it's crazy, i could never stand the flavor of wintermint gum. sometimes i buy it by accident, thinking it's peppermint, which is what i did today, but instead of spitting it out in disgust i chewed it when i was walking around and getting hit in the face with the kind of arctic blast that makes your nose hairs freeze. the snow fell all around, turning into gray sludge as soon as it hit the sidewalk as nervous, angry people hustled past with hunched backs and pinched expressions and somehow it tasted good. actually even better than good. it was like, the perfect thing at that moment and i chewed the hell out of it, like how i used to chew gum when i was on coke.

wintermint gum in the winter...it was like a little sprig of sanity in my mouth. who knew? who cares?

but speaking of spitting out things in disgust, the closest i ever came to being a punk was three years ago, when i was first getting off the sauce and doing my time "in the rooms". for those of you who aren't trendy enough to have gone through rehab, "the rooms" are the shitty church basements and faux, wood-panelled rec rooms where AA meetings are held. like a lot of people, i was so scared when i quit drinking--scared of myself, scared of the world, blah, blah blah--that i felt like i had no choice but to go to tons of meetings, where at least i was sure no one would offer me a drink. there was this drag queen, who claimed she was once a hugely successful (male) fashion designer before she pissed it all away with booze and drugs. sometimes i'd stare at her face and try to imagine what she looked like as a dude, and if i recognized her at all, and a few times, in certain light i felt as though her other, secret identity was right there, just under the surface, but i never managed to match a name with the face. of course i could of asked her who she used to be, but everyone had their past and generally speaking, if you started asking questions you'd better be prepared to spill the beans on your own shit.

which i wasn't. so i didn't ask.

she was tall and thin and no matter how cold it was she always wore flimsy, see-through nylon blouses that slipped off her pale shoulders, revealing ivory colored bra straps.

sometimes her psycho meds left her tired and shaken looking. on those days she'd wear a shawl and pull herself into a tight ball and stay that way, perched like a delicate bundle of sticks on the edge of her aluminum folding chair.

other times she had more energy, and it was on those days that we seemed to bond. we stood outside on perry street and smoked lousy, low-tar cigarettes together while rich, old apartment owners shot us dirty looks as they strolled past with their designer shopping bags. that was when i had a shaved head and purple rings under my eyes. it looked like i never slept but the truth was that was all i did, when i wasn't at a meeting. at any rate, an increased sense of wakefullness brought out an increased sense of anger in the queen. i think the little window of health made her remember what it was like long, long ago, before she did drugs, when she was young and healthy all the time. she was angry at all the years she'd wasted, and she wanted to do something to let it out.

"let's start a punk band," she said to me.

"k," i said.

"i know plenty of places where we can play. we'll get up there and let out all our aggression at the world. it will be great, what do you think?"

"i don't play any instruments."

"so what. it's punk. you've got style. and anger--that's all you need."

"k," I said, staring at her fake green eyes. she was the kind of person who could convince me of anything, no matter how ridiculous. back in our old lives we would have made great drinking partners.

so a musician friend loaned me a second hand guitar and i learned how to strum some nonsense on it while she started getting the lyrics together. i figured that whatever she decided to scream around about would be the least of our problems, but then i heard what she came up with--

the song was called daffodil. the first verse went like this--

i don't need no crystal

i don't need no pills

all i need are daff-o-dils....


what was even worse than the lyrics was how earnest she sounded while singing them. like she really believed it.

if there's one thing i can't stand it's earnestness.

i told her if she was going to sing like that she could forget about it.

she told me to fuck off.

and that was the end of my punk career.

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