Forced into the light by a recent murder, a transient community starts talking.
Steve-O wears olive-drab shorts, shirt and hat, silver lip rings, construction worker boots and a limp once-blue bandana that hangs from his neck bandit-style.
Marc is just as friendly, but not as immediately effusive. He wears beat-up Nike street shoes and a tank top bearing an anti-McDonald's slogan. A skeleton tattoo runs down his right arm. Tattooed railroad tracks curl around his left eye, and anarchist symbols and other homemade tats dot his legs and knuckles. A glaring raw "S" is carved into his left leg--the scabrous remains of an infected tattoo.
Marc and Steve-O say they've just arrived in Philly via a train they hopped in Baltimore. They're spanging for cash to buy burgers and beer, and say they'll probably be on their way to Pittsburgh by the end of the day to meet up with friends.
Marc rests a cardboard sign against his legs that reads: "PIGEONS KILLED MY MOM--NEED MONEY FOR A BB-GUN."
To passing men, he calls out, "Brother, can you spare any change?" To the women: "Lady, can you spare any change please?"
Squint and ignore their tats, and you could be looking at a Philadelphia street scene from the 1930s, when several thousand American teenagers and adults took to riding the rails from city to city looking for work.
Marc says he's one of the last people to see Tim Bradly alive. He also says he's met the two arrested for murder, aggravated assault and conspiracy--Echo Ward and Connor McCarthy--who disappeared from Philly that night.
Details on Bradly are scarce.
Police say he lived on North Columbus Boulevard, that he was 27, and that he was partying with friends the night he died.
One posting on a MySpace page where several members of the online crusty community discussed the murder said he was "a world-class hockey player" who once participated in the United States Olympic Elite Athlete program. According to their records, Bradly played on the U.S. Roller Hockey team when he was 15.
On Baltimore Avenue at 50th in Cedar Park, a few blocks from the site of Bradly's murder, four members of Philly's fringe punk culture--Mike, Stefanie, Wilder and Eian (last names are tough to come by in this community)--sit around a table at the Satellite Cafe, a neighborhood hang.
They say they're part of the city's anarchist and anarchist-punk scene, and all but Wilder say they've squatted at different points in their lives.
Mike Scott-Straight, 34, who says he's an ex-train hopper with a master's degree in urban studies from Temple, works as a stained glass artist and a cook at Tattooed Mom. He says he got into the anarcho-punk scene in the late '80s as a way to "take back space, to reclaim materials" and to fight against a culture "based almost entirely on consumption and materialism."
He hopped trains to use what he calls "an almost limitless resource," saying most people involved in this culture try to live on the margins. "Trying to live free, that's where train hopping really comes from--separating yourself from this consumer aspect of travel."
The city's anarchist punk scene, once fairly cohesive, has splintered in recent years into subcultures with colorful names: crusties, gutter punks, anarchists, squatters, scumfucks and likely countless others we'll never know.
Tensions among these groups often run high. While many crusties think of themselves as political--many remember their participation at the 2000 Republican National Convention, for example, though they've also been known to start community gardens, bond with neighbors and take active roles in community affairs--"scumfucks" and some of the more apolitical train hoppers have a fuck-the-world mentality.
According to Mike, scumfucks are violent. They like to pick fights and have massive pride and machismo issues.
PW's 2015 Gift Guide
Dinner with Luke Palladino