; a little pocket of ancient forest surrounded by some of the most hammered drainages in the bioregion. We stomped up and down through the swaths of blue marked trees eating wild strawberries and flirting with saprophytic phantom orchids. We drank and smoked and ate dumpstered chocolate while discussing the ways of the world. It was a wonderful time with great people.
    But as always, when something like your own age (and mortality if you push the thoughts further) is brought up, it calls into question all sorts of things about the way you're living your life. And when those questions bloom forth into full blown dilemmas, well, it's time to hit up some solace and solitude. Me? I chose the Northeast slope of Mt. Stella, right at that delectable spot where the Doug Firs and Sugar Pines follow the plummeting slope towards the Rogue River. I picked a spot amongst the blue striped trees where I could dangle my legs off the edge and sat down. A few hundred dozen Candy Sticks smiled warmly from their cozy resting places amongst the duff. Candy Sticks (known as Allotropa virgata to the technically minded) are something of an anomaly in the world. Like the Phantom Orchids, the red and white striped plants (that look like a morel mushroom crossed with a candy cane) are saprophytic beings who live not off their own photosynthetic food stashes, nor as parasites off other beings. Instead, they're perfectly content nurturing themselves skyward off decomposing plant debris. Kind of like Nature's own version of Dumpy. I love all saprophytes dearly and was happy to spend my introspective time among their company.
    So shit. Enter in mid-life crisis number 242. Here I am back in Eugene, right back in the thick of the punk-tivist scene. And although I tried to play in it for a few months (largely to distract me from the bitterness of losing my land), I soon felt like I wanted to throw up or throw punches or throw tracks in the dirt getting my ass away from things like activist meetings and punk shows.  Dear old friends commented that my hyperactive ass was burned out, another broken hearted visionary who had been shot back to Earth by the buckshot of Time and Experience. They offered me pints and warm arms and welcomed me to the world of the wise and bitter.  And for awhile, it worked for me. I was fine reveling in my past glory of two homicidal punk fests and a few dozen ecosystems I wasn't smart enough to protect from chainsaws and skidders. I was fine thinking about listening to Black Flag and UXA and JUDGE in those prepubescent mohawk days of mean jocks and meaner teachers. But then, those memories started getting sadder and sadder as there were no new, fresh ones taking their places once they got reminisced out. Then POOF! two things happened; THE CURSE (my fave band in the whole wide world) played in my basement and I heard a Neil Young song on the truck radio at work. Two simple things? Yup. But it's always the simple things that inspire epiphanies.
    So THE CURSE are an amazing band. Fast, angry and intelligent without reeking of that bullshit pretentiousness that lingers around all too many "political" bands. Their set concisely illustrated everything I had ever loved about punk and with a new spark in my eyes, I got to chit chat with someone I hadn't seen in years. We both had similar hard luck stories of injury and eviction and trying times. However, where I was moping around the circle pits of yesteryear, she was smiling with a tenacious hopefulness that I had only seen in the eyes of half starved revolutionaries in Nicaragua and El Salvador. It sounds cheesy and new age, but just a glimpse of the tender toughness in her eyes yanked me right off my downbound train. Suddenly my life seemed like a worthwhile expenditure of time and effort. Suddenly punk, and all the people in it, were no longer covered in a gray haze of regurgitated mediocrity.
    Then a few weeks later I was at work. I had just got out of this gnarly 150' redwood and was sweating my ass off in the truck when Neil Young's nasal whine filled the speakers. "It's better to burn out than to rust…"
    Those words followed me down South and up the steep slopes of Mt. Stella on my birthday. The Candy Sticks, not being huge fans of classic rock, urged me to question those words. It is somewhat taken for granted (in my life anyway) when one suddenly wants nothing to do with things that once made them happy, that they have burned out and should float on to something else that sparks up the old flames. But I'm not burned out. I still believe in ALL the ideas I used to; the details have just changed. In being slow to recognize my own discomfort with the direction the scene has been following, I mistakenly misidentified the Punkus burntoutus with the Punkus boredus. I had confused being burned out with being bored.
    See, I've been a punk since I was 12 and with the exception of a few fashion and musical differences, very little has changed in the scene. That's almost a decade and a half of sitting back and watching the scene spin its wheels in the same ruts. At first these spinning wheels were neat; I was stoked to educate myself about indie labels and vegetarianism and diy printing. But sheesh, like watching a John Waters film too many times, even the neatest things get boring after awhile.
    Without realizing it, I have been waiting around for the punk scene to break free of its ruts, to update and expand some of the amazing things that punks have refined, if not perfected. Why not take the whole punk fanaticism with putting out DIY, non-corporate music and apply it to the rest of our lives? Why were there 123 ads from record labels in the last Heartattack, but not a single ad offering diy punk transportation on a solar powered sailboat or a new punk sustainable agriculture project? Why were there 17 interviews in the last MRR detailing the intricacies of this band or that band, but not a single report or interview with punks who had started a not-fucked-up business whereby they can support themselves, their travels and their projects?
    So yeah. I'm bored with a lot of the stuff in the scene. I'm not saying that I disagree with any of it or that putting out fresh music by yourself isn't a good thing. It's just not enough to move me passionately anymore. I'm ready to see this amazing network of people I've known for the better part of my life keep the love alive and progress into new realms full of neat and interesting things. I'm ready and waiting to be dazzled by punks breaking free of the traditional trappings of punkdom and spreading upwards and outwards. I'm ready for diy to mean food, water, shelter and transportation; not just zines and records. I'm ready for touring to be more than just music in the same 43 cities. I'm ready for scenes to become movements and fanzines littered with orthodoxy to become challenging, thoughtful and provocative. I'm ready for social rebellion to decompose into a healthy pattern of interactions between all life. I'm ready for just about anything that proves punk to be something more than a dead subculture kept alive on the respirator of youthful naivete and fond nostalgia. I'm ready to be excited about punk the way I was before I had armpit hair… And you my friends, are the ones who can make it happen. I know so many smart, passionate, creative, audacious and downright wonderful kids in the scene; it's just a matter of using those collective virtues to catapult us out of the ruts we've established for ourselves.

mike antipathy
po box 11703
eugene, oregon 97440