Wherever they were, we went.
We, the middle class kids, flexing behind our socialist, do-good for all banner.
We served food to the homeless on Sundays.
We hosted our grassroots environmental meeting on Wednesdays.
We were the ones who broke away from home because we could afford to.
Because our parents supported us financially.
We got the apartment in the shitty crime filled and drug enveloped neighborhoods.
We lived in pseudo squalor because we could. Because we wanted to.
It was an escape from a life too easy.
And they were the same. Middle of the road, but from a different part of town. Rural suburbs. Where you had to drive ten minutes to the grocery store. Instead of a paradisal river cutting through their brick, historic neighborhoods, they had cow pastures and a couple dirt roads. For Tampa, they were roughing it.
And roughing it was unfair, it was oppression.
An oppression that had to be lashed out upon regardless of who you were or where you came from.
They stood for National Socialism. For white empowerment.
But, what was it, really?
Simply a justification to stomp your ass into the ground.
We hated them.
They hated us.
Down the road from our punk house was the Yacht Club. Its ancient pine frame rotten, its walls melting sideways over a sand cliff hovering the river bed.
This was the polluted end.
Brackish waters filled with brown beer bottles.
Old plastic sacks covered in slime.
Fish choked out, dotting the river sand, laying lifeless on the shore.
On weekends at the Yacht Club we hosted our punk shows. Loud, fast, discordant chaos. Where our “radical social politics” served as a recurring motif through lyrics.
Those lyrics that taught us to be kind to our neighbor.
To hold friendship and camaraderie on a pedestal.
Those lyrics, graced upon us by the band The Dead Kennedys, informing all “Nazi Punks” to “Fuck Off.”
We had gotten word that they were organizing a skinhead party at the club.
To us, it was a territorial pissing.
They knew the dive was ours.
We stood out front, fifteen deep. All of us, vegetarian, skinny for the most part.
Forming a barrier along the sidewalk, we did our best to obstruct the entrance, the coming and going of cars delivering the Neo-Nazi’s to their pow wow.
Across the lot, the Nazi-Punks formed an opposing line. A front. Like a civil war stand off.
They wore suspenders.
Some of them shirtless with shitty jailhouse tattoos:
A bald eagle with talons grasping a swastika.
An American flag conjoined with the confederate rebel.
Their ink, once black and red, faded blue, dulling in the ultraviolet sun.
Each Nazi-Punk, a meaty mass, a machine ready to pound us into oblivion.
Behind them, a pastel blue, 1970’s Econo-Van winded through the lot. Parking, the doors opened. Out exited a man in a three piece suit.
His blazer, also pastel, matched his ride.
His hair, blond, cake-like, as if a Ken Doll had been animated human.
His sympathizers quickly ushered him inside.
David Duke had been many things.
An ex-Louisiana, state representative.
A former Presidential Candidate for the Republican party.
And, most unbelievably, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku-Klux-Klan.
His political and ethical beliefs were beyond absurd.
He supported holocaust denial.
Formed the National Association of the Advacement of White People.
As a student, he once walked the LSU campus in a Nazi uniform.
This was a man who threw parties for Hitler’s birthday.
I had no idea this scene was a celebration. A rally for his political visit to Tampa.
It was no longer a territorial scuffle between us punks and our ongoing punk vs. Nazi feud.
This was real.
A real and serious threat.
By evening we had settled back into our punk house. We ate in masse, and sat on the porch as the indian summer chilled Tampa.
Mike set up the clippers. It was a weekend tradition. Most of us took a shave down. Short. Down to a quarter inch.
But with this cut, I wanted it shorter.
Across the street, the neighbors were throwing a party. Christmas lights lined their walk way. Parked cars littered the one way drive. We could see shadows moving through the house as dusk called on the street lights.
It was my turn.
Curled over, my head down as the clippings dumped over my shoulders. I watched those black bundles of hair cascade onto the wooden slats of the porch.
I was now freshly bald.
“Done,” he announced.
And I lifted my head. The night air cool, the humidity gone. I peered over the railing, where, to my left, an Econo-Van pulled up.
Baby blue, it parked directly across the street.
From the neighbors house, a half dozen people meandered out to meet their guest. The van door opened, and from the black pitch interior came that Ken Doll head. That pastel blazer.
David Duke got out. A giant smile on his face as he greeted his supporters.
They circled him.
Going clockwise, he granted each his hand.
Duke looked across the street. With my head lifted, my skull shaved bald, we made eye contact.
And then Duke waved, mistaking me for one of his skinhead minions, one of his sympathizers.
It was a cordial “hello,” a superficial, political hors d’ouevres as he, the guest of honor, walked into his Neo-Nazi house party.