If Nothing Else the Sky by Dave Roche
You know how I am. I don’t read a lot of books by dudes, but I can make an exception for a book by a zine dude. Dave chronicles two trips/zine tours, the first to Australia and the second to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia (I might have missed a country or two).
I’m not much of a traveler these days, but I can still easily relate to Dave’s nervousness about how to behave in foreign cultures, self-consciousness about white American privilege and questioning his role in radical, punk communities as he ages. I had a similar conversation with my spouse when I was around 37, as Dave was when he published the book. (Sorry if I got his age wrong, but I think that’s it.) We were at the National Conference on Organized Resistance and felt like the oldest people there. We wondered if we put a damper on things with our presence, if our activism needed to take a different form now. To his credit, Dave has a lot more tolerance for going to shows and staying out all night than we did or do, which is even more impressive because he’s straightedge.
This line of thinking is present from the first page.
Am I confusing staying true to my youthful ideals with desperately clinging to my youth? Sure there’s a qualitative difference between buying a convertible and dating someone half your age and sleeping on the couches of strangers in foreign countries and sneaking to the top of railroad bridges to make out, but is the incentive the same?
Dave is an endearing character, especially when he’s interacting with animals, like how his favorite moment in Australia was when he got bitten by a penguin. (The link is to a video, not of Dave.)
You know this is a book by a zine maker when Dave writes,
Can I confess something to you? I don’t know what I’m doing here. I don’t mean in Adelaide, I mean right now, sitting in my apartment in Chicago writing this. Why am I putting down these stories? Why will I spend money to print them? Why give them to a handful of friends and strangers who I’ll refer to as friends anyway? I’ve been involved in punk for more than half my life; the ethics and ideals punk helped me hone inform every major decision of my life. If you were to ask me why it’s so important to me, though, I wouldn’t know what to say.
Punk values, introspection, insecurity—check, check, check!
And he’s funny, even about having Crohn’s Disease:
I want to be an organ donor but by the time I die there will be so little doctors can use they’ll probably just use my guts as packing materials when shipping healthy organs.
Zines are illegal in Singapore!
So here we were, trading zines, ones that we had made and ones we loved, apparently breaking the law. I’m not saying we were Black Flag at the Palladium, but it was nice to feel we’re still relevant.
You’ll also be mad impressed that Dave manages to maintain his vegan diet (without being a jerk about it) throughout his travels.
Bonus: the books is beautifully produced.