Leather-clad misfits from suburbia massed outside the California Theatre. Like angry hornets they formed a large hive around the front door of the concert hall, spilling onto the sidewalk. All members of the various tribes were present.
The skinheads were thumping their chests and confronting anyone who dared to look in their direction. Dressed in paramilitary uniforms, their appearance was akin to a Nazi infantry unit that had been placed into a time machine and descended into the heart of San Diego.
The smell of cheap beer, cigarettes, and sweat filled the air. On the ground there was blood from a fight that had taken place earlier in the evening between opposing tribes. Rich white kids from North County huddled together as far as possible from the skinheads. The North County kids spared no expense when it came to their punk rock attire: leather jackets, Doc Martens, and jeans. This was the crowd that would later go on to make millions selling rebellion to teenagers, in the form of retail outlets like Hot Topic and pop-punk acts like Poway’s blink-182. My tribe was swarming, moving in and out of the hive in front of the venue as well. We were from the southern region of the city called South Bay. Mexicans, Samoans, and working-class whites like yours truly made up my tribe. We did not meet the strict elitist criteria of the skinheads, nor did we have the fashion knowledge of the North County kids, so we dressed like cholos: Dickies, T-shirts, and Chuck Taylor Converse tennis shoes. Our heroes were the real cholos in our neighborhood and Mike Muir from Suicidal Tendencies.
Everyone was here to see a band called the Cramps. The only problem was that the swarm of hyper teenagers had to wait for some band called the Red Hot Chili Peppers to get on stage and do their thing. Rumor had it their bass player was in Fear, and he was pretty good.
When the doors finally opened up, a stampede of disenfranchised, emotionally disturbed teenagers raged into the concert hall. A flurry of angst and testosterone took over the place. The opening act was a lot better than we had anticipated, but our restless energy got the best of us. Halfway through the Cramps’ set, the San Diego Police Department came into the theater dressed in full riot gear and gave us a lesson in violence. With batons swinging, it was clear the cops enjoyed every second in this lesson of humility. The violent storm of baton-wielding peace officers forced everyone in the theater onto Adams Avenue. From the street we would scatter back to the suburbs where we came from.
After the show, I went home to Spring Valley with my then girlfriend, now ex-wife, Sharee. Sharee dropped a bomb on me with the force of Hiroshima. “I’m pregnant,” she said.
My youth disappeared in a sentence. Sharee sat there with a blank look on her face, as if to say “Now what?” Sharee was like me in that she was a teenager who had no clue how the world worked. Up to this point our world revolved around a small social network of friends. We both knew that we were two young too raise a child and that an abortion was out of the question.
Sharee was raised in El Cajon by a single mom, and despite the fact that she was not very religious, she did not want to have an abortion any more than I wanted her to have one. I was raised Catholic, and abortion was not something to be taken lightly. My father and mother, both working-class Catholics, would never have approved of an abortion. Sharee told me that an abortion was something she did not want on her conscience as well. Sitting on the couch with her fire-engine-red hair and leather jacket, she appeared more like Joan Jett than a mother-to-be. We both sat on our cheap couch under a G.B.H. poster while a parade of teenagers walked into our apartment, each taking turns talking over the next on the events that took place at the show. “Hey did you see Tiny hit that guy?” “Dude, I am not a poseur.” Sharee and I just sat and stared at the ground. As much as it hurt us, we knew with absolute certainty we could not raise a child in this environment. Sharee’s mascara ran while I pulled my bandanna so low nobody could see my eyes water. It’s funny how teenagers are never cast in pregnancy-test commercials.
We both agreed that it would be best to have our child put up for adoption. After all, we weren’t exactly doing a good job taking care of ourselves; how could we take care of a baby?
The next five months consisted of interviewing prospective families and dealing with an attorney. Most of the families that interviewed with us had the creepy, preppy appearance that was all the rage in the Reagan years. With sweaters tossed around their shoulders, one could only imagine what was going through the prospective parents’ heads to have two teenagers dressed in counter-culture costumes drilling them on their personal beliefs. We would have these meetings at our attorney’s office or the prospective parents’ homes. I preferred our attorney’s office, with its endless rows of official-looking books that nobody read. After five months, we had met a family that seemed nice enough. We wanted a family that would have the financial means to take care of our child and provide a life for him that we could not. We also wanted a family that was not too religious or judgmental. The Melchior family met our requirements.
After nine months, Ryan Melchior was born at Grossmont hospital into a world with teenage biological parents and well-adjusted adult parents. When he was born, the nurse took him away in a flash. Just by looking at Sharee I could see a piece of her soul had been taken away. Once again, tears filled her eyes and all emotion had been removed from her face. All I could do was stand there and try to convince her we’d done the right thing. Our baby was crying in the other room, and we were not allowed to see him. The hospital has a policy of not letting babies put up for adoption to be held by their birth mothers.