Exactly one year ago today, with a pink and green site, big dreams, and little clue of what was to come, Trop went live—Happy Birthday to us! It’s been a wild year, one filled with surprises, CSS challenges, experiments in social media, and lots and lots of writing. We’ve had fun with it, and to celebrate we’ve compiled the following reflections and secret histories from some of our key people. You can think of this as our version of VH1’s Behind the Music.
Thanks so much for reading, Tom
Riley Raubacher, Popcorn and Ghosts
It was six in the morning when I burst into the media transfer office across from the Pike Place green tomato stand. Gladys, the woman sitting behind the front desk, caught sight of me in my dirt-covered khaki overalls and promptly wagged a finger in my direction. “Don’t you get dirt on my wood,” she shouted from behind the twisted frames of her half moons. “I’ll stay in the doorway, Gladys,” I responded. “But I need a wire sent out immediately.” She opened her desk drawer and brought out the wire tapper, taking her sweet time positioning it properly in front of her. Finally, she waved her hand in a gesture that informed me to spit it out.
“Trop… stop… have discovered the lost files… stop… better than we could have expected… stop… it’s a lost radio program… stop… hundreds of episodes lost in time… stop… it’s the discovery of our generation… stop… it’s history in the unmaking… stop… time and space naked and vulnerable… stop… hidden spirits trapped within the realms of sound… stop… I’m coming home Trop and I’m bringing Popcorn and Ghosts with me… stop…”
Gladys was still tapping the message away as I ran into the market to purchase celebratory mini donuts.
Jake de Grazia, Life Advice Radio
There used to be a blog called Life Advice, and I used to read it almost every day.
You probably would have done the same had you been in my position. Most posts were written to me, and it’s a warm and special thing to be famous like that.
But let me tell you to be careful with warm and special feelings. They change you, and then they leave you, and you’re different, and it’s confusing.
I remember exactly when it all started to fall apart. It was fall 2011, far too hot for an October 24th, and I was up late and drinking grapefruit juice. Hunter S. Thompson used to eat grapefruits to wash the drugs out of his system. I drink them because they make me feel like Hunter S. Thompson.
Anyway, I was at my kitchen table with a glass of juice and a jar of cut cilantro when I read this:
Hey so the newspaper I started that hired me to be its advice columnist got its first submission today for the column called The Meteorological Scene. I can’t believe it! According to this correspondent, it was “about 75” in San Diego on Saturday.
Newspaper? Hired? The Meteorological Scene? Awful name for a column.
I closed the tab and read an email from an Australian cousin. She and her boyfriend had just found jobs cooking on a ski mountain in Alberta. “I am trying to adjust my inner temperature to enjoy this cold weather,” she wrote. I thought of meteorology and screamed.
My wife woke up. A neighbor knocked. If anyone called the cops, they had other assignments.
Six weeks later, when Life Advice went quiet once and for all, it was winter in Los Angeles, and I was drinking chamomile tea.
Alyssa Vine, Organization Czar
The following text conversation transpired over the course of three days in November 2012, on the topic of “rack” (Grammarist.com: “To rack one’s brain is to torture it or to stretch it by thinking very hard.”) and “wrack” (“To wrack one’s brain would be to wreck it.”). We also, in that conversation, acknowledged the favorable outcome of the presidential election.
Nov 7, 2012 4:29 PM
TOM: [This was a “text” of a photo of lines from a book; ellipses indicate where words fall outside the photo’s frame: “I should have been euphoric, frankly. S.H…. G.B., a safe and secure place in the history… instead I was wracked with anxiety.”]
TOM: Hmm… Seems to be wrack in this novel.
ME: Hmmm indeed.
Nov 9, 2012 9:17 AM
ME: [Another photo of lines from a book, same deal with ellipses: “And finally—finally—wracked and purged, we clasped hands and laughed… laughed at those two benighted people… ourselves.”]
ME: Another wracked!
Nov 9, 2012 1:08 PM
TOM: Shit… Should we change it?
ME: Might as well…
And to think we spent a decade corresponding almost exclusively about doner kebabs and fake celebrity death trivia.
Stephan McCormick, The 101
Before we even had settled upon the name Trop, I began mocking up designs using prebuilt templates which I thought would save us time and money. At first we were going to use Joomla, an open source Content Management System running websites such as Linux.com and MTV Greece. But then all of a sudden we needed core functionality for our Weather posts that our webhost couldn’t provide with Joomla. So as we switched hosts (and not for the final time), we junked all the work I’d done—and good riddance. Joomla required a level of coding knowledge that was above my head, which it took me countless hours of hacking to admit. Not to mention WordPress had such an extensive plugin collection, I was sure we could find everything we’d need prebuilt. It would be much easier, I thought.
Multiple webhosts, a bout of Turkish hackers, two major redesigns, and a million hours of favors later (thank you Anders Døssing Jepsen, Rob Gordon, Chris Allgood, and Matt Kenchington), Trop has become a respectable literary publication with a growing archive of top-flight writing I’m proud to be a part of. And if you think we’re awesome now, just wait until you hear about what’s next…
Matt Kenchington, Web Guy
I’m a web guy. I’m not really THE web guy so much, but I’ve sort of taken over the responsibilities of updating and maintaining the site. It’s pretty awesome. And, by “awesome,” I mean fucking terrifying. You see, I didn’t build the site. That means when I look at the code and the various ways the pieces of this digital double helix are put together, I have to figure out what each piece means, what they reference, and why they work the way they do. Queries, functions, and closing PHP tags are what I now dream about. That is quite the departure from my previous dreams of backpacking through Oz wearing nothing but Tevas with socks and assless, leather chaps. But, hey, change is good. Right? Honestly, though, it’s been a fun experience so far. Maybe one day I’ll actually read one of the articles.
Also: I have an MFA in film directing. (No, I won’t make a music video for your band.)
Maggie Mull, Womanhood
One of my fondest Trop moments is the time I was asked to write a blurb for their one-year anniversary. At first I thought, hey, no thanks mister, that sounds like a Ponzi scheme if I’ve ever heard one. But, after some reflection, I realized that over the past year, Trop has been the [female reproductive organ?] to birth some of my fondest memories (but less fond, of course, than the act of compiling them here): the Fine Dining debacle, ellipses goofs with Roger, and who could forget crazy old Beverly?? That horse never knew what was coming. Eesh, poor Beverly… poor garbage man, too! But, in the end, we all had a good laugh. We All. Had a Good. Laugh.
Patrick Benjamin, Expert of the Periphery
(Recorded at El Recto Perfecto Bar & Grill by The Chief. Transcribed by Maggie Mull.)
I remember this one time I was making this natural Viagra kinda drink out of watermelon rinds and Roger came over and we went to like this sort of like Samoan barbecue place that serves awesome… well served… I dunno if they’re still around. Haven’t been back to Montana since ’99. Anyway, it was cool cuz we got totally flapjacked and Roger asked me if I would write a thing on the Lauch Faircloth versus John Edwards seat for North Carolina cuz we both knew Lauch was a sure thing cuz he had the better name and names are all that matter so I wrote the thing but… and this was common… Roger had to cut it down from 10,000 words to 1,000 and it kinda lost whatever you call it… like oomph and we had a falling out and I started doing… just everything. Bongos, Zlangs, Supperchuppers, Ronald FickDonalds, you name it, and I spiraled out of control but Roger helped me back to reality and we made up and we’re still buddies today and every once and again we’ll split a Bongo. It’s cool.
Bel Poblador and Janice Sapigao, paperjam
Recording paperjam allows people who are not Janice and myself to eavesdrop on our ridiculous, pensive, and nostalgic musings. We talk like this in casual conversation—trying to understand the roots, humor, and complexities of every day experiences. All while constantly referencing and grooving to some bad-ass 90s tunes. Our times of deep contemplation, usually voiced in our sonic “Mmmmm” moments, are the two of us chewing a thought in our minds and deeming that thought tasty and filling for the body and the soul. This past year with Trop, we’ve been so grateful to welcome more people into our dialogue, and we hope to create more moments of community discussion and sharing in the years to come. Trop, we can’t wait to see you through to puberty: at that point, we’ll play some Ginuwine and explain how to bump and grind safely.
Hesiod James, Charlatans of Pop
My real name is Tripper Ryder. I penned the name Hesiod James because at the time I started writing for Trop I was also playing for a teenage pop star who had a wholesome persona to maintain, and I wanted neither to compromise my employment nor to restrict my Trop content to a PG rating. I don’t work for him anymore, but I’ve grown too fond of Hesiod to kill him. He’s as bad as he wants to be—kinda like 2 Live Crew, except… Nope, he is exactly like 2 Live Crew.
Sam Freilich, Pop Culture
So remember the time Trop celebrated its first birthday? No, because there’s real time, with digits and even intervals, and then there’s Trop time. I mean that as a compliment. I don’t enjoy nostalgia. The most exciting about Trop is all the things it’s going to do by next year, and then the year after that. But credit where credit’s due: Tom, Alyssa, Evan, Jake, Will, Roger, and everyone else on this thread who’s made Trop a site worth visiting, worth writing for. I have only met about a third of the people I listed, probably less—but I feel like I know them all.
Steph Cha, Honest and Unbiased
I’m a new Tropper, and I’m about to make the mistake of being the obsequious, earnest newcomer. (Love me! Please!) Just a couple months ago, I was a writer living in a city full of writers, wondering where all my writer friends were, and where they were hanging out without me. Writing is solitary—we all know this—and since I missed the MFA circuit, I had little literary company even outside of the room containing my dog and my couch. I decided I wanted to change this, and soon after, I met Head Tropman Tom Dibblee through Evan Kindley at LARB. Tom and I met for a weekday brunch at Little Dom’s (how writerly! to meet in the brightest hour of a Thursday, and drink with lunch), and by the time we finished eating, he’d invited me to join this lovely, eccentric magazine. What I’ve learned since is that Trop is a community, and a community in the thick of LA’s larger literary community, all of which had been opaque to me for most of my writing life. I’ve met so many kind, smart people through Trop, and I’m still very new to the family. I hope no one minds if I make myself comfortable.
Seth Blake, The Erotic Adventures of Batman
Between the whipped cream vodka body-shot slide fountain, nitrous balloon bounce house, and saline-drip equipped r&r r&b beanbag room featuring Lil B and an oxygen bar—Trop’s first birthday bash was, rhetorically speaking, the most unforgettable night of the whole thing. Oh, it happened alright.
Chris Black, Love and Sensitivity
Fortunately, when you think a lot about Love and Sensitivity, it comes with some real-life applications. Like with your wedding, for example. After filling the gift registry, but before reaping the rewards, you have to write your vows. Anybody can say something nice about the person they’re about to marry. If you really want to get deep, you should make it true. Make it honest. Make it real. But also, you know, don’t upset the future in-laws. The best thing to do is focus on the good stuff. I’m not saying exaggerate the good while repressing the, um, not-so-good; eventually, if not already, it will all be good, right? Because if we learned anything from Goodwill Hunting, we know the best thing about marriage is being woken up in the middle of the night by your partner’s whomping farts. But don’t describe any noises she’d deem too private. Rather, use metaphor to describe your love. Say it’s “raging” or “blistering.” Try to do what Keats or Neruda did. But before you read this to the person you’re about to marry, point out that said “whomping farts” are solely hypothetical and usually metaphorical. Do that and she’ll love it.
John Teschner, Concrete Jungle
My primary contribution during Trop‘s first days was to convince Roger and Tom back in November 2011, when the site was still a figment of the imagination called The Metropolis Daily, that we could definitely count on contributors to update The Weather on a daily, if not hourly, basis. To demonstrate, I typed this weather report off the top of my head:
The weather at 10 p.m. Central Time in zipcode 55403 is 43 degrees with clear skies. The squirrels that live in the courtyard of our apartment building have now chewed the plastic sensors off two Radioshack temperature gauges, so I’m relying on weather.com for my readings until I devise a solution, possibly a narrow-gauge PVC pipe or a rolled up piece of window screening. It is unseasonably warm in Minneapolis, and I fear that winter will never be the same again.
It was the last time I ever contributed anything to The Weather. Sorry Roger.
(WEATHER UPDATE: The solution was a wireless thermometer, and my predictions about winter proved to be inaccurate. We are supposed to get two inches of snow on Thursday.)
Peter Nichols, Bum Logic
I remember when I celebrated my first birthday. The party was pretty standard. A bunch of “kids” shit themselves. A bunch of “adults” tried to play nice with each other. Everyone went home more or less happy. And that’s pretty much how I view Trop: Everyone goes home more or less happy. I read Maggie for laughs, Hesiod for insight, Chris for wisdom on wooing womenfolk, Seth for vocabulary, and Tom for current events. Personally I’m looking forward to Trop notching another year on its belt, and I hope it never gives up its appreciation for all things fake, except Bud Light Lime.
Jill Riddell, Acupuncture After the Apocalypse
I pitched Tom two ideas for a column: one was reviews of odd places. (County jails, an elderly person’s sand collection, that sort of thing.) I was sure Tom would pick that one. Any editor would. It has online magazine written all over it.
The other column idea was for a serialized novel. I said it would be about a post-apocalyptic world that really wasn’t so awful: less traffic, more nature; a chance for the narrator to reinvent herself. Only trouble for the main character was that she’d be hassled by zombies. Only problem for me was I hadn’t written a word of it yet.
Tom’s text came back: “I choose………………zombies!!!!!”
And that was that. Ever since then I’ve been writing a whole damn book because of that one text.
Trop has that effect: You start off thinking you’ll toss something off, keep it simple, and then the next thing you know, you’re sweating bullets over writing something that really matters. To you, at least. And maybe, who knows, to actual readers.
I’m a diehard Trop fan. I love everything on it. And every morning I use it to check the weather. It’s not right very often, but then, neither am I.
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.