Home Street Home
The days of acoustic guitars, cheap vodka and dodgy cigarettes
Back when I was about 15 I found myself in a pretty dark spot. It was a place I fondly remember, and a place I'd gladly step back to regardless of the lower points of the darker days. And, even now as I sit here in a warm home with a loving family in my mid-twenties, I still can't help but feel the urge to relive one of those days just for the sake of the nostalgia trip.
Back in 2009, I managed to decline into a rather melancholy frame of mind. I hung out with all the wrong types that were taking me nowhere in life. I smoked more cigarettes than I could afford. I drank more whiskey and vodka than any teenage kid should've. I skipped school. I was never home. I, in essence, lost myself to an underworld of dismal shortcomings.
An average day would be waking up, arriving at school, leaving before first bell, catching a bus into town, swindling a pack of dodgy cigarettes from a stranger, and then sitting in a skate park until the sun went down. And after that, I'd chip in whatever pennies I had towards the cheapest spirit I could find in the very backstreets of the roughest street in the city. My friends and I would pile on back to the icy open air streets in town and drink until our lips turned blue and our lungs felt encumbered. The morning would then come, and through the sickness we'd do it all over again in the hope of it being a remedy for the filthy hangovers that lodged in our chests from the night before.
Back then, we were nothing more than a gang of stupid kids. We liked the idea of feeling rebellious when really we should've been sorting ourselves out. We thrived off of the energy of one another and urged to keep the spark alive by continuing to impress each another with things that really never helped us at all. Things like how much stuff could we steal or how much vodka could we neck before violently throwing up somewhere. Things that seemed to get us a certain level of respect, but otherwise felt morally degrading to take part in.
That was the 2009 era. And as much as I smother a particular grimace on my face whilst thinking back to it, I can't help but shed a tear for all the happier moments in the street. Because, surprisingly, it wasn't all bleak nights and sorrowful mornings. Some of it was actually a reason for branding those days as the best I've ever had since being brought into this world.
I had a lot of friends who would often busk in the city streets just to make pocket change for vodka later that evening. And, like them, I tried to reach out and acquire money any way I could just to get my hands in on the nights antics. Because, like them, I didn't want to feel left out of the group and really only lived for the acceptance from others. Even if that did mean pissing off various pensioners by just being a public menace. Or, just the majority of the public for that matter. They essentially all looked down on us for all the while we chose to loiter as teenage hoodlums. But we lived for it regardless of their negative opinions. Because this was who we were and all we really knew at the time.
At fifteen, I didn't really understand the punk scene. I mean, I knew of it, but I never really met someone indulged in it in person. I hung out with various pools of alternative types but didn't really have any punk rockers in my books. Until, one day, a Canadian fellow came along out of the blue. Now, that dude changed my life for the better, for sure. And believe it or not, I'd actually kill to just be able to kick it with him one final time before accepting the fact that I really am just a regular Dad nowadays.
'Canadian,' as we called him, wasn't really an extrovert type of guy. He rarely spoke amongst our group and he kept himself pretty bottled up most days. He wore a long green parka jacket, torn denim jeans, and a black cap. He didn't majorly stand out nor did he make a great amount of effort each morning like some of us shamefully did. There was no Emo fringe or wacky hair colour to match a specific appearance. There was just a Canadian dude who smoked his rollups and loitered the same as the rest of us. But buried deep beneath that jacket was a punk rocker with a basket full of knowledge some of us were eager to uncover.
2010 rolled in and we were just as obnoxious as the previous year, only, we had vacated the city streets and moved indoors to this Canadian guys place. With a few sofas, a mattress, a microwave, and an endless amount of bread, cheese and BBQ sauces to last a lifetime, the place was minimalistic to say the least. But despite the shortcomings, it was a place a lot of us soon looked to as a sanctuary. A place we could soon call home.
The house was usually pretty empty other than Canadian and a carer who came by once or twice a week to drop off some supplies. Because, sadly, Canadian's mum was in hospital for a rather long time, and so the house was left for Canadian to do with as he pleased. And with that, it soon enough became the go-to place for a lot of us at night.
Canadian was the type of dude who'd take the backseat at a party and just jam out on his acoustic guitar with a cigarette constantly in his lips. He'd come up with songs the morning after the party and recite some punk poetry to a room full of hungover friends. Singing with gravel in his throat, he'd fill the room with a certain energy as the souls raised from the whiskey-soaked carpets and brushed the death from their cheeks.
To give you an idea of the music he played to us kids as the sun peaked through the curtains, check out this live track of a well-known folk punk artist. That was the sort of thing he went for most of the time. And, to be honest, it was a type of music a lot of us hadn't really heard before. Because we were all scene kids who rocked out to the likes of Avenged Sevenfold or Bring Me The Horizon. So punk wasn't really a thing to us back then. But after those nostalgic nights and sacred mornings, it was something I personally wanted to explore with an open mind.
For months I spent most of my days in that house. And when I should've been in school, I was usually found there instead. With a bottle of whiskey being passed about at 10 AM or on a chain-smoking binge over some decent conversation, I spent the hours with people that soon felt like a second family to me. That was sort of how 2010 played out as I continued on my decline into this gritty scene.
Being introduced to bands like NOFX, Bad Religion, Rancid, Anti Flag, and tonnes more, I was soon enough finding myself absorbing this punk culture and becoming a small part of it. But the more I drank and the more I smoked, the wider the void in my chest expanded and opened up to a whole thunderstorm of illnesses.
Too many mornings I woke up with crusty eyes and sour tastes on my tongue. With half a cigarette in my teeth and a patch of stale liquid soaked through my shirt, I'd peek through squinted eyes and cough up the remainder of my liver, only to see a decaying boy who begged for a breather.
The room would often be crammed with a mixture of people, some of which I knew and treated like siblings, and others who I had never even met before. And as we rose and fell together, we all became one army regardless. It didn't matter if we had spoken two words to one another, because as the morning came and the bodies piled together in one room, everyone was somehow suffering on the exact same page.
Canadian would play his guitar. The punk rock playlist would still be playing from the night before. A squelch of soggy materials would dampen the mood and the crunching of two dozen cans would pierce our eardrums as we would abruptly open our eyes.
I'd lift my head and acknowledge the scene before me; partially smiling, mostly heaving. I'd then pull a cigarette from a stolen packet and light it as I brushed my fingers through my hair. And at that moment, I'd listen to the acoustic guitar, and I'd embrace the morning in its rawest form. That's sort of how a lot of mornings began for me back then. And whilst I regretted certain things at the time, I knew that later on in life I would fondly look back over them as cherished keepsakes of my teenage years.
It's been ten years since I buried those days of endless hangovers and smokescreen memories. And since then, a lot has changed. Canadian moved back to Canada and his home was put up for sale. My friends and I disbanded and went separate ways. I went off to college, my best bud moved to London, and all the faces I learned to adore eventually parted ways with the group.
I haven't had a night or even a morning like those days in over a decade now. And, whilst I'm grateful for feeling healthy again, I can't help but feel like I miss the darkness of the scene. I miss being able to pass around a bottle of cheap vodka amongst friends and talk about things that never really made much sense. I miss lighting a cigarette and just listening to an acoustic guitar in an eerie home whilst overcoming the vile sickness in my chest. I miss being careless and free. I miss being a kid, through and through.
I've bumped into a lot of faces since those days, and often I'm pretty surprised to see just how much has changed in some people. But there have always been the odd couple who haven't quite let go of that stage at all yet. For me, I'm a married man with two kids. I've grown up. I've started trying to build something for myself. And I hope they do, too.
Still, I can't help but think about those days, and I'll likely never forget them either. Because without them, I'd likely never have become the person who I am today. They somehow changed me for the better and I'll always be grateful for that. And should the day come where a reunion is in order, I'd clear my diary in a heartbeat.
We made a history I'll always remember with pride. It might've been dangerous. It might've been stupid. But it was a beautiful memory I'll never let go so long as I live. So, to all the people who made me: thank you. What a journey we had, eh?
- J Tury