Friday, May 07, 2010

Random Arizona Anecdote: Punks And Lowriders

Photo via the awesome BigMando Lowrider Photography

Here's something to remember about being a teen punk at Tucson High School in 1979-1981: it wasn't cool. It was, in fact, the opposite of cool. We were geeks, and we dressed funny, and our peers were just totally baffled. We stuck out like sore, garish thumbs.

Another small group at my high school that stuck out was the Cholos, the lowriders. Like us, they had a distinctive style of dress, and like us, they tended to keep to themselves. We weren't the popular kids. Both groups, also, tended to be misunderstood. The Cholos, for instance, were often equated with being what came to be known as "gang-bangers." Nothing could be further from the truth: these were hardcore hobbiests; they were into their cars and that was about it. They were, in other words, nerds of a sort. Just like us!

You'd think that these two esoteric groups wouldn't mix, and for the most part, you'd be correct. Talk about two different worlds! But I believe the two groups felt a kind of vague kindredness due to our status as school weirdos. I remember loving the lowrider look: it was so anachronistic! So sharp! Such a step above the rest of the jeans-and-t-shirt slobs at school.

As a result, a friendliness developed between these two groups. Sometimes my friends and I would go out to the parking lot during lunch to gawk at the Cholos' cars. They were so cool! High concept! I loved that the fancier ones had actual chandeliers hanging from the roofs. The owners of the cars were a little stand-offish at first, maybe suspecting that we were mocking them, but our oohs and ahhs eventually convinced them otherwise. This, I think, is what really broke the ice between us. We'd beg them to demonstrate their hydraulic suspension systems for us, and sometimes they'd oblige. Bouncy!

So anyway, I guess there isn't much of a point to this story... except maybe to demonstrate that racial relations in a place like Arizona just aren't as predictable as you might think. Sometimes outcasts are drawn to other outcasts, and sometimes they fight, and sometimes they laugh at each other and clap. And then we'd all go our separate ways, perhaps having learned something from each other.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tucson is still a very interesting place to live, especially in Arizona. I tell people that in the civil war, Phoenix was the confederates and Tucson was Union. It is the biggest liberal population in the state.

And multi cultural with the Yaqui settlement (Mexican natives) and the Pima and other tribes south with the White Mountain Apaches near by too. It would be a great place to grow...

Two things I love about Tucon, the Little Poca Cosa and the band Calexico...I get to spend a couple weeks there during the gem show every year. We always have a incredible time.