Filed under: Art Junk, Big Bang, Fotorama, Music Junk, Party Party, PDXcitement, Razorcake Columns
Razorcake is celebrating its 50th issue and it ain’t no small feat in this climate where magazines are folding and independent presses are finding it difficult to be sustainable. Fifty issues of never compromising their standards and of printing stories that they believed in.
I’m so very proud to be part of the Razorcake familia.
This is my 22nd column for them. In this issue, all columnists wrote about the magazine itself.
Because we can.
Illustration by Steve Larder.
It was at a pizza place off one of the main boulevards in Highland Park, before or after a show at Mr. T’s Bowl. Or was it a reading at a local community arts space? Was that the night I missed my friend’s band’s set because I was smoking in the parking lot or the time I audibly feel asleep during a writer’s slideshow inspiration of his latest book? This may be the reason I have a poor memory, as s defense mechanism for all the inconsiderate, unthinking things I’ve done. Who wants to remember all the times we tipped less than 20% or flaked on our friends when they needed us? I sure as hell don’t want to relive those moments. Despite my brain’s ability to conveniently forget these myriad of asshole behavior perpetrated by my own jerkiness, there remains a plethora of cringe-inducing memories that flutter and flash across my mind during odd moments of chopping vegetables or as I’m on my way out the front door.
One of the memories that have not left me was at that dimly-let pizza joint. I can’t remember if we sat on benches or plastic molded chairs bolted to the ground. I can’t recall if I ate a slice of cheese or two slices of veggie. I’m not sure if I had a Coke, or shared a fountain cup with Bradley. The details escape me with the exception of a conversation between Todd and I.
This was only four years ago, but in hindsight it feels longer because I was so emboldened with the obliviousness and courage of youth. I approached Todd, completely unprompted, and offered, “You should lemme design a cover.”
Todd didn’t know me from Adam, or the kid behind the pizza counter, nor did he have an acute understanding that while I lack standards in all the things that matter (food, beer, boyfriends), I am an unabashed snob concerning the infinite inconsequential details that salt and pepper this buffet of life. Things I can’t stand include, but are not limited to: any of the –isms, fluorescent lighting and bad design. I could probably put up with eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with a side of baby spinach salad and a glass of chilled water at every meal in between coddling a co-dependent boyfriend for the rest of my life if that means I won’t have to lay my eyes on another piece of bad design—cluttered with Comic Sans font, plastered with pixilated scans of poorly drawn sketches and predictable composition. Todd had no idea I had deemed myself his designer laureate, that I, with my mighty Wacom tablet and limited Photoshop skills had come to save Razorcake from being another thorn growing from the stem of the unsightly, mish-mashed punk aesthetic. I was young(er) and wore arrogance easily, like an obscure band t-shirt. It is with a combination of dread and admiration that I remember that former self, the kid who knew she knew—so much so that she sauntered up a punk zine editor and almost demanded that her art should grace the cover of his publication.
“You should lemme do a cover,” I said.
Instead of telling me to fuck off, Todd asked, “Why don’t you try with an interview layout first?”
At the time I failed to recognize that I should have to prove my chops, that just because I was a cocky kid didn’t’ mean that I could design a lick.
“Sure,” I begrudgingly agreed, disappointed that he didn’t enthusiastically hold my offer above his head and declared, like a teenage girl, and gushed, “Omigod! Amy’s gonna, like, make Razorcake totally awesome!”
I Photoshopped a layout for the next issue. A couple issues later Todd offered me a spot on Razorcake’s columnist roster. To date I’ve designed four covers (#29 Alicja Trout, #32 The Bananas, #42 The Tranzmitors and #43 Reigning Sound), and layouts for band that continue to thrive or have since broken up only to exist as winding etches on pressed vinyl discs.
Due to my poor memory and inability to read minds, I can’t begin to speculate about how it was that I lucked out and got to fulfill a zine punk’s dream of a permanent two-page spread in a fanzine with a 6,000 print run and not drop a dime for photocopies. It may have been serendipitous that I popped up as a blip on the Razorcake radar just as a vacancy appeared and I was able to convince Todd that, despite my ESL-ness and fondness for made-up words, I could string sentences together in a quasi-coherent manner. Thus Monster of Fun was born, validating the adolescence I spent saving birthday money to print a zine that no one read.
I am grateful that I’ve been given an outlet for my meanderings, there is a quiet satisfaction in seeing one’s words inked into a zine that is a fixture in the squalid bathrooms of punk houses or neatly stacked, like reference guides, beneath growing record collections in suburban teenage bedrooms. Even so, this sense of satisfaction could never obscure a universal truth: there’s no glamour in writing.
It’s an antisocial and solitary affair, locked up in your own mind rummaging for words and stories. It’s fueled by caffeine and smothered by self-consciousness. It blurs your vision and hardens that callous on the side of your middle finger, where you tightly grip your pen, writing as if those moments might cease to exist if they don’t reach paper.
Writing for Razorcake has provided even more unquantifiables like exposure to artists and music and connections that lead to friendships and bonding over this singularly ridiculous subculture. As a friend of Razorcake, I’ve also been bestowed the occasional complimentary beer or two. On one particular night, at a northeast Portland basement show, I was even treated to a few sips of mad dog—sugary orange flavor the color of traffic cones.
I could count on my two hands the number of strangers who have recognized me as that Razorcake columnist with the awkward last name. Most of them approached me in the punk rock vacuum of Ken Dirtnap’s Green Noise record store where I was the clerk who habitually blasted Greg Cartwright over the PA. Outside the bubble of Green Noise, I never expect random folks to mention this column.
We stood in an oblong circle, as small groups of friends tend to do as they wait for something to happen. I could barely make out the familiar faces of friends as they chatted in the dark dirt patch alongside The Ranch punk house. Our small ring broke open with a few guys walked in and immediately mended the loop. Tim introduced us, I reached out to shake Mark’s hand.
“You’re Amy?” He asked knowingly.
“How was China?”
“What? Have we met before?” I was puzzled and slightly embarrassed because I’ve forgotten my share of acquaintances.
“How’s Portland treating you since you got back?” Mark ignored my question with more of his own. This was two summers ago, after I had returned from a year-long volunteer stint in rural China.
“Dude, if we’ve met before, I sorta don’t remember,” I said, half apologizing.
“You’re the monster of fun, right?”
Mark hunched over a bit, lowered his voice and explained, “I’m a subscriber.” He needn’t utter another word. We talked about the fanzine and my excitement with being home when I squinted in the dark and noticed that he was hugging a glass flask in the crook of his elbow.
“What’s that?” I asked.
It was a bottle of Mad Dog—orange jubilee flavored. I couldn’t resist.
“Here, have some.” I took a few healthy swigs before handing it back. It settled to the bottom of my belly, mixed with whatever cheap beer I had pilfered from another friend.
We idled around as we waited for the touring band to set up, and finally filed into the basement. I squeezed my way to the front to watch Underground Railroad to Candyland in all their basement show glory. My eyes searched the room, looking for no one in particular, and soaked in the humidity of all the bodies crammed into such a small space to share the same experience—and there was Mark, right behind me. His hands were full, with Mad Dog in one and a can of beer in the other, and he handed me the bottle of alcoholic orange juice without saying a word. Damn, I love making new friends at shows, I thought.
Todd and company began banging out songs from their Bird Roughs LP. The entire basement danced like we were on a Pee Wee’s Playhouse special where every word of every song was the secret word and we had to hoop and holler in celebration.
A couple songs in I felt a pequliar sensation, a very distinct gesture that I’ve only ever had the pleasure of experiencing on occasions where I’ve been drunk on long island iced teas and there is massive hip-hop being thumped out of speakers in some developing-nation dance club. I looked back and found Mark, the dude I just met a half an hour earlier, with this free hand on my hip and his crotch grinding my booty. Nothing says Welcome Back to America like an unexpected faux-freak-booty dance. Nothing says This Dude is a Razorcake Subscriber like an unexpected booty dance in a basement punk show.
Three hard drives, stories from all across south/southeast/east Asia and the United States, dozens of scribbled journal pages, millions of pixels and one-dude’s-junk-all-up-on-my-ass later and we’re still here. All because I was a pompous dick and Todd didn’t tell me to go fuck myself.
The letters, at 9 point Times New Roman, tumble off pages just as each strum of those taut wires burst out of amplifiers like a flood exploding from a broken dam. The stories and songs, in and of themselves, exist because we’ve assigned meaning to them and agree that they exist. But the stories and the songs, in and of themselves, do not cast shadows. They do not stand before the heat of the sun or beneath the soft glare of streetlamps to form long stretches of grey on dark pavement. But we do. The stories and the songs exist because we created them, laying down a shadow with every motion we make.
There is proof we existed.
This is proof we exist.
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