December 20, 2006
John Sheppard's novel, Small Town Punk, captures the bleakness and hopelessness of being young and without wealth during the Reagan years (which surprisingly now seem like the "good old days" in comparison to the current presidential administration).
While writing Small Town Punk back in 2002, I listened (over and over and over) to a mixtape that Vincenzo Murphy, my gonzo Army buddy, made for me a decade before, back when we were in the service during the first gulf war. Oh, those heady days of efficient conquest and quick withdrawal! Poppy Bush sure did know how to throw a war.
I was stationed in Washington, D.C. and Vincenzo worked for a general who enjoyed flying around the world in a Cessna, occasionally stopping in Washington to demand more money for his command.
Vincenzo named the mixtape I AM DOROTHY after our plan to trick-or-treat through the barracks wearing Dorothy Gale masks (Wizard of Oz) and white t-shirts with “I AM DOROTHY” stenciled on them.
Another of our plans was to sneak into Arlington National Cemetery and snuff out JFK’s eternal flame and place a sign there that read, “Due to budgetary restrictions, the eternal flame will extinguished until further notice. Thank you for your understanding! George Herbert Walker Bush, President.”
Fortunately (or unfortunately), we were too drunk to carry out either plan.
Song titles became chapter titles for the book, so the book itself is a bit like a mixtape.
The “small town” in Small Town Punk is Sarasota, Florida, the shitty little town where I grew up. Like Buzz, the narrator, I was a cog in the Pizza Hut Corporate Empire in the very early 1980’s, at the beginning of the current Grand Happy Fun Age of Arch-Conservatism. Like Buzz, I made questionable choices. I still do. I should know better by now.
Wasted -- “Wasted” by Black Flag and by the Circle Jerks.
Buzz is especially drunk. He attempts to defend Sissy, who doesn’t need defending. Alternate tracks include “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” by AC/DC and “Hard Core Rules” by Hated Youth.
Hot Cars -- “Hot Cars” by the Angry Samoans
Buzz recounts bad blind dates set up by his buddy Dave. Alternate tracks include “The Girl from Ipanema” by Merv Griffin and “The Obnoxious Song” by Lethal Yellow.
Holiday in Sarasota -- “Holiday in Cambodia” by the Dead Kennedys
Buzz and his buddy Albino go to a Christmas party and see two girls making out. Alternate tracks include “Galveston” by Glen Campbell and “There Is No Christmas Like A Home Christmas” by Perry Como.
Institutionalized -- “Institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies
A rescue operation is staged by Sissy to save Dave from a Christian treatment center. Alternate tracks include “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks.
I’m Not Your Stepping Stone -- “Stepping Stone” by Minor Threat and by the Monkees
Buzz gets a D-minus in Moral Guidance. Alternate tracks include “My Sharona” by the Knack and “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes.
Dick for Brains -- “Dick for Brains” by MDCB
Buzz gets it on with a bisexual drug dealer. Sissy does not approve. Alternate tracks include “Us and Them” by Pink Floyd and “I Love a Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbitt.
Deny Everything -- “Deny Everything” by the Circle Jerks
The parents are gone. It’s time to party. Alternate tracks include “A Night on Redneck Mountain” by the Ugly Americans and “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones.
Sarasota’s Alright If You Like Geezers -- “New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones” by Fear
The joy of kissing is explored, as is the joy of attempting to give an old man a heart attack. Alternate tracks include “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band and “In Life My Friend” by Flipper
Greedy and Pathetic -- “Greedy and Pathetic” by MDC
Buzz’s 20-something girlfriend takes off for the great white north. Sissy approves. Alternate tracks include “Feeling Groovy (the 59th Street Bridge Song)” by Simon and Garfunkel and “I Hate the Sunshine State” by Roach Motel.
Police Story -- “Police Story” by Black Flag
Buzz and Sissy take a trip through the dark heart of Florida to their grandparents’ retirement village. Alternate tracks include “Widow Maker” by Jimmy Martin and “Never Let the Devil Get the Upper Hand on You” by Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives.
Working Men Are Pissed -- “Working Men Are Pissed” by the Minutemen
Meals are consumed and a haircut given at the grandparents’ place at the national retirement home for postal workers. Alternate tracks include “My Dad’s a f*cking Alcoholic” by Frantix and “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night” by Paul Robeson.
Guilty of Being White -- “Guilty of Being White” by Minor Threat
Most of a movie is seen; a beating by the cops is meted out. Alternate tracks include “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment” by the Ramones and “No Pity” by Toxic Reasons.
What’s Your Problem? -- “What’s Your Problem?” by the Circle Jerks
The final chapter, in which Buzz accepts his American fate. Alternate tracks include “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” by War and "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (All Things Dull and Ugly)" by Eric Idle.
Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)
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