The real me

This might be idiotically profound, like a 7th-grader smoking doobie for the first time, but I'm typing sober. I've been lying in bed mulling this over for ten minutes, and now we'll see if I can make it make sense on paper.

The real me is someone you sorta know from reading this diary. Bruno knows him inside out, Maggie knows him less, my Mom only knows how to make him crazy, and a few others know him in bits and pieces, or barely. Mostly he keeps to himself, and rarely appears in public.

The guy my co-workers know, and other casual acquaintances, and even some people in my family — he’s someone else entirely. Sure, he's me if you check his I/D, but he’s not much of me. He rarely says anything, and when he does talk it’s not about anything interesting. Everything he cares about is strictly off-limits. "Nice weather we're having, eh?"

If you met me in the real world, I would not mention anything I've mentioned in this zine. I would not tell you that there is a zine, or even a typewriter. I wouldn't tell you that I live in a bum-hotel, that I piss in my sink, that I’ve rejected Jesus as my personal fairy tale, that I’m not proud to be an American, that my main hobbies are masturbation and writing, and that I’m wearing the same underwear I wore yesterday (and maybe the day before?). I won’t say much about myself unless you’re a friend, and unless your name is Bruno or Maggie, you're not.

That was my thought for the morning, and then I needed an extra-long afternoon walk — down Market Street to the Embarcadero, and back via Chinatown. It was sunny and I was sweaty so I took off my shirt, letting the tourists and bums admire my voluptuous breasts and giant rippling belly. In Union Square, I hawked a loogie on the window of a passing limo.

And I spoke to no-one except myself. That was my Sunday — a great day to be alive, and a marvelous day to be alone. I would rather be alone than with anyone who doesn’t understand that ... which is almost anyone.

♦ ♦ ♦

Let’s talk about zines! Zines are created and published by people for people, not by corporations for profit. Word of mouth is the only way zines are discovered and read, so I’m going to spread some word of mouth today — yippee, it's time for zine reviews!

Budzine is a rarity — a zine by someone who seems fairly normal. Instead of being about something really personal or really strange, Bud’s zine is a likable look at mainstream American life. He writes about traffic problems in Tucson, his disappointing trip to a circus, losing weight, and looking for a new job. It’s refreshing to read a well-written zine with no homicidal-suicidal-psychopathic rants, you know? Enjoyable. $1 from JOHN 'BUD' BANKS, ████████████████, TUCSON AZ 85713.

Celebrate the Self is all about masturbation. You might remember, my mom spotted CTS on my bedroom floor and thought it looked interesting? Well, it is. It has a mostly homoeccentric bent — lots of photos of nekked men, which didn’t do much for me (well, except for one). I like the vibe, though, and they sell adult toys at reasonable prices, so, “Manly, yes, but I like it too.” $3.50, from FACTOR PRESS, ████████, MOBILE AL 36608.

Chaos is one of too many zines that rebel against standard punctuation, which makes it difficult to read. It’s worth the trouble, though. The author writes about his marijuana addiction, starting a new life in Minneapolis, and how various foods affect his bowels. Recommended, with reservations because I like commas and periods and all that jazz. The usual, from JOEL EPANOURI, ██████████████, MINNEAPOLIS MN 55414.

Derogatory Reference — I recently started trading Pathetic Life for Arthur's zine, and I’m coming out way, way ahead on the deal. This is the journal of a brainy science-fiction fan, but it’s so well-written that the subject matter hardly matters, and it’s about much more than sci-fi. When Arthur mourned the death of a friend, my eyes welled up. When he got lost in cyberspace on the internet, we were lost together. His political and philosophical rants are succinct and generally spot on. This is a great zine, complicated but clear, by a writer who deserves to be genuine famous. $1, from ARTHUR D HLAVATY, ███████, YONKERS NY 10704.

Duplex Planet is a tonic for the days I hate everyone in the world. It’s a verbatim chapbook of senior citizens being asked a different question every issue. Their answers are sometimes rambling or evasive or confused, but almost always interesting. Its $2, from DAVID GREENBERGER, ███████, SARATOGA SPRINGS NY 12886.

Now I Twist Your Nipples with A Pair of Spaghetti Tongs is about being queer near where I'm from. There’s an underwear survey, an article about learning to like romantic pop music, and an especially sharp piece about people who seem too darn nice to be bastards but turn out to be bastards anyway. The usual, from JOSHUA PLOEG, █████ ████ █████, OLYMPIA WA 98506.

Oatmeal is a mini-comic that’s warm, friendly, funny, and might be habit-forming. Tim, the artist and author, has a healthy outlook on urban living , whether submitting his love life for a panel discussion on The McLaughlin Group, or stalking the wild BART train, or refusing to pay income taxes. Oatmeal tastes good, and it’s good for you. 50¢, from TIM ERENETA, ████ █████ █████, OAKLAND CA 94610. 

Our Rotten World is a clever, enjoyable zine by a guy who’s angry about the general idiocy of people, businesses, and government. He suggests some petty pranks for vengeance, which seems richly deserved, though I’m usually to lazy to follow through with pranks. It’s a buck, from KYLE AYOOB, ███████, PERU IL 61354.

The Truthseeker’s Guide to the Magic Kingdom is a highbrow look at a lowbrow subject: Disneyland. It’s also funny. I’ve always found Disneyland fascinating, both as culture and as kitsch, and TGMK seems to share that reluctant love for the place. There’s a review and discussion of the “Small World” ride, with more humor and genuine insight than the topic deserves. It’s fun, with more warmth toward Walt the man, than Eisner and the mega schmucks who came after. $2 from VIC PERRY, ████████, ALBUQUERQUE NM 87194.

By the by, when you’ve finished reading a zine, please don’t toss it out. Share it! After reading, I’m always leaving zines in the break room at work, on empty seats on the bus or subway, or on the magazine rack at the library. But I read a lot of zines, more than I can recirculate, so say the magic word and I’ll send you a box-full, free of charge. Limit one request per reader, and no specific titles please — you’ll get what you get.

And now, here’s something I haven’t done before. I've been reviewing the zines I like, but saying nothing about the ones I don't. Call it amateur courtesy. Someone tried, I figure, and it’s better to have tried and failed than never tried at all.

But today, screw that. Before me now are two zines that suck so stupendously they must be berated.

America’s Fan deserves a severe body slam. The subtitle says it’s “the zine about sports,” and I’m a mild sports fan, so I sent two bucks for this rubbish. The writer prefaces all his sports talk with idiotic redneck politics: anti-gay, anti-immigrant, and just plain anti. He wants to give President Clinton “a gold star for drowning those Cubans,” and so on and so on, and I’m done with this zine in two minutes. Sometimes I’m in the mood for sports, but I don’t need recruiting from Aryan Nations.

Baby Sue is a zine of sick humor, and there’s plenty that’s sick here, but I didn’t find any humor. It's mostly one drawing of a girl grumpily sticking her tongue out, and that drawing is reproduced over different backgrounds, in comic strip format, but it’s all so devoid of jokes or punchlines it makes Garfield seem like Mark Twain. Maybe it’s an inside joke, and I’m outside. Maybe it’s a matter of taste — I have some, and they don’t.

You want the addresses for these last two zines? Look ‘em up in Factsheet 5.

From Pathetic Life #3
Sunday, August 28, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called
Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.



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  1. Are there any zines you still read?

    1. I read a few blogs that are spiritually kin with zines, but I haven't read or seen an actual zine in years.

  2. Captain HampocketsJune 14, 2021 at 11:33 AM

    The only zine of those that I remember is Baby Sue. I disagreed with you then, and now, I dunno - it's been a quarter-century since I saw a copy.

    Weirdly, I remember more zinesters' names, than zine titles.

    1. I retyped the review but I don't remember the zine at all. Probably it's brilliant and sailed over my head.

      They still exist: babysue.com.

  3. It feels like I know the real you, thats what I like about reading this.


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