Rewind to my teenage years and I lived in a location where no one really visited. Culver City, California is not a place that everyone thinks about when they are visiting or considering Los Angeles. However, I was living in a residential area with no apartment complexes nearby, just single family, and multi-family homes. I didn’t know my neighbors, and no one really talked to one another. There’s something about privacy in Los Angeles that people really want to hold onto, so I never knew anyone around me, and they really kept to themselves.
I believe it was the summer, and I know it was nightfall when I met my neignbor across the street for the first time. There were two significant points to that, and it’s an interesting element.
I normally don’t go knocking on people’s doors. I don’t go forward with asking anything from anyone around me, but in this case, I had to. The reason why was simple, I heard punk rock. There were punk rock tunes coming from the backyard of a house, and I knew I had to see what was going on. I wrestled with my social anxiety, I don’t like talking to people (I told myself), and I liked being a dead cell. But on this night I summed up all my courage and I went across the street and knocked on the door.
The door opened.
“Who are you?”, an emo looking girl asked me.
“I’m your neighbor across the street, Jorge, I heard punk rock and wanted to know if I could hang out too?”
“Ok, but you have to answer me one question, are you punk enough?”, she told me calmly. Of course I answered, yes, who wouldn’t answer yes?
She then said to come around the side, and there was the punk rockers going crazy playing their set. The band was Up Syndrome, a pop punk band that was native to Southern California and broke up with one last show at Chain Reaction in Anaheim, California. The band had some great tunes, and amidst the backyard show another thing occurred that hasn’t happened in a long time.
To understand what occurred next, you have to understand that there are no rude boys in Los Angeles that I am aware of, at least at the time. I loved ska music, but the waves of ska were booming in Orange County, not Los Angeles County. The geography of this is important because if you don’t have a car, you’re not going to see a lot of ska, as it takes a while to get from Culver City or Los Angeles in general and hit up the Orange groves that brought us No Doubt. Without any rude boys, without mods, and without anyone that dresses the part of music in my neighborhood, I was surprised by the presence of a stranger, but one that I had met many times before in Los Angeles.
His name escapes me. However, he was an African American rude boy. He dressed the part, he always had ska buttons, and every time I saw him whether at a show, in Venice, or just on a bus, I’d say what’s up because he signified ska music in many ways. He had been passing by and heard the rockers, and decided to stop in, and everyone just accepted it. So on that summer night in Culver City, California, Up Syndrome played a set for someone’s birthday, I was offered a beer that I declined because I was Straight Edge at the time, and I had a ball.
After the show, and as long as I lived in the neighborhood, I never saw the emo girl again. I was never invited back. I didn’t see the rude boy ever again, and then I moved away. However, on that one night, for the specific reason of gathering together to enjoy music, we were all family.
I miss that.