Where we lived there was no way to get back from Glasgow after about eleven at night. Even then the last train would only take you so far, Motherwell probably, then you'd have to get a taxi, probably about a tenner. Out of the question. So Sandy and I decided to just stay out all night after the GBH gig, sleep in the bus station and wait for the first bus home in the morning.
I don't remember much about the gig. Can't even remember who the other bands were. Toxic Ephex maybe? We hadn't been to many punk gigs at the time and they could be quite intimidating for young kids like us – from small towns, and not particularly streetwise – lots of scary-looking big skinheads, and pissed-off looking crusties that would demand your spare change. This was in the venue, not outside on the street. Anyway, the bands played, people pushed each other about a bit, and frankly, it wasn't all that impressive. GBH were loud and fast and all that, but in their punk clothes and 'charged' hair, it all seemed like such a cliché, even then. We drifted out of the venue and out onto the street. Time passed pretty slowly. We just walked around Glasgow's darkened streets, unfamiliar at nighttime, with all the shops closed. We looked in shop windows and planned what our band would sound like, once we'd managed to get some instruments and other people to play with us. We got to the bus station and took turns lying along the bench seats. Neither of us could really sleep. Sketchy people kept checking us out, especially this one total pedo looking guy in a trenchcoat. We eventually legged it out of there.
Down towards the river we found a comfortable alcove to hang out in. The sun was starting to come up and the prostitutes were finishing their shifts as the bin men and street cleaners were starting theirs. One scantily clad but worse-for-wear working girl crossed the street shakily, only to be accosted by a cop. He couldn't see us and probably assumed he was alone on the street with her. It looked like he was asking her some questions, and his face betrayed his utter contempt and disgust for the creature before him. He grabbed her bag and looked through it. He obviously didn't find what he was looking for, but he scattered the contents into the gutter anyway, then turned and walked away. The woman bent down to her knees, gathered up her belongings as if this was just another day, and then tottered away on her high heels. As she passed by, she noticed us, and came over.
"Got any Valium?" she drawled. We didn't. "Know where ah could git some?"
No. Sorry. She went on her way. One night on the street and we looked like the type of people you could score Valium off, or at least, like we'd know where you could get it? Hey, at that time local family doctors were handing it out like sweeties to any housewife that had the odd bad day, so I suppose it wasn't out of the question that we'd nicked some from our mum's medicine cabinets.
We hung out there for a while until we were sure we saw the trenchcoat pedo from the bus station coming down the road, and we took off back up to the station. It was almost time for the bus anyway.
I'll always remember my first and only GBH gig, but not for anything to do with the band. The self-righteousness, the hatred on that policeman's face during his brief interchange with the prostitute, his total disregard for her as a human being, was palpable. Alright, by society's standards, you don't get much lower than a middle-aged drug addict Glaswegian prostitute, but it was clear that this man felt the need to make himself feel better by belittling her. It wasn't my first (or last) experience with the heavy-handedness of certain bad apples in Her Majesty's Constabulary, but it's one that I'll never forget. The message was loud and clear. On one side, all the power. On the other, none whatsoever. That side can do whatever the fuck it wants. This side just has to take it.
Bad Luck Dept: I filed my last column from my brother's house in Scotland. I was home for my Gran's 90th birthday celebration. A couple of days into the trip, I fell off my bike while riding at a skatepark and broke a bone in my elbow.
"You fell off your bike? How old are you?!" I heard countless variations of this question at the hospital, or when people inquired about my cast. Maybe it isn't common for a 35-year-old to break his arm falling off a BMX bike, but is it really such a big deal? The implied meaning in the question is that by 35 you're supposed to have put that sort of thing behind you. Not to mention that many people who asked that question didn't even know I'd been riding a BMX bike in a skatepark – for all they knew, I could have had a bike accident riding a ten-speed to work or whatever. The point is, by the time you're my age, you're supposed to be driving everywhere, and any recreation you take part in should be passive – preferably watching one of the mainstream sports.
There is something of a double standard, though. If I'd got my injury playing 5-a-side football, no one would have batted an eyelid. Similarly, if I'd explained it away by saying I was hammered and fell down the stairs, I'd have been greeted with a chuckle, and a "could happen to anyone."
Maybe I am just clinging to my youth, unable to let go. Some might say the same about my continued attraction to punk rock. Maybe it's true. Aching muscles and ringing ears aside, when I'm carving the bowl at Alameda skatepark or down the front watching This Is My Fist at Gilman, I still sometimes feel like the kid who stayed up all night after a GBH gig in the mid-80s. Is there really anything wrong with that?