TALK TO THE FORT:
THE FORT SAINT DAVIDS INTERVIEWS
END OF SUMMER EDITION 2006, THE FORT TALKS WITH FSD CO-FOUNDER AND UNPUBLISHED (BUT NOT SALTY ABOUT IT) AUTHOR ERIK BADER
The Fort met with Mr. Bader on deck of his third floor apartment in Fishtown, USA. It was a really, really pretty summer day.
How’s it going, EB?
Not bad, Fort, not bad at all.
August already, summer’s winding down…
There’s two ways to take August. Take the beating, accept there’s only so many days in it, notice the slow death taking place in the burnt out grass, the withering vines, and stale summer air, get ready for changes and school and new apartment leases and whatever else September holds…or rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Pretend it’s not happening. Suffer the slings and arrows of heat or take arms against a sea of reality and go swimming.
That’s the magic of August. It’s the true location of the neverending summer. Just head to the beach, any beach will do, and get in the water. Notice something different? It’s warmer. Because the ocean takes all summer to warm up and it’s not until August that the warmth really kicks in. I was at the beach just the other day. The air was cooler than the water. It was cool, we stayed in the water. Stay in long enough, and September becomes Godot.
Your birthday is coming up.
Wow, tell me about it, my thirtieth birthday…
Who knows. See the end of this interview for more information. I never really did the big birthday bash thing. I try to some years but it never really works out. I’m excited though. Thirty. It’s just so wild. I feel younger than ever. I ride my bike around the city and I’m filled with a boundless sense of energy and discovery and I just marvel as the buildings go whizzing by in the cool summer evening and I’m like wow, wow. This is really happening. My life.
Sounds like summer treated you pretty good.
Not bad, not bad. I never have enough cash to do anything monumental but I get around. Me and my girl spent a lot of time in nature – Wissahickon Valley, Brandywine Valley, the towpath along the Schuylkill…plus some time at this house waaaaay the hell up in north-central PA, little town called Galeton…
Old logging town.
Yeah, total Twin Peaks. Big hills with ominous trees swaying with mystery and menace, logging trucks, and an actual bar called the Roadhouse.
Seriously. It was a nice time. We saw zillions of stars at night.
Stars are insane. Did you hear about Pluto?
Yeah, the big space conference, debating whether or not it’s considered a planet. Not only is Pluto now a planet, so is its moon.
And Planet X.
Not planet X. Xeres. Also there was this big frog pond and a zipline that came from the second floor deck. You grabbed the zipline, zipped down across the back lawn, and when you were wayyyy over the pond you just let go and woooooooshhhhhSPLASH you hit the water.
You probably didn’t do this because—
I did it once. I’m trying new things.
Who’s house was it?
Ryer’s family’s house.
One last thing on swimming that I think people often fail to consider: swimming underwater. It’s kind of the best. Yeah, you have to hold your breath – unless you own a snorkel, which I don’t – but after some practice you’d be surprised how much air your lungs can hold, and for how long. After all, we are all now much bigger than when we were children, so we have bigger lungs. Anyhow, underwater is just the best. The sounds! It sounds like nothing else. It’s literally another world under there. You can’t sign checks underwater. You can’t use an ATM card. You can’t talk and often you don’t really think much either. Underwater, though it doesn’t last for long because we can’t live that way, is something everyone should try at least once a summer. Highest recommendation.
So let’s talk about the Fanzine. What’s up with it?
I did a fanzine way back in 1994. They’re fun.
Why “Fan” zine. What are you fans of?
What’s the secret origin of this Fanzine?
Pretty simple, really. One night I ran into Joey Sweeney and –
Please. One night I ran into Joey Sweeney and I ask him if he’s seen The Crier yet – that’s a magazine started by Christine Smallwood, a peer of mine from the days of The Philadelphia Independent, and Doree Shafrir, my former editor at The Philadelphia Weekly…
You just plugged three publications in one sentence. Wanna throw Philebrity.com in there just for good measure?
You already did. Anyhow, Joey said he had seen it – I hadn’t yet, and I remember asking, “How does it look? Like really professional or a fanzine or what?” And he’s like, “It looks nice. But you know…wouldn’t it just have been really cool if it was a fanzine? Like homemade Kinkos style?” And that’s when it hit me that I could do that. Make a crappy looking fanzine. After all in this laptop era of easy design and cheap printing, who the hell goes through the trouble of making a crappy Xerox’d zine?
I don’t even think Xerox exists any more.
You know what I mean. Should I say ditto’d? That’s like an old office term, the ditto machine.
Right. So it’s a rebellion against the professionalism of your peers. The I-Dress-Like-Crap-But-Own-A-Two-Thousand-Dollar-Computer vibe of the iPod Generation?
I just found out that the PC in the Mac Vs. PC commercial is actually uber-hipster McSweeney’s NYC writer John Hodgeman.
Is that meta? The fact that the hipster in the commercial is just a model and an actual hipster plays the square? Or is it post-modern?
I think it’s just plain ironic.
But irony’s dead.
Then I don’t know.
Irony drives a Yaris.
So what else you been doing with yourself these days?
I’ve been watching lots of Youtube. The Internet is the ultimate mind-number – more than TV, I think, because I have so much control over it. Every video I can think to remember I’ve Youtubed up.
There’s an extended version of R.E.M.’s Nightswimming video that seriously made it hard for me to breath.
Must have been all the underwater imagery.
No seriously. Just watch it. It’ll either inspire you to the point where you change your whole life over or else it’ll ruin every single day of the rest of your summer. Also Estranged.
As in G’n’F’n’R?
Yeah. I couldn’t believe how well this thing has aged. What the fuck kind of popular music sounds like Estranged right now?
I disagree. Find this thing on Youtube and watch it. Everything about it is so bloated and big and over-the-top excessive. A ten minute song with a ten minute video with Hollywood production values. And MTV used to play it all the time! Plus part where Axl jumps off a boat, refuses to be rescued, sinks underwater, then grabs hold of a dolphin and rides it away, as the camera goes back abovewater to show Slash standing on the surface of a storm-drenched sea playing a guitar solo.
I always liked the part in November Rain where after Axl kisses the bride Slash walks out of the chapel by himself and in the middle of a lonely stretch of sand begins to play a dramatic guitar solo.
I’m looking for that on Youtube next.
But what takes the cake, as far as solos go, is the part in Don’t Cry where Slash is driving down Mulholland Drive with his girlfriend who’s screaming and bitching in his ear and he just kinda smiles, drives the car off the cliff, the camera now at the bottom of the cliff showing the car fall, crash, and burst into flames, then panning back up to the top of the cliff where out of the smoke we see a shirtless Slash, cigarette in mouth, playing a dramatic guitar solo.
It’s like, Slash is this kind of proto-mutant who lives off of cigarettes and whiskey instead of food, who can’t talk or even function outside of playing gigs, and who can only express himself by playing extremely long, melodic and often beautiful guitar solos.
The guitar solo in Novemember Rain holds the record for the longest guitar solo in a Top Ten hit ever.
I’m just remembering now, the image of Slash in the Patience video, where he’s lying on the bed fondling a snake. The scene is a kind of representation of elapsed time, as one super-model after another crawls into bed with this indifferent Slash, a Slash so preoccupied with fondling a snake – I’m assuming it’s like a boa – that he doesn’t even notice these beautiful women who are clearly trying to seduce him. This is the part of the music where Slash’s acoustic guitar solo is playing, thus solidifying our idea of Slash as a man for whom the melodic solo is perhaps not only his sole means of communication, but perhaps also the only thing he is interested in communicating with.
As if to say the snake represents the guitar, a long-necked thing to be caressed into playing expressive melodies. We’ll avoid obvious too-easy analogies and instead consider that his post-G’n’R band was called Slash’s Snake Pit.
And Axl. I’ve been trying to find a contemporary incarnation of Axl. He’s so clearly the fuck-up, the villain, the loser, and yet with that winning smile we just keep rooting for him. Pure rock’n’roll, going all the way back to Elvis, even James Dean.
Robert Johnson. Rimbaud.
Seriously. The guy can do nothing but wrong yet for some reason we can’t help but forgive him, over and over again. Name one dude like that today. Julian Cassablancas, Pete Doherty, we just look at these guys as losers and leave it at that. Spoiled rockstars. We’ll never feel for them the way we felt for Axl.
Talk about the particular voice you’re going for with this Fanzine.
The thing I hate about journalism his how you have to pretend you’re not human. Like if you’re writing about an author, you can’t admit you only read some of his books, you have to read them all and discuss them all and –
Erik, that’s just good journalism. When we read an article by a professional we want them to be professional. Would you rather read a blog?
I’m not making my point here.
And that point is?
The point is that I could be more concise and talk about things other than the Actual Life I’ve Been Living, I could talk about facts I had researched and be all accurate about shit and try to be Informative and Useful and Relevant and all that Standard Journalistic Stuff but I figured I’d just ramble along and be human and talk about my Fairly Average Human Life, which I think ultimately will be more endearing than reading the Average Omnipitent Journalese.
Thanks. Maybe next time we can do so in 150 words or less?
Lucky me, I’m the editor. So there.
There’s other reasons, for disseminating information this way, in this format. Yeah this is just a little crappy zine printed at Kinkos in a limited batch with zero distribution. But it actuates me. If I put this shit up on a blog it’s just another clump of images on your screen, one set out of billions. But this zine, well, it’s real, you’re holding it right now. You, the reader. Hi. I’m Erik. You’re reading my zine. Nice to meet you.
Hi reader. I’m Erik’s friend, the Fort.
It’s like, by putting myself in this Fanzine I’m putting myself somewhere, because the Fanzine has to go somewhere. When you put yourself in print you make multiples of yourself, portable versions, and in America – where products are everything – it validates you.
It validates you when you become a product.
Yeah, it’s both depressing and exhilarating. This Fanzine is like my cheap way of becoming a product, something tangible, purchasable, and portable. Hell, everyone should do a fanzine. Fuck a blog.
You can’t hold a blog.
Nor can you cut out the words on a page on a blog. To wit:
PLEASE TAKE A PAIR OF SCISSORS, CUT THE DOTTED LINE AROUND THESE WORDS AND TAPE THIS PIECE OF PAPER SOMEWHERE PROMINENT. BY DOING SO YOU HAVE VALIDATED ERIK BADER’S EXISTENCE AND PREVENTED HIM FROM BEING A NOTHING, BECAUSE BEING A PIECE OF PAPER THAT YOU INSTRUCTED SOMEONE TO CUT OUT FROM A FANZINE THAT YOU SELF-PUBLISHED IS ALWAYS, ALWAYS BETTER THAN NOTHING.
I’d cut that out now but I don’t have any scissors handy.
Take your time, this Fanzine isn’t going anywhere. There’s no server crashes to worry about. You can’t turn it off. It’s a real object. Cool.
So that’s it, huh?
Plus my mom can’t download it.
How is your mom doing these days anyhow?
She’s fine. She’s still in the same house at the bottom of the same street in Wilmington, Delaware. She’ll be 55 in October. My old man will be 55 in September. He’s still in the same house on the same street in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. I turn thirty then they both turn 55, one after the other. We’re all in the same places we were ten years ago. It gets that way, man, you think it won’t but it creeps up on you, it gets that way.
“And then one day you’ll find / ten years have got behind you…”
I was just at my mom’s house. Same house, same street it’s always been. Biggest change around there was the neighbors had to cut down that big old tree that hung in their backyard.
The ones where the squirrels would get way up in it and drop acorns on your head.
The very one. Well I’m up in my old room with my girlfriend. That little room where I grew up, that little room where I used to be just –this- tall. And she sees an old picture of me, really young, smiling my head off. And she’s like look how happy you were! And I’m like well I had a big Adventure of a life ahead of me, and I just couldn’t wait! And then it hits me, here I am in the old room and it’s been over a decade since I even slept in here and I spent more time in this bedroom than any bedroom in my entire life and I turned to my girlfriend and said kiss me. And she kissed me and then I told her the truth – that she was the first girl I ever kissed in that room in my entire life. But you know what? It wasn’t a big deal. Today, here on the deck in the sun doing this interview, it’s not a big deal. It’s just life. I mean that’s what I’m getting at. You’re a kid and you get all these big ideas and you’re prepared for this big Adventure and some people do it, they go on the Adventure, and others, well they just live it, live this life. My mom is from a small town called Millstone, New Jersey. It’s like the size of a small street. She went to the University of Delaware and started her Adventure, met my dad and they moved to Wilmington and they had me and got divorced four years later. Old man moved to Philly and my mom stayed in the same house that she’s in now. My dad’s from Brooklyn. He was once just like me, full of dreams and hopes and crazy ideas and all of that. And he went to college and met my mom and the rest is history. You got to meet this guy, my dad. He’s got dreams that are so old and buried that he can’t even tell you that he ever had any. I don’t even think he remembers that there was a time that he remembered anything at all. Does that mean that they never met anything? Was it wrong for him to be young once, to want things once? And is it wrong that he never got what he wanted, I mean really wanted? Man I don’t think so. I mean that’s what I’m talking about – I’m saying that it is all right that we used to want things and we didn’t get them and we moved on. It doesn’t mean we gave up. It doesn’t mean we grew up. It’s just life man. That’s all I am saying. It’s just life. And the only thing we can do is live it.
It just happens one day. You’re on that road and then that Turnpike exit becomes the entrance to a one-way street where the only way you keep moving forward is to just stand still, because the dead-end at the end is the end where you’re dead.
In conclusion, come out to my thirtieth birthday party. Tuesday, September 5th, 2006.
Where will you be?
Probably Johnny Brenda’s. Corner of Frankford and Girard.
I’ll buy you a drink.
And if the location changes?
Check our website: http://www.truejersey.com. That’s also the place where you can find out information on our second issue, which we hope to have out before the end of the year.
Well Erik, thanks for talking to the Fort. We’ll holler at you later.
Peace out, Fort.