Dead to MeMy friend Andrea Hope e-mailed me from Japan because she had found a zine in Tower Records that mentioned me by name a few times. The zine is Marc Parker’s Azmacourt and the first mention was, “I am now ‘officially’ dead to Josh Saitz.” When I got the e-mail, I was surprised mostly because I can’t imagine that anyone reading Marc’s zine would give a shit that he was dead to me. I know it’s not nice to speak ill of the dead, but my feeling is, I never said I was nice, and if I didn’t like someone when they were alive, dying is not going to change how I feel.
As many of my long-time readers know, I often see the world in stark black and white. I am aware that there are gray areas, but to me, right is right, wrong is wrong, and dead is dead. Marc Parker is not the first person that did something stupid, selfish or short-sighted to end up being dead to me and I am sure he won’t be the last. The thing is, my sense of morality is not fluid or shifting. My loyalty doesn’t come easily and those few that have it take it very seriously, as they should. I don’t fully trust anyone but my wife, and I always tell her she is the most important person to me because she’s the only family that I chose. Ironically, I am writing this paragraph in a Starbucks because I am having a fight with her and I am too stubborn to apologize or go home. I don’t even like coffee or Starbucks, but there are few other public places in New York City where you can sit with a laptop for as long as you like and no one will chase you out or make you keep buying shit. Don’t ever let it be said that I am a liar because I am not. I tell my subjective truth, which is often validated by objective facts, but every truth is subjective. You may not see things the same way that I do, but to me, in order to be a liar, I would have to say or print something that I know is not true and I have never, and will never, do that because I have always felt that zine publishers and comedians are the only people with license to force people to confront ugly truths in a funny way and get away with it.
Imagine a young, chain-smoking Sharon Stone who is ovulating,
moody and not taking her medication. Now imagine you have
my hair. It could be worse. Hey, I got her with that hair,
so who’s laughing now?
Since I was a kid I have had friends who, for one reason or another (peer pressure, a desire to advance in the social order, stupidity), did something to me that they knew they shouldn’t have done. When I was in college I dated a girl named Adrienne who was a gorgeous bitch. She was probably a bitch first and gorgeous second, but the rules of grammar compel me to put it as I have. We had a stormy relationship with lots of passionate sex and passionate arguments. One of the main issues that I had with her was that she was a compulsive flirt. I recently learned that she was dating my friend Jonah when I met her and she left him for me, but at the time I really had no idea. It was like one day she just showed up in my suite. For the next two weeks, every single guy on the whole floor was dying to fuck her and for some crazy reason she wanted me because I completely ignored her. The more often she stayed, the more I got the feeling she wasn’t going to leave. Everyone was so fucking jealous of me but I think if anyone else had gotten her, I would’ve been just as jealous. I learned from that experience that being an asshole is unbelievably attractive to many women, just as being a gorgeous bitch makes men jump through hoops. I also heard that after college she got really fat, which doesn’t make me as happy as it once would have.
Her incessant flirting didn’t bother me as long as it was light-hearted and the people she was flirting with knew that I was her boyfriend. After a lot of discussion, we agreed to a simple rule: She couldn’t behave like a flirt unless I was there. That way, I could have some control of the situation—when it looked like it was getting too intense, I’d walk over and kiss her. I did it as a way for me to get over my jealousy because when you’re dating a gorgeous bitch, everyone wants a turn on your ride.
The thing that caused her premature death was that she fucked a skeevy wigger named Ben while on Christmas break. I don’t know if she planned on being his girlfriend but he was P.N.G.’d (made a Persona Non Grata, as it was officially called, or in other words, he was told to leave for good) from college a few months later for spraypainting his graffiti tag “Hoist” on school property. I found out about her betrayal not only from him, but also from all of his friends, and when I confronted her, she lamely tried to turn it around and tell me that I was still being jealous. I am not at all jealous of a retarded, inarticulate wigger who fucked my sloppy seconds just once. If anything, he should be jealous of me because I was never kicked out of school, I got to fuck the hell out of her for months and I got to make all my friends jealous because they all wanted her, too. When I found out that she had cheated on me and then had lied to cover it up, she was dead to me. It was a death in a very real sense because I went through all of the stages of coping with death. I got upset, I railed at the world, I pitied myself, I went through denial and anger, and finally, when I was done, I just accepted it. Adrienne died while I was in college. After that, whenever people would ask me about her, I would say that she was dead to me. There’s nothing to say about someone once they’re dead. She no longer existed in my head, and if I saw her at a party or in the dining hall, it was like seeing the ghost of someone I used to know.
Even though this whole concept may seem weird or alien to you, I have gotten much better at coping with death and loss since adopting this mindset. In the many years since Adrienne’s untimely demise, I’ve often tried to explain my thought process to others as a warning to people to not do as these people have done so they don’t end up dead, too. I always give plenty of warning to my friends before they die and I’ve had some friends who were on life-support for much longer than they should have been, but I was sometimes too sentimental to pull the plug and let them go. Being my friend is not like being in the mob—one shift of the wind and you get clipped in your garage. I offer everyone my sincere friendship, access to anything I have or know and loyalty to the end of the world. I also expect the same in return—anything less and I would feel like I was getting ripped off.
Since I started this zine I have had three very close friends disappoint me so profoundly that I had to write them off for good, but they are still very much alive to me. Adair was one of my closer friends when I was in college, but she always wanted to fuck me, and I would never let her. I did let her blow me once, but at the time I was dumb enough to think it would end her fascination rather than reinvigorate it and I learned that lesson the hard way. When my wife and I moved to New York in 1994, we both hung out with Adair on many occasions. At first Adair tried to break us up by telling me that my wife was too young for me or that she hadn’t had enough trauma in her life to truly understand me, which was absolute bullshit. Then she decided that since she couldn’t get me away from my wife, she would focus her energy on getting both of us into bed. My wife is like most guys when it comes to same-sex activities: She doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but she wants no part of it. Ecstasy lowered my inhibitions on a number of occasions, but even when I was the most fucked up I’d ever been in my life I knew better than to end up in a dark room with her.
A. always liked posing for pictures.
Here she is on campus at SUNY Purchase.
The first serious thing she did to cross the line was when she brought a wrapped box to my apartment and asked me to store it for her, despite the fact that her apartment was at least twice the size of my 350-square-foot studio. After she left, I found out that sealed inside the box was a gun that belonged to a drug dealer that we both knew named Dirt. Actually, his name was Jason, but he wanted to be called Dirt and when I wanted ecstasy, I bought into his name. As soon as she admitted what was in the box, I told her she had two weeks to come get it or I was going to throw it away. In my zine, I try to be as apolitical as possible but I hate guns and SUVs because they are two common ways people that are insecure about their manhood can compensate for their shortcomings, both literally and figuratively. She knew how I felt about guns and gave me a gun anyway. She was close to being dead to me until she came and picked up the gun. For some reason, she thought it would make me feel better if I knew that Dirt was in jail, but that only made it worse because I couldn’t help feeling that I was either part of a crime, or part of covering up a crime, so the gun had to go. After a while her relentless sexual come-ons became tiring. There’s only so many ways you can say no to a person before you get sick of saying it, and Adair couldn’t take the hint. After I moved to the City with my wife, Adair and I drifted apart. She didn’t want to come to the City and we didn’t want to take a train to her apartment in the suburbs and end up trapped there, so the friendship just fizzled.
If she called me today and said hello I would probably talk to her, though I doubt we have much in common anymore. She didn’t do anything to me or my wife that would have made her dead because to me the line was always that Adair could not make a sexual overture to my wife, or to me in front of my wife, and while rubbing our legs or trying to spoon us both at once might be considered a pass, I subconsciously decided that physical contact with either of our genitals would end Adair’s life and anything short of that would be tolerated.
My best friend turned into a junkie (see “My Best Friend is a Junkie!” in NegCap #1) while I was working on my first issue and it made me very sad. Since I wrote that story, many people have chastised me or told me that I was a shitty friend for abandoning the Junkie when he needed me most, but those people don’t know the whole story. The truth is that the Junkie and I were avid drug consumers the whole time we were friends. He introduced me to ecstasy and special K, and he bought drugs for me more times than I can count—and I often returned the favor. We always told ourselves that we weren’t drug addicts or even dependent on drugs for fun because we never needed the drugs, we just liked them. There were long stretches of time where we didn’t do drugs at all. I remember we went to Australia together for a few months and brought six hits of really good E with us. On the 14-hour flight he got nervous that we were going to get caught, so we took them all. When the TV screens on the plane said we’d crossed the equator we both immediately ran to the bathroom to see if the water really would go down the sink the other way. We annoyed the other passengers and had a ball tweaking out on a plane full of sleeping people. My point is, we both did a lot of drugs together, but the one thing we both had was complete and utter contempt for junkies.
First of all, heroin addicts, or piece-of-shit junkies, as I call them, make recreational drug users like me look bad. They make a lot of otherwise-rational people sincerely think that after you smoke one joint, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to raping grandmothers for their social security checks so you can get high again. We both had jobs and while we did get a lot of our drugs for free, we usually paid for drugs with our own hard-earned money. I am sure many of you are asking, “Who would give you free drugs?” Quite often it was the now-infamous Michael Alig, the party monster, who was always very generous to us because he was close friends with the Junkie. While I’m on the subject, the Junkie was one of the original Club Kids here in NYC but he didn’t have a stupid made-up name or dress like a fucking retard. He was in it for the free admission to clubs, free drink tickets and free drugs, and I enjoyed the ride with him as long as it lasted. If one guy hadn’t been murdered, it would all be fondly remembered as a time of glorious excess that would be impossible to recreate. As Bill Hicks, my hero, often said, “I had great times on drugs. Never hurt anyone, never robbed anyone, never lost a job, a car or a girlfriend. Sorry.”
The Junkie was from the same philosophical school I’m from. It’s pretty simple: No matter how fucked up your life, no matter how hard you’ve had it, you are responsible for your own actions, nothing more and nothing less. To us, drugs are supposed to be done recreationally if they’re done at all and by recreational I mean, “In the interests of fun, frivolity and enjoying life to the fullest.” Sitting in a dark bar by yourself slowly poisoning your liver while you grouse about politicians or sports is in no way recreational. Taking mushrooms and going out in a canoe is. Nobody gets hurt, nobody wants to hurt anybody. It’s just another way for us to explore our world and our selves and expand our consciousness. Even if that sounds like I’m some stupid fucking hippie, that’s what I sincerely believe.
I clearly remember once when the Junkie got us both on the guest list for a test screening of some new British indie film down in the East Village. On the way down he told me it was called Trainspotting and I asked him what the name meant because I’d never heard the term before. He said it was about loser junkies and “trainspotting” was British slang for when someone had track marks in their arm from shooting heroin. I believed him for a long time but it actually is just a really dull hobby that eccentric Brits have where they simply look out for trains. It’s just like it sounds. After the movie they handed out clipboards with a whole bunch of questions about what people thought about the movie. The consensus in the room was that no one could understand a foookin’ tin’ dat Begbie wuz sayin’. The consensus between me and the Junkie was that all junkies were stupid, selfish, self-destructive assholes who deserved to die. In the movie, the junkies rob tourists, deal drugs, let a baby die, humiliate their families and overdose regularly, all so they can sit in a dirty house and get so fucking high they can’t even talk. That’s not recreation—that’s fucking bullshit.
When my best friend met a homeless junkie hustler and decided to stop being my friend to help this other selfish, stupid loser by becoming a junkie himself, I was understandably upset. I tried to reason with him. I confronted him regularly about his problem and had some of his other friends intervene as well. After a while, instead of taking my heartfelt pleas seriously, he started lying and covering up his habit. He became unreliable in every sense of the word and when a guy that doesn’t have much money starts doing heroin, the first people to get victimized are the immediate family and trusting friends. There was no way in hell I would let my best friend fuck up his life, steal, lie, and then lose a job and the financial support of his father. But it wasn’t up to me, it was up to him and he chose to focus on his poor junkie hustler and he became a junkie himself, losing everything, including my friendship.
I ended the relationship in a series of ever-more-vicious e-mails because he actually had the nerve to come over to my apartment, shoot up in my bathroom and then act like nothing was wrong. At the time, I thought that there was nothing even potentially redeeming about the situation so I left him alone. In a way, I sort of hoped that my abandoning him in such a primal way might be the one thing that made him stop what he was doing and get help. Even after all he did to me and all the misery, heartache and tsuris [Yiddish for troubles and painful stress] he caused me, he still wasn’t dead to me. That’s where I’ve been going for the last few paragraphs—he really fucked up in a big way but I can and do forgive him and hope more than anything that he stopped doing heroin even though I couldn’t stop him. I couldn’t watch him destroy himself in such a pathetic, clichéd way. I loved him like a brother and I know in my heart that if the situation were reversed, he would not watch me destroy myself either. He was my best friend for a long time and he taught me a lot about me and a lot about life. There are times when I actually miss him and wonder what he’s doing.
A few months ago my wife and I were watching Real Sex on HBO. My favorite part of the show is the street interviews where they ask drunk New Yorkers very dirty questions and get very dirty answers. I love it when fat black women talk about eating ass or some old couple says they like to pee on each other. It’s hilarious! We were watching this episode and we saw these two fruity looking dudes on the street and one of them was talking about sex. The other guy started laughing and I immediately recognized the Junkie! My wife and I both agreed that he looked great, so I have to assume he’s off heroin now. He didn’t talk at all, his friend did all the talking, but I knew it was him just from the way he laughed. To be perfectly honest, the reason I never use his real name is that I don’t want to hurt him and if he came back into my life somehow, I would not want him to be embarrassed by my words, even though he absolutely deserves every goddamn thing I’ve said. I’m no monster—despite what you may have heard about my penis.
I recently had a dream where I was in my first apartment in Manhattan and the Junkie came over to hang out. He looked great and wanted to talk to me. He thanked me for having the courage to leave him because after I left, he hit rock bottom and decided to turn his life around. He said he’d been reading my zine and thought I was being a real dick about it [I am, but I am also right], but he understood. He said that I saved his life, in my dream, and it was so crystal clear when I woke up that I actually felt like I had been forgiven. When I told my wife about the dream, she said, “Do you think he died last night?” and I said, “I wouldn’t be surprised,” and that gave us both the pee chills.
When I was a freshman in college I met a few guys from Brooklyn who had been friends since they were kids. Chris, Morris, Jay and Dickstein were like the Jewish frat brothers I never had. All of them have fascinating stories that I’ll share as briefly as I can. Chris’s mother left his family very early in his life and his father always disliked him. His father re-married and his step-mother adored him. He was kicked out of a few colleges, including Purchase, and was my roommate in my first Manhattan apartment, until his cunt girlfriend convinced him to dump his friends and become a stupid, shallow yuppie. Well, he was always a shallow yuppie, but she made it worse and made him move to a sterile high-rise in Battery Park City. She was a rich bitch who married and then divorced Chris and actually took his money. I can’t even begin to describe what a fucking cunt this girl was, and I don’t use the word lightly or often. These days, Chris publishes many different Shecky’s guides to bars and he’s doing very well. There is no real Shecky, Chris has just always been associated with the name Shecky. I actually wrote more than a dozen reviews for the San Francisco edition of Shecky’s Bar Guide when I was broke as fuck but I don’t know if he ever published that edition.
Morris is the most Jewish guy I’ve ever purchased three pounds of marijuana from. His father was murdered in a robbery in the Bronx, and it breaks my heart every time I think about it because Mo is such a fantastic guy and I can only assume he was like his father. We used to play poker on a regular basis and every time we’d ask him to play he would say, almost like a reflex, “What’s tomorrow, Wednesday? I’ll have to check out the situation.”
Jay’s parents adopted him because they thought they couldn’t have children. A few years later, they got pregnant, and he has a younger brother he calls Headward. Last time I saw Headward he was a zitty little troll who collected gore magazines. Jay, on the other hand, is six feet tall, slim, Nordic and, according to A., the proud owner of the fattest dick she’d ever seen.
John Dickstein is the single most deranged person I’ve ever met and the person I’m often alluding to in very disturbing references. He said he’d write a story for this zine called, “The Only Good Job is a Blowjob,” but he never did. He did send me a lot of letters telling me about his work and life experiences and I have decided to publish them on page 58. No one else in the group will have anything to do with Dickstein anymore, but I find him fascinating because he really should’ve been killed or arrested by now.
Jay and Mo didn’t go to my college, they were just friends with Chris and Dickstein, who did go to my school, briefly. We became fast friends because we brought out the most destructive and anti-social impulses in each other. As tag-team terrors we grew bolder and more elaborate in our hijinks. We hung out so often that Jay decided he wanted to come to art school and be my roommate for my sophomore year. The only problem was that when Jay was fifteen someone told him that he didn’t legally have to be in school anymore and he got up and left. For good. Even though SUNY Purchase (or Camp Poor Choice, as we called it) is a small state art school, they do require high school diplomas for admission. Jay was supposed to take the GED in early spring so he signed up and said that he was studying. He had been accepted to Purchase pending his completion of the GED.
A few days before the exam he was at the Malibu nightclub (which I wrote about in a true story about the Junkie and everyone else here called “Doppelgänger,” which is only on my web site, if you’re interested) with mutual friends, Oliver, his girlfriend Sandra and some other Purchase people. In the crowd that night were casting agents from DA Pennebaker’s production company. They were there looking for ten hipster kids to go on tour with Depeche Mode for a documentary called 101. They picked Jay, Oliver and Sandra to go and a few days later Jay packed up all his stuff and hit the road. If you want to rent the movie, Jay is the guy who is showing the other people how to alter their driver’s licenses during the first screening process, the guy who rolls a joint on camera and says he’s not rolling a joint on camera, and the guy who makes fun of some heshers by saying that they like, “Bums N’ Poseurs” instead of Guns N’ Roses. Oliver has very pointy hair that he maintains with some glue and a special pillow and Sandra is the hottest girl who ever lived, so you can’t miss her. While the other high school dropouts were in Brooklyn taking the GED exam so they could go to college, Jay was smoking pot and doing coke with Dave Gahan, lead singer of Depeche Mode.
Naturally, I was disappointed that he wasn’t going to be my roommate, but I got over it because I would’ve gone with Depeche Mode, too. Over the years we remained very close friends. He was the one guy who could get me to come to some shitty bar at three in the morning to shoot pool and goof on people. He was one of the few people I’ve ever known who could consistently make me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe and had to reach for an inhaler. He is the only person that I would have bailed out of jail, sponsored in rehab or donated sperm for. I have thanked him in previous issues and in my first issue, I ran a picture he painted on the wall of my apartment of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble doing whippets. We had so many inside jokes that people must have thought we were the most unfunny assholes ever, but we were hilarious. I could do a whole issue of this zine full of Jay stories and maybe someday I will because someone besides me and Jay ought to know what was done in the name of fun.
When my wife and I moved in together in NYC in 1995, we were starting to mature little by little. We shared a small studio apartment and paid our own way, but Jay was still living with his parents (and probably still is even though he’s gotta be thirty-four by now). Sometimes on the weekends we’d go to a park or on a quest for ice cream. But Jay was always in the bars picking up girls and spending all his money on drugs. He was never going to grow up because being a juvenile really was his true self and he was very comfortable with it. I could never fault him for it because if Jay was anything, he was always consistent. The rest of us did change, no doubt about it.
The thing that tore it was that I asked him to be the best man at my wedding about six months before the big day. I had asked him a number of times when we were drunk and marriage seemed like a joke that was played on other people, but neither of us ever thought any woman would put up with us. We also thought we would never get tied down because when Chris was married to the cunt, we didn’t even refer to her by name, we just made the sound of a whip cracking, and that was never going to happen to free spirits like us. About three months before the wedding we were out in some bar and he was hitting on a girl as usual. He paged some guy to the pay phone and then we sat there in the booth waiting for a coke dealer to join us. When the dealer arrived, the whole transaction completely skeeved me out. It was like walking in on your mom sucking her brother’s dick: you’re like, What the fuck? Jay bought a few hundred dollars worth of coke and it really freaked me out. It also literally broke my heart because he spent as much on coke as it would have cost him to be part of my wedding. When the dealer left, Jay explained that girls would be more interested in banging him if he had coke to share. Yeah, they’re called “coke whores,” and they’re about as stylish as draping your neck in a dead, disemboweled and dried-out animal. It’s not recreational drug use if you’re the only one doing drugs. If you can’t enjoy hanging out and talking with your friends without doing hard drugs the whole time, you may have a problem.
Me and my friend Peter Lopez playing Atari at Adrienne’s house in D.C. back in 1989. For the record, my hair is not a mullet because a mullet is “business in the front, party in the back,” and my hair is clearly “party all over,” brother.
A month and a half before we were supposed to get married, I called him to confirm that he had tickets for Vegas. My wife had found some sick deal for the hotel and airfare from NY and we were bringing six people with us. Mi amigo Pedro was the first to book and he asked if he could bring his new girlfriend and I said that would be fine with me. Jay said that he really wanted to go but he couldn’t afford it. I said I would loan him the money, but he wouldn’t take it. I offered to buy him the plane ticket and said he could sleep on someone else’s floor. He still said he couldn’t do it. I was really hurt—no, I was devastated. All girls might dream of their wedding day, but I rarely gave it a second thought. On those few occasions when I had, I always pictured me and Jay together. I realized that at some point, when I hadn’t even noticed, Jay had stopped being my best friend and Pedro had always been there. I immediately asked Pedro to be my best man and he said that he was honored to be asked. It really touched me that he was so into the whole idea of my wedding and it meant the world to me that he was going to come. All of us were very close friends and hung out together, but Pedro still hasn’t forgiven Jay. I have forgiven Jay and I am not mad at him at all. Peter doesn’t talk to Jay anymore because he thinks it was really shitty of Jay to leave me high and dry like that.
The strange thing is that right after that incident I realized that my whole friendship with Jay had turned into long, dull nights of drinking, smoking and standing in bars watching Jay hitting on girls. I had a girl, so I didn’t need to keep looking, but Jay was always looking. I never wanted to end up being the creepy old guy in the club trolling for younger chicks. It’s as pathetic as a comb-over and I knew it was not my destiny. I am sure that he’s exactly the same today as he was when it ended: driving a souped up old American muscle car with a modified Borg interior and living at home, spending weekends in bars and in pussies. I always thought he’d end up being a rock star. When my Brooklyn pals were in high school they were all in a band together. Jay, being the Depeche Mode nerd, played keyboards, Chris played guitar and Dickstein played bass until he was replaced by Mo (they called him Tick because unlike Flea, he couldn’t jump around, he just stood in one place and sucked). Jay never took it seriously enough to make it a career because to him it wasn’t fun if you took it seriously.
After I got back from my wedding, it became an uncomfortable topic between us, even though I didn’t bring it up. He always brought it up and would give me half-hearted apologies that only made me feel worse. When we would make plans to hang out he would cancel at the last minute, claiming car trouble or poverty. I’d invite him over to play Jet Moto and smoke pot and we’d have a great time, but he didn’t talk much. After a few months, every conversation began with him apologizing for not calling, for not hanging out and for not returning my many phone calls. I would sometimes tell him that he didn’t need to apologize, he just should return my calls and hang out some time. He would tell me he would, promise to call to make plans in a few days and then not call again for a few months. It’s sad how it just fizzled out like that but I have no animosity. Jay is still very much alive to me, I just don’t know what he’s up to, but I have a very strong hunch. Just for the psycho fans, here’s a bonus fact: One night after partying too much in the City, both Adair and Jay ended up sleeping at my place. While everyone else slept, they fucked in my bathtub. I’m beginning to realize that Adair wasn’t necessarily hot for me or my wife, she was just a fucking whore. The best part of this whole goddamn story is that no one can sue me because it’s all so fucking true. And I am not using real names. Bwa ha ha!
In 2004 I learned that no one in my circle of friends has had contact with Jay in more than three years and they all have a story similar to mine. Every time they saw him, he was coked up and fucked up and he never returned anyone’s phone calls.
As you read in “Karoshi,” Bonaduce is also dead to me. He was one of the most egregious examples of a cocksucker living down to everyone’s worst expectations. There is nothing he could ever say or do to bring himself back to life in my eyes. But if his ex-wife, who I usually got along with, wanted to write a piece about what a truly reprehensible piece of shit he is, I’d be glad to publish it and I would even pay her for it. Payback’s a bitch and so am I.
Many tangents later, we return from whence we came, to Marc Parker. Like many other people I know in the world of zines, we “met” when we traded zines. I had read in a review zine that his zine was about asthma, which I’ve had since I had my first cigarettes in utero (thanks, Mom!). I couldn’t imagine a zine all about asthma, but it really was just that, with some other stuff thrown in for fun. I thought it was a pretty entertaining zine but I knew all the information that was in there. I mean, I’ve been on medication, shots, inhalers and nebulizers my whole life but for the non-asthmatic, I am sure it is a valuable resource. He really seemed to like my zine and he wrote a gushing review. He wrote to me later saying, “I can still taste your ass on my lips from that AYTD [Amusing Yourself to Death] review... heh,” which I actually thought was a creepy and gay expression.
He confided in me that he got all of his asthma medication from a free clinic at an Indian Reservation because he was 1/16 Indian. How the fuck do you prove that? And why is it that the working poor don’t get free health insurance but an unemployed, freeloading loser, who is no Marc Littlefeather, gets expensive inhalers for free (on our tax dollars, by the way) because someone up his family tree fucked an Indian? Jeez Louise! I actually felt bad for him. At the time I was in the same exact boat that he was: unemployed and without health insurance. But instead of glomming off a dead ancestor’s legacy, I volunteered to be a part of an asthma research program at Bellevue Hospital, which is notorious for its mental patients. If you get HBO, they made a great documentary about Bellevue a few years ago and I can personally vouch for its authenticity. I needed the medication to survive, but it was the most frightening thing I’ve done on purpose. After a few visits I made my wife come with me to stand on line to get the discounted medication for volunteers. I could afford the co-pay on my unemployment checks though I did have to cut my doses slightly. My wife was terrified to the point where we couldn’t joke about it, though we did try to break the tension by making faces when no one was looking.
Over the course of the first few years of my zine, I had a cordial e-mail relationship with Marc. He was always a little too sycophantic because when people agree with me too often, I get scared of them. As part of my medical research at Bellevue they gave me samples of all kinds of asthma medications. They would regularly have me rotate them and then move on to the next round. I always had extras of very expensive medications that I wasn’t supposed to take, so I sent them to Marc, who needed them but couldn’t afford them. I also sent him mix tapes and other zines that I’d found and he was also one of the first people to buy my Misfit Toys CD when I put it out. I really thought we were friends.
I drifted away from the zine scene for a while so I could live enough to have something to write about and when I started work on NegCap #3, he was one of the people who told me that they couldn’t wait to see what I would do next. As part of my reintroduction to the world of zines, I started taking part in the alt.zines newsgroup. There were a lot of assholes who were part of the group and even more people who saw fit to snipe, bitch and criticize, but who had never even done a zine. My feeling is that unless you can do better you should keep your mouth shut. I don’t think that everything I’ve ever done is the best thing in the world, but I certainly think that this zine is way above average, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the paper or the design. It has to do with the fact that the person doing it is articulate, sincere, honest and pulls no punches. I put my fucking heart into this thing that you are holding. Most zines are half-hearted attempts to be funny by lonely losers, boring music zines that have to surround their ads with meaningless reviews or they are so personal and painful that they’re aimed at a very small target market. I would like to think that this zine is better than most of what’s out there simply because I aim to offend, inform and entertain anyone who has enough sense to interpret the words rather than just overreact to them. It’s a pipe dream, I’m sure, but it’s a necessary delusion that allows me to write this zine in a natural, comfortable way. I don’t feel like I have to be politically correct, socially aware, mature, responsible or even fair. All I have to do is tell the fucking truth and try to make you laugh, think or get upset and I consider it a job well done.
When I rejoined the newsgroup, Marc had already made many enemies by using fake names, fake e-mail addresses and posting shit that was designed only to incite verbal riots rather than spark reasonable discussions. I have always thought of myself as a person who likes to stir shit up just to see what shakes loose, but he was actually crossing the line to me. I publicly and privately supported his right to do whatever he wanted, but I questioned his motives. If Marc thought everyone in the group was a douche, it made no sense that he would want to argue with them over mundane stuff.
At the time, Mindspring was my ISP and I had a crappy dial-up connection. I signed on one night and my mail program told me I had hundreds of e-mails. My mail program would begin to download them and about halfway through, the connection would crap out and I would be disconnected. I dialed back in and tried again, over and over, for about two hours. Each time I got disconnected, the program never got the signal that the first few hundred had been successfully downloaded, so each new call was a fresh attempt to get all of them. It was either get them all at once or not get them at all. I thought that there were some personal e-mails in there with the bombs and I didn’t want to admit defeat and lose any potential e-mail from friends. By 11:30 that night I was furious at the asshole that did it to me and I couldn’t figure out why anyone would have attacked me, unprovoked, because at the time I really wanted to be liked and respected by everyone involved in zines. I gave that up shortly thereafter, but at the time I really wanted people to think of me as a serious zine publisher who was doing something new and important, not some frustrated high-school student who wanted to review free punk CDs.
Whenever stuff like that happened to me, my poor wife would end up having to live with a fucking maniac for a few hours until I could cool off. I ended up calling customer service at Mindspring and I had them manually delete the hundreds of messages that were clogging up my inbox. The next day the whole newsgroup was abuzz with the offended cries of all the bomb’s victims. It wasn’t just me that was targeted, it was everyone who had recently posted to alt.zines. Feel free to search Google’s newsgroups to see all the fuss if you’re interested in the full history. The whole thing really upset me and made me not want to be a part of the group at all. If it was just a bunch of immature idiots trying to find ways to piss each other off, I had no use for it. I have to shovel enough shit in real life without having to find new annoyances online.
A few people on the newsgroup did a little bit of research and discovered that the bomb’s sender, firstname.lastname@example.org, was none other than my “friend” Marc Parker. I was genuinely shocked but all the circumstantial evidence was incontrovertible. I e-mailed him and told him that it was one of the stupidest, most fucked-up things a person could do and it accomplished absolutely nothing except to piss people off for no discernable reason. I also demanded that he own up to it on the newsgroup and apologize or I would never speak to him again. He sent me a limp apology, admitted that it was him and said that for his own reasons, he couldn’t admit anything. His letter appears here exactly as he sent it to me. Like an elephant, I have a very long memory—and a very long trunk—and I never forget an asshole.
Subject: Aplogies [sic] from the Committee Date: Fri, 28 Aug 1998 03:16:38 From: Azmacourt@aol.com To: email@example.com Josh, I’m sorry. I mean it. The CC [carbon copy] list for the Zine Mao mailbomb was compiled from a few threads on the NG [newsgroup], and although you responded to one of them (as jsaitz@mindsping [sic], I believe, which I didn’t realize was you until much later, but that’s another matter entirely), it was only briefly. You and some others by no means derserved [sic] the full blown attack. And while I thought it’s been common knowledge for some time that I was Zine Mao, there was a need to be somewhat covert in the beginning. I know that you probably don’t think anyone, including Kris Kane or Shaun Richman, deserved the attack, but this is where we must disagree. However, I really regret that neither of them seemed to have as many problems deleting the messages as you did [instead of wishing you had as easy a time as they did]. I can also understand if you don’t support my refusal to publicly take credit for and/or justify Mao’s attacks. But one personal rule of mine is to never admit my pseudonyms. Sure, I’ll make it completely obvious that it is me and leak ALL of that incriminating information to “Brenda Norton.” But I like the idea of everyone figuring it out for themselves. Anyway, again, I’m sorry. I’ll never mailbomb you again. And if I start up any serious alt.zines shit again, I’ll respectfully keep you out of it, even if you never forgive me for this. You’ve been a good friend to me, and I don’t want you to regret this. Should I mention that I haven’t found a source of weed here in SF yet? Maybe not, but I look forward to your response. I also look forward to you moving out here, and it’s not the Vancerils [a very expensive brand of inhaler that I had sent him for free] or asthma story [I told him I’d write a piece about my asthma for his zine because he kept telling me that he loved my writing] that make me say this. [For the record, the fact that he brought this up means that this is exactly why he is apologizing.]
(PS this is not for public consumption, but I’ll answer any and all questions that you might have)
I didn’t post his message to the newsgroup and I didn’t even tell people that I knew Marc was Zine Mao because he said at the end of his letter, “This is not for public consumption.” At the time I was also good friends with Kris Kane from the zines Retard and Universal Citizen. Marc and Kris didn’t get along and were constantly sniping at each other on the group. Being a Jew, I have a tendency to be a yenta, which is a person who talks too much and always wants to mediate. I privately asked Kris what Marc had done that pissed him off so much that he would spend any time or energy bashing him. Kris said that earlier, when Marc was a reviewer for Amusing Yourself to Death, Marc had given a negative review to Universal Citizen by dismissively calling it a “lit. zine.” I agreed with Kris that UC is not a lit. zine and when I saw the review and read the issue in question, I thought that Marc hadn’t even read the zine. Marc had given it a cursory glance and had dismissed it out of hand—it was obvious. I e-mailed Marc and told him that Kris disliked him because of this particular review, that the review was shallow and inaccurate and that Marc was dead wrong in this situation. I told him that if he wanted to be a mature person he should apologize to Kris and admit that he’d done a half-assed review. I also told him that everything in my e-mail to him was between us and not to be repeated to anyone, especially Kris. I was not trying to fight Kris’s battles or even give Marc his much-deserved beatdown. I was actually just trying to see if it was possible to end some of the hostility on the newsgroup by ending one of the longer-running and more vicious fights. A few days later Marc posted a message on the newsgroup about what a pussy Kris was and announced that Kris had gotten his panties in a bunch because Marc called Universal Citizen a “lit. zine.”
Marc Parker is a skinny little asthmatic pussyfart while Kris Kane is built like a linebacker. Marc talks tough but Kris could literally break Marc Parker into very small pieces without much effort. I e-mailed Kris immediately and told him the whole story and I told Marc that he had crossed the line. I warned him that what I had told him was in confidence and that if he ever did anything else like that again, even if it was to someone else, he would be dead to me. After the first incident and apology, I was again shocked by how easily Marc would say one thing, do another, and then be surprised that I was upset with him.
I didn’t take part in the newsgroup for a while after that because it was causing me too much tsuris and I wasn’t getting anything useful out of it. In the interim, Marc gave my zine one of the nicest and most glowing reviews my zine has ever gotten. I like to think it was an earned review, but with Marc it could have been guilt or his way of trying to worm his way back into my good graces, or, if you want to be as cynical as I truly am, it was because I said I was moving out to San Francisco, where he was living, and he needed a hook-up for free inhalers and pot. Months later I got a new issue of Marc’s zine. In it, he told his readers that I was the sweetest asthmatic he’d ever met and went into great detail describing my generosity [see article on the next page]. I really couldn’t imagine what was motivating him to reach out to me with one hand and slap me across the face with the other. I don’t think I’ve ever come across as a pushover; if anything I go out of my way to blatantly shove my intolerance and hostility in the face of anyone close enough to feel my blast. The truth is that just like everyone else, I am a very complicated person—I am both sweet and vicious, kind and cruel, funny and humorless, sometimes shifting gears on the fly. My wife gets to be in love with my sweet side and my readers suck up my bile and vitriol like starved feral cats at a bowl of fresh cream.
Eventually Marc wore me down because I wanted to believe that he had somehow reformed. When he was spewing his noxiousness on the newsgroup, he was a sad, broke loser who was living at home in Oklahoma and working customer service for AOL. My life is a paradise of black-eyed virgins compared to that shit and I’m still pissed off most of the time. In the interim he had moved to San Francisco, got a job and a girlfriend and he actually seemed like he was trying to move his life in a different direction. I was also friendly with his then-girlfriend, Kelli Williams from the zine That Girl, and I felt like she was also trying to help redeem Marc. Since I was planning to move to San Francisco and had no friends out there, I thought he would be at least one person I could socialize with, talk zines with and maybe even become friends with. Okay, I am ready to admit it, I was a fucking idiot. Sometimes I think I’m miserable because I’m cynical and other times I think I’m cynical because I’m miserable.
It didn’t take long for our asthmatic recidivist to do something stupid to piss me off again. He approached me using the alias Ben Joseph and kept asking me for my opinions about other zine publishers. When I answered him honestly, he sent my responses to many of the people we discussed, redacting his own comments to make me look like an asshole, and I think it actually worked pretty well. With his reputation, I am surprised that anyone takes him seriously or would ever believe a single thing that he says, but it’s a lesson that took me a while to learn, too. He is just an insecure liar who has done nothing but hurt people for no justifiable reason. When I told people on the newsgroup that Marc was just having fun and his only motive was to keep it interesting, they would tell me that he was a worthless piece of shit that didn’t deserve respect, much less any attention. I am sure he has a whole new batch of people fooled in the world of zines, but I submit that a piece of shit cannot change what it is, no matter how hard it tries, and Marc Parker is an unredeemable piece of shit.
At that point I gave up all hope of ever being labeled the “popular” zine and joined the rest of the sullen misanthropic zines in the back row where we could smoke pot and make fun of the fucking preppies. I wrote a letter to Marc that was very menacing and deadly serious, thinking it might wake him up. My father, Lewis, never hit me in my entire life. On the rare occasions when I was fucking up or being a smartass in front of him, he would grab me by the back of my arm and get his fingers between my bicep and the bone and hold me very tightly. He would pull me into him, stare at me grimly and lower his voice, like a bear. “Don’t do that, Joshua,” he would say to me. Jesus, that worked so well on me. My father has been gone for almost twenty years and just typing that made we want to take back all the mean shit I’ve already said in this issue. That’s how powerful my dad’s words were to me, and I know that it will absolutely work on any kid that I have. Nowadays, only my wife is authorized to call me “Joshua,” and only when I’m really misbehaving. Whenever people that don’t know me call me Joshua I always feel like I’m in trouble. I was hoping to get Marc to pay attention by making him actually feel the menace of what’s being said. That is literally what I was trying to do to Marc Parker. The next day he posted my personal letter to him to the newsgroup and goofed on it. You can read it for yourself right here. Normally I would fix all the lowercase stuff but I don’t ever want anyone to accuse me of tampering with evidence. I didn’t save any of this shit, I just searched for “Jøsh” in the newsgroups section of Google and I found out how easy it is to hang people (well, maybe just stupid people) with their own words.
From: Marc Parker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: “careful,” he says
i know you think you’re being funny, but you’re not. i know that you think that you’re charming, but you’re not. you’re coming across to me like the ultimate spoiled little asshole and i’m not even slightly amused. you have some shit to say, say it to me. you want to quote my private correspondence on the newsgroup to agitate people, you are allowed, but i don’t like it. you want to fuck with my friends as part of a joke. not cool. not even a little. if i were you, and you had some fucking foresight, i’d start thinking BEFORE posting shit. i’m not threatening you because that’s stupid. i’m telling you as a friend, as a peer and as a zinester that i would like you to not use my name, not to quote me and not to fuck with people that i like just because you think it’s funny, because the only person laughing now is you. for now.
What I mean is: Mmmmmmmmmwah!
I guess he just didn’t get the message at all. The most ironic thing to me is that at the end of his letter of admission about being Zine Mao, he specifically requested that I not mention the letter or his admission of guilt to anyone. This same cocksucker who wants me to not reveal something he says in an e-mail is the same person who sent my personal e-mail to dozens of others and even posted a message where I asked him not to post my private messages. After I saw his post, I sent him an e-mail telling him that he was dead to me. I never read any of his subsequent letters, so I can’t tell you if he apologized again or rubbed it in my face. I didn’t feel sad at all, I just felt kind of stupid. I fell for it again. Why did I ever trust anyone? In my mind I dragged Marc Parker into a hothouse full of pollen-filled flowers. I sprayed oven cleaner into his lungs and then stuffed his mouth with dog dander. He gasped for air and choked for a few minutes. He fell over and then his head turned purple before he died of a fatal asthma attack. I am sorry that it had to end this way, but it did. He’s dead to me.
Web Bonus Info:
Since posting this I have heard from many other zine publishers with their own horror stories about Marc Parker. Many would not comment on the record, but one person told me that he met Marc at a zine show and everyone else told him to stay away from Marc because he was an asshole. Eric Lyden of Fish with Legs said that he had also gotten a shitty, half-assed review from Marc and now he’s convinced that Marc never even read his zine, which I can neither confirm nor disprove, but it sure sounds likely.
I finally have proof in Marc’s own words that he is Ben Joseph. This is a direct quote, “Marc Parker foots the bill for this site, and on top of that pays his contributors -- with the exception of Ben Joseph and Alison Rudd. False personae work for free.” FUCK YOU, Marc Parker, you no-talent piece of shit.