Friday, August 27, 2004

by Marc Parker

Waiting for the Interstate line downtown, I'm flipping through this notebook when one of two women also waiting calls out, "Hey . . . hey! . . . White boy." I look at her. "What time does the bus come?" I tell her five minutes.

I hear her friend indistinctly, admonishing. "What?" the woman says, "he is a white boy." Her friend reacts, so she tells me, "You can call me, hey, Indian."

I tell her that I'm Indian, too. One-sixteenth to be exact. But they don't really get what I'm saying.

The bus comes and I go to the back. The Native American women take two handicap seats and start fucking with passengers up front.

Originally from Oklahoma, longtime zinester Marc Parker has a knack for living in the zine capitol of the USA, residing in San Francisco, California in the 1990s and now in Portland, Oregon. The above story is an excerpt from the first issue of his new perzine Kimosabe. The second issue is out now, available for $1 cash or stamps from 2000 NE 42 AVE #221, Portland, OR 97213 USA. When he feels rowdy, he is also the Zine Thug. He can be reached electronically courtesy of azmacourt (whereit'sat)

Friday, August 20, 2004

by Will Ratblood

If you find yourself in Philadelphia, the first thing you will want to do is get drunk. And what better way to go about that than to follow in the guiding, if erratic, footsteps of your frequently un-sober ULA brothers? Come with me as we go on a little drinking tour, a little bender, with the ULA.

You will want to begin underground (and isn’t that so aptly symbolic? The underground--where we all claim to be, where we’re all pure in the earth with the hippies and frogs, squishing moist soil between our toes, beneath the surface with the worms and termites where the audience for our writing is primarily groundhogs), in Suburban Station. There are many entrances but let’s descend on the steps at 17th street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard (if you happen to ask for directions, make sure you say "JFK" boulevard--some residents here may not associate the former president with the initials "JFK", or vice-versa). Walk slowly down the stairs. As you reach the bottom breathe in deep--are you getting an overpowering stench of urine? If not, I fear there is something wrong with your faculty of smell. No time to go to the doctor now however--best to wait till our little bender is over and have him at once attend to the many problems we will no doubt have at that time. C’mon in, step through the doors.

Most people really dislike the place, but I love this dingy, smelly, hot, dimly lit underground mall. I miss the area they have since taken away--a group of chairs and tables, just across from McDonalds, which was populated constantly by homeless. There were always spills, and "stuff" on the floor and tables, completely filthy. Something about that mix of excessive body odor, urine-soaked clothing and fried food McDonalds smell--it was magical.

We keep walking however because our destination today is the Penn Center Restaurant. One reason we are at this cozy triangle of an eatery is that it opens at 6am. Another is that you can get a can of Miller for $1.75, and if you want to splurge for an imported bottle of something, like maybe if you want to buy one for your ULA guide who keeps sending off signals that he’s broke from years of supporting "the struggle" and he can tell you’re flush with cash from your cushy life, corporate job, or the huge trust fund you no doubt sip from and he’d appreciate it if you bought him a few.

Neon beer signs. Glass walls look out into the hallways of the station. As I sit here now, at noon, there is Joe Lunch Pail: drinking a quart right from the bottle and smoking a cigarette, nothing else--I guess that is lunch. This is the man for whom we struggle; he probably has consumed every known valuable work of fiction and is starved, eagerly awaiting the release of the next lauded contemporary novel.

There is another similar to him. This man looks like a painter, only he is pouring his quart of Budweiser into . . . a Styrofoam cup! Eeegads, he is more hardcore than me, I can tell you. At least he is reading the newspaper, which is more than I can say for myself today.

ULA history is all around us in this place. Here there have been several meetings of strategy and theorizing between myself, Private Balgobin and The King. A few yards away was where--in a tragically flawed scheme to either A. convince him to join "our side" or B. duct tape his body to the Rocky statue on Broad street--some of us greeted the evil Nick Mamatas as he emerged from the train that brought him from the evil place of Jersey City, just across the river from evil Manhattan, one afternoon long ago. How we could not have known we were dealing with pure evil, I can hardly say; we were such babes in the woods.

But just outside I see an Asian man taking an Asian woman’s picture as she stands in front of . . . the train directory posted on a square pillar. And a sign above our table reads, "Beer customers please do not disturb the others around you"--wonderful as it is, this is clearly not a place where individuals intent on tying-one-on, and particularly the ULA, can linger.

Don’t stumble already, my friend; there are many more establishments we have to visit as we further our buzz.


Will Ratblood claims this is just Part I of a series, and that Part II will appear when he's through nursing his hangover. He used to be the Ombudsman for the ULA and hails from the City of Brotherly Love. He also publishes Rat Blood Soup, a zine that documents his adventures drunk and sober. Contact him at P.O. Box 26098, Philadelphia, PA 19128.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

by K.M. Dersley

A copy of Axcess, a magazine Carl hadn't paid for, dropped onto the mat. They said, 'We hope you will subscribe, but even if you don't, please write back and say what would make you wish to send off a cheque.'

After studying this production he pulled out a sheet of white 100gsm, dipped the steel nib in the bottle--then crapped out. He couldn't give an explanation, it would take too long. The magazine was unreadable. His study of it had confirmed that the very basics were faulty. The editors lived in a different universe to himself. Far, far away from this magazine were interesting writers he'd found a kinship and community of aims with, through the mails and the internet.

Amongst other hopeless projects Axcess were still pushing this former editor of the magazine who’d died in '97. He had been long dead as a writer in '97 did they but know it, though up until that date galvanised with misplaced, ignorant praise, attention at festivals, publication (if not sales), scholarships, fellowships and a weird sort of influence that he'd gained (partly through editing the magazine) in the largely enjoyment-free zone of British poetry.

They pushed Laurence Munt too. Static, stern, monolithic, quietly detesting himself. (You'd think these people were about 108 years old. No urgency or vitality. Why anyone should want to read the stuff--which of course they hardly ever did--was not a burning question.)

David Krustenvurst was another contributor, as well as Kester Procter. They got a lot of credit, just as a matter of course, for being true artists, vital and important spirits of the times. They wore the responsibility gravely. Surely no one, thought Carl, got fired up by the sort of stuff they printed year after year, grant after grant, residency after meritless residency? He knew how it went: Ah, it's Sean, is it, come in. Where's Jo? Ah, Matthew, there you are, dear boy. He could hear the door slam behind which they'd bestow drink, flattery and laurels on each other, confident in their own undemonstrated superiority.

He'd seen one of these 'bards' on a TV tribute programme, something like 'This Is Your Life.' The 'celebrated poet' when he was introduced came on like a library assistant. He'd only got in on it all because he was a brother-in-law of the subject. They played a couple of his lines through a loudspeaker. The impact was nil, but no one was surprised at that. Of all the guests this so-called poet was perhaps the most boring. This was no Orpheus making the stones and the very roots of trees stir with his numbers, this wasn't Whitman's fabled bard either, the man you wanted to follow so you could get close and learn to be like him. In our society the poet has lost the aura of personal magnetism. Nowadays it clings round actors and rock singers, who are the new and exciting lights in a disappointing world.

Perhaps, thought Carl, he should have accepted the invitation and sent Axcess a powerful statement of his views. He could have slagged off the contributors, but they would only have thought he was remembering how they had consistently rejected his own immortal offerings in the past.

The truth was, the scene had moved on. They might have had control of the ball game a few years ago (though that was doubtful--really and truly everyone knew they were small timers, deluded into seeing significance in their feeble utterances). But now on the internet Carl could find plenty of e-zines that published (amongst the dross) lively, sparkling narratives, poems and articles. Thunder Sandwich, Unlikely Stories and Zygote in My Coffee were three. Unlike that freebie print magazine, they contained many pieces of writing which were very much to his taste. These he often printed out to keep and reread. Plus the fact, e-zines often had a fresh issue monthly, sometimes even weekly. Also, they were (all broadband or dial-up charges being taken into account) free.

Not only that, the online mags showed more interest in Carl's own scribbles and squibs than those supporters of the old network of bores ever would. The magic slate of the VDU was the way forward, Jack.

What really surprised Carl was how the partisans of Krustenvurst and the rest found the energy to keep their Whirligig spinning, albeit feebly. Presumably they encouraged each other as best they could.

British underground writer K.M. Dersley's hails from Ipswich, Suffolk, England. His book of stories and articles, Sketches by Derz, is available at his website, along with more of his work, including the cd Derzology. His latest book of poems, Between The Alleyways At The World's Fair, was published this year by Feel Free Press. Contact him electronically at clapgate (whereit'sat) and postally at 43 Tranmere Grove, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 6DU UK.

Friday, August 06, 2004

by Eddie Willson

Eddie Willson Photobooth Picture

The lighting strikes me as quite arty, looking at the pictures now.

I'm in the top frame. Just below is D. Then N. Then me again. I was a storeman in a builders' merchant back then. That's where I bought the donkey jacket. I qualified for a staff discount so I also got them for a couple of friends. They were popular then as an interim step between ditching the old graffitied school blazer and saving up enough money for a leather jacket.

N and D have gone for the charity-shop look popular then, which I favour even now. I can't quite make out which badges D is wearing. My guess is, the smaller one on his left lapel is based on the cover artwork for Joy Division's first LP. Nobody seems to wear badges these days; not even those ones urging you to lose weight now, and inviting you to ask the wearer the means by which this might be achieved.

In these pictures I ably demonstrate that Britain was just coming out of a bad hair decade. Any film of the period shows you couldn't get a decent haircut to save your life. Believe it or not, the tonsure I'm sporting passed for not looking like a hippy, and was enough to get you beaten up in some pubs. I persuade myself it's a trick of the light, but I can't deny I look as if I'm wearing earmuffs. Even three years after the first flush of the Pistols and the Clash it was still necessary to shop around to find strides that weren't flared. Here, despite my allegiance to all things punk, I'd managed to saddle myself with flared hair. The moustache I cannot excuse or explain. I prefer not to dwell on it.

We all look stiff somehow. The most natural picture is the last one. As there were only three of us, we had one shot spare. At the last moment, either D or N shoved me into the booth. What looks now like youthful swagger is really just me falling over.

The photo-booth was inside Bristol University. We'd gone there to see the Slits. I can work out that the picture must have been taken after their set. The booth was just next to the porters' office, which was unlocked. I sneaked in and stole a pork pie, which was on one of the desks. We got a minicab afterwards, at which point I'd begun eating the pie. As I got into the cab, the driver said, 'You can't eat that in here, sonner.'

I duly lobbed the pie onto the pavement. D later complimented me on the cool with which I did this. It was the first of only two times in my life when I've done anything which has been described as cool by somebody else.

Even now, I can just about tidy my memories of the evening into sequence. When we arrived, there was a good-natured mob of people hanging about outside. The Slits were pretty much at the peak of their popularity then, having just released 'Typical Girls' as a single. Unbeknown to us, the gig was only open to students and their guests, so there were delays getting in.

I'm unsure about the next bit, but I've got some memory of the Slits arriving at the front entrance, and stepping out of what struck me at the time as quite a flash car. In reality it was probably a fairly ordinary hire car. I definitely remember being struck by something stylish in the way they swept into the building, as if they were arriving at a film premier.

We were kindly signed in to the venue by one of the students. He seemed much older than us. It wasn't just the teenage thing of thinking everyone over twenty is ancient. He had shoulder length hair and a beard, and wore a check shirt. This placed him on the other side of an age divide, beyond which youngish men modelled their look on that of Whispering Bob Harris.

I forget the support band altogether. The Slits were, competent but uninvolving. I remember little about their set, except Ari Up improvising extra lyrics to 'Spend Spend Spend', around the phrase '1980'. That suggests the gig was early in 1980. January the 14th sticks in my mind for some reason. Me and N stayed near the back of the crowd for most of the time. Only D ventured to the front, during 'Typical Girls'. He returned satisfied, having taken a look up Viv Albertine's skirt. Even then this struck me as missing the point.

The decision to stay near the back turned out to be a lucky one. A fight broke out just in front of the stage. Afterwards a big pool of spilt lager and blood spread itself slowly across the sprung dance floor. That kind of violence was common then. Summer of the same year I was at a big open-air benefit gig for the Morning Star newspaper, at Alexander Palace. John Cooper Clarke was one of those on the bill. During 'Thirty Six Hours' he blurted, 'Fooking 'ell', and his delivery began to falter. Moments later, a man scrambled onstage with blood streaming from his head. Cooper Clarke led the man backstage with an arm around his shoulder. The unaffected kindness with which he did that really struck me. There were four or five more bottlings that afternoon.

The last time I saw N to speak to was in 1985. I'd just taken my first 'A' level at evening classes. I was moving to London so had packed in my second job, at Payless DIY. On the goodbye pub-crawl with my workmates I bumped into N in the Mermaid. He'd just come out of Exeter Prison, having served a short sentence for importing heroin. He seemed typically unshaken by prison and was keen to recount his experiences 'on the in'. We'd seen little of each other for the previous two years but he'd been a true and solid friend. I didn't repay that friendship as I should have. I remember headbutting him in the Taj Mahal for no reason. I also remember drunkenly groping his then fiancee Louise at a party. He was in the room at the time. She dumped him a year or so later. None of that wishy-washy 'It's not you, it's me' stuff; she came straight out and told him she was giving him the elbow because he was boring.

On the night, he came straight round to my house to tell me. On hearing the news I promptly burst out laughing. Again, I'm at a loss for a reason.

I last saw D on a return visit to Yeovil. He was married with kids. He was the first of us to move in with somebody, despite having been famously slack up until that point. He was the sort of person who couldn't sleep with anybody without telling the whole world about it. There was widespread glee when, outside a nightclub, he severed his frenulum [look it up] while having sex with a woman we referred to, with typical cruelty, as the Camel. He was taken to A&E, from where he was later collected by his mother. We'd have all paid good money to witness the conversation they had.

By an odd coincidence I met one of his exes in South London about two years ago. I introduced myself, mentioning the D connection. Too late I remembered that she had allegedly dumped him because of his repeated requests for anal sex. I then also remembered that I had last seen her at a party where I had narrowly missed her with a bright red arc of projectile vomit.

I always saw D as a fatuous poseur, even though I didn't learn the word fatuous until December 1987. But there must have been more to him than was apparent. The band he formed went on to record three albums. They had some modest success in a lazy indie guitar sort of way. They were quite big in Japan for a while, and once had a full page feature in the NME. I played with them for two early rehearsals, before it became crashingly obvious that I wasn't up to it. I was puzzled at the time by the kindness that led him to ask me to join the band, and still am now, I suppose.

I can't remember whose idea it was to take our photo that night. It suits me to think it was mine. It's the only photo I have of me from when I lived in Yeovil. I don't know how much to read into the fact that so few pictures of me exist prior to this point. I do know that from the point when my dad died almost no family photos were taken. We acted like a town that didn't consider itself worth a postcard.

I hardly recognise the boy in the picture. I remember things he did and saw, but I'm starting to forget what it felt like to be him. And that really pleases me.

Eddie Willson is a writer from London, England, UK. His novel The Black Car Leaving, about a group of friends in a small town in England when punk rock hits in the 1970s, is really brilliant. Encourage him to write another by buying a copy for 5 dollars or 2 pounds or thereabouts (perhaps email him at eddie (whereit'sat) to find out the going rate) from Self, Self, Self Publishing, 20 Rochdale Way, Deptford, London, SE8 4LY UK. For more of his writing, visit his blog and website.

Monday, August 02, 2004

By Yul Tolbert

I think Bananarama and Ace Of Base are right: It's a cruel summer. More to the point, all summers are cruel to me. It's the worst season of the year, and the worst time of the year.

First of all, I have the misfortune of living in a part of the world where summer weather is often like thermonuclear heat! (And conversely, the winters are like the south pole of Pluto!) Damn, dang, darn! I hate hot weather! Anything over 80 degrees Fahrenheit is like the million-degree temperatures of the solar corona to me. And what further irritates me on the matter of summer heat is when weather reporters say things like, "We're going to have nice weather tomorrow with a temperature of 85 degrees." Eighty-five degrees! They might as well be talking about the surface of Venus where the average temperature is 900 degrees Fahrenheit! And while "Venusians" (a term I often use when refering to those who love hot weather) are enjoying the thermonuclear heat, I have to be broiled alive while working over a hot fry station at McDonald's. The fry station is hot enough without temperatures over 80 degrees (though the fry station heat does work for me in the winter). But with 80-degree-plus weather, I go out of my way to jump into the freezer to cool off every few minutes (if I get the chance)!

And then there's the displeasure of bike riding in summer heat. Here I am getting revenge on the petroleum industry and doing my part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when I have to suffer for more than an hour-and-a-half commuting to work. When it gets too hot, I often take the bus to work. But that sucks too since bus service is adequately substandard. (What an oxymoron!) Aside from the often slow service, some buses don't have air conditioning for the summer. Yup! That'll "work"!

Also, I want to add that it's hard to be creative when you're constantly exposed to thermonuclear heat. That's a major reason why I tend to stay indoors in the summer. Of course that's helped me maintain my youthful appearance. I turned 39 last May. And when I told folks my age, they're like, "Dude! I thought you were 19!" Whatever.

Bugs are another classic problem of summer. I remember in August of 2000 there was some kind of monster flying ant invasion. At first I thought it was just me. But after I saw the TV news, I discovered that it wasn't just me. The whole thing looked like an ecological imbalance! There was also the time when a giant bee tried to fly into my room. How suck-worthy was that?! And how about the time when a bug flew straight into my eyeball while I was biking to work? A one in a quadrillion chance! Then of course you have the ever-present mosquito problem as well. And even though I often go out of my way to make sure that flies don't get into my house, they get in anyway!

Another of my displeasures with summer include thunderstorms. We get tons of those around here. One summer, I was seconds away from seeing the Sci Fi Channel broadcast of the movie Colossus: The Forbidden Project, when suddenly the storm knocked out the power. The power wasn't restored for four days. And without electricity for fans, my creative process had slowed down even further due to the heat. But things did eventually work out.

Similarly, I also had the misfortune of being caught in that giant blackout during August of 2003. As I was printing out stuff so I could empty my black ink cartridge, the power went out. It seemed like such "perfect" timing! And though there was hot weather at the time, it wasn't as hot as it usually is that time of the year. Nevertheless, things seemed to work out after that event too. (On second thought, maybe not. The day after the power came back, I went to a local zine fest that I now wish I had never been to.)

Are you seeing the trend hear? It seems to me that very notable misfortunes happen to me in the summer. (Misfortune is an exaggeration, but I'll use it here for lack of better words. Maybe I should get the thesaurus.) Summer is bad! Summer blows! Summer is the suckiest piece of suck that ever sucked! I guess it's no surprise that one of my favorite episodes of South Park is titled "Summer Sucks."

But wait! Maybe there are some good things about summer that I can mention. How about the summer movie deal? Like, when I first saw Jaws when it debuted in the summer of 1975, it scared me shitless. But I couldn't applaud loud enough when they blew Jaws up. And Though I hate holidays (there are too many of them), the 4th of July is one of the few holidays that makes sense to me. It was also in late summer 1992 that I came up with the idea for my comic strip/comic book series "Get Your Ass to Mars"--the story of a low-cost international, privately-financed human Mars flight.

But then again, I still feel compelled to focus yet again on the negative side of summer. Consider July of 2001. That was when I developed this horrible, horrible, horrible crush on a female friend of mine. Though I don't consider that to be a bad thing (at least not yet), it did result in some very bad things a few months later when the friend found out I had a crush on her. Yup! J. Geils Band was right. Love stinks!

My diatribe against summer obviously doesn't prove that summer is bogus. But it does prove that I'm being very emotional about the matter. And since this is an emotional concern to me, then I'll add that summer is what I call a hellish waiting period between spring and fall. And with fall being my favorite season (Insert Antonio Vivaldi's "Autumn" from "The Four Seasons" here), I'm always relieved when September rolls around.

Yul Tolbert is a cartoonist and writer from Detroit, Michigan. He is also a member of the Underground Literary Alliance and webmaster of the ULA Website. He also publishes many minicomics and zines including LPD and Zine Solar System. He can be contacted at yul_tolbert (whereit'sat) and P.O. Box 02222, Detroit, MI 48202-9998. Visit his website: Timeliketoons, featuring Gen X Suicide, Get Your Ass To Mars, Sideways, and more.