Disclosure: This is a mash-up of two blog posts I wrote in October 2012, and January, 2013, respectively. I wrote them under a pseudonym on blogs I no longer maintain. It’s not the kind of writing I’d usually share publicly and transparently, but today is Mike Ness’s birthday, and the guy is a bit of a punk rock demigod who has given me some of the best nights of my life, so I figure that the least I could do is offer him up a birthday sacrifice in the form of my dignity and my reputation as a morally upstanding individual ;)


Sex, Love, and Rock n' Roll
Sex, Love, and Rock n’ Roll

I remember one night last spring [of 2012] when I was at The Ex’s place drinking. We were still sleeping together because, well, I wouldn’t have been able to bear being around her if we weren’t.

We were drinking and doing shots of whisky, and she asked me to put on some music. I queued up some Social Distortion because nothing says heartache and whisky shots like unique blend of rockabilly and punk rock. I don’t remember what song came on first, but she asked me to change it because she’d listened to a lot of them when we first broke up and, I guess, she didn’t want it bringing back up all those feelings.

At the time, I was drunk and not really on the ball, so I obliged because, well, I’d listend to through our break-up, too. But where I was just sick of them, she was either trying to forget how she still felt about me, or unwilling to revisit all the pain and anger I’d visited on her in the months after we split.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t pick up on that, actually, because then i probably would’ve slipped into a whole moody-broody kind of headspace that’s better suited for nights when you’re drinking alone on the kitchen floor when you only have Mike Ness and whisky to keep you company — which, surprisingly, isn’t as bad as it sounds.

A One Way Ticket to Bakersfield

The point is that that night, I was just sick of Social Distortion and didn’t want to listen to them either. And I wouldn’t listen to them again for months, until a few weeks before they were coming to town.

Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes

I had two tickets to the show. I’d bought them right after I stopped talking to her because, well, I knew she’d be there because we’d talked about possibly going to the show together. I bought them because I wanted to run into her. I told myself it was because I wanted to face her, because I wanted to have a hot date on my arm and prove to myself that I was over her and better off without her.

The truth was, though, that I really just wanted to cause her momentary discomfort, maybe take a swing at her date and ruin her night, and also beat myself up emotionally.

So for about a month before the show I listened to Social Distortion almost exclusively. I was all angst and my inner monologue was all distortion, and I was drinking like the lead man of my own punk rock air guitar band. Apparently, I wasn’t over her at all, never mind ready to face those demons.

I had a plan though. I was going to bring the hottest girl I could find, and had my sights on a tattooed bartender that boasted more ink and sordid tales any punk rock groupie I’d ever had a chance of sleeping with. She was tall, smart, sassy and sociable, and I actually had unjustified high hopes for her as a long-term prospect.

They were unjustified because of how we’d met one night in the grips of a booze bender and had only reconnected recently after she’d brushed me off 7 months earlier, but that’s another story for another day. The point is that I asked The Bartender to the show and she wanted to come, but was going to be out of town, so now the pressure was on to find a suitable stand-in.

At the time, I was stringing along a few prospects along because, well, I was trying to revisit as much pain, anguish and rejection on the world as I was feeling. As I ran down the list of floozies, fuck buddies and strangers, though, I also ran down my standards. The morning before the show, I had no date and ended up having to take one of my best-buddies who’d never even heard of Social Distortion.

It looked like I was going to have to face this one alone. I guess Karma takes care of its own, sometimes…

Fear and Loathing in Bakersfield

I never ran into The Ex that night, but I ran into friends who’d run into her, and I ran into them only a few minutes before Social D took the stage. I already knew she’s be there, but having someone confirm it, and not having the emotional shield of a hot date sent me into a tailspin that crash landed at the bar just as Mike Ness and the boys opened their set.

That show was probably the tightest live performance I’d ever seen, but I couldn’t enjoy it. I was too busy wallowing in a pool of angst, self-pity and over-priced show venue draft beer to appreciate it.

Credit: Eva Blue
Credit: Eva Blue

At first, I tried to not let her Drag Me Down, but it was no use and I ended up drinking like a Ball and Chain and brooding like a Sick Boy. I missed nearly half their set going outside to chain smoke, and I felt as lonely and lost and confused as if I’d been stranded in Bakersfield.

For a few hours, I felt what I think it’s like to get inside Mike Ness’s head — at least when he’s inspired to write. It was brutish and overwhelming and enraging and humblingbecause I know I will never have the strength or courage to channel that kind of anger and fury and rage.

The Morning After

Needless to say, I don’t remember much of the night after that. I tallied maybe somewhere in the area of 15 drinks and a two joints, and I might’ve even sent a late night angry text that I regret more than anything because it went unanswered. Then I woke up this morning and had it all come back to me before I could even muster the courage to get up and take my morning piss.

And you know what I realized?

I realized that maybe I’m fortunate that I wasn’t blessed (or cursed) with the strength or courage to channel that kind of angst and frustration because that’s the stuff that rock n’ roll legends are made off, and rock n’ roll folklore often doesn’t end with a happily ever after. Even if those legends immortalize the brave and tortured souls that perpetuate them.

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