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Night Crawler 

Punks, Putting, and the Police

Wednesday, Sep 15 1999
As if things aren't bad enough for law enforcement during a three-day holiday ... No less than 400 punk rockers are due to descend upon the chain-store sanctuary of Castro Valley; and the estimated attendance doesn't include all the disgruntled hooligans who will hang around the parking lot, looking for trouble, unable to procure a ticket to the nine-band officer's nightmare that is the Lookout Freakout. But, to the benefit of every fast-food-munching, strip-driving citizen of Castro Valley, the CVPD is prepared: Two patrol cars position themselves in plain sight overlooking the mini-golf course, where harmless recreational sport is about to find itself on a collision course with mayhem. In a neighboring lot, four Highway Patrol cars steal themselves away, on the off chance some drunk punk without a license decides to play penny ante with other people's lives. Inside the well-manicured grounds of the Golden Tee, a stocky motorcycle cop with mirrored shades props an authoritative boot on a bench and sternly surveys the scene while an athletic junior officer walks from one end of the golf course to the other, winding his way through windmills and miniature shipwrecks with a discerning eye.

A visible police presence: This is how a well-ordered town diffuses the powder keg of punk.

The suspects arrive a little after high noon, just as the sun begins to bake the asphalt and the gleam of chrome bumpers becomes unbearable. They clamor together against the chain-link fence wearing a wide array of motley guises: over-large shorts, home-made T-shirts, and sundresses of every shape and size. Some of the girls wear too much makeup; some don't wear any at all. There is a mohawk in the crowd (his alias: That Mohawk Guy) and hairdos freshly dyed in unnatural hues. Two dubious characters sport studded leather jackets, obviously inappropriate attire for such a warm day. More cars arrive, some of them eyesores. The newcomers are embraced as recognized members of the same gang. A 17-year-old hellion with a fuchsia coif proclaims her overwhelming craving ... for hot dogs.

The line begins to move past an umbrella sheltering two Lookout Records employees whose eyes are masked behind dark sunglasses. Their blood-red lips curl into smiles as names are taken and crossed off a master list. The punks pass through the gate and enter the Golden Tee; with clear intent, they surge up the central walkway between two silver knights and procure clubs from a faceless form in the clubhouse window. On a small stage nearby, the innocently insurgent Towards An End bursts into song. Fans rush the stage and hurl their bodies headlong into the grass, lying there on their bellies with their faces cupped in their hands. Others approach the first hole, hidden beneath a swaying log, and swing wildly as their cohorts keep careful competitive score; or they tumble down the grassy hill, wrestling with their future-ex-paramours like schoolchildren playing kiss-tag. Almost all of them seem completely oblivious or uninterested in the police presence.

"Most of these kids are still discovering music and hormones," says Trice Dweyer, a 29-year-old who shares a love of Lookout bands with his wife of five years and their 10-month-old infant. "Delinquency comes a little later, you know, after the first heartbreak or during the first drug addiction."

As if on cue, two 13-year-old girls run past, giggling and squealing madly, apparently intoxicated by little more than sunshine, open air, and their favorite bands. They collapse in a chortling heap beneath a tree to catch their breath, then scurry off again.

That Mohawk Guy, also known as Mr. Fedge, a 25-year-old San Rafael resident, sits under the tree, discussing the signatures he has gathered on his Lookout Freakout poster. Not an autograph-seeker by nature, Mr. Fedge quickly points out that Lookout's Groovie Ghoulies are his favorite band, second only to the Misfits, and he has seen the Ghoulies 11 times this year alone. Fedge's buddy, a 17-year-old "alternateen" named Ben Boyden, rifles through his Lookout grab bag, a little disappointed by the Tilt CD, which he already owns, while 15-year-old Jenny Mundy describes her homemade "Black sheep of anarchy" T-shirt. Band names and tour schedules are volleyed back and forth until a companion is spotted with her head buried in her hands, and everyone rushes to her side.

"I'm just really hot," she says, looking up with flushed cheeks. Water is shoved into her hands, and Fedge and Mundy stroke her back in concern as the Mopes take the stage.

"It makes you feel good," says 27-year-old Stacy Mills, a stylish kitten in a plastic miniskirt and fun-fur halter top. "Everyone here knows each other from shows. They support local bands the way most people follow national acts. They take care of each other and develop bonds at shows. It's a very healthy, respectful community."

No one cheats on golf scores. No one hops the low fence (despite ample opportunity and a sold-out sign). No one cuts in line at the "Pirate Cove," where a Phantom Surfer clad in red-plaid pantaloons and a black mask tries to play through a shallow baby-blue pond. Even the few incidents of apparent drug use seem imbued with childlike virtue: "Are you tired? I'm not tired. Go on, ask me why ..." followed by peals of giggles.

Dreamy hours, filled with laughter and the smell of freshly cut grass, pass as the Plus Ones, the Smugglers, Pansy Division, and the Groovie Ghoulies take the stage. The crowd pogos through its favorite songs and hits golf balls through the doorways of large dollhouses.

It all looks innocent enough, until I spot 32-year-old Peterjohn Paolucci and his familiar companion Tree Angulo (who claims to be only as old as her tongue and a little older than her teeth), both known aficionados of younger men. (Paolucci's summer fling recently left San Francisco to go to junior college.) It is no mistake that they are here. "I think it's great when parents come to shows with their kids, because then I know not to look," Angulo jokes with a joyous laugh.

Rich Leblanc and his sons, 5-year-old Tyler and 3-year-old Brice, sit at a nearby picnic table. Both Tyler and Brice wear matching Lookout T-shirts; Rich is a Groovie Ghoulies fan, Tyler prefers the Donnas, and, inexplicably, Brice claims Led Zeppelin as his favorite. The children appear content, basking in the rock fandom inspired by their old man.

Near "Fort Apache," Crystal Harmon is celebrating her 18th birthday, playing miniature golf with her 19-year-old sister Brandee, little brother Julian, and Julian's best friend, 11-year-old Alex Lord.

"My little brother is more than six years younger than me," says Crystal with a slightly embarrassed smile that masks her braces, "but he started taking me to shows."

"Yeah, I've been going to shows since 1997," says Julian with the air of a seasoned veteran. "You know, Gilman Street, the Fillmore, places like that. It's cool."

The Hi-Fives take the stage. A bearded man, easily three times Julian's age, skips toward the platform, the back of his shirt reading, "Too Old to Act Cool." The CVPD appears a little out of its depth.

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