Once upon a time I was cool.
OK, that’s a lie because I have never been cool.
I shrug off coolness like a really frilly shawl on a hot day.
I am just not made for cool.
So let’s just say a long, long time ago I did ‘zines with friends. This was after my stint doing a short lived magazine with a friend, this was local and way cooler. Even if I wasn’t cool, darn it, the ‘zine was pretty rad. It was called The Eyes of Bennie Bromstein and was my brainchild when I decided I missed doing ‘zines too much to not revisit that world. What’s a ‘zine, you ask? It’s short for ‘fanzine’, which were magazines made DIY on the cheap by fans that wanted to espouse their love of music, movies, comics, or whatever. Our little slice of weird was just stories, reviews, and ranting. We did it all and I printed it at the office I cleaned – ooooh, how dangerous! Well, I was going through my files looking for something and thought that this might be a fun time to dig into the old archives and post some of my old Bennie writing.
So here you go, some of the ranting from a guy that was younger than I am but just as angry.
Fair warning, there’s prolly cursing and the like.
This stuff is from our ‘comeback’ issue in 2011.
Ten years go by a lot faster than you think.
Or maybe a lot slower.
It has been ten years since the last, and I mean last, issue of The Eyes of Bennie Bromstein and the world has changed. When we started out doing Bennie we wrote on a computer, or a word processor, printed it out, cut and pasted images from magazines, and copied them at our night jobs. It was about as punk as any of the three of us were ever going to get and darn it, it was pretty punk. We started doing ‘zines back then because we were friends with something to say and nowhere to say it. We had done a magazine before, briefly, and I guess in a way we wanted to make work what hadn’t worked before. The magazine, called Ghoulash, was killed before it found itself and I know I wanted to prove we could make it work, so with Bennie we were able to put all of our talents and all of our passion into something that we could get out to friends and strangers alike. Bennie never really made it to many people but I can honestly say that I have never had more fun working on something with people, whatever it was.
We were friends, and it showed.
But what was The Eyes of Bennie Bromstein? Clearly most people won’t have any idea who on earth Bennie is and why we were so obsessed with his eyes. Well, ok, Bennie Bromstein is a nice enough fella but he has a lot on his mind, maybe too much, and so he needed an outlet for all the things that he thought about. Sadly, poor old Bennie is a little nuts so what comes out is a little weird, a lot opinionated, and more than a little crass. Bless his heart.
But what is this ‘zine you hold in your hands?
Consider this a look into the past. For over two years I and some friends had the great fortune to be able to put out a small magazine that were full of movie and music reviews, stories and poems, and loads and loads of our opinions. ‘Zines mean something different to each person, for some they capture the punk rock spirit many of us lose as we get older, for some ‘zines are a link to the world, a way to reach out and get your opinion or art out, for some it’s a way to get your chops in the publishing world, but for me ‘zines were about my friends, and spending time with them. Bennie was my way to spend more time with some amazing friends and was a way for all of us to work together on something. Too often friends talk about working together on projects and for us, this was a chance to live up to that talk.
All I can hope for you, dear friend, is that this flashback, this walk down memory lane, will mean something to you, will make you laugh, or scare you, or whatever it is you get out of this, I hope it is something. For me, I get to work with my friends again. It’s been too long, and I cherish this chance to walk down memory lane.
On with the show.
(which is not to say there will be clowns, though honestly, clowns might be fun. Though not as much fun as clowns on fire. Or clowns in a mass grave. That stuff is pretty funny. Still, there will be a show. Oh, but no popcorn. With the issues with butter and salt consumption there isn’t much reason to make corn for you kids, but maybe we have an old fruit cup around here. Though why you would want a fruit cup and not some popcorn I cannot say. That is your drama, kid, not mine. Hey, don’t get mad, just being honest. Now, off ya go.)
Catch and Release – Chris Ringler
It was late. It was late and the little girls should be home, home doing school work, or eating dinner, or watching television, or anything else but what they were in fact doing which was walking along the side of the road in the rain. It was well after seven, it was getting dark, and these girls shouldn’t be out here. Brian wiped the palms of his hands against his trousers and thumbed the wiper arm to clean off the windshield. He had been driving home from yet another long meeting that amounted to little more than people talking just to hear themselves talk and he was tired, far too tired to be messing around with this but they were girls, just girls, girls the same age his cousin had been when, when…but he pushed that out of his head and followed slowly behind them to make sure they got home. He knew what it would look like to someone if they drove by – that he was a creeper, that he was a creeper following little girls and following them with something dire in mind. But they wouldn’t know. They couldn’t know what it was like. They wouldn’t know what his aunt and uncle went through when Nattie disappeared, and what he went through afterward.
She had been so beautiful, Nattie, so pure, so sweet, and then, and then gone. Gone. Taken and left in the woods to be found weeks later. Abandoned, murdered, and burned and the killer never to be found. He could still hear the screaming cries of his aunt when the police had found the body. Could still remember the way his uncle, a man who had survived the Korean war as a POW, had one single tear slip down his cheek unnoticed. He remembered the stories he had heard around town that one of the local teens had been killing the animals in the area and the barber in town confided in Brian that he thought the teen had been up to more than just that. Brian had known the family of the boy, had met the sister once at a high school dance, and now, now, now…
Now there was this and there were the girls to think about.
After a mile he realized there were no houses down here and wondered how far from home they were and he felt he had no choice but to approach them. He would call their folks, that was it; he would drive up and ask them for their phone numbers and call their folks and ask them to come pick the girls up. Or, no, that was too far, too much in this world.
He would call the police.
Brian pulled his phone out and slowed the van and pulled over and parked, glancing up once to watch as the girls in their matching red slickers and matching red rain hats moved slowly away, hand in hand. He looked down at his phone and saw a spider on his leg and swatted at it. His phone slipped from his hand and fell as he brushed at his legs. He hated spiders. Absolutely hated them. The phone fell onto the seat and slid down and bounced on the wet floor of the van. He cursed and bent down to get the phone, wiping it on the leg of his slacks afterward, frustrated at himself and how scared he had gotten and how exhausted he was. He shook his head at himself, incredulous at what he was doing. Melanie was going to be furious with him coming home so late she…
He settled back in his seat., concentrating on the phone but just as he was dialing he happened to look up and let out a scream when he realized the two girls were standing at either side of his car, the blonde at the driver’s side window and the black haired girl at the passenger window. He dropped his phone again and his elbow hit the car horn, which belched loudly as the rain fell harder. His heart was racing, not as much from the shock as from what they must be thinking of him. He remembered Nattie and why he was here and his embarrassment turned to anger at himself. His hands were shaking and clumsy as he lowered both windows.
“Uh, anything I can help you with girls? Want me to call your folks? It’s pretty nasty out there, you shouldn’t be out this late, especially not in the rain.” There that was better. Better to say it all and get it out there to prove he wasn’t here to hurt them.
The girls stood silent and looked past Brian and at each other and their silence unnerved him. Why weren’t they saying anything? Were they deaf? Was that it?
“Mister, can, can you give us a ride home? We just live up the road a little ways. We were down at a friend’s house and we left later than we were supposed to and the rain started to get bad and, and, and we’re just down the road, please?” The blonde girl, smiling nervously and shaking from the cold.
“Please? Our dad is at work still and has the only car. My sister is sick and we just want to get home.”
This time it was the dark haired one that spoke and then shot her sister a look over Brian after she had finished. Suddenly the blonde coughed.
“Girls, I am not sure. That seems a bit dangerous to do something like that and you girls need to be careful who you trust out…”
He had been speaking to the blonde then and had taken his attention off her sister and suddenly his passenger door opened and he spun around to see a blur of red and black and then the back of his head exploded in darkness and everything blurred and he felt something hot and wet running down the back of his head, and then there was nothing, nothing at all.
Megan looked over at Emily and smiled and Emily returned the smile and opened the driver’s side door and pushed the man’s body over. Megan looked around and saw that the road was clear and got inside as her sister got in on the other side. That was the beauty of this road, after a family had been killed near the overpass that was back a few miles people stopped coming down this way as much, as much out of superstition as actual fear. It made this stretch perfect for adventures like this. The girls crawled over the man’s body and each took and arm and dragged him into the back of the van with them. When he was back with them they awkwardly pulled him up onto the bench seat. The girls let out a giggle and Emily pulled the wedding band from his finger and pocketed it as Megan checked to make sure he was still alive. Megan nodded to her sister and smiled again – He was still breathing but his breaths were shallow. He’d need a doctor, but not yet.
No, not yet.
Emily brushed the hair from the man’s eyes and kissed his forehead gently. He was a nice man to be so worried about them walking home in the rain. There didn’t seem to be many nice people left these days. Not many nice people left at all. No, not many. Emily smiled broadly and turned to look at her sister, who was pulling a long pair of shears from the pocket of her slicker. Megan pulled open the shears and Emily put the man’s left hand between the blades so that the pointer, middle, and ring finger were across the blade. Emily moved around so she was beside her sister and she put her hand over Megan’s and they both squeezed the shears shut. The pointer finger was sliced deeply and blood poured from it and then it snapped off and then the blade fell onto the middle and cut that one off, then the blade was on the last until all three lay in a growing pool of blood on the van’s floor. Once the fingers were removed Megan slid the shears back into her pocket again and smiled at Emily, who reached down and picked up the three fingers, pocketing the middle finger and holding closing her hand around the other two. The girls climbed back into the front of the van and Emily picked up the man’s phone and hit the button marked emergency and handed the phone to Megan. Megan cleared her throat and smiled at her sister.
“Uh, yes, I would like to report an accident. Yes. Out on Hunvers Road. It’s a van. Yes. Yes. Yes, it looks like you’ll need an ambulance. My name, uh, is uh…” Megan hangs up and breaks into giggles as her sister punches her in the arm.
The two girls climb out of the van and head into the woods, where they drop the phone and make their way home. When they are deep enough in the woods Emily drops the two fingers and then takes her sister’s hand and squeezes it. The rain started to pour and the two girls ran laughing through the woods as the sound of sirens chased them home.
Perserverance – Chris Ringler
If there is one thing that a writer (and any artist but I need to shrink the net here) needs to have, even more than talent, it is perseverance. You can gain talent, you can create drive, but without the willingness to keep at it against all odds then you are doomed right out of the gate. Perseverance is the heart of the writer, and without that heart you will never survive.
Unless you are remarkably talented (AND in the right place at the right time, AND have a compelling story, AND…), or very lucky you are going to need that drive to stick to things.
Inevitably you will run into rejection in any one of a hundred ways because that is the nature of this beast and you have to be able to put that rejection into perspective and move on. How many people do you think kick themselves because they were not the brave soul willing to take a chance on some new writer that became a huge best seller? In the end, if you are not willing to believe in yourself and your writing, and if you are not willing to be your own champion then you will never be more than another person that writes. And that is fine, it is fine to write, and to paint, and to do anything that makes you happy but if you want to take the next step then you have to push yourself to do it. I love writing, I love painting and all the rest and I love it all enough to want to share it. I don’t need to write stories out for me because they and dozens more are all in my head (though they are pretty nebulous until I write them out, to be honest) but I want to share my stories and art. Take out the money part of it for a moment – the world needs as much art as it can get. There is so much self involvement anymore that many times it is only through the arts that we are able to pull ourselves away from ourselves and can see the world through new eyes. Not that that makes it any easier to put yourself out there but it helps to know that what you are doing is important in some small way.
Looking back at it I find it amazing that for ten years I promoted one book and still stuck with it. I had a lot of doubt, and worry, and fear over those years but I never stopped working on promotion and on ways to promote the book. I still did conventions, I still made chapbooks, I still did what I could to keep promoting Back From Nothing because I believed in it and I believed in myself. It is funny that in threes years now I have released three books with another in the works. My perseverance and patience paid off and self publishing got more legit, better, and the world turned in a way that made it a viable way to get your work out there. Honestly, the consumer doesn’t care if a book or album or any art is self produced or released or published they just want something compelling. Something good. It is the industry and those within it that hate self publishing. And while I may not be with a publisher I still sell books, I still tell good stories, and I still believe in what I do. And in the end the stories will get out there. Even if I had to release my books solely electronically I would do it because they deserve to be out there. I spent ten years looking for a publisher and none bit on my work. And since they never told me anything concrete, simply sending me back my submission and a form letter, I never knew if it was my work, what I sent, or how I sent it. That is the heck of it – that if you don’t write your inquiry letter in a certain way then you may not get past the trash can. It is horrible. Even accepting that there are say, a thousand publishing houses for a hundred thousand writers that we that submit to them are so often treated so poorly is awful. Why do I want to spend hours researching a publisher, spend the money and time to send them my work and then all I will get back is a form letter. That is a joke.
That is why I turned to self publish.
I got tired of waiting.
Some will tell you that you have WAIT and EARN your publishing chops and you are told that you don’t deserve publication unless you have been writing for a certain amount of time and I am here to tell you that those are the sweet lies we believe gladly because we are told them so often. While I think you SHOULD try to get published on websites, in magazines, in books, and in anything you can but you shouldn’t sell your soul to a future you cannot see. You should go the mainstream route while you write, while you create your voice, but you should never settle for the mainstream or nothing because sometimes you have to make the path you want to be on. Sometimes you have no choice.
You have to persevere.
You have to believe.
You have to be willing to believe in your writing.
I would love to have an editor to go over my work, a solid paycheck waiting for me when I finish a book, and I would love to have the luxury of not having to sell AND promote my own work but that isn’t the reality of the situation and it is what it is. You move forward. You don’t look back scratching your head. You have to believe in what you are doing and go forward.
Here’s something I know as an absolute fact – I know and have met a lot of writers, all of them talented, and none of them were rich. Once you get past the need to get rich at writing the easier the rest gets. You can go at things however you want, however works for you, but in the end it all comes down to perseverance, the rest works itself out from there. If you can’t keep believing in yourself, however the path takes you, then you are screwed, plain and simple.
Nothing you love is easy. The easiest part is the writing, the rest is the work, and it’s the rest that you have to make yourself, and as hard as it is, it’s also the most rewarding when you can be there on the front lines when it works and that is where the perseverance pays off. And that is why you keep at it.
That is why I keep at it – to be there when it works, when people ‘get’ it. And it is that which will keep me writing and doing all the art stuff I do.
Giving Back – Chris Ringler
The road to where I am today has had more twists than I care to remember but maybe that is the nature of passion – to take you wherever it is that you will find it. When you stop following that passion, when you stop following your heart you lose sight of what it was you were doing in the first place, and why. I, like everyone that follows their passion long enough, hope to make some money doing what I love. Thinking I will make a living writing is asking a bit much because there are too many writers and not enough readers anymore. This is not to say though that I cannot some money and have some fun doing what I am doing. Along the way, as I did shows, and did events, and met more people following their passions I realized what a small part money plays in the whole thing. And like I said, you have to make some money if you are going to pursue your passion as more than just a past time. You have to because
1. you need to feel your work is valued, and sadly, money proves out that value and
2. you need to be able to support yourself and have the time, and comfort to make your art, whatever it is.
BUT…just as both those things are important, just as the money side is important it is far more important to give back. It is more important to foster other young artists, and to foster the community that will appreciate and support them. There is more money out there for the arts than we realize, and enough for everyone if we don’t all get greedy and are willing to step back and be artists that give more than we take. We need to be willing to do free shows, to post stories and images out there for people to see. We need to help others and give advice when people need it. We need to put together shows for people that shows them the talent around them. We need to foster the artistic spirit in everyone so that there are more opportunities and more interest. Art is around, always, be it in stories, music, paintings, photos, sculpture work, a hundred things, and we need to open people up to how much art is out there and how much we all need it. This is an era where arts spending is down so we need to do as many free shows as possible to bring people back to art. We need to learn that we don’t have to make money on everything. We need to create an atmosphere where arts are valued and important and the money will come.
So much can be done for so little. You can write a story on a place mat, you can paint on cardboard, you can take photos with a disposable camera, it is the heart behind it all that matters. Just as too often people try to do art shows and look at the costs – well ya need food, and drinks, and bands, and a fancy venue, and a cover charge, and, and, and…- and so much can be done for nothing. Ya know what you need for an art show? A venue and artists and patrons. That is it. The rest is all great but unnecessary. You need to get any venue that will have you, you need artists that are about the art and just want to show their stuff (READ: who are still hungry, as it were), and you need people to come see the art. You can get a boom box or computer for music unless you can find a band who wants to just do a show and is into the exposure more than the money. You can bring your own food or drink. Or not. The big thing is promo, and you have to put your back into it and be creative. You have to put that artistic mind to work because it is about giving back – the artists and to the community by creating an event that fosters the arts and promotes a sense of community. See, ya give back and people will start thinking of you for shows, and you will create partnerships and friendships by giving back that you had never dreamed of, and this will lead you forward. And it is always about moving forward.
It saddens me sometimes to see how much of art and art shows is about money. Money is a part of art but is not art itself. Passion and community are art, and the rest follows, and with that so does the money. I have done more with nothing but passion and the help of friends, lots and lots of friends, and that is what matters and what makes this all possible. Sometimes giving back is the best way to receive, and what better to receive than the passion you put out into the world? What better tribute to art is there than that?
Giving Back Is What We Do
Without you this little opus would not be possible. Ok, that’s a lie, we woulda done it anyway, but we appreciate you reading this just the same.
See, we don’t really need you, you’re just easier to use since you’re the most readily available. Thanks!
Honest though, we appreciate all the people who have come in and out of our lives and supported us and this silly little ‘zine. It has been a long, long time but we could not be here without the support of our friends, fam, loved ones, and one Charles Shaver, who re-lit the passion we had for this little fella Bennie.
We are, and always shall be.
Thank you, and good night!
- Spring , 2011