"punks with presses"
punks with presses (PWP) was a tiny industrial complex unassumingly nestled on 26th avenue between adeline and west grand street in west oakland's warehouse district.
upon arriving in the eastbay, i ironically ended up living in west oakland at punks with presses. the PWP warehouse was a magnificent palace of filth and punk rock. its time-worn walls were defiantly smattered with graffiti and stickers that often revealed its glorious history as a veritable punk rock hotel. prior to my arrival, lars from rancid was in the process of moving out. blake schwarzenbach from jawbreaker had lived there for a stint, and before him billie joe armstrong, other notable punk rock luminaries in PWP's residential history include paula from spitboy, lenny from filth, and even little janelle of tales of blaaargh fanzine notoriety. aside from the distinguished list of house guests, PWP had a notoriety for throwing remarkably small shows in its kitchen. jawbreaker, green day, rancid, tilt, citizen fish, the gr'ups, econochrist, bikini kill, and pinhead gunpowder had all rocked the pots and pans off the walls. while i was there, the bouncing souls danced around on our kitchen floor with screw 32 and the struggle buggies.
life at PWP was never less than chaotic. bands and kids were always crashing in helter skelter looking for work, food, or a place to stay. music was life, as it blared incessantly from various stereos. the sega genesis was constantly in use, as mtv seemed to be the only station ever on. the floors, like the walls, were covered in graffiti. the tables and counters were littered with discarded photo negatives, hatemail, chinese take-out cartons, gunpowder for pipebombs, old copies of MRR, magnum markers, and unidentifiable plates of leftover food. everything there just seemed to exude a sanctified sense of lawlessness.
at night i withdrew to my little closet of a room. falling asleep on the hard and cluttered floor, i could not have been happier with my pillows of scrap paper, and mattress of discarded fanzines. caroline had given me a cheap plastic record player with no speakers that lulled me to sleep every night with its faint scratchy sounds. with the door closed, the room was staggeringly dark. i remember the queer sensation of being unable to discern whether my eyes were open or close unless i consciously blinked them. awash in vertigo, i would fade in and out of consciousness until finally overcome by dreams.
in the morning i would wake up completely disoriented. opening the door, i would be blinded by the afternoon sun, and greeted by the various kids who were already busy with the day's work. PWP was run primarily by jux and a handful of other punk rock miscreants, one of whom was the irascible brian of. never too busy to offer his derisive sense of humor and sarcasm, brian of split his time working at PWP and running his record mail order Blacklist. working at the press was enervating, as week after week, i watched literally hundreds of posters, record covers, and stickers materialize to be shipped all over the country. our phone rang nonstop with orders from lookout! records and other labels or bands who constantly harassed us for our lack of alacrity. we then of course moved their order to the bottom of the prioroity list for their impudence. over the years PWP has been responsible for the mass printing of posters, stickers, and 7" covers for bands ranging from los crudos, rhythm collision, the voodoo glowskulls, born against, rancid, avail, and fifteen.
my duty at PWP was relegated primarily to housekeeping tasks. incessantly overrun by disorderly punk rock kids, the warehouse required an inordinate amount of work to keep clean. fortunately all jux really cared about were the dishes and the bathroom. every day for at least an hour i was up to my elbows in hot suds and greasy dishes. i was often able to shirk my bathroom janitorial duties, as gutterpunks would invariably arrive at the press looking for work. i found it poetic that jux paid them to clean our bathrooms, as it was always the gutterpunks who seemed fond of getting pissed drunk at our shows and urinating haphazardly.
when i was not playing alice brady, i kept myself occupied assisting jux with various printing or collating tasks. printing is an extremely hectic and stress-ridden job. routinely, everything will be running like clockwork when suddenly the paper jams inexplicably, and the rotten printer is recklessly still spewing ink splattered pages all over the place. i never committed any fatal errors during the wee hours in the morning when jux would ask my assistance. ironically though, i bungled the page numbering of dick lucas' short novella write the way up. i realized my blunder after i had glue stick all over my fingers, and was completely sick of cutting out tiny numbers. fortunately for me, dick is a nice guy and is too busy in europe with his band citizen fish. when i wasnt working, i busied myself reading the plentiful graffiti that adorned our walls. in jux's room i found a heart that jeff ott supposedly painted in dedication to green day. in lar's old room i discovered a whole slew of girls' names and phone numbers in his handwriting by the wall where his bed was. asking him about it later, he only smiled and feigned ignorance. i would probably believe his innocence if it were not for the sporadic phone calls we would receive at PWP of trembly voiced giggly girls asking if lars from rancid was there.
the time i spent living at PWP changed me irrevocably in a myriad of ways. it was my first experience with living so far from chicago. jux was nothing but kind to me when i arrived in the eastbay with nowhere else to go. his unconditional welcoming and invitation to stay embodies the true spirit of punk rock. since my departure from PWP several years have past, and i have heard horrible stories of his character and morality being maligned. whether or not these allegations prove to be true, i still owe jux immensely as his hospitality made my first taste of the east bay possible. living at PWP also forced me to go vegan as everyone who lived there was. although initially frustrated by the radical shift in diet, i eventually grew to dislike the taste of meat, and continued to abstain from it after i left the east bay. i now passionately embrace a permanant vegan lifestyle. finally, my stay at PWP forced me to confront for the first time the stark difference between my upper middle class upbringing, and true poverty. PWP was located in the heart of west oakland's industrial district, and a few blocks from the projects. admittedly, an upper class kid temporarily transplanting himself into a high crime low income city does not suddenly make him an authority or a martyr of the living poor. after all, regardless of emptiness of pocket, most punk rock kids have the option of eventually leaving and pursuing new opportunities. this is in direct contrast to the situation that the people of low income areas generally face.