A recent casual look through a random magazine revealed a surprising fact: teenagers still produce zines.

My exposure to these self-produced/self-photocopied literary offerings has been limited over the years. That’s primarily because they are usually placed in music stores and I haven’t had much call to visit such an establishment since the Baby Jesus invented iTunes.

We encountered a number of zines when I worked for the Langley Times, inevitably included in the portfolio of every kid looking for a summer intern job.

Looking through them was akin to experiencing a bad acid trip. At least that’s what people told me.

The type would swirl and dance around the pages like the hard copy version of ADHD. Font styles would come and go like a hungry cat through the door flap (a production trait known as “using every crayon in the box.” The writing would be juvenile in scope and style, the artwork crude, the production values pretty much nonexistent.

And yet . . . and yet you could practically smell the teenage spirit emanating from each and every page.

I actually admired the tenacity that went into these desperate attempts at sharing the writers’ opinion with the Great Big World. It’s not easy to create in a vacuum, without any clue at all whether your words are finding an audience. The 20th century equivalent of writing blogs, I suppose, and I’m guessing a lot of those zine-iacs are, this very instant, elbowing me aside as we all compete for our share of the blogosphere.

My favourite zine of all time was called Douche. Partly because of the edgy name, partly because of the superior quality of the writing, but mostly because one of the three 16-year-old girls who produced it was my daughter Brooke.

Brooke is my first-born child and, if reading The Hockey News to her when she was only days old somehow did not manage to impart my love of Canada’s national winter sport, I was pleased to see she did inherit my love of writing.

I asked Brooke about the Douche days and this is her reply: “I loved that time of my life. When you’re 16, every idea you ever have feels like it’s important and must be heard by the world NOW. Having a zine gave you a voice. I also love the DIY spirit. It still exists now, but with less crude tools.”

She then directed me to an entry she’d posted on her blog (www.missteenussr.com) where she notes, “If our goal was to create the most frustrating thing to read in the universe, job well done! Typed up nuggets of anger, love, fear or outrage printed off and Scotchtaped to pages, then copied at my patient father’s office after hours, where we’d make him tend to the printing while we wasted that compressed air in a bottle stuff shooting each other.”

Yes, I did have a small hand in the production of Douche. I would usher the trio through the back door of the Langley Times’ office, fire up all three photocopiers and have at it.

It was a smooth operation, well, except for that one time when the publisher – a pinch-faced Scorpio of a woman – walked in unexpectedly on a weekend.

I quickly explained that the girls were working on a school project and had provided all their own paper. The publisher was kind enough not to point out that, paper aside, they were still using the company’s toner and power.

“It was the most fun I had at that age,” Brooke writes in her blog. “Having a focused way of guiding my writing, so tender and silly back then, was a lifesaver and an early start to this word-strewn path I’m attempting to gallop down now.”

In the end, Douche only lasted four issues (the final cover is included with this posting). Interests changed, best friends drifted apart, and yesterday’s Most Important Thing in the Whole Universe was too soon relegated to Tomorrow’s Fond Memories.

Oh, right, that name. I’ll let Brooke explain: “ . . . Douche, as best as I can remember, was chosen because it was one of those female devices we thought most hilarious and foreign.”

Yup, that’s my girl. I could not be prouder.


alpha-domus1Old journalists don’t die. They just get downsized. And kicked to the curb. And left to rot in the sun, their bodies bloated with words never to be published.

That’s how I’m feeling today. Twenty years in newsrooms across four countries, a million bylines,  and I’m reduced to this — cold-calling via the Internet, begging for freelance assignments.

The good news is Viking Woman is still working. The bad news is I haven’t quite convinced her to let me marry three or four other employed people of the female persuasion, no matter how many times I point out to her the benefits of shared mortgage payments.

I could return to writing novels, I suppose, but I’d have a better chance of striking it rich by buying a lottery ticket. If we could afford to buy a lottery ticket, that is.

Which just leaves blogging for a living.

It can be done, folks. I know because I read Heather B. Armstrong (dooce.com) and she is quite blatant about the fact the ads on her blog site generate enough cash to enable both her and hubby to abandon their full-time jobs.

Ms. Armstrong has somehow convinced eight million people to click on her site’s Google ads roughly every five seconds. And, oh yeah, you can read her blog if your clicking finger starts to cramp up. She writes about her daughter and her dogs. Yeah, I know, bores the ever-living crap out of me too.

I’d tackle the same topics but my babies are now, respectively, 31 and 26 and, even if they were still doing cutesy things, the fact that they live in Canada and I live in New Zealand means I’m not privy to them.

As for pets as blog ammo, we did have a stray cat move in for awhile. But after deciding the kitchen sink was its own personal kitty litter box, Sparky wisely moved on. Just before I snapped its neck.

Now I see Heather is pregnant again. When I was a government employee, that’s what we called a Make-Work Project. One afternoon quickie later, and now she’s about to pop out a lifetime worth of blog material. Frickin’ brilliant! Some people know all the marketing angles.

When I suggested the same tactic to Viking Woman, she was kind enough to remind me she keeps my testicles under the sink in the kitchen, stored in an old mayonnaise jar that still smells faintly of potato salad. So more children is probably out of the question. On a related note, I now have this strange urge to boil eggs and dig out the paprika.

Plan B is to transform bitemymoko into a blog dedicated to travel. I’m in New Zealand and the rest of the world (minus four million or so  Kiwis) isn’t. That’s a lot of potential readers (and, by association, ad clickers). The recent visit by my sister triggered the thought of starting the blog with stories about the bazillion vineyards located up and down the East Coast.

I know what you’re thinking: “But, John, you don’t drink. So isn’t you writing about wine similar to a virgin writing about sex?”

To which my speedy and extremely witty reply is: “Uh, yeah, you’re right.”

Which is where Viking Woman comes in. When not dusting off her collection of gonads (I am, after all, her fourth husband), she’s been known to appreciate the odd glass of sparkling whatever.

My brilliant plan would involve her doing the actual tasting while I make notes and take photos.

It’s not like we haven’t done this before.

Take, for instance, this conversation from our past:

VK: You want me to do what?

Me: Ride all the rollercoasters in Las Vegas and rate them on a scream factor between one and five.

VK: And what will you be doing while I’m soiling my pants?

Me: Making notes and taking photos. On the ground. Where it’s safe.

VK: I’m going to kill you and then I’m going to divorce you.

Me: Fair enough, but could you do it after I finish the story?

Oh, and just for the record, The Roller Coaster at New York New York earned the top rating. Viking Woman rode it with my brother and they both thought they were going to die.

I’m going to guess wine tasting will be a wee bit less hazardous. If not to Viking Woman’s health, then certainly to mine.