Zine, Eric Yetter, 16 pgs, realtioga.etsy.com, $12
This tiny quarterly zine has a talent for creating humour out of sincerely written Reader’s Columns. Yetter curates excerpts from The Owego Pennysaver, offering a glimpse into the joys and anxieties of the residents’ lives. Considering there are 19 volumes of #REALTIOGA, it is clear the people of Tioga County, New York, have a lot to say.
The excerpts from the Pennysaver Reader’s Column included here veer in all types of directions. Some, like the writer who concludes their submission with “old lives matter,” would like the local weather to start measuring the amount of COVID- 19 in the air. Another reader suggests the trouble you are experiencing making friends may relate to personal hygiene practices, arguing that “[n]o one wants to smell an unwashed body or hair; look at greasy hair, look at dirty food-stained clothing, or look at dirty unbrushed teeth.” A particularly divisive exchange concerning a wagon and the need for residents to “lighten up” is documented in a two-page spread.
My issue of #REALTIOGA came with a 1989 Ron Jones Fleer baseball card. A quick search of the Fleer Corporation Wikipedia page indicates no connection between the sports card manufacturer and Tioga County, meaning this is just a nice thing Yetter included. The back cover of this issue has been intentionally left blank so that it may be used as a postcard for itself — no envelope was used during the distribution of this zine. Mailing information is printed directly on the back cover and the edges are sealed so that the enclosed baseball cards arrive at their destinations safely. A nice touch.
This edition almost ends on a serious note, one which addresses cultural appropriation and the local sports team. Two sides of this discussion are included, one claiming that “within the last 20 years or so, the [local Indigenous community] was asked about using the Owego Free Academy symbol. They said no issue at all, as long as it’s done with respect.” Another reader suggests: “I think we should look into the Owego Free Academy and the usage of [Indigenous Peoples] as a mascot/affiliation.” This section features an illustration of a person wearing a headdress, the only part of this zine that made me feel as if Yetter (or at least the Pennysaver) was punching down. This zine is very funny, but Indigenous people aren’t actually consulted (here, or historically, any- where) on how they are portrayed in sports and in entertainment. I’m not sure the commentators in The Owego Pennysaver are the best people to offer comment on this one, which, while not Yetter’s fault, requires some more care or context to include properly.