It's probably no coincidence that it began two years ago, when I was living in New York and constantly homesick for the West Coast. Someone would put a Rancid song, generally “Roots Radicals” or “Time Bomb,” on the odd punk-heavy bar jukebox, and a wave of pure, adolescent nostalgia would smack me upside the head. Depending on how far into the night we were, I might turn to the closest of my bar-going friends and announce that “THEY WENT TO MY HIGH SCHOOL” with a sense of pride that might be more appropriate for, say, announcing that one of the band members was my child.
Sure, Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman graduated the year I was born. No, they weren't exactly pals of mine. But the thing to know about Albany, California — the awkward chunk of land, just north of North Berkeley and south of El Cerrito/Richmond, on which I grew up — is that no one is from there. Nothing ever happens there. With a population of 18,000, the biggest event of the year is still a street fair featuring a parade full of Boy Scouts, “art cars,” and a decades-old dunk tank. The police blotter is known to feature teenagers stealing potted plants off front porches. Almost 70 percent of the city's five square miles is actually underwater.