Freaking Out Squares

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Here We Are Now, Entertain Us

In addition to my beloved East Village Inky, I've recently discovered two new 'zines of note (thanks to EVI, of course). One is a lovely little softcover called Revelling in New York, written by two Brooklyn gals, Megan and Heather. "Part guidebook, part storytelling," Megan and Heather profile such offbeat activities and venues as the First Saturday Winter Ball at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Alice's Teacup (an Alice in Wonderland-themed restaurant and tea shop on the Upper West Side), and the Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital (in ruins, natch). To order it, visit Megan's website at somethingsbegun.com. Price is $2 (not including shipping and handling).

The other 'zine, Xtra Tuf, is written by a commercial salmon fisherwoman named Moe Bowstern, who makes her home in Portland, OR during the off-season and spends the rest of the year fishing in Alaska. Stunningly well-written, in terms even a soft, doughy whiner like I can understand, Xtra Tuf #5: The Strike Issue can be ordered from Microcosm Publishing, a hipper-than-thou 'zine publisher in, yup, Portland, OR. (Well, hipper than I am, anyway, which doesn't take much. I have no way of assessing the rest of my audience. Who knows? Maybe you're hip. Maybe you live in Portland. Maybe you even work for Microcosm.) According to Ayun Halliday, who is at once hipper than I am and a loud, proud, spazzy dork--that's a compliment!--Moe won't get paid for her work until the stock is sold out. So even if you think commercial fishing is not your thing (I would like to point out that I often fantasize about buying a fishing boat and living on Prince Edward Island), be a dear and buy a copy anyway. It's only $5! (Again, not including shipping and handling.)

You've probably guessed I have a bit of a complex about Portland, OR. As a kid, Portland was hallowed ground, home as it was to my doppelganger Ramona Quimby. But that was in the early '80s. Then the grunge thing hit, and hit hard. Suddenly, Portland was this hipster haven of diners, tacky bowling alleys, 'zines (which I learned about from reading Sassy--one of my only saving graces during high school), heroin, and "really cool bands from Seattle." And as much as grunge purported to be about the alienated and disenfranchised, there was only a certain frequency of alienation and disenfranchisement that was acceptable, and I was nowhere near it. I guess there was no room for a loudmouthed, unattractive girl, even if said girl was coping with the death of her mother and the fact that her mother had beaten the shit out of her up until the day she went in for a nine-hour surgery to remove the cancer that was eating away at her colon. Further rubbing salt into that wound was the fact that the same classmates who wanted nothing to do with me because I was such a big, raw nerve insisted they could "feel Kurt's pain, man." Like fuck they could. I am convinced to this day that these pituitary cases knew nothing of pain (well, maybe not nothing--we were all teenagers, after all), that they saw this scrawny, stringy-haired guy on MTV and decided he was cool because he was on MTV, and even though if he'd gone to our high school he'd probably have been beaten up like every day, they decided to emulate him and his, and all of a sudden they were sensitive and deep. Yes, I'm so sure.

I sort of feel like Portland, if I were to go there, would treat me like an abusive boyfriend. On his terms, and under certain conditions, we might make sweet love, but he'd always keep me in my place, and he'd never let me forget that he could get with any girl he wants, all of whom were a million times prettier, smarter, and sweeter than I am. Oddly, I don't feel that way about Seattle, and that's where this whole thing started. Maybe because it's bigger; maybe because it's become synonymous with Bill Gates and Starbucks. For me, loathing Bill Gates and Starbucks is like loathing having a hot knitting needle poked into my eye. Like, shit, doesn't everybody? But the whole alternative thing, as I said, purports to be about misfits uniting, and you'd think it would be some nice commie arrangement where anyone who wants to can eat tempeh burgers and tool around town on bikes, but it's not. You still have to rank. I am no earthly good at the ranking game. Oh, I get caught up in it, because I'm weak and doughy and whiny, but I have never managed to rank. If you take pity and invite me to your party, I guarantee I'll be the one in the corner, worrying about imposing herself on the other guests. Then I'll storm out in tears at some point because I know I'm not hip enough or smart enough or pretty enough or whatever enough to be a ranking guest there, that you invited me because you know I'll help you clean up the beer bottles and puke at the end of the night. Or maybe you invited me because you like my Ethel Merman imitations, and you needed a court jester. Either way, I'll be outside in the cold, sobbing over a cigarette, hating myself for being, well, the way I am and hating you and your friends for being cooler than I am, and hating the damn Darwinian system that keeps us all in our places to begin with. (I just realized this is not a good way to make friends, slapping this Karla trivia up there. Disclaimer: As long as there is no Nirvana or Stone Pearl Pumpkins in Chains on your stereo, I am actually a decent party guest. But the second you press "PLAY" on that tripe, I'm gonna regress. Or if I don't regress, I'm just gonna bitch reeaal loud about your choice of music, and that isn't polite. So if you insist on playing "Black Hole Sun" over and over, either don't invite me or take it like a (wo)man. Thanks.)

By the way, I must confess to having a thing for the Riot Grrrls (platonic). Courtney Love? Now, that's some Seattle pain I can feel.

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