We rode bikes. And when our bikes were screwed up or stolen, we walked.
Four abreast, sometimes six, taking up the whole sidewalk in a tight huddle. People coming in the other direction stepped off into the road, more to avoid contact with our stink, than because we were so fearsome, but I don’t think any of us noticed them. It’s like anyone over twenty was invisible to us, and anyone who wasn’t a punk was beneath contempt as well.
I don’t remember ever washing my clothes when I lived at New Method and I was there for at least 5 years. I must have taken my clothes home to my mother to wash but that can’t have been often.
The thing is: black doesn’t show dirt, and if you all smell equally bad you don’t register it. It’s like having dogs. Someone coming into the house for the first time can smell them in the carpets and on the cushions, but I sure can’t.
Plus, like a big cuddly dog, the punk stink was sort of homey and masked by the Ivory soap we all spiked our hair with.
Socks were the worst. Strapped into leather boots or hightops, they soaked up days of sweat, turned crusty and hard.
I think we traveled as the crow flies. Or along old deer paths only we could see, from Berkeley to Oakland to Richmond to El Cerrito and beyond.
The way often left the sidewalks, cut across empty lots, through disused or quiet buildings, clambered over chain link fences, wandered over crumbled masonry and through city dumps and all around Albany landfill where outsider artists left treasures which only we could find.
The east bay unfolded its grid of streets and barrens and empty lots like a three-dimensional map without borders or barriers. It was all completely open to us, or so we thought. We owned it. Had a right to be there.
We were above the law or below the law or just better at evading the law. ‘Cause we knew the secret shortcuts and the hidden routes, the empty sewer pipes and the places where you could hole up for a few. And we had no problem running across seven lanes of highway traffic if that’s what it took to get to the other side. Or hopping through backyards, and skinny-dipping in private swimming pools or heading up to the hills with a case of beer, making a bonfire, and passing out underneath the eucalyptus trees.
Most often we didn’t know where we were going. We just knew when we got there. There’d be countless stops for cigarettes, coffee, beer; we’d pick up stragglers on the way; smoke a couple on the porch of some punk house and continue on with a few more people bringing up the rear.
And then when we got to wherever it was, it was an impromptu party or someone would remember that Eggplant lived just over the hill, or that a couple dozen bands were playing a bbq that was going to go on all night, or that the old abandoned brewery plant had glass windows and an endless supply of chunky rocks.