"It takes a lot to find 10 pictures of velocipedes," says Michael Neault, manager of the Dryden Theatre and the man behind Snore and Guzzle Publishing. "Do you know what a velocipede is? It's those bikes with the big front tire and the small back tire. If you break it down to the Latin it just means 'fast walker.'"
On the cover of Neault's most recent publication, volume three of a zine called Or-Else, a little frog riding a tiny velocipede is letterpressed in purple. "It was kind of amazing to find a frog riding a velocipede in an old etching," he says. "I didn't go out and do it on a computer or anything."
Neault makes magazines. There's the annual Or-Else. (Since Neault just moved to Rochester, we've only seen number 3.) And there are others: like the Electronic Word Preservation Guild, a chapbook full of bizarre, funny, touching emails reprinted with a winking voyeurism, and an essay, "The Philosophy of a Loop of String," Neault wrote and printed along with pictures of string figures.
These delicate paper missives have a handmade, vintage look to them. ("Did you get the one that had like a library card in the back?" he asks. We did. "Not all of them have that. I ran out of library cards.") The black-and-white pages have simple, generously white layouts salted with quirky, fastidious illustrations from other decades, most often the 1920s.
Or-Else no. 3 includes short stories, poems, cartoons, musician interviews, and little found items of interest or humor, as well as Neault's regular "Society" column: a rambling, esoteric tribute to friends and acquaintances. For example: "When Biffy's husband had his bachelor party, he met up with another fellow at a diner and they shared one milkshake and that was it. Leslie met a boy who's 'real nice.'"
"There's a paper out in Fair Haven, New York," Neault says. "It's a village weekly. There was an article in it every week by some old lady. She would just talk about people she saw on the road, like, 'I saw Bobby Smith riding down the street on a lawn mower.' That would be the entire paragraph. I basically copy her style."
The other writing is, overall, very good, without the hit-or-miss quality of many grassroots literary pubs. Though Neault grew up in Syracuse and now lives in Rochester, not many of the other writers are local. Neault has gathered an "ensemble" of writers, culled from the flow of people he's met over the years. They all seem to share at least part of his style, which is characterized by a sort of academic interest in people's quirks and pop-culture curiosities. But the publications aren't twee or self-indulgent. There's imagination on every page.
Making a magazine by hand is a lot of work. It can get expensive. And sometimes the only people who love it are the same people who contributed. Neault admits he's tired and money is tight, but he seems to have a bit of a habit. He's been making magazines since high school, and started distributing them in college. And now this zine-light city is reaping the benefits.
The last issue of Or-Else sold for $3 a copy. Neault only has four copies left. "They were available at Lakeshore but they sold out," he says. "That's not saying too much. I only had eight copies there."
For information you can email Neault at firstname.lastname@example.org.
--- Erica Curtis
The momentum is gathering.
With the working name of the 21st Century African American Leadership Council, an informal organization of concerned citizens is holding a second meeting to gather solutions to a gamut of problems that hinge on race relations in Rochester. The meeting is billed as a follow-up to a similar forum on December 7 that raised the concerns (see "Hurt and anger in the neighborhoods," City Newspaper, December 15-21).
City Councilman Adam McFadden --- who is not directly involved in the group but spoke at the first forum --- thinks the timing is right.
"I thought it was a good start," he says. "I would say that people can look forward to a group that is still willing to address issues that impact not only the minority community but the working class and poor community. I think people need to know there is somebody consistently out there addressing those issues and if we don't have someone doing that, we're going to lose ground."
Eventually, McFadden says, the group may form splinter committees to address specific topics like economic development or justice. But, for now, the focus is on creating a basic organizational structure and developing a unified voice.
"Right now I think it's time for new leadership to step up and do that," he says.
That will be among the topics when the group meets Sunday, December 26, at St. Luke's Tabernacle Community Church, 1261 Dewey Avenue, at 6:30 p.m.
Just in time for the holidays comes a reminder that many have little to celebrate.
The US Conference of Mayors last week released the results of a study that reveals hunger and homelessness are increasing in the nation's cities. The study --- conducted in a cross-section of 27 US cities (Rochester is not included) --- found that 96 percent reported increases in the number of requests for emergency food assistance, and 70 percent registered a rise in requests for emergency shelter.
Some of the increased need for food is fueled by families, who requested an average of 13 percent more emergency food assistance than the year before. Seventeen percent of those family requests have gone unmet, as have about 20 percent of requests overall. These applicants don't meet stereotypes, either; nearly 60 percent are families and more than a third of the adult applicants hold down at least one job.
Every single city reported families who relied on emergency handouts as a long-term food source.
The stats on homelessness are equally dim. Families are a growing component of the homeless population in most of the survey cities, seeking emergency shelter nearly 10 percent more than last year. Fifty-six percent of participating cities say these families may be forced apart to receive shelter. And even then the resources to shelter everyone may not be there. More than 80 percent of the cities say they've had to turn away homeless families simply because they were lacking the means to house them.
The outlook for next year isn't much better. More than 80 percent of the cities surveyed said they expect requests for emergency food and shelter to go up in 2005, and families are expected to be a growing part of the population making those requests.
In our story on RG&E's Voice Your Choice campaign ("Your next big gamble," City Newspaper, December 15-21), we wrote that the New York State Public Service Commission did not pull together a list of the rates offered by competing electricity providers for comparison. In fact, the PSC compiled a chart that includes estimated monthly bills (based on the use of 500 kwh per month) for RG&E and some of the other electricity companies offering service in this area. You can find the chart at: www.askpsc.com/publications/?view=default&action=viewPublication&id=1156.