There was a moment in 1978 when time stood still in Cleveland. The “moment” was defined by the Pagans, a band that was so in the moment it became their end...
Looking back, you’d like to carp about the music gatekeepers of Cleveland during the mid-late 70s, WMMS and Scene Magazine. Their complete disregard of punk music was well known and in retrospect you can't blame them. Cleveland was and always will be a prolific music consumer so why would they waste air time and ink on the Sex Pistols, let alone the Cleveland underground, when their listeners wanted to hear Pink Floyd and read Rush and Bob Seger concert reviews.
For punks though, being in a consumer town had its advantages. In the golden age of 1977-79 I can think of five record shops from Mentor to Lakewood that had decent import sections. Those places were where you cut your teeth on the shit and the 45s were the bread and butter. Considering there were generously one hundred punks in Greater Cleveland there was plenty of vinyl to go around, especially if you were on the ball.
Every few weeks we’d trek to the coolest of all the record shops, Hideo’s Disco Drome. Record Rendezvous downtown had great stax, but the staff were aloof, artsy and standoffish. Record Revolution was ok, Record Exchange had some decent shit but were fucking pirates, and of course there was the misfit store at Great Lakes Mall in the front of Newberry’s, next to the lunch counter, that was the home of the two crabby guys that ran the joint. There was something genuine about the Drome though and it became our go-to store if for no other reason they had a cool vibe and always seemed glad to see us.
At the Drome we found singles by local bands like the Dead Boys, Electric Eels, Devo and Pere Ubu and we gobbled them up like Black Beauties, Mr. Natural and Viceroys. Quickly it sunk in that the Eels were dead, Devo had split for an artsier and more profitable locale and Ubu, who hadn’t permanently relocated, seemed haughty and for shit sake had more dudes in the band than Tower of Power. Of course we thought it was cool that The Dead Boys were “one of the ones” in punk, but those guys split for NYC, so they were Nettles and Chambliss to us. There was a Cleveland connection, but they were no longer a Cleveland band.
There was buzz at the Drome about another local band. The Pagans. On one our visits I saw their single, “Six and Change” and bought it. My pal did too. When we got home and played it we had questions… “Who is Freddy and why did he hit one of the regulars at Traxx?” “B-Side? Holy shit it’s the same fucking song.” “Recorded live? Where? In the wrestling room at Mentor High?” “What’s with all these fucking cymbals?”
There was nothing that grabbed us musically, nonetheless we kept spinning it and by the time we smoked two cigarettes we knew it was the best thing we’d ever heard. Forty plus years later there is even less that musically grabs me, and it’s far from the best thing I’ve ever heard, but “Six and Change” might very well be the most important and influential record in ClePunk history.
The Pagans didn’t have Chris Thomas or Nick Lowe in the booth manning the board. Hell, the booth was a bong water and beer stained recliner in some Mentor shithole. “Raw” is overused punk adjective that really indicates a lack of funds rather than a recording intention. “Six” was raw in that sense, but to us it was simply, “in your fucking face,” and it was from a band that was in our backyard.
And unlike the shit bands that Cleveland so proudly trotted out in the late 70’s (you remember, the fucks in hip huggers, gold coke spoon chains and feathered hair) you knew the Pagans didn’t make this record to get laid. They made this record because they had to. And though they didn’t really have anything to say, in 150 seconds they spoke volumes. That’s why “Six and Change” was and still is important and influential.
Soon after purchasing “Six and Change” another 45, “Street Where Nobody Lives” b/w “What’s This Shit Called Love” was released and it was then that we knew these guys were for real. Then, one Friday that Fall we got wind from someone at St. Joe’s that the Pagans were playing an impromptu gig at the Drome that night, so off we headed to Lakewood to sort out what these guys were all about.
I bet there weren’t thirty people in the Drome. Johnny put painting tarps over the records and pushed a few of the bins off to the side. We were standing around smoking butts and shooting the shit when the moment began, that seminal moment.
Mike Metoff, Tim Alee and Brian Hudson came out and started to fiddle with their instruments, then Mike Hudson brazenly strode through a makeshift curtain from the back room, grabbed the mic and said “This is a song about…” He started most songs with that phrase. Then, “one, two, three, four…”
For twenty minutes I was in some weird-assed setting, totally unprepared for what was happening. We were about 10 feet from the band and watched a sneering Brian carelessly bang away on the drums, yet keeping perfect time. Tim was up and down the fretboard with those salient bass lines that defined much of the Pagans sound. Mike rammed power chords and riffs down your throat. If Brian's bashing and Tim’s bass lines provided the foundation, then Mike framed, sided and roofed it. As performers, Metoff and Alee were badass, stoic as hell, no “rock” faces, no pretense, no poses; to me their image was their cool.
And then there was Mike Hudson. He was wearing wraparounds and sang leaning over a mic stand in a contortedly prone manner. He was what we knew punk to be but he didn’t entice the scant crowd to react to him by hurling insults or spitting beer. Nope, he just belted out one after another, smoking like Sinatra, and being totally in the moment. When their hell-fire set ended he exited by pushing his way through the curtain without so much as a glance behind. That’s pure fucking legacy.
Once the dust settled, we blew out of there, got in my pal’s VW Bus, lit a joint and headed east not saying a word until maybe E. 185th St. and even then, there wasn’t much to say. We felt the vibe, and whatever strata we thought punk was on an hour earlier was gone. It had just been redefined. This was a new game, a local game, a visually and audibly rebellious game, a game just for us and a few others. Fuck ‘MMS. Fuck Nazareth. Fuck that fraud Kid Leo. Fuck the idiots in their World Series of Rock t-shirts. We now owned this shit and it was a ’69 GTO revving its 366 and had a full tank of gas.
Sadly, neither of us had any idea that the summit had just been reached, that we saw the “moment” and that it was gone.
In late December the Pagans were slated to headline a show at the WHK Theater over on Euclid Ave. We didn’t realize at the time that Art Blakey and Monk had both played there in the early 1960’s, but that’s cool history in retrospect. Johnny Dromette was the show's promoter and was selling advance tickets at the Drome so we shot out to Lakewood to grab some. We found out later that the two crabby guys at Newberry’s had them for sale too.
The show, Distasto 3, had a start time of 9:00 and I reckon we strolled in sometime after. This wasn’t like a bar or club where you could stand around a dance floor or hunker near a high-top and be close to the shit; this place had proper theater seats. There was a balcony section and we figured that would be a good place as any to get high for the next few hours so up we went. Relative to what ensued it was the best possible seat in the house. We were in the Enola Gay.
Most of the crowd had yet to show up as we suffered through sets by the insipid Chi Pig and the somewhat forgettable Wreckage. At least these were short sets and with the D team out of the way, notwithstanding the few Stroh’s cans that were heaved at Wreckage, the show was finally going to heat up.
As the remaining of the nearly 200 folks that showed up that night arrived I saw the smattering of local punks that were always at shows or the records shops. For the life of me I can’t remember if the rest were paste eaters, Bondo boys, Cars fans, or the curious, but there was a new bunch in the mix and a good number of them appeared ready for a scrum.
By the end of 1978 the Pistols had come and gone and mainstream piles of shit like Rolling Stone had written stories that glamorized the mob violence at punk shows. I’m not saying the hacks at Rolling Stone alone set the table for this new bunch of pre Ritalin shit for brain fucks, but the shit they and other rags wrote slowly began to shape the punk scene into a wider arc. This new bunch wasn’t a “let’s watch the train wreck” crowd, they were a “let’s derail the mutherfucker” crowd.
I’ve lived in many cities since leaving Cleveland 40 years ago and no shit, Cleveland is a tough sonuvabitch. Mind you, not a fake “chip on your shoulder” Boston tough, Cle is a genuine lunch pail, “let’s throw down for the fuck of it” kind of town.
Disasto 3 was suddenly defined by lunch pail meet punkers. “You wanna be punks mutherfuckers? We’ll show you punk.”
Things remained cool though while Bernie came out and did his thing. Even with the WHK percolating the idiots couldn’t act foolish towards Bernie. He was the puppy that belonged to the kid next door. He was the Herb Score of local punk. Honestly though, with all the newbs in attendance, most really didn’t know what to make of him, and to be real honest, at times, neither did we.
Then the Lepers took the stage. We had seen them a few times by then and I was so fucking in love with Barb it hurt. So much so that two years later I took my Lepers pin with me when I left for boot camp. At Disasto 3, they nailed their set. And in a rare treat Pie even slung a guitar around her leather clad body suit and played chords John Morton had yet to invent. As the Lepers exited the stage gangs of thugs were assembling at the gate, but they had yet to cross the moat.
To this day I have no idea why Styrene Money was on this bill, not because they sucked, which they did, in spades, but like Chi Pig, the shit they played, and I mean shit, just didn’t gel with the rest of the bands in the lineup.
The whole affair was now running about an hour behind schedule, consequently the crowd was an hour ahead of their “let’s get as fucked up as we can” pace and as such were as fucked up as they could be.
When the Pagans came on all hell broke loose and the thugs breached the moat. You’d have thought there was an “applause” light flashing that now read, “throw shit”. Beer cans rained from on-high pelting the boys but they didn’t miss a beat. And as they plowed through maybe a song or two, Hudson, flanked by Tim and Mike, began losing his footing as he slipped on the beer that had by now flooded the stage. This is when the set went FUBAR.
The “applause” light had now switched to “all bets are off, everything overboard!” and with that chairs flew on stage, a couch came flying out of the balcony from just to the left of where we were sitting, and if that doesn’t take the cake, as if on cue, stage lights randomly began to short out, popping with mini explosions everywhere.
While beer continued to pour down on the stage like the hammers of hell, fights broke out everywhere. Local posers of the day Swasti and Scruffs were acting like their usual imbecilic selves. The stage and lighting crew seemed to be instigating brawl with the paste eaters when a roadie for Styrene Money, a real gem most likely wearing a Daffy Dan t-shirt, broke from his gang, ran across the stage to an amp and unplugged Mike. This was a major league dumbass move but you had to admire this guy’s pluck. Hudson was livid, and I thought he was going to kick the mother-lovin’ fuck out of this dude and he may have, because that last 10 minutes of wilding had made everything after a blur.
I’d like to say that we were intellectually above it all, and if not throwing shit at the band counts, well, I guess we were. But we didn’t react in a manner that would have indicated our displeasure at the dicks. Hell no, we were laughing like fuck, kind of like when someone starts honking their horn at the drive-in and in 30 seconds the entire grounds start doing the same.
Nearly twenty-seven years earlier Leo Mintz sponsored the Moondog Coronation Ball at the Cleveland Arena, an event that history considers to be the first rock and roll concert. The legacy of that show was the integration of black and white audiences. There are conflicting accounts of that night and the scope of the turmoil, but at the end of the day the event brought people together.
Disasto 3 did anything but that. It polarized punk in Cleveland. For many the music was the rebellion and there was no need to wreak havoc on the world with tough guy bullshit. We weren’t dweebs from Shaker Heights, we were ‘burb kids over 6’ tall that played sports and could hold our own. But instead of brawling, being on the "X" to us was all about watching the few bands that could really pull it off, bands like the Pagans that could intimidate us by their sheer presence. Gnarling guitars, vocals with no comprehensible words, crashing drums and that “stick it in your fuckin' ass if you ain’t liking it,” attitude. That was punk. But the paste eaters fucked that all up, and if the Meltdown of ’78 lit the fuse, Disasto 3 was pure tannerite.
Johnny Dromette didn’t intend for this to happen. I’m sure he didn’t bask in the aftermath thinking he had just brought punk to the Cleveland map. Shit, no one wanted to be him that night. The place was a shambles and someone was going to catch holy hell.
And sadly, we had no idea as the Pagans exited the stage with instruments being tossed and Mike wildly swinging at the roadie, that it was over and that the “moment” had come a few months prior on a Friday night at the Drome, and the “moment” was defined by it now being gone.
The Pagans sparingly played in 1979. They were famously snubbed a month or so after Disasto when the dumbass Agora booked even dumber ass Alex Bevan to open for the Clash, after announcing the Pagans would be on that bill.
At some point the boys went to NYC without a pot to piss in and played CBGB’s and Max’s, the Louvre and Prado of punk venues. These gigs paid the band nothing and were days apart. They were broke, starving, getting fucked over by Dromette, yet were met with positive New York reviews. Regardless, the NYC gigs and a few other Midwest stops in the ensuing months became their Waterloo.
By the end of 1979, NY had scrapped the artsy frauds like Patti Smith, Lou Reed, and their fake, smack booting moppet hangers on, and now harbored the credible Heartbreakers, Ramones, Richard Hell and Cle's Dead Boys. The Cramps split the city sometime around ’79 and went to Cali, which by then had acts like the Bags, Germs, Dickies, and Fear. Detroit had the ghost of Iggy and the cool as shit Destroy All Monsters. Amazingly, cities like Chicago and Boston had their enormous heads in their collective asses and had yet to yield any local punk. This was payback for the audible chum known as Styx and Aerosmith I reckon.
And then there was Cleveland in ‘79. I’d argue from 1974 to 1979, Cle was as prolific as any punk town in the US and yielded plenty of seminal music. We were right in the wheelhouse yet were too fucked up to contextualize that the best of them all, the Pagans, had left the yard quicker than a Dan Spillner change up and after their breakup the punk scene in Cle would never be the same.
I was gone from Cleveland by 1982 when the Pagans reformed with bassist Robert Conn (the vocalist on “Six and Change”), Bob Richey on drums (who for my money was the best punk drummer the ClePunk scene ever had) and the late Chas Smith on Keyboards. This lineup was dubbed “the Pink Pagans” by some, I’m not sure if Mike and Mike ever endorsed that, I guess it doesn’t matter. If nothing else it does discern the reincarnation from the original lineup.
This re-birth was absolutely as viable as the original Pagans in many ways, most notably to me was their adherence to their image. Hardcore punk was knocking on the door and even then was a mixed metaphor. A nameless friend, recently stated through another nameless friend, something to the effect of, “the dudes you hated in high school were suddenly at punk shows, fucking it all up.” Nonetheless the Pagans didn’t move in the direction of hardcore whatsoever. They held their ground, while retaining their roots, and though I was gone so can only go by recordings, if anything they became more rhythm and bluesy at times while retaining their grit, energy, songwriting ability and cool.
When it was all said and done, the Pagans were mismanaged, they drew the short straw of being in the wrong town (but at the right time), they no doubt found themselves to be big fish in a small pond and as such they succumbed to the temptations of the day. All of these contributed to their end, and in the end the legacy of the Pagans can be remembered by a definitive moment that Cleveland had never seen before and will never see again.
Fuck..... the Pagans. These stories are gonna come, but man they are buried way deep inside. They dig down into what the fuck I became and believed in and they are numerous and crazy.
It is a fucked up tale I guess, to look back and think the Pagans, Mike Hudson, Bill DeGidio, Johnny Rotten and John Belushi were the beacons of light in my boy turns to man years! I turned 18 in late '78 and it was a great time to do so, especially from a musical point of view.
Everything in my gut was raging and my world was spinning inside out. I feel that Alice Cooper's song "Eighteen" is a masterpiece. It totally captures that moment in a young male's life.
There is no way to understand it at the time of being 18 but as you age and then think about the lyrics, they paint the truest picture of what I can remember feeling back then.
So where the hell am I anyhow in this self revealing moment? I think somewhere around the time in early '78 that Randy Primozic brings the Ramones "Rockaway Beach" 45 over along with the Pagans "What's This Shit Called Love" 45. After that, it was over.
I had something like 150 albums of WMMS influenced buying habits (Zep, Fleetwood Mac, J. Geils, Nugent...you get the picture) and realized I could never again listen to them. I piled them all into the back of Randy's old Skylark and we headed to the Record Exchange in Coventry. Naturally, they fucked me on the trade.....I think I ended up with about 20 LP's in return, but I didn't give a shit.
Now I had things like the Damned and Patti Smith and the Dolls and the Stooges and more. Then it just kept washing over me like a raging sea....Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks.
I had this girlfriend around that time, I am living in Painesville. I find out the Pagans and Dead Boys are playing the Painesville Agora. There was a great pizza joint next to that Agora, called Angelos. We went up there around 5pm to get a pie and I was gonna pick up some tickets for that nights show. I remember seeing the Pagans unloading equipment from a car, it's broad daylight and it's Painesville. Their look blew my mind.
I ate that pizza with that girl and then we broke up. She wanted nothing to do with people that looked like that. Myself.....I wanted nothing more to do with people that didn't. That night is still one of the best shows I ever saw.....Pagans/Dead Boys...late '78.
Six and Change
It's four o'clock in the morning, and the Pagans are pissed off.
"Chicago is a great city," lead singer Mike Husdon tells me as our train inches through a steady drizzle into the South Canal passenger station, "but we've been playing at home every night for the past week, and we really thought we'd get to rest for a couple days before going on the road."
I nod sympathetically and glance over to the nearby seats, where the other band members, unable to sleep, squirm in various degrees of restlessness. There's Hudson himself, prim and dapper as ever in his usual white plastic-rimmed punk sunglasses, gold-and-black smoking jacket, and staight leg jeans; guitarist Tommy Metoff, who allegedly has never smiled once in his entire life; tall, lanky bass player Tim Allee; and Brian Morgan, one of the most crazed drummers in all of punk rock.
Manager Johnny Dromette, bundled up in a gray and white fur coat, comes down from the front of the car and preceeds his charges off the train. He waves away a contingent of local fans, most of them female, who've gathered in the pre-dawn rain to welcome their Cleveland faves.
"No pictures, please," says Dromette, as someone whips out an SLR upon which is mounted a flash gun the size of a cigar box. "The Pagans are very tired; please, no pictures."
Now, see, what I've just done is demonstrate the power of well-executed (ahem) rock journalism. Most of you are probably on the edge of your seats, wondering what the Pagans did to Chicago. Well, they didn't do anything on this particular trip, because they never went. The above scene was how it would've gone, except that another band that was supposed to play pulled out, causing the whole gig to fall through, along with most of the riffs I was gonna use for this article.
In fact, many of my efforts to hang around with the Pagans and thereby interview them have been frustrated by circumstance. Before concerts they're busy psyching themselves up; afterwards they're too worn out. Finally, though, the group and I met at Hideo's Discodrome (the most well-known new wave nerve center/record store in northeastern Ohio) after closing time to shoot the proverbial breeze.
The Pagans are one of Cleveland's most impressive success stories. In a little more than a year, they have clawed their way to the top of this area's "second wave" of new music bands. Hard core fans now speak in awed tones of "Paganmania" (a very real phenomenon if you've ever been to one of their concerts). It has become de rigeur for the fashionable punk rocker to be "seen" in the general area of Mike Hudson and Co. as they hold court before their show at a dimly lit corner table (with Johnny Dromette, as always, lurking watchfully in the shadows).
But the Pagans' rise to their present level of popularity can in no way be termed meteoric. They accrued more than their share of scars on their way up, as has virtually every new wave band struggling to make a name for itself in a world ruled by the creaky, bloated neo-fascists of dinosaur rock.
The original Pagans, driven to action by the boredom then casting its clammy shadow across their native Euclid, came together in July 1977. Only three months later they cut their first tune, the liver-than-live "Six and Change," which was released as a double A-sided single on Neck Records.
"That song wasn't exactly one of our better moments," explains Hudson, doubtless referring to his own gut-sizzling two-chord axemanship, which dominates, if not totally smothers, the rhythm section and vocals (at the time, an aluminum siding worker named Robert Conn was handling singing chores). Most Pagan fans would agree that "Six and Change" is a sloppy song at best, but many also maintain that even so, in its own way the tune is every bit as vital and important as some of those equally unprofessional Stooges demos.
In January 1978 the group's regular guitarist quit after a gig at the Pirate's Cove, and Tommy Metoff was recruited to replace him. Metoff's entrance completed the evolution of what is now known in punk rock circles as "the Pagan sound."
If forced to describe this "sound" with a minimum of adjectival spew, I would say that it is 1) heavy, 2) dense, and 3) fast. Listening to the Pagans is a lot like getting bashed across the skull with a lead pipe. For several days after one of their concerts you go around saying "huh?" because your ears are so decimated all you can hear is a painful, high pitched whine that lingers like a bad hangover. But, of course, you love it so much that the next time they play you're right up there next to the P.A. again, screaming and puking and getting drunk like all the other truly decadent punkoids.
Anyway, last March the Pagans came under the entrepreneurial wing of Clevo new wave cult hero Johnny Dromette, who bought up the "Six and Change" single and offered the band his services as manager/producer. They accepted, and recorded their second 45, "Street Where Nobody Lives" b/w "What's This Shit Called Love?" that same month on Dromette's own Drome label. In October it was released, and the Pagans went back into the studio to lay down four more tunes ("I, Juvenile;" "I Don't Understand;" "Not Now, No Way;" and "Boy Can I Dance Good"), this time with David Thomas of Pere Ubu producing.
Before their formation and later, during their rise to the top, the Pagans kept a close eye on Cleveland's new wave scene and the music industry's reaction to it. They've been considerably less than pleased with what they've seen.
"It kills me how Cleveland radio handled Devo," Hudson says. "They ignored them until the last possible moment, and now that they see Devo will be big whether they help or not, they jump on the bandwagon. About the only radio station here worth listening to is WRUW, which has supported us and other local new wave bands from the beginning."
The response of some bands to what they see as music industry closed-mindedness has been to "buddy up" to the "system." When I point this out, Hudson laughs.
"Not the Pagans, man," he says. "We'd like to see the entire rock establishment in this city destroyed. And if enough people, like Devo and the Dead Boys, can make it without the help of this establishment, it will be destroyed.
"Everybody says punk is dead," he continues. "Actually, it's never been better. There's Pere Ubu on Chrysalis, the Cramps on Columbia; Devo, the Dead Boys...All these are Cleveland-Akron area bands, but they've had to get out of Cleveland to make it."
What about the possibility of the Pagans having to leave?
We'd rather not talk about that right now," Hudson says carefully. "We've built up a pretty good following here, so let's just wait a while and see how things turn out."
The Pagans have also built up very dedicated followings in Minneapolis and
Chicago, and the possibility that they may have to split to one of these cities in order to survive as a musical unit has cast a pall over Cleveland's new wave community, resulting in an "enjoy them while we can" sort of fatalism.
As a final note, I'd like to offer my own critic's appraisal of the Pagans. The guys claim they're influenced by the Stones, the Velvet Underground and the Animals. But I don't think they're giving themselves enough credit. They may have inherited the spirit and attitudes of these groups, but Mick Jagger, Lou Reed and Eric Burdon have never conducted themselves onstage with the spectacular pent-up paranoid fury of Mike Hudson. And, to track down any precedents for that unique "Pagan sound," one would have to turn to biblical descriptions of the Apocalypse itself. Rolling thunder. Gloom and doom. Throbbing machismo, encased in black leather with the volume cranked up to ten.
The Pagans are not urban, they are post urban. When the nuclear missiles have all been launched and human civilization reduced to slag, the Pagans will be the only band left, standing waist-deep in corpses to whip up "I, Juvenile" amid the rubble of our cities. I'll be right there, slamming my forehead into Tommy's amp, blood streaming from my ear-holes, bellowing out the words to each and every song. Will you?
(Author's note: This is the "lost" Pagans article that I wrote in November 1978 for Scene Magazine. I intended for it to be the "breakthrough" article that would bring the band to the attention of a much wider audience, but the powers that be filed it away without comment. I eventually took it to the Cauldron, a student paper at Cleveland State University, to which I was a frequent contributor.
I had the good fortune to catch the Pagans many times in the late 70's. The show that sticks out in my mind most was when Patti Smith made an appearance at the Drome. Patti was in town to play the Palace Theatre that night, and was doing an in store appearance. However, while in our fair town, some evil Clevelander stole her beloved clarinet. She took the opportunity to rant and whine about the loss of said clarinet, condescending to us poor dumb Clevelanders, begging for its safe return or for someone to give her another. She left the pedestal a seemingly emotional mess.
Enter the Pagans, Mike Hudsons first words "Ugh, someone stole all our equipment, we cant play with no equipment, someone please give us some amps." I loved it. After her "you poor dumb Clevelanders" tirade, Hudson gave it back like "you sorry ass New Yorker." Ahh, Punk bands from Cleveland, no apologies. The Pagans then proceeded to rip and roar thru a chainsaw set, Hudson's whiskey and cigarettes voice wailing over the top. Twenty minutes of mayhem - no thank yous, no goodbyes. Guitars crashed to the floor and they were gone. In case you're wondering what happened to that clarinet, I hid that uncomfortable piece of metal up my ass for 22 years. I'm putting it up for sale on e-bay tomorrow if you're interested.
The one time I can remember going to a Pagans show it was a riot. It was Disatodrome3 at the old WHK auditorium on Euclid ave. Me and Gene had been drinking beer all evening and smoking too! (controlled substance). He had ordered some black capsules through an ad in the back of Rolling Stone magazine that were loaded with caffeine designed to keep the users alert.
We sat through Chi Pig,a band from Akron with two chicks and a boy drummer, and Bernie and the Invisibles (a lone guy playing electric guitar; I had thought then I had gotten the joke) among others.
Perhaps exacerbated by the sunglasses I was wearing that night, in an effort to look "Punk", and by the ingestation of the cheap "drugs", at some point I passed out. When I finally came to I asked Gene if the Pagans had played yet. He said yes and it was really cool because there was a riot. I had slept through the best part of the show!
I was thrown off the safety patrol in sixth grade, for using excessive force on a kid changing in one of the lavatory stalls.
I'd lobbed a sneaker at him, after he'd tossed it out the door, protesting my verbal abuse, as he was late for class.
It was fine to stand around before homeroom, saying "single file" or "against the wall" in a surly mantra. We'd been chosen, after all, because we were precocious, the leaders. It was our job to boss the other kids around, especially the younger ones. If they sassed us, we checked them off for a "violation." We kept small notebooks in our pockets for this.
We wore a silver badge, just like a junior cop, but it was on an orange harness , a kind of sash. The orange, under car headlights in the early morning hours, would show the crossing guards, working the main streets in the snow and rain. The hall guards, we'd just come in early, hang out; amuse ourselves with activities like throwing tiny superballs around the gym. The balls, inevitably, would end up somewhere behind the polished wooden stage, subdued by the plush curtain, cornered by some 2X4s or a stray theatre prop. We would carry them in a pants pocket and bring them out when we got to school. If you didn't have one, you could usually rummage around backstage, until you found one where it had bounced the day before. . . stuck in a corner, or under an overstuffed chair.
We were on the safety patrol, of course, to let the students know that somebody, even one of their own, was always watching them. We were narcs, before anyone used drugs. We were the collaborators. Norway had its Quislings; Wickliffe had hall guards.
"Turn in in your badge", was all Mister Davis said when I entered his tiny office, strewn about with weights and equipment. The captain of the safety patrol, phys ed teacher, never without his aviator shades. Real tough-talkin' guy, wiry, muscular, hair slicked straight back. I felt disgraced merely by his curtness, as was intended. No longer worthy of his time, even for a lecture, I wasn't one of his boys anymore. On the outside.
From then on, the role of outsider beckoned to me. The loners in Jack London books, the misfits in space operas; soon, a growing alienation would allow Sisyphus and Kierkegaard into my world.