Bitch Fight Michelle Cruz Gonzales, illustration by Elly Dallas

Bitch Fight: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, Part I by Michelle Cruz Gonzales

May 25, 1984

This town is really fucked. I hate it. I hate my school. The majority of the people there hate us. Yesterday, Nicole and I were walking to her house and the late bus stopped to let off some people. Almost every person on that bus said something rude and cruel to us.

November 6, 1984

I’m afraid to die. Afraid to leave the ones I love, family, friends, Nicole. I’m afraid to live. Afraid that I might be around during a nuclear holocaust. Ronnie Reagan is ahead in the election polls tonight. I am afraid.

January 11, 1985

This was such a powerful week. Nicole, her mom, and I are official members of Tuolumne Nuclear Freeze group. Our first meeting was on Monday. We are participating in several things, getting our paper underway, writing songs, music and lyrics.

May 1, 1986

Nicole, Suzy, Lara, and I are making an attempt to put an all girl band together. Lara won’t be playing an instrument, but she’s kind of like our manager. I’m playing drums, Nicole, bass/guitar, Suzy singing.

Bitch Fight was Tuolumne’s first punk band—the first punk band in the whole county.

Say what you will about punk being White, male, and urban. The founding members of Bitch Fight were three teenage girls, two Xicanas and a White girl, welfare kids who lived in crooked, clapboard houses with leaky faucets, cracks in the walls, and in my case, only a wood stove for heat. I lived with my mom, sister, and brother in a part of town referred to as Shit Acres because it sat on a dirt road near the sewer treatment plant.

“All we ever wanted was everything/All we ever got was cold/Get up, eat jelly/Sandwich bars and barbed wire/And squash every week into a day” –Bauhaus

There’s something very apocalyptic about the town of seven hundred people in which Bitch Fight was formed. Built atop stolen Me-Wuk land, it burned down at least twice, and hadn’t risen from the ashes like a phoenix. The Me-Wuk tribal members who lived on the reservation, or the Tuolumne Rancheria, were disdained, and because everyone thought I was Me-Wuk—only to find out I was Mexican—they hated me too.

Tuolumne is a motherlode town in California’s Gold Rush Country, and behind every historical landmark and story of prospectors striking it rich is the rape of Me-Wuk land and forced relocation of Native peoples. It was in such an environment that three girls raised on food stamps, government cheese, and bullying by teachers and peers found punk and made their own punk too.

EXT. Small Town Street – DAY

Two lanky teen boys in tight black jeans carrying a boombox walk up to the gazebo that sits at the end of Main Street, the only street with shops in Jamestown, a historically preserved Gold Rush railtown. Both teens have mohawks, freshly sprayed straight up. Chris is wearing a torn jean jacket and John, who lives in a double-wide trailer with his parents, has on a leather jacket. Chris slings the boom box onto a bench, plugs it into an outlet conveniently located in the cement floor, and pushes play. “The Creeps” by Social Distortion pounds its way from the speakers. The teens gather here because most of the county’s cops will be in Sonora, the county seat.

A bunch of girls pile out of an old Fiat Wagon, a tall, busty Xicana whose head is shaved clean on the sides, a petite Xicana with a shock of short spiky hair, heavy-black-rimmed eyes and bright red lipstick, a compact girl with a blonde curly mohawk, and a porcelain-skinned, raven-haired girl with punk hair style, the most classically pretty of the four. They push each other toward the gazebo, toward Chris and John. Chris bobs his head. John smokes a cigarette. Two other boys are there now too, one with a punk crew-cut and braces, another wears pegged pants and a plaid button down shirt. The raven-haired girl, Sandy, hugs Tobin, the boy with braces, her younger brother.

May 3, 1986

Right now I’m in the drum clinic watching all the drummers, including Tobin on stage listening to Bobby Shew’s drummer talk. Tobin’s got something that I can’t explain that I want.

Chris pulls at his leather jacket and walks over to the Xicanas and the girl with the blonde mohawk.

CHRIS

“Did you start your band yet? You know it’ll never happen. Girls can’t play music.”

The boys keep saying they’re going to start their own band too. They want Tobin to be their drummer. He’s the only one of them who can actually play an instrument.

Suzy, the girl with the blonde mohawk, shoves Chris, who bumps into John, and they start slamming as if in a circle pit, bumping into Tobin and his friend who moves out of the way fast. The Xicanas, Nicole and Todd, step to the side and lean on the gazebo railing. Todd rolls her eyes and Chris and John continue slamming, whipping their arms in the air like windmills, hoping to hit anyone in their way. They don’t stop until the song ends.

“Run and hide when I’m on the streets/Your fears and your tears/I’ll taunt you in your sleep/I just wanna give you the CREEPS”

Sandy marches over to the boom box, pushes eject, takes out the Social D tape, pops open her black patent leather purse, pulls out a cassette tape, pops it into the cassette deck, and pushes play.

It’s an amalgamation, of course, a ghost memory retelling of actual events and places, things said to us by people who were supposed to be our friends, and the music we listened to before started making our own.

The Cure blast from the boombox and all the girls rush to the center of the gazebo. They laugh and dance in tight circles in a clump facing each other, their backs to the young men standing around them. As if planned, both Suzy and Todd turn to Chris and John, singing along with Robert Smith, pointing, while Tobin, Bill, and a few others who have shown up, watch with big eyes.

SUZY and TODD

It won’t take you long/To learn the new smile/You’ll have to adapt Or you’ll be out of style/It’s always the same/You’re jumping someone else’s train

Without anyone to really believe in us, the days (years really) between the second we started dreaming of having our own band, and the moment we all first stood in a practice space with instruments in our hands were one long, excruciating ache. An actual band wasn’t a real possibility until at least 1985, and once we all finally got instruments, began writing songs, and playing local parties, there was a major car crash—an accident that put two of the members of Bitch Fight in the hospital for three months, knocking the wind right out of us just as we were getting ready to leave Tuolumne and its small-minded ways behind forever.

This town is really fucked. I hate it. I hate my school. The majority of the people there hate us. Yesterday, Nicole and I were walking to her house and the late bus stopped to let off some people. Almost every person on that bus said something rude and cruel to us.