Nine letters

Today I plowed through a fresh load of mail, opening envelopes, sending zines, reading letters, and — feeling unnaturally chatty — answering a few...

Some of your entries in #15 and now #16 pissed me off. It's no fun to open a zine and be reminded that women are nothing but sex objects to men.

Just four pages after you look up women's skirts you complain about a sexist rap song on the radio, and I mean, what's up with that? You're offended by sexism, but you write sexist stuff yourself?

Seriously, "man", pull your head from your ass and be part of the solution instead of the problem.
—Teresa S, Milwaukee

Sometimes, yeah, it's up my ass, and very rarely it's between a woman's legs, but usually my head is between my shoulders. You want me to apologize for being intrigued by women's bodies, or pretend I'm not, here in my own diary? Can't do that. —DH

Currently I'm being paid to annoy people. The temp agency I'm working for has me ringing the bell for the Salvation Army in front of Albertson's [a grocery store —DH]. So far I've filled over 25 pages with observations. It is hard to smile and wish everyone "Happy holidays" no matter how I'm treated. I hope I don't snap.
—Jeff Zenick, Eugene OR

Good luck with the sanity. Everything about western civilization is working against it.

In school I usually didn't take notes during the teachers' boring lectures, unless some of it seemed worth knowing, but that was rare.

In life, though, I take notes all the time, so great respect for your "over 25 pages of observations." Man, if I didn't have my notes to re-read at the end of the day, tossing most of them but writing some of them into zine entries, I would've snapped too. —DH

Hey Zine Editors! 

We thought you might be interested in this feature on Pagan Kennedy by Harvey Blume, coming up in our January issue. Wired 4.01 hits newsstands on December 19. Let us know if you are interested in reprinting the story or contacting Harvey Blume…
—Hayley Nelson, Wired

Thanks for the junk mail, Hayley. You bought my name and address and a few thousand others from Factsheet Five, yes? Ingenuous marketing, but I hate marketing, and especially hate being a victim of marketing, so kiss my ass.

I can't imagine why you're proud of the brief, shallow interview you enclosed, nor why anyone outside of Pagan Kennedy's immediate family would want to read it.

Pagan Kennedy is a professional writer who dabbled at zines between paying gigs, and compiled a book that looks zinelike, but that's not necessarily a compliment. For all I know she's a great writer, but the whole 'slumming it by doing a zine' motif doesn't appeal to me, and anyone who describes reality as "the off-line world" is someone I'd prefer to avoid.

As for your Wired, I've seen it, browsed through it at a newsstand, and it's better than Newsweek, but holy shit. Your writer says, "Zines were like websites — before there were any. A mix of text and graphics, cheap and easy to put together at home, zines were new media." Please do consider zines strictly a past-tense phenomenon, and delete this one from your next wastepaper press release. —DH

Hey, Doug, why is it you want so badly to move to New York City? Have you ever been there? I can understand the wish to move, but why to such an awful place? For someone poor, it's not a good place to live. Have you considered any other places?
—Joey H, East Lansing MI

I don't have any itch to move for moving's sake. San Francisco is perfect for me, and Berkeley, across the water where I live now, is almost as swell.

I'm only moving, or thinking about moving to New York City because Sarah-Katherine wants to, and unlike most humans she's tolerable and I'd love sharing a fridge with her. —DH

I never got that next Hilda [zine] done last summer, but almost. So once the school term is complete I'll get back to it, and it'll be done by the end of the month, I hope.

Please don't ask why a decently intelligent person like me is doing the school thing — I'm embarrassed. I guess I'm still too scared of letting go of its false security. I don't seem to do anything creative while I'm in school. I just read and drink and work. Well, I'm doing it to myself…
—Cia Catherine, Portland

You asked me not to mention what you mentioned, that you're wasting your time going to school, so OK, I won't mention it. I'm wondering why you warned me off, though. I rarely mention in the zine how cynical I am about so-called higher education, so you must be good at reading between my lines.

I used to preach against getting a college education whenever anyone mentioned college, especially when the best reason most students offer is, "It'll get me a better job." Yeah, and marrying a mortician might get you a better burial plot. Only once did I successfully talk a friend into dropping out, so I've mostly stopped blathering about it. 

I do think college is a ghastly sort of extended and voluntary prison of the mind for its inmates, but probably that's a prejudice that should embarrass me. I haven't known enough college kids to form a statistically valid observation of the species. From a distance though, I can't describe it any better than you did: "I don't seem to do anything creative while I'm in school." 

Still, if you think you're deriving a serious benefit from it, I wouldn't say a word. Are you? —DH

You've got it made, my friend! You live in bee-yoo-ti-ful San Francisco and you vacation in beautiful Seattle, your costs are covered from the sound of things, and your life is full of interesting people.

Just what you need, right? Some bitter Brooklynite drooling over your west coast lifestyle. It's just that I want it to be real, because I want to leave Brooklyn and New York City, and San Francisco has been kind to many friends of mine. I'd move tomorrow if I didn't think they'd spit in my latte and string me up as the New Yorker that broke San Francisco's back.
—Brandon K, Brooklyn

Judith rents rooms here for $450 p/month, though I get a discount for doing housework. Do you have an affordable rent in Brooklyn, and if so, wanna swap places? —DH

Hope your Thanksgiving wasn't as shitty as mine.
—Mark A, Pasadena CA

And I return your warm greetings. —DH

Thanks for the latest Pathetic Life. Your zine did as much for my holiday spirits as would a cup of your best eggnog farts. By the way, you're still sending it to an incorrect address. How tough is it to get an address right? It can't be as tough as farting water, can it? You can fart water, but you can't address an envelope? Is that what you're telling me, Colonel?

And how come I haven't seen a review of my novel Broken Crown in your zine? For crying out loud, that manuscript cost me ten bucks to Xerox plus three bucks for the stamps. Even if you thought the book was crap, you could at least extend me the courtesy of a shitty review in your zine. Good thing for you I'm a Christian and programmed to take abuse. For your sake and the sake of a few others, you'd better get down on your knees and pray that I don't snap.

What's this, from page 37 of Pathetic Life #16? "A few hours later, the question in the back of my mind and the front of my pants is, would I sleep with Andrea if the opportunity arose? It absolutely won't, and even if it did my penis probably wouldn't, but yeah, I'd love to at least try." You lie around naked in bed all day eating chocolate frosting sandwiches and reading Philip K Dick novels, then you fall asleep. Sometimes you describe yourself as a man, but standards must have fallen a bit, eh Colonel?

But seriously, it seems that you're beginning to hold back a little. The last two issues of Pathetic Life (for some reason you didn't send me #14, and I paid for the fucking thing — oh man, you bitch and moan about the evils of the corporate world, you you think nothing of screwing a broke bastard like me out of three bucks — how do you sleep at night?) have been a bit more impersonal. You're not reaching me like you used to. You're giving me a lot of speeches and platforms.

Maybe you're just happy now. Your dreams of Sarah-Katherine have drugged you. You have hope. That's dangerous for your zine. Take my advice: You need to be crushed. Your life doesn't seem nearly so pathetic any more. In fact, it seems better than mine. Wise up, Colonel. My subscription ends with #19.

—The J-Man, Ann Arbor MI

I am not a Colonel, and have never been in the military. If you don't like my zine any more, that's OK; it disappoints me, too. If you didn't receive #14, here's another copy not to like.

As for your novel, I haven't read it yet. Haven't even opened it. I get to the zines quicker than the books, because I generally prefer zines. —DH

In consideration of two recent issues of Pathetic Life, to be paid by the time when Pathetic Doug reasonably gets them out, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged I hereby remise, release, and forever discharge the said Pathetic Doug of and from all debts, demands, actions, cause of action, suits, accounts, covenants, contracts, agreements, damages, and any and all claims, demands and liabilities whatsoever of every name and nature, both in law and in equity, which against the said Pathetic Doug or his heirs and assigns I now have or ever had from the beginning of the world to this date and more especially on account of general patheticosity, mopery, self-abuse and suspicion of the unspeakable crime against nature as well as delays in getting out copies of Pathetic Life, indecision in his life, and eating too much and too many cheese, egg, and peanut butter sandwiches.

I'm releasin' ya now, but this is conditioned on keeping those PL's comin'. Otherwise I'm gonna attach every goddamn thing you own.
—Stephen E, attorney-at-law, Bridgewater MA

This is, I guess, vengeance for a lawyer joke I must've made. Fortunately, you can seize everything I own and you'll still get nada. —DH

From Pathetic Life #19
Tuesday, Dec. 5, 1995

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.


  1. I think the J-Man was the finest writer in "zines."

    In a just world he'd be publishing a new novel every year instead of working in a corrections facility and posting about college sports on Twitter. But no, we get semi-literate housewives writing vampire fanfic and endless Iowa Writers Workshop graduates shilling their turgid upper class reveries to the New Yorker and other art-destroyers.

    His stuff never failed to amuse me, move me, startle me, etc.

    1. . . . and the democratization of media sounded like such a good idea.


    2. J-Man is a complicated dude, but a very good writer. We were in touch briefly, a year or so ago...

  2. Also your comments about "Pagan Kennedy" were right on. She's just another privileged interloper like a lot of big names at the time (Lisa Carver, et al).

    Were you aware of the whole Teal Triggs debacle a few years ago?

    1. Zines were my life back then, and the whole phenomenon was about a voice for little people. It got on my nerves when not-so-little people like Kennedy and a few others posed as little people, "Hey, I did a zine!"

      If the Lisa Carver you mention is Lisa Suckdog, it's a controversy unknown to me.

      A few people from the old days told me many years ago that Teal Tiggs had written a book about zines, poorly researched, names and facts frequently wrong, and reprinted text and illustrations without permission.

      For all these, though, it's been too long to hold a grudge.

    2. Anything that starts small and is a good idea will get supersized, and ultimately corporatized. Some people think that's progress; it rarely is. See also: The Frisbie Pie Company.


    3. They stopped making pies, as I recall.

      Are you old enough to remember the pies, not just the tins?

    4. I'm old enough, but wasn't bicoastal when I was eight, the year Frisbie closed. I think somebody bought the name from a Frisbie descendent, but it's not the same.

      It's a cautionary tale of family business and corporate greed. I used Wham-O products as a young man, much to my neighbors' displeasure, but I didn't know who they were. I know now.


    5. Wham-O — still an American company, ain't it?

    6. I haven't heard that they moved to Canada or France.



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