For one of our Q&A’s you posed a question about pre-digital communication. This question relates to your work, as you are the author and illustrator of the East Village Inky. What made you want to publish a magazine?
I needed a creative outlet after the birth of my first child put an end to my career in late-night, low-budget theater. I had been reading other peoples’ zines for about five years. But it took the removal of certain creative commitments, and the resultant boredom, to spur me to make one of my own.
How does Inky differ from other magazines?
It’s entirely handwritten and illustrated, and does not make a pretence of reflecting any viewpoint other than that of its single editor (and sole employee). It’s also very small, only slightly larger than a stack of 20 index cards, which makes it very easy to stash in a pocket, and forget about, thus doubling your joy when you rediscover it whilst waiting in an interminable line at the post office or the bank.
The magazine is handwritten, which is fantastic and gives it a very personal feel. Have you ever thought about going digital?
No way! When I first started, I was way less computer savvy, and fearful of wasting one of my baby’s precious naptimes trying to figure out how to do desktop publishing. Now it’s so much a part of the zine’s identity. Even if I wanted to, it would be too jarring of a switch. These days, it’s refreshing to leave the laptop at home when I leave the apartment to get some writing done.
You live in New York. What do you love most about this city?
Those bizarre events, sights and characters that cause people to shake their heads and chuckle: “Only in New York…”. Many of these are documented in the East Village Inky. Sometimes they’re engineered by a cultural institution, but my favorite kind are the ones caught on the fly.
How has the city changed over the years you’ve spent here?
The drug dealers and people with comparatively little money have been driven to the geographic fringes. This migration has drained certain parts of Manhattan of their appeal, but also created new areas of interest, thus broadening my knowledge of the outer boroughs! Also, there have been some inroads with regard to Mexican food.
You moved from the East Village to Brooklyn. What are the advantages of either neighborhood?
Brooklyn is hot stuff at the moment…it’s like the Portland, Oregon, of the East! It’s getting to be a little much! Artisan food trucks, punk marching band festivals, neo-burlesque…I love it all, but it’s an embarrassment of riches. Literally—we’re becoming a joke! Living in Brooklyn also amps up the impulse to explore Brooklyn. I love traveling to another country without leaving the borough. Sunset Park is Mexico and Vietnam; Brighton Beach is Russia; East Flatbush is the entirety of the Caribbean!
What is most important to you about your neighborhood? I.e. how do you choose where you live?
I look for a vibrant street life, people hanging out on their stoops, nearby bookstores and cafes, 24-hour bodegas, anything that suggests the availability of spontaneous community.
You are involved with the Secret City. Could you tell us a little bit about that project, please?
The Secret City is difficult to describe, but I’ll take a stab at it. Basically, it is an entirely secular, once-a-month spiritual practice for those who worship art (but don’t practice religion!). Each service features an art offering, a food offering, a story offering, a music offering, and so on, with plenty of built-in opportunities for silent reflection and direct human interaction. It’s run by donation, so no one is turned away due to the inability to come up with a ticket price. I grew up going to church and Sunday school, but never felt connected to it—never found peace, or inspiration, or the kind of community that keeps you coming back for more. The Secret City does that for me. Confused? Perhaps the website does a better job of describing it than I.
If you could change something about New York, what would it be and why?
The rents. They’re outrageous and getting more so. It narrows the options in all the ways one might expect.
Interview: Lia Pack