Goodbye Gilman (From MRR #313)


“I just got egged!”

“What? No way!”

Pat showed me the slimy side of his pants with a disgusted grin. Jon followed him in the door laughing into a tall can of root beer saying, “Yeah, they threw them out of their car at us. They only hit pat though.”

“People still egg people?” I said, eyebrows raised, still staring at the drippy mess of Pat’s pants.

“They egg Pat anyway.”

I scrunched my face up, looking at pat and said, “well at least nobody is trying to kiss you, I’ll take eggs over gross old dude kissings any day”

“who was kissing?”

“ugh, it doesn’t matter. I’m just grossed out and a little mad”

“that makes two of us”

I don’t know why we were smiling, but we were. Arms folded, smiling at each other. Mad, grossed out, and smiling.

This night started bad, then got weirder and worse as it went. Everybody was late, bands cancelled, it rained, only a handful of people turned up to watch the bands, and to top it off two older drunk dudes under the guise of thanking me for the show gave me too familiar hugs and planted bar floor smelling kisses grossly close to my mouth. The first one I chalked up to drunkness, and a slight case of the over friendlies, but the second dude swooping in for the same right after, that was conspired lechery. Add to this a band whose song mentioned going to TJ to catch a donkey show, and you have my idea of a bummer night.

But looking at Pat with his eggy pants and folded arms, it couldn’t be anything but funny. I started giggling hysterically, and I couldn’t stop even to explain why I was laughing.

Gilman is like that. You get shit on, and when you think you ought to be mad, you’re laughing.

1st and 3rd Saturdays: It’s meeting time.

We are sitting around in a loose circle on dirty couches and metal folding chairs. These twice-monthly meetings let us check in with one another since we don’t all come to all the shows. Here we decide everything pertaining to the club from frustratingly small quibbles, to the ideologically large. Anyone who has been to at least one meeting before can vote on any proposals brought up, and anyone can join in discussion. These meetings, though sometimes tedious, were a large part of why I wanted to get more involved with Gilman in the first place. I loved that any issue you had could be brought up to the collective, and that even if you didn’t volunteer at the club you had an equal say in it’s running, because as a punk who went there you had an equal stake in it too.

I remember soon after one of these meeting seeing “It’s your club” printed behind plexi in the entrance and finally getting it. Really getting it. It was my club. I knew suddenly that it was all of ours to take care of. The next weekend I started training to work in the Stoar — that was sometime in 2005.

My palms are sweaty. I don’t usually get nervous talking in front of big groups anymore, particularly here at Gilman. But I have an announcement to make, and one I won’t enjoy making. I have to tell them I’m leaving. That after these years spent volunteering here, I am leaving and I don’t know when I can come back.

I twist up my scarf in my hands and begin “I’m moving at the end of august. And I can’t be head coordinator anymore….” I take a steadying breath, and I tell them that I’m going to LA, and will be gone at least a year. I am trying not to look at anyone.

I know it’s not really such a big deal, that someone else will step up and take the responsibility I’m letting go of. But I can’t help but be worried. A big part of my life the last few years has been just that, worrying over and tending to things that needed to be done at the club.

For the first time it occurs to me that maybe I’m less worried about how the club will do without me than how I’ll do without the club. As much as I’ve tried to do in the last few years, I know I’ve gained more than I’ve ever given.

I used to be a pretty plucky fighter, ready to punch someone out if they deserved it, but I’ve seen again and again that almost all fights start over nothing and come to nothing. Over and over I’ve seen fights erupt over stupid misunderstandings or drunken aggression and end in blood pouring down faces and flashing red and blue lights. Now my only respect is for those who can speedily prevent fights, or break them up. I’ve also cleaned enough split lips, broken noses, split eyebrows to know that y’all need to learn to keep your heads down (or your arms up).

I’ve gone to a lot of shows I never would have gone to and am better for it. Seeing bands that I would have always thought to poppy or sweet for my taste, and liking them despite myself. Which is how I ended up with a Defiance Ohio record, and Kimya Dawson stuck in my head. I found that across scene divides everybody is just as nice, and just as punk.

I used to have to drink at least a 40 or a couple 32’s in order to comfortably enjoy a show. Yeah, social anxiety is rough. But, after so many shows spent sober, and delightfully able to remember what bands sounded like, I don’t think I’ll ever feel the need to link how much fun I’m having at a show to how wasted I am again.

I used to think every punk band was playing for the love of music, but I’ve had to see some pretty pathetically money driven displays that have opened my eyes to the fact that a lot of punk bands are just as greedy and obsessed with getting their “due” as any other genre. Instead of being disillusioned I am instead more appreciative of the bands that are generous, and really are doing it for the love of it. Bands who give money away to other bands, who don’t have or want booking agents, who don’t have tantrums over the band order, and who say thank you and mean it — they have a very special place in my heart. How your band acts in the world has equal bearing as how much you rip, so be nice.

More important than any of this I’ve learned to trust myself as capable. The other volunteers of Gilman have trusted me to be in charge of decisions and their trust has given me confidence to make those decisions, to take the lead in emergencies, and to know without a doubt what I am capable of (it’s a lot more than I thought). In turn I’ve learned to encourage others to see what that are capable of, to push them to do what they’re not sure they can, and enjoy their success as much as my own.

Gilman’s appeal, it’s amazingness, is the very simple fact that it is entrusted to us (all of us) to make of it what we will. Even if you live a thousand miles from the Berkeley, I guarantee there is something that that you can do that will mean the same to you as Gilman has meant to me. You can work unselfishly for the betterment of your (punk/whatever) community, share power and decision making with others, and respect the needs and opinions of those around you. If you resolve to build or maintain something good in your community, I promise you will get 100 times back what you give. And it will be impossibly hard to leave if you ever have to. 


The meeting is over and it’s time to get started on the night’s show. Bands are loading gear in through the side door, I’ve got to go get the worker list and a clipboard to get started on staffing the show. I notice Pat standing in the doorway still has a yellowy string of egg on his pants.

2 comments:

  1. Ariel, I just came across this piece (im not sure when it was written) - it is a beautiful love letter to Gilman.

    I really appreciate it, having just had my first experiences at your beloved club only recently. I live not only 1,000 miles away but 2,800 miles away from Gilman.

    My first, and only times, at Gilman were perhaps unique...my first show being unusual and my second seeming quite run-of-the mill. I met a few volunteers who were extraordinary and kind, and told me stories of dead babies and basketball games with a strong reverence I felt along with them. I wanted to hug that cruddy building for all that it has endured and all that it has breathed.

    All those sweaty little boys a swarming mess on the floor and I stood back my heart filled with such happiness for them to have this place and touched that I had the chance to be there. I experienced Gilman as a blissed-out tourist knowing I was only getting a two-night stand with it and and I greedily took the shows and time I could get with it. Gilman will remain a bit of a mythical place for me and I'll maintain a full-on long-distance crush on the place.

    Anyhow, watch out for those gross old drunk dudes and thanks for your piece.

    Kind regards, Abbey

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