In my life I’ve done 3 zines. I found about zines from going to punk/hardcore shows in Long Island. Either that, or from Sassy magazine. I can’t remember which came first but in my memory I’d like it to be from going to shows so I’ll stick with that story. It’s also worth noting that at the very first show I went to, my friend Bobby handed me a zine, which in turn led me to believe I was special, which in turn led me to becoming fascinated with him and his band, which in turn led to them becoming my BFF’s for life. Zines are important.
I never knew the difference between a “fanzine” and a “zine.” I figured they were the same thing and people just shortened “fanzine” to make it sound more alt. Another argument is that “fanzines” are little homemade books you make about one particular thing you’re a fan of (Amy Kellner had a fanzine about Prince called “If Prince Was My Girlfriend”) and zines are just little homemade books about a mixed bag of things. This is an old punk debate and the verdict is still unknown.
My first zine was called “Pennies From Heaven” and it was pretty dumb from what I can remember, but dumb in a very earnest way. I was around 14 or 15 and very influenced by Riot Grrl and bands that were on Kill Rock Stars and K Records. There was a certain aesthetic that surrounded those bands/labels. I just kind of “borrowed” that aesthetic and made a very girly zine with lots of “XOXO”s and cut out pictures from Little Twin Stars coloring books. There was this infantile trend going on at the time where it was cool for punk girls to wear baby barrettes and have lunch boxes and be interested in stickers and coloring books, so “Pennies From Heaven” was very that. I think I had two issues. I wish I could remember what some of the content was. I’m sure I had a list of my favorite things in there, and I’m sure “saddle shoes” made it onto that list.
The second zine I had was called “Homecoming” which I did with my friends Allison and Kathy. What I remember most about this one is that we tied a pink ribbon around each one and added glitter. We also interviewed Bikini Kill. I remember we were so nervous, and we asked them “What’s your connection to Kurt Cobain?” and Kathleen said, “We don’t wanna talk about that.” Legendary answer.
The third zine I had was my favorite. It was called “The Poison Ivy League” and I did it much later in the game, like first or second year of college. In The PIL I allowed myself to write ‘funny’ for the first time. Like I actually had enough confidence to believe that other people might laugh at something I wrote which was a big deal for me. I wrote something called “Long Island A-Z” which included everything Long Island, starting with “Assholes” and ending with “Z.Cavericci.” (Writing in this format was so much fun it would inspire a dozen other A-Z lists I would eventually go on to write for Vice Magazine, years later). My best friend and mentor during this time was Jesse Pearson (current Editor-In-Chief at Vice) and him and our other friend Dustin made these “recipes,” which were actually poems, and they were funny and sad and weird and so I threw those into the zine as well. I made the cover a colored photocopy, had a typewriter and a label maker, and spent a few hours at Kinko’s late at night and that was that.
The exciting thing happened next, and I’ve never told anyone about this.
During a break I went home (Long Island) and drove over to Tower Records, which was the only place to get cool stuff. Besides music they sold magazines that were hard to find in the suburbs (like Paper, which was my fave). They also sold zines. The people who worked at Tower were always really cool kids with piercings and colored hair and I was pretty intimidated by them, but I really wanted Tower to carry The Poison Ivy League. I was too scared to ask anyone who worked there so I just figured fuck it. I put 10 copies of my zine on the shelf and left. I wasn’t in it for the money. No zinester ever is.
About a month or so later I was looking through a newspaper called The Long Island Voice, which obviously wasn’t as cool as The Village Voice, but the typeface was in the same font and so I assumed they were connected. Either way, it was the only newspaper that announced cool shows and arty movies. In the back of the paper they had zine reviews, which I would always look at. As I leafed my way through to the back my heart suddenly stopped. Was that a picture of my cover? Was that my name in print? The Long Island Voice had reviewed The Poison Ivy League! They mentioned that they had found it at Tower and went to pay for it but no one knew what it was. They said something about it “being placed on the shelf guerrilla style” which made it sound like I was a lot cooler/smarter than I actually was. DOUBLE WIN! I was so happy and excited about seeing this, and looking back it was probably a real turning point for me as a writer.
I never told anyone about this because it seemed like such a minor victory. I didn’t want to tell my parents because then they would ask to see the zine and I didn’t want to show them. I didn’t tell Jesse or Dustin because I was afraid they would think I was lame. I guess I didn’t tell anyone else because I didn’t want it to seem like I was bragging. So I never told anyone. Until now.
I cut the review out of the paper and I taped it to a page in my diary, which is somewhere in a box at my mom’s, otherwise I would show it to you guys just to prove that I’m not making this up, which I sometimes think I convince myself I do when I keep a secret. No one else knows, so did it even happen?
It did happen, and although it doesn’t seem like a big deal, it totally ruled and if I ever made a list of “Best Things That Have Ever Happened To Me From A-Z”, I think this story would be a great entry for the letter “Z”, which is usually the hardest one to come up with.