When I was in high school, one of the best (and only) record stores in the area was named Sound Splash and it was owned and run by the coolest, hippy-looking guy named Matt. I used to visit Sound Splash several times a week and I dropped thousands of dollars at that store, buying vinyl records and new alternative music releases. Sound Splash was a complete mess; it reminded me of what CBGB would look like had it been a record store.
One day while I was browsing around, I noticed the magazine rack they had at the far corner of the store. It was filled with underground magazines and homemade zines that were mostly the cut-n-paste variety but there was one that just looked different from the rest; it’s name was 3am. Most local zines were simply xeroxed together and written instead of typed because punks (at the time) couldn’t afford computers but this particular magazine was so well done that I couldn’t believe that it was local. Intrigued by the layout, I handed Matt the “100¢” that the magazine’s back cover required and took it home.
The inside cover gave a basic synopsis of what the magazine was about and named the editor/publisher/designer as one John Eagle. I actually knew who John was as I went to middle school with him and he was a grade ahead of me. He was a semi-popular kid who hung out with the other popular kids, but I know that he ruffled a lot of feathers and got demoted in popularity when he beat up another popular kid at school. It gave his home address as the contact address and asked that “all letters, suggestions, submissions, money, gifts, bottles of good whiskey, your old girlfriend, money, your new girlfriend, bottles of cheap whiskey, whatever…” needless to say, I was mildly intrigued by the contents.
The first page was made of a vellum-like material that had two quotes, one by Charles Bukowski and the other by Kurt Vonnegut. Needless to say, the Bukowski quote made me go from mildly intrigued to very intrigued.
The dedication page was interesting for the simple fact that it displayed an amazing photograph of a boy pressed against a window and the photo was over saturated and under the photo it read (what in what appeared to be in John’s handwriting)
“a journal dedicated to the wee hours of inspiration”
The pages following were a collection of photos, postcards, band interviews, anecdotal tales, napkin manifestos, poems, pictures taken in photo booths, rants, public service announcements, quips, comics, road trips journals, and an advertisement for a blow-up sex doll. It all seemed put together remarkably well and all submissions came from a concentrated group of people, many of which I actually knew from school (but never spoke with). I remember feeling a sense of wanting to belong to this amazingly talented and interesting group of people even though before I read the magazine. I had prejudged each and every contributor as shallow when I went to school with them – how was I to know?
This zine made such an impact on me that some 20 years later, it’s still in my possession.
A number of years ago, I worked at Borders book store and I was talking about local zines and I mentioned 3am to a co-worker who just-so-happened to know John. She mentioned that he had died of a heroin overdose.
How sad, I thought.
Maybe John wouldn’t have felt the need to escape this mortal coil had he have known just how his little magazine that he created with some friends touched and inspired someone like me. Often times have occurred over the years where I’ll be alone in my room, thinking of something to do to express my deepest thoughts and feelings, when I would reach over and read 3am. I’d thumb through the pages and marvel at the wonderful photography and the simple, yet powerful poems that were contained within.
I struggled with letting go my emotions and to simply put what I felt down on paper (or screen) but time and time again I’d either crumple up the page and toss it in the trash or simply choose CTRL+A and then press delete. Obviously, this time I went through with it. Maybe John inspired me one more time.
A few years ago, I was reading the newspaper and there was a story in the local section regarding teens and drug abuse. John’s mother was featured and she told the story of how he had lost his battle with heroin. I wanted to contact her and tell her that his life was not in vain because he inspired me immensely throughout the years through his little, unknown magazine called 3am. I wanted to thank her for having a son so inspirational as he and that maybe my words about her son might lessen the pain she feels about his death.
As long as I have this copy of 3am, his memory will always live with me.
Thank you John.