"It's the American in me that makes me watch the blood pouring out from a bullet hole in his head"
(The American in Me- Penelope Houston 1977)
One dreary day at Union Square, April, 1977, I ran into Penelope Houston, the lead singer for San Francisco punk rock legends, The Avengers. She was flanked by two guys, one with a mohawk, a really high punk rock mohawk, not the chickenshit kind that Brian Bosworth made popular a few years later. As they stood next to me, they sort of sneered and then ignored me. Dressed as I was in my Air Force field jacket with my fucked up Air Force haircut, it was understandable. Penelope looked at me and said "Are you in the Navy?" I replied "No, I'm in the Air Force", I then said "I know who you are, I've heard you on KSAN" Her reaction was "So What" the mohawk just kind of growled and acted bored. She asked me if I had ever been to the Mabuhay Gardens, (San Francisco's premier punk rock venue), I said I hadn't, "You should go" she told me "We're playing there with The Nuns" the silence that followed was awkward, but then it hit me, "Wanna get stoned?" I asked them. You see anytime I ventured into The City, I would pre-roll about 10-12 joints of primo columbian to take with me. It was a really nice icebreaker and what the fuck, tripping around San Francisco stoned was pretty fucking cool. Standing there hitting a joint in the waning light of a San Francisco day, it all felt so right, I got lost in my thoughts until one of the guys asked me "What's the Air Force like, I'm thinking of joining up" I looked at him, he was dead serious, "Cut your hair first" I told him, I had reported for basic training with a big bushy Tony Iommi hairstyle and the T.I.s gave me all kinds of shit about it, I had made the biggest mistake you can make when you join the military, I gave them a reason to notice me. "Yeah, cut your hair" I repeated "If you have to join up, join the Coast Guard, if they won't take you, join the Air Force" he nodded, relaxed, with his guard down, I saw that he wasn't much different from me, "We gotta go" Penelope said, "Alright" I said and they took off, causing the people walking towards them to part like the Red Sea. As I watched them, a black guy with no front teeth sat down next me, "Can I have a hit of that?" he asked, "You can have it" I told him, "I have to get to the Mabuhay" I scurried down Geary as darkness creeped in, lured by the promise of rock & roll. San Francisco, nothing would ever be that uncomplicated again.
"Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country has been doing to you"
(The American in Me, Penelope Houston 1977)