Some Thoughts #71

    Welcome to the spring issue, which is also the 16th year anniversary issue, which isn’t that exciting of an anniversary, but worth mentioning all the same.  The months and years seem to be flying by at an uncontrollable pace so that perception of time seems to have no bearings or relevance in many respects.  Since the roller coaster is obviously not about to slow down, I’m just going to hold on for the ride.  The response to the last issue was really amazing!  There has been a lot of positive feedback as well as an intense outpouring of emotion surrounding Sera’s death and Sascha’s writing on Manic Depression. Many people are still struggling with the loss, and many continue to write about it in this issue.  But it seems like there is also a certain amount of energy being generated in response... people are coming together over it and people seem to be inspired in new ways - if for nothing else that to throw themselves fully into living and loving. 
    I’ve been surrounded by a whirlwind of amazing energy of late and I’ve also been having fun with Slug & Lettuce. The ebb and flow of things is definitely in high gear right now and it’s not surprising considering the season... the season of birth, growth, rebirth, rejuvenation... a great time for new things, new perspectives, getting out there into the world.  I can’t really say I’ve been doing much of that lately, since I have been literally tied down to the computer over the past month for every waking moment that I’m not at the photo lab.  I know that each issue of S&L is a trying experience that pushes all of my limits... for some reason this issue has been a challenge causing me to feel like the conductor of an elaborate orchestra... pulling the toenails from my friends to get their columns, or reviews in; and editing words and text and working magic with layouts to get it all to fit.  It’s been quite a challenge.  But well worth it I think.
    It seems like half of my time in the past months has been devoted towards my time in California - which was 10 days in March. Going to the Bay Area/SF/Oakland is already like “going home” for me cause so many of my favorite people are there and even more of them just happened to be there.  I found myself surround by “my people” - the very thing that I have been lacking and craving more than anything.  The sun was shining, my pals were at my side, we walked and walked and talked and giggled and drank coffee and looked at books and foraged for plants and saw bands and I literally did everything... everything that I set out to do. Oh, I could have done with an entire day to spend with each of my dear friends... but I there’s never enough time... and it worked out pretty good.  I fell in love with the bookstores of the Bay Area (again)... I fell in love with the burritos every day, with the avocado milk-shakes, with the trees, and plants, and the amazing friends that I have.  I fell in love with my life again.
    I was sitting around the Long Haul info shop in Berkeley with a group of fellow zine publishers talking about hand-waxers and fonts and all of old-school tricks of the trade — the nitty gritty details of doing layouts by hand.  And I realized that I was amidst a group of people who did things more by hand than me... I am usually the one who is feeling like a relic from a time past, wielding my xacto knife and can of rubber cement, while everyone else around me is talking hi-tech down load jargon and forgetting about printing on paper... Here I was the one that actually does use a computer, among a group of folks who cut and paste all of the text in their paper, hand-write all of their zine and search out obscure fonts to fit a story, hand-set block letters to use on a printing press or use a brush and ink to draw the comics.  I developed a renewed sense of appreciation for the time it takes to do what we all do - and I realized that I am not alone.  That simple realization was very meaningful.  It serves as a validation for all that I question about myself and my approaches when I’m inundated with people and their web talk, or business talk, or technology talk.  Being around like minded people, sharing some tips, and some advice, realizing we can be each other resources, and speaking the same language... that kind of connection is invaluable. I was able to laugh at the goofiness of us getting excited about sources for wax for the hand-waxer. I realized that these were my peers. And I have become overwhelmed by the importance of my peers and of how much it means to have them near me and my life. Feeling the creative passion; the artistic vibe; the absolute love of creating; or the total dedication and drive to do whatever crazy projects we are driven to do even when the self-imposed deadlines nearly kill us. 
    I feel like I have rediscovered my passionate love of zines.  And the love of publishing - more importantly of self-publishing. I love the zines with have the touch of the artist on them - the creative aspects that are only apparent in labors of love in small numbers.  The hand-bound books, the sewed up spines, the silk-screened covers... the stories  and records of our lives and of our time, these documents of ourselves and our culture are so precious. Typesetting, printing, and binding - beautiful words to be remembered in a sea of mass-marketing, consumption, disposability and the glut of consumerism.  The artistic approach takes more painstaking care and the end result is instead a piece of art to be treasured.
    Thinking about creative uses of resources and trying to avoid over-consumption gets me thinking about  ways in which we can reuse and recycle and be creative.  When you live minimally - resources become valuable. When you have little - you waste little.  Over-production, consumption, and convenience, are all words that obliterate the very idea of how valuable resources can be reused and reworked, how our needs can really be quite minimal, and how creativity can come from necessity and necessity can make us creative.... Making art out of waste... which leads to one of my favorite new discoveries in California - the Albany Landfill. This landfill got filled in and turned into a park; but it  retains quite a history of people living and creating art there. It’s full of an odd assortment of urban waste left behind... old bicycle parts, old highway metal and concrete with trees growing out of the base of urban discards. It was photographic ecstasy for me... my passionate theme... nature taking back the urban waste of society. And you can find art creations in the most unexpected places.  The art created out of refuse drove home yet another one of my obsessions, or should I say tied them all into together.... consumption, waste, urban decay, nature takes cover, reuse, recycle, create something new and artistic... it was amazing.
    I’ve been reading a lot of John Steinbeck (thanks Mike Straight)... So while in California - Karoline & I went South to Salinas, to the Steinbeck Center. There was a Dorthea Lange photo exhibit up (one of my favorite photographers) and while the center was okay, driving on the highway nearby Salinas and Monterrey was amazing cause there were fields of lettuce and artichokes growing.  It felt a little bit contradictory to my values to be freaking out in such a big way about “big agriculture” - but fields of LETTUCE — it was such a beautiful sight and something that I definitely won’t ever see back at home in Richmond where the growing season for greens is almost non-existent.  I also planned the timing of my visit around a photo exhibit of Sebastio Salgado’s Migrations project... which was amazing beyond words. The exhibit was massive. Thousands of photographs — amazing photographs of people all over the world who are in transition, living nomadic lives, migrants, refugees, displaced people, squatters and the victims of global economic injustice.  Salgado’s photographs are beautiful but heartbreaking at the same time.  He’s been one of my favorite photographers, and being able to see the actual photos and it was one of the highlights of my year!  (There is a book published called “Migrations” - so I strongly recommend looking at it... in fact I can’t recommend it enough.)
    And oh those beautiful trees.  We walked and we talked and the trees talked back.  The beautiful wind-swept cypress trees that hug the cliffs of San Francisco; creeping and growing in line with the rocks.  We climbed a fence and trekked out to a point to find the most amazing tree hugging the cliffs in the most majestic “I am a survivor” way,.  I actually said “this tree is why I am alive” — only to have my moment of reverie with the tree interrupted by a park ranger kicking us out and running our IDs.  It was a real drag... but worth it to see that beautiful tree.  I love the trees and plants... perhaps because the climate of the Bay Area is so comforting to me, in the same way that I have such an affinity to lettuce (cause it grows in weather I like) the juniper and cypress and ecucalptus trees and the succulent ice plants and jasmine were all so enchanting and the smells so delightful.
    I finally got to go to the Anarchist Book Fair, which coincided nicely with Maximum Rock n Roll’s 20th anniversary.  What a day that was.  It’s funny cause all week people were talking about it and I had heard everything from “Oh, I’m not an anarchist, but I love the anarchist book fair”, to “I don’t even like books, but I like to go to the book fair”.  Someone summed it up that it was one of those rare times where you could go out into a big group and feel normal, or feel at home, like you belong, like your tribe had gathered... and truly... it was a beautiful sight.... so many people gathering, so many books to look at, so many different reasons for being there and so much to grab onto and walk away with.  I felt enriched and I definitely felt the importance of my peers... of connecting and relating and sharing stories.. of putting a face together with a name, of meeting fellow zine writers, or fellow book-sellers, or simply friends of friends.  I thought a lot of the need to have these reasons to gather - whether for books or ideas or just to feel your people around you.  And the fact that the day of books was crammed in between two nights of shows at Gilman celebrating the 20th anniversary of MRR was almost too much (but in the very best way)... I think I was up for almost 24 hours straight, riding the wave of adrenaline... fueled by coffee, good friends, having so much fun, seeing so many amazing people and being so full of the reason and purpose of all that I do. 
    The anniversary of MRR was really significant to me, in more ways that I’m sure I can even explain.  I wrote a bit about it in my MRR column... about how I can’t believe that MRR is only 4 years older than S&L cause to me - MRR was such a huge influence.  It’s where and how I found out all that I did of the punk scene in the 80s... it’s how I got to know bands, it’s how I got to connect with other punks across the globe, it’s how I discovered zines... it’s even a big part of why I started my own.  So then after all these - to have some part incelebrating all of that time... of being there and wheatpasting all the covers of the 276 issues of the walls of Gilman... of looking at a cover and going “wow I remember that one”, or “wow I can’t believe that was so long ago, or how that wasn’t long ago at all” - and putting it all in some sort of perspective was awesome.  Seeing who is still around after all of these years and the way that thing have changed and what has stayed the same.  Of how things have evolved and continued on their path.  I’m a sucker for a bit of nostalgia and some emo sentiment and having scales of paste up to my elbows and hanging upside down on the balcony pasting these covers up on the wall and listening to old punk and hardcore bands that I almost had forgotten about, while surrounding by some of my very best friends and a good crew of “my people”, was just one of those moment etched deeply into my memory that will continue to be significant.  And then of course the shows - well they were amazing.  All You Can Eat (who haven’t played in 6 years and partly played to help Karoline on her goal to see them 100 times (this was 97) stole the show with their antics.  Sharp Knife were awesome.  What Happens Next? blew me away on their home turf.  The Phantom Limbs have become my obsession with their old goth punk snyth style.    It’s funny, cause I don’t feel like I have a real personal history with Gilman —  yet in the past 10+ years I’ve been there every time I’m in the Bay Area. Even when the faces are different - it seems there is always a few that are familiar and there is a comfort in the fact that some things don’t change much.  So often we take things for granted and I have mad respect for those who have kept Gilman (and the east coast counterpart ABC NO RIO) open all these years!  In those sort 10 days - Gilman started to feel very “home” like to me, which is always a good thing when in reality you are quite far from home.... but really what does “home” actually mean?  Being surrounded by my best friends, being around some of the most amazing people that I know, respect and admire — I just felt so in love with my life and I wanted to rock until I dropped - which is pretty much what I did.  The entire time I was in CA - I was on the go.  Someone would say “what are you doing here? - and I would say “I’m living”.  Someone will ask me “what did you do there?” and I say “I did everything”.  I was trying to be everywhere at once, and it seems that I was dancing in public way too often from so much excitement. We walked and walked and I kept going until everyone around me dropped or crashed out (and then I would try to get in one last midnight run to the used bookstore)... I had a blast and thanks so much to all my peeps out there... Adrienne, Wendy, Sascha, Aaron, Fly, Atom, Arwen, Mike, Ramsey, Tim, Ben, Matthew and most especially — Karoline & Robert who tolerated my non-stop on-the-go 2 am backbends and silliness; for getting me everywhere I wanted to go, and for just being the bestest best friends a girl can have!
    Coming home to Richmond was really hard.  I have lived here for almost 5 years and it still doesn’t really feel like home to me.  I wonder if it ever will.  And once again I ponder just what it means to call a place “home”.  Kinda like when someone asks me where I am from... it’s always like “well, that depends”... do you mean - where did I grow up?, where do I presently live?, where was I before I was here and now?, where do I associate myself with?, where do I feel most connected?, where is my heart?, or where is my bed? 
    I feel so deeply in love with the East Bay that a number of people did ask me why I didn’t think about moving there... but that won’t happen. I’m not planning on moving anywhere, anytime soon.  I’m still quite content in Richmond, most of the time.  But returning to my hectic work schedule made me angry and it drove home the realization that much my frustration and inability to do all that I want to do - comes from giving away too much of my time to the photo lab which sucks the life force out of me.  It contradicts so much of my instincts about living life to the fullest and doing that which I most desire.  And I fear that I have become complacent and accepting of something that I created for myself but want to reject at the same time.  So I got in a bad mood and got a bad attitude, and then realized it’s up to me to change it. 
    In many regards I’m feeling the energy of the season, and yet I don’t feel like I’ve really settled into it either.  Spring is my favorite time of year - the time when I go crazy and feel like everything and anything is possible.  I brought that feeling back with me from California.  But the weather hasn’t settled into itself - riding it’s own rollercoaster from 80° to 20° the next day and from 90° to 50° again... The early blooming daffodils got frozen and then the lilacs got scorched.  The tulips got prolonged in the cold snap then burned in the heat and then got zapped and never did finished blooming.  All of the plants are confused, and so am I. I completely missed planting the early crop of greens and I’m still confused as to what seeds to sow and what to hold off on and so the garden sits rather barren with May just around the corner.  Quite a change of pace from my usual diligence and planning, as I sit back and look and see what plants have come back, which ones are actually thriving and which ones seem to have gone. 
    I wanted to set out on bringing some of the Berkeley fun I had back into my life here, but I quickly got sucked into the production of this new issue which has been a seemingly non-ending month of total and absolute dedication to the computer and stereo. So I have forsaken the beautiful days for working at the desk, sorting mail, doing reviews, editing writing, answering emails, etc. etc....  Meanwhile I had promised myself walks in the park, time in the garden, and plenty of reading of the new books, even time in the darkroom and dedication toward progress on the photo book of NYC punk.  But no... Slug & Lettuce is what has happened... and though it did take total focus and a lack of sleep to do it - I’m really pleased and proud of this issue - of pulling it all together and getting it done. I’m glad to be able to pull together all of these amazing people and their writing and artwork into these pages.... I guess it’s kind of my way of drawing my people, my peers, my friends, those whom I admire, respect and love all together.  Creating as much of a focused place to feel connected and to kinda feel that sense of “home” - even if it’s just on paper... I know it runs deep.  So here it is.  Spring 2002.  Now I can go out and play in the garden, read my new books, cherish my friends zines, take walks in the park and get to know this town again, and remember why I fell in love with it so many years ago.  And well things in Richmond are actually looking pretty good... things are in transition as always.  The 818 Space is closing in June.  Twisters is supposed to open back up.  The Queer Space got hassled by the city for doing shows, but the HC Holocaust warehouse seems a promising space.  A new used bookstore opened and the Community Space Project folks held a free-school skill-share that was really awesome.  I got tons of new books for the book distro and haven’t had much opportunity to get out there and table them - so if you’re in this country (the overseas postage isn’t worth it) - send a stamp for a list of books... I’ve got a lot of good ones that I want to share.  I also got a lot of new books for my own reading that I wanted to talk about, but I am out of space and time.  So more on books in the next issue.  If you’ve read a good book lately, write and tell me about it. Send in a review for the next issue.  If you’ve got some good gardening tips or favorite plants to grow  - write and tell me about that.  The postage rates are going up (again) in June.  I’m not sure how much old S&L is going to be affected yet cause no one at the post office will talk about it.  They say “go to the website” which only gets me in a rage.... Ah, but I don’t even want to talk about it now... there is too much fun to be had... (if anyone knows why these squares appear in some of the text, or how I can eliminate them, please let me know!)... Rock on....Chris(tine), April 2002