Get to Know Piltdownlad

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From a questionnaire “Get to Know Your Zinester” for the 2014 LA Zine Fest that was never posted.

What was your first zine about and when was it made?

The first zine I made, in late 1998, was called Vagabond. It was a comp zine about living on the skids, traveling and urban life. I cut and pasted the first issue together on a camping table in my friend’s living room after taking apart somebody else’s zine to use as a guide. I went to Kinko’s and printed 100 copies, taking advantage of their long-armed stapler. As far as I know only one ragged, heavily annotated copy exists. I did three more issues of Vagabond before moving on to other publishing endeavors.

Describe your most recent zine.

Piltdownlad is a typewritten, mostly hand-scrawled personal narrative zine. I write autobiographical stories about my past using literary techniques like plot and dialogue. I call it “creative engineering.” Each issue is subtitled and centers around a featured story, with some issues including letters and zine reviews. Because I write about abuse, the most common statement folks make about Piltdownlad is that it’s “not for everyone.” A recent reviewer said I should include a label warning potential readers that my zine can be “triggering.” Yes, I deal with very heavy topics, but in light-hearted ways. For me, it’s easier to deal with a painful memory by ripping it apart and recreating it from another angle. I like to think that honest writing is accessible to one and all, but I guess if somebody is sensitive to topics such as male sexual abuse, a sordid family history, growing up in the inner city, being a foster kid in small town Alabama, teenage rebellion, drugs, punk rock, blasphemy, alienation, bullies, vandalism and the pursuit of love or just some sense of belonging in the world, then Piltdownlad is probably not for them.

Of all the things you’ve ever made, zine-related or otherwise, what’s your one favorite?

Around 2000, I started a series of zines and chapbooks called the Pick Pocket Books. They were short, quarter-sized and hand-made with a unique binding. I combined edgy poetry and twisted stories with even weirder comics and illustrations from a variety of underground writers and artists. I sold them for a buck. My tag line was “Read Cheap.” Another one was “…made on a budget so tight, it’s criminal.” To get them printed, I charmed, cheated and stole thousands of free copies from the various corporate copy shacks around LA. I used all sorts of trickery and fast-talking. My specialty was complaining about any possible flaw in the print quality so they wouldn’t charge me for those copies, then pointing out how wasteful it would be to just throw them in the trash. Sometimes I enlisted my spike-haired younger sister as a “distraction.” (Her silhouette was my logo.) I finagled paper from Kelly Paper Supply by demanding a discount for using my name! It never worked, but it made them laugh and they let me slide on the sample sheets of the premium stuff. Once, when I was printing my first paperback, I left 100 bucks under the trash can in the bathroom, as directed by two shady employees, while they loaded 500 dollars worth of paper into the trunk of my car. In all, there were 23 Pick Pockets in the series. I printed hundreds of each title and disseminated them far and wide, selling them anywhere I could and giving them away when I couldn’t. I must have printed and assembled over 10,000 copies during the two year run.

Name three of your influences and how they affected your work.

As far as writing, Hubert Selby is my biggest influence. It was through him I learned that if it doesn’t make you cringe, it probably isn’t worth writing about. And to always love the people you write about, no matter how despicable they may be. When it comes to publishing, my first influence was Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights. Once I discovered the world of zines, I was blown away by the immense diversity and quality, which motivated me to make my stuff look as cool as possible. To keep up and hold my own. Of course, this was back in the alt.zines days, where people were less afraid to tell you what they thought of your stuff. Still, there is so much inspiration in the zine world and small press community. I really respect folks like Fred Argoff and Aaron Cometbus who continue to put out zines year after year. V. Vale is a legend who’s still at it. Maximum Rocknroll too. Fred Woodworth is up to, what, issue 120 of The Match? The proponents of atavistic printing technology, the kooky mail artists, even some of the indie book publishers who shell out the big bucks are all so inspiring. To me, the papernet is most interesting when the lines between traditional publishing and DIY culture intersect.

What do you do when you’re not creating and how does it help or harm what you do artistically?

Like Ramo the graffiti artist said to Kenny the DJ in the movie Beat Street, “These things we do, they’re EVERYTHING!” when I’m not creating, that is, when I’m forced to do things to pay the bills that prevent me from creating, life sucks. It’s not just harmful, it’s soul-crushing! But unavoidable, right? Especially since zine making is such a lousy way to make a buck.

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Behind the Wheel 2: Notes from an Uber/Lyft

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From the trenches of San Francisco’s sharing economy: another rideshare confessional

Behind the Wheel 2 includes more insight into the day-to-day travails of a rideshare driver in San Francisco, more stories about driving drunks, switching from Lyft to Uber, a visit to Uber HQ, self-entitled douchebags, talk of gentrification and displacement, the tech boom, public debauchery, emotional breakdowns, police activity and the constant threat of pukers.

Table of Contents:
Emperor Caveat
To Uber or Not to Uber
A Day in the Life of a Rideshare Driver
The Wrong Bush and Mason
Gun on the Street
Infinite Douchebaggery
The Polk Gulch Vortex
Another Wasted Night
The Leather Man

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The Cult of Lyft: Inside the Pacific Driver Lounge

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Originally posted on Behind the Wheel: A Rideshare Confessional

Lyft sees itself differently from other car services because the passenger rides up front. Like a friend. Drivers are supposed to greet passengers with a fist bump. Like they would, conceivably, with a friend. Drivers play music and engage the passenger in conversation. Since that’s what friends do.

I knew this much from taking Lyft cars in the past. But when I signed up to be a driver, I was enrolled in a Facebook group for Lyft drivers called the Pacific Driver Lounge. It was in the Lounge that I learned there was more to the Lyft Experience than just pink mustaches and fist bumps. Lyft wants to cultivate a community between drivers and passengers. But only the drivers seem to be interested in participating in that community, creating what’s best described as the Cult of Lyft.

In the Lounge, the faithful worship the pink mustache. They post selfies with their mustaches and even travel with small versions called cuddlestaches, which they photograph in distant lands. They wax poetic about the difference they’re making in the world by driving for Lyft. Many drivers post screen grabs of their daily and weekly summaries, showing off how much money they earned, highlighting long drives with Prime Time tips added (“Score!”) and favorable comments from passengers. All of which are followed by hashtags like #fistbumps or #lyftlove.

There are numerous pictures of tricked-out cars. Since Lyft encourages a quirky and fun vibe, many drivers come up with themes for their cars. One guy put a mirror ball in his car and became the DiscoLyft. Another put a karaoke machine in his car and decked out the ceiling with Christmas lights. This is the Caraoke. Then there’s the RocknRollLyft, where the driver has a guitar and portable amp in the back for passengers to shred on. Or the BatmanLyft. The PirateLyft. The ReptileLyft. The MomLyft. There’s the GameLyft, where the driver has an iPad for his passengers to play Flappy Bird while en route to their destination. While it may not be officially called the PornoLyft, I have heard of a driver who keeps Hustlers and Playboys in the back seat of his car. Maybe one day there will be a StipLyft, where the driver has to remove a piece of clothing each time he takes a wrong turn.

Drivers go this extra mile, at their own expense, for higher ratings, but also to have fun and be part of the Lyft community. This is what differentiates Lyft from other rideshare services. Community.

In the Lounge, Uber is referred to as “the dark side.”

Cabbies are the enemy.

The state legislature is comprised of a bunch of bullies out to take away our fun.

The worst thing you could do in the Lounge is malign the Lyft brand. You will soon be facing a cyber lynch mob.

Like all internet forums, the Driver Lounge is a cesspool of glad-handers, gossip hounds, chicken-littles and a chorus of kool-aid drinking cheerleaders; clueless consumers lapping up a marketing ploy and defending their faith to the bitter end. A handful of participants do 75 percent of the talking. They maintain the party line and make sure it’s all Lyft, all the time. Some of these regular posters are not full-time drivers. They do Lyft to supplement day jobs. So they have the time to waste posting and commenting and making sure the reputation of Lyft is preserved.

While other drivers occasionally use the Lounge to complain about Lyft policies, problems with the app and difficult passengers, more than half of the posts and subsequent comments glorify Lyft and all the wonderful things it stands for.

Since the Lounge is an official Lyft group, Lyft controls it. But it’s mostly self-governed. There are moderators or “mentors” from Lyft HQ who patrol the discussions. Posts get deleted if they aren’t up to snuff. People get banned for posting inappropriate or non-Lyft related items. (Anything to do with Uber is generally verboten.)

Sometimes discussions get heated and everyone gets upset. People start blocking each other. Discussions can get downright nasty.

This is all highly entertaining to me.

Over the past few months, I’ve become obsessed with the Lounge. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I check for new posts daily. I’m not proud of it. But I’m not ashamed either. My fascination with the online chatter of other drivers is akin to some folks’ dedication to reality television. We all like to watch people behave without self-awareness.

The Lounge is my Honey Boo Boo.

I have gained some useful information about the driving process by lurking in the group. It’s a good place to check the pulse of the city when I’m on the fence about driving into the city from Oakland to Lyft. Plus, there are so many confusing aspects to being a Lyft driver. The Lyft FAQ can be atrociously vague at times. In the Lounge, however, when these nebulous topics are discussed, you can easily get a consensus or find a few kindred drivers who share your opinion on the matter. Like whether or not it’s a requirement to display the mustache, the legality of accepting cash tips, traffic laws and the never-ending speculation on the insurance question, which is still up in the air.

My favorite posts in the Lounge are the ones where drivers complain about passengers cussing, being drunk, having dogs, smelling like pot or slamming doors. Some drivers even suggest kicking out passengers they don’t like. I always want to point out that in their blind hatred towards cabbies, they are missing the point of creating an alternative form of transportation. If many of these gung-ho drivers actually listened to why passengers prefer Lyft and Uber, they’d know it’s because cabbies are assholes. But watching these taxi-hating Lyfters slowly morph into cabbies themselves, it only makes sense that after driving people around for a while, cabbies would have figured out how to deal with passengers. It’s not easy. Every request you accept is a roll of the dice. You never know who’s going to get in your car. But hey, trying to appreciate the struggles of the other team requires more self-awareness than you can expect from the faithful in the Lounge.

Another amusing subplot in the Lounge ensues when a driver is “off-boarded” and removed from the Lounge. Only active Lyft drivers can participate in the Lounge, so drivers who are involved in accidents or altercations are deactivated from the Lyft system and thus removed from the Lounge. This is especially problematic because the most important thing any driver wants to know is what happens after an accident. That is, what happens with our insurance? What is covered and what isn’t? Do we pay a deductible? Will our insurance company drop us when they find out we’ve been ridesharing? Since a regular car insurance policy does not cover commercial activity, we are technically uninsured while driving for Lyft. Lyft supposedly carries a million dollar policy when we have a passenger in the car, but we rarely get any further details of how that coverage plays out after an accident.

Lyft assures us they will take car of everything, as long as the collision is not our fault. But without first hand knowledge, how are we supposed to be certain? While the Lyft faithful may dominate the discourse, when the shit hits the fan, the doubters emerge from the shadows and all hell breaks loose.

Not knowing all the facts leads to a lot of conjecture. Which is ironic because the official word from HQ is that drivers are removed from the lounge to prevent rumors and speculation. Don’t they understand it’s human nature to want to know the entire story and fill any holes with make-believe?

All it takes for one of the Lyft cheerleaders in the Lounge to have an accident, get deactivated and disappear for the rest of the flock to start asking questions. And maybe slowly realize they are taking too much a risk for a company that is only interested in making money.

Like the mustache, the Lounge is another great Lyft marketing scheme: placate your workers by convincing them they are part of a team so that whatever benefits Lyft, benefits them as well because they are all on the same team.

Rah! Rah! Rah!

You have to wonder if Lyft really has it in them to succeed in the rideshare racket. With all this emphasis on being friendly and fun, they seem to be missing the most obvious component of transportation.

Based on the responses of passengers I’ve talked to, your average Lyft user is not looking for some quirky experience. They just want to get to their destination, quickly and safely. Perhaps with some decent tunes playing. Maybe a friendly person to chat with along the way. If they’re in the mood. Otherwise, they’d prefer to not deal with a chatty driver. Or one who talks on the phone during the whole ride, for that matter — cabbies, I’m talking to you.

More than anything else, though, people just want to be able to request a car, have it show up in a timely fashion and not have to deal with a cash transaction. This excludes most taxi companies, or at least the cabbies who frequently tell passengers their credit card machines are broken.

It’s that simple. This is all you have to provide to succeed as a rideshare company. Get people where they want to go without bringing cash into the equation.

Uber, who doesn’t have a social media forum for their drivers, has figured that much out. If only they knew how to placate their own drivers, who are known to protest outside Uber HQ.

Providing a community for drivers is great. The Lyft Pacific Driver Lounge makes a lot of drivers feel special and appreciated. That’s cool. Let them show their team spirit, make friends with each other and proselytize for the Cult of Lyft all they want. Just leave the passengers out of it.

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Read more about the experiences of a rideshare driver in SF: Behind the Wheel: A Rideshare Confessional

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Your Uber Driver Hates You

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Originally posted on Behind the Wheel: A Rideshare Confessional

YOUR UBER DRIVER HATES YOU… But Your Lyft Driver Thinks You’re The Bee’s Knees (Unless You Act Like You’re in An Uber – Then They Hate You Too)

Where would the sharing economy be without trust? Nobody in their right mind would give a complete stranger the key to their apartment or get into a random person’s car if they didn’t have faith in the safeguards enforced by the companies that function as intermediaries. Airbnb, Uber, TaskRabbit and other peer-to-peer platforms use Facebook accounts and/or cell phone numbers to authenticate the identities of their users, but miscreants can always find a way around those barriers. Rideshare services rely on background checks and driving records, which aren’t foolproof either. Then there’s the feedback system that’s supposed to ensure a quality experience for both parties, though it’s just as easily skewed.

In theory, the rating system used by Uber and Lyft allows riders to anonymously inform future passengers what to expect from their driver. As a driver, unless you’ve only given one ride that day, you never know which passengers rate you what. Like internet comments, this anonymity gives riders complete freedom to rate and comment without fear of reprisal. And they take full advantage of this liberty, which is reflected in most drivers’ low ratings. It’s almost impossible for a driver to have a 5 star rating for more than a day or two, unless they are in line to be sainted by Jesus Christ himself.

The rating system is supposed to convey trust, but an unintended side effect seems to be taking hold. Uber and Lyft drivers are using the same rating system to secretly warn other drivers about problematic riders. And they are just as unforgiving as their passengers.

Surprise, surprise

As a passenger, you know your driver’s rating. It pops up when they accept your ride request along with their picture and car details. But you never see your own rating. If you did, you might be surprised to discover how the people who drive you around town actually feel about you. While Lyft drivers tend to get along well with their passengers, Uber drivers, for the most part, think their riders are assholes.

A Rideshare to Perdition

lyft_ratingUber and Lyft distinguish themselves by how passengers interact with their drivers. Lyft’s “friend with a car” vibe encourages passengers to sit up front and chat with the driver during the ride. Uber, on the other hand, wants their passengers to feel like they have a personal driver, so they sit in the back and rarely say much besides hello and their destination. Who converses with their servants anyway? Would you chat with your server at a restaurant? Of course not!

Many rideshare customers, especially in San Francisco, use both platforms depending on price surging, availability or what kind of experience they’re in the mood for. I’ve had numerous passengers tell me that when they’re going to work, or in work mode, they take Uber so they don’t have to deal with any annoying conversations. But on the weekends, or if they’re going out, they take Lyft because it’s more fun.

Price wars are also a factor.

As a driver for both Uber and Lyft, you can easily tell which passengers use Lyft regularly and which passengers prefer Uber. And not just by where they sit or whether they talk to you, but through their ratings.

lyft_rating2Most Lyft users have 5 stars with the occasional 4.9. Those with a 4.8 rating are generally the ones who sit in back and stare at their phones. These are your Uber passengers, reluctantly slumming it with Lyft. They get in your car and immediately say, “I’m not going to do the fist bump, so don’t try it.” They express contempt for the pink mustache and seem relieved I don’t have one. They make it clear that they are only using Lyft out of necessity. I find this attitude amusing, though based on their rating, Lyft drivers have no doubt rated them low in the past for not playing along with the Lyft modus operandi.

Since the main difference between the Uber and Lyft experience is the talking, and the passengers with less than 5 stars on Lyft tend to be incommunicado during the ride, it’s not much a stretch to conclude that drivers hate being treated like a “personal driver” and they rate passengers lower for being unsocial. Regardless of which platform they are on.

Now, you might be thinking, aren’t Uber drivers supposed to just get you where you’re going and keep their trap shut?

Sure, but they’re still humans with feelings. So while you sit in the back seat, browsing Facebook to keep you distracted, your driver is seething with animosity at your entitled and unfriendly attitude. The only recourse he or she has is to use the feedback system to rate you accordingly, and that’s a 4 at best.

Very few Uber passengers have 5 stars. In fact, the percentages are completely reversed with Uber. From what I’ve seen so far, 95 percent of Uber passengers have 4.9 or lower. Those users with 5 stars have all started conversations with me, which makes it clear how they got their elusive 5 stars. In fact, after carting around a bunch of people for Uber who barely say hello and thanks, getting a talkative passenger is like finding a fellow countryman in a foreign land.

Face it, Uber users, when it comes to being a passenger, you suck!

Rideshare Drivers are People Too

lyft_summary_sampleRecently, somebody figured out how to hack the Uber site to get passenger ratings. Twitter lit up with people posting the link and their ratings. Only a few had 5 stars. Some thought it was funny how low their ratings were, though most were chagrined by what they found.

Uber quickly put the kibosh on the leak, but I couldn’t help but wonder if that brief window into the reality of passenger ratings might finally alert passengers that they’re not immune to criticism just because they take advantage of a frictionless payment system.

Bidirectional ratings are just that: they go both ways.

Nobody likes negative ratings. Drivers complain about their ratings all the time. It’s not easy making people happy. Even when a ride has gone perfectly, there is never a guarantee that the passenger will be satisfied.

While I always rate passengers 5 stars, even when I’ve had to deal with some real stinkers, my passengers haven’t been as generous with me. After six months of driving for Lyft, my rating is a paltry 4.85. My Uber rating is better: 4.93. But I’ve only been driving for Uber regularly a few weeks. I’m sure it’ll sink lower as I deal with more passengers.

Like other drivers, I’m always shocked when my rating goes down. Lyft considers a 4.8 rating “awesome,” but it still hurts to think that I’ve failed to do my simple task of driving a car, something I’ve been doing in cities across the country going on twenty-five years now. When I get my weekly summaries from Uber and Lyft, I wrack my brain thinking of how I might have messed up or disappointed the passengers who rated me lower than 5 stars. It usually happens after a good night too. Nobody ever gives any indication they are dissatisfied with my driving. Which is why I’m convinced the passengers who converse with me must think I’m some kind of freak for talking about art, literature, architecture, geography, the history of San Francisco and the way the city spreads out across the sky from the top of Potrero Hill. And they hate my music: that dreadful rock and roll nobody listens to anymore.

For every person who finds me entertaining or interesting or feels a kindred spirit with me, there are those who rate me less on my ability to get them from point A to point B and more on an inscrutable formula that only makes sense to them. And while I can usually navigate the city from memory, avoiding traffic jams and unpleasant streets, and maintain a relatively intelligent conversation along the way, in the new San Francisco, that’s only worth three stars. Four at best.

The More You Know…

Maybe if passengers knew what their ratings were, they might want to protect them as much as drivers do. Perhaps it would make them a little less demanding as well. So I missed a turn. Big deal. So I went in a direction that had too many stop signs. Whatever. So I want to tell you how my cousin’s girlfriend has the same name as you when you’re in the middle of reading an email. Get over it! After all, it’s easy to be judgmental when you’re the one with the gavel. Flip that shit around and it’s not as much fun.

lyft_ratings3The recent Uber ratings leak also raises the question: why don’t rideshare companies show passengers their ratings in the app? Don’t they want passengers to improve?

The fact of the matter is Uber and Lyft don’t want customers to know their ratings because they mean nothing. The only real consequence is that some drivers won’t pick up passengers with low ratings. Otherwise, what’s the likelihood that a paying customer will be kicked off the platform for having a low rating? Not bloody likely!

The rating system is there to keep drivers in check. You drive with the constant fear that if your rating slips too low you’ll be deactivated. Thus, it’s no wonder drivers have begun using that same system to strike back at what they don’t like about their own experiences. Even if the passengers never find out.

So the next time you take an Uber or a Lyft, why not ask your driver what your rating is. You might just be surprised how big of an asshole you really are.

——–

(Please note: screen grabs of passenger profiles have been modified and do not represent actual passengers. Obviously. An even more obvious fact is that the opinions expressed herein are my own. I do not profess to speak for any other Lyft or Uber driver.)

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Read more about the experiences of a rideshare driver in SF: Behind the Wheel: A Rideshare Confessional

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Behind the Wheel: A Lyft Driver’s Log

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Piltdownlad #10 – Behind the Wheel: A Lyft Driver’s Log

From the trenches of San Francisco’s sharing economy:
A Lyft confessional.

Ride shotgun with me as I cruise through San Francisco’s latest Tech Boom and divulge the stories, conversations and opinions of the passengers I pick up along the way. 

Read excerpts herehere and here

You can also “like” the Facebook page.

An eBook version is available for Kindle and Nook.

The illustrated print copy with navigational maps is available online through the
Piltdownlad Etsy store

56 pages | staple bound | $5.00 postpaid

Available in San Francisco at:
Adobe Bookshop 24th Street, between Folsom and Shotwell, in the Mission
Alley Cat Books 24th Street, between Treat and Folsom, in the Mission
Bound Together Haight Street, between Masonic and Central
City Lights North Beach, at Columbus and Broadway
Dog Eared Books 20th and Valencia, in the Mission
Needles & Pens 1173 Valencia Street, in the Mission
Press 24th Street, between Folsom and Shotwell, in the Mission

In Chicago:
Quimby’s Bookstore 1854 W. North Ave

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SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLETS:

Twitter | Medium | Tumblr | Facebook | Blogspot

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SHUT UP & PUBLISH – The Phony Lid Manifesto

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For five years, before I went broke and half-insane, I was a small press publisher. I started out doing zines and then moved on to trade paperbacks. In true DIY spirit, I handled every aspect of the operation myself: the editing, the designing, the printing, the distribution and the marketing… It was all about becoming the media and my steadfast determination to take a crackpot idea as far as I possibly could, despite the lack of money or the fact that I had no business running a publishing company. 

For most of my career as a publisher, I did odd jobs to survive. For a while, I was homeless and distributed zines out of the trunk of my car. I scammed print jobs from copy shacks. I stole paper and rarely paid for office supplies. To promote my titles, I became an internet flamer and through my reckless harassment, drove one fellow publisher into the loony bin. I finagled. I lied. I browbeat. I was arrested while soliciting ads. I turned my friends against me. I pissed off writers for not publishing their work. I pissed off the writers I published for not presenting their work in a way they preferred. I was threatened with multiple lawsuits, investigated by the State Attorney General and taken to small claims court by a former partner.

And that’s just what I can remember. Most of the time I was in a thick haze of self-importance, fueled by cheap drugs and the effects of untold hours in a small, poorly ventilated room in a burned out garage staring at a computer monitor until my eyes bled.

From the beginning I cultivated notoriety over prestige. I entered the world of publishing guns a-blazing. I embraced infamy, ready to do anything to crawl out of the muck of obscurity. I never intended to create an innocuous rag that might impress somebody’s literary-inclined relatives. I wanted to make something that would get me in trouble.

All the while, I held onto the delusion that what I was doing was noble: I was promoting literature. Real literature. Not the crap that was getting published in the New Yorker or the elitist academic lit journals. The way I looked at it, real literature came out of the trenches of the workaday existence. Real literature was created by true outsiders, not just those who could afford MFA degrees. It came from those born to misfortune and raised in families torn asunder. It rose up from the lost, the mentally imbalanced, the rude motherfuckers everybody loved to hate, the victims, the sluts, the whores, the wallflowers, the creeps, the losers, the purveyors of vice, the drunks, the druggies, the acid casualties, the thieves, the conmen, the liars who make it up as they go along and the liars who have their reasons for lying. Real literature was messy. And if you wanted the grit, you took the grime.

Once I embraced the role of a publisher, it became my life. Publishing was all I thought about, all I talked about, and all I wanted to hear about. In my zeal to publish more and more titles, I assumed more responsibilities than I was capable of accomplishing. I took on projects that were impractical. I turned away those that would generate profit. I was a horrible businessman. Not that it mattered. The small increments of money that showed up in the post office box were never enough to keep me flush, much less print more titles. What I earned as a painter, a handyman, a line cook, a bookseller or any one of my jack trades barely kept me alive. Eventually, I became unemployable. I had my sights set for loftier goals than maximizing the minimum wage. I just kept pushing forward, against the will of the universe, filling a catalogue with titles and announcing future publications, cajoling and lying and making empty promises, always hoping for the best.

Phony Lid lasted five years, all by the skin of my teeth. But in the end, I admitted defeat. Not because I never made any money, achieved any real acclaim or got the recognition I felt like I deserved—sure, there were some accolades, but who cares about that? No, I failed because other people’s writing overshadowed the one story I needed to tell.

And that was the story of Phony Lid.

__________________________________

from Pamphleteria: The Rise and Fall of Phony Lid

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Piltdownlad #9 – Pamphleteria: The Rise and Fall of Phony Lid

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Piltdownlad #9 – Pamphleteria: 
The Rise and Fall of Phony Lid

Part One: Shut Up and Publish

For five years, before I went broke and half-insane, I was a small press publisher. I started out doing zines and then moved on to trade paperbacks. In true DIY spirit, I handled every aspect of the operation myself: the editing, the designing, the printing, the distribution and the marketing… It was all about becoming the media and my steadfast determination to take a crackpot idea as far as I possibly could, despite the lack of money or the fact that I had no business running a publishing company. 

The first part of a three part series, this is the story of how I started publishing my first zine, Vagabond, back at the turn of the century. I’d just acquired a computer and was ready to take over the world. Or course, life got in the way. So it’s also about dealing with failed relationships, having a fucked up family, working dead end jobs in Birmingham, Alabama, and the search for existential meaning. Or just something to take my mind off all the bullshit. Still, a work in progress.

half-size . 64 pp . perfect bound

trade or etsy

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The LA Zine Fest Reading

la_zine_fest_reading_posterI’ll be one of the readers at the official LA Zine Fest Reading this year. Click the image or here for more info.

 

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The Nasty Oh-Dear (Prologue to A Masque of Infamy)

This is the prologue to the novel A Masque of Infamy. It has also appeared in different form in the zine Piltdownlad #4. The artwork is by Walt Hall.

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The ladies called it the Jackson Home.

“Nobody will be able to find y’all there,” they said as we drove through the black part of town. “So you’ll be safe.”

The silver minivan pulled up to a run-down two-story house on a treeless street among dwellings of similar vintage. We stepped out of the air conditioning and the heat pushed against us like an unruly mob. The sun, directly above in a cloudless sky, beat down without restraint.

At the door, an elderly woman with kind eyes behind a sea of wrinkles greeted us.

“Boys, this is Mrs. Gertie,” said Clorise, the one who had done most of the talking so far.

Joey and I mumbled a feeble hello and followed the ladies up a staircase.

“This here’s the bedroom,” Mrs. Gertie said. “And over yonder, the bathroom.” She gestured at the obvious.

Joey and I walked into the bedroom but the ladies stopped short of the doorway.

“We’ll check on y’all in a few days,” Clorise announced. “So just sit tight and don’t make no trouble for Mrs. Gertie, y’hear?”

“Don’t worry, guys,” the other lady said. Her name was Sandra. She was young and, compared to Clorise, a glamor queen. In the van, I’d watched her apply mascara in the visor mirror and longed to go home with her and watch her put on makeup for the rest of my life. “Everything’s going to be alright. You’ll look after your brother, won’t you, Louis?”

I swore to do my best, though I would have promised her anything so she’d see me as a big man and not some stupid kid.

“Supper’s at seven,” Mrs. Gertie said. “You’ll hear me holler when it’s ready.”

Joey and I listened to their voices fade down the stairs. Clorise and Sandra thanked the old woman for taking us in on such short notice. Read more »

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