The night that Joe Strummer died and I was hanging around backstage at House of Blues Anaheim.

This is when Social Distortion would do a run of 10-12 shows right around the holidays, a sort of OC punk advent calendar that everyone seemed to bitch about, yet it sold out every night.

I had cleaned out The Crowd’s dressing room of any remaining beer while they were on stage, the classic dickhead backstage move that I justified with the need to drink in Joe’s honor.

I walked down the hall swinging 2 warm Coronas like piss filled juggling pins, chuckling at the thought of Decker getting off stage to discover only Vitamin Waters left in their green room.
I caught sight of Mike Ness through an opened door.
He raised an eyebrow and nodded to me, though seemed to rightfully be prepared to run if I came any nearer, lest my drunkenness infect his hard-earned sobriety through sheer osmosis.

Then I saw Steve sitting in another open room, and he waved me over to chat.
And that’s how it always was when you saw him, the smile of mouth and eyes, a joke in greeting.
All of us, the characters that made up this zenith of So Ca punk, we all recognized the man at the very center.
The big guy we all circled, deserving of the very gravitational pull that brought you into his orbit.
A welcome.

I plopped down next to him and shook my head.
“Ah Soto, what a day.”
I was wallowing in my own pity for my hero’s passing, putting on the self-absorbed dramatics any proper drunk knows how to manipulate into just another excuse to have another shot.

“So tell me a story Steve,” I said. “Tell me a Joe story.”

And then he looked to the ceiling and smiled, rolling through that data bank of experiences. A lifetime of this music in every conceivable capacity.

He smiled then and turned to me. “Strummer or Ramone?”

For he did indeed have stories about either Joe.
With a Zelig-like ability to be there at all times, he had a story to tell of every gig and musician you knew, and loads more about the ones you did not.

You knew him, or course as Tony’s right hand man on that stage, the mighty foundation of The Adolescents.
Laying down the bottom end, yet sailing far above with the sweet high harmonies.

And then there was the stable of acts he held, always on hand to fill a rare open weekend night with a gig: Manic, Karaoke, Riders—etc.

And: tour managing, booking, studio cat.

Steve had excelled, it seemed, in every aspect of the music business:
make that the Music Life.

Martin Wong Photo

I’m in the studio, struggling with the punch ins: failing yet again to hit a common third.
The other guys have gone out for tacos, leaving poor Monroe alone in the booth to roll back time and again as I butcher the background vocals.

Take twelve and I throw up my hands.
Jim hits the talkback, but doesn’t say anything.
We look at each other, held in the silence, then nod as we both come upon the solution:
Call Soto.

And a day later we are in the control room, Steve out alone at the mic.
He tells a long story about Gabby, then puts on the cans and spins a finger in the air: roll it.

And then, one pass, boom.
He nails the track, then goes back again and lays another harmony on top of that.

We roll through again, and he effortlessly weaves in and out of the track.
It’s done, and he takes off the headphones.
So one time, me and Stan– this was way out like off the coast of Italy….


A couple years ago we met up in Köln Germany.
A cracker for a Monday night gig, The Adolescents and TSOL, MDC and us.

We are all decades removed from those bratty awesome early days, now more concerned with the WiFi password and a tea kettle than pirating beers from each other.

I find a nice cool seat outside as everyone is packing up and Steve comes over to sit with me.
We chat between people coming up to talk to Steve, asking him for a selfie or just to shake that hand. My thumbprint is left on a dozen Iphones as I am asked to take their photo together, these people so happy just to be near him.
And he is happy too, out here on the road, his home.
We talk about the rest of their European tour, though he was out with CJ before this leg, hasn’t been home since Punk Rock Bowling.

“Dude. I don’t know how you do it,” I say. “That travel schedule–sheesh!”

“Yeah, but you guys with the wives and kids– see, I don’t have a dream killer, do I?”
And he laughs at the joke, because ever the romantic, he is in love with a girl back home.

He continues to travel, as he always has.
To be far away from us yet somehow still close.
He saw this life as just that: a dream.

Biscuit II

New Years Eve 1982, and we’re standing together in the upstairs loge of Irving Plaza.
We got to play and then the plug was pulled; the promoter has bailed out.
Those lumberjacks of DOA are wandering the venue, trying to find someone to beat for this shit.
As with so many stacked shows in those days, no one knows anything, no one’s getting paid, and the sound company starts dismantling the rig 3/4 way through our set.

It’s our first time in New York City, and we are still trying to wrap our heads around this freezing cold, the mountains of buildings…the people.
Kimm is chased out of a Kosher Deli for requesting a slice of cheese on his brisket, Jack is still trying to find parking for our rental station wagon on the streets around Union Square.
Larry buys a quarter gram and four Quaaludes off a friendly cab driver, yet is rewarded only baby powder and AlkaSeltzers for his 50 bucks.

We are just kids in the city, having a fuckin blast.

Kickin it in the alley with Doug Holland

Biscuit’s counting heads, trying to calculate how much money someone has skipped out with.
He stops counting and shrugs, resigned to just another cancelled gig, though this one is 2000 miles from home in the dead of winter.
“So how y’all?” he asks, and that honey smooth Texas accent adds some familiar warmth to this strange moonscape. We haven’t seen The Boys since we passed through in July, though it seems like a lot has happened for both our bands.

A snotty kid comes up to us then and stops in front of Biscuit.
Yo, you’re the guy from Big Boys, right?
Biscuit nods and sticks out his hand in greeting.
Hahaha!, the kid spits, faggot! and then he runs off.

I am frozen, sick with shame, as much from this brutality as my own cowardice for not chasing the kid down and poking his eyes out.

But Biscuit just turns back to me and continues our chat.
“So y’all got some good shows going on out LA huh? We gotta get back soon.”

I think of that now, and imagine all of the ignorant abuse this man endured, being one of the first openly gay guys in the hardcore scene.
It doesn’t seem any big deal now, but amidst that macho bullshit of the early 80’s, this supposedly independent music community was often soured by a prison yard mentality.

And when I heard a couple of years later of The Bad Brains passing through Austin and cursing Biscuits’ lifestyle as an affront to their pseudo Rastafarian religion, I could only imagine Randy taking yet another insult in stride, if not with graceful anger.


When we pulled up at The Ritz it was already a boiling Texas day, the damp blanket of humidity another new experience for us.
But we’re cheered immediately by the hand painted sign welcoming us to town, and what a fucking lineup!
The Big Boys had humbly put their name down at the bottom of that banner, though they explained to us it would be a lot better if they played last.

The crowd was great for our set, though we were shaky and nervous as hell.
The Huskers were a little shaken by the charming Austin tradition of tossing empty LoneStar cans up at the stage, and warned us to keep an eye peeled.
We simply requested only full cans only be tossed in our direction and spent the set running around with our mouths open like drunken sparrows at dinnertime.
It got the crowd on our side and by the end of our set we were sticky with beer and drunk off our asses.

And then The Big Boys got up there to close out the night and we understood:
This was their town.

Tim Kerr stage left playing loose and fast, all syncopation and jangle.
Chris Gates to the right, a block of power and mass: a car battery.
And Biscuit front and center, using up that stage. I think they had some horns along, though you couldn’t really hear them for the crowd shouting their lyrics right back to them.

This felt like community compared to LA, our metropolis flattened and spread wide like a squashed and molded fruit.
We had already had punk on punk violence and splintered tribes formed by area code, but here it was still us against them, and everyone in that hall was united by the music, the life, the city.
What else to say? They were a great band.

A few years went by.
Looking back, it was a shockingly short time that bracketed that first episode of punk for us. I mean, our EP came out in 1982, and by ’86 we were already dressing like Eastern Bloc whores and playing the goddamn harmonica onstage for fuck sake.

But in that sweet season we got to connect then reconnect with these people again at different waypoints.
Compare notes on what we saw out there in the wilds of America. The crisscrossed network of promoters and clubs grew bolder with every month, and bands would return with new reconnaissance to share.

The Big Boys would come back through town, a show with us at The Vex, or we’d go to see them at another club.
One night we picked them up at whatever pad they were camped and took them down to the Cathay for a weekday gig. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were the openers that night, and though I know it’s hard for you youngsters to believe, they did not always suck.
The Peppers charged the basement room, Flea slapping the shit out of that MusicMan, AnthonyK rolling the floor as he spit the sixteens.

The ride home was quiet. They talked about what they saw: something ferocious and new, obviously inspired by them.
I think they sensed that someone had discovered and refined the art they had created.
Made it sleeker and sexier, ready to be repackaged to the very Frat Boys that were the Big Boys’ earliest nemeses.

After that Ritz gig, Duane, Jackie and I went back to Biscuit’s place while Larry and Kimm went to stay with Tim and Beth.
We pulled up sweaty, drunk and exhausted.
Biscuit opened the door wide for us, cleaned up and smiling.

The wild force we’d witnessed onstage just a couple of hours ago was now the proper Texas host once again. He bowed to bid us in and then pointed us to our beds for the night.

“Well, I just had myself a cool bath and made a peanut butter jelly sandwich, and I invite y’all to do the same,” he said.
We were grateful as abandoned dogs, and fell upon the white bread and Skippy in kind.

“That was a real good one, wasn’t it,” he said then.
“Good night.”


We’re in the Pho joint right next to Til Two Club in San Diego a few months back.
Pho King….. get it?

It’s a good place, noodles with just enough surface tension, a bone broth deep in flavor with just that faint waft of urine that lets you know the place is legit.

I look up from my slurping and notice a little Vietnamese boy watching me intently.
I look away, but when I look back he’s still staring. I shrug to his Mom.

“He thinks that’s you,” she says.
She points with her chopsticks at the TV montior hanging above our heads.
I look up and there he is, Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown or maybe a rerun of No Reservations.

The kid looks up at the TV where Bourdain is also hovering over an Asian noodle dish, then down at me, and back to the TV again. He laughs.

Got Bourdained, we’ve grown to calling it.
Without fail, on our travels here and there, I inevitably get the double take and then it’s Hey, anyone ever tell you, you look just like….

I come back to the United lounge and sit down with the fellas.
“Got Bourdained again,” I tell Kimm. “That’s three for the day.”

I don’t see it.
I mean, am I really that grey of head?
I’ve always seen myself as more of the Wayne Newton doppelganger, or maybe an Osmond brother with gigantism.

But man, they keep coming up to me to point out the resemblance.
One chap actually cornered me at the back of the plane while we floated a mile above Duluth.
“Hey man, don’t want to bother you, but just wanted to say I love all your stuff!”

I am immediately inflated, thinking, ah, you meet CH3 fans in the strangest places! Now where is a pen for me to sign an autograph and make this mortal’s day special?

But then he takes a closer look and his face falls in disappointment.
“Ah, sorry about that, you’re not him are you? Anyone ever tell you ya look just like….”

What I’ve come to understand is people really love-loved- Anthony Bourdain.
It’s made me appreciate at least I don’t look like Mike Pence for fuck sake.

And for some reason they feel the need to tell me how much they enjoy the shows, can only dream of his lifestyle.
Man, if I could only live like that! I wish!

Now we learn of his farewell, and it hits you like a sock to the gut.
It makes you wonder at the blackest of holes that can lurk deep inside us all.
What deep despair pulls at a soul, no matter if they are lounging on a tropical beach with a Michelin rated chef or sucking cock for rock in the alley?

But besides this tragedy, and the show we will miss– that food, the smarmy commentary! —I think this hurts so hard because we all felt Bourdain was one of our own:
A punk.

My fave episodes of his shows are when he hung out with musicians.
I think he understood just how connected bands are to food and travel, the twin comforts and demons to any touring band.

There he is, in the city with David Johansen, cruising the backstreets of Helsinki with Sami Yaffa.
And when he sat down with Iggy, you could just feel the adoration Anthony had for the man and the music.

But my very favorite show was when he went to Montana and sat with fuckin Jim Harrison for a meal and a chat.
The grizzled lion of letters, croaking out his poetry in a cloud of American Spirits.
Anthony Bourdain sat, rapt and respectful, and I could only hope I could hold my own half as well in the presence of a hero.

And, damn.
Both gone?

In Kitchen Confidential he was open and honest about the drug use and fuckups, as well as his love of truly good music.
It made him that more relatable to our tribe.

The line cooks with their own demons, listening to the Dolls while blanching the Brussels Sprouts.
Smoking in the back alley before dinner crush, comparing their Cocksparrer tattoos blemished by yet another 2nd degree burn by a molten saute pan handle.

Punk rockers connecting the dots with food, rejecting corporate fast food to search the back alleys for a memorable meal after soundcheck.
Trying to capture the essence of a city by its food, where in the past it may have been a more lethal gluttony.
Now: Ingestion, not injection.

And when we saw him sitting down to noodles with Barack Obama, the graceful world leader meeting junkie punk, we could only feel it as somehow a triumph for all of us in the tribe.

On Damian Abraham’s excellent Turned Out a Punk  podcast he shows a respectful and deep history with the New York scene. No celebrity poseur with the 10 grand Crass leather jacket here.
The guy knew the food , the music, the places.

But now another one gone.
This tragic news we consume with resignation, seems like nearly every week.

I never met the guy, no connection at all.
I’m just a fan, just like the people that feel the need to come up to me and point out the resemblance.
They take a moment out of their day to tell me about their connection to Anthony Bourdain, and I can see their love for him even though they are disappointed they did not get to meet the man.

Sometimes, I tell them, “Hell, tell your friends you did, though, right?”

And they think about that for a moment and then nod their heads in agreement.
And they walk away, happy.