China Martens
china410(a)hotmail.com
P.O. Box 4803 Baltimore MD 21211

The Future Generation #73

My thoughts on lucky bums, kicking ass, and raising teens.

    I recently got to see a bunch of films made by the Oregon Department of Kick Ass on their Lucky Bum Film tour. Well, it is these two film-makers traveling across America on a dyi tour to show their wares. I am very partial to tours like that. It is kinda like the circus is in town. Maybe when the next zine tour comes to town I will run away with them. Anyway… It was great!
    I am not a big movie kind of person, but I really enjoyed all the films. They were good story telling. I liked hearing the tone/character of peoples voices in the audio. In Crowdog, Vanessa Renwick tells about these two years that she didn’t wear shoes and how she hitch hiked to the Indian Reservation where the last battles of AIM went down but instead went to a Sun Dance where she fasted for a week. I was into her story as images of the road, her feet, her young half wolf dog—who was a part of the story—and splashing in the river floated before me. It was really cool, like I was there with her in her mind.
    Vanessa showed a bunch of her short films and they were all really diverse and good. Some had no words like this one of a girl flying down this hill on a bike, off a highway, on this curvy road—not using her hands at all to bike. It was visually cool to see the city behind her and watch her bike. She was wearing lumpy clothes and it seemed a chill in the air but in the end she got on the bike naked and was like flying through the sky like a witch, that’s what it seemed to me, her arms out to balance herself, like surfing the bike and road, flying down the hill, no expression on her face, just a real naked female, vulnerable and exhilarating.
    Bill Daniel had black and white pictures up around the walls of squatted boats and large pictures of old RV’s in a squatter community somewhere in the Bay Area. He is interested with living free. He showed a documentary of hobo graffiti and train hopping that he had been shooting for the last 15 years. The screen for his movie was set up like a campfire, outside in circle of bricks. He also had a circular screen hung up in the sky and images played on it like it was the moon against the mango city evening sky. The location was outside an old mill by the river in Baltimore. So we sat around our camp, passing popcorn and the soundtrack of trains made me feel it in my heart, if you know what I mean. The two screens were going on at once, with an audio that was not in sync with the visuals. He had also recorded the sound of a fire crackling so it was like his movie was a bonfire of scenes. Like you would see a face with the wind blowing his hair, mouthing words you could not hear and see the outside of trains with tags like Bozo Texino –while some throaty character rich voice told you , “all this land but you can’t have any… America was founded on murder …not working hard to get ahead”.
    As this was going on, I daydreamed a little, the way you are apt to do when staring in a fire. I thought about my daughter and missed her. I wished she had came with me to see these movies. I asked her but she said she wanted to stay home to do homework in front of the TV.
    If you see me, out and about these days, you probably will not know that I have a 14 year old daughter. Besides the fact that everyone seems to think I am a lot younger than I am, is the fact that she never goes anywhere with me. Mostly, it feels cool to be an independent woman again. I can go to a show or get into artistic activities and my daughter can take care of herself, I have no worries of that.
    This is kind of the opposite of when she was young. She went everywhere with me. Even fell asleep on a bench at the local bar. Sang on stage at the 14 Karot Cabaret. Hung out at the bookstore. Bussed dishes on Sunday mornings when I waitressed at Gypsies. Went to parties. If I came home sick, it was with a child in my arms, running up 3 flights of stairs to barf in the sink. Went to the grocery store. Everywhere. It would take a special effort on my part, if I would do something alone. Some one else would have to take over. My mom was a significant person in her life and she would take her up to the country, when she was old enough - so I could have time to immerse myself in writing which is what I usually would want time alone for. Or for my mental health or for love or to feel free or to take care of bizness. But mostly, my daughter was always there: on long car trips, waiting in line, in the middle of the night, always with me. It was a rare and preciously bought thing to have time to myself.
    I would have liked more help with her. One of the main reasons I took her everywhere with me was that I thought it was important that my daughter get culture and not be put in a Barney ghetto. I wanted her to see the things that inspired me, that was the counterculture. Music, social events, art and adventures on the sea shore. It was important to me, to show her what was beautiful in life. I felt completely right in integrating the world around me with some non ageism - children should be allowed out of the playgrounds, schools and play pens. I would take her to café’s to break our solitary confinement at home. When we lived in Santa Cruz, more people knew my gregarious toddler then they knew me. She was mature and she could hold a interesting conversation for someone her age, because of her social exposure. She would dance up front at bands.
    I think back now and laugh. It sure is different. And I am used to it. It was an adjustment to make, around the time my daughter turned 11 and I turned dumb in her eyes, when she chose to stay home over going out with me. Because whatever I liked must be a drag. She was different, not like me. She needed her own space. Adolescence, it’s normal stuff you know. But kind of ironic. Mom goes to see movies with a “dissident political streak” by film makers who don’t own televisions, creating our own culture while daughter stays home with images of the mainstream media floating before her. (Now that she is older I don’t monitor her use of television, it is her choice. When she was young I considered it important we didn’t own one.) My daughter you see, that little heathen some have seen running the world unabashed, turned her back on her anarchist roots and went to be a more conservative young teen.

II
    I was talking to James after the show. He told me that his friends had younger kids. That his friends, in some other city, (Philly or Detroit ?) were raising their 4 year old around people who had like facial tattoos and stuff, fully into the scene and loving it. That they were more used to playing with 20 year olds then kids there own age. What will they think when they are a teenager? Punk can be fun for the young child, I said but I think kids tire of it around 7 or so. Well that’s how my daughter was. She was more interested in being around her own age group. But I said, it depends on the individual. I think different people react differently to the scene they were brought up in. Clover thinks my scene is either full of drunks or nonsensical arty crap. Which isn’t really fair to think that, I mean when is the last time she went out with me?
    We never do anything together anymore. Just run errands, bitch, and support her behind the scenes. She finds me a total bore to listen to for the most part. She likes me to listen to her at times. The only exception to this rule is road-trips. My daughter spend a lot of time in the womb and as an infant—traveling. Its in her blood. So drive a few hours with her and she will open up, philosophize on life and we will have a heart to heart. We always figure it all out, on those occasions when we are taking a drive somewhere.
    Last week, on the way back from an errand, I persuaded her to take a drive to Cylburn Arboretum. I had been telling her about it for a year but “nature is not my thing, that is your thing”. Once she saw it, she became entranced with the gothic old house, the legend of the lady of the house, and the gardens. She started writing a movie based on a ghost story written around what I told her. I think she would like a lot of the things I like if she gave them a chance. But I remember when I was a teen, wanting to do nothing with my family, so I think it is a totally fine position to take. Basically we just have our own space. There is less tension than when she started adolescence and seemed to hate me a lot. Now she tells me she loves me all the time and we are more chill with each other. I think she already went through a stage of becoming an individual and cutting herself away from me. Even though I didn’t think I was suffocating or gave her anything to rebel from, just the fact I am her mom means I am a big force in her life that she needed to step out of my shadow. I am definitely respecting of who she is as an individual. As a rebel, I respect rebellion, even if it is against me.
. . .
    I also talked/listened to the Lucky Bum film makers after the show.  It was exciting to discover, on a side note, that Vanessa had two teenagers of her own! I wouldn’t have guessed that this vibrant kinda sexy interesting cool woman truckin around America with these great works was a mother to two teenagers and in her 40’s. She told me that 2 of the school kids visiting and making art with Richart in her movie Richart (a documentary of a visionary artist) are her kids. That the blue haired girl was her 14 year old daughter. Vanessa said  that her daughter liked going out with her and helping set up the shows. She had always been like that. It was her 17 year old son, who was more blasé, like “oh, that was OK” when he went out with her. I remember seeing her daughter in the movie, she seemed accepting of Richart’s quirks and looked like a nice person. I later joked, to my friend Rachel—“Why can’t I have a wholesome normal blue haired child?”
    I think it helps that her daughter goes to an art magnet public school in a progressive urban environment. I think the fact that I lived in the suburbs for 5 years, so I could get support from my family- because I was down and out, definitely factors in with my daughters more conservative tendencies. My thesis of the non rebelling child of counterculture roots is:  a)  the greater environment of society, school and town has to show that their parent/s belief system is feasible/credible  b) the child has been nurtured, safe, but not overwhelmed by their parent’s value systems c) the child that grows with the proper balance of autonomy would not have to violently assert it.
    But I also believe life isn’t as simple as a theory or two.
    I have been inquiring around. Some teenagers of scenesters are cool with there parent, no big teen rebellion. I asked a very radical homeschooling/political activist/zinester friend a  while back. Her 14 year old was experiencing no teenage rebellion and was very nice to be around. A local artist progressive mom of a college aged daughter, told me that  “I was lucky she never went through that stage where she hated me”. That made me feel kinda bad. But, I heard word of mouth, that another mom of teen was heard to voice  “I’m a cool mom. Why does my kid hate me?!” That this is pretty normal. Some kids get really embarrassed and reject their roots. And it’s not because they were abused or there parents are hypocrites— it is just that individuals reaction. It depends as much on a person’s personality as it does on the era they were born to, the predestination of parenting and environment. Some kids question there parents values more than others. Teenage years in America are difficult for many, they were for me. One’s perspective on life isn’t 100% cognizant and true as a teenager - nor is it that way at Any age. It’s almost like the changing perspectives we see throughout our lives are all but a bit of the whole. The cycle of life. How can any view from one pair of eyeballs in one point in space—see it all?

III
    In my search for understanding, and because I feel sometimes I am going where no one much has gone before, with my parenting style – I have looked for books written by people who were raised with similar values as I am raising my daughter. In this way, I could see the outcome and maybe learn something. There are just starting to be a generation that is speaking out, raised by hippie parents, which I do not think of myself as a hippie but oh well, some of it is close enough.
    Frank Zappa didn’t consider himself a hippie either, I think he was pretty cool. In Wild Child – girlhood’s in the counterculture (Seal Press); his adult daughter, Moon Unit Zappa  writes a foreword that is terribly interesting. After describing the coolness and weird shit of her home life, she says it left her with “an awful floating feeling, of too much space, too many choices”. That “she craved rituals and rules like her friends had”. “Prayed for curfews and strictly enforced meal times.”
    I think, what child doesn’t get left with some awful floating feeling. I didn’t know what the hell to do with myself and felt lost as hell, trying to grow up. I wished my parents had given me a whole boat load of things so I would then feel better. Meal times and rules seemed to choke us all with gray dull mechanical senselessness. My point is children have to go Seek what they didn’t get at home. These days, almost any child is going to feel a lack, an anger, and a lostness. Later, you will appreciate the good things you did get, if your home-life was half decent. So I think the typical home-life kid would like some of the freak parents home life and vice a versa. But the big thing I see, in reading the stories in this book and in another book called Pagan Time, by Micah Perks –  is kinda scary to me. It is that we parents, we adults have our eyes full of our minds projections, our belief systems, hopes, dreams, delusions, ideals – while our children are sitting in the dust of our old farmhouses. I mean kids just see what is really there at the moment. They see the dirt and lack of food where an adult might see freedom and romance. And if the home is loving, safe and stable enough – the child sees it all in a good light too. If not, then, well, the child does not. Its weird, these stories seem slightly on the negative side, slightly like reporters from the mainstream (“I wanted to explore what hippie kids had learned about freedom from coming of age in an environment that valued it so highly yet may not have had considered all of it’s consequences”- Chelsea Cain), slightly like my own child’s critical voice – for these voices are indeed the children of freaks, put between two worlds, there home-life and the straight-world. I hungrily ate the stories up. In the end, it seems families are all slightly the same, no matter how different. Everyone’s family is a little bit crazy. Everyone (not just wild haired nekid child raised folks) has to “work through the lessons of their upbringing, its successes and failures”. I think there are good families and bad families in every culture, in every subculture.
    I guess at one point, I really did believe in the dream. Whatever that dream was, it gets hard to remember sometimes. That the future was wide open with fresh possibilities. I probably did believe, to quote Chelsea in the Wild Child introduction – that like her parents in the “hippie trip” – I was part of “creating a lifestyle that not only abandoned, but defied the cultural norms. That by rejecting the expectations and betrayals of their upbringings, they could start fresh with the next generation. They could change the world one child at a time.” And so many of these voices, could be indeed, my own child’s voice:  ” We—your aunt and I and the rest of the kids who used to huddle together on Saturday mornings before the grownups came too, huddle at the neighbors house, in front of the forbidden t.v., with spoonfuls of peanut butter and slabs of stolen ham – we were supposed to be the first generation of truly free children. Free to trample each other at the Bay School. Free to eat tofu and bean sprouts. Free of the sway of pop culture and advertising and Sunday morning cartoons. Free of finger bowls and social constructions of every kind. Free not to suffer from the eating disorders and gender-identity crises that weren’t supposed to come later, but did. Of course they did.” - says Ariel Gore. She cracks me up. She writes next in her essay in Wild Child:  “Still I was never nostalgic for the hopes in that poetry. I didn’t miss communal living and talk of non-violent revolutions. I never did like the anarchist’s free school.” Ha ha - how like my daughter.
    Our kids seem to be so much the pragmatists. And we parents, the books we write, like Spiritual Midwifery, Summer Hill, and The Children of the Future Generation, are so full of hope for a brave new much improved world, we get carried away, stars in our eyes. Utopian hunters with there crazy ironic fates waiting. “First Chasidim, then socialists, then beatniks, then hippies, now feminists, lesbians, reconstructionist Jews – my mother’s family has always been swept away with the newest possibility of making the world a little sweeter”. – Pagan time.
    While the books our kids write, tend to show how we parents are full of shit. I would have liked to read more stories of kids raised by hippies that didn’t have any junkies, asshole dads or molesters in it - as I think my life in the subculture has not placed my daughter’s life in the hands of junkies, asshole dads or molesters. But if you think about it, few stories written about peoples childhoods are ever happy stories. Who wants to write or read a happy story? You just live the happy times and feel less compelled to write about them. A troubled coming of age story is always a good read. Little Miss Strange by Joanna Rose is a really good read. Pagan Time was set in the freedom of hippies in nature led by a strange personality – where Little Miss Strange takes place is in the city of Denver and for the most part is full of the “cool things and weird shit” that is the subculture viewed from a kids eyes. It also deals with fucked up issues that could happen to a girl growing up anywhere. Although it was in a way sad, I really liked it. I liked the protagonist of the story, a lot. I could totally see how aspects of either of these books could be punk rock - if we are escaping to the good life out in the country or living in town.
    I know, in real life, I have known people that have been said to have their shit more together, OR to be more messed up—because their parents were hippies. Mostly its a mix—in working out your childhood and trying to understand your parents as people - you figure yourself out more, the good and the bad.
    I can’t say that I really learned anything from these books, about how to raise my kid. I would say there is no perfect way to parent. Perfect punk parenting, just like a perfect Christian raised upbringing - is not going to guarantee you anything. Neither is a middle class life in the suburbs. Just do what you think is right.
    And for all of us, following our hearts and kicking ass, I say - Keep your eyes open, Trade stories and Share the experience. Yours for the daily revolution as the earth moves around the sun and the seasons come and go – China

P.S. You can check out more about Vanessa Renwick’s and Bill Daniel’s work on PeripheralProduce.com. I looked at stuff from Bill’s older project: Texas Skatepunk Scrapbook and it was very cool.