God, Nirvana, One Bad Pig, Quicksand
In 1994 I was in high school, confused, depressed, and an all around emotional wreck. I felt that everywhere I turned I was met with enemies waiting for me. I hated the high school I went too, a creepy suburban nightmare called Port High.
There were a couple of sympathetic faces among the faculty of the liberal arts, but overall the teachers were just as mean and dopey as the cave-apes they taught. The students, with a few cool exceptions, fell into two categories–soccer brats or white trash. Though scenic, the town was devoid of any culture except the high school football games and a bizarre annual fish-worshiping holiday named Fish Day.
At that age, I wanted to burn that city to the ground and play a violin while the ashes swirled around me, like Emperor Nero.
I was constantly picked on the entire time I was there, every day, for being a “weirdo.”
When I prayed to God, I prayed for him to curse Port Washington with a series of plagues, real brutal Old Testament stuff.
Looking back, I can only express relief I didn’t go ballistic and trigger happy in the hallways of Port High or on myself.
“These are the best days of your life,” a teacher once told me. I laughed really long over that gem.
My issues were magnified by my declining relationship with my parents and my high school girlfriend.
My parents told me my girlfriend was overbearing, pushy, suffocating, and bringing me down. They were right. My girlfriend told me my parents were overbearing, pushy, suffocating, and bringing me down. She was also right.
In an effort to get me away from my girlfriend, the dark side, and back towards God’s good graces, my parents told me they were going to send me on a church youth group retreat to Denver for ten days.
I thought about it and agreed with them that getting out of town and being anywhere other than that demented fish hole was a good idea.
I had mixed feelings about both Christianity and the youth group I belonged to at that point. If God was so effing great, I thought, then why did he allow me–who had done nothing to instigate anything–to get harassed and threatened every day by this city full of bigoted, ugly, idiots? Why was the old bastard loafing around somewhere on a cloud while all those kids starved to death in Africa?
And yet, the youth group had given me comfort. My parent’s church was about 50 miles away and I was a different person there. The girls, some of them pretty foxy, smiled and said hi to me. They laughed at my witty jokes. Yes, they were a bit like future Stepford Wives (and I recognized that at the time) but the girls at Port High were actively mean to me, so any modicum of kindness was like a ray of light to me.
The guys were nice to me, too. They invited me to play basketball with them while we waited for our parents to pick us up. I was getting sucked in.
But, then again, I was somewhat of a freak there, too. I was strolling through the halls of the church one night when I was suddenly yanked into a church office to discuss the Nirvana t-shirt I was wearing. I was straight up promoting the devil with that T, they told me. They seemed very alarmed.
They sent some kids from the youth group, junior exorcists, to talk to me more about devil music.
They all agreed I should ween myself off the devil punk/metal stuff with a “Christian punk” band named One Bad Pig. They gave me a cassette tape and a pat on the back.
“This is awesome, you’ll love it!” They all said.
Love is not quite the word I’d use.
One Bad Pig was a bunch of youth leader clowns who decided they should put on punk rock disguises and do a third rate Suicidal Tendencies impersonation to try to reach the kids, and that is exactly what it sounded like. How they flim- flamed Johnny Cash into covering the shittiest version of “Man in Black” ever with them remains one of rock’s great mysteries.
Anyway, I was trying to ignore all this. Besides the occasional “oh, you” scolding about music and t-shirts, the group was very nice to me and that simple fact was huge to me. Maybe this could be my group, I thought. I could be the lovable outsider of the gang, like The Fonz or Judd Nelson.
So, I signed up for the trip–ten days of sightseeing, Christian motivational speakers, Christian music, hiking, and lots of praying.
After a couple days I realized I just couldn’t do it. This group wasn’t me. I couldn’t be The Fonz or the Judd Nelson or anyone of the group. The group was about a strange optimistic, naive conformity that went against my grain. And the group sing-a-longs were driving me totally mad.
One night we were told to report to some sport arena for a mega God rally for more of the same. More talk about Satan cruising around with Nirvana or whatever, more sing-a-longs, more praying. God must be really sick of all this mundane praying, I thought.
I decided I would skip it and go wander around downtown Denver by myself. I later got in some trouble for this. It wasn’t allowed and my youth pastor suspected I was trying to score drugs.
I walked and walked. I eventually found a cool looking skate shop, went in and bought an Alien Workshop t-shirt. I threw away my old shirt and put the new one on. Then I sat down on a bench in a pedestrian mall to watch a couple of skaters zooming around, awkwardly trying to do ollies and slides on park benches.
I sat there on the park bench, trying to think. My mind was like an engine turning over and over and flooding, but not starting. Then I had a strange visitor.
She was slowly cruising toward me on a pair of rollerblades. She had neon pink hair, tied into two clumsy pigtails, a plethora of facial piercings and gawdy gothic jewelry, a plaid skirt and a Quicksand t-shirt. Most alarming, though, was the fact that every inch of her elbows, forearms, knees, and legs were badly scraped and oozing blood.
She sat next to me, pulled a long cigarette from a pack and lit up.
“Man, I should really learn how to fucking skate before I try doing jumps off stairs and shit.” She told me.
“You’re bleeding all over.” I replied.
She looked down at her legs, exhaling smoke.
“Yeah, no shit.” She told me. “You’re real fucking observant, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, yeah.” I said, dismissing her dripping sarcasm. “That’s a pretty cool t-shirt. Quicksand is pretty badass.”
I had never listened to Quicksand before.
Despite the fact that I was obviously a huge poser, the girl sat and chatted with me for awhile. Like we were friends. I was pretty much in awe of her and had a pretty intense momentary crush. She told me about bands she liked and Denver and asked why I was here. I told her. She laughed.
“Well, good luck with that, Tea. Don’t let them get you! It was nice meeting you.” Then she nonchalantly wiped some blood off her arm with her t-shirt and rollerbladed off.
I hooked back up with my youth group later and suddenly felt really bored with them.
When I got back home I bought a Quicksand album. I thought it sounded really good.