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The Pot-Free Punk Band

Midway through high school, Chucky, the biggest bad ass I knew, invited me to join his punk band. I was super excited until I realized Chucky hated weed and his idea of punk rock was sitting on his couch watching reruns.
February 23, 2014, 9:26pm

My old friend Jummy recently posted a photo of our high school band the Fascist Police. Looking at the photo of my 16-year-old self, I saw the joy of my teenage affinity for punk music and pot—neither of which I fully grasped at the time. Two of my bandmates abstained from smoking, but Jummy and I puffed away after many shows, slowly diminishing our tolerances and loving every moment. It was a time when pot was the highlight of my day instead of a mundane habit. The photograph sparked many other memories of high school and my early days of drug exploration, including memories about a band I was in before the Fascist Police—a group that was not keen about weed.

Shortly after I first started smoking pot my freshman year of high school, I moved away to another town, and my access to pot was right back to square one, so I ended up hanging out and playing music with a group of dudes whose views on pot were unclear. They never mentioned weed, so I never mentioned it.

The front man was a guy named Jerry. Scott, one of my other bandmates, seemed perpetually impressed with his own disobedience, which frequently landed him in trouble for smoking, spitting, swearing, and other habits that matched his patch-covered motorcycle jacket—he sincerely gave no fucks about the rules, and I thought that was pretty awesome. His best friend was a guy named Chucky, who was out of high school and lived in a sketchy brick apartment complex. He had a two-bedroom apartment with his mom and sister. The ladies took each of the rooms, and Chucky slept on a sofa bed in the living room with the family’s pit bull. The family saw the sofa bed as both Chucky and the dog's living space; I thought this was a bad ass living situation. When Chucky's mom, sister, or dog occupied the living room, he sat on the stoop smoking cigarettes. This was also where we typically hung out.

At the time, Chucky and Scott were looking for a bass player and a drummer to join their band, so they recruited my friend Neil and me. At the time, I had spent a few years behind a drum kit. Neil had no experience playing an instrument, but Scott and Chucky figured that was sufficient enough to play their songs' simplistic basslines.

I wasn't particularly in to punk music, but I was excited to play in a band with the coolest kids I had ever met—to join them in their spitting, swearing ways. Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that hanging out with them meant spending my time doing nothing. Sitting on Chucky's couch, we'd spend entire evenings watching reruns. If the dog had occupied the living room, we'd sit on the stoop and smoke cigarettes for hours. We had very few common interests, so these stoop sessions were riddled with long periods of silence that made me want to scream. I never screamed though—I didn’t want to be the lame guy pointing out that what we were doing was incredibly boring. I considered mentioning that we could pass the time by smoking pot, but I was worried I'd be ridiculed. This suspicion was confirmed one day when one of Chucky's sketchy neighbors walked by smoking a blunt and offered us a hit. I reached out to take a drag, and Chucky admonished me for considering his offer. It became clear that these guys lumped pot into the vague category of “drugs.” It seemed counterintuitive that they were against it, especially because Chucky displayed the distinct characteristics of someone who had done one too many hits of acid. Nevertheless, I realized that the time I spent at his apartment would remain boring, so I sought out other friends.

Eventually, I met Jummy, who also wore a patch-covered jacket and always had a pocketful of his parents’ weed. I spent hours sitting in his tree house, as I had sat on Chucky's couch, but weed made sloth-like activities fun. When we first met, we didn't have much to talk about, but as soon as we smoked together, we couldn’t shut up. We’d go on and on about the dumbest things, making each other laugh. After I hung out with Jummy, I considered the other guys lame. They had begun to catch wind that I had found a new friend, but they held their tongues about their unease for a long time. Sometimes, we’d be sitting on Chucky’s front stoop, and they would be dismayed when I stood up and told them I was going to do something else. “But we’re having band time!” Neil would say. Seeing as “band time” involved no songwriting or practice, I excused myself. Finally, the guys confronted me: “You’re going to go smoke pot with that druggy kid, aren’t you?” they asked.

I finally told them, “Yes. I’m going to go hang out with Jummy. We have been sitting on this stoop for hours, and I have no idea what we are doing. It’s so boring that I’m going blind, and it’s always been boring.” They were irked. Neil said, “Well, I guess you’re not as dedicated to the band as we are.” I found it strange at the time, but this happened with several other bands I played with later in life. A lot of people perceived being in a band as a pact involving both musical collaboration and massive time commitment—the ridiculous paradigm led to many tumultuous band breakups.

I told the guys that I simply couldn’t do it anymore, and that I’d rather go hang out in Jummy’s tree house. Quitting the band was a glorious experience that made me feel extremely punk rock—a vague adjective that was important to me in my mid-teens.

Eventually, I had a stoned conversation with Jummy that led to the formation of our band the Fascist Police, and we recorded a handful of terrible songs, played a few backyard shows, and kept smoking his parents’ weed. Musically, both these bands are shit stains on my resume, but my days with the Fascist Police comprised many of my few positive teenage memories. I’m now in the process of digging up some of those old recordings and will share them as soon as I find them. They'll make for a good laugh.