Hero In Cape – How Punk Rock & Prose Changed My Life
By: Preston Roeschlein
The revolution wasn’t televised. It wasn’t violent. It wasn’t lead by one radically thinking being on a solitary crusade. It didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t end.
As I’ve crept into my thirties, I’ve noticed there are substantially more moments throughout the day when I find my thoughts time-traveling into the past. Maybe it’s on account of the fact that as my ‘past’ grows with each succeeding day’s experience, so does the space it occupies in my brain.
Then again, maybe I just made up some bullshit.
Or, maybe! The impressing experiences I’ve had in life have created pathways in my brain’s circuitry, which had effects on the ways I think and feel, AND I’m sometimes brought into recollection of those impressing experiences when an experience in the ‘now’ sends a shot of dome voltage through those existing circuits!
I may have also made that up too, but it sounds pretty legit. Besides I think I remember it from high school biology and a TED Talk. Boom, dome voltage.
Regardless, whether I can fully recall the former experience that paved those cerebral pathways or not, these little-trips though history are always inspired by the present and frequently do one thing. They force my senses to imbibe on all that’s around me. The people, the place, my disposition in the present and hopes for the future all pour through me. The resulting concoction often manifests into an ambitious David Byrne singing in the back of my head, demanding that I take a bigger journey and ask myself “well, how did I get here?”
One of the most fantastic of these voyages occurred a few weeks back when Rowlbertos Media finally got the chance to work with Lagwagon’s Joey Cape on A Red Trolley Show. Just to illustrate, this is the level of the eargasmic enthrallment that I experienced when Joey started to play Alien 8; one of my favorite songs:
In 1994, my brother put Lagwagon’s Trashed into my ten year old hands and I lost my ten year old shit. It was one of the best things I’d ever heard. I wasn’t allowed to take the album out of his room, but I remember sneaking in there while he was away to take to it like a dope fiend who just found a bundle of smack in a pair of speakers. I memorized every line, every riff, and called out every chorus until my brother came home with his girlfriend and I was forced to retire to my room with no encore.
I was brought back to those instances in my brother’s room when I sat on the Trolley listening to Joey playAlien 8. I considered how crazy it was that after more than twenty years, I would get to be part of such a moment with an artist who painted so much of my childhood with vivid memories; with my best friends to boot, doing something we fucking love doing! Later on, as the Rowlbertos Crew reminisced over the show with pizza and beer, I thought to myself, no, I suppose it’s not really that crazy at all.
On Strung Out’s latest album, Jason Cruz screams, “you are the sum of every single moment that you’ve ever been alive”.
I thought about those lyrics with a slice of Margherita stringing through my teeth. I realized that the moment my brother put Trashed in my cans, it became a huge part of the equation to make me what I am today. He introduced me to two things:
1. The beautiful world of Punk Rock
From Lagwagon, I discovered NOFX, Snuff, Strung Out, Bad Religion, The Descendants, Good Riddance, No Use For A Name, Pennywise and dozens more. Bad Religion taught me about honest history (and a vocabulary I’ll rarely use). NOFX taught me to not take it all so seriously (unless someone is being hurt, oppressed, or hurting themselves). And on a heavier note, they all taught me to question authority, question myself, ultimately follow my heart, stand up for those in need, and stand up for myself.
Perhaps most beautifully though, every single one of them taught me that regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, background, what you look like or what you do—as long as you’re not a dick—we are deep down all the same on this spinning rock in a vacuum of chaos, and should treat each other as such.
My best friends—who are one in the same—the Rowlbertos Media crew, understand this well. Rowley and I came together over our love for punk rock. We grew up on the same riffs and screamed our lungs out to the same songs before we even met in 2006. We’ve both launched smokes at Joey Cape when Lagwagon has played Falling Apart. Punk rock brought us together, and it changed our lives.
As I continued huffing down pizza at Luigi’s, I couldn’t help but think how much every single one of us at Rowlbertos Media loves and respects the power of good storytelling. It makes perfect sense that we all ended up together telling them professionally. Our mutual admiration for the craft brought us together. It’s why we do what we do and enjoy the shit out of everyday that we get to do it! I thought about how those punk rock stories in song had such an effect on me, and I was left considering all of the lessons I’ve been in given in other forms. I thought about the stories I heard from my brother, the rest of my family, my friends, hip-hop, teachers, artists, authors, activists, comedians, and filmmakers. I’m grateful for all of them.
Ultimately, I realized how the storyteller in all of us has the ability to change the world for the better. Whether we know it or not. To an audience of millions, or just a friend in need. In 1994, Joey Cape may or may not have realized that Island of Shame would forever shape how much I embraced and stood by sexual-orientation equality. Nineteen years later, he might not have known how Sick helped pull me out of harrowing, year-long depression by constantly reminding me I wasn’t really alone in that dark room. I’m thankful to have later heard a story from a friend in a bar who was going through the same thing. It helped more than he may ever know.
In 1938, John Steinbeck wrote a quote that summed up my love affair with story, and why I want to tell them so much:
In every bit of honest writing in the world, there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting socail change, writing punishing social injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.”
Of course, there is a flip-side. There are dishonest stories. Ones that are used to perpetuate hate, oppression, fear, and ignorance. Stories that are based on biased assumptions as opposed to understanding. And maybe that’s another reason why I feel so obligated to tell honest ones. To expose the fraudulent ones. TO BE PART OF THE REVOLUTION.
As the night began to come to a conclusion at Luigi’s—succeeding all of these thoughts—I thought about ‘story’ as one of the most powerful means of revolution. Honest stories and the people they were written about (fictional or not) have helped humanity progress out of some of its darkest times. The atrocities of slavery, genocide, war, apartheid, and countless others have been fought and negatively eternalized by stories, the people who told them, and the people who were inspired by them. Of course, we still have a long way to go, and a lot of revolution to carry on. But, I’m confident that if the musicians, authors, filmmakers, and activists continue to draw ink from the bottom of their hearts, we’re all another step closer to making the world a better place.
So, Mr. David Bryne, how did I get here? I got here because I want to continue to carry the torch of the revolution towards a better life for every being on this planet. I got here because good storytelling and punk rock are a huge part of my heart, and I followed it. And I’m lucky as shit for it.
Jesus, that got heavy. How about those Padres!?
PS. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two other things (outside of my incredible friends, family, and some of the amazing educators I’ve had through out my scholastic career) that have kept the revolution alive inside of me.
Kurt Vonnegut’s – Sirens of Titan
Daniel Quinn’s – Ishmael