for those who don't conform
Friday, June 2 2006
setting: Woodland Hills, California
I didn't take my customary "neighborhood" walk today, choosing instead to take a rockstar nap in the late afternoon. Luc had said something about going to a Woodland Hills pub for beers after work, but I'd been up since something like 6am cranking out code and I was in such need of sleep that there was a hissing in my head.
The pub we went to was called Scotland Yard and, not that I delight in throwing around faint praise casually, it was by far the most authentic thing I'd seen on this particular trip. This was the real deal, because I know the fragrance of the place isn't the sort of thing that is bottled and marketed. It smelled like stale beer, sweat, and cigarettes. According to Luc the place had allowed smoking at the bar until only a few weeks ago, ordinances be damned.
It had that lived-in funk and clutter of artifacts that only comes organically after years of continuous operation (the look that is aseptically simulated in, say, a TGI Fridays). Behind the bar was a dense assemblage of dusty black mannequin heads outfitted with a variety of headgear once belonging to the British Constabulary.
We met one of Luc's friends at the bar, a former rocket scientist who had once been Luc's housemate somewhere in Los Angeles. Now the guy is a lawyer with a wife and kids. He looks and acts utterly normal a high school wrestling coach sort of way, a type that is completely absent from my circle of friends. His wife called him three or four times while we sat there at the bar, and each time he made excuses so he could drink one more round of Coronas.
Meanwhile Luc and I ate pizza he'd picked up at the place next door and shared our morbid curiosity regarding the visible portion of a slightly plump girl's mocha-colored thong underwear and the particulars of how it vanished.
The crowd in Scotland Yard was a crazy mix of aging-beyond-their-years "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" types, oddly stocky pretty boys, authentic Brits, and punk rockers dressed up for a night of punk rocking. They were there in their complete punk rock outfits of black fabric patched with text and safety pins. Some had carefully spiked their hair, and I took some satisfaction in knowing enough about punk rock culture to tell Luc and his friend how hair is spiked (usually with Elmer's Glue).
The punk rockers were coming from the scene at the nearby Cobalt Café, an all ages punk rock/hardcore venue that doesn't serve alcohol. As crazy as their appearances may be, they're such a common sight in Scotland Yard that nobody does a double take, no matter how extreme the piercing or garish the tattoo.
As Luc and I were leaving, we waded through the crowd of punk rock kids who'd gathered for tonight's show and Luc said, "They make me feel old." "Yeah," I agreed. Then I impersonated a fat punk rock girl who had just been insulted for her weight: "Yeah, but I can lose my weight. You can't lose your old." A lot of those punk rock chicks really were rather plump. I suppose in Los Angeles, where superficial appearances are everything, punk rock is a possible route to acceptance for those who don't conform.
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