My son, 21 at the time, in an effort to console me in some way, invited me to a punk rock show…
I was a mess. There was no sugar coating it. There was no pretending that I was fine. I wasn’t. I was a train wreck.
I told my friends (the one’s that I had left) about the invitation, and they were psyched. It was a party with my son and my friends, and a way (and a reason) to forget the world, forget my marriage, forget my misery, and have some fun…
It was a little venue, called the ballroom, but it wasn’t a ballroom, it was a mosh pit with seats… stadium seats…
Being that we were in our 40s at a punk show, with a mosh pit, and not wanting to bounce around with the wild ones, we went way up in the seats safely away from the insanity.
We talked, and drank, and rocked out to the music, and watched the mosh pit madness from a safe distance.
My son checked in on me from time to time, hoping I think, that I was having fun, then quickly going back into the pit.
I looked at my friends… I looked at my son – in a crazy rage down below, and went outside to have a smoke.
It was then that everything changed…
So picture it if you can. A punk show, with hundreds of kids from 15 to 25 – pierced, tattooed, with blue, green, red, and yellow hair. Mohawks abound.
I could not have been more out of place.
I tried to be unobtrusive and invisible (both impossible) as I watched three kids in a circle, smoking, and talking.
One of the kids, he couldn’t have been more than 16, had the most incredible, amazing, and impossible Mohawk.
It had to be 18 inches tall, standing perfectly straight and stiff, and incredibly BLUE. I couldn’t stop staring at it. It was both an incredible piece of art, and a bold defiance of physics.
So at that moment, that singular moment, when everything else in my life had suddenly turned to shit, I decided to stop hiding in the corner.
To stop trying to be unobtrusive, to stop being invisible, to stop acting my age.
I walked up to the angry young men. Angry and self-expressive. I, the out of place, out of age range, out of culture, old guy in his 40’s said…
“Your Mohawk is AWESOME, how do you get it to do that?”
He looked at me a little suspiciously, as if he’d never spoken to someone over 30 other than his parents (who clearly didn’t know he was there) and he said…
“Yes”, he said, and then proceeded to tell me, in great detail, the formula for the perfect Mohawk.
I’m not sure if I looked amazed, but I was. We talked, and smoked, and I asked, with great respect, if I could touch it. He said, enthusiastically… SURE.
And I did…
We finished our smokes and went back into the concert, and I fully expected, that I would never see him again.
I found my way back to my friends in the “safe” upper corner of the seats and hung out for another hour… bored out of my mind…
It was then that I decided to stop watching life and experience it, and headed to the mosh pit.
It was only the second mosh pit I had ever seen, but I knew I could do it, I’m not THAT OLD, or so I thought…
So I wound my way down through the crowd, got down to the floor, and stood there.
There was a wide gap between the observers and the participators. Once in a while someone would come flying out of the pit and be caught by the observers and thrown back in.
A thousand words ran into my head. I heard my mom, I heard my teachers, I heard my role models, say “don’t just watch life, LIVE IT”!
I ran into the mosh pit with an energy I didn’t know I had.
I braced myself. I had watched how to move, how to behave… you kind of run through, arms braced. Bounce through. There is no kindness, it’s about energy expressed and released.
It’s violent – yes. But it’s not necessarily angry. Its energy and frustration expressed physically.
And it was… EXHILARATING
I bounced around, and in and out of the mosh pit like a pinball, bouncing, shoving, getting shoved, and banged around.
I went in, and out, and in, and out, and in, and then in the middle of it all, the worst thing imaginable happened.
I fell down.
Not a little down. Not onto my knees. But DOWN, flat down.
I saw concrete.
I saw feet – hundreds of feet.
I felt people jumping on me, and I remember thinking as I looked through a forest of legs …
I am going to die today.
Then, out of nowhere, like God reaching down from the heavens, a hand grabbed the back of my shirt, and with the strength of 100 men, yanked me upright.
I was going to die, but not today.
I turned around to see that blue Mohawk boy had yanked me from the throws of death.
I looked in his eyes, he smiled, and then he bounced off into the pit.
I, humbled, and grateful, wound my way back up into the stands to find my friends, who were unaware that I had just narrowly averted death.
My hands were filthy with the mud and muck of bottom of the mosh pit, but I refused to wash them, because there on my hands, was the evidence of a brief moment of being true to myself. Of connecting to others, and averting certain death because of it.
A disillusioned man in his 40s, and a disenfranchised youth in his teens.
An unexpected connection, lives lived well (if only briefly), and a life saved.
Acts of genuine connection are never lost, no matter how small, and you may never know the impact they have, but they have an impact just the same.
It may not come back to you as quickly as it did for me.
It may not come back to you at all.
But someone, somewhere, will be the beneficiary of your connection…if you dare to be, if you dare to connect, if you dare to open yourself up, and be who you really are, if only for a moment.