ever live in a punkhouse?

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ever live in a punkhouse?

  • Richard Masta

    or any good punkhose stories? I’m thinking of writing an article on this topic, concerning the tragedy of the commons — though it might also be an ode to the concept of private socialism either working or not working, depending on my mood that day.

    nah, we know it doesn’t work.

     

    but seriously, want to get into tragedy of the commons? walk into the kitchen of a punkhouse? or the porch. or the basement. or the living room. or someone’s bedroom: there are probably eight drunk cats and three high kids who don’t know each other or how they got there.

     

    yet it somehow works. I want to get some stories. I’ll start: I lived in a punkhouse that was two apts but like…10 bedrooms. I was on the third floor and my other 3rd floor fellow was on the other side with significant other. my friend took that room for the night but opened the windows. Hours later, someone downstairs is looking for their sick, old fat cat. the damned thing was locked out on the rooftop to the alcove, because my friend closed the window and it happened to wander out while it was open.

     

    so many areas to delve here. whose property? who’s rules? homesteading? “animal rights”? and of course, the owner of the goddamned animal. by the way, that cat puked everywhere. I was not sympathetic.

     

    and we haven’t even gotten into the basement, where the magic happens.

     

    any stories, thoughts?

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  • Rebecca Lau

    No, I have never lived in one. I would love to though. However I don’t think I would ever be accepted into one due to my politics. Most people who organize punk houses are into radical left wing politics. Plus they tend to live in really dangerous parts of Oakland.

    I will share a story.

    I went to a show this past summer and befriended two of the touring bands (they were touring together and sharing a van.) They were heading up to the Pacific Northwest for shows but they were coming back to Oakland later that week for a show at a punk house.

    I had never been to the house but it’s pretty popular in the area and has stupid name. It was in a not-so-nice part of town and across the street from the freeway. I wen there and there was tons of crusty punks hanging out in the front yard. I go to a lot of punk shows but I never see really crusty punks. I don’t think they go to shows for the bands; they just go to hang out.

    I met up with the bands. They were parked in the front yard. One of the guys took me inside the house where the show was going to be held. It was the basement area and had a dirt floor. It was so musty I could barely breathe. The ground was covered with rubber bracelets. The guy in the band told me that the owner of the house is a really Christian guy that gives out rubber bracelets with Christian messages on them. There were boxes of them stacked up in the garage so there must have been thousands of them. I can’t imagine being the super-Christian landlord of a punk house, but I digress.

    The house was freaking me out so I stayed in the band for most of the night. The house occupants told people to just pee outside and to only use the toilet inside if they had to #2. There was dog poop everywhere because of course punks love bringing their dogs to shows.

    I went inside when my friend’s band played. Everyone was acting crazy even though they had never heard of the band before. People were shaking up beer and spraying it everywhere. I was very glad that I was wearing a hooded jacket at the time. Then people started picking up the rubber bracelets off the ground and throwing them into the air. I was so grossed out and I did not want to touch those filthy rubber bracelets. A lot of dirt got kicked up and the band members were sneezing and coughing out dirt after their set.

    I consider myself to be a pretty tough person when it comes to punk but I refuse to ever go to another show at that house.

    I just don’t understand how people can live in and even encourage such filth. I also don’t see why dirt garages are legal.

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    Richard Masta

    that is epically gross, haha. the bracelets make it both grosser, and uniquely creepy.

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    Chip Marce

    What is it about these flophouses that they seem to be uniformly filthy? Its not like a bottle of cleaner and rags and trash bags cost a lot.

    While i know its not a popular view around here, I don’t have a whole lot of problem with squatting so long as the squatters leave it in better comdition than they find it.

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    Rebecca Lau

    I can think of a few reasons.

    1. Probably the #1 reason is that most people involved in the punk scene are not “good” people. One phrase you see a lot on punk flyers is “respect the spot” because punks actually have to be told that it is wrong to damage other people’s property. The fact is, if you invite a lot of punks into your house, it is going to get trashed.
    2. Punk houses are usually in poor neighborhoods. You don’t want to make your house look nice especially when you own a lot of very expensive electronic equipment.
    3. They have pretty unethical/negligent landlords. I guess it’s not bad from a libertarian point of view. The occupants don’t feel obligated to keep the house looking nice. At one punk house I went to I’m pretty sure someone was using a closet as a bedroom. The bathroom door had a wooden sliding door but some of the panel were missing so anyone could see inside. The landlord benefits from not having to pay for upkeep, and the residents benefit from cheap rent. Who loses? The house.
    4. They don’t want to be accused to gentrifying the neighborhood. This is obviously a sensitive subject. Most punks are white, but the notion that they are all middle class people from the suburbs is in my opinion, a myth. Even though most punks are poor they still feel guilty for being white (ha). They can’t make their house nicer or make their neighborhood safer because then they would feel bad about driving up rent in the neighborhood.

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    Richard Masta

    really interesting how the perspective is so different in Ca, at least in the cities. The house I lived in, in Dover NH, was filled with mostly college-student types and intelligent kids who were too rag tag to get normal jobs so they had to settle for their only rent option that wasn’t living at home. They then proceeded to be almost as gross as the stories above.

     

    Even the houses in Boston seem to be rather nice compared to what Ca sounds like. Maybe there’s just a little more money in the northeast per capita.

     

    it seems that in the houses I’ve seen up here, the residents are determined to make it worse not to “help out” the neighborhood, but because they want a certain character in the place. homage to other cultures within the “punk scene” I think. New England has its own punk culture, and NH particularly has developed a stronger identity kids now emulate other scenes.

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    Theo Goodman

    Described is a “crust punk” house or as someone said “flop house”. Luckly I never lived in one but have visted some in my life. They normaly “work” because 2-3 people that live there do a lot of the work ie: have a job, make sure the water runs and the lights dont get turned off. I used to go to one that had shows that was even called the “rat house” ahha. Towards the end of its exsitance right wing skins kind of took it over.

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      Rebecca Lau

      I’m actually really surprised to read that right wing skins actually exist, but then I saw that you live in Germany.

      I was at a house show (the same one as my original story) and someone passed out flyers warning us that there was a suspected fascist sympathizer in the neighborhood because someone was crossing out their anti-fascist graffiti. It just struck me as really paranoid.

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        Richard Masta

        I’m not particularly knowledgable about skinheads, but I’ve always assumed they are all righties.

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        • P_Fritz

          Back in the day, in addition to Hammer Skins (Nazis) and Oi Boys (KKK skins), there were also SHARP skins (Skin Heads Against Racial Prejudice). These lefty skins were just as lame as righty skins,  they would go to shows, wait till they overheard someone say something they thought was prejudiced,  and then jump them. They had just as big of a altruistic martyr complex as the racists.

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    Theo Goodman

    This was back when I lived in the states. There was an element of ska and “working class” skins that were around. It just took a few right wing skins to come in and basicly flip some of them and a few punks, to give a hint 2 of the ex-punks were later on VH1 and in GQ as right wingers.

    Ive stayed in squats that were not “crusty” but still with left annarchist ideas. They ran pertty well so a kind of “private socialism” might work. There are plenty of stories, the main issue would be to seperate the personal issues people had with each other from the “private socialism” issues. What is true is that property and personal space was an issue, often not talked about.

    In Germany I lived on a “Waggonplatz” this is also a squat of sorts. Unused public land in a city was squated. On it were small trailers, the ones you find on construction sites or some people had bigger more elaberate ones. This worked pertty well too but there was a lot more respect for private property. We all shared one “big” trailer that was used as a kitchen and sort of living room. Then not everyone needed something to cook with in their trailer. There was a weekly meeting where we all talked about issues, over time frustrated people just didnt attend and kinda lived there without contact of people they didnt like or agree with. Which worked ok if they had their own cooking stuff in their little trailer. Even here Im still not 100% sure if the problems were caused more by “private socialism” or more by people just not being able to get along, but a lot of arguments would start with “who took fire wood from under my trailer last night”. Ironicly it is not as if people that lived at the waggonplatz were against earning money or even forms of entrepreneurism allthough nobody thought of it as such. We sometimes had events with music or just themed parties and sold beer and drinks sometimes with a cocktail bar with the idea of rasing funds. Another waggonplatz built a movie theater, kind of mad max style but pertty cool. They had movies once a week and sold tickets.

     

     

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      Richard Masta

      the waggonplatz is such a fascinating concept. and a fun word to say

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    Rebecca Lau

    I have an update:

    I went back to the house in my original story for a NYE party. This time I actually went inside to use the bathroom. I don’t really know how to describe the place but it was a complete mess. I went to the bathroom and the toilet was clogged with paper and there was dried up paper on the sink.

    Later, one of the residents gave a little speech about respecting the spot and not tagging the church next door. I’m not the type to loiter or graffiti but it’s hard to take those words seriously when I saw what kind of mess he lives in. Later I saw him get into a little argument with a really obnoxious guy and he was yelling, “I just want to live in my house!” If he loves his house so much, why doesn’t he take care of it?

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      Richard Masta

      He sounds like an enigma, but at least he seems willing to respect other people’s property — even if he doesn’t seem to respect his own. The concept of property in a punk house doesn’t seem to extend beyond “my stuff in my room” so he sounds miles ahead of some of the folks out there.

      You ask an interesting question, though. Why are some punks so content living in filth? It would make sense to suggest some have stepped up from even worse scenarios (perhaps this fellow has), but in my experience, they tend to be stepping down into the chosen fate.

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    P_Fritz

    Yes, circa 1987 in Lincoln Nebraska. Yes there were three of us paying rent and working. Gradually the other guys (who were smart) bailed out and were replaced by proto-gutter-punk/free-loader types, and I ended up being the sold provider for rent and utilities. After a couple of months of excuses and head games I realized I was being played and got out. Subsequently left behind a lot of the Hardcore scene of the time and never looked back. Maybe that was one of my first great acts of personal secession.

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      Richard Masta

      Wow, 1987. What was the Nebraska scene into in 1987?  The midwest scene is so 2000……

      So you were a road stop for bands? Or did bands just plow through? It must have been rough in the land of zines, and when zines arrived….jeez (this was a softball)

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        P_Fritz

        Tons of bands stopped through Lincoln. It’s a college town so you had lots of indie bands, then Sub Pop and Amphetamine Reptile bands into the 90s. But in the late 80s there was a strong working class punk scene. There were lots of all ages shows at a few different venues. Touring bands would stop to gig and then party at the favored punk house of month. No Effects and SNFU came through a few times. I saw Jello Biafra do a show for his spoken word stuff at the University and that’s when I realized that him and a lot of the scene were really just socialists.

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      Rebecca Lau

      Have you ever read the book Salad Days by Charles Romalotti? It’s about some punks in the late 80’s that live in Kansas and go to hardcore shows in the midwest. I think the first show they attend is in Lincoln, NE.

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        P_Fritz

        No but I am going to have to check that out. We went on road trips to shows in Kansas City, Lawrence KS, Omaha NE all the time, and there were always lots of shows in Lincoln. Saw so many bands, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Butthole Surfers, Fear, Agent Orange, Toxic Reasons, SNFU, Bad Brains, Agnostic Front, C.O.C. Beyond Possession, D.R.I. No Effects and probably a lot more that I don’t remember because I was so wasted. 🙂

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    Forden Freeman

    I’ve never lived in a punk house, but I have certainly been to many. Not all are filthy. Not all are communal. One of my best friends currently lives in a punk house, and other than everyone being heavily tattooed with various hair styles and lots of punk rock… you’d just assume it was a house with many occupants. Oh, and they have shows like… every weekend.

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    Lucy Steigerwald

    Never lived in one, but I have seen a lot of shows, and even stayed in one on two occasions. It’s in San Francisco, and it’s actually lovely. It’s clean, it has an amazing kitchen, and it’s not a squat — they are just violating zoning laws, since it’s in a commercial area. That’s libertarian-approved.

    On the other hand, the people who live there have almost no space to sleep — just closet-sized spaces separated by blankets.

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