The Ataris were in town coming off their big, slick, radio-hit cover of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” - and I convinced Mike we should catch the bus and Skytrain out to the Croatian Cultural Centre and trawl for drummers like we usually did where and when we anticipated a large crowd of teenaged punk rock enthusiasts would be assembled. Mike had completely given up on ever finding Matt, and showed diminishing interest in finding anyone at all to keep the beat in our band. It put me in the impossibly frustrating position of having to supply the band with both the optimism and the pragmatism it required to survive. Mikey was supposed to be the pragmatist. I knew we weren’t gonna find any Matt-calibre guy at some Ataris show, but I hoped we might find someone who would work - for now. So, I gathered our “drummer wanted” business cards while Mike packed himself a snack and explained to his parents that we would not be home for dinner. Changes in routine had the tendency to upset Mike’s mom and dad, and they resentfully set our places at the dinner table anyway as we departed for the bus stop at Park Royal Shopping Centre.
“I’m gonna buy a motorbike” Mike stated plainly as we flashed our Photoshopped concession fare passes at the bus driver and situated ourselves in the plush comforts of the priority-seating area located up front of the empty eastbound bus.
“What the fuck are you gonna do with a motorbike? You don’t even have a driver’s license”.
“Pff dude, you don’t need a driver’s license for a motorbike”, Mike defended as I watched him toss his weathered JanSport on the seat beside him and unpack from it:
one (1) bottle of Yop
one (1) plastic sandwich bag filled with trail-mix
one (1) loaded BananaGuard. A BanadaGuard, Mike had educated me at some point prior, is a plastic travel case designed (and purchased by Mike!) for the safe transport of single bananas. Without it, a banana is liable to get bruised.
“you just gotta remove all the the identifying features - VIN, decals; headlamp, brakelamp, refectors, everything. All the gauges – speedometer, gas lights: gone…” he looked up at me, spinning the sandwich bag, “want some trail-mix?”
In the year I’d known him, Mike had never once failed to offer me something out of his buffet sack - which to me, revealed a subtle thoughtfulness about the guy if you consider that in response to his offerings I had never once failed to decline.
Along with a picnic, Mike also never left home without a prescription container stuffed with marijuana; a second prescription container filled with clomazopam, which he self-prescribed, as-necessary using a blank prescription pad - procured industriously, as one could only be - and an assortment of other provisions which had a home rustling around deep inside his bag. Provisions like ecstasy, provisions like MDMA, provisions like a sewing needle and a Baby Ruth candy bar (which I may or may not get to later, or may have already gotten to), and newly added: provisions like whatever the shit was that was in the little bottle he was opening.
“What’s that shit?” I asked with honest and extreme distain. Visine? GHB? I didn’t fucking know.
“Hand sanitizer”. FUCKING HAND SANITIZER! Mikey was a fucking boyscout, lost in some uncharted wild where survival depended equally upon being fucked on every kind of narcotic attainable, and, acting in accordance of Canada Board of Health and Hygiene protocol for elementary school cafeteria ladies.
“Smells like grapefruit.” I commented as he lathered up.
“Yeap… dude, this bike goes two-hundred-and-fifty kilometres an hour” he went on, extracting the banana from the BananaGuard, “- it can outrun any car - even the cops”.
“That banana looks pretty fucking green, man.” I told him.
“I like ‘em green”.
By the time we arrived at the Croatian Cultural Centre, the doors had already been open for a while and we were out of luck as far as encountering throngs of potential drummers or young and impressionable punk rock girls went, so naturally, we headed around back of the place in search of a way to get into the show, free-of-charge. And as usual, the Gods of Punk Rock were watching out for young Mikey and I.
“Yo dudes, you going to the show?” a voice inquired from behind a tree.
“Pff, nope” Mikey answered close to mockingly as we approached and matched the voice to a moppy-haired hesher taking a whiz on the tree.
“Oh bummer, why not?” he asked, sounding legitimately bummed out about it, as he zipped up a pair of Mavis with a VIP lam hanging off them, which we both spotted, changing our tune in a beat.
“‘Cause tickets are like eighteen fuckin’ bucks”. Mikey was on it, but I took over.
“Yeah, we’re too broke, it’s gay”. We had mastered our routine.
“Ah shit, I’ll get you dudes in - come on!” We followed the positive hesher in women’s jeans back around front as he explained to us that he played guitar in the band Rufio, which was the support act on this Ataris tour. He could have told us his band was opening for Nirvana on the moon and it wasn’t likely to excite us, but as long as it meant us not having to spring for tickets, we were eager to feign being impressed. Rufio’s guitar player ushered us past a dwindling line of Dickies-clad stragglers and told the girl with the stamp to stamp me and Mikey before promptly disappearing to charge his BlackBerry or whatever.
The show itself went by largely forgettably, however Mike and I both agreed Rufio was a prime example of a band grossly misappropriating their wireless guitar rig equipment and made a pact never to do the same. The way we saw it, it didn’t need to be the X-Games.
We filed out of the auditorium with everyone else, and amidst the crowd of teenage punks I spotted two guys we went to highschool with - Victor Low and Oliver Hoppus, the other two pop punk kids at West Van Secondary - and kind of like, our arch nemesises; though, by virtue of the fact we had a band and they did not, we knew we were cooler. And they knew we were cooler. And we knew they knew we were cooler. And they knew we knew they knew we were cooler.
In actuality, Oliver Hoppus’s driver’s license insisted his surname was Holland, but as far as I was concerned, his tidy ensembles of dyed-blue hair, MXPX t-shirts, long Dickies shorts and knee-high socks were equally valid forms of identification and I felt it only befitting to rename him after his obvious fashion mentor, Blink-182 singer, Mark Hoppus, whose tame fashion stylings Oliver had co-opted and somehow tamed even further. Of course, back in those days Mikey and I too, were complicit in various fashion infractions, including-but-not-limited-to copping So-Cal Sk8ter trends, but it is innate behavior for pots to call kettles black, and that’s what growing up punk in Canada’s most affluent suburb is all about. The fact was we were all shitheads.
“Yo Victor - ” I called out getting the attention of Victor Low, Oliver Hoppus and their dates, as Mike and I approached brazenly with just one thing on our minds.
“What’s up, Evan.” Victor more or less stated. Pretty much zero civility had ever been lost between our camps. Even when Oliver asked us if he could play second guitar in our band, he had presented it like he was doing us a major favor, which naturally, I had declined with prejudice.
“Can we get a ride back to Mike’s with you guys”? By Skytrain and bus, it takes an hour to get from the Croatian Cultural Centre back to Mike’s parents’ house on Sentinel Hill, West Vancouver, BC. By Victor Low’s Mom’s Volvo Turbowagon, I estimated it would take 15 minutes. Both options presented a Hell I’d have rather avoided, but one was a much faster, more comfortable brand.
“I don’t think so man” he told me flatly. “I don’t have enough room”.
“It’s a Turbowagon, you’ve got those tailgunner seats!” I appealed to his passive side.
“I can’t do it, sorry”.
“What? Come on, you’re gonna drive right up Taylor Way!” Mike argued in vain.
“Sorry man”. What a fucker! Mike and I walked outside, scanned the loitering crowd, failing to identify anyone who looked like he must play drums, and left. We were annoyed, but as we walked through the parking lot Mike pointed out that we ourselves might well have declined a request as such coming from their likes, too, so -
“Holy fucking shit, check it out!” I squealed, smacking Mike with one hand and pointing with the other. Mike didn’t know what Victor Low’s Mom’s Volvo Turbowagon looked like, but I sure fucking did. I went to middle school with him, too. And now we were standing there looking right at it, parked on the street, WITH THE FUCKING KEYS HANGING OUT OF THE DRIVER’S SIDE DOOR!! “That’s his fucking car! Victor’s car!”
“OH FUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHKKKKKK!!” Mike moaned in disbelief, “What should we do? Should we take it? Noooo, we shouldn’t take it! Should we? Fuck dude, let’s just take it! Fuck that guy”! The mix of emotions we were both experiencing must be what happens to Cancer victims who get news of remission after Chemo Therapy.
After a tough minute of deliberation, I grabbed the keys out of the door and we marched back toward the C.C.C, resolved to give Victor one more chance to not be a total douche-bag. We found the poor guy on his knees in front of his friends, frantically rifling through his backpack. Evidently, Victor had misplaced his keys. Sympathetic to their gang’s situation, Mike and I wasted no time breaking it down to the brass tax.
“Listen man”, I told Victor, “we know you’re going right by Mike’s place, if there is any way you could possibly fit us into your car, we would really appreciate it. Please”. “You can drop us at a red light”, Mike chimed in, “Come on”. “I told you, I’m not giving you guys a ride! Besides, now I can’t even find my keys, you’ll probably get home faster by bus”.
And boy, was Victor Low right. Mike and I decided that for the logistical problems it would pose, we could not drive the car back to West Van. What might Mike’s parents’ think of a red ‘97 Volvo Turbowagon parked in the drive way, unexplained? Neither of us wanted to find out. And driving it anywhere else and ditching it would only put us in the same predicament we were already in of having to find a way back to Mike’s parents’ house via public transit or worse, by foot. Not to mention, involved parties might potentially feel like we had stolen it, which would probably cause trouble for us, however, if it did go that way I was fairly certain we could build a strong enough argument for entrapment, but it was impossible to say how a court might interpret the events; so, what we did was take the most sensible course of non-violent retaliation and sabotage that we saw available to us.
It was perfect because we knew Victor would never suspect himself to be stupid enough to leave his 18-inch key lanyard dangling from the car door while he took in a rock concert in the heart of East Vancouver; and by virtue of that generous self-perception, we knew he’d never, ever go on to imagine that in a turn against him of harsh cosmic irony, Mikey and I had been the guys to happen across the keys immediately after he’d shut down our pleas for a ride, prompting us to take the keys, walk to the Skytrain station and dump them on the tracks as we boarded a train back home. No, to Victor, it would remain a mystery unsolved. But to Mikey and I, it was simply our lives back in balance.