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Anti-man-about-town paid for his lunch at a fantastic Indian buffet on Castro Street in Mountain View. The woman at the cashier, noticing my last name on the debit card receipt, spoke Hindi to me. When I didn't answer, she said: "You don't speak Hindi?"
I said no. She gave me a flabbergasted look and said, "Nothing? Not at all?"
To which I replied: "Look. Two buildings down is where Slayer played 28 years ago. And Exodus. And Death Angel. And bands like D.R.I. and Verbal Abuse. Each of which probably involved me, as a teenager, drinking an entire bottle of Night Train in the back parking lot and then relieving myself on the back of this very building in which we now stand. And then going inside to smash my face on the stage over and over again, or at the very least swinging my friends around in circles, while colliding with any number of drunk or drugged out metalheads and punks drenched in sweat. There were no Indian dudes hanging around during those days, so, um, I never learned Hindi. Sorry."
No, I didn't actually say that to her. But I felt like it.
For the anti-man-about-town, this was a routine example of my childhood trauma, the productive kind, returning to the surface. I say "productive" because sometimes—if one possesses the tools—the negative experiences can transform themselves into humor. After awhile it becomes natural. Now that I'm older and just barely wiser, I seem better equipped to dissolve the reactive emotions when they arise.
Before he passed away, my Dad was originally from India. My mom is Anglo, so I was born half-eastern and half-western. I've never been wholly or purely either one, but somewhere between. This was never any dramatic crisis. Rather, it just provided a rocking, thrashing metaphor for life. For example, just like San Jose, I feel half urban and half suburban. And 28 years ago, when Slayer played a few doors down from this Indian buffet, I was half thrash metal and half punk. Which is why this encounter at the cash register brought back so many memories of Castro Street in the heyday of the thrash-punk crossover era.
During the first half of the '80s, most fans of the aforementioned genres were either purely punk or purely metal. Then halfway through that decade the two scenes crossed over and merged together to create a new term, aptly called "crossover," a phenomenon that people on both sides are still complaining about. In the Bay Area, most of this went down in SF, the East Bay, or at clubs like the Keystone Palo Alto. But for a few brief years, the Mountain View Theater morphed into a makeshift venue, a beautifully decrepit sweatbox that booked these kinds of shows. All the aforementioned bands played there, in front of probably 300 people, tops.
In Mountain View, the Castro Street of 1988 was an indistinguishable suburban road connecting El Camino Real to a Caltrain Station. Nobody used email, cell phones or laptops. There were no Googlers, Tech Bros or yoga hotties. Sidewalk patio dining was nonexistent, the parking strips did not overflow with flowers and there was nothing anywhere named Weeby.
Then Slayer and Exodus showed up to sing about Satan, murder, rape, torture, cannibalism, necrophilia, rotting flesh, raining blood and lessons in violence. You know, the fun stuff. Thankfully, around the corner from the Mountain View Theater one found an unidentifiable dive bar named Mervyn's, which still exists, but for the first time in decades it now has a sign over the door, ruining all the mystery. On the way to the shows, those of drinking age would get smashed at Mervyn's while the rest of us found other ways. I distinctly remember the band Verbal Abuse praising that bar on stage during their set at the Mountain View Theater.
Unfortunately, the club only lasted a few years before going under. Nothing is permanent. In my case, I am grateful to still be here to regale you with these experiences. The rush nowadays comes not from rotgut wine and thrash metal, but instead from Aloo Gobi, chai and Bindi Masala. Even if I can't speak Hindi.