(Author's note: This is the zine I did in 2006. I fit the whole thing on one post.)
Issue 1, Spring 2006.
I’d rather be picking my nose, honestly.
Article A: A short list of strange place names in
1. Shockoe Bottom
2. Totopotomoy Rd.
3. Three Chopt Rd.
4. Hull St. Rd.
5. Short Pump
7. Old Gun Rd.
8. Old Hundred Rd.
Article B: New Year’s Resolutions
Article C: Interviews with People Who Don’t Exist,
(From an interview taken in 1972)
MB: Tell me about yourself; where were you born, where
did you grow up?
Doris Newcomb: My name is Doris Newcomb, I was born
on April 15th, 1910 in south Philadelphia. I was born
in the house I grew up in, I still remember the
address: 1636 Fitzwater St. The house is still there,
my grandson lives on 18th St., so he walks past it all
My mother had me in her bedroom. She couldn’t afford
the hospital. Her sister helped her with the birth.
Not that my mother was inexperienced; I was the fourth
of seven children.
MB: What did your mother and father do?
DN: My mother worked at sandwich shop, north of Market
St., you know, where all the warehouses are. She was
a waitress. The men would come in on their lunch
breaks and tell her jokes. She was real pretty, so
she always made good tips and got lots of attention.
Tips didn’t help that much. It was hard raising seven
kids. We all went to work as soon as we got old
enough. I started working when I was ten!
MB: And your father?
DN: He worked on the river, pulling fish off boats.
Then he’d deliver them downtown, to all those fancy
restaurants on Rittenhouse Square. He’d do odd jobs,
too, repairs, other deliveries. He was still
delivering by horse and wagon when I was born. The
company didn’t get trucks until 1925.
In the twenties, though, with the Prohibition, my
daddy worked for some bootleggers at night a couple
times a week. He worked in exchange for liquor. He
liked his drink (laughs) but then so did Mama. They’d
have parties in the living room some nights, inviting
all the neighbors over. My uncle would bring some
hash and they’d laugh all night. My sister Ellen and
I would watch sometimes from the top of the stairs.
It looked like so much fun. My daddy fixed up a
phonograph from the city dump and they’d listen to
records. They’d dance in that smoky room until the
sun came up.
MB: Tell me about working as a kid.
DN: My daddy got me a job selling apples with my
cousin, near the docks. I still in school then, but I
quit going when I was twelve. I was so glad, cause
I’d have school in the morning then work until my
daddy got done at nine PM.
After that my mama got me a job waitressing with her
at the sandwich shop. It was hard work, but she made
sure those men didn’t bother me too bad. I worked
there until I was sixteen; by that point I started to
wish some of the men would bother me! (laughs)
I moved out of my parents house to work at my aunt’s
fabric store on 4th St. I was lucky when the
Depression hit; business was slow but since I lived in
the back room I was able to send some money home to
help out my folks. I was working there when I met my
MB: Alfred Newcomb, right? How did you meet?
DN: Yeah, my Al. He worked at a tailor’s up the
street, so he’d come in to buy thread. He was so shy,
but such a sweetheart. He’d bring me scraps from his
shop, so I could patch my clothes or whatever. It
sounds a little silly, I know, but at that time every
bit counted. He knew what I liked too, he’d bring
scraps of silk from China.
He asked me to marry him on my birthday, 1931. I was
twenty-one. We had a civil ceremony, couldn’t afford
anything else. I moved into his apartment.
I am sitting, well laying on my back anyway, typing
away. At Andrew’s grandma’s house, Brandermill,
Midlothian, VA. Oh dumb. Typing away at my story
about a girl who can do magic. This is the only warm
room in the house. It’s like a sauna where the other
sweaty people are all my stuff, my bike, four times as
much furniture as should be in a room this size and
piles of records. I think they belong to the grandma.
There’s also some fake flowers.
My face feels puffy and my eyes sting and are half
closed. I think I am about to cry. I was trying to
write but suddenly I felt horribly depressed; the
words in my story seemed awkward and tilted (people
don’t talk like that...) I ate but am still hungry.
I don’t want to go anywhere, I am too lazy to figure
out where anything is in this alien land but I am
bored. I feel like someone is sitting on my chest and
sticking toffee in my throat.
Article E: Live through this and you won’t look back.
Helen and Harriet are twins. They live on South 9th
Street in the broken love city of Philadelphia.
Helen is all darkness and perfect roundness. Harriet
is thin as a broom and dark as her twin. Harriet
works at a health food store and Helen works at a
Today they are at the bakery on the way to work.
Sleepy-eyes and unbrushed hair, they both order a
coffee and a hot cross bun.
“What are these for anyway? Helen says, holding her
“Something to do with Lent,” Harriet mutters. She is
trying to do the Times crossword.
It’s raining and gray outside. The bakery is warm
and empty; who eats breakfast at 11 am? The clerk is
sweeping the wooden floor.
“When’s your lunch?” Harriet gives up on the
crossword. She feels like her brain is full of fuzz.
“Three.” Helen answers. She is rushing because she
only has ten minutes to get to work.
“Should we go to the place?” Harriet doesn’t
actually work until four. She spends her whole day
until then in the bakery usually.
“Yeah,” Helen stands up. “Bring me some lunch.
I’ll see you then.” In a flash, she is out the door
and unlocks her bike.
Harriet sighs. Helen has left her cup and napkin on
the table. She works on the crossword for another
hour as the clerk watches the clock and some yuppies
come in to buy designer whole grain bread.
Harriet gives up on the puzzle and tucks it in her
bag. Their apartment is across the street, through a
wrought iron gate and tiny garden and up some stairs
(also wrought iron). She walks there and unlocks the
door. They live in an efficiency that they have
divided like a dorm room. Helen’s side is a
mismatched jumble, a pile of clothes on the
Harriet sits on her immaculate futon. She watches
the rain quietly, in a reverie. She dreams Helen’s
journey to work, through Old City, up 3rd Street. She
dreams Helen’s arrival at work, unlocking the store
and turning on the lights.
Harriet doesn’t know what to do with herself, so she
stands at the kitchen window and looks down into the
brick-paved alley for awhile. It is spring, so bits
of green are starting to come through the cracks.
Someone walks by under a black umbrella.
Finally, Harriet goes back to the couch and falls
asleep watching a DVD.
In awhile, Cary calls and wakes her up. He wants
Helen and Harriet to meet him for a drink at the Green
Lounge after work. Harriet listens to the message
from the futon. She get up and makes Helen’s lunch,
an avocado and cheese sandwich, an apple and a ginger
ale. She puts these in her bag and puts her bike on
her shoulder to walk outside. In the entryway, she
remembers it is still raining, so she sets her bike
down again and goes back inside to get her pink
raincoat. She knows she is leaving early but she can
take her time getting there.
The rain is lighter and so is the sky. The wet
garden smelled like spring, decay and growth. Harriet
takes a deep breath.
She rides faster than she meant to, for when she
leaves the sanctuary of her courtyard the city is in a
loud, abusive rush. In the alleys she takes, the
garbage and delivery trucks force her on to the
sidewalk. Taxis honk and surge on 3rd Street. By the
time she reaches Helen’s store she is wet with rain
and flustered, feeling as though the peaceful sadness
of the rainy morning has been shattered.
“I hate the city,” She says to Helen as she pulls
up. Helen is smoking in front of the store.
“No, you don’t.” Helen stares at the pizza place
across the street. “What happened?”
“Cary called. It woke me up,” Harriet locks her
bike to a street sign (there are no parking meters in
this part of the city. Yet.) “And then I destroyed
my bike ride. Everyone was going so fast.”
All that time you thought I was sad, I was just trying
to remember your name. -Stars
“Are we going out with Cary after work?” Helen
finishes her cigarette and grinds it out under her
“Yeah,” Harriet unbuttons her raincoat. It is warm
out and the humidity and sweat of the ride give her a
strange sticky feeling like wearing a wool sweater.
“I brought your lunch.”
“I’ve still got awhile before Jane gets here. Come
in, you can look at books.” Helen holds open the
Harriet sits on the shoe-trying-on bench and tries to
read for half an hour. Eventually she gives up and
goes to stand near Helen at the counter. “I can’t
concentrate on anything today,” She says. “None of
the books look good.”
Helen looks at her and nods. George, the old man who
comes to the thrift store everyday trying to find
things he can sell on ebay, is staring at into the
case at the cameras. He stands with a handsfree
wireless mic in his ear and his arms behind his back
bent over the glass. “You’ve priced that one too
high,” He says. Helen shrugs.
Jane comes in and Helen can go to lunch.
Helen and Harriet walk two blocks to Poplar and turn.
They climb over the crumbled factory wall, carefully
picking through collapsed barb wire.
“You can hear it from here,” Harriet stops in the
debris-strewn warehouse yard. The sound of the
waterfall is louder than the interstate traffic or
squealing brakes of the El.
They climb onto the loading dock, glass crunching
beneath their feet. Helen slides back the door and
they step into the dark abandoned warehouse. In the
dim, the shapes of small trees were visible and
raindrops, falling through holes in the roof caught
the light from broken windows. One corner of the
building had fallen in but it was so dark outside that
little light came in the warehouse. Still, the twins
could hear the waterfall, much louder now.
Helen shuts the door. At once, the light changes.
Brighter, softer. The city sounds nearly disappear,
taken over by the low rumble of clear water over
The girls walk through the big trees that have
replaced the supporting pillars of the skeleton-like
second floor. The frame of the building has
disappeared, but the light still shines, softer and
golden, in the spots where the broken windows had
been. The carpet of glass shards and metal scraps has
become a patchwork of moss and grass. And where the
hole in the ceiling was, the waterfall pours.
They sit on the grass in next to the waterfall pool.
Harriet hands Helen her lunch.
This is their secret. They come here almost every
day on Helen’s lunch. They tell no one about it and
even Helen had been reluctant to tell Harriet of her
discovery. But they were twins, practically the same
“You know that the front door of the warehouse is
behind the waterfall,” Harriet said. They have
explored it all except behind the falls because
Harriet is scared. The inside dimensions matched the
outside dimensions. The old brick walls are invisible
when the loading dock door was closed unless one stood
right next to them.
“I wonder what’s back there,” Helen says quietly
into her sandwich. Harriet glances at her but Helen
looks uninterested as usual.
“There’s no graffiti in this warehouse,” Harriet
says quietly to herself. She lays back on the soft,
soft grass and listens to the falls. Helen keeps
eating her sandwich.
That night, Harriet rides her bike to the green
lounge after work to meet Helen and Cary. Her bag is
bulging with apples and vegan cookies, she rides
through the drying night streets with a weaving ease.
She feels like she could float above the streets.
Helen and Cary are sitting with Kim, So-me and
Charlotte. Harriet sits and orders a lager, handing
“We dumpstered at the student dorms tonight,”
Charlotte says. “So-me got a whole new wardrobe.”
So-me grins. “New pants!” She tugs at the seams.
“I found a pair of knitting needles and a bunch of
art supplies.” Charlotte continues. Cary is
whispering to Helen. Harriet nods. “Awesome.” She
orders another beer.
When Harriet wakes up in the morning, Helen isn’t in
her bed. Her bag and bike aren’t in the house.
Harriet gets up to boil water for coffee. It’s
raining again; the sky is shiny light gray like
stainless steel. She drinks her coffee while making
Helen’s lunch. Then she goes to the bakery for
breakfast. She eats a scone and tries to work on the
same Times crossword. But she gets nowhere again.
She is staring at the rain falling and making tiny
puddles on her bike seat outside when she has an idea.
So she gets on her bike and leaves.
When Helen gets home that morning in rumpled clothes
from yesterday, Harriet is not there. She doesn’t
show up at the thrift store for Helen’s lunch. And
when Helen gets home from work, there is a message
from Cary on the answering machine but Harriet is not
Helen felt something in the morning when she wake and
Harriet was not there. She felt her stomach drop.
She looked out the window; it had stopped raining and
the sun was shining on the tiny plants in the alley
cracks. Helen felt her heart cracking.
She said some logical things to herself while making
coffee with shaking hands. Then she dressed and put
on her bag and carried her bike down the stairs. She
heard the phone ringing as she reached the garden but
she walked through the wrought iron gate.
She rode through the city to Poplar Street and she
felt. She didn’t see the cars or busses or buildings.
There was Harriet’s bike outside the warehouse,
unlocked and leaning against the brick wall. Helen
locked her bike, climbed the wall and clambered onto
the loading dock.
She opened the huge wooden door. Stunted trees and
weeds reached for empty windows in the dusty dim. The
waterfall was fainter on days it didn’t rain, but she
could still hear it.
Helen shut the door, without knowing why. She knew
what had happened. She walked through the silence of
the trees; they had eaten the city sounds.
She stood on the small moss patch where they had sat.
“Harriet?” There was no answer. Helen knew there
wouldn’t be; she knew where her sister had gone.
Helen felt half of herself fall away, with a crash
like rushing water.