In 1979-80 the Portland punk scene was still in its infancy. A number of influential local bands had just begun to lay the foundation for gatherings of the like-minded and the young, creative and angst filled began to have something to look forward to. I certainly cannot write about the history of the scene, as I don’t claim to have a huge amount of knowledge of what was happening beyond my small universe. I can, however, write about the excitement of a twelve year old surrounded by an incredible energy and creativity and try to capture the significance of such exposure. Thankfully, Jerry often let me tag along to shows and friends’ houses; it was his way of getting me out of the house and protecting me. These were crucial years. The neglect and abuse at home accelerated my need to seek direction and find my identity. Being surrounded by such uncertainty and turmoil created a need to actively seek order and purpose otherwise my life would have been constantly governed by fear and anger. I should have been concerned with the newest fashions coming down the pike but instead I was wondering if I would be out on my own soon. Today I grab my eleven year old and hold her in a long extended embrace that celebrates her youth, naiveté, and awkward confusion of so many aspects of her life. Take this slow, take your time, I say under my breath. Jerry had been playing bass in a few bands around town. One could say his fondness of Gene Simmons was finally paying off. One evening he had taken me to band practice in a basement where he was playing bass for Smegma, a long-lived experimental noise band from Portland whom I believe are still playing today. The band members were kind and welcomed me warmly. I remember sitting on an old couch watching the band and trying so hard to “get it” but the noise was just beyond me. Nodding my head in polite agreement, as if I would hurt someone’s feelings otherwise, I tried to figure out what I was missing. Afterwards I shared my confusion with my brother and I remember him just laughing his hearty chuckle.
On another occasion, Jerry was meeting a friend downtown and again, allowed me to tag along. We ended up at a small apartment in Northwest Portland underneath the VOLVO building, and he introduced me to his friend, Mish. He added that she was in a band called the Braphsmears and I made the mistake of asking what that meant. Mish had spiky brown hair and black eyeliner from days past, smeared around her eyes. I remember wading through a chaotic party scene of bottles, cans and piles of random crap. She too was kind and I was immediately impressed by her extensive knowledge of curse words, a skill that I would learn to emulate. Later I saw the Braphsmears play and was so excited to see a strong female presence on stage. I knew that somehow I always wanted to be a part of this, to always have some degree of freedom, creativity and “I don’t give a fuck” running through my veins. Mish went on to be a dominating feature in the punk scene, fronting an important band called Sado-Nation. These moments away from the chaos at home and in the presence of the normalcy of this emerging chaos called punk rock saved my life. Hanging with Jerry, getting high, listening to vinyl and being exposed to art was more than a positive form of youthful escapism. It was an opportunity to get a glimpse of the future that I might have otherwise missed. I realized that this was so much more than it appeared on the surface. This was a movement. This was a call for change, and it helped me place my angst and anger, in a moment, in a song. In my youthful confusion I realized that there is clarity in the abstract and chaos. I was surrounded by people who sifted through the shit and created beauty; smart, funny, artistic, successful people. It gave me hope. One evening, Jerry let me tag along to a show downtown at an artist type loft. The venue was in Old Town, upstairs, somewhere close to the river. The Wipers were headlining and I was super excited to see them play, as I thought Greg Sage was the shit. The routine was always the same; Jerry would get me into the venue and then disappear for the evening until it was time to go home, understandably. Saving his twelve year old sister from the evils of home was one thing, but having her hang at your side for the entire evening was quite another. I was ok with it. It allowed me to sit on the periphery and observe. Jerry was playing bass for a band called the Kinetics, another female fronted punk band, opening that evening. I remember the singer, Eva, throwing out words and phrases like she was verbally painting a dark angry portrait of black clouds that dumped rain outside. She was beautiful and strong. The energy powered through my veins like a nitroglycerin tablet and restarted my damaged heart. My power was returned and I held it tight in my clenched fists. I wasn’t sure if it would last but I was beginning to understand that it was worth fighting for. The show ended with the Wipers. They were spectacular and it was evident that they were greatly admired by all who stood before them. I knew all their songs and sang and shouted with the masses. The crowd pogoed and swayed in celebration. I was young and angry and the crowd soaked me in their healing energy like a punk rock Epsom salt. This was mine. So many thanks to Jerry- you are loved.