When I was in high school in Orlando, Universal Studios would host these free metal shows called ‘Livewire’. Me and a bunch of friends would go there weekly. Mainly to get into the mosh pits, pretend to smoke while looking disaffected and see who had cooler clothes.
I have always had very low self-esteem so it was only natural that I had an unhealthy obsession with appearing to be cool or edgy. You know, like every other fucking teenager in high school.
But at the same time, I was also desperate to do things with my parents. I was at the juncture in every ones lives where they’re right on the cusp of becoming independent but at the same time are terrified of the prospect of being alone. So I was elated to find out that my parents were willing to come see a metal concert with me.
The conversation occurred over breakfast. Eggs that looked like eyeballs atop silver dollar pancakes, with just a little bit of syrup so it looked like they were desperately needing to blink and a bacon smile.
My mom was concerned because for the last few weeks I had been coming home bruised and battered at all hours of the night. It never occurred to me that this should be any cause for alarm. I was just having fun after all and sometimes fun involves catching an elbow to the mouth just as much as it involves throwing a frisbee in the park.
Did I mention I’m a fucking idiot?
Well nevertheless, my parents wanted to at least see one of these shows for themselves just to make sure I was safe and exercising out my teen angst in a safe environment. But also I think it was a measure by my parents to show that they also wanted to be viewed as cool too.
So of course I agreed to them coming and my friends were excited too. Having hung out with them numerous times. The line up that night were a bunch of random ass garage bands that I knew I would normally spend just slamming into other people and doing my best to tune out what sounded like hamsters copulating with a bandsaw. However, the closing act was a local band that was fairly popular.
They were called Lunatik Kandy Kreep (EDGY.) and were smart enough to have cashed in on the prevalent trend of rap/rock before Fred Durst disappeared up his own ass.
The band consisted of an emaciated 20-something with white-guy dreadlocks that he painted with day-glo. He always performed without a shirt and wearing pants that mocked the belt that held them far below his waist. He of course, was their rapper. Which for this band, consisted of him talking quickly about drug use, sex and acts of violence. His stage name was Kronik. His real name was Stuart. The rock part of this equation was a midget in angry clown make up named Commander Hatred (Harold). He gripped the microphone like a particularly greasy chicken drumstick and would cover his mouth over it as though this were consensual. He also had something against shirts, but would appear on stage wearing overalls and heavy duty work boots. Because of course he did. The guitarists and drummer rounded out this circus of awful by looking not dissimilar from those guys you actively avoid while playing Dungeons and Dragons because you know they’re going to make you look bad. Their songs consisted of sophomoric lyrics set to preset drum tracks with plenty of bellowing.
I loved them.
They were to me, the epitome of cool. That distillation of pure-Fonzi. That “I don’t give a shit” attitude that I so badly wanted to have. I wanted to be James Dean from Rebel Without a Cause. Instead I was Kevin James from Paul Blart.
So the night of show arrives. My parents and I arrive in their white Geo Metro. Having sped down the roads at a blistering 45 mph. I got out quickly. Terrified that someone might see me; which is the dichotomy of being a teen. I wanted to spend time with my parents. But was terrified someone might see me enjoying it. I’m wearing my only rock t-shirt, a faded Staind album cover from JC Penneys, a pair of blue jeans that were semi-baggy and regular shoes. My mom is in a nice sundress with some kind of flower pattern and sandals. My dad is in a Hawaiian t-shirt, short shorts, sneakers with a cigarette holder. It was like Hunter S Thompson decided to settle down and start a family.
The concert proceeded and kicked off with as I said, two forgettable bands that I spent moshing while my parents found a semi-quiet place ot get shitfaced. During the break before LKK took the stage my dad, completely inebriated at this point stumbled onto the stage and behind the curtains.
The crowd goes dead quiet. Watching this bumbling fool saunter behind the curtain to go see someone to who us, was as sacred as the Wizard of Oz. Everyone strains to hear the conversation that follows. A quick and muffled series of words gets exchanged and then I see my dad come back out on stage.
I gaze at my shoes, everywhere I can to pretend I haven’t heard him. That I have no idea who this clearly insane individual is.
“CAN SOMEONE GET THAT BOY? HE MUST’VE BEEN MADE DEAF FROM THAT TERRIBLE MUSIC. HE’S THE ONE IN THE SHITTY BAND T-SHIRT!”
It’s official. I have clearly done some cardinal sin that made me earn this stay in Hell.
He points at me with his cup of beer.
I walk the green mile. A hundred pairs of eyes burning holes into my back. I am so embarrassed and try to crack some jokes, shrug, pretend it is no big deal that my daisy duke wearing father is on the main stage with his beer in one hand and cigarette holder in the other.
I climb up and disappear with my father behind the curtain.
“I met the band.” He says pointing at Kronik and Commander Hatred while the guitarist and drummer just stare at this completely unexpected exchange. “Turns out Stuart and Harold here like fishing! I told them that you like their shitty music and offered to let you come back stage! Isn’t that cool?” He says in his drunkcitement.
I sit backstage and watch the show with my dad and mom from there with the local band groupies, record executives that are clearly looking to scrape the bottom of the proverbial barrel as well as friends and family of the bands.
I have never been more pissed at my parents. How dare they? How dare they come into something that I do and then do better than me? And in public!? I sit and stew. Ignoring any questions with single word answers.
Did I mention I’m a fucking idiot?
After the show ends, LKK offers to treat us to an extravagant meal at the local Denny’s. My dad and mom jump at the chance. My mom because she’s starving. My dad because he was really wanting to develop some kind of connection with me and thought that he finally may have found it through him showing that, ‘yeah I’m a rocker dad, isn’t that cool son?’.
I tell them I’m tired. That I’ll catch a ride with some friends and am just going to go to sleep.
I think part of me noticed my dad blink back some tears and grimace, my mom putting one supportive hand on the small of his back. But I didn’t care. They embarrassed me in front of a bunch of strangers that I considered peers. They made friends with a band I liked. But most of all, because they were cool and I wasn’t.
I went home and screamed into a pillow. Wrote some shitty teenager poetry that everyone writes during those phases. Still enraged at my parents.
The next day, I wake up to a drunken passed out midget in my hallway. A guitarist and drummer sharing a toilet to vomit in and a white guy in dreadlocks crying in the shower.
I’m noticeably confused. These don’t look like the people I put on such a pedestal. They look like a bunch of kids that couldn’t handle their liquor. I sidestep over the midget in clown makeup and see my dad and mom having a leisurely cup of coffee. A plate of pancakes, bacon and eggs.
I ask them what happened. Turns out my dad decided that after Denny’s they should all get a boat and go fishing. The guys in the band agreed, so they bought what amounts to all the alcohol in Orlando and got a small boat, went out into the ocean and spent the entire time fishing and drinking.
Then things got out of hand. Right after Commander Hatred caught a fish, he and Kronik apparently made some kind of derogatory comment about me to my parents. My dad smiled, took the fish out of his hands and then proceeded to beat a midget with a 10 pound, still struggling tuna. At this point Kronik decided that beating a midget in clown makeup with a living fish wasn’t something that should happen to a gangsta and proceeded to try and attack my dad. My mother politely disagreed, breaking a beer bottle over his head and threatening him with the jagged end to sit down and shut the fuck up. The drummer and guitarist just decided to keep drinking and fishing.
Apparently by the end of the night, they made amends. Mainly after my parents learned that these guys were actually homeless and the only time they were able to eat was during shows because of the craft services table.
I stand there, jaw dropped as they nonchalantly finish the story. Harold at this time, stumbles into the kitchen and makes himself a plate, politely thanks my mom for the meal and eats.
I look at my dad, face half covered by the end of a coffee mug I made him in the 2nd grade covered with a stick figure family smiling and holding hands.
Our eyes meet and we share our own private moment.
“So do you want to go fishing later tonight with me, Harold and Stuart?”
It was at this point that I decided that being cool didn’t really matter. Not because of some after school special bullshit or anything like that, but because I; in my wildest dreams, will never, ever be ‘drunkenly beat the shit out a midget with a living tuna fish while dressed like a fat Hunter S Thompson’ cool and if I can’t, then what the fuck is the point of being cool anyway?
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