View from 2011 Chicago Zine Fest window, by Alex Wrekk.
After Pittsburgh I woke up early and headed back west towards Indianapolis, where I met my friend Yuri for dinner and a quick tour of the hip spots in town. I dropped off comics at two new stores, Luna Music and Comic Carnival, and then hit the road again. I had to drive all the way back to South Beloit that night to repack my stock of comics for Chicago Zine Fest the next day.
On the way back, all I could think of was how nice Pittsburgh seemed-- and how cheap! And then, when I came into Chicago on the Dan Ryan Thursday night, and saw that skyline spread out before me, all I could think is "This is my home... this is where I belong...", coupled with the thought "How could I ever afford to live here?"
So I kept driving, into the suburbs, and out of the suburbs, into the dark. Until I finally hit Exit 1, the South Beloit exit, and drove into town. Ugh. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm sure for a lot of people South Beloit is just fine. But at midnight on a Thursday night, it was grey, desolate, and uninviting.
Woke up the next day and began frantically packing up books for the show. Aaron Cometbus and Al Burian were giving a talk at Columbia College at 2, and I didn't want to miss a minute of that. In all my years of traveling and zine-making, I'd yet to have ever met Aaron, and I was looking forward to it.
Surprisingly, I made it all the way downtown for the talk ahead of schedule. The discussion was great, and Aaron had made up a new zine-publishing tract/manifesto that he handed out to anyone who asked a question. So I got in line. I had to have one of those.
Afterwards, I went out to dinner with Aaron Renier, Grace Tran, and Liz Prince, and wandered over to the Chicago McSweeney's location for a zinester (ugh, that word!)* reading I was participating in. Whoa. It was incredible. It made me realize why I am still completely devoted to the underground after all these years: beacuse it's full of amazingly talented people who live by their own rules. This was probably the best reading I've ever attended.
Zine Reading photos by Ramsey Beyer.
Afterwards I finally got to meet Aaron Cometbus. He and Al and I shot the breeze for a bit before adjourning to Quimby's for their "Zinester Karaoke."
Karaoke; photo by Alex Wrekk.
Photo by Ramsey Beyer.
By 11:45 or so I was getting tired, and the noise was too much for my ears, so I reluctantly slunk back out to my car and crawled inside. It was really cold, about 26º, but I blasted the heat for 10 or 20 minutes and was able to fall asleep for a bit. This is what I did all night, waking up every hour or so, freezing, and then blasting the heat till I was able to fall back asleep. Ha ha ha!
View from my motel room.**
Good morning, sunshine!
As soon as 8 AM rolled around, I drove over to Trader Joe's to buy some breakfast and warm up. Then, Zine Fest:
Above two photos by Ramsey Beyer.
As usual, the fest was great. It felt even more overwhelming to me than usual for some reason... so many great people and great things, and such a short time. I sat at my table the whole day with my old buddy Jake Austen, editor of the 20-years and running magazine Roctober, my favorite music mag of all time. It was great to be able to shoot the bull with Jake, and help him with his latest comic as the day went on.
Photo by Ramsey Beyer.
At 4 PM I had a panel with Liz Prince, moderated by Aaron Renier, about "Making a Living (and Surviving) as an Artist." Ha, well, I don't know how helpful we were, but the hour went by super-fast.
I emerged from the auditorium into the rapidly-breaking-down zinefest. If I felt confused and unsettled before, now I was really jumbled. I went back to the table, conducted a few last-minute transactions, and tried to make post-fest plans with people. But it was chaos and I didn't have anybody's phone numbers.
Tugboat Press' Greg "Clutch" Means and John P. wait for the elevator.
(This photo and the two below by Sarah Morean)
John P. with Anders Nilsen in front of the Thai place on Wabash, moments before the rumble. (They made me put on my $1.00 Wal-Mart sunglasses.)
L-R: Ed Choy Moorman, JP, Anders, Jake Austen, and Laura "I'll Fuck You Up" Park. This was moments before or after her and I got in a real-life knife fight out on the street. That's how hardcore we are.
Afterwards Jake, Anders, and I went out to dinner, then I hung out for awhile with Jake and his wife in their new house. Finally I said goodbye to the City of Big Shoulders, and drove off to my hermetic squalor in South Beloit. C'est la guerre, eh?
(True to form, a day later I caught a cold.)
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Special thanks to Max Traffic, Steve Willis, Bruce Chrislip; the Jakubowski family; Bill and Phyllis Boichel; Jim Rugg; and Yuri Duncan. Thanks as well to Ramsey Beyer, Alex Wrekk, and Sarah Morean for photos.
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*Before I make people feel weird or upset, just let me say that I realize there is probably no other, better word for us. I accept this. So, I am a ... zinester...
**Before I get inundated with emails from people saying, "Dude! You could have totally slept at my house, no problem!" let me remind you that I had no one's phone numbers on me, and that, also, I take a perverse pride in sleeping in my car while on tour sometimes.