[Today: On my little brother’s 35th birthday, a salute to him and one of his favorite albums…]
My brother is one of the coolest people I know. He’s three years younger than me, and for a couple of years when I was in middle school he was my punching bag any time we had a dispute. But he got tired of that and started seriously hitting the weights when he was in early middle school. Could bench press 200lbs by the time he was in 8th grade, nearly 400lbs by 10th grade (!) – and hasn’t been anybody’s punching bag since.
He and I were as different as could be during our teenage years – me straight-laced, preppy, and happy-go-lucky; he punked out and layered in muscle and anger – and we used to brawl. We busted holes in the walls (“This isn’t a goddamned flophouse!” our mom screamed at us after that one), broke furniture, and nearly each other. But one day things went over the line and it was suddenly clear that one of us was going to get seriously hurt. We both sensed it and backed off, shook hands, and walked away – and have been genuinely good friends ever since.
Our musical preferences of the time perfectly encapsulated our differences. I liked Prince, INXS, AC/DC and other mainstream 80’s rockers, while he was into Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys, The Clash and their ilk. I’m not afraid to admit that these albums scared me back then. The album covers alone (especially Black Flag’s) were designed to cause uneasiness, and they worked their magic on me. But there were elements of his punk fixation that greatly amused me – particularly the time he came home with a full-on mohawk that his friend Wes had given him. This was back when said haircut was still very anti-social and scary. Mom was delighted about that.
He’s gone through a number of phases since then (haven’t we all?): from punker to football player to scholar to MBA graduate to happily married father of three. He recently hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim in a day, ran a marathon, and lost 50lbs in the space of a year. I’ve learned to not be surprised by anything my brother does, but he still comes up with a doozy every now and again – one of which was literally up his sleeve.
One day right around the time he was wrapping up college, he took me aside at our Mom’s house – “Hey man, I want to show you something” he said. I expected it to be another report card full of A’s, or a complicated economics graph I wouldn’t understand, so I was shocked when he rolled up his sleeve to show me a brand new tattoo on his shoulder. It was four simple black bars, slightly out of alignment, forming the Black Flag logo. “What do you think of that?” he asked.
I think it kicks ass.
Listen: Rise Above