Crust Gets in Your Eyes

Forced into the light by a recent murder, a transient community starts talking.

By St. John Barned-Smith
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 13 | Posted Jul. 25, 2007

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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.

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Comments 1 - 13 of 13
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1. jp said... on Jul 18, 2008 at 11:20PM


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2. wraith said... on Aug 28, 2008 at 10:41AM

“do you have any picks of kids known as....lost,wraith,or horace?”

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3. sour pickles said... on Sep 25, 2008 at 08:23AM

“this is the worst article i have ever read. not only is it poorly written , and terribly researched, but it fails to take into account more than two individuals perspective on how they live and the subculture they claim to be a part of . to not include the viewpoints of numerous subjects, and allowing the journalist to make such obviously generic statements regarding an entire subculture and way of life, shows extreme lack of integrity .thanks for nothing, but a sensationalized piece of trash that only seeks to cash in on tragic events.”

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4. shannon said... on Nov 11, 2008 at 08:38PM

“hahahahaha blow job”

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5. me said... on Dec 1, 2008 at 02:58AM

“More than half of your glossary is totally or partially wrong. Don't add something you're not confident about just to give your readers a spiffy decoder ring in a cereal box. Most of the folks interviewed probably could have defined those terms instead of you guessing at them, incorrectly.”

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6. Otter said... on Dec 5, 2008 at 06:23PM

“>> FTRA Freight Train Riders of america >> Homebums Hobos' terms for not just squatters, but people who spend a long time in one place. the older ones sometimes call themselves "homeguards", such as in AZ. >> Spider/Kill shwill Backwashed dregs of ANY beer.”

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7. upthepups said... on Dec 21, 2008 at 07:07PM

“this is one of the worst articals i have read. i think ol' pickles summed it up pretty much. ”

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8. Nope. said... on Dec 22, 2008 at 02:24PM

“Let's just marginalize another group of people we don't know and consider ourselves worldly. It takes all kinds and reading this doesn't mean you know anything. I am particularly fond of the bit about facial tattoos. Also who doesn't call it a space bag? ”

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9. ?? said... on Jan 12, 2009 at 12:08PM

“RIP - Tim. Your killers pleaded Guilty. Tim was a Hockey Champion and a teammate of mine. My brother is also a crusty and hope he does not meet the same fate as Tim. ”

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10. jz said... on Jan 12, 2009 at 01:09PM

“anyone know where marc is”

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11. your worst nightmare said... on Jan 29, 2009 at 11:13PM

“UM..... WHAT? are you fucking serious? you have no idea what the fuck you are talking about and the fact that you would put it on the fucking internet on some bullshit site like this is fucking retarded. way to call everybody who does this for real out. Are you too much of a pussy to call this shit on the spot? You shouldn't write a check that your ass can't cash. bitch. Have you ever met a SF Scumfuck? what goddamn planet are you from? Where do you get your info? you need to check your shit.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Jul 31, 2010 at 11:40PM

“hahaha, humm, well, i guess their equal cuz tim was tryin to rape echo, her face blooded by him, whem conor woke up, so i think it was very fuckin justified. rapos have no fucking right to live, im not sorry if im to blunt because thats the truth. Conor is not a normally violent person, i should know, i lived in a bathroom with him for 15 months, he was my cellie up state. He is the contrary, very giving and forgiving so dont talk shit just cuz u can, nobodys doin shit cuz its all talk...”

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13. hoohah said... on Aug 18, 2015 at 03:36PM

“I'm thinking Sour Pickles may not have realized that the article was longer than just the first page. Click the 'next' button by all the numbers at the bottom and see if your opinion changes.”


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