Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Vice Feature: Suiting Up & Crusting Out

Here is a diary that I kept for a week that I spent living as a crusty punk for Vice v7n6.


I’d arranged to stay with some friends who squat a huge abandoned house off the Walworth Road in South London as no true anarchist would stay in a flat where you pay for things like warm water, electricity and council tax to get your rubbish actually taken away.

I managed to successfully steal the bleach that would be required to turn my planned mohawk green from Boots on my way south to the squat but I did spend £2.50 of my only three remaining pounds on some ‘Forest Green’ dye at an Afro-Caribbean hair salon around the corner from the squat where the lady just seemed too nice to thief from.

My friend Karley had decided that she was in charge of Gok Wan-ing me from overweight and underachieving average guy to lean, mean anarcho machine. The only implement for shearing my hair into a mohawk that we could find was a pair of blunt stationary scissors, which did a suitably DIY job of cropping my mop. Health and safety is not a punks main concern so the bleach was applied directly to the remaining tuft of hair with a mangy goalkeepers glove to protect Karley’s hands. While the bleach settled in I learnt a new skill: sewing. No self-respecting crusty guy leaves home without a Los Crudos patch and I made a pretty ok attempt at affixing some patches to an old denim jacket I’d cut the sleeves from.

Washing off the bleach in the freezing shower was a pretty uncomfortable experience but I tried to keep up the give-a-shit pretence right up until the dye was sploged all over my bonce and I realized that my forehead was rapidly turning green. Luckily it didn’t stick to my skin as well as it stuck to my hair and after donning a pair of cherry red Doc Martens I’d borrowed I felt I’d just about pass hanging around outside an Amebix show drinking White Lightning before falling asleep in my own urine having passed out from hurtling abuse at ‘the man’.


Night one in the squat involved surprisingly little debauchery. They even had a TV and watched the News At Ten. Aside from sleeping on the floor and waking up feeling like I’d never be able to walk again it had in fact been a bit of a let down. No all night weed smoking or intense, heated political discussion or even a minor police siege to speak of.

To amend matters I decided to pack up my sleeping bag and worldly possessions and have a drink at The Foundry; a bar, art space and slop house for Spanish cycle couriers with tribal tattoo’s and single dreadlocks. Surely I’d find like-minded souls here? Turns out not. Although I did find an organic ale called ‘Eco Warrior’ that I managed to persuade someone to buy me a bottle of. It tasted of mud and parsnips.

After ‘borrowing’ some cans of K cider from a newsagent I walked across Hackney Downs and went to borrow my friend’s dog Busy who was overly-pleased to have someone with astro-turf for hair to play with and savaged my mobile bed in excitement. Not believing in leads I lassoed Busy with a makeshift belt and headed out wandering. It was pretty fun having people crossing the street with looks of total panic on their faces but the police car trailing me all the way back across the river to South London was not so enjoyable. Turns out Mohawk plus pitbull equals a pretty real deal punk look.


Having now been overturning the system by refusing to engage with it for over 48 hours I felt it was time for a celebration. My squat buddies told me that they would be into partying so I went down to their local off license and discovered how punks can afford to get drunk: three liters of White Ace cost only £3. In a flush of excitement I spent £9 of my new friends money on 9 liters of the stuff and retired to the squat.

Coupled with the occasional bump of ketamine I can now confirm that drinking several liters of White Ace leads to an almost lysergic experience. Particularly when you realize that you haven’t eaten for over two days due to having spent your only money in the world turning your hair green and rotting your guts with cider that most street sleepers turn their noses up at.

Fuzzy headed I collapsed in a corner and woke up intermittently to throw up into a shopping bag that I later realized was riddled with holes and had been leaking vomit all over my t-shirt. When I finally awoke feeling like someone had crushed my head repeatedly with a captive bolt my t-shirt for the week was saturated with a heady White Ace/bile combination and I had unexplained cuts all over my forehead. Much more like it.


While I had decided that washing was off limits for the week whether I became puke saturated or not I realized that I was going to have to eat sooner or later. Having slept for most of the day to avoid hunger and kill time my new squat buddies Lauren and Kerri told me that there were some bins behind the Marks & Spencer’s in Elephant & Castle that were a goldmine for just-out-of-date food

By this point I was completely broke and would happily have eaten left over Fillet O Fish off of McDonalds tables but some Marks & Spencer’s ready meals? That sounded like heaven in a little vacuum-sealed parcels of goodness.

We had to wait until midnight when most of the staff would be gone before setting off. Kerri was pretty optimistic after previous raids had yielded untold gourmet wonders and bought along one of those shopping trolleys that your great aunt Edna might use. All of this positivity had me salivating but all high hopes were dashed as we rounded the back of M&S to find a huge security fence had been erected.

Dampened but not dispirited we pulled the fence apart for Kerri to slip inside. After a thorough root around in the huge dumpsters our worst fears were realized: we had been beaten to the punch by fellow freegans. All that was left were some chocolate éclairs. My stomach was basically eating itself by this point so I ate four and each slightly sweaty, turd shaped dough popsicle tasted better than the last.


After a week of cider and sleeping on floors I decided it was time to get back to nature a little. I’d heard that west-coast powerviolence veterans Capitalist Casualties were playing at crust hangout The Grosvenor in Sockwell so decided to spend some time in the park round the corner from the venue before catching the show to commune with the trees and stuff.

Having sat for a while on a swing I felt decidedly uncomfortable and decided a couple of cans of Special Brew would make everything a little better. As I sank my second I realized that maybe in the same way Rastafarianism legitimizes huge consumption of weed maybe being a crusty punk is just a big excuse to be a functioning alcoholic.

A few pints of artfully appropriated Guinness later and I wasn’t so bothered. My new punk brethren seemed to accept me with open arms and when it was announced that Capitalist Casualties had missed their plane there was a real sense of community and beery commiseration all round.

I might not have slept too well, eaten virtually nothing and drank my bodyweight in cider but at least my new, slightly smelly buddies made for better company than the odious suited hordes that come spilling out of All Bar One every night.

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