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  • I went to Riverside last weekend to read a story at a DIY zine fest that some people I used to know run every year. I had burned my bridges with one of these people in particular a few years earlier, for what I consider appropriate reasons (maybe I’ll tell that story someday), but I decided, well, with the Budget Press, it was time for me to return to the zinesters of Riverside. I’d read and pass out some poetry and maybe get some orders for the next Budget Press. I got my friend Pat to read as well, and got a couple other friends to go as well, so I wouldn’t be alone. We were the oldest group of people in the room.

    I arrived a few minutes before I was to read, and I started to look at the display tables set up by the different zine publishers, and I ran into someone I hadn’t seem in ten years, much to my surprise, as she sat at her table making little zines. Then I realized, maybe because she told me, that she was a Cowbird writer - Amanda! I had read her stories, but I didn’t know that she was someone I knew! I gave her a big Cowbird hug. Now I know three Cowbird people personally, all from Riverside.

    I was the first person schedules to read, so at 1pm the hostess called me up, and I read this story. I started out slow, and there was some residual noise still in the room, but once I got to the real meat of the story, the drugs and the sex, I got in the groove and the room fell quiet except for the laughter and hoots. I think it went rather well.

    After the readers were finished, I returned to walking around to the displays and trading zines. I was looking through the handmade comics one young lady had drawn, and she said to me, unprovoked “I know I’m young and I haven’t lived yet but I want to get my stories down while their fresh in my head.” All the sudden I saw myself as an elder statesmen, with this youngster trying to justify herself to me. “I know once I get older I’ll be able to reflect on life…” and she trailed off, hoping that I would understand her, and perhaps forgive her? “Sure, with age you can reflect, you can place events in the context of your larger life, and see what was truly important and what wasn’t. But of course that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about your life now. In fact, I go back and look at stuff I wrote when I was in my early-20s all the time, and it tells me where I was at that time. Also, I go through the old stuff and rewrite or use in new things I’m writing. Everything is always changing and evolving.” She listened and shook her head as I slid into professor mode, a place where I was comfortable. I looked at one of her comics, about a crazy party she went to. “You see, this was obviously a very important party in your life that you needed to record right away!” She laughed pretty hard on that, so I bought her comic. The person I don’t talk to anymore at that point walked by me as she made her way out the door and put her hand out, I reached out and gave it a squeeze. And that was the extent of our interaction.

    The next day I had another event to go to for Budget Press in San Diego. A year ago, in my first attempt to meet some writer friends here San Diego, I submitted a story for a monthly writers’ showcase/reading that a local art non-profit puts on. Since I felt it fit the theme of the month, I sent in this story, and was accepted for the show by the outside reviewer who made the selections. About a week before the event, the there was a workshop where everyone would read their stories and get notes. I showed up and read the story, and everybody was rather freaked out. They all looked at me like I was a mad bastard, ready to flip out and yell at them and beat them all. One said “I’m a teacher, and I would do nothing ever like that!” I realized maybe that wasn’t the best story for a first impression. The whole night people were polite with me, but clearly uncomfortable.

    A couple days later, I was notified in a very short email – “I've been thinking a lot about your piece since the read-through and speaking with the selection committee, and we agree that it would be best to continue developing the work further before staging it this coming Thursday.” I was not surprised by that at all. Well, so much for making new friends!

    My point about this digression? The pizza party was co-sponsored by this non-profit, and I really have little desire to hang out with these people. But, one must do what one must do.

    Since the two friends I have in San Diego were either out of town or with a visitor, I pretty much begged Pat to come down to San Diego and go the pizza party with me, so I would have somebody with me as I hid in a corner and not talk to anybody. So with Pat and a couple quick drinks before I walked in and a few more at the event, I actually talked to few people, and handed out some Budget Press.

    There was only one person from the workshop at the party, and he was serving the beer. He recognized me right away, but I just order a beer, then went back a few minutes later and bought another one. By the third beer (I was feeling rather groovy by then) I said “I know you don’t I?” and he said yea and we shook hands, I gave him some Budget Press. In the end, I didn’t win the money, of course.

    I don’t think I actually got any orders for Budget Press out of all this, but I guess that wasn’t really the main reason for all this. It did get me out of the house, and around some people. I dealt, however little, with actual people. At the pizza party I did meet Grant from the NPR show Way with Words, which I love.

    Now there are two weeks left in my Kickstarter drive, and I’m about a third of the way there. I think I’ll go to Mexico for a few days.
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