Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed

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I found Mami’s handbag on the couch in the back of Blue Lady. I like that bar more and more, though when I stopped in on Friday night, it wasn’t quite right. Bars are like that, and I’ve been wrong in the past to dismiss places–and people–after a single slight. Every bar has its right time and place, and Friday night simply wasn’t right for me there. Luxx was, though–color me surprised, considering all the hype–and the $10 cover charge proved a good investment. Friday night’s Sultanizatzia with DJ Gogol Hutz is a great mix of ethno beats without veering into the pedantic, NPR-style approach to World Music.

There was almost $40 in Mami’s wallet. I checked because one must always check a found wallet, just in case it’s holding a thousand bucks or a baggie of good drugs or something other than tattered receipts. But 30-plus dollars isn’t worth becoming a thief, so I called the number on her business card. When she came to retrieve it, she went to the bar, the bartender found me with the bag in the back, and after taking the bag, Mami disappeared. She just walked away.

She could have at least bought me a drink. But screw it. Let it slide. Score one for my much-damaged karma.

Blue Lady is a great place, something of a neighborhood reaction against the careful crafting of the bars closer to Williamsburg proper. I enjoy Union Pool and Pete’s Candy Store just fine, but sometimes you want to sit barside and drink with your own thoughts, free of the pressure to socialize. There’s a solid quality to Blue Lady, a local flavor without the scent of exclusion. On Sunday night, I sat in the back area and wrote, comforted by the clink of plastic poker chips coming from a nearby table. A friendly game between friends, no doubt, as innocent, and legal, as the dependable buyback the bartender throws at me every few rounds.

Last Thursday I spent a few hours there devouring pints of Brooklyn Lager and the latest issue of Fortean Times, the London-based paranormal journal of record. Not surprisingly, I don’t care much for the major glossies (though I do read them for pop-anthropological reasons). I’d rather read the fringe of indie mags and small-press books. Such is my pedigree and my heritage. I’d exchange the best year of post-1990 Rolling Stone for the worst back issue of Farm Pulp.

Give me people who write poorly but write with spirit. Keep the slick, inch-thick ad rags and their dollar-a-word freelancers. The independent have less to lose, and so have more to say.

Take Jest, for example, a Brooklyn-based humor magazine now on its third issue. At first glance, the 64-page comedy zine is a horrible little thing. Despite my obsessive-compulsive urge to pick up every free publication I come across, Jest almost stayed put in the windowsill of the L Cafe. I fought back the assumption that it would suck and grabbed it for the subway ride to work.

There are five good laughs in Jest, which is five more than I expected. Here they are: Joe’s two comics were funny; the first few lines of the MetroCard joke were funny; one of the pictures from the "Me and Huck" photo gag was funny; the gag Q&A with Mayor Bloomberg was funny.

(You’re free to disagree, of course. I have a terrible and stodgy sense of humor; I don’t find any "humor writing" to be funny. Take Neal Pollack, for example. What the hell was Henry thinking when he included that decidedly unfunny Pollack "self-interview" in the latest Chunklet? Pollack may have had his day–I think it was a Wednesday, sometime back in 1999–but if that boy doesn’t diversify but quick, he’ll be a footnote in no time.)

Everything else in the magazine is on par with high school skit comedy and forwarded email gags. The letters page is exactly what you’d expect, as are the fake what’s-hot list, the wacky advice column and the zany celebrity gossip page. The man on the street Q&A is staged with pigeons, an idea that must’ve been hilarious before the pipe was kicked.

Still, praise goes out to Jest for trying. The more publications that exist in this city, the better. Since coming back to the U.S. last month, I’ve been distressed by the state of indie publishing. It’s no surprise that most people now publish to the Web–little or no out-of-pocket cost, wider distribution, instant gratification–and it’s also no surprise that the quality of writing on the Web is very low. It’s not that I long for the good old days of copy-and-staple zine publishing. Longing for any presumed golden age is a sure sign of creative bankruptcy. I don’t think there should ever be an ANSWER Me! #5 or a revived Factsheet 5 or–god help us–anything produced by Darby Romeo ever, ever again.

There’s a sanctity to print. No matter what your Dreamweaving nerdboy friend tells you, it’s much easier to program a website than it is to produce a decent, digest-sized zine. With the writing as sight unseen, I’ll choose the hard copy over the website, every time. Even if the jokes miss most of the time, and the teenage editor hasn’t yet learned how to spellcheck.

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