FYI: Editor’s usually write headlines.

This is a story as published in the January issue of The Fine Print, which I talked about in my last post. After having it taken down from the Fine Print website, I decided that I wanted it on the internet somewhere — even if on my personal blog. I hope I am not asking for trouble. The names of the people in this story has been changed to protect  their identities. It is something I maybe should have considered when it was first published.

The YouTube video is what came up when I typed in censorship. I found it amusing.

Punk Crust Beauty

by Shaw Patton

Anne is sitting on the floor of a friend’s house, sewing dental floss into a shirt tie-dyed with her own blood when I ask if I can profile her. She concedes, but seems puzzled as to why she was chosen.

Where do you get the blood for the shirt?” I ask.

She looks at me, confused.

I mean like, where on your body. Do you vomit blood or slit your wrists?”

This devolves into an inappropriate tangent, but I eventually get the information I want.

No, I just poke right there,” she says, pointing to where her arm bends, a popular place for IVs. “It bleeds a lot.” She emphasizes and repeats, “a lot.”

And she wonders why I choose to write about her.

The shirt looks like any other tie-dye creation, except instead of hippie Day-Glo colors, the splattered pattern is a uniform rusted brown-red.

Anne Crusoe is one of those people whom I see everywhere: on the streets, around campus and at just about every party or show I attend. I recognized her long before we formally met in early September.

I never dreamed that we would ever converse. This was the girl who seemed to be in the trajectory of every daily routine of mine, but whose identity would remain a mystery forever.

Granted, Anne is not hard to miss. I describe her to other people as “a tall black lesbian with a fro-hawk and about a billion facial piercings.” A billion being a rough estimate.

Anne embodies what it is to be a Gainesville DIY punk. She is a perfect example of the depth of personalities I meet in the group and what can be judged from appearances.

I am happy to announce that we are now on a first-name basis. Whenever Anne sees me, she likes to scream my name in a strangled “I’m being stabbed by Freddy Krueger” voice. She does something similar with everybody’s name when they stand in her presence. Her voice can also hit an operatic sing-songy timbre for those especially dear to her.

The place where Anne hangs out most often is dubbed “the little blue crack den,” because of its resemblance to one — although I have yet to see another little blue crack den to compare. It sits on NW 3rd Avenue and is a perfect example of why anarchy might not work as a political system.

The communal chores are never done: dishes pile up with rotting food, attracting flies and cockroaches; beer bottles and fast food containers litter the floor, automatically becoming ash trays; drinks are spilled, strange substances are tracked in, and the yard has turned toward a natural state of angry Florida swamp-jungle.

The house is also a perfect example of why anarchy is so tempting as an alternative. A high notion of utopia permeates the dwelling and just being there makes one feel warm and fuzzy. The place has developed a tight-knit communal spirit that reminds me of a glorified ‘60s hippie commune. Most seem content and happy in the rundown little blue crack den.

As a testament to her character, it is Anne whom I witness do dishes the most often, even though she does not live there. This observation is supported by the housemates I interview.

I figure it’s like my rent for staying here so much,” Anne says. “I spend about half of my time here and half at home.”

As for a specific constricting label for the group of people Anne hangs out with, I am torn between crust punk and folk punk, having only a limited understanding of either term.

Craig Lark, a resident of the little blue crack den, often uses the term “crustie” when describing himself and those around him.

I gather the meaning of the term through context clues.

I don’t shower very often,” Anne tells me.

This is my first clue.

Wikipedia also helps fill me in on the crust punk genre and lifestyle. Most everything the page describes as far as the general appearance of crust punks rings true for Anne and her friends.

Dreads are popular, showers are not. Clothes found in dumpsters are popular, Abercrombie and Fitch is not.

I wouldn’t say any of my friends are crusties, but Anne would be the closest,” says Melissa Marsalis, another resident of the little blue crack den.

Although I usually meet Anne at the little blue crack den, I have been to her residence once when I crashed a knitting circle there. She lives in a second story apartment near Sorority Row with her ex-girlfriend and now just friend, May Rowe. The place is often referred to as “the tree house.”

The tree house has a pear tree growing next to it. I once witnessed Anne knocking down pears with a broken rake while standing on the roof.

Besides pears, her diet consists of mostly starches and squash, all of which she prepares with peppers and hot spices.

She likes hot foods, but nothing is as hot as her most hardcore and endearing hobby: fire- breathing.

I breathed fire like every day for a year and didn’t get chemical pneumonia,” she says.

She picked up the hobby from an old friend. Her fascination with fire is evident. Even while I interview her, she lights a piece of trash on fire and puts it out in an ashtray.

I was fidgeting and not paying attention so I lit something on fire,” she tells John Tyler, a resident of the little blue crack den, after he asks what the smell is.

Outside the walls of the little blue crack den, Anne attends UF as a biology major and says she is “a junior and a half.” Perhaps she excels in biology because of the genes passed on by her parents, who are both doctors. She also attributes her “craziness” to her parents.

I’ve seen her house [in] Westchase, which is a nice part of Tampa,” says Clarissa Lebowski, a frequenter of the little blue crack den and friend of Anne’s. “Anne is different. She probably grew up with things. She just chose to reject it all.”

It goes without saying that Anne’s unique appearance often attracts gazes from passers-by. Some people are very forthcoming with their opinions.

So many people told me I was beautiful today. They were following me for some reason. They ambushed me essentially. ‘Oh my god, you’re so beautiful. I love your hair. Nah, na, nah, nah, nah.’”

She usually enjoys the attention, but treats it with the same confused wonderment as to why I would profile her, the reasons which I hope are more than apparent by now.

Quite frankly, Anne is a refreshing person to stumble upon in a town where stereotypical gator fanatics and Greek insignias meld into one indistinct populace. She is unique inside and out.

A quick update since writing this story: the little blue crack den was condemned in early December, and Anne has relocated from the tree house to a friend’s apartment downtown where she sleeps in a loft above the bathroom.


~ by shawp on July 16, 2009.

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