27 years ago, at the age of 15, I discovered something that dramatically changed my life, Punk Rock. The musical genre was 10 years old at the time. I had missed out on The Clash and Sex Pistols; although, their legacy lived on just as it does today. It was much more than the music. It was a fraternity of sorts, and, because of it, I still have life long friends, and even my wife. What we did, looked like, and listened to back then was not popular and absolutely not accepted as anything legitimate. It was pre-internet, pre-cell phone, and an extremely isolated existence when compared to today's standards.
Being a Punk kid in small town American in the 1980's was self defeating at best. There was little to do outside of the self-made local punk bands and self-made punk shows at grange halls and any place that would allow 50 - 100 kids all dressed like bums running around in circles hitting each other. (it's how I imagine the uninitiated would have interpreted it) The local shows would only happen once a month at best.
When there was no show happening the evening activity usually involved a desolate wooded area and cheap Lucky Lager, while during the day we found ourselves at the local mall. The mall offered all sorts of people of all ages and every walk of life, but we could pick out our friends from great distances through the mass of shoppers. The taller the mohawk, the further away they could be identified. Even if we had never met them before, we knew they were one of us and a friend. The funny haircut and clothes were like a secret handshake or a special ring. Upon meeting up with friends we would proceed to have a peaceful sit-in in the middle of the mall floor. Shoppers would have to walk around us and scowl as they walked by, security would come and shoo us away time and again. The sit-ins always made me uncomfortable and, to this day, I have no idea why it was necessary.
Decades pass I find myself no longer playing in a band, and despising the very thought of walking into a mall. I have found solace in my family, friends, and home brewing. Home Brewing has the camaraderie element via other members of the local home brew club, and I have found sharing my home brewed beer with friends or winning awards at homebrew competitions offers the gratification and recognition of performing music in front of a live audience. The made from scratch and anything goes nature of home brewing is very much like what I remember of the punk rock scene. The people involved are obsessive, focused, love to share ideas, and typically are very warm and inviting to newcomers. With the exception of the average home brew store clerk who is just as arrogant and snide as the typical independent record store clerk. Not sure why a minimum wage job at a retail store would give anyone an heir of superiority.
Today I was browsing my friends on Facebook and I realized something. There are 50 or more friends whom I have never met or talked to before. Their profile photos do not sport fan mohawks or Billy Idolesque sneers. Instead their profile photos have a pint of home brewed stout in their hand or hops harvested from their backyards. They write interesting posts and money saving tips all related to beer and brewing. I have realized Facebook is the Mall, and home brewing is just like Punk Rock, but with fewer piercings and much better beer.