Why I Live at the P.O.
by Solomon Philbrick
At nineteen I quit my job at the local theme park and took on night work as a paperboy after flunking out of junior college for the first time. It was perfect work for someone who preferred sleeping all day and cruising around late at night amped up on coffee and cigarettes to actually dealing with members of the public. I’m not very good at public relations and selling hamburgers to sunburned tourists for two years had aroused something even worse than typical teenage angst. I really, really hated my fellow human beings, and being too dumb to find a decent job where I could work alone, I got a job delivering the local newspaper.
I usually showed up to the warehouse around midnight to secure one of the ancient OSHA defying paper wrapping machines (and in the hopes that I could finish the job quickly,) but the paper’s press was some old thing that the owners had apparently bought from a Cold War era Yugoslavian garage sale, so six nights out of seven it broke down. Furthermore, the illegal immigrants who worked on the press were paid by the hour and so had no incentive to see timely production, so most of the early birds like me had a lot of waiting around to do. Luckily, there was an all-night indoor newsstand a few blocks away that sold magazines, cigarettes and porn and even had a smoking lounge, so while the press workers hit the machine with hammers and swore in Spanish there was somewhere to go.
It was there that I finally saw my first ever issue of the legendary L.A. zine Ben Is Dead. It was the strangest thing to see this magazine in my Podunk town. I had heard about it, seen it advertised on t-shirts and even heard it mentioned once on MTV, but this was the first time I had ever actually seen the thing in person. I grabbed the issue and went back to the warehouse to see what I had been missing. This particular issue was devoted to comics, which don’t particularly interest me, and the writing wasn’t always great, the design looked cheap, and the font was so small as to be barely legible, but damned if I didn’t read that thing from cover to cover. Many times. All one hundred-fifty pages of it. There was just something so weirdly beautiful about the whole thing, as if the people who produced it were so thoroughly obsessed with what they were doing that I couldn’t help being drawn into it.
Every week I went back to the newsstand to see if a new issue of BID was out, and every week I left with Angry Thoreauean or Carbon 14, because Ben Is Dead had no real publishing deadlines. It seems like they just published the damn issue whenever it was ready. In fact, it wasn’t until almost a year later that a new issue finally hit the newsstand, and I took it home only to find out that it was their last issue. Yes, it would be hyperbole to say that I was heartbroken, but the feeling was pretty close. Here was something awesome that had been around for ten years and I only caught the tail end of it.
Well, fast-forward to last summer when I ran across Faster Than the World one morning while surfing my daily blog rounds, and that old Ben Is Dead feeling hit me once again. The difference was that this time the authors were talking about stuff that I really did find interesting and they wrote well. I started hitting the site every morning and reading the archives like the compulsive loon that I am. I read the “submit” link a few times but was frankly too chickenshit to actually send anything in, since the content already beat the hell out of anything I thought I could add. Finally, during a particularly crazy week in the first quarter at school, I linked to FTtW and told my five or so readers to check it out instead of reading my blog. Thanks to some slight prodding from Michele, I overcame my shyness and now my drivel is up every week, only now it has more readers.
Anyway, to sum all this up, thanks guys. This has been a really cool experience and I’ve been thrilled since seeing my first post actually up on the site that I could be a part of it. Happy birthday, and may we see many more.