When you're an anti-consumption mainstream-culture-eschewing car-hating vegan it's highly unusual and extremely gratifying to read a travel guide written expressly for your weird demographic. Even those who loved to shop and think no trip to NYC is complete without seeing Phantom and dining at the Hard Rock Café should find some stuff they'll want to do in here, much as I hope they don't. There are plenty of kid-friendly activities listed in the guide, but be warned, the f-bomb gets dropped 25 times in the book, more if you count Fly's signature spellings, "fck" and "fckn." While we're counting words, those orthodox in their food choices will rejoice as I did that the word "vegan" appears 85 times in the 256 page book.
Crafty zine kids will be stoked about sections on free eats, public art, zine selling bookstores and comic book shops; art, office, and craft supplies; 99 cent stores; used, vintage, and thrift store clothing; candy stores, tattoo parlors, bike resources, photobooth locations, and of course zine libraries ♥. Sadly, it seems that none of the contributors has a great idea of where outsiders should pay to stay, but Ayun does list a few hotels, hostels, and B&Bs. The driving & parking section wisely tells visitors to leave their cars at home, and warns that "Cabs are expensive and prone to hitting cyclists. Avoid them." I don't you'd ever get that from Fodor's!
But just because this book was written expressly for (and ever so slightly by) me, doesn't mean it wasn't written for you, too. It's hella more eclectic than any other guide I've ever read. That's partly because so many zinesters contributed to it; there are more than fifty contributors listed. But even with all of our reviews, drawings, and survey responses, most of the credit is due Ayun Halliday, who lists some guidely links on her own website. She is listed as the book's editor, but I'm guessing about 90% of the content is from her, not to mention the organization of the thing, the maps, and the survey that shaped it. You wonder whether Ayun ever gets any sleep. During Ayun's tiny catnaps, standout contributors include but are not limited to Cecile Dyer, Sharon Furgason, Amanda Plumb, who wrote her own NYC guide that I reviewed here about a year ago, and Emily Rems.
My only quibble is that the guide could have used rigorous fact-checking. In a guide like this it's less okay than in your own perzine to say "I think" about some fact, especially when you're wrong. It is possible that the crustiest of readers might wish there were were more freegan tidbits, subway jumping tips, and panhandling locales. From my perspective there are only a very few things that I think should have been included, but I have only myself to blame for that. If I'd written the descriptions, they probably would have been. After reading the guide nearly cover to cover, I wish I'd contributed more reviews, and maybe even some illustrations. I hope there's a second edition so I can get my chance!
I think my favorite quote from the book, and one that beautifully encompasses its ethos is from Max Stein, writing on the Park Slope Food Coop, "Anarchist heaven or Stalinist Hell? You decide."