December, 1994

I'm feeling really overwhelmed. I'm behind on everything, and yet I am happier than I have been for quite some time. The past few months have flown by at an accelerated pace and I have lost track of the days. I apologize to anyone who has not heard from me for awhile, and for the delay in getting #36 out in the mail and #37 printed. It sort of goes like this: in mid-August the Glory Stompers arrived and got to play this 2 day punk show deal in New Haven CT -- it was a lot of fun and that week swept by. Before I knew it, The Varukers were playing, then Chaos UK arrived in NYC, the Varukers tour fell through, both bands played together. Keith & Debbie from the Suicidal Supermarket Trolleys came here for a vacation, were joined by their singer Simon and decided that they wanted to play the Beer Olympics. Time was spent hanging out with them. Before I knew it, it was time for Beer Olympics (the first weekend of September), which was an awful lot of fun. The first day was excellent and full of good energy as everyone worked together and gotr things started. A lot of beer was consumed and the beer line was completely out of order. We partied it up all day and the day didn't end until 4:00 am. Needless to say the second didn't get off to an early start, and it wasn't nearly as much fun. It seemed that everyone thought that $5 for a full days worth of bands and all the beer you can drink wasn't the best deal in the world and everyone there on the second day had to complain about it, expecting to get in for free. That was a bummer and it was readily apparent that in the future the event will be kept to a one day thing. I can't help but wonder how different the whole thing would have been for me if I would have showed up at 4 pm and left at midnight (like most people), but then I figure that I would have been a mere "taker" and not really had a full appreciation for the entire thing, and the bottom line is that I would not have gotten as much enjoyment out of it all. SST played, as did the Varukers and a whole slew of other awesome bands. So then in a few days time Dirt showed up and Neil's house topped about 25 people. Dirt played 2 awesome shows and they took off on their 2 month tour across the country. Only then did I start sending out (already 2 weeks late) all of the copies of S&L, and then back to fulltime work, in addition trying to take care of the mailorder distro of Tribal War. Amazing how people didn't understand that Neil was on tour and took the records all with him leaving no record table at ABC NO RIO.

Anyway, my great ambitions of handling everything didn't work out quite so well as I escaped from New York City for a vacation in the countryside of Pennsylvania for an amazing week exploring old abandoned barns, hanging out with cows, picking apples daily and stealing apples in the middle of the night. There is nothing quite like picking as many apples as you can by moonlight and eating them right off the trees. This all led to apple pressing, cider brewing preparation, home brewing beer and apple food baking. And during all that I found a wonderful sense of good vibes and positive energy. Yes, my quest for positive energy was successful, and I found it, outside of NYC. For a week I breathed clean crisp beautiful fall air with coloring and falling leaves while watching the stars come out attempting to apply my grade-school knowledge of the constellations. I was staying up all night, sleeping as long as I wanted, enjoying life, and feeling good. I actually relaxed -- a new concept for me. I believe that I found a good sense of balance and good karma and it was a bummer to come back to NYC where the negativity abounds. But I had all of those neglected responsibilities to take care of and was soon swept back into all of that. The first of which was the Punk Art Show, which once again turned out great. I didn't get the cool booklet together that I had hoped, due to lack of funds, but the art show was good and the benefit shows were tons of fun and raised us some money to start working on fixing the boiler and the broken pipes, and electricity, which leaves us hoping we will have some heat this winter. So for the first time in a long time it seems that there is even more positive energy surrounding ABC and things are going pretty good. It's great when you get to a point where shit needs to be done and people pitch in a helping hand.

In all happiness and punk rock fun I find myself feeling guilty for not spending all of my waking hours reviewing records and reading zines and writing letters to all of the people I think about all of the time. How can I do it all? Well I sometimes make compromises and it feels pretty good right now.

ABC NO RIO recently had a benefit show at the same warehouse location that the beer olympics were that ended in a dumb fight involving just about everyone there. One thing really bummed me out was that people were crying out for someone in charge to deal with the situation. Conversations got started explaining that there is no one in charge in a collective effort and that people need to work together to deal with a conflict. People didn't think that was a good idea and they continued looking for someone to be in charge and take responsibility. When ABC's punk shows first started there was a flyer with some big bouncer dudes and it said something like "we don't have bouncers at ABC NO RIO," and it was something we were proud of as a reaction against the club mentality that ABC was started as an ALTERNATIVE to. But in this case people actually wanted bouncers which was upsetting because it seemed the entire idea behind ABC was being completely missed and overlooked at the expense of a nights show gone bad. More people need to learn conflict resolution in order to deal with collectives and understand the idea of community. Somewhere along the lines the popularity of the alternative and underground punk scene has made people follow along blindly without understanding ideas behind things -- like creating an alternative. A word that has lost meaning. Alternative to what? One of the ideas behind ABC is breaking down the barriers between bands and people and making everyone equal. There is no Us and Them. The people who volunteer at ABC, the bands that play, and those that attend shows just for fun are all one in the same and equal. No one has any superiority over anyone else and no one is in charge. We deal pretty well with problems because most have an understanding of these concepts. I was really disappointed to find that there was such a lack of understanding about the idea of a collectively run structure in this situation. For all of the talk, people don't understand what it means. Once when there was a flooding situation at ABC NO RIO I got into a conversation with someone who didn't think it was being dealt with right, but when I proposed he help out with his knowledge he seemed to take offense, because he was just here to see the show. I explained to him that ABC was run collectively, that everyone pitches in and does what they can. If no one knows how to fix a certain thing, it probably will not get done until someone figures it out. I tried to explain the idea of everyone working together and breaking down barriers and said that if no one bothers to pitch in, that when the place ends up falling apart it will be because the people that actually knew how to fix things didn't care enough to help out. I guess that sometimes we forget that not everyone knows these things and basic concepts get lost. It really burns me out to see people maintaining the attitude that ABC is some "club" and it's times like that when "volunteer run" and "collective" are cool words that have no meaning. The point that I am trying to make is that ABC NO RIO is a volunteer run collective. We try to break down the barriers and keep everyone involved equal and we would like to think that people attending the events are just as much a part of the space as those people working in the sound booth and collecting the $5 at the door. Without the help of everyone involved, the place would not exist and as a basic fundamental idea about the runnings of the place. These ideas and concepts go way beyond ABC NO RIO.

Just one brief comment on the mainstreaming of punk rock. The Rancid/Epitaph/Spin corporate packaged punk rock shit is being shoved in my face from every direction and it reinforces my desire to disappear and run away to the countryside and never come back. It just makes situations like what I just described all that much worse, because you're taking people that are not looking at the roots and ideas behind a situation -- but are simply attracted to the exterior image and trend. When this happens the ideas are lost and it all becomes meaningless. It's not just a matter of selling out. It's a matter of thought. There is room for education and there are people out there who may get interested in the ideas behind punk by exposure on a more mainstream level -- but all of the watering down of punk is just nauseating and when everyone is jumping on the "big" bandwagon and it just makes me sick.

The wonderfulness of fall is coming to an end and the hints of winter are starting to show. The fall leaves have all fallen and the trees are bare and the season of nature's death is readily apparent. The days are getting shorter and darker and that winter depression is setting in already, simply from lack of light. I got a letter from an old friend I haven't heard from for ages and it gave me a small jab in the heart, excited again about the small wonders of having pals you only see every few years but keep a connection through via the punk rock network. I've been developing film from the end of the summer and early fall's plethora of shows and the Beer Olympics and it threw me completely back into the feeling that was in the air at the time seeing photos I had forgotten taking. I haven't been taking enough of those hanging out punk rock photos because I lost all of my motivation to do so. I've always had a problem remembering that it's fun to take snapshots of your pals every so often without being some kind of "fine artist." I found a good combo of both with a good feeling of activity and even a sense of community. Photos of smiling faces and having fun are so nice on a day when it's grey and shitty out, just remembering the day and knowing that they will come around again.

Printing a photograph of the cows in the field or the apple trees here would be much more appropriate to my feelings right now!

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ABC No Rio: The Culture of Opposition Since 1980