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40 T/D/Y #27: Papers and Zines and Blogs

Back in fifth grade, near the end of the school year, we had a special kickball game event pitting our classroom against one of the other fifth-grade classrooms, complete with the teachers themselves participating—not the typical recess-time game. When our class was up to kick and I had a lot of downtime waiting my turn, I started to amuse myself by pretending to be a news reporter interviewing others about the big game. In talking with my friend Andy, we became enthusiastic about the idea of actually creating a school newspaper, and we stuck with it. We figured we could get our fellow students to submit stories and articles and whatever, and produce a few pages a month. Conveniently, we happened to be in the same classroom for sixth grade, making it easy for us to work together. We went to a meeting of the school’s PTO to present our idea and ask for paper supplies and use of the school’s ditto machine (I remember it being called a mimeograph, but it turns out that’s a different technology) to produce the newspapers, and they decided to support it.

It ended up not being much of a newspaper as such; we had some kind of school news blurb in each issue, but mostly it ran stories, drawings, poems, and recipes submitted by our classmates and some of the kids in the other sixth-grade classes. I don’t recall specifically what I wrote for it, and haven’t gone looking in my box o’ memories in the closet for my copies which I should still have, but I think I wrote at least some of the letters from the editor about each issue. I also don’t remember how many issues we did; it was less than one a month of course, because we did still have other classwork to do and we had to get other people to submit things, but I believe we did at least five or six over the course of that year. It was a lot of fun and enjoyed by at least some of the kids—near the end of the year I was even approached by two fifth-graders who wanted to take over the paper the following year. (I still wonder what came of that, I know at the time I explained it wasn’t really up to me, they’d have to get the support of the PTO to continue.)

In junior high, I joined the yearbook staff and served all three years. And I can hardly remember any work I did on it. I know at least one year I got stuck on the advertising team, trying to sell ads to support the yearbook, which I had no interest in doing at all. I don’t remember how the writers or editors were chosen, but I was never one of them, although I do remember helping to choose the fiction contest winner at least once. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m listed on staff and appear in the photos for all three years, I wouldn’t even be sure I’d participated. It may have been due to that less-than-memorable experience that I never sought to be involved in the senior high yearbook or even with the regular monthly school newspaper.

In college, my friends Tony and Conrad first came up with their own take on an unofficial student paper, The Goliard; I believe they did manage to put out two issues, but no more than that. I did contribute a poem to one of the issues but otherwise had little to do with it. A year or two later, another student, Kevin, revived The Goliard and put out several much nicer-looking issues, but again I think at most I promised to submit something and never did.

However, during my college years I also became good friends with one of my younger sister’s friends from high school, Jay. Jay (and my younger sister) was more in touch with the modern alternative music scene than I was, and he was interested in zines, the small amateur-press photocopied magazines often connected to the underground rock scene. He put out the first version of his zine, Banner Bauhaus, just after he graduated from high school, and then a few years later as I was finishing college he revived and expanded his zine under a new title, The Maudlin Order. With the second issue of that version, I became involved as an editor, helping to get the various stories and articles into shape, and that began our off-and-on collaborative efforts as zine publishers. After another couple-year hiatus, in late 1996 we agreed to revive and rename the zine yet again, this time as The Park Bench.

For The Park Bench I played my most active role since elementary school, editing all of each issue’s content and writing some content myself. The zine was always Jay’s baby, though, and we clashed over it on occasion: I never wrote as much as he would’ve liked, and my writing was almost always done last-minute when Jay set a firm deadline for starting his layout and going to print, making him worry each time about having enough content. We did publish three issues in the first half of 1997, but then Jay felt burnt out again and quit; I finished up the third issue myself, but did not follow through with any further ones. We bounced back in 1999, putting out volume two in two issues that year and following on with another three-issue volume in 2000. Jay then moved to Los Angeles, and although he was there only a matter of months, the zine fell back into another long slumber.

Shortly after moving to Seattle, I joined LiveJournal and started blogging. For my first couple years my writing was very sporadic, but two things changed that: late in 2004 I decided that I wanted to attend concerts more regularly and should make a point of seeing at least one show a month, and early in 2005 I made a list of goals for the year which included posting in my journal at least once a week. Those two decisions naturally combined to start me writing reviews of the concerts I was attending, which increased along with my show attendance. After a couple years, I added a new goal of getting my music writing out to a wider audience, which I finally achieved this year when I started writing for the KEXP Blog.

Unfortunately, at the same time my journal writing dropped off this year. Mostly because of my dismal feelings about work and finances and my perceived failure to improve those situations, I was too disheartened to set down any goals for the year. Although writing weekly in my journal had seemed to become a habit, I couldn’t bring myself to keep writing publicly about how miserable I was feeling over those issues, nor did it seem a good idea to write much about my struggles with finding work. I also started feeling more pressure to be discreet about my dating efforts. The thing is, I’ve always felt that my online journal served a useful purpose by being public: I was able to work out my feelings and get troublesome thoughts out of my head through the process of journal writing, and by doing so in a public venue such as LiveJournal, I had the opportunity to get feedback and advice from friends without having to ask anyone to sit down and listen to my endless agonizing. Once I started feeling that I had to restrict my writing, avoid topics like work and friends-lock topics like dating, I lost the heart to write much at all. My journal became largely about music, and even that writing tapered off later this year as I developed a backlog of reviews to write and it started to feel like a chore.

This series of posts about my life was directly inspired by the drop-off in my personal writing this year. I was restless and unhappy that I hadn’t been writing, and wanted something to get me back into it; doing a series of 40 posts on 40 topics, leading up to my 40th birthday, was an obvious idea to accomplish that. I don’t yet know what will happen after that; I expect I’ll set down some goals to get myself back on track, and returning to writing weekly in my journal will be one of those goals. I also want to step up my writing for the KEXP Blog, and perhaps there are other opportunities I may want to pursue. It’s worth remembering that all those years ago in elementary school, I had a fun idea and without any real understanding of what it would take to make that happen, I pursued it and did make it happen. I can still do that.

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