Further Reading: Sucks, Alabama

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SUCKS, ALABAMA: The Unexpurgated Adventures of Louis Baudrey in Small Town Alabama

Louis Baudrey is a teenage metalhead who moves from Los Angeles to Saks, a small town in Northeast Alabama.

The year is 1987.

Things do not go well…

At Saks High, he tries to fit in, but the rednecks and the Bible-thumpers don’t take too kindly to his outlandish wardrobe and burgeoning punk rock attitude. At home, it’s even worse, as Rick, his father’s “friend,” tries to coerce him into conforming to something even more insidious than the social mores of high school.

This is an expanded version of the first part of the novel A Masque of Infamy and includes what was published in the book with additional chapters and sections that were cut due to space limitations and the flow of the novel’s narrative.

This is the complete and authoritative story of Louis Baudrey and his time in Saks, Alabama.

Only available as an eBook for 99 cents.

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– – – – – – AN EXCERPT – – – – – –

Before I left California, all I knew about the South was what I’d seen on TV: The Dukes of Hazard, Roots,Deliverance… So that’s what I expected: racist, good ole boys, playing banjos and speeding around the countryside in souped-up muscle cars, murdering and sodomizing strangers. Despite the old man’s assurance that I shouldn’t believe everything I saw on TV, my enthusiasm waved from one moment to the next. But the truth was, I was ready for a fresh start.

I wasn’t leaving much behind in Rosemead. Just bad memories and the rest of my crazy family. I figured I could write my own ticket in a podunk Alabama town. Nobody needed to know that I was born in the crappy part of a crappy suburb on the wrong side of Hollywood. But while Rosemead was nothing like the Los Angeles depicted in movies and television, I looked totally LA. It was 1986. My style was an amalgam of punk and heavy metal. My hair was long and my pants were tight. My ears were pierced three times in my left and once in my right. I wore the same Iron Maiden shirt almost every day and never left the house without at least one bandana tied around my ankle.

How could I not ride into town and just take over?

Shit, in my mind, as soon as these bumpkins in Alabama got a look at me, the guys would idolize me, the girls would lust after me and all their parents would fear me.

I would finally become the person the audience in my head had always cheered for.

All the way across the country, as I sat in the backseat of my father’s low-rent Cadillac, alternately picking fights with Joey, talking back to Rick and zoning out to the soothing sounds of heavy metal on my Walkman, I felt it in my gut, a rising excitement that everything was about to change.

For better or worse, once I fulfilled my destiny, the name Louis Baudrey would be synonymous with infamy.

Sid Was A True Anarchist – An Excerpt

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During lunch, the Cult of Teddy Ruxpin sat at our table in the cafeteria and discussed the important matters of the day, like which Sex Pistol was more of an anarchist.

“Sid was a true anarchist,” Vic argued.

“But Johnny Rotten wrote all the lyrics,” Brett pointed out.

“Johnny was only a fashionista with a reggae bent. Fuck PIL! Sid was the real rebel in the group.”

“But Sid couldn’t even play his instrument.”

“Exactly! That’s a true anarchist. Sid was the spirit of the band. Johnny Rotten was just the voice. The message was all Sid’s, even before he joined the band. Without him there would never have been—” Vic stopped short.

Four burly jocks in letterman jackets walked up to our table.

“Well, well, well… what do we have here?” one of the guys said. “You the ones been writing all that Teddy Ruxpin Rules crap around school?”

We snickered at the way he said Teddy Ruxpin with such disdain in his country drawl.

“What y’all doing is blasphemy,” he added. “The only one that rules is God.”

Vic and I smirked while Brett laughed out loud.

“You think that’s funny, freak?” He got in Brett’s face. “Is God funny to you?”

“It’s kind of funny, yeah,” Brett said.

“I think we need to have a little chat.” The guy grabbed Brett by the collar and pulled him through a side door.

The other jocks stood over Vic and me in case we tried to make a move.

“What’s your problem?” Vic demanded.

“You’re my problem, loser.”

“You shouldn’t be mixed up with these two space-cases,” one of the jocks told me. “We thought you were smarter than that.”

I was surprised they had noticed me. A little flattered even. But I said, “I guess I’m not that smart after all.”

In the corner of my eye, obscured in the small frosted glass of the door, I saw a flurry of movement outside.

A few seconds later, Brett came back in, his face drawn up. He walked past us without saying a word.

“Hey!” Vic and I ran after him. “Slow down, man. What happened?”

“The fucker punched me!” Brett said over his shoulder and kept moving.

“That’s fucked up!” I told Vic. “We should do something.”

“What’s the point? It’s not going to change anything.”

I looked back at the jocks, high-fiving each other.
“Motherfuckers,” I said under my breath.

From that day on, I became the self-appointed Minister of Propaganda for the Cult of Teddy Ruxpin. I spent most of my class time coming up with new slogans like, “Teddy Ruxpin Died for Your Sins,” “Praise Be To Teddy Ruxpin” and “If I Were A Stuffed Bear I Would Be Teddy Ruxpin.”

Within a week, Teddy Ruxpin related graffiti around campus quadrupled.

(Read more about “The Cult of Teddy Ruxpin” here.)

Another State of Mind – An Excerpt

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In 1987, Saks, Alabama, was an electromagnetic wasteland, too remote to pick up a signal on the TV without cable. For the first time in my life, I had access to MTV’s 120 Minutes and Headbanger’s Ball, as well as shows like Night Flight and Up All Night. On the weekends, I scoured the dial for videos, weird movies or anything with a little T&A. I was flipping through the channels late one Friday when I stumbled on a show with punks sporting mohawks and studded leather jackets. I watched transfixed as the story unfolded. It was some kind of documentary about two punk bands from LA touring across the US and Canada in a school bus covered with anarchic graffiti. At each stop, they played shows in dingy clubs and warehouses, featured in the concert footage with a detailed demonstration on the techniques of slam dancing. There were interviews with kids all across the country. Kids with spiked hair, buzz cuts, mohawks, pierced noses and tons of make-up discussed their local scenes and what it was like to be a punk when the world around them refused to accept their music, their style and their way of life. The movie covered all kinds of punks, from the drunk rowdy types to the straight edge movement in DC. There were even Christian punks. While they were in Canada, the bands stayed at a place called the Calgary Manor, where a bunch of punks lived together. They talked about running away from abusive parents and broken homes to form their own community centered around punk rock. In the backyard was a half-pipe. Bands played in the living room. They made meals and ate together, like one giant family. A family of outcasts… This was the life for me, I thought, immediately overcome with the realization that something else existed out there. A punk rock life was everything I ever wanted: freedom, chaos, style and an aggressive soundtrack.

Inspired my the movie, I amped up my freak style and began to modify my wardrobe. With a marker, I drew an anarchy symbol on a ripped piece of t-shirt. Underneath that, I wrote “F.T.W.” and safety-pinned it to the back of my jean jacket. I drew crazy designs on my arms with a black PaperMate. I painted my fingernails black. I died my hair green with food coloring. I pierced my right ear a second time and inserted a long teardrop pearl earring.

As my transformation continued, I started getting dirty looks in the hallways of Saks High. People averted their eyes. I heard snide comments behind my back.

I was loving every minute of it.

The Record Bar Punk – An Excerpt

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THE RECORD BAR PUNK

At the Record Bar in the Oxford Mall, Clint and I shuffled through the racks of cassettes and whispered over the clicking of plastic. From the moment we entered the store, we were furtively eyeballing the vaguely punk looking clerk behind the counter with a Clash button on his black employee vest.

“I swear, that’s one of the guys I was telling you about,” Clint said. “The band that played at the skating rink a couple weeks ago.”

Before I went back to Birmingham, I was stuck at the Sheltons for a few more days, going out of my skull with boredom. So I decided to give Clint a call. He was psyched to hear from me. His first response was, “b-b-b-b-b-butane!” We had a good laugh remembering the fun we’d had that summer. He suggested we drive down to Oxford and check out the music store at the mall. I had twenty dollars burning a hole in my pocket. All the way there, he told me about a punk band he’d seen perform at the skating rink. They were the most amazing band he had ever seen up close. “In between songs, the band members alternated positions,” Clint said. “Switching from one instrument to the next.”

Now that we were mere feet away from one of the members, I suggested we go talk to him.

Slowly, we crept up behind the guy and stood there for several seconds before Clint cleared his throat and said, “Hey.”

The guy turned around nonchalantly. “How y’all doing?”

“Didn’t I see your band play at the Oxford skating rink?” Clint asked.

“Yeah, that was us. My name’s Brian.” He pointed at his nametag.

We introduced ourselves and shook hands.

“That was an awesome show, man.”

“I can’t believe they let you guys play punk.”

“My friend Dave works at the skating rink,” Brian said. “That’s how we got in. But we were playing Dead Kennedys songs and insulting people, so Dave pulls me over to the side and says we gotta tone down the profanity. Well, the next song we play is ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off!’”

We all laughed.

“Man, after that, we were shut right the fuck down! The crowd was yelling, ‘You suck!’ We grabbed our shit and took off.”

“That’s so awesome!” Clint and I enthused.

“I don’t think they’re gonna invite us back.”

“What’s the name of your band?” I asked.

“That night we were The Whales. We change our name every time we play a show. Not that there are many places to play.”

“I know. Nothing’s going on in this shitass town.”

“You guys always play punk?”

“We do a variety of tunes, some punk, some ska, a little rockabilly. Sometimes all within the same song.”

“Cool. I listen mostly to punk.” I showed him the tapes I’d found, stoked beyond belief to finally have albums by Social Distortion and Minor Threat. I held them tightly in my hand like trophies. “I’ve been dying to find these,” I told the guy. “Every since I saw that movie Another State of Mind. Do you know that one?”

“Yeah. That’s a cool flick. I just ordered those tapes a few weeks ago. I was hoping somebody would find them.”

We talked about punk bands for a while. He recommended some albums, making me swear I’d check out Plastic Surgery Disasters by Dead Kennedys as soon as I had the money. He said it was their most musical album. A classic. I memorized every word he said.

After we’d made our purchases, Clint and I walked down to the Orange Julius. He wanted to know what it was like being in a mental hospital.

“Being locked up… man, it’s all a big joke. They didn’t know what else to do with me, and I guess if they didn’t know what to do with you, they lock you up.”

“When my dad found out what happened to y’all, he was rearing to go beat your dad up and that other guy. I ain’t never seen my dad so pissed off.”

“Everybody knows about it now, huh?”

“Well, yeah. It was in the paper.”

“Crazy.”

“So are you coming back to Anniston before you leave for LA?”

“Maybe for Christmas. I don’t know what’s happening yet, where I’m going to end up…”

“We should hang out if you’re in town. And hey, man… tell your brother…” Clint paused. “Tell him I said what’s up. Okay?”

“For sure.”

Death Is The Ultimate High – An Excerpt

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The social workers called me into the office. The first one gestured at my clothes. “Why are you dressed this way?”

I looked down at what I was wearing that day: a sleeveless white t-shirt with an anarchy symbol scrawled on the front with a red magic marker.

“What? This is just my style.”

She pointed at my hi-tops. I’d written the word “FUCK” on the front tip of my right shoe, and on the left, “OFF.”

“You have ‘death is the ultimate high’ written on the side of your shoes… Are you suicidal?”

“No, that’s from Miami Vice. When Crocket and Tubbs went after these punk rock thugs, that’s what they had spray-painted on the side of their car. I just thought it was a funny expression. It’s not supposed to mean anything.”