Interview: Broke-Ass Stuart

Posted by Maximum Fun on 11th November 2007

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Within the first week I lived in San Francisco the second edition of Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide to Living Cheaply in San Francisco was shoved into my hands. For the first few months I took settling in it was my urban bible. I discovered great independent bookstores, free BBQ and, most importantly, cheap and good Mexican food. Now Broke-Ass Stuart’s popular ‘zine get a new life a book published by Falls Media. Now anyone coming to San Francisco, either moving here or as a tourist, can get their hands on one of the sharpest guides to discovering the best (and least wallet-damaging) parts of the city. Broke-Ass Stuart’s book release party will happen at the Rickshaw Stop on Thursday, November 15th.

Ian Brill: Somewhere in between The Golden Gate Bridge and Gay Pride, one of the things San Francisco is best known for is the high cost of living. People have to stretch a dollar to pay rent. Was that the inspiration for the originally guide to living cheaply?

Broke-Ass Stuart: Yeah, that was totally one of the reasons. I was working at a candy store in North Beach, when I first came up with the idea and as you can imagine I wasn’t really making too much money. I also knew that most of my friends were in the same shitty financial situation as myself, so it just made sense to write something for all of us that any broke person could use. But the idea really happened when a guy from my neighborhood growing up came into the candy store with his fiancé. I hadn’t seen him for years and after chatting for awhile his fiancé gave me her card and told me to holler at them if I was in San Diego. I looked at her card and it said that she was a travel writer, and at that point I said to myself, “Shit, I wanna be a travel writer” and I decided to be one.

IB: I remember walking down Valencia St. and all the used bookstores seemed to have the original guide. A few even had displays for it. How did your promote yourself once your work hit the streets?

BB: Honestly, the zine practically promoted itself. There was a lot of word of mouth and I guess people would tell their friends about it and it would just get passed along that way. I met some girls from Ireland who had been given the zine by a friend who had spent the summer in SF. They were pretty excited to meet me; they thought I was way cooler than I really am. As for the stores, I would just go into them and be like “Hey. I do this really cool zine. Do you wanna carry it?” and then once they carried it I’d go back to them and talk them into putting it on display. I’d be like “You know Dog-Eared Books sells out of these every other week because it is on display at the counter. Maybe you could put it on display too.” And a lot of times they would do it. Really though, I think a lot of the success has simply come from being nice to people. It’s amazing how often people forget that if you are sweet and genuine with other humans, most of the time they will be sweet and genuine with you. It also helps that I have dimples 🙂

IB: What did you change for the new Falls Media version of the book?

BB: One of the greatest things about the guys at Falls Media is that I didn’t have to compromise any of my style of shit-talking for them. In fact they encouraged it. That’s one of the benefits of going with an independent publisher. Really the only thing I had to change was that I had to talk a little less shit on stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders because, well, the are gonna sell a lot of my book. So we just changed a few references so that I talked shit on other big box stores like Best Buy. As far as I’m concerned all those companies are the same anyway. They just run the little guy out of town.

Otherwise the guys at Falls Media have really enabled the guide to grow into a full book. Tons more info, tons more photos, and even some maps by the lovely and amazing Angie Hathaway. This thing is unbelievably cool. Is it ok to say that about my own shit? Oh well, it’s true.

IB: This a question that will mean a lot to Jordan Jesse Go listeners: Ashkon will be playing your book release party. Do you expect a lot of hottubbin’ during that late night?

BB: That’s right! Ash was on their show huh? He’s great isn’t he? I’m a big fan of his music and he’s a good friend of mine. I’m going to make a special request that he plays the song just to get all the ladies in the mood….ha ha ha. I don’t know if there’s gonna be any hottubbin’ for me that night, I’ll have to check with my girlfriend. Considering that she and I are staying somewhere without a hottub, maybe there will be some bathtubbin’ on the late night. But probably not. Most likely I’ll just pass out.

Broke-Ass Stuart can be found at his own website where you can read excerpts of the original ‘zine. The book release party will happen Thursday Nov. 15th at the Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St. in, where else?, San Francisco.