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We Have a Date With the Underground, Part I

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This is the first in a series. It is the beginning of someone else’s story, told to and transcribed by me. Basically, he gave me the details and atmosphere and lot of the words and I put them together in my magic hat and pulled this out. His voice, his story, my translation. The series will run about two stories a week, sometimes more.

Sometimes you have to wonder how you ended up where you are. Your mind wanders to the distant past and to distant places in a vain attempt to find out who you are today by searching for who you were in the past.

How could you know that something you did — something so small — would be the catalyst to a lifestyle? How could you know that an idea you had on a boring Sunday afternoon would open your eyes to the beginning and make you see everything in bold new colors and a brand new frame? That you would look back on that seemingly insignificant moment and realize it brought you to the precise instant when you first felt something click, something that shouted “you better forget your past because we are hitting fifth gear. Forget everything you have seen before this, because the next turn is coming and you better fucking hold on.”

If and when you look back on your life and wonder how you became this person who stares back in the mirror at you in the morning while you brush your teeth, you are lucky to get even a small feeling of how it happened much less a full clue of when your path moved from one to the other. When you stare at yourself and question how it started, why you wanted to get tattoos, why you liked the bright lights and the smell of sweat and the bodies climbing over you to reach for the stage only to jump back in the crowd, you have to wonder where the beginning of all that was, don’t you?

meatmen.jpgFor me it was spending one Sunday morning when I was 14 years old drinking a beer and drawing up a cover of a Meatmen album (We’re the Meatmen and You Suck) on a white t-shirt to wear to a gig. I placed the album under the shirt, turned a bright light on it and drew the outline, filling it in with black Sharpie.

I got picked up for the show and spent the ride there wondering why the hell I was sliding around the back of an El Camino with a German Shepard on my way to this punk rock show; something that scared the shit out of me. My two previous experiences with shows left me nervous about going to another. I do remember that I felt different about this one, that this was something big. Maybe it was making the shirt; I felt a connection with the scene that I hadn’t felt before. My feeling that something big was happening to me intensified as I got into the gig.

I found myself sitting on a staircase with a skinhead whose only happiness that evening had come from drilling a hole through his steel toed Doc Marten to fit a nail in it. I sat drinking a beer with him and being blown away by the weird pride he felt in bragging about that. Hell, when you are 14 you drink with whoever buys you a beer. The feeling I got as I looked at the guy as he pointed out the nail made me think I might be getting into something that was bigger than I could handle.

Despite that, I still had that sense of something big about to happen to me and was feeling the rush that comes with being at a show, It was the stage and the lights that dragged me in, the moving with the crowd toward the stage, the girls voices in your ear, not talking to you but just talking, wanting to move up and get closer to the stage.

It was the feel of the stage cutting into your chest and you just wanting to get up there and look at the crowd just to get a taste of what is was like. And once you are in, you can’t just stop. You have to keep going. Everything in your body says for you to go home and just go to bed. But you know this is you. You were meant to be there, even if it meant something like hanging around with a guy who puts nails in his boots.

I was living the moment that changed everything for me and anyone who has lived this life and feels like they were born to do this will remember that click, when the music starts and your beer spills and you are pushed forward, and people are crawling on you to get to the stage. For the entire show you are covered in bodies and beer. If you aren’t drinking a beer, you have one coming at you.

If you aren’t in the air or on the stage, you are on the ground. You ask yourself again Why am I here, why am I doing this, but you can’t leave. Something deep in you, whatever it is, tells you this is what you are born to do. Not to be in the crowd, but to be on the stage. When you stand on the floor smelling the sweat and feeling the heat of the lights, and you look at the stage and think that’s where I want to be, it’s life changing.

You imagine the feeling of the band. Being out there on the floor has given you such a high and you think about how high the band must be just on adrenaline and not only are you jealous, you are envious. You want more. You want to feel that.

Standing there on the floor, the heat was so intense I felt as if it was suffocating me. Sweat ran down my face and stung my eyes.. As the crush of people pushed into me, my t-shirt – soaked with the sweat of myself and everyone else in the pit – stuck to me like glue. The heat and perspiration soaked the fresh ink of my shirt onto my chest. I reeked of Sharpie.

As I walked out stinking like ink, beer and sweat, a girl came up to me wearing a silk screened version of my shirt and asked if she could have mine in exchange for hers.

That was when I knew something was different. That this was where I needed to be . I knew the smell of sweat and smoke was going to be on me forever and I had better god damn get used to the bright lights cause they were only gonna get brighter.

Meatmen Stomp
1 Down 3 To Go
Tooling for Anus
Blow Me Jah
Mr. Tapeworm

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About Michele Catalano