Brett's Books

Salad Days

Posing as Punks

Profanity Abounds

Also, Spoilers.

But in truth, there's not that much of either.

But then, I'm jaded.

I've already read the book.

And let's face it, there really is a fair bit of foul language in the text that follows.

Salad Days
by Charles Romalotti

Layman Books

Thoughts Going In

I have no faith in the imprint (Layman Books) and consider this (at best) one step above a self-published atrocity.

The writing inside (flipping the book open and choosing at random) seems solid enough. And everywhere I land, I find a subject of interest. Though, I fear there will be way too much He Said, She Said for me. Furthermore, I believe I will be... um, extrapolating from the novel. Like, the novel will lead me to a certain place... and often enough, I will feel the need to insert a Sex Scene or Drug Filled Stupor of my own creation.

I know little about Punk Rock Music. I think I read a book on the Punk Scene in times past. Maybe, not. Maybe it was about the music scene in general (written by someone who worked for MTV in some minor capacity, if I remember correctly). And then, there was this great Punk Rock Movie (the name of which I can't remember). But since I really liked both of those production, this book (and the concept of Punk) is floating on a bit of goodwill. Or in other words, the last few times (that I can remember) that I sunk down into The World of Punk, I hit pay dirt.

On the other hand, I've already settled on a way to make this book more interesting to me, which is by listening to the music mentioned in story... and, maybe (just maybe), writing some Sex or Drug Filled Stupor scenes of my own.

The Play List

Charles Romalotti mentioned these tracks.
And I listened to them.

Notable Quotes

As with many others, teachers often shared with me their lack of faith in my future.

Mediocrity is a natural by-product of democracy.

Well, there's peace punk, oi, Straight Edge, 77, crossover, garage punk, dirge, skate punk, hardcore.

This is where I lived now. Amongst the flies, amongst the sweat and hunger.

I could tell by his... attention to insignificant detail that he was young.
This might as well be a critique of the author. Many of the details are excellent and bring one into the moment. And many are random generic colourations of the sort I would never remember. For instance, I wore tennis shoes throughout my teenage years, even in winter. And I remember my feet being cold and wet quite often. And I can remember breaking the ice on the creek: an activity that (as it sounds) involved breaking ALL the ice on the creek and which was sure to get one's feet soaking wet a time or two. But I cannot remember my feet ever getting cold or wet in regards to that specific activity, even though they most surely were. But then, maybe I was just extremely good at that particular game, as the idea was to break all the ice AND not get one's feet wet.

We discovered a variable... that we hadn't planned: reality.

Running Thoughts

Drugs, Sex, & Punk Rock Music

Making it Better

Maybe a handwritten song or two would do the trick?

Do You Play Fucking Punk

Do you play fucking punk?
Do you play fucking punk?
It's simple ass question.
Do you play fucking punk?

Pick up that guitar.
Play a simple chord.
Nobody cares, because they're already bored.

<CHORUS: Do you play fucking punk?>

We could form our own band.
We could play our own songs.
The louder the better.
We'll finally belong.

<CHORUS: Do you play fucking punk?>


Answer the fucking question, asshole.
This next one is a poem... of sorts:
Cat Tails
The cat swirled around, chasing it's tail. It had left the yarn behind, long ago. Jumping on a chair, it looked back at me, its head under its body, rolled around, backwards, like kitty cats often do. I wonder if it thought of me as its parent... or a friend, as I stared into its eyes and thought about eating it whole... whether it would fit in my mouth. Don't ask me why. Reaching out with my hand, the kitten did the same, carelessly slicing my finger open with its sharp young claws. Pinching the finger, holding back blood, I thought about getting mad... before letting the emotion go and watching the blood drip to the floor.
No doubt, this book is hitting home... serious pay-dirt: A Song & A Poem with more to come!

Cult Media

So (maybe over a decade ago, now), I came up with a theory to define and explain cult movies and to describe their typical flight plan. The same outline will (or would) work for other media... say, Punk Rock Music.
And if the last few steps don't happen, congratulations, your subculture has been absorbed into the larger mainstream.

In short, Punk is a subculture, because (to the vast majority of humans) Punk Music is boring... and funny clothes and hairstyles only go so far. And yeah, notice how funny clothes and hairstyles have gone mainstream, while Punk has not. I mean, to be fair, I can hear the influences from (or in) Punk Rock Music, as it has migrated to the mainstream (even if I am not savvy enough to know the direction: Punk -> Mainstream or Mainstream -> Punk). But I am savvy enough to know that Punk Music (itself, in the pure form) has not made it anywhere close to the mainstream; and likely, never will.

This last, of course, is subject to debate. But has any Punk Group ever won an Emmy? Played at the Super Bowl? And much (much-much-much) more importantly, how does Punk compare in relative popularity to the other musical genres? How many Punk records are sold? How much play does Pure Punk get on the radio?

I don't know.

But my guess is Punk is a footnote (not a player) in The Big Game.


It's time for another song.

The Silence of Noise

Can you hear me?
You better not hear me!

I'm making noise!
Just me and the boyz!

We like it loud!
The screech of hard metal!

But fuck your rhymes!
Because it's punk!
It's punk!
It's punk!
It's punk!

It's in your face punk!

<spoken word pull out>
Walk the true line.
The raspy sublime.

Spoiler Alert

I've only got a dozen or so pages left in the book, but I am... well, not so much unhappy with, as personally unhappy while reading the book. Our main character has gone from being self-assured to a mindless drifter, lost in space. Fair enough, I exaggerate. But he is no longer the man (or the boy) he once was. He's become timid... and maybe, petty.

But I didn't want to talk about Frank's shortcomings as a Fictional Character. Rather, I wanted to mention that I think the author would have liked to be like Frank in his youth. And as such, he wrote a story about Frank. But in truth, I think (I believe, I would guess that) the author is closer to being like Stanley... or a more mundane version of Stanley. And much like Frank, Stanley gets watered down, here, towards the end. At one time, Stanley was heir to one of the richest families in the county. Now, he works in a factory. Um, no. That's not what would happen in the real world. If Stanley had come from such a family, he'd either be working on the family farm or going to college... and most likely both. Furthermore, Stanley was all college prep in High School. But now, we find that it is Frank who is living in the college town... even if he is not going to college or taking any classes. Yet, he is the one who is there. But it really should be Stanley.

Which is all to say, the story (the first part, the High School part) Rings True, so much so, I believe the author was writing from first hand experience... if only that of a Die Hard Fan. But now, we just have middling mediocrity.

Frank, the lead, is afraid to go up to a girl and talk to her. This is not Frank. This is a hollow shell of the man who was once lead singer for the Fluorescent Condoms and The Jerk Offs (you know, back when they were good).

Anyhow, end of rant... or not. It's almost as if the author wrote this great short story and the publisher said it needed to be longer, so it got longer... but not better.

Now, End Rant!

The Debriefing

Now that I am finished reading the book, I could (probably) cut and paste all that I said above, down here.

But let's move on, shall we?

Salad Days feels very autobiographical. It's written in the first person. And it feels legitimate. So, I was curious which parts were real and which parts were fictionalized re-imaginings... or at least, to find out the extent of Charles Romalotti real-life singing experience. So, I did do a web search. I did not find much. But then, I did not search long. It would appear the author grew up in Lawrence, Kansas (or thereabouts), which is (more or less), where the book is centered. But I still don't know the extent of Charles Romalotti's musical career... if any.

... ... ...

In the end (which is where we are), Salad Days is a good book. I'm glad that I read it. And as an introduction (or tour) of the punk scene, it was invaluable... as was listening to all those songs.

And although it is entirely likely they will make a movie out of this book someday (a movie that I will see if I remember this book at the time, keeping in mind that the 2014 Movie by the same name takes place in Washington DC and is unrelated to this book, as far as I know), I do not consider this book high-art. It's information about one (presumably semi-autobiographical and semi-fictional) instantiation of the Punk Rock Scene. And it's very good if interpreted that way.

But as a fictional story, it is lacking.

For instance, the Wrap Around doesn't really work for me (like, at all), as Stanley was far more likely than Frank to grow up and be an author. And I want a lot more explanation as to why Frank changes over time. We see what he sees... but we don't really see things through his eyes. So, I have a bunch of questions... and a desire to be nitpicky about a bunch of (for the most) meaningless detail. But instead of that, let me make my (harshly critical) comments a bit broader in scope:

Of course, a lot of these complaints (or the generic type of complaint they represent) are common with me. I want a story to Ring True. And by Ring True I mean that I want the characters to act in character ALL OF THE TIME! And every last time that they don't act in character (or just do straight up stupid things, assuming being straight up stupid is not one of their defining characteristics), I want to know why. I mean, I'm OK with a character being straight up stupid (some of us might even call that being funny), acting in the heat of the moment (we all make mistakes, I'm just asking for someone, the author maybe, to own up to them), and all the other reasons there are for a person to act sub-optimally. But without any explanation by the author as to why a character is going astray, my go-to explanation will (always) be that the author was lazy and couldn't be bothered to work out the details. And trust me, working out the details is hard. That's why I think a good Wrap Around is so important. And why I believe a better one (the story being writing by Stanley, for instance, in honor of his childhood friend Frank) could have done wonders.
I can't tell you what really happened or everyone in the small town where I grew up in would want to sue me. So, I'm going to switch the stories around, borrow from all those fanzines I read as a kid, all those shows I went to, all those musicians I talked to... oh, and I was in a Punk Rock Band myself, so I even know what it's like being on stage first hand, even if all we ever played was one ill attended show. But the point is that if I mix it up and get confused, that's me mixing it up too much and getting confused. This all really happened... just not exactly the way I'm going to tell it.
Anyhow, the first chapter of Salad Days (a full third of the book) Rings True to me. It lands a bullseye. You know, it hits a nerve. Or maybe, I should (call back to that phrase that by now I've most certainly beaten to death; and) say All the Chords Ring True. But after that glorious first chapter (you know, that first third of the book, so its not of insignificant length), things start to unravel.

And like I said, my (like, personal) solution to the unrealistic plot point problem (which I can accept that most writers and most readers do not consider a problem in the first place) is to use a solid Wrapper. And then, go back and reference the Wrapper in-story when a difficult junction is reached, calling out the facts, the items that were fudged, and so on.

The Perfect Storm, which I read years ago, uses this technique to perfection. It, also, happens to be a 'story' that focuses on facts and an alien (to most land lubbers) way of life.
I don't know what happened on that particular voyage [because, like, no one returned], but I can tell you what fisherman have to say about similar storms and other fishing trips that have gone horribly wrong.
It's not a direct quote (so, don't be thinking it is), as I can't be bothered to find a copy of the book just to pull a quote that may or may not exist, which says the same thing as the above, only in the author's (sorry, I can't be bothered to look up his name either) own words.

But such a disclaimer is hardly important.

What is important is that a Kaleidoscope of Possibilities unfolding before a reader's eyes can be a mesmerizing experience.

And at the opposite extreme is sticking to one's guns (and pretending that what didn't happen most definitely did), while relying on improbable odds to hold it all together. And I think this is one of the biggest (and most common) sins in Modern Media. At some point in a piece of complicated fiction, the author (film maker, director, whatever) is going to hit up against the unknown, topics of which they have no first hand experience. It's fiction, right? It's bound to happen. But since a person doesn't know what they don't know, they are bound to get the facts (or feel) wrong almost every single time. So in my mind, the trick is to Wrap the story in such a way that stupidity is not a problem, so that one has the safety valve of ignorance.
I know, it sounds stupid to me, too. But I was enjoying this guy's story too much to push him on the details.

Hell, I don't know how a Van de Gaus drive works. Do I look like a frik'in space mechanic?

When I got out of Dark Ops, they zapped my brain. You're lucky I remember any of this.
Or for a longer example, which isn't nearly as good, but since I've already written it out (and I don't feel like deleting it or hiding it in the comments), we have:
You know, I would have done the research... if I wanted to... and that was what they were paying me to do. But I didn't want to do the research.

Fine, call me lazy. But if you do, you're missing the point, because the facts never matter in a situation like this. I earn the Big Bucks, because I know how to inspire the troops:
"Let me just say, Sweet Cheeks. Those tits of yours are looking mighty tasty today. Yowza!"
And I know how to make quick snappy decisions and live with the consequences:
"Fuck it! Just throw that piece of crap down the garbage chute. And we'll find you a new computer tomorrow, Bill."
Because much more importantly (or at least much more importantly to me, as in "Fuck this job! And shove it!"), I had a lunch date with the leading recruiter for Acme Goliath Conglomerated. And I was hoping to be working at their West Coast Office next week as Head of Operations. Which means, I wasn't planning on showing my face in this shit-hole ever again.
Of course, you got to be careful with (random ass) shit like that... because, you know, consequences. But I hope you can see how the above explains almost any idiotic behaviour as performed by our hero: The Carefree & Cut-Loose Corporate Executive.

Oddly, I only care about Realistic Consistency when it comes to novels, movies, television shows, and other forms of traditional story telling, as I have read page after page of un-punctuated un-capitalized un-organized stream-of-conciousness poetry... because I cared about the underlying topic; and so, the method of delivery was of secondary importance.
'Hand me that manual, will you?'
'It's in Old Galactic Cypher Text. Are you telling me you can read that shit?'
'I don't have to read it to look at an assembly diagram, asshole. Hand it over.'
There are creative outs for logical inconsistency everywhere.

Thus, if I were to re-write my youth (hey, I might have already done that a time or two), you can be sure I would Wrap that sucker up tight. And then, you know, back reference the Wrapper whenever I needed an out.

Charles Romalotti does not.

And yet, Salad Days remains a mighty fine read. I just think it would have been an even better read if it were written by Stanley in honor of Frank; instead of the other way around.

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Salad Days (phrase): Pertaining to youth, the high point of one's life, and/or the story of a Fictionalized Character's Punk Rock (I don't want to call it musical) Career.

Also, it turns out, Salad Days is a song by Minor Threat, which I'm going to listen to in just a moment.

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