The final installment of an autobiographical punk trilogy that began with Mosquitoes and Whiskey, I’m On the Guest List finds a 23-year-old Chris Walter fresh out of a Winnipeg jail and stumbling through the windswept streets in search of the nearest bar. It’s the beginning of a pre-sobriety memoir that spans over 20 years, crosses four provinces, double-crosses numerous girls and highlights multiple generations of punk music.
Guest List is a veritable set of crib notes for any punk music aficionado. From a Ramones show at the Playhouse Theatre in Winnipeg, where in the pit he notices the slightly melted shoe of Dee Dee Ramone, to cheering on a wasted Art Bergmann at the Highwood Music Festival in High River, Alta. and a rabbit barbeque with Randy Rampage of D.O.A. in East Vancouver, hardly a punk band from here to the U.K. goes unreferenced.
“It is as if hell has frozen over, but at least I have my tunes,” says Walter, listening to Saints’ “Eternally Yours” over his Walkman, on his way to a mandatory work-placement program in an early chapter. The program proves to be worthwhile, and soon the young antihero is developing skills in construction, giving him something else to do besides stealing other people’s beer, a talent that’s earned him the nickname “Hook.”
While Walter condenses two decades of drug abuse into I’m On the Guest List, this isn’t a glorified tale of addiction. He approaches the harrowing consequences of his lifestyle with a haunted, submissive tone and it’s clear his addiction is a constant struggle.
He glosses over none of his own unglamorous behavior and proves that while there is much to regret amongst the tangled, dysfunctional relationships, there is equally much to be forgiven. Ultimately, it’s his relationships with his close-knit friends that gives the story its heart. All seriousness aside, I’m On the Guest List is refreshingly funny. (Emily Kendy)
by Chris Walter, $15.95, 326 pgs, GoFuckYerself Press, firstname.lastname@example.org, punkbooks.com