I was leaning down to pick up some broken glass. We did it every night outside Planet 10. The people would leave their beer bottles and cans, food wrappers and empty chip bags. Larry, Mike, I, and sometimes others, never left until the street and sidewalk were clean, giving the cops and the city as little cause for complaint as possible.
Planet 10 was named for the home of the Lectroids in the movie Buckaroo Banzai. The club had a big sign Mike had made, spelling out the name over a background of artistic swirls, and the barred windows covered on the inside with the trash tabloid The Weekly World News. One window was devoted to the cover pages (“Redneck Vampire Attacks Trailer Park”, “I’ve Seen Elvis in the Flesh!”, “I Married Bigfoot!”). Another window was devoted to the “Page 5 Girls”, bathing suit or lingerie shots of women with perfect 1980s hair. The Weekly World News gave it that classic punk rock kitsch and also hid the stage, the PA and all the graffiti inside from the rare person who might have walked that industrial street near the Civic Center. The building had been an ink factory, then Silly Wabbit’s rehearsal space, then Mike and Larry got an actual business license with their actual names on it and started booking bands. It wasn’t a bar, just a BYO place for the music and the mosh pit, for hanging out on the wide sidewalk out front, for pissing off the parents. For a while my buy-in was to clean the bathrooms and work the door. The bathrooms were labeled "Us" and "Them". I can tell you that “Us” was always dirtier than “Them”. (Who wants to be one of them when you could be one of us?). The bathrooms I would do before the show, and it really wasn't better or worse than cleaning the street after the show.
Cleaning up outside mattered. All the crap and the glass couldn't be left to litter the street or the city would find a way to shut down the place. We picked up every bit of it, filling up the small metal garbage cans with everything you'd expect and the occasional surprise. It took two of us to lift each full can up and over the side of the very tall dumpster, and that particular crash and tinkle and hollow rattle and thunk of empty aluminum has a special place in my heart.
One night I lost my balance leaning over to pick up a broken bottle in the street next to the curb. The jagged edge sliced deep into my palm, angled, and I was lucky that it missed the tendons. It probably needed stitches, but all I wanted to do was clean it out and cover it up. Healing was slow, and I have a slightly serpentine scar, just over half an inch long.
If I was to wax poetic about it--and having said that, I suppose I'm about to--that scar matters to me. All those punk kids who never thought twice about leaving their empty beers in the street? We cleaned up for them so the place wouldn't present an easy target. CA Chapel had been the first place teenagers could go to play or see bands. CA received so much grief from the city. Larry and Mike stepped up after CA closed, rented the space next to our rehearsal room, and even got a structural engineer to help them safely knock down the wall to make the space bigger. Without CA, without Planet 10, where would the teen punks of Tallahassee have seen Operation Ivy, Scream, Henry Rollins? Where would their bands have played to more people than could fit in a living room?
I would be very surprised if any of the kids at Planet 10 thought twice about how it managed to stay open when their parents and the police hated the place, much less what happened to the bottles they threw at the curb for the joy of hearing breaking glass.
The scar means to me that you can make things better without anyone knowing you’re doing it. It means a subversion of expectations that you can take on the outsider role and still care for your environment, including cleaning toilets. That you can see what needs to be done to help a place survive and thrive, and just do it. That doing something civically responsible can be punk as fuck. Those clean sidewalks were a middle finger to the city.
I look at that scar and I am back there, lifting a garbage can over my head with Mike or with Larry, tilting it to let the detritus of the night crash down, readying the sidewalk for another show.
M. S. AtKisson (aka Mr. Peg)