The Saga of Joe V.

Salt Lake City, UT – 1996-2002

After the lease expired in the apartment where I stayed with Jen, we had no place to go. We were not old enough to sign our own lease, and our older roommates were going elsewhere. Our only recourse was to move in with her mom. I didn’t care what we did as long as we weren’t homeless and as long as I didn’t have to crawl back to my parents. I agreed to split the rent with her mom.

Her mom was virtually absent as a parent in their lives. She would come home from work, go into her room and shut the door, and would not come out again until the next morning for work. They were on their own, completely unsupervised and uninstructed. They could come and go as they pleased, have whoever over, and do whatever as long as it did not cause their mother to parent.

Her sister lived there at the time too. She would bring home the worst riffraff you’d ever seen. She would bring home homeless squatter kids she’d meet at the park and let them crash in her room. She once brought home a meth head who needed somewhere to sleep it off after being awake for a week. He slept in her bedroom for nearly 62 straight hours. Meanwhile everyone else just came and went and adhered to their normal routines.

While at the park one day she made friends with a young punk rock kid named Joey V. She brought him and several other kids home with her. On this evening, Jen and I were getting ready to go out, probably to a punk rock show. Her sister and company showed up and took notice of us. They were all very impressed. We were older, more seasoned kids from the scene, and they wanted to emulate us. I talked with them briefly before we left, and we departed not thinking much of the situation.

We returned to find no one home. We discovered they had ransacked our room and taken a large collection of punk jewelry, comprised of various leather belts and studded wristbands. Most of the stuff was custom, one-of-a-kind, stuff that we had made our selves or traded for other handmade items. Jen seemed to accept this as part of life; I on the other hand was extremely pissed.

When her sister got home I yelled at her. I demanded to know who took our stuff. She denied knowing for a while, but after enough harassment she conceded that it was Joe. I was furious. I couldn’t believe that some little shit had the balls to go into my bedroom and take my stuff. It wasn’t theft; it was personal. Now I was going to make it more personal.

It was quite a while before I would run into Joe again. Rumor had it he went to Cottonwood high school, where I had gone. I packed up a car full of my friends and drove down there right as school let out. We scanned the block until we found him next door at the gas station.

We pulled up and parked directly in front of him. He looked through the windshield and recognized me immediately. He looked left and right for a place to run, but it was too late. I was out of the car and within arms reach of him. “I understand that you took some shit that belongs to me.” I declared. He looked very nervous.

“I don’t have it.” he stammered. “Where is it?” I asked. “I don’t know.” he replied. “Ok,” I continued, “then what do you have?” I patted him down while he stood trembling. “I’ll just take this.” I said as I pulled his wallet out of his pocket. I unclipped the chain from his belt loop, wrapped it around the wallet and threw it to my friends. “What else do you have?” I looked down at the chains and bracelets he had on his wrist. “I’ll take those.” I declared. I lifted up his arm and took them off his wrist.

“Is that all you got?” He nodded. I leaned in closely and snarled, “I want my stuff back.” He nodded. I opened my hand wide and pimp slapped him across the face. A lady who was walking into the gas station startled at the sight of this. He took it and didn’t move. We sped off leaving him standing on the curb. The wallet was empty; the chains and bracelets were garbage, but I didn’t care. I didn’t even want that stuff. I didn’t even want my own stuff. All I wanted to do was send a message.

Needless to say this incident did not close the case. The  need for immediate revenge had abated, but nothing had been resolved.

Several months later Jen and I went to Liberty Park for a Sunday drum circle. I hated going, so I was already in a bad mood. Joe showed up. Jen was excited that she could pick on someone with my support. She went over to him and spit directly in his face. She slapped him a few times. He had a new tattoo, still fresh with the plastic on it. He had probably just gotten it that day. She slapped it and pulled the plastic off. I stood at a distance with my arms crossed, begging him to try to stop her. His only recourse was to walk away, all day. We made it known that this would be his reality any time we were in the same place until we got our stuff back.

Months later I ran into him at the Heavy Metal Shop. The Heavy Metal Shop was a music store that served as the hub of our local scene. As my friend and I opened the door to walk in, who should walk out but Joe V. I stopped him dead in his tracks. He had a bag of CDs he had just purchased. “I’ll take those.” I said, yanking it from his hand. He resisted this time, “C’mon man, I just bought those!” “You should have thought of that before you came into my house and stole my stuff. What did you think was going to happen? How did you imagine this would all play out?” He reached for his bag and I slammed him with a push against the wall. He had a friend with him, but his friend offered no resistance. I took his bag of CDs and my friend and I walked back to my car.

At one point, a close friend from my inner circle ran into Joe at an undisclosed location. My friend recognized him and recognized the jewelry he was wearing. He took it upon himself to liberate these items from Joe by force. The next time I saw my friend he tossed me my belongings and recounted the story. We both had a good laugh, and I thanked him for being so thoughtful. I was flattered that he did that for me, but as with most young hooligans, he probably saw it as a personal opportunity to get tough with someone. He simply had a reason, thanks to me. I was grateful nonetheless.

Several months later Jen and I were at a punk rock show, I believe it was Total Chaos, and we ran into Joey and his girlfriend. I was in the mood to coexist. I just wanted to watch the show and have a good time. Jen was having a good time too. She had finished three quarters of a bottle of apple Pucker and was being uncharacteristically energetic. We had plenty of other friends there to fraternize with, so we kept our distance and enjoyed ourselves.

Later in the evening, as I stood outside the venue, I overheard Joey’s girlfriend talking loudly about what a “stupid bitch” my girlfriend was. I’m pretty sure she was trying to be heard. I approached them and asked who they were talking about. She point at my girlfriend about twenty yards away, “That stupid bitch over there.” I wondered if she knew my relationship to that stupid bitch. I asked her, “You know that’s my girlfriend, right?”

I expected her to say “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know that. If I had, I would have kept this conversation more private. I apologize; I’m just angry and drunk.” Instead she said, “I don’t give a fuck! Fuck you!” “Alright,” I said, “have it your way.” I walked twenty paces over to my girlfriend. “Hey, Joey’s girlfriend is talking shit over here, come over here and lets see what she does.”

Together we walked back. I walked Jen right up to her and said, “Here she is, why don’t you tell her what you told me.” Again, I was expecting the girl to be uncomfortable with the situation and say, “Never mind.” or something of the like. Instead, she belligerently repeated the same insults directly to Jen’s face.

Before I could say anything and without warning, Jen cold-cocked this girl right in the face. Her punch landed squarely on the jaw. The girl’s knees buckled and her arms went limp, but with two hands Jen slammed her up against the wall. Again the girl fell to her knees. Jen grabbed her by the hair and yanked her forward on all fours, punching underneath the mass of hair.

This was unprecedented. I had never seen aggression like this from Jen and it surprised me. I gave her some space and decided to let the situation play out. But out of left field dashed Joe. He ran into the scramble and instead of separating them or pulling his own girlfriend away, he grabbed Jen in a bear hug. Now I was obligated to intervene.

I went straight at him throwing punches. I hit him two or three good times and he swung back. A good punch landed in his mouth and he turned his back and turtled up. From behind I grabbed the shoulders of his jacket and jerked him backwards with all my might. He fell backwards and his head and shoulders impaled the sheet rock of the adjacent wall. By this time we were all being pulled apart. Due to the nature of the venue no one got in trouble. We all agreed to leave and that was the end of it.

In an interesting addendum to this story, later that night my good friend Spence slept with Joey’s girlfriend while he was passed out drunk on the couch. Joe apparently woke up early to find them together. He screamed at Spence and threatened to kick his face in. Spence expressed his surprise to me`that Joey hadn’t attacked him in his slept. As far as I know he made up with his girlfriend and they remained together for several more years.

It was several months later that we ran into each other at a party. Joe saw me and came straight over. “Dude,” he implored, “can we just be friends now? It’s been a pretty long time. I’m sorry I took your stuff.” I couldn’t help but smile. “Yeah man,” I said, “you’re right. Sounds good to me.” I told Jen about our conversation and she agreed. It felt good for all of us I think.

We saw each other at many more shows and parties. We got along well and even become casual friends.

By my mid twenties I had phased out of the punk scene. I was working as a security officer for St. Mark’s Hospital when I happened to pick up a newspaper and see Joe’s name and face in the obituaries. He had been camping with some friends and in a drunken contest, had attempted to swim to a little island off the shore of the lake. He underestimated the distance and drown. The first thing I thought when I read the news was how glad I was that we had made up. I observed a moment of silence for him and sent my condolences to his family.

At this point I had been separated from Jen for five years or more. We still talked occasionally. I called her to tell her the news. She already knew, and thought it was sad too. We reflected on our long relationship with Joe, and agreed how silly our long squabble with him had been in light of his death.

For five years or more I was enemies with this kid, only to make up with him. There is no reason to drag out a grudge like that. Like the Beatles said, life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting my friends.


One thought on “The Saga of Joe V.

  1. Pingback: Autobiography | Matthew J. Summers

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