I Am Iron Man
Boredom and Beatdowns in the Burbs
|CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Brian Ryder, Andy Jenkins, Michael Galinsky, Michael Galinsky, Chris Kelly, Casey Chaos, Brett Barto|
Anthony Pappalardo helped write Radio Silence, one of the few retrospectives of 80s American hardcore that nobody hates. He also played in Ten Yard Fight, the band pretty much singlehandedly responsible for the jockification of straightedge in the mid 90s.
Live… Suburbia!, a new book Anthony put together with author Max G. Morton, will be released in October by powerHouse Books. It’s like a personal, pictorial history book of everything Boston punk kids have been doing for the last 30 years. So you have the early, figuring-it-out years, then the youth crew stuff, then some diversions into skinhead, then posicore, and so on, all featuring the same group of people, just getting older and figuring new shit out. It’s kind of like a BHC version of the Up movies and will probably be on the coffee table or cistern of every person you know come Christmas. Below is an excerpt from the BMX years.
Also, if you haven’t figured out by now, we are not talking about Anthony Pappalardo the skateboarder.
James Regan was a boy by age but not by stature. He stood well over six feet with broad shoulders and cold blue eyes. When he gripped his ruddy fingers together they looked like brick wrecking balls that could easily smash through walls or at least flatten the noses of young boys with one swing. The neighborhood was terrified of James Regan. From age 13, he rode his yellow dirt bike around town without a helmet, license, or care. He was above the law.
No matter what the thermometers said, he wore a sherpa-lined denim coat that housed a weapons armory: Butterfly knives, Chinese stars, butane lighters, prerolled joints, and a switchblade comb were always by his side. Normally, young burnouts decorated their jackets with patches and pins of their favorite metal bands, but James’s jacket was bare. He didn’t have time to be a seamstress—he was focused on mayhem and destruction. I learned quickly that the more patches, the less threatening a kid was. This theory was proved later in my life when I saw crusty punks lying in their own filth with pregnant dogs begging for change in Harvard Square. There was nothing scary about junkies resembling shit-stained rag dolls asking for beer money.
James was a loner who didn’t need backup. He was a one-man army… or at least capable of keeping a gang of preteens in check. None of the kids on my block had older brothers willing to challenge him to a fight, so when he roared through, we were pretty much at his mercy.
Normally, it was easy to avoid James, as he was always busy fixing something, building something, smoking something, or fucking something, but things changed when we found an abandoned ski slope near our neighborhood that was full of paths perfect for racing BMX bikes. There wasn’t a black diamond trail, just amateur inclines descending the “mountain” that only needed a little grooming before they became our private raceway. We heard that a homeless guy lived in the woods there and hung himself, but that only added to the danger and excitement. We spent the winter sledding there, one friend even snapped a wing, but we persuaded him to tell his parents he did it playing football to make sure we wouldn’t be banned from the mountain. Our plan was simple: After the winter thaw, we’d grab shovels and build jumps along the trails and we’d have the only true racing track and stunt zone in a 30-mile radius.
Spring came and we swapped our winter work boots for sneakers and set off to the mountain to begin construction.
No sooner had ground been broken than did we hear the menacing roar of James’s dirt bike. We were fucked. James had a method to his torture: He’d single out one boy and then force the others to make decisions. For example, you might be asked to punch your friend or absorb a blow from James himself. He’d make you jump off things, eat things, and one time he even buried poor Joey Belisle in a mock funeral only to piss on his grave. James wasn’t nice.
He power-slid into our construction site and covered us in dirt and rocks before dismounting his yellow steed. “Gaying off in the woods, faggots?” he asked rhetorically. Despite his golden shower, Joey hadn’t learned anything and actually responded. “No, man, we’re building some jumps...” he stopped and gulped emphatically, realizing his mistake and trying to save himself. “We… we figured you’d wanna use the jumps so we’re gonna build them really high!”
“Why the fuck would I wanna jump off a mound of dirt while you homos watch me? Do you think I’m a fag too?” James responded. This wasn’t going well. The mountain was sandwiched between two growing housing developments, and a construction site directly bordered the first trail where we were now standing. Building had slowed down and the site was merely a sea of discarded cinder blocks, lumber, nails, and mortar. James kicked around the piles of raw materials briefly before picking up a piece of plywood about three feet square.
“OK, Joey, go stand over there and hide behind this piece of wood,” James ordered. Joey grabbed the wood and walked off about 20 feet into a grass clearing. “The rest of you, come over here now!” he demanded in between drags of a Marlboro Red.
James directed us to a pile of rocks and chipped bricks. “OK, Joey is gonna hide behind his piece of wood for the next ten minutes while you guys throw shit at him. Don’t fucking stop or you have to join him, and there ain’t much room back there. OK, start NOW!” James said as his soulless eyes pierced all of us. It was a minor relief to not be behind the wooden shield, but this seemed too simple. There was no way it was this easy.
We pelted Joey for what felt like an hour; he’d occasionally have to readjust the wood and James would chuck a rock right at his fingers. This was the only time he joined in. On James’s command, Joey emerged from his foxhole, ears ringing and fingers swollen.
“Hey, I’m hungry,” James said. “Who lives the closest to here?” Apparently, watching the stoning piqued his appetite. Once again, Joey was the victim as his house was a five-minute walk through the woods. We followed James single file like an adolescent chain gang before arriving at Joey’s house. He was instructed to go inside and fetch some chips and soda in five minutes or less, or else he’d be back behind the wooden shield or maybe thrown off his tree house. As soon as his door opened, we heard a familiar sound: Buddy Mailloux’s dinner bell. Each night when it was time for supper, Buddy’s mother rang a bell, which was his cue to scamper home like a puppy before eating something overcooked and fattening. “Buddy… Buddy, dinner time!” sang his mother with her brittle bleached hair.
Buddy thought he was off the hook, but as he took a step toward his home, he was quickly stopped by James. In one motion, he was body-slammed to the ground and pinned. James’s voice was suddenly two octaves higher as he screamed, “Fuck you, Mom! I’m not going to eat your meat loaf anymore. GO FUCK YOURSELF, BITCH!” Buddy was tearing up as James’s mammoth hand covered his mouth. His mother kept calling and James kept responding with more curses until things went silent for a moment and we heard a door slam. With a spin and a kick, James’s cycle was roaring and he was gone. Buddy’s mom ran over and saw him spitting dirt as the dust settled from James’s escape. She knew Buddy hadn’t cursed her out and silently escorted him home to dinner.
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