There are lots of different flavors of FIRE bloggers out there. Plenty of them speak to me on a personal finance level. Others I find interesting in their own ways, but few speak to me on a personal level when it comes to background stories and past lives lived.
Then I read ‘Financial Advice from the Thief Next Door‘ and smiled. I felt like I knew Ola and felt an instant kinship with the author Brent Truitt.
I haven’t had a guest post on my site yet, but I reached out to Brent, if I was gonna start somewhere, I wanted it to be him. He said yes, and without further delay, enjoy;
The Terrorist, The Girlfriend, My Sister & The Homeless Man
On the morning of January 20, 1983 the Squamish Five were arrested on charges of domestic terrorism (they preferred the handle “urban guerrilla warfare”) for bombings, car theft, and possessing illegal weapons. They called themselves Direct Action and one of the members played bass guitar for a renown punk rock band known as the Subhumans from Vancouver B.C. – his stage name was Gerry Useless.
Two years before the arrest, when I was 16 years old, my band (The Twisted Minds) backed up the Subhumans. This story is tightly based on actual events, places, and characters. Some names have been changed to protect the identities (and privacy) of the guilty and/or innocent.
– – – – –
“Good! Lock the bastards up and throw away the key!” I heard my father bark from the living room.
“Who?” my mother asked, on her way up from the basement.
“Those filthy morons responsible for those bombings last year – R.C.M.P have them and they’re goin’ down!” he answered, obviously worked up over his evening newspaper.
By this time I made my way to the living room to take in all the excitement (my father rarely got that vocal over something he read in the paper).
I asked him to show me the article, and he handed it over.
“Hey! I know him!” I shouted.
“You know who?” my father asked, with a confused look on his face.
“This guy,” I answered, pointing at a face in the picture, “We backed them up awhile ago.”
“What the HELL do mean you BACKED THEM UP?!!”
“Our band backed them up at the O.A.P. hall.”
“You were backing them up! Helping them blow what hall up?!!” he yelled even louder.
“NO! You don’t understand. When I say ‘backed up’ I’m talking about our band going on before their band. We played at the Old Age Pensioners Hall (O.A.P Hall). Our band is the Twisted Minds and they’re band is the Subhumans – we were the warm up act before them,” I explained.
“Stupid names for bands,” he said, momentarily distracted from his interrogation.
But my explanation didn’t pacify him and it didn’t help him.
“So these criminals are a musical act too?!” he asked, now with a look of deep confusion and frustration, “So what in THE HELL were you doing associating with this scum?!
I thrust the paper in front of his face pointing to Gerry Useless (real name Gerry Hannah), and explained, “No Dad! Only this guy is in the Subhumans; I had no idea at the time he was mixed up with the bomber group.”
“Oh,” he answered, finally understanding, “Still though…you guys need to get better names for your bands – who would want to see someone called ‘the twisted sumhumans’?”
“That’s Twisted Minds and SUB-humans,” I corrected him, now competely out of patience.
“See what I mean? Not only are your names terrible, they’re not even memorable,” he said, rolling his eyes.
I exhaled a long and frustrated sigh, shook my head, and handed back his paper.
I decided to leave it there. If my parents knew the full story of my experience with Gerry Useless it would break their hearts.
And my sister Genie’s heart too.
– – – – –
2 Years Earlier
It was the perfect day and night for a gig.
A Friday in mid August and Victoria B.C. was jumping with activity. It was one of those blue sky days I so clearly remember as a teenager. The the summers were long and sunny, and I was finishing my last two years of highschool with the back drop of Vancouver Island’s beaches and ocean views.
If the band wasn’t rehearsing or playing, we would spend our days swimming and sunbathing at Thetis Lake. At night we would go to the movies on Yates Street, drink beer we procured from Mark’s older brother, and smoke pot at the Parliament buildings.
Of course that’s only if we weren’t hanging out in the record stores.
I remember feeling so full of life – like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. There was something in the water, the streets, and the sky that made me feel so alive.
Lying on the grass at the Cameron Band Shell in Beacon Hill Park, listening to Etta James live; high as kite on the smoothest black hash I’ve ever tasted. I felt like I was melting into the ground, as I drifted in and out of slumber to the sound of Etta and her band.
I looked at the world and the future like an everlasting playground and adventure; but the main reason for my sophomoric outlook and Pollyanna enthusiasm was the band.
It was always the band.
Whenever I was doing anything else, thoughts of our next practice or gig were floating just below the surface.
Man…the thrill of hearing the drums and bass pound, the blast of the guitars exploding into a crowd of excited punks, and our lead singer’s wail over it all…..it stole my youth, and I was a willing victim of the theft.
“Man this place is HUGE!” I yelled from the stage, the sound of my voice echoing through the cavernous hall.
The O.A.P. hall was the ideal building to rent for gigs. It was run down enough that the owners didn’t really care about (most) of the damage it was sure to get, and they were happy to take our money.
Dirty, dark, and depressing; it smelled bad, the walls were disgusting, and the floors were destroyed decades ago.
“Brent!” Andrew yelled back, “Give me a hand with Logan’s drums!”
I jumped off the center of the stage and ran to the main entrance; then joined him outside to pull gear from Logan’s custom-finger-painted Volkswagan van (another story for another time).
After hauling all the gear into the hall, and on to the stage, we helped the stage crew set up the lights, the P.A., the drums, amps, and guitars.
We started sound check with the drums until the sound man had a rough setting for the hall – then the guitars, and then the vocals. Once the sound and light guys were mostly happy, we cleaned up all our empty cases and stashed them back stage.
I was moving my guitar case to the back, when I heard someone yell, “They’re here!”
Moments later they started straggling in. Our conquering heroes from the underground battleground; looking tired, wobbly, and beaten with a thousand Granville street ugly sticks. Wimpy, Useless, Normal, and Dimwit hauled in their gear, and started their sound check.
It was a stone groove for sure, and to make the night size up even better, my sister Genie was there to see us play for the first time ever (much to our parents’ chagrin). She had never been to a punk gig, and she was loving it. She too, could feel the energy buzz that always electrifies the air around a live gig.
The Subs (Subhumans) had a small entourage in tow from the underbelly of the Vancouver punk scene. It included a few waste-a-cators, volunteer roadies (those were never hard to find), and and some girlfriends.
Gerry Useless’ girlfriend was a real beauty. Even with her choice of tough punk attire, and skull & bones jewelry, her stunning beauty couldn’t help but ooze through. The best way I could describe her appearence would be “Salma Hayek in punk garb”. It wouldn’t matter what she wore – that voluptuous figure, and knock out smile would bury any insecure young man.
It wasn’t long before the Subs were done their sound check, and we all went our separate ways until the show time.
Horny Swarmies & the Homeless Man
Most of the punks were teenage boys, getting their kicks slamming each other around the mosh pit. But these gigs always attracted some dark and swarmy characters too. Guys who couldn’t care less about punk rock music, and were there to get hammered, high, and laid. They hadn’t been teenagers for a LONG time, and their presence was usually unwelcome.
Sometimes these “horny swarmies” (as Andrew called them) would jump into the mosh pit with the intention of causing physical harm, and not in the true spirit of fun filled angst vetting. We noticed a few of them getting rough in the mosh pit, but it was nothing new. Our set was uneventful except for our bass player kicking one of the slam dancers a little too hard in the face; unintentionally drawing blood.
After we finished our set, Andrew and I walked upstairs to the abandoned second level of the hall. From there we could watch the Subs get ready for their set, and watch the crowd mingling, drinking, and being “cool”.
We smoked a joint as we normally did after getting off stage, and about 15 minutes later we headed back down to the main hall area. On the way back we noticed some old homeless man had managed to sneak his way upstairs and found a place to crash – he was passed out cold under an old table, surrounded by stacks of dusty old chairs and tables.
“I noticed him on the street when we were loading gear in,” Andrew said, as he scanned the area like he was looking for something.
“Yeah..he was asking for change near the front door when I saw him – he must have staggered up here for a sleep.”
“Can you keep an eye on him for a sec – I’ll be right back,” Andrew asked.
Within a few minutes Andrew was back, out of breath, and bearing blankets; the same blankets we used to protect the drums while in transit.
It was typical Andrew being Andrew. He had demonstrated his compassion for others a few times since I had known him. So much for the nasty poor-punk-rock-puke from Reynolds Secondary (it made perfect sense that one day he would be working in the medical profession).
Andrew put the blankets on the homeless man, and stuffed the kick drum pillow (used for muffling and enhancing the bass drum sound) under his head. The old guy lifted his head and grunted something inaudible, and went back to sleep.
“He must be really wasted if he can sleep through our set,” I said, “At least the world will leave him alone tonight.”
Andrew nodded his head in agreement, “For sure man…let’s get back down – think the subs are almost ready to start.”
We went down stairs and joined the crowd again. We were pleasantly ripped on an Indica body buzz as the Subhumans hit the stage.
The Mosh Pit Incident
As soon as the Subhumans started slamming out their songs, the mosh pit doubled. The night was in full swing, and standing back just outside the mosh pit, was Gerry’s girlfriend. She was just bobbing her head in support of the band, and trying to carry on a conversation with another girl from Vancouver.
At one point during the mosh pit insanity, one of the “horny swarmies” grabbed her by the buttocks so hard it lifted her off her feet; and he made sure to molest her most private area in the process.
Her reaction was something I’ve never seen before, and will probably never see again. It was a scene that modern action movies try to pull off. You know the scene…..the one where the 100 pound, 5’2″ leading lady, in high heels and a push-up bra, beats three bad guys down.
But this young woman was tall for a girl of Spanish ancestry, standing 5’10″ish. She didn’t have high heels on, and there wasn’t three muscle bound hitmen on the other end of the equation – just one drunk and blurry eyed swarmie, laughing like his grotesque grop was just “flirting”.
His friends started cat calling when she took a martial arts type stance.
I too, wondered what she was doing. The drunken swarmie thought it was hilarious. He was laughing loudly now, clearly enjoying his moment in the spot light, as a small off-shoot from the the mosh pit began to notice the scene unfolding behind them.
He got even more attention from the crowd when he received his first blow to the face. The entire mosh pit disbanded to watch him receive his third kick – the one that made direct contact with his groin – and he was the center of the attention when his face obsorbed three final thrusting punches.
This is the moment in my life when I learned something about experienced fighters. When they take action, they’re level of violence is so fast and extreme, that they seem to lose all sense of gender. Their bodies move like animals and theres nothing sexy or glamorous about it. In that moment, even though our drunken swarmie clearly deserved some justice, her power and speed was frightening.
With some help from his friends, the drunken swarmie hobbled his way outside the hall. Obviously, he didn’t have any serious damage (none he was feeling until the morning anyway), because a little later he was back in the hall drinking again; donning his fresh facial wounds, and swollen up lips and eyes.
Gerry Useless saw the whole thing from the stage. His girlfriend was still moving in on her attacker, when he yelled into the mic, “Mariana! That’s enough!”
Now we had a name.
And to all you young, and budding misogynists out there who think this scene was sexy, and you’re imagining a young and sweaty Salma Hayek (with longer legs) thrusting and kicking like Bruce Lee….if you had been there to see it for yourself, you wouldn’t be looking at her with lust in your heart.
Just fear and respect. Thoses are the feelings Andrew, me, and the other onlookers were feeling.
After-Gig Beach Party
When the gig was done, Wimpy and Normal from the Subhumans asked if there were any good parties worth going to. Andrew suggested going down to the beach, and everyone agreed; we had the hall rented until the next morning, and the sound crew was tearing down the stage.
We put our personal gear safely behind the stage for retrieval in the morning, and started out for the beach.
A lot of people came! The Subhuman’s entourage, our band, my sister Genie, Andrew’s sister Mars, our friends, 40-50 punks from the hall, and a handful of swarmies who convieniently managed to invite themselves.
The large group had a fire burning in short order, and the fun started.
I remember how fresh the air felt after getting out of the smelly and musty O.A.P. hall. Joints were being passed around, magic mushroom consumers were lighting up, and the booze was getting chugged in fine form.
At first Genie and Mars stayed close to Andrew and I; it was pitch black except for the fire, and there were a lot of wasted strangers around – some of which were the swarmies still lurking in the darkness. But the drink and drugs took their effect on all of us, and before we knew it, Andrew and I were separated from our sisters.
I was down the beach from the fire, when I first noticed the commotion. I heard some shouting, and saw some figures bolting from the fire pit to the wooded area. Andrew jolted me out of my stupor by slapping me on the back, “Brent! The girls!” he yelled, as he ran past me towards the scene.
We both ran to the fire to see what was going on, and to find our sisters.
When we got there, we saw my sister Genie coming out of the woods being helped by Gerry and Mariana. Her hair was matted and messy, she had a cut lip, and she was hysterical.
She made the mistake of wandering off into the woods by herself. She was relieving herself when two drunken swarmies moved in on her. With her pants around her ankles she was defenseless – her attackers were well on their way to full penetration when her cries for help were answered.
Luckily for my sister Genie, Gerry Useless wasn’t so useless, and his fierce girlfriend Mariana were keeping an eye on her when she was leaving the fire area. As soon as they heard Genie scream, they went flying into the woods to help.
Genie told me later that Gerry kicked one of her assaulters in the back, and his girlfriend Mariana kicked one of them so hard, he was limping badly when they made their escape into the darkness. The wannabe rapists got away through the woods; never to be seen again.
Andrew and I got Genie calmed down the best we could, and Andrew’s sister Mars took her home. We went back to the hall to finish up packing our gear and cleaning the floors, as per our one night rental agreement. We didn’t say much, because we were feeling sick about Genie – not to mention we were tired and wasted from the drinking and drugging.
When we were just about done getting our stuff out of the hall, I heard Andrew call me from the stage, “Hey man! Wonder if the old dude is still sawing logs upstairs? I need those blankets and the pillow to pack the drums!”
“Oh yeah!” I laughed, relieved to to be reminded of something different than my sister’s current plight, “I’ll run upstairs and see! Probably left a long time ago!”
I ran up the stairs and headed to the table where we left him sleeping. Sure enough, he was still passed out cold.
“Hey buddy! Wake up! We gotta go man!” I shouted, as I shook his arm in attempt to wake him.
I tried a few times to shake him out of his deep slumber, but nothing doing.
“This old fucker is totally passed out man – he’s dead to the world!” I yelled down to Andrew.
“Well maybe he IS dead! Andrew yelled jokingly, “Check for a pulse!”
I squeezed the old man’s wrist, and felt nothing.
I knew Andrew had first aid training, because he mother made him take it after a car accident she was recently in.
“Hey Andrew! You better get up here!” I shouted, “I think he might really be dead!”
“No way!” he yelled, as he came running up the stairs, joining me as I crouched over our homeless friend.
Andrew leaned down and pressed the tips of his fingers on the inside of the old man’s wrist. Then, with a look of concern, he pressed the same fingers into his neck. He turned to me, and said with a blank expression, “I think he’s gone buddy……fuck.”
We called 911 and waited for the ambulance and cops to arrive; gave our statements and our contact information, then left the O.A.P. hall just as the the sun was starting to rise.
I’ll always be grateful to Gerry and his then girlfriend Mariana. It was really hard for me to condemn him when he was arrested two years later for domestic terrorism – I guess if someone had been hurt or killed in the Direct Action bombings, it would have been different.
That night affected my sister deeply, and she was never quite the same again. Her innocence and trusting personality were gone forever.
My parents didn’t hear about that night until 35 years later. They were angry when they find out they had been kept in the dark all those years, but Genie made me promise to never tell them.
She was ashamed for such a long time, but she talks freely about it now (thanks to years of therapy). To this day I still feel partly to blame for what happened to her that night. If it wasn’t for my obsession with the band, she never would have been there.
That night changed my Pollyanna outlook forever. Witnessing the depravity of the “drunken swarmies”, and the raging violence of Mariana stayed with me. Watching the loss of my sister’s innocence, and the old homeless man dying alone in that dirty hall still haunts me now.
I never felt quite the same excitement when we played in the band, and we never rented the O.A.P. hall again.
There is such a short list of FIRE types who venture out into story telling, we should all know each other. Here are 2 more;
Matt at We Are All Poor Here
And Freddy at Freddy Smidlap