It's almost 9 PM and I'm listening to Iron and Wine in the comfort of my pad. My mind has been thinking about recent events in my life and I feel better for having them. In the past three months, I have connected with people from all walks of life and enjoyed the mutual sharing of stories and experiences. Memphis, my home, is getting its coolness back and I am glad for it. Suddenly, we are popping up in the news in other cities and people from all backgrounds are supporting the city and local businesses because it's just the right (and cool!) thing to do. I have had awesome conversations with people who work for the City of Memphis, professors, artists, home renovators, geeks, freaks, film lovers, students and the list goes on. I am very much a people person; I love having conversations with folks and listening to their view of the world and what they make of it.
So, it came as no surprise to me that, during a really, really cool bicycling event thanks to Revolutions Bicycle Co-Op (of which I will be joining soon!), that I learned about Dinner and Bikes, a traveling show that focuses on transportation equality with emphasis on bicycles. Dinner and Bikes is also the home of Microcosm Publishing in Portland, Oregon, a radical publishing company with all sorts of titles to whet your intellectual appetite. After the event, I knew I had to purchase a book from them and soon found myself the owner of the autobiography Maps on the Other Side as written by Sascha Altman DuBrul. This is no ordinary autobiography, for Sascha is no ordinary man.
Having been placed in several mental institutions since his teenage years due to his bipolar disorder, DuBrul burst forth into the world as an activist, punk musician, seed trader, and a strong supporter in the world of psychotherapy. Just when it seemed as though suicide was his only option, he found strength in the freaks and created the Icarus Project, a massive organization that focuses on the labels of mental illness and the radical ways in changing how it is handled in our society. Maps to the Other Side is a collection of DuBrul's journals and previously published zines that chronicle his life from an angry and mentally ill punk teen to a force in the seed library movement and a return to organic living. He speaks frankly of his moments of "madness"; those pieces were the hardest to read for me because I couldn't believe that it was the same man who was so active and so creative. And yet, it was.
(The Artist Finds a Home - photo by Kimberly B. Richardson, 2015)
Maps to the Other Side is not for everyone - let me just say that right now. This slim book took me several weeks to get through simply because it was saturated with memories and experiences that should not be glossed over. He writes like a journalist, making you feel as though you are right there sowing seeds for the next harvest, jumping railroad cars to a new destination, traveling to Mexico and facing almost certain death, falling in love with a kindred spirit only to discover that the kindred spirit took their life.This book is powerful, amazing, terrifying, invigorating, and uplifting. His meetings with other people suffering from mental illness, artists, radicals, yoga practitioners, stern therapists and others framed him into what he is today. And what a man.
Thank you, Microcosm Publishing, for publishing this book. And . . . thank you, Sascha, for being such a bright light in this world. Thank you.