What's a Punk?


Punks hang out in Harvard Square, but don't call them punks.

"Punks? What are Punks?"

This, coming from a girl of 14, dressed in leather boots and a denim jacket, singing bits of Kate Bush songs in between pats at her razorback hair.

"I don't have to carry a flag. I don't have to sent out any messages."

A woman passes by in a pair of phosphorescent Reebox. The girl lets out a squeal and grabs her girlfriend by the arm.


"You see that Day-Glo? That's fucking great!"

She turns to me.

"You ever see Day-Glo that loud, or what?"

For the girl and her friend, the shoes are an event. They fall about each other, laugh and shiver, hold one another. When they've finished they bum Djakarta cigarettes from a nearby skinhead. The girl turns back to me, looking bored. Her eyes, brown and indolent, hover above and beyond, taking in the passersby, the shopfronts, the traffic, her friends.

"I used to be a Mod," she begins.

"But I couldn't handle the limitations. When you're a Mod you're not supposed to have any emotions. Now I'm a Quaker. They're feeling people. When you're a Quaker you can't hate anybody."

I ask her what she's into.

"Oh," she says, "I don't know. Sixties culture. Hard Core. I like the Dead a lot."

"You mean the Dead Kennedys?"

"God no. The Grateful Dead."

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