Monday, March 19, 2012

GITP Guest Blogger #8: Introducing Zinester, Writer, and NYC Treasure, Ayun Halliday!

Editor's Note: In April of 1999, my six-month-old baby Z and I met Ayun Halliday in the East Village's Tompkins Square Park. As this was an auspicious playground in a storied park,  Z and I always dressed carefully for the occasion (in matching tights, of course). For days, Z kept tipping over from a sitting position in the toddler area, but I couldn't help but notice Ayun, who was there nearly everyday sprawled on the blacktop nearby, smiling, usually laughing, surrounded by the all the other mothers, the few fathers. Ayun and her toddler, Inky, were the playground's epicenter of sorts or at least seemed to be from my peripheral perspective. They were the cool kids in this new milieu of mine. I was shy and reticent, but Ayun was instantly warm.  One day she pressed the inaugural copy of her (now influential and decidedly world famous) zine, East Village Inky into my palm one day, and after I read it, crouched in my shoebox of an apartment, I nearly collapsed onto my dirty floor from joy--Ayun's zine was great:  witty, poignant and uncannily illustrated.  Not long after, Ayun vacated the East Village for Brooklyn, and we have been in intermittent touch over the years, but given the fact that she is as prolific as Elvis Costello, I've had many opportunities to share the same air space with Ayun at  her many  readings and public appearances. She is a force of nature, and more than a decade later, I'm still in awe. 

Having her guest blog this month is especially cool, as it's Ayun's birthday next week and the East Village Inky is closing in on issue #50!
Ayun at the Chicago Zine Fair this month.
1. Tell us about yourself. I'm a 46-year-old writer, mother, summer camp enthusiast, and the Chief Primatologist of The East Village Inky zine, a native Hoos-Yorker who frequently cites the expression, "If you label me, you negate me." I just agreed to illustrate a friend's book, so I guess I'm an illustrator too. I march in the Mermaid Parade every year regardless of the state of my midriff. I'm a public school loyalist who's beginning (again) to look into homeschooling. I love to travel, especially by myself or with a platonic lady friend, doubly especially if someone else is footing the bill. I used to do low budget theater and dream that that day will come again, though it would take someone grasping me firmly by the iron and putting me in the fire. I fancy myself a cyclist but despise the uphill part of any bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn.

  2. Are you in a tight place? If so, what are you trying to do about it? Physically, yes. It seemed so big when we moved here from a 340 square foot apartment in the East Village. That was literally at the start of the millennium, and now every board creaks, the furniture is warped from the increasingly slanted floors, there's a crack separating the ceiling and the wall, and something that looks like blood drips down a living room wall every time it rains. Oh wait, I was supposed to be talking about the size. Because what I was describing sounds like a haunted house and you know how big those are. We have four people, a cat, and a ton of books and paper crammed into an approximately 725 square foot apartment with one closet and no outdoor space, unless you count the stoop 3 flights down, which I do since I have claimed it as my own. The two biggest problems with this tight place are that my children share a room the size of a smallish walk-in freezer, with no room for anything resembling privacy or just contemplative alone time. This was okay when they were younger - not a lot of flouncing off to the bedroom or telling someone that they couldn't come in - but I can feel how much my teenage daughter would like a room apart from her younger brother. The other problem is that their dad gets in these moods where our semi-squalid quarters can envelop him in a very dark and crabby cloud that permeates all 725 square feet. But neither of us has the stomach to look for real estate in a methodical, hopeful way, and we have different criteria as to what makes a livable neighborhood! (So I take a breath and remember that we have a very fair landlady, and a lot of great neighbors, and no roaches, and a roof over our heads and all that…)

 Mentally, I feel fairly un-tight. This can be a liability at times, but it allows me to check out or at least hear about all sorts of interesting events and projects here in NYC and beyond, often helmed by people half my age. It's rare that I feel hemmed in by the world. Financially, I do feel some tightness. I seem to be genetically predisposed to live frugally but not meanly, but my talent for finding cashmere at the Salvation Army is not of much use when it comes time to pay for braces, health insurance, college…

3. What do you want to get done this year? Meet a magic fairy who will trade me a brownstone in move in condition for a lifetime subscription of the East Village Inky. Preferably in Fort Greene or Clinton Hill. Also finish a novel I've been working on for years, see it sell, publish three more issues of the East Village Inky, fatten up my subscriber list, have a wonderful summer at the camp where I work, keep the love handles off, get a grant, score some freelance work, be patient with and loving toward my husband, children, and friends, hit a few more zine tests and keep my wig on straight whenever it's threatening to come off. 

 4. What inspires you? Homemade parades, punk marching bands, people who modify their bikes, older women dressing in eye-catching, festive ways, well written books, people who know how to use the Internet for good, the staff and sometimes campers of Beam Camp, the knowledge that other people in other countries live with much more difficult challenges than the ones that cause self-pity in your average bohemian-inclined American, music… I'm just coming home from the Chicago Zine Fest where I met a ton of cool people who are a) nice and b) pumping out a metric heinie load of beautiful, clever, well written, well drawn, funny zines and comics.

5. What is your favorite legwear? Striped knee socks. I felt really proud when I saw that Trixie, the main hooker on Deadwood, shares my affinity.


  1. I adore Ayun too even though she intimidates the shit out of me. Although that could be good if it keeps me regular. And now I love your blog too. Glad I found you through her.

    1. kooki, i've never even met ayun and she intimidates the shit out of me--has done for years through her radical uber-awesome work. i'm so honored she agreed to guest blog for us. and so glad you like the blog!

    2. also, ayun, how do i get "mentally untight"? what's your secret?

  2. cool article! great woman this Ayun... actually I read the first time about her, here:

    x Karen