Postcard from Division Street, 92

L7 Pretend We're Dead - Etched B-Side UK Promo 12" vinyl single (

L7 Pretend We’re Dead – Etched B-Side UK Promo 12″ vinyl single (

We had all just graduated college — at least I had, Dave had a couple more credits to go but said screw it, he’d get it another time — and Chris was pretty much self-educated on heady books and foreign films, delivering seeds for a nursery, and had his own van, on loan from his employer.

I found us a rental off Division Street above a Texaco on the bayside. We had a poster of a girl punk band called L7 in the kitchen, with a woman in dominatrix garb and her skin made to look phantom green, forcing someone’s head between her legs, with the caption Pretend We’re Dead, which seemed apt for the kitchen.

Chris worked for a catering company and Dave played organ at funerals and weddings, and sat there solemn as he did. I delivered pizzas and worked at a candy shop setting the par for saltwater taffy and got caught taking a balloon off the nitrous tank in the back, and then things were never the same after that.

Mark was trying to make his hair dread but he was a white guy, had taken on that stoner drawl that comes from hanging around jam band people too long, your senses slacken and you sound dumb whether you want to or not. We’d driven to Ohio to see the Grateful Dead with Bruce Hornsby on keyboards and the Violent Femmes the opening act, and it’s the first time I got pee-shy, trying to relieve myself against a chain link fence with a number of others lined along the hillside and a row of cops 50 feet on the other side just standing there arms crossed, laughing and pointing at everyone tripping their balls off.

Mark said you just had to keep walking barefoot to lose the nerve sensation in your feet, so you could stand the hot boardwalk and the sand. We all worked every day, to make money. You could go three weeks before you had a day off, but we met up late night and often until morning, and then slept a few hours because nothing started early at Ocean City, Maryland.

I got done with the nightshift delivering pizzas around 3, and we’d all get in our cars and grab some blankets and beers and drive down to the beach as the sun was coming up, and bodysurf, eat chips, talk. I had that neediness for a girlfriend that’s the worst kind of repellant and it worked, nothing would land on me. All three of us were probably too old at 21 to fit in.

There was a girl who worked the front register at the pizza shop, who had that all-American pretty girl blond look, and I was surprised and confused to learn there was more going on, that first morning we sat there on the beach and shared a blanket, and I played a tape of a 4AD band and she seemed to really listen and respond to it. It was better nothing landed on me, my heart and blood were poison.

Mike worked for a hotel and the owner had a collection of exotic animals he used for some devious purpose, no one knew what, maybe importing them and selling them to the circus, and we would sometimes go down into the bowels of the hotel under the kitchen where the guy kept the animals, and do drugs in the dark with the animals calling out from their cages.

Living at the beach, you get tired of the beach. You lose track of the days but can tell it’s the weekend when it gets crowded. As August wore on and it was time for me to go I left earlier than I had to because I couldn’t stand it anymore. I blew off my last shift at the pizza shop but had to go in to collect my check before I left town, and the manager, who was my favorite guy there, said I thought you were different than the rest but I guess I was wrong, you’re just like everybody else.


Categories: humor

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17 replies

    • Of the five vintage jean jackets I got from my step-dad that’s one of the ones that made the cut for our trip to Germany, the one that has a pin on it that says Slacker. Head shop in Pittsburgh.


      • This was cool to read — as memoir — after reading Mark’s latest post — diary — from around the same period, roughly the same age. Of course, the difference of a few years was huge in your early twenties, 21 versus — gasp — 25!


      • I know – in some ways I think him sharing stuff from 92 got me thinking about that time too, especially since there are some parallels to what we’re doing now – kind of in a holding pattern, for what’s next. Glad you found it cool to read. I’m trying to coax up some juice from the past – fun to feel like I’ve got an online writing class here. Makes all the difference having smart, bearded, funny-looking readers like you. Who my mom thinks is a long-lost cousin of some sort. We’ll find out when we read the names off the prison records in Scotland this winter.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I think being the same and quitting a pizza job is a good thing. Imagine if you had been different and stayed forever. I had a boss offer to sell me his tree trimming business…I hated the job, why would I spend the rest of my life doing something I hated?


    • That’s a good question – spending the rest of your life doing something you hate. I just delivered pizzas because it earned me some money, seemed ‘cool,’ and I thought I might meet some girls. Kind of none of the above.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, yes! Nice and for me, I have to find the joy in talking about the old times to help me stay conditioned for memoir-writing. I took a crack at the last 20 years but so much of it was mired in work experiences, it just doesn’t have any life in it, not the same. Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts my friend! – Bill


  2. Holy shit, the fourth paragraph!!!! So epic, relatable, and just freaking crazy. And the nitrous ballon, scary shit. Makes me think of a few weeks ago was at Widespread Panic show in Kansas City and right after the show, when everyone’s pouring out, we watch as two truck loads of dudes roll up, and roll out a tank. Then a group of them head over to the cops and talk to them, while the other group starts passing out balloons. Same thing, cops everywhere, gaping wound of ugly and tantalizing counter-culture. Fuck nitrous tanks (Sorry for the cursin).


    • It’s funny you mention Widespread because that would have been the jam band I was going to name drop – nitrous tanks and that drug is about the worst, dumbest…good gracious. Now that I have kids it makes me shudder. “Gaping wound of ugly and tantalizing” is right, like kicking over a rock and looking at all the mushy eyeless things squirming around. Glad you liked it and were able to relate, that makes me happy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have this fantasy that when it’s all behind me–kids, work, commute, suffering–I’ll be able to spend my days on the beach. And now you’re telling me that there’s only so much beach you can take? That you’ll get tired of it? This is disheartening news.

    Are these early dispatches written down somewhere or is this all culled from memory?


    • Maybe you can take your dog with you to the beach, and bury it there in parts. Seriously – I had a similar fantasy about the beach, it was always the go-to place for getting away, and as a kid, I’d look forward to that for months, kind of obsess on it. We went to Ocean City NJ and also Sea-something…can’t even remember the name now, which is sad. After college though, I opted for Ocean City MD – used to go there during college to visit friends who managed to live there all summer, and I thought it was the life. (Not for me)
      Yes, these are written from memory as I was writing anything then, not that summer. It’s hard to really remember much, which has been a challenge for me to see what I can turn up. There’s an alcoholic ex-military building manager from our bungalow I want to resurrect but I’m not ready yet. Thanks for reading Mark, enjoy your weekend and hope the steaks were good. Or well.


  4. Wow, L7, that brought back memories. They were the go-to girl punk band for angry feminists before Courtney Love and Hole came on the scene. This made me feel dirty–literally, like a coat of grime covered my skin–which means it brought back memories of my own, which were definitely grimy (cock-roach infested basement apartment in Boston) and vodka scented. Oh, now you’ve gone and got me all misty eyed for the smell of bong water on the carpet and the butts of Camel cigarettes. Nice work, Bill


    • Yeah, I couldn’t put the L7 poster image I wanted to in this post because I thought it maybe OTT. But I’m glad to hear from a true fan what you thought about them, thanks. I should go back and give them a listen; that was my year of graduating college and they were new on the scene then. I like the idea of smelling Camel butts, bong water in the carpet – hard to get out, if you even noticed it or cared, or had carpet. Thanks Dina, glad you liked it.


  5. Hey Bill, wow! Need to absorb the rush this brings on! Let’s not forget ‘The Cure Play Out’ poster on the other wall. Chimps in chairs!


  6. Back at’cha. Have to sync up when you’re stateside again.


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