Sixteen was not a great age for me. I had this shirt I used to wear. A badge. That shirt showed all the things I wanted to be at 16, which was mostly, to be not seen. The shirt was from the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Automatic tour. And I’d been to see them during a weird never winter night on Miami Beach before the trend setters showed up and closed down all the old retirement homes on Collins Avenue.
The shirt had the guitarist, one of the Reid brothers, showed his big hair, up and gelled. It was this massive tree trunk of hair with god knows how much product rubbed into it to get it to stay up like that. He had sunglasses, he was dressed in all black, white face, pale, pale face, white on the t-shirt, or at least how I imagined the t-shirt looked like.
This shirt though, did everything I wanted it to. It made all the squares in Miami Beach turn around and ask, what the fuck. Who would wear this in the middle of Miami? It was hiding, because the shirt said way more about me than I could say for myself. It did all the talking for me. I put that on and I didn’t have to say a thing. The shirt said it all. Plus it was way cooler than I was. I had gotten into the Mary Chain, what only a few weeks before the show. Only heard about it from this real deal gothic dude in one of my classes. I couldn’t even call him a friend. But he liked Janes Addiction, and Janes Addiction was cutting edge at the time. So the Jesus and Mary Chain, well in South Florida in 1988 all you had to do was put Jesus and Mary into some kind of chain and the rest of the fun just sort of happened right after that. And the Jesus and Mary Chain, this was their mainstream record, their earlier stuff was way weirder, this was a streamlined sound, this was 50s rock and roll dressed up to the ball of the I don’t give a fuck society of which I was a proud, proud member, because you see, it was Miami.
Never did really fit in down there. We moved, my family and I did, down there, from Minnesota to Miami in 1980. I was 8. When I usually tell people this, they get it right away. The 8 and the Edina Minnesota and the “oh gee”, and the “oh yeah, you betcha”. And then down there, and then Miami.
But me, the black, all the hiding. Don’t know what I was hiding from. The t-shirt was one of the coolest things I ever owned. It made me seem so badass, when really it was the exact opposite of badass.
This one summer. Summer of 16, one of the worst years of my life. Really bad school year. Really bad falling out with my parents. I volunteered to go on this program. Outward Bound Directive. It was the kind of place that judges sent troubled teens to when they needed to kick drugs, or curb a bad stealing habit. Some people, like me, were in there for depression. I never really knew if I had a problem with depression. The closest thing I had to it was a feeling of weightlessness about who I was at the time. That sounds messed up, no? We have personalities, especially at that age, we are supposed to know who we are. I didn’t. Felt like I could float away with the ether. You know that philosophy that Camus and all his buddies had? The whole point to The Stranger about life being meaningless about institutions like Marriage and Church being worthless because we are living in the modern times now and life is absurd.
Yeah, pretty much summed me up.
Summed that T-shirt up too. So I wore it. First day, hell first week of Outward Bound Directive. There was camping, extensive camping, hiking 12-13 miles per day with a minimum amount of food. No more drugs for some of these folks, no junk food for me, no wine, no beer, even though I was 16. Like I said, rough year, I tell you about it some other time when I know you a little bit better.
That shirt scared people. I mean I said depression when we were all introducing ourselves and why we were in this place in the first place. And I got the weightless feeling about myself then too, like I could float away and the only thing they’d say is where is that dude with the fucked up shirt? Who wears a shirt like that camping?