Danny and Poodle were running down D Street in Encinitas when they spotted Tim, who gave them shelter. Danny recognized Tim as one of the few punks in town and told him that he and Poodle needed a place to stay — right that minute. A white Ford Fair- lane was following them around the comer. They didn’t know who was in it, but they didn’t care to find out. They’d just pulled a dine-and-dash out of Billy Bob’s Pit Bar-B-Que on First Street (it used to be the A&W), and they were pretty hyper after leaving the tab, and their dirty plates, and a litter of empty Heineken bottles on the patio table, and jumping the fence and running along the railroad tracks behind the La Paloma Theatre, then down D Street to the beach, where Poodle’s car was parked.
Actually, Poodle doesn’t remember the part about the Ford Fairlane, but that may be because he was ripped, or because it happened three years ago when he was a different person. After leaving the crowd of North County misfits of which he and Danny were so much a part, he finally quit drinking, got married, and lives now in his native Los Angeles. Danny didn’t make it. Though he seemed indestructibly young, he died on the railroad tracks in December, not long before his twenty-first birthday.
Whether or not the Fairlane was there, Tim remembers inviting the guys back to the beach apartment that he and his brother Mike were sharing on Moonlight Lane. Danny immediately named it the Punk House (he was always the one for naming things), and he and Poodle ended up staying there through the summer.
What a summer it was, said Tim. Parties day and night; everybody drinking Lucky beer — "Breakfast of champions,” you said before popping a top — and Danny giving haircuts to the teen-agers who came over. No matter that he didn’t know how to cut hair. That was the point: not to have hair that looked nice. Don’t care about being nice, Danny told the people he brought to the Punk House. Think about your own heart. Everyone’s giving us bullshit. Why can’t people just do what they feel? Why does everyone have to be the same?
Of course, Danny had had long, conventionally blond hair during his surfer days. Though born in Los Angeles, he’d been raised in Cardiff- by-the-Sea in a loving and conventional family, had fed upon natural foods, had learned the more difficult Beatles tunes on the guitar. A friend who had known him since high school said he had tried to be a leader, standing up for his friends, protecting them in the after-school arguments that kids get into. She said Danny ‘‘wanted everyone to feel the same things he felt.” He wanted to lead — but not where everyone was already going.
Sometime in 1980 — some punk-rock friends of Danny pin it down to a particular party, with entertainment by a band named Political Crap — he dropped out of the surf scene and became a missionary for punk. It was easy to point the way: Whatever is the comfortable and approved thing to do, do ye the opposite. And whatever the punks around him were doing, Danny was compelled to do the most, the hardest, the fastest, the longest — he did all he could do in the extreme. His girlfriend at the time of his death said, ‘‘There was Danny, who was a normal, considerate person, with the same feelings as you or I, and then there was ‘Danimal,’ which was not just his nickname but the person that he became when he had to show that he was on top.”
That summer at the Punk House, Danny “spread infection,” his nickname for giving a custom haircut. He’d take the orange-handled stationery shears out of the kitchen drawer and set his punk-convert on a chair between the apartment buildings. The landlord hated those haircuts on his slab-concrete patio, more than he hated the music and drinking and flophouse vagrants, but what were the punkers to do? They would have given haircuts inside the apartment, but so much hair was falling that summer they couldn’t be bothered to sweep it out.
Evicted in September, the punks moved downstairs to the apartment of a sojourning couple from France. When the couple moved out, they had left the rent paid through October, which turned out to be the best month of all, said Tim. No rent meant more money for Lucky. One night they were doing beer bonks — filling a funnel with brew and downing it, via gravity, in a stunningly short time — when the sheriffs came to throw the trespassers and their belongings out the door. Tim remembers trying to stay upright in the alley behind the apartment while a sheriff was standing on his foot and pushing him over; not that Tim resents the way he was treated — he said he had it coming. He remembers the moment because he was worried about not having a place to live.
Later that night at a party Danny and Poodle and Tim met a teen-ager who invited them to her apartment to stay for the night. Her mother had rented her a studio at 2166 Montgomery Avenue in Cardiff: one room floored mostly by a waterbed, with a kitchenette and bath, and a back door leading to a hillside cellar that seemed like the bottom of the world, a perfect place for partying. That night the girl slept on the waterbed and the punks lay head-to-toe on the horseshoe of carpeting around it. The arrangement wasn’t bad, and the rent was free. They stayed till the following spring.
The studio became known from San Diego to Los Angeles as the Black Hole of Cardiff. The name was more ominous than the goings-on: Danny, Poodle, Tim, and a few other regulars spent their days drinking and listening to music, or scamming for provisions for a party. Danny, fearless among his peers, occasionally pulled a “mad runner” — grabbing a bottle of liquor from a store shelf and sprinting for the door. When low on money, they sold some albums at Lou’s Records in Encinitas, until they were told to keep out of the store for having sneaked off with a P.I.L. Can edition of Public Image Limited — a three-record set by the rock group, packaged in a film can.
It’s a good album, said the punk who’d slipped the collectible into his jacket. He added that music was not just entertainment to him and his friends but an expression of attitude. “Regular rock and roll, even when it sounds really good, is usually about dumb stuff that doesn’t matter,” he said. “You know, love. Hey, wow. Right. But you look around and you see all these things that make you angry, and most rock and roll doesn’t talk about that. So we like music that expresses our. . . .’’He waited for the word. “I don’t know. Just our anger. I don’t know. . . .”
At the Hole they listened to music by Agent Orange, Sex Pistols, Germs, Black Flag, and the New York Dolls. Nobody watched TV. Danny wrote lyrics in a leopard-skin notebook he carried in his jacket, and sketched on scraps of paper — his friends say his lyrics and drawings were good — but he never kept at them, didn’t let these interests take over and run his career.
His personality was his career. Tim’s brother Mike, who had shared his apartment with Danny on Moonlight Lane, was to sing one summer evening with a band in La Jolla Shores and needed a ride. Danny somehow got hold of a Dodge Duster for driving Mike to the engagement, and as they were getting out of the car, Danny discovered a fire extinguisher, which he decided to bring along. It was late afternoon and the sunbathers lay on the beach in tranquility — too much tranquility for Danny, who ran up and down the boardwalk blasting them with the canister.
He was uninhibited, said Mike. That was his attraction. Yet even when his actions seemed out of control, his drinking in particular, he had a way of acting on people with the control of a performer going for effects. He commanded people without threatening them. He was loyal and helpful to his friends: when one needed gas for his car, Danny said, “I’ll get it,” and took the keys and came back later with a full tank and no explanation. He read people and gave them what they wanted. “He could feel your pulse from across the room,” one young woman said. This, and his outgoing nature, and of course his obsession with being outrageously punk, gave him much influence over his peers.
None could help noticing that his influence extended particularly far in the direction of girls, especially those younger than himself. “He’d tell chicks to give us money for beer,’ ’ one punk said, “and they’d do it every time.” Someone once asked him his secret. “You want to know the secret of success?” he said. “I’m a gentleman. On top of everything else, you’ve got to be a gentleman, and that’s what they pick up on.”
One time the mother of a fifteen- year-old telephoned the house where a party was going on. Danny answered, and without telling the woman where her daughter was, promised to find her and have her home in an hour—and he did, delivered to her front door. The mother disliked Danny before and after the incident, but had to admit that she was impressed.
Free rent at the Hole ended when the tenant’s mother found out that six or more punks were sleeping around her daughter. By this time, though, Poodle had rented a house of his own on Third and G streets in Encinitas. Reputedly the oldest house in town, it looked like a wooden cupcake, sagging in the eves, set amid a yellowing plate of lawn.
They called it the Ragpile. It was the first house that the punks had had to themselves, and they saw it as a kind of starting point, a place of their own. Danny and four or five other punks moved in, and they continued the life they’d been digging at the Hole. Poodle remembers going to bed drunk and getting up at dawn to be ready when the liquor store opened at 6:00 a.m. Nearly everyone but Danny took jobs to meet expenses. Danny never worked, claiming he was allergic to it. Instead, he and a few friends stole items for hock.
It was wrong, they knew, but they figured it wasn’t that wrong since it fit in with the attitude that a fraudulent society deserves to be defrauded here and there. Besides, the crimes weren’t violent; most were too small to qualify as grant theft in today’s market ($400 and up); and some, in a sense, were in the open, among friends.
One involved three pieces of antique jewelry belonging to the mother of Danny’s girlfriend Susanna Dilts. Danny and Susanna were in the Dilts home one November afternoon when Danny went upstairs and took the jewelry from the bedroom. Not an hour later he told Susanna what he’d done. She in turn told her mother, after Mrs. Dilts had discovered the theft, and her mother called the sheriff, who then arrested Danny. Danny pleaded not guilty and had his court-appointed attorney postpone the pretrial hearing to February, after the holiday season. Released on his own recognizance, he then skipped the hearing, upon which a warrant was issued for his arrest.
In the meantime, he’d continued to see Susanna. His friends said that of all his girlfriends, Susanna was the one he would have died for, sort of. Perhaps this was because he never won her as completely as he had done others. She moved in the punk scene for a while but dropped out of it, a nonconvert. She’d met Danny at the Yellowstone Bus Company, a poolhall-deli in Cardiff, when she was fourteen. He was there with Poodle and another friend, being his expansive self. She and Danny started talking, and soon were going to the same parties.
In relationships of all kinds, Danny liked to stir things up. “You’d be sitting there listening to the radio and he’d pick it up and throw it past your head,” said someone who knew him only slightly. ‘ ‘The thing to do was not move, stay calm, and just let it all be normal.” With Susanna, though, he turned up his self-control. At a punk- rock concert at the La Paloma, Tim, Poodle, and Mike were in the front row, drunk, waiting for the last song, at which they had planned to stand in front of the stage and slam into each other and dive into the audience until the ushers kicked them out. This they did (one of them passed out and had to be carried to the street), while Danny remained a few rows back, in calmness, sitting next to Susanna.
She said they went together for eleven months, and although she knew of some of his crimes, she never thought of him as a bad person, or as capable of hurting anyone. They had an on-again, off-again relationship. One night he demonstrated his attachment to her by producing a pair of police-issue handcuffs and locking their wrists together. One of the punks from the Ragpile said Danny had been drinking Chivas Regal that night, and ended up driving around in a friend’s car, holding the steering wheel with one hand while the other was handcuffed to Susanna, who was laughing and hitting him and telling that was enough, unlock her, she had to leave. The trouble was he didn’t have a key. They were locked together and that was it. This went on until Danny pulled into a service station and had the attendant cut the handcuff away from her wrist with sheet-metal snips, which wouldn’t work on Danny’s cuff because it was too tight to allow the jaws between the metal and his skin. So he wore the cuff for the rest of the night, and the next day stopped a sheriff, who obligingly unlocked it.
That night, too, Danny cut his wrist superficially with a razor and let himself bleed for a while, stopping it at last with his hand. Someone from the Rag- pile offered to take him to the hospital but Danny refused, so instead he took him out to breakfast. He said Danny didn’t seem in despair that night; Danny never seemed depressed, except on days when he was supposed to appear in court. Another friend said cutting his wrists was “just one of the things Danny liked to do. Scare people, I guess.”
Beginning in February of 1982, when Danny failed to appear for the pretrial hearing on the jewelery theft, his trouble with the law grew serious. He'd long been known to the local police for his rowdiness and for having grown up in the area; some of the police may even have liked him, since most of the trouble he made was noise and nuisance, and since his personality was ever engaging. Two punks remember the night that Danny and some others were parked on E Street in Encinitas, drinking beer and listening to music, when a sheriff pulled up and told them to move it. Danny invited him to come over and listen to their tape of a band called Sacred Lies. The sheriff got out of his car and listened to a tune or two, said he liked it, then told them they shouldn’t be drinking on the street and ordered them all to go, which they did.
With thefts and burglaries the sheriffs were much less lenient. Kurt Fettu, who was then a detective in the Encinitas station, arrested Danny four or five times for stealing. From Fettu’s point of view, the arrests were less troublesome than most. “He liked me,” Fettu said. “I got so that I knew where Danny hung out, and if I needed to pick him up I’d just go there and call him in and he’d come. We had what you could call a working relationship.”
But the cases against Danny mounted until he couldn’t treat them lightly. In March the San Diego City Police jailed him for disturbing the peace. His bail of one hundred dollars was met by the punks at the Ragpile, who took up a collection and entrusted the money to Poodle, who sprang Danny from jail. His appearance date in court was April 1, which he skipped, forfeiting his friends’ money and bringing out another warrant for his arrest.
Two months later to the day, Danny and Scott Tennyson, a punk whom Danny had known for about a year, were hanging out at the bluff-edge park on D Street when Danny gave in to the urge to rip off one of the chains that swung between the guardrail stumps. “He said he’d been wanting to do it for years,” said Scott, who helped him twist the chain free. Scott believes that a man in the nearby apartments saw them and called the police, as a patrol car arrived about the time Danny was swinging the chain over his head.
While Danny was being arrested, Scott spotted the guy he thought had called the police, flipped him off, then was arrested himself. Scott eventually got off with a restitution of $110, but Danny’s breach of bail brought him back to face charges of car theft, theft of personal property, and driving while intoxicated. In a plea bargain he waived his right to a trial and was sen tenced to six months ’ imprisonment — adult institution recommended.
That isn’t jail exactly but Camp West Fork, a guarded detention ground in the Cuyamaca Mountains. His friends say Danny wasn’t there long before he ate jimson weed, a night shade plant containing the poisonous narcotic stramonium, which sent him with buzzing head and swollen tongue to the infirmary, thence back to the county jail in Vista. His file at the honor camp is closed, but the record shows he stayed there only a week.
He detested being in jail, even though he was there for only four months of his sentence, being released in September to the get-straight re strictions of probation, and having by good behavior earned the position of trusty among the jail inmates, with kitchen duties and a little extra free dom. Still, he was used to more liber ties than normal citizens take, and compared to the home he’d been raised in — wooden ranch house on a sky-full hill, next to a greenery — jail was something different, something out of the blue.
In jail he had visits from his family, from Poodle who had quit the Ragpile and moved to Los Angeles, from Tim and others, though not from Susanna. He wrote her letters which he never mailed, but gave to her later. One day he called the Dilts’s home collect and got Susanna’s mother. She accepted the call and heard Danny ask her please to get him out of jail, and that if he didn’t get out soon, he would commit suicide.
“It shook me up,” said Mrs. Dilts. “It would shake anybody up to hear something like that. Even though he’d stolen from me, I guess I still felt for him.” Nonetheless she said there was nothing she could do to get him out, as he’d been jailed on charges in addition to the robbery of her jewelry. She gave the phone to Susanna, who talked with Danny for a minute then pleaded with her mother to get him out. But Mrs. Dilts explained that there was nothing she could do.
On the night of his release, Danny visited Tim and Mike Cook in their rented garage on the outskirts of Vista.
“There was a lot of talk about hitting the straight and narrow,” said Mike, “though it’s kind of hard to remember.
We were all fairly blasted that night.” Later he visited Poodle in Pacific Palisades, in the hills north of Santa Monica, and talked about changing his life. “Drinking was the root of all our problems,” said Poodle. “Danny talked about quitting, and about how much more he had to give to people, and I think he even came close, which is not that easy. I know it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Plus, Danny was a little rebellious, which made it even harder. This was not long before the incident with the train.”
After jail, Danny stayed with various friends before making his home at 1380 Hermes Avenue in Leucadia, about a hundred yards east of the railroad tracks that parallel Highway 101. It was a white stucco house owned by Ike La Vie of Los Angeles and his brother-in-law Dr. John Hinkleman of New York, and it had been leased to Danny’s older brother Dennis, and Danny’s best friend Brian Kuntz.
Dennis had been wanting a quiet place since the days of the Hole, where he had stayed occasionally, and the house on Hermes, which was set back thirty yards from the street and was surrounded by bamboo, pines, and coral trees, seemed the flawless retreat. Divided among several roommates, the rent was only eighty dollars per person, and the house was more comfortable than the Ragpile, which the punks had given up anyway to the Jesus-Is-Lord people. The Hermes place “was mellow,” said Brian, ‘‘at least until Danny came back. From that point it got kind of crazy.” Danny moved into a small building near the main house. He called it the Pit, a wide lavender hut with a bay window, built by the son of the previous owner to put up two monitor lizards and an alligator. It stood about fifteen feet from the north side of the house, looking like a derelict hotdog stand. Danny furnished it with a mattress, couch, and easel, with his own drawings and posters on the walls, and with a shattered television hanging from the ceiling. Later he added dolls’ heads made to look chopped and bloodied — "which looked cool and scared lots of girls,” said a punk who shared the Pit with Danny for several weeks.
Same old Danny: despite his attempt to quit drinking, which lasted maybe ten or fifteen days, and despite the job he took with Brian mixing mortar for a bricklayer, which made his arms break out in a rash, proving what he’d said about his allergy to work, Danny didn’t change.
‘‘We all put him down a lot for a while when he got out of jail,” said Brian one recent Saturday after work. Scott Tennyson was with him, sitting in the car that Brian had bought with the money from his job. “He was still our friend, but he was the exact same person as when he went to jail, and we had all sort of moved on. When he went in, I got a job and a girlfriend, which I wouldn’t have done before. And when he got out, we still partied . . . but it was different. I mean, he taught me a lot; he just did all this stuff that was so outrageous that you couldn’t help being influenced by him, and liking him a lot. But I think he wanted to have the same power over us as when he went in, and he just didn’t, ’cause the rest of us weren’t the same.”
On a Friday night in November, about six weeks after his release, Danny drove a group of punks up to Lake Drive in Cardiff to look for a party that they never found. On the way back to the beach, coming down Birmingham Drive, two sheriffs’ cars pulled him over. Both policemen knew him, and they noted that everyone in the car but Danny — and there were five others in the cream-colored Mustang — was under eighteen years of age, and there was evidence that some had been drinking. The police took the minors to the hilltop substation off El Camino Real for holding until their parents came to get them. Danny they took to the Vista jail and booked in violation of three sections of the Welfare Code regarding the underage kids in the car.
Released four days later, on November 24, he was given a court date on December 2, 1982, at which the judge would review his probation record and probably send him back for the rest of his six-month sentence. That day, the twenty-fourth, he went to Karin Hansen, a confidante whom he sometimes called Momma Karin, and had her give him a mohawk. ‘ ‘I'm going to be a warrior now,” she remembers him saying as she cut his hair. She said the jailing affected him deeply, and somehow aroused an urgent show of machismo.
‘‘I had a bunch of Qualuudes, and he said, ‘Hey, let’s eat some and go outside,’ ’ said Karin, who lives at present in West Hollywood. “I didn’t eat any but I followed him out, and we were sitting on a bank above the tracks, and I guess he saw a train and said, ‘Have you ever played chicken? Come with me, I’m going to.’
"And I said, ‘No you are not!’ And I kicked him in the back and I started screaming, ‘Stop feeling sorry for yourself! You think you’re the only one who feels anything? You’re crazy. Stop it! Get on with your life.’ And he got up and ran across Vulcan [Avenue] and started ripping these mailboxes off their posts, and then started going up the street ripping the posts out of the ground, while I stood there going, ‘What is going on?’
‘‘He said later that he wanted to get into all of our souls, and that we were never going to forget him. And I said, ‘So you want to show all of us what life is about, but do you know what it is? Can you handle it yourself?’ It’s like, Danny wanted it all: he wanted to be the teacher, the student, and the leader . . . I mean, everyone knew that he was trying to influence us, but he got so wound up that he didn’t know what to do next.”
On December 3, the day after he’d missed his latest appearance in court, Danny probably knew that another warrant had been issued for his arrest. The third was a Friday, and early in the day Danny was on the phone inviting people over for a party. A musician named Max Brown was there in the afternoon, as was Tim, who’d just gotten paid from his job at Wendy’s and bought a pint of Ten High bourbon, which he and Danny drank quietly, talking about the days in the Hole and the Punk House. Later came Steve Garris, whom Danny had met not long before at a Halloween party at the El Cortez ballroom in downtown San Diego. One of the last to come was Leigh Snyker, a high school student whom Danny had met at D Street a few years before. Sober, she found the party blazing with thirty people or more, most of them drunk.
Brian remembers that sometime during the party he was having an argument with his girlfriend, who didn’t want to see him drinking so much, when Danny came up and talked to him for a minute, then drifted away. A little after eight o’clock Danny went to Garris and said, “Gimme a buck, I’m making a beer ran.” In a few minutes he’d collected the money for whatever he had in mind to buy, and collected some people to go with him: Max and Leigh for the company, Garris because he was older than twenty-one.
They cut across the weedy lots behind the house, past the No Trespassing sign and over the fence that others had trampeled down before. The guys were hooting and jumping around, while Leigh walked fast ahead of them, thinking, “I know we’re gonna get busted for disturbing the peace. The neighbors have already called the cops.”
As they were crossing Vulcan and entering the ice plant by the railroad track, they saw the Amtrak train coming up from the south, its light blooming larger over the straight, flat track. Danny and Max started running for it. The train engineer, Warren Sattley, was rolling at ninety miles per hour, the routine speed along that stretch.
Max and Danny had played chicken before, Danny of course standing longer than anyone, once behind the La Paloma getting the heel of his boot flicked away by the train, which spun him ‘‘like a rag doll,’ ’ as he often liked to say. Garris tripped in the ice plant and fell behind Max and Danny, but caught up again when the train had begun to bear down. Leigh managed an obligatory pause between the rails before moving well out of the way, standing on the western edge of the crushed-rock ballast. Max was on the tracks facing the train, and Danny was north of him, and Garris was west of the rails, the closest to Danny.
A four-car train goes by that point in about the time it takes to count to four.
Max can’t judge how far Danny was away from him, because in the time it took to jump from the tracks and turn to Danny, half of the train was past him and he couldn’t see. The rush of wind pushed Leigh’s dress against her legs.
Max says he might have yelled something like, “’Core!” which was a byword among them, from “hard core,” but he didn’t hear what Danny said. Garris says Danny yelled, “You want to see ’core? I’ll show you ’core!” and jumped from the tracks with his arms flung out and his heels kicked up like a cheerleader.
The front of the train caught Danny above the chest and threw him perhaps sixty yards forward. In the dark, Leigh saw something like a shadow fly up toward the eucalyptus trees. Garris says he saw the impact but didn’t believe it. His first thought was that Danny might still be alive because he could see that his body had been flung away from the train’s path. Leigh called Danny’s name and started running in the dark toward the shadow, and bending, had just begun to recognize Danny’s leather jacket when Garris behind her yelled something like, “He’s dead, let’s get out of here.” Max was afraid something terrible had happened, but had seen nothing, and wouldn’t believe what Garris tried to tell him when they found each other on the far side of Highway 101.
Garris had Leigh call the sheriff from the phone booth in front of the Old Time Cafe. She remembers almost nothing of what she said, only that she left the phone dangling, and the next thing she knew was standing in the living room on Hermes with her back against the wall, sliding to the floor.
Max saw that the police had already arrived at the tracks by the time he’d recrossed Highway 101 (the train engineer had radioed the sheriff’s office), then he noticed the train backing up. Still he didn’t believe that Danny was gone; he didn’t see a body anywhere; he expected Danny to jump any second from behind one of the dark trees.
Garris went back to the house and said, “That’s it, clear this place out, Danny’s dead,” but no one believed him until Max came through the door, a paper face. Garris gave way to tears, and so did Tim.
Brian had already left, churning down to the tracks and finding Danny’s body in the dark before the paramedics did. He was crying and throwing rocks at the police cars, keeping them away from Danny. One of the paramedics said, “What are you on?” And Brian shouted back, ‘ ‘Fuck you! ’ ’ From the reports of bystanders the police learned the essentials of what had taken place, and went to the house on Hermes, which they knew as a punk hangout, and picked up Leigh and Max in separate cars and returned them to the tracks. Somehow they overlooked Garris, who left later in the evening and spent the night with the Jesus "people in the Ragpile. Leigh and Max stayed in the cars while the police continued their investigation. The train, after stopping briefly, had long since left for Los Angeles. When Leigh was finally let from the car and led toward the body, she stopped and refused to go any farther, and was released to friends who had come to take her home.
Max returned to Hermes where he talked with Danny’s father. Will, who’d been notified of the accident. Max remembers that he was still drunk when he tried to explain to Will what had happened. Brian was in his room when Will came in, and he remembers that Will was quiet and calm, and tried to comfort him with words like, “I know Danny was your friend; I’m sorry for what happened.” Tim remembers going outside later that night to take a leak in the vacant lot next to the house, and looking up at the apartment house next door and seeing faces in the yellow windows, pressed against the glass, and looking beyond him to see what was going on over there in the noisy house with all the punks and police cars.
The next day Tim quit his job. He couldn’t see flipping hamburgers at Wendy’s when his mind was taken up with Danny. A wake had begun in the Pit and continued for the rest of the weekend. After Danny’s parents had come to collect their son’s belongings, those who knew Danny stripped his room for mementos, and some erected a memorial near the track, made of one of the doll’s heads that he had used for a scary decoration.
The coroner’s report concluded the death to be a pedestrian accident; the body was cremated; no charges were filed against the train engineer. Danny’s occupation, as listed on his death certificate, was “artist — self-employed.”
Danny’s parents were understandably terse about this article; his father said that no true picture of Danny could be conjured from the remarks of his last friends, and that if it hadn’t been for those “friends” of his, Danny would probably be alive today.
Rumors began to coil about Danny’s last days, about how he’d placed a cross on this person’s doorstep as an act of farewell — Danny whose credo was “No regrets and no good-byes” — and how he’d told another person that she would never see him again if she didn’t visit soon, and how he supposedly laid himself down on the tracks and let the train run over him.
The following week the wake continued, but in a different form than anyone expected. People took their feelings out on the main house: they broke off the front door, kicked through the walls, sprayed graffiti on the stucco, bent the stove, shattered the mirrors and windows. One could see from one room to another between the wall studs; walking was sluggish because of the beer cans and rubbish on the floors. At night the parties had to move outside because the lights in the house were broken, and in the daytime the neighbors heard such founding that they thought the house was being remodeled.
One morning Brian remembers his mother came over and found him in the deranged house, drunk, and she started to cry. He said he looked at her, and wanted to explain about what was going on, and that it wouldn’t go on forever, but he couldn’t.
Ike La Vie, the landlord, came by on December 19 to see about the rent, which hadn’t been paid for the month. One of the punks at the house remembers the date because it was his birthday. He said he was standing in the parking lot in front of the house when he saw the glossy black car pull up. La Vie got out and asked him if Dennis were there, and mentioned the name of another roommate; he said he didn’t know anything about it, and La Vie passed on toward the house, meeting Brian near the porch. Brian said about the same thing, since Dennis had actually been living in his girlfriend’s apartment in the previous weeks, so La Vie went into the house to look around. He saw Max sitting on the couch in the living room with a couple of rat punks from San Diego. In silence he walked from room to room, then back to his car, carrying an impassive face.
From that day the punks started moving out, and four days later the sheriffs came to evict anyone still there. La Vie told a reporter for the Coast Dispatch that the house looked as if someone had thrown an atomic bomb inside it.
The punks didn’t realize the quality of their reputation in the neighborhood until three of them — Tim, Scott, and a friend of theirs — were walking to the house one Saturday morning, weeks after everyone had moved out. Two children in the street ran away, screaming, “Mommy, the punkers are back!”
La Vie and Hinkleman were insured for the damages to their property, which is being restored. The trash and broken walls filled nearly two truck-size dumpsters, loaded by a couple of workmen and a wheelbarrow. “I hate those punks,” said one of the workmen, who looked about twenty and had a reddish beard and pageboy hair. Having cleaned up all their trash, he couldn’t help noticing their taste for expensive beer — Beck's and St. Pauli Girl. “They go pretending to hate society, and they’re living off it,” he said. “They’re living off the fat of the land. That’s so hypocritical! Where do they get the free time to be punks? ’Cause everyone else is working.”
I told him I agreed with what he said, and I added that Danny Dean Wilson, who was for a time the leader of the punks in North County, had lived the sort of life that many people only think about living, even when they're young, and that I wish I had known him, and will not forget his name.