Punk Rock John // Neil Hilborn (Spoken Word)
Punk Rock John introduced himself to me at my first show. He said, “kid.. protect your teeth, do NOT lick the walls, and don’t piss off the crusty’s. If you get cut, let it bleed– you’ll be fine.”
I was 15 years old, thinking about unzipping my veins. And while most 15 year olds would have done drugs or written a fucking poem, I went to shitty bars and basements and gave my best friends black eyes.
For the first time in my life, I knew that when I fell, someone was gonna pick me up. That first mosh pit was not a quiet conversation about suicide, it was Punk Rock John telling me, “Hey asshole! Don’t kill yourself! Don’t waste your unscarred knuckles.” My rage bloomed. Why hate myself when I can hate parents, high school, the radio, record stores, magazines, corporations, yuppies, my parents, cops, rain, sunshine, beach days, phone books, and tiny FUCKING cupcakes? God damn, if that first day of punk didn’t sound like Buddy Holly played back, double time, distorted, compressed into four chords.
The first time I saw Punk Rock John, he was halfway through a frontflip stage dive, and he landed directly on me. He picked me up, dusted me off, and threw me back in the pit. Punk Rock John was 6’4” had hands the size a kick drum, and he smelled like a 20-year rain. He was Noah. He was our shepherd. One time, I was getting ready to dropkick some metal kid when John got me in a headlock and said, “quit fucking around, Neil! You don’t know who this kid’s friends are, and I ain’t putting you out if they set you on fire.”
John told us, “the church of punk rock was always open. If you wanna pray, just crank up the stereo until your ears bleed. If you wanna pray, just grab your brothers and sing! Sing out of tune, sing the wrong words- just sing! Loud!”
But then some out-of-town skin dropped a guillotine knifeblade into John’s skull. The blood was pouring from his ears. He was dead before he hit the ground. John brought me into a world where I felt loved, and that world took him away. I buried my leather jacket, patched the holes in my jeans, and tried to pluck the chords like stitches from my chest.. but John still speaks to me. When the world is larger than I am, when my chest is a vice.. I put that needle on the record, I turn it up until I can’t hear shit, and I tell myself: as long as I have hands, I can break something. As long as we can breathe, we can sing. As long as I can remember, I will hear him– he says, “kid, you’ll be fine.”