The Digital Americana: Freedom Issue

Brandnew July issue of The Digital Americana is available for download (or outrageously priced print version) now.

It’s kind of awesome. I’ve got three pieces in there and a ton of photos, including the cover shot. Plus it’s 80 pages worth of articles, reviews, poetry, and fiction. So if you have an iPad or iPhone, go download it. The app is 99 cents, and each issue is $1.99, or cheaper by subscription: $5.99/6mth/6issue and $9.99/12mth/12iss. Both options include the current issue.

Excerpt from my 4th of July rooftop party review:

           The issue being that we’d been promised a runaway rager for the Fourth of July.

Everybody I spoke with who had been to this certain building’s historic Fourth parties had called them wild, indecent, and flush with liberty. A week before the date we went up to survey the intended rooftop. Obviously it was a beautiful view. The skyline washing over us like that waterfront wind off the East River, to which we could have spit if struck with the urge. It’s the sort of rooftop that’s coveted in the surrounding Williamsburg neighborhood, but there was a problem. Leaving only a thin remnant of once free space, there had been erected chainlink fences—padlocked party kennels intended for individual rental that shook our hopes for the mythical blowout we’d come to feel was entitled to us.

But this isn’t about a giant bummer. It just starts with one. This is about being woken up at all hours the night before by impatient patriots and errant pyros getting a head start on the fireworks. This is about grills and smokers being dragged through the early morning that will spill out delicious meat and veggies like Black and Decker cornucopias, and coolers whose icy bottoms won’t be seen until the hazy morning of National Hangover Day. This is about freedom and independence in Brooklyn, New York. It’s about us. We’re the new Americans.

“Honestly,” said Ian, a guy on a roof, “This is actually the first time I’ve thought about freedom and the Fourth of July.”

“Together,” I added for him, but he couldn’t have heard. By that hour the small group of people still attending the party on Rooftop #2 were in no position to be answering these questions.

“I mean, it looks like they’re still over there,” said Molly Wilson, “Like, begging us to come over, or inviting us over secretly.”

“Yeah,” said Katherine in a hushed wonder, “Probably.”

I followed their gaze over to Rooftop #1. An American flag was being waved in and out of its own silhouette by a man dressed as an American flag against a sunset which couldn’t have been more beautiful if we’d ordered it. As any true patriot knows, the American flag is the international sign for freedom. Regardless of the telepathic invitation that Molly was channeling, the time was nine pm, and there was no doubt in my mind that we should feel at perfect liberty to return to Rooftop #1 for the sundown festivities plainly in fullswing.

At four pm when we had journeyed from the far side of Williamsburg to S 3rd and Havemeyer, the sun had just dipped off on its slow bow to the parties to come. Our small clade kept to the shady side of the street—a big city phenomenon—weaving our way through hesher sidewalk BBQs and day drunk hipsters in full battle regalia; the asymmetrical freedom mullets, the half-racks and forties tucked under tattooed biceps, and the elegant interpretations of what an American flag would look like if it were a really welldressed twenty-something instead of just a sheet on a stick. Waldo could have stood shouting his whereabouts from a soapbox on Bedford ave and we’d all have just thought that he was in on the joke….



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Press for Skint Portland

As I mentioned a couple days ago we wrote an awesome book about how awesome your experience in Portland, OR, would be if you bought our book. Here’s a write up from The Portland Tribune, obviously the shining star of relevant Portland journalism:

Cheap Portland

‘Skint Portland’ helps travelers see the city on pinched pennies


The Portland Tribune, Jun 23, 2011

Posh day spas, boutique hotels and nationally recognized restaurants are among the things you won’t find in Skint Press’ guide to Portland.

“Skint Portland: For the Frugal Vagabond” is the first in a projected series of guidebooks for those who travel light in the wallet.

With a humorous tone, the guidebook explains the layout of the city – “the city of Portland is separated into five quadrants” – and explains where to eat, sleep and have fun on the cheap. Recommendations range from the practical to the slightly shocking  (the directions to Forest Park, for instance, are in the chapter on good places to spend the night).

Skint’s editor and publisher Mary Locke is a Portland resident whose own experiences as a frugal traveler inspired the book. Born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Locke left home to spend a year in Edinburg, Scotland. She then moved to Portland, and later spent a year in Australia, where a road trip formed the seed of the Skint idea (“skint” is British slang for having little money and few possessions.)

The 26-year-old attends Portland State, studying English with a minor in black studies. She was also able to take some classes in the school’s graduate-level book publishing program.

The underlying message of Skint Press is that you don’t have to rely on your two-weeks-paid to get out there and see the world. You can go cheaper and stay longer.

“I get asked that question all the time,” Locke says, “how do you save all this money to go to these places?”

She answers, “I don’t save up that money to begin with. And when I’m there, I find the cheapest way to do everything. Stretching the dollar, stretching your stay.”

In the end, she says, it can be a more rewarding experience: “If you value experience over consumption, it’s what your focus is when you travel. Like, if you’re trying to have really positive adventure experiences, versus going shopping at more high-end boutiques.

Promoting different Portland

While she hesitates to name an ideal reader, Locke says they’re more likely to be under 50, independent and inclined to adventure. When they do shop, they want to go to record stores, bookstores and thrift stores. They’re more interested in live music than historic markers, and they’re looking for the cheapest bar, not the one with the most innovative cocktails.

“When I was traveling with different guidebooks, that is always what I wished they had more of,” Locke says. “That’s what I saw was lacking.”

Because of that focus, “Skint Portland” might be of more use to resident Portlanders than a typical guidebook. For instance, did you know that the Cheerful Tortoise serves a $1.99 breakfast? Or that Umpqua Bank is basically a free Internet café, free coffee included?

Locke and four contributing writers combed the city, approaching it with bluntness, humor and an anti-yuppie attitude. Of 82nd Avenue the book says, “Don’t go here at night, or during the day.” Of the Pearl, “The only reason to go to the Pearl is to have your white privilege reflected back at you.”

It is possible that those concerned with Portland’s image will take issue with the book, or even feel that it attracts the wrong kind of tourist. This is a Portland where the Yamhill Pub takes precedence over Pioneer Courthouse Square, and the city’s growing tourist industry may not thrive if all the visitors eat at the St. Francis Soup Kitchen.

But Locke doesn’t see it that way.

“I would say that my book does promote Portland,” she says, “just different parts of it, a more adventuresome, inexpensive part of it.”

This is Locke’s first foray into travel writing. Her main interest is in publishing, and if things go well, she has plans for more Skint guides, starting with San Francisco and New York. Skint Press could conceivably branch out into other types of travel books, as well.

“Skint Portland” will be released on June 25 at a party at the Polish Library Assembly Hall, with music from DJ Joe Bear and snacks provided by Miss Delta – for free, of course.

Buy this thing. It will make your life better.

Pentales Video Dispatch

Videos from the Pentales reading last month are up on their Youtube channel. Because you’re getting this news from my personal website I’ll treat you to the video of me reading my travel piece The Good Days.

Have fun,