cluster of Goths collects around the entrance to the Arena Sports
Bar here in Jacksonville, North Carolina, a small city best known
for its enormous Marine Corps base and air station. There are skinny
boys with thickly mascaraed eyes in tight mesh shirts and huge parachute
pants. A handful of tougher-looking guys wears black jeans and black
tees with scary logos. The girls favor tank tops and bustiers, fishnet
stockings, and knee boots with heels as thick as butcher blocks.
Theyre here for "Carpe Noctem," a monthly Goth/Industrial/Darkwave
themed-party at this nondescript strip-mall bar, which is just a few
hundred yards from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the home of 47,000
US Marines and sailors. The Goths, a few of them active-duty Marines,
gather on the first Saturday of the month to act up and act out, but
mostly to reconnect with this extended family of self-identified dissenters,
misfits, Wiccans, and free spirits. They wrestle, smoke, yell, gossip,
flirt, and tease. A few older scene members, folks in their 20s, talk
quietly in the bed of a pickup truck at the edge of the parking lot.
Charles, a Marine Lance Corporal whose tattooed arms are as thick
as the limbs on a healthy oak tree, mashes another man against the
side of the building, his palm flat against the guys chest.
The young man, a fellow Marine, is drunk and is causing trouble and
pissing people off. Over-the-top behavior attracts the cops, so Charles
convinces his friend to call it a night. "I told him, I'll kick
your ass tonight, but we'll be best friends again tomorrow,"
Charles tells me matter-of-factly. Facing a beatdown from his soberand
intimidating -- friend, the Marine accepts a ride home.
Charles works security in the Corps. His girlfriend, a rather unGoth
and librarianish woman from L'Anse, Michigan, sticks to him like iron
to an electromagnet. She looks wistful, sad. Charles also seems preoccupied.
He doesnt storm around the parking lot with the recklessness
of his peers. He watches, keeps people in line; hes their guardian.
Charles deploys to Iraq in a few days with the 24th Marine Expeditionary
Unit (Special Operations Capable), the same unit I am going to Baghdad
Inside the bar, a dozen or so teens dance and writhe to Prodigy, vintage
Black Sabbath, Rob Zombie, and harder stuff spun by DJ Bones, née
Jeremy Carter, a Marine Sergeant with the 8th Communications Battalion.
The scene is surprisingly playful, adolescent, and respectful for
all the ghoulish and revealing attire. The kids are mostly white,
but theres a black guy in a Dr. Seuss hat making arcs with a
glow stick and a very young black girl with a pierced tongue. A burly
strait-laced man in his thirties, gray polo shirt and close-cropped
hair, sips a tonic and lime at the bar. He watches a table of teens
like a hawk, among them, his gangly 15-year-old son.
I ask another young Marine, Tommy, who is rocking a see-through red
top tonight why he joined the very uniform Marine Corps. "College,"
he says with a shrug. Cash for higher education. Travis, a blond Californian,
sporting black fingernail polish, was a gung-ho Republican when he
joined the Corps. He fought in the battle of Nasiriya, he tells me,
in which 18 Marines were killed. One of them was his best friend.
"I'm a complete anarchist now," he says. He's also a practicing
Wiccan. Travis plans to go into body modification,as both
modifier and modify-ee, after he leaves the service in a week.