sábado, 15 de diciembre de 2007

Ya nadie va a escuchar tu remera

Hace menos de dos meses, The New York Times publicó un gran artículo autobiográfico de David Giffels, uno de los guionistas de Beavis and Butt-Head (lo reproduzco abajo en inglés porque muchas veces es difícil entrar al diario neoyorquino). La anécdota del artículo proponía una mirada actual sobre la herencia del rock en las futuras generaciones, tema central en este año argento gracias a Peter Capusotto y sus videos. Específicamente, Giffels se plantea un dilema a partir del pedido de su hijo de diez años, que quería una remera de Ramones para su cumpleaños.
La simple y perfectamente tierna anécdota del artículo me disparó dos recuerdos. El primero es una escena de Billy Madison, la película incial de Adam Sandler, cuando todavía era el muchacho punk de la comedia americana. En un colegio primario, en un recreo, el personaje de Sandler recibe un pelotazo de sus compañeros de ocho años. Y, como toda venganza, comienza una guerra de pelotazos desesperada, que se musicaliza con la hermosa "Beat on the Brat" de Ramones. Evocada con nostalgia infinita tras la perdición actual de Sandler, esa escena es de las que obligan a rebobinar hasta gastar el vhs, para tratar de volverlo el loop de la última epifanía alegre del cine.
El segundo recuerdo corresponde al verano del 1986/87. Yo estaba inmerso en las rutinarias vacaciones familiares en Mar del Plata. Una noche cualquiera visitaba la feria más grande del verano: Ferimar. En un stand veo una remera de los Sex Pistols: Sid Vicious con gesto deforme, candado al cuello y ropa rota. Una foto famosa que yo veía por primera vez estampada en una remera blanca. Y justo ese año me había cansado de saltar y gritar al escuchar un cassette grabado de los Pistols: merecía llevarme puesto ese trofeo. No tenía ni un peso partido al medio y era imposible pedirle plata a mi familia. La única opción era robarla. El lugar explotaba de gente y no era tan difícil. Y así fue como, manoteando la remera entre la mesa de saldos (ahí estaba, sin merecer esa humillación), Sid Vicious terminó oculto debajo de mi remera, al mismo tiempo que corría entre los pasillos de stands hacia ninguna parte, huyendo de una autoridad imaginaria que iba a encerrarme por pibe chorro. No recuerdo como la oculté, como salí de Ferimar con mi familia sin que se enterasen de mi robo. Sí, en cambio, recuerdo que de vuelta en mi casa de Lanús, no me saqué la remera ni un segundo y pasé un verano punk inolvidable, relatando mi hazaña criminal en Ferimar hasta que el pecho se me inflaba. De tanto usarla, la foto de Vicious en blanco y negro se fue despintando progresivamente de mi remera hasta casi desaparecer; o tal vez la tinta fue absorbida por mi piel hasta hacerla sangre.
Nunca más tuve una remera de un grupo de rock: nunca pude robarme otra y creo que, luego de Ferimar, no sentía que comprarme una fuese algo digno: o robo o nada. Este año, en octubre, entré al Rock Shop, un local de Vancouver (BC, Canadá) y me compré un canguro de Ramones, para protegerme con su capucha de la llovizna perenne de esa ciudad. El tiempo cambia; un verano no dura toda la vida.

Published: October 28, 2007

There is only one acceptable way to own a Ramones T-shirt. This is to have attended a Ramones concert, sweated, bled, transcended and then purchased one at a merchandise table en route to the concert-hall exit. (Preferably at the Rainbow Theatre, London, New Year’s Eve 1977, but that’s not a deal breaker.)
The closest I ever came to owning one was when, as a minor, I borrowed my older brother’s shirt from the “Pleasant Dreams” tour, his first-ever rock concert, which he attended with the brother of the B-level pop starlet Rachel Sweet and at which he purchased this garment with his last dollars. What I didn’t realize at the time was how firmly that shirt would establish a complicated precedent. Rock ’n’ roll paraphernalia had to be hard-won, meaningful and scented with personal experience. It required a depth of symbolic thought — something like what Bob Seger probably goes through when browsing at a Chevrolet dealership. Later, I attended several of the band’s shows myself, but it seemed too easy just to walk up and buy a shirt. Or maybe it was that none of the shows were epic enough to justify it. The iconic shirt had to be earned, on both sides.
I was comfortable with the fact that I did not own one. The self-deprivation reinforced standards of cultural behavior that were important to me. Not that anyone else would notice, since no one ever notices when you’re not wearing a particular item of clothing, unless that item is your pants. But I had internal street credibility, which, in Ohio, where I live, is sufficient.
Then I had children, which involves reconsidering everything you once believed to be true. (The relative grossness of vomit, for instance. Before parenthood, vomit is not considered Something to Catch in Midair, Barehanded.) So when my son asked for a Ramones T-shirt for his 10th birthday because he “wanted one,” the request was so culturally complex that I chose not to probe it. Instead I just headed to the mall.
I’m not one of those cool detached persons who pretend they don’t know that such a thing as Hot Topic exists. I knew about the store. Totally knew. It’s like a punk-rock version of Foot Locker. But I’d never glanced inside one. Not because I was above it. More like parallel. It contained things that once defined an entire value system but that I now no longer thought about.
Entering Hot Topic required a psychological recalibration. I passed into a room padded with shirts: the Germs, Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion, the Subhumans — punk-era bands that barely ascended to “underground” status and were now benefiting from the contemporary marketing of the obscure.
The tall stack of Ramones T-shirts was somehow familiar and almost heartwarming. It wasn’t nostalgia I felt. Nostalgia requires a past. This past never existed for me. I saw these shirts on other people, Californians mostly, in the pages of somebody else’s copy of Maximum Rock ’n’ Roll. These days, things that should be rare are startlingly available. Could it be, I wondered, that my children will never have to struggle? And that Hot Topic is the metaphor for this? I wanted this to be true as much as I wanted this not to be true.
I dug through the stack. It ended at Adult Small. He’d have to grow into it. I took it home, wrapped it and set it with the other packages of 10-year-old-boy gear.
He wore it for the first time to a friend’s cookout. The kids ran off to play, and the parents chatted on the patio. Soon he came running, his forearm half-covering his eyes, the conflicted gesture of a 10-year-old boy Trying Not to Cry, which, if you are not made of obsidian, will break your heart in four seconds.
“What is it?” I asked. He twisted himself sideways, pulling the tail of his shirt out to show me.
“The fence,” he exhaled over the cliff of his throat.
There was a jagged rip, maybe two inches, trailed by a thread of hem. We dads locked eyes in simultaneous understanding.
“No,” one said. “You just made it better.”
I wanted to explain that very truth — that just as emotional pain brings us closer to God, so a rip in our Ramones T-shirt brings us closer to Sid Vicious. But in a moment like that, the notion of conveying wisdom is as relevant as trigonometry offered to a quicksand victim.
“We can get another one,” I said.
Which we did. Obtaining a replacement was a mere errand, devoid of ethical-cultural implications, $20, cleanly exchanged.
And this is how I ended up owning a Ramones T-shirt, a little snug, with a rip in the bottom, and wearing it with a clean conscience. Because no responsible father ever wastes a perfectly good shirt.

* David Giffels, a former writer for “Beavis and Butt-Head,” is a columnist at The Akron Beacon Journal. His memoir, “All the Way Home,” will be published next spring.

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