On “Grace and Jenny Are Punk Rockers”

Grace and Jenny Are Punk Rockers is now in the gutsy journal Scissors and Spackle. It was accepted by Jenny Catlin, before her 2-year round as editor ended, and who wrote a fabulous story in the journal Horror, Sleaze, Trash, that had lines like this:

We are aging at a rapid pace. We watch fake news and roll to our respective bed corners to sleep off the day and I cannot pretend his hard-on against my back in my sleep doesn’t bother me.

So kudos and farewell to Jenny. My story about a Filipino American reflecting on his adolescence and the women he knew may be less about being Filipino American and more about race in the Pacific Northwest, especially Portland, the whitest big city in the U.S.. That’s why the story follows a punk rock theme, and takes its form and tone from the Ramones’ songs “Sheena is a punk rocker” and “Judy is a punk.”

Grace Castillo was a punk rocker kind of girl. Jenny Perez took her to see our band at the One-Thirty-Eight in Portland. They both had color in their hair. We were drawn to each other like magnets, the only brown people there. They both seemed to like me, and really love my band. I was just the back-up guitarist, but I still got laid. Grace, with her dark brown Cebuano skin, completed the red plaid skirt.

I had the experience of seeing punk rock shows almost every week, only realizing in my late teens that I was the only non-white person at most of them. Unfair, I thought, for me, because I found punk rock so simple in showing the spotlight on urban decay and the injustices of the prison system and racial segregation.  Bands like Dead Kennedy’s and early Bad Religion sparked notions of global rebellion and suspicion. Not really considering the racial origins of punk rock, I thought it wasn’t fair that every show I went to was so white. Was there something wrong with how I felt?

That night I dreamt I missed the bus. Why a bus? I was taking an airplane.

Anyways, these feelings manifested in adulthood, perhaps, when I wrote Grace and Jenny. Stories like Trevor Houser’s “Shark Attack” in Smokelong Quarterly gave me a style I had to try out, and then encountering these Korean children chanting the lyrics: “Perhaps they’ll die” brought the song back to me.

I think I came to Grace and Jenny the same way the Ramones came to write songs. I kept expecting to read some simple, stupid story just like it, but I never did, so I just wrote it.

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