Archives: Travelling Shoes

Marc Parker:
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, entertaining story."
        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.

Don Fitch:
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.

Don Fitch,
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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