Archives: Travelling Shoes
Travelling Shoes #1: One becomes intimidated upon reading a first issue as thorough as this
one. TS is a zine for anyone that "honestly enjoy(s) travelling and reading
about travelling," and in this premier issue Miller focuses on Las Vegas.
This means, of course, pieces on gambling, Liberace, sex, prime rib,
Siegfried and Roy, and Bugsy Siegel. There's also many reviews of books and
movies that contain Vegas. Miller writes very well too, so there's a lot of
stuff in here that gets me aching to hit the road. I think that's the
point. [$2.00, 44pg., D, R] H. D. Miller, POB 206653, New Haven, CT 06520
Travelling Shoes, which bills itself as "an eccentric journal of
travel and entertainment," is one of the best travel zines I've read.
Although issue two is a bit of an exception to the rule, the basic
concept of Travelling Shoes is to examine some exotic city (well, if
you consider Las Vegas exotic, which I do) from all angles. In a way,
this resembles the mission of the glossy zine/magazine Dodge City
Journal, but TS is more directly fueled by the H.D. Miller's unique
vision of a proper travel zine, which goes way beyond sightseeing. In
H.D.'s opinion, the ideal travel story should contain "failure,
frustration, sickness, and above all an intense sense of pleasure in
the trip itself - a pleasure that manifests itself a well-told,
H.D.'s style is not only distinctive but also quite refined, and he
makes his zine so well that I have trouble believing this is his first
entry into the small-press arena. The design of TS can almost be
described as elegant - off-white, single-colour covers, clean columns
of text in an easy-to-read typeface, and for illustration lots of
wonderful, just barely relevant doodles scanned from
turn-of-the-century humour magazines. These illustrations add a lot
more personality than standard issue clipart. There are very few
photograph-type images, no original artwork and no ads so far
(although the invitation to advertisers has been extended). The zine
is 48-digest sized pages, most of which are pretty filled with text.
And the text is good stuff. The focus of issue two is Morocco,
particularly the cities of Tangier, Fez and Casablanca. The issue
opens with "Fun in Old Morocco," an introduction to strange Moroccan
customs that proves the thesis "Morocco is different, no doubt about
it," and supports the (new to me) idea that there is a unique
relationship between Morocco and the United States. "Travelling Shoes
in Morocco" and "Trouble in Tangier" are the two main travelogues and
highlights of this issue, both of which pit H.D. against wily
Moroccans and his own intestinal system. Sandwiched between several
Casablancan anecdotes, the reader finds this admission: "Let me say
right here, I like Morocco. I like the people, the culture, the
weather, even the food (with a few reservations)... However, I hate
Casablanca. And that's not just the diarrhea talking."
H.D. is a clever writer and an informed traveller. He is frequently
able to inject historical anecdotes about the places that he visits.
His familiarity with Moroccan culture, combined with his ability to
speak Spanish and Arabic (and even quote favourite Arabic poets), is
very reassuring. It's so much easier to trust tour guides when it's
obvious they know what they're talking about. "Trouble in Tangier"
includes H.D.'s summary of the history of the city of Tangier, an
extremely well-written overview that lends much significance to a trip
that would be mere sightseeing to most.
Aside from the travelogues, other main features include "I Just Can't
Call Him Paul" by guest author Catherine Rush, an account of her
meeting Paul Bowles that was fairly interesting aside from an
abundance of name dropping; "A Note on Moroccan Plumbing," which
should have been titled "An Ode to the Squat Toilet"; "The Mother of
Us All," a biography of a Moroccan singer that struck me as being
somewhat off-topic; the self-explanatory "101 English Words with
Arabic Roots"; "Hey! That's Not Tibet!" which discusses movie-making
in Morocco; and then a long list of reviews of books and movies
featuring Morocco. Issue one featured a similar long list of all
pop-cultural references to Las Vegas - both times, these lists have
struck me as being pretty much unreadable, and I suspect all but the
obsessed will merely skim them.
Travelling Shoes has a way to go before it's perfect. Articles often
feature "jumps," those annoying little notes that one must flip to the
end of a magazine to read the rest of an article that I had always
thought existed solely to make readers flip past ad pages multiple
times. H.D. has a nasty habit of slipping into the first person plural
when he's really only talking about himself, something that always
strikes me as being either cowardly or pompous. A 2/3rds of a page
(non-Moroccan) music review section is brief enough not to be
annoying, but is so terribly out of place in this zine as to be a
little jarring. The back cover of the zine features recommended zines,
but includes only names, prices and addresses. Readers would have to
have a great deal of confidence in a publisher to order zines without
having them reviewed or at least described.
Travelling Shoes can be ordered for $3 in cash or stamps from PO Box
206653, New Haven, CT 06520-6653. Issue one features Las Vegas and
issue three is scheduled to feature Seville (Spain).
As before, I hope this will be the first round in a conversation
rather than simply a review. I don't expect this to be a hotly
controversial zine, but hey, surprise me. If you've read either issue
of Travelling Shoes, please post what you thought of it or compare it
to other travel zines. Whether you've read Travelling Shoes or not,
post your thoughts on travel zines or any of the stylistic elements
I've described above. Or, at the very least, reply to swear at me and
tell me I'm hypercritical.
I shan't disappoint you by introducing controversy concerning
anything you wrote about Travelling Shoes; it all seemed to me to
be precisely on the mark. (Well... except that I really liked the
nostalgic article about the Moroccan/Arabic popular singer.)
I can't say I've yet encountered any other "travel zines", only
some (often excellently-written) travel accounts in general-
content zines. Some of the latter I've _liked_ a bit better, I
think, or in a different way, probably because they were a trifle
more comfortable/informal & personal, or involved people I know.
Miller's style and writing level strikes me as being thoroughly
Professional, sometimes with just a hint of self-importance.
Nothing wrong with that, actually -- he's writing out of the
microcosm of Literary People -- even though it's not always
precisely what I'm in the mood for, and I think these are sources
anyone interested in, or planning on going to, Morocco or Las
Vegas should read. Probably they should also be read by anyone
planning on writing an extensive Travel Account.
who rather regrets he decided not to travel to Baltimore MD for a
convention there this weekend... though if he had gone, he'd
probably write more about crab-cakes & local beers than any
reasonable person would want to read.
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