It was ten years ago. Man has it been that long? It was ten years ago that my cousin Jeff and I sequestered our arrogant, disagreeable asses in a small, cluttered room with nothing more than an old Mac, a scanner, a couple fistfuls of blurry photographs, angry poems & crude drawings, and an overriding belief that we could accomplish world domination through cheap photocopied art. After weeks of sweating and butting heads and teaching ourselves how to scan images and layout pages (to be fair, I had some experience from my brief career as a student journalist) we emerged with what we were sure was a magnum opus of literary asskickery sure to revolutionize and galvanize the dying zine culture (anybody remember zines?)
(Little did we realize at the time, we were apparently already too late. Story of my life.)
We worked hard on our little baby, and with pride and trepidation, we released it into the world. The response was...underwhelming. Recognition, respect, legions of beautiful women throwing themselves at us, loins aflame; non of these worthy rewards for our artistic genius were dumped in our laps. But we were undeterred. We resolved that the next issue would be the one to put our names on the map. But life has a funny way of cockblocking your grandest schemes. In Jeff's case, some particularly nasty personal demons he had been trying over the previous few years to fight off once again reared their nasty little heads. In my case, a combination of being overworked yet almost always nearly broke, coupled with a general malaise and bad attitude toward life in general conspired to sabotage my higher aspirations. A year passed and the existence of a Womperjaw #2 was a highly questionable prospect.
In early 2001, my dad died. Heart-attack. He was 52 years old. It's not a huge leap to conclude that this was the result of a life spent battling his own demons that were not too dissimilar from the ones that were at the time robbing me of the services of my co-editor and would-be partner in world domination. I was also, for all intents and purposes, out of work for nearly six months. (George W. Hugefuckingworthlesssackofputridshit was President; and if anybody cares to remember, we were already at the start of a recession.) Needless to say, I was depressed, pissed, broke, lonely and very often, convinced I was dying (really, chain smoking, eating poorly and watching late-night reruns of ER on tv every night so soon after the unexpected death of a loved one would be enough to send almost anybody into a hypochondriacal tailspin). And then 9/11 happened. One of my first thoughts (beyond FUUUUUUUUCK!) was "Things are about to get real fucked up around here, what with the worst possible administration in power to respond to this situation." (Not to sound like a Truther, but I still think there are unanswered questions.)
It was all too much, I had to do something. I picked up my notebook and started writing and before long had enough material amassed and slated for two more isues of the zine. I decided I couldn't wait for the return of my prodigal co-editor, and began production on Womperjaw #2, which was to be a solo affair, released in October of 2001. It would prove to be my most widely read, not to mention most well-received, issue (even garnering praise, via email, from one of my heroes, who called it, among other things, an "intense read"). Building off the momentum of the previous issue, as well as my sustained rage at the state of the world around me, I rushed into production and within a few months brought forth unto the public Womperjaw #3 in the Spring of 2002 (this time featuring work from new like-minded collaborators, including two pieces from my estranged partner.) Reviews were once again favorable...from the few people who read it, as distribution was, well, not as widespread as one would hope (once again the ramifications of operating within a medium rapidly approaching obsolescence).
And that was it for Womperjaw, v.1.0. This wasn't a conscious decision, of course, but once again, life just got in the cockblocking way. At first, it was the continued hardship of under-employment, financial difficulties, multiple changes of residence; frustration, aggravation, privation, etc. Then somewhere along the line the tide slowly began to turn. The employment/financial situation started to stabilize, I met a wonderful woman who I wanted to spend most of my time with; I started trying to take better care of myself so I didn't feel like crap all of the time, etc. Things started happening which I had always, for one reason or another, sworn would never happen: my lady-friend and I bought a house and moved in together (SINNERS!); I started working enough hours at a real (union) job for my health insurance to kick in; my smart, beautiful, funny girlfriend became my smart, beautiful, funny wife; I got set up as foreman at work (a mixed blessing to be sure, on the one hand there's the 10% bump in pay and a heretofore unimagined degree of job security, on the other hand, a much higher degree of stress and preoccupation); and then, the ultimate thing I swore would never, ever happen...last year, I became a father to a beautiful baby girl, and, much to my surprise, I couldn't be happier about it.
Yes, to the casual observer, all the markers are there to paint me as one of the most horrible and ignominious things a person of my previously-espoused politically-radical punk-rockitude can be: SELLOUT! The house, the wife, the kid, the job that requires both skill and a high degree of responsibility, not just primary but SECONDARY health insurance, a truck that is paid off, being really damn close to debt-free (mortgage notwithstanding), even a goddamned white picket fence--hell, if the me of 10 years ago could see the me of today, HE would probably call me a sellout too. And sometimes, yeah, I wonder myself; especially when I realize it's been 8 years since the last issue of Womperjaw came out, that it's been at least that long as well since I stopped hitting the local open mic nights; that I just can't find the time lately to write, draw, paint, etc. like I used to. I'll have the occasional crisis of confidence where I wonder: am I done? Have I lost it? Have I sold out? But deep down, I know I haven't. My beliefs, my attitudes haven't changed; they've only grown more refined. I haven't done nothing with this "down time". I've read, I've studied, I've honed my knowledge and my philosophy, sharpened my insight and most importantly, though now I may be a happier person in my own life, I have nurtured and fed and stoked my rage at the bullshit I see in the world around me. And creatively, the ideas are still there, gestating, slowly, like an elephant baby, waiting for the right time. (What was it Bukowski said? "Somebody at one of these places [...] asked me: "What do you do? How do you write, create?" You don't, I told them. You don't try. That's very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It's like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it." Come to think of it, Bukowski, another hero, is a pretty good example, he went on a ten-year-drunk and didn't even write his first novel until he was almost 50).
But everybody has to get back on the horse sometime. So here it is: consider this my foot in the stirrup. A new venture for a new decade. The rebirth of Womperjaw. V.2.0. In (cyber) SPACE! I don't know yet what will become of this new undertaking, my vision for this new Womperjaw has not yet fully gelled. Will it be primarily political rants? Pretentious art? Bad poetry? A compendium of celebrity nipple slips? Only time will tell. The only thing I can hope for at this point is that I am able to keep up with this and update on a reasonable and regular basis. And hopefully a person or two out there in the vast wilderness of these internets will stumble upon and enjoy my humble words from time to time.
"But wait!" You're probably saying, "you've left us hanging! There is still the loose thread of your former co-conspirator to tie up! What of Jeff, the previously-plagued co-creator of Womperjaw OG? Oh please tell us the end of his story is a happy one!" As much as I would like to tell you that, tragically, I cannot. Despite years of trying, and for a long while seemingly succeeding, to extricate himself from the clutches of the aforementioned personal demons (a long while that saw a now-much-treasured reunion of both our friendship and our creative collaboration), sadly, he did not ultimately triumph and passed away in late 2008 at the age of 30. I can't adequately express the immensity of the hole that his loss has left in not just my life, but the lives of everyone who knew him. His talent, his creativity and his passion completely dwarfed my own and it still (and will always) fill me with a profound sadness to think of what we could have accomplished together had he managed to beat his own dark side.
And so it is with Jeff in mind also that I launch this new venture into the blog-o-world. I considered at first the idea of a new name for this gig, one that would be a fresh start, artistically speaking, but in the end I decided to stick with the Womperjaw appellation, as a tribute to my fallen comrade and as a continuation, albeit in digital form, of the work we started together a decade ago.