Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Facebook and Punks

More than any other venue, Facebook has linked the present with the past in ways that would have been inconceivable a mere decade ago. The “Whatever Became Of?” roster has shrunk considerably because of it. Schoolmates, neighbors, and co-workers from yesteryear have returned a lot older and sometimes a lot wiser, but not all the time.

Overall, Facebook has been a fascinating experience. As a boy growing up in the 1970s—long before the technological revolution and the advent of social media—I remember purchasing loose “punks,” as they were called, in the candy store. They were incense sticks that were also used to light firecrackers and a few other things. Of course, put punks in the hands of punks—of the street variety—and all bets were off. I find it interesting that—with thirty and forty years of water under the bridge or over the dam—I still have a strong dislike for certain members of the punk fraternity—the bully brigades—from my youth. Perhaps if I got to know them in their adult incarnations, I might feel differently. Then again, I might not. And considering some of the things I’ve encountered on Facebook from the old punk class, I might even—believe it or not—think less of them.

But why accent the negative when there are punk redemption stories, or at least one that surprised and kind of buoyed me. A fellow named Paul from the old neighborhood—whom I didn’t know but have interacted with in a Facebook group—has come a long way. By his own admission, he was a rudderless youth not averse to getting in trouble. Paul, though, transformed his life—a bona fide one-eighty.

However, one day during some memory sharing give-and-take on growing up in the old neighborhood—Kingsbridge in the Bronx—during the 1960s and 1970s, a woman recalled that Paul committed a punkish act—I think it might have been the slashing of her car tires—and was a big-time bullyboy in her eyes. Paul had no recollection of the specific incident, but it sincerely troubled him that he might have done what he was accused of, as well as similar acts of non-kindness to other people. Paul promptly issued a heartfelt apology to anyone whom he may have bullied or hurt back in the day. From my observations in the Facebook laboratory, Paul is an exception to the old punk rule.

That is, a healthy share of the punks that I remember from the days of yore—that are on Facebook at least—tend to wax nostalgic about their punkish pasts. It seems stealing from mom-and-pop stores was a whole lot of fun, with the punks proudly recounting their cunning in getting away with it. It doesn’t seem to bother them that many of these shopkeepers worked long, long hours for not a whole lot of money. And I don’t think they would stand for having their paychecks or property robbed from them today. You can take the punk out of the old neighborhood....

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