Missoula’s Zine Scene

by William Skink


It was quite a blast from the past reading the Indy’s feature piece this week about Missoula’s Zine Scene. As you can see from the photographic evidence above, a poem of mine found its way into the inaugural edition of Slumgullion, circa 2005. I made a few zines myself, but never distributed them beyond friends.

Maybe someone going to the zine celebration at the ZACC tomorrow will find one of my very limited edition zines floating around for sale or trade.

Nostalgia seems to have a strengthening pull for Gen-Xers. I just finished watching Everything Sucks on Netflix and I have to say it’s a goddamn adorable show. There is a scene where the dad wants to have a private conversation on the telephone upstairs, and to accomplish this task back in those olden days one would need to rely on a second person–in this case, the daughter–to hang up the phone once the other line was picked up.

Spoiler: she didn’t hang up the phone.

For me the creeping nostalgia is butting heads with a deep anxiety about the future. I know I am not alone, but I also don’t have “a scene” I feel a part of.

I sense a similar sentiment from Dan Brooks in his opinion piece this week asking where have all the gamblers gone?

Though Brooks focuses on a subculture of poker miscreants, his sense of loss speaks to the broader trend of gentrification that transformed Jays Upstairs to a business schmoozing space called The Loft. Dan writes beautifully in his piece this week about Missoula’s transformation:

I used to know a dozen hustlers in this town, guys who played for a living, or what passed for a living in a quiet mountain-town economy. They were sporadically broke and routinely drunk, but they tightened up around the end of the month and made rent with a quick kill at Stock’s or the Tip. The internet made a couple of them rich. Poker made them sullen and ebullient by turns, quick with figures and slow with everything else. Years of folding and waiting had rendered them incapable of picking anything up without rolling it across their fingers. They all seemed to share the same cough. They were a community, united by their willingness to put in 50 or 60 hours a week to avoid getting a job.

You can’t do that here anymore. Mostly it’s because the poker boom is over, and the players who remain play better than the guys who crawled out of their basements quoting Rounders. But the rent has gone up considerably since then, too. The bar games have withered away, and those that still spread take longer to fill up, and break earlier. Missoula is a different town from what it was a decade and a half ago. Fewer people expect to make a living without working.

I don’t think many people would tell you that’s bad. You’re supposed to work; it’s immoral not to, unless you’re rich. Our community is probably not suffering for a lack of bar gamblers. It is suffering, though, isn’t it? The old places shut down and the new places are chains. The whole town keeps getting nicer in ways fewer of us can afford. The riff-raff moves out, and the fit professional families move in. This mountain valley is becoming so valuable that soon only the best people will live here. It doesn’t do any good to complain about it. Nobody wants to hear your bad-beat story.

Are we just tomorrow’s geezers waxing whimsical about the good old days, or is something fundamental about the essence of Missoula draining away as new banks and hotels spring up?

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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2 Responses to Missoula’s Zine Scene

  1. Missoula has fundamentally changed. I grew up here, left after college, and came back 17 years ago. My second stint in The Zoo has convinced me our town is not a welcoming place for regular old working people.

    I think a big turning point in the trajectory came in 2003 when Mayor Kadas broke a tie vote and committed the City to another $1 million ($3 million total?) to finish the baseball stadium. Correct me if I’m wrong, but at the time I believe he was on the board of Play Ball Missoula, which was the group seeking the funds. Once that line was crossed, it’s been a free-for-all.

    The spigot has been wide open for private interests seeking public money. MRA has become a slush fund for mayors to hand out money and curry favor with powerful people in the community. Has the City Council ever denied a TIF request? Look at the recent situation with the Mall. Supporters of MRA and TIF talk about future added tax revenue but that never seems to materialize because these districts just keep getting renewed (or expanded, i.e. declaring the Mall blighted.)

    People are having trouble paying their rents/mortgages TODAY. Ellen Buchanan or Mayor Engen pontificating about added tax revenues five years down the line is head-in-the-sand bullshit.

    I don’t see any of this changing any time soon.

  2. Pingback: When Missoula Played Ball | Reptile Dysfunction

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