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"So here's the thing," Mayhew responds. "I did file a harassment complaint against John — I never denied that from the beginning. I did it to get a pest off my back. Now, of course, all these hardcore tough guys from the scene are throwing around the word rat. I'm like, 'What is this, an episode of Baretta?'" Mayhew adds that the cops never acted concerned about the Navy thing; Joseph turned himself in on his own.
As for Flanagan, he stresses a desire to avoid feeding these arguments: "Brothers fight. They'll always be my brothers." (Like Mayhew, he says he hasn't read Joseph's book — both regard it skeptically.) He's concerned the acrimony is overshadowing what the Cro-Mags accomplished and what the New York hardcore scene meant to all of them. "The hardcore scene was one place where it was come-as-you-are. We all fit in. We were all rejects in some way from somewhere else."
On that point, Joseph agrees: "Me and Harley got our fallouts, whatever, but we did live this shit. I can't take that away from him, and he's an incredible musician."
But Mayhew is often unfairly removed from that equation, by dint of his living with his mother on East End Avenue — "the only walkup on East End Avenue," he clarifies — at the time. To him, the overemphasis on a sordid, violent upbringing and lifestyle is another, less attractive part of his band's contribution to hardcore.
"Suddenly it became cooler to be tough than it was to be smart," Mayhew says. "And in that moment, the scene died ... when beating up some kid and taking his boots and covering yourself with tattoos became more important than writing songs, than doing something creative and cool. I remember going to hardcore shows and everybody just having a great time and everybody knowing each other. And, like, overnight, when the Cro-Mags happened, all of a sudden there were gangs of skinheads and there were no girls anymore, and people were getting their heads kicked in."
Convinced that I intend to write a story entirely about "Cro-Mag beef," Joseph angrily cuts off all contact with me when he learns I've spoken to Mayhew and Flanagan. "Your angle is obvious: shit-slinging and trash-talking," he e-mails. "That's mighty big of you. I don't respect you as a journalist, much less a person, as I feel you deceived me over this whole thing. Lucky for you this wasn't done to me 10 years ago, when I wouldn't have been so forgiving."
All of that aside, the Cro-Mags are largely unconcerned with the Cro-Mags these days. Flanagan has kids and another band and is considering writing something about his history in the New York punk scene. Mayhew works in film and television as a Steadicam operator and occasional director. (Fun fact: He did Onyx's video for "Slam.") Joseph, too, sees his future elsewhere, with Evolution as the latest evidence of a burgeoning writing career.
His Hare Krishna faith is still paramount as well — he now helps run a temple on St. Mark's Place, in New York's East Village. "We keep it the real way," he says. "There's none of these bogus gurus." His new temple's president, Brahmabhuta Das, is grateful for the help, both conventional — Joseph has put in a lot of money and construction time, in addition to handling dessert at the temple's Sunday feasts — and unconventional. "My wife and I were doing this out of our apartment on 10th Street, and we were having problems with some thugs from the other group, so he kind of came to our rescue — gave us protection," Das says.
The day after Joseph blows up, I head over to see his new band, Bloodclot, play in Brooklyn at Studio B (the sister club to Miami's Studio A). Unfortunately the first thing I see is a long, stationary line of irritated would-be patrons who won't be getting in either. The second thing I see is a thunderous fistfight in the street — two enraged men thrashing about, ramming themselves into parked cars on one side of the street and then the other. Something about the whooping nonchalance of the crowd gathered around them suggests this is neither the first nor the last fight on the card today.
Studio B is in a relatively remote, desolate part of Greenpoint — old warehouses and industrial blight — and for a second the scene feels like the vicious, ugly, cutthroat New York City of old, the killing zone that Joseph's music and literature so lovingly describe and evoke. Except in 2008, it ends with a bizarre, ironic flourish: About a dozen Studio B bouncers — all wearing promo T-shirts for ultraviolent videogame juggernaut Grand Theft Auto IV — scramble out to break up the brawl. At this point, a woman emerges from the club and announces the show is sold out, prompting profanity-laced shouting matches with several pissed-off folks in line. The crowd is ordered to disperse, though it seems in no mood to do so. A few cops warily wander by. And all the while, John "Bloodclot" Joseph is somewhere inside, the quarrel following him wherever he goes.