Clarkston, Michigan was a mostly middle class and upper middle class suburb. Jared and I were by no means either. Our privilege was whiteness, if that, because our whiteness was at least partly shadowed by our shabbiness and what might be called “artiness”, “bohemian air” or “punkishness”, and likely all three.
We landed there by accident. A fellow we had met through our work at the Detroit Public Library knew someone with an empty house. She might rent it to you he had suggested. She did.
We did what we always did as soon as a legit piece of mail came to our new address, we got library cards. The library was one big room. As this was the mid-2000s, the library’s CD collection was at the center of room, just beyond circulation.
Hundreds of miles away from New York City, our previous address and our friends, we had no one to trade music with and had no way to use our soon to expire NY Public Library card (alas, I still miss the music stacks at the Lincoln Center branch). The music stacks at Clarkston’s library were quite reasonable.
On our first expedition to the library, I borrowed Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. Forever a Roman Catholic and also in that moment a young shabby looking woman who had just joined the library, I felt somewhat tense bringing a bright yellow CD with the words SEX PISTOLS in neon pink. Note that the words SEX PISTOLS are written in newsprint collage — ransom note style.
“F/ck,” I sighed to myself. This was another moment that made my posture sh/tty. Another moment feeling like the other person was silently assessing me, my shabbiness, my weirdness, my taste in culture. Someone at the library purchased this for the good of the Clarkston community, and damn it, it was my right as an underemployed person to borrow Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.
The moment of discomfort was worthwhile. Jared and I popped it in the Discman that connected to our Ford Ranger via an adapter that fit into the truck’s cassette player. We cranked the volume.
“I don’t wanna a holiday in the sun…” Johnny Rotten begins the first song.
Summer, that’s the time to mess up a hairdo, blast music, and scare the suburban neighborhood with that music. Besides, our truck had a just fan, no air conditioning. The windows had to be down. That helped air the body odor out, too. The fan gauge was optimistically labeled with increasingly longer sky-blue lines indicating increasing amounts of coolness. I assure you, that was bullsh/t. That vehicle’s fan was pushing steaming hot air.
By the time we rolled into our alarmingly conventional suburban neighborhood, “Anarchy in the UK” was blasting through our rolled down windows.
We pulled into the driveway, listening to Johnny snarl these lyrics:
“I wanna be anarchy
And I wanna be anarchy
I wanna be an anarchist
Tears were rolling down our faces. We were laughing, too. Sitting in our hot, tired truck, listening to the last shrieks of feedback and growling vocals, all surrounded by endless lawns and identical split level houses.