Well, for most of my life I’ve been living in the shadow of this public and profound obsession with Green Day, which started around 1994/1995 (when I discovered their music and my self esteem suddenly transformed from being in a constant state of embarassment over my list of insecurities, to not really giving a shit). So I wrote this zine, Greenzine, around 1997, which started as real deal Green Day fanzine. It included fan contributions, lengthy descriptions on why their specific songs are so important and perfect, mini novellas about getting persecuted by fellow school mates over my love for Green Day, fan drawings, fan experiences (no fan fiction, that just wasn’t my bag, I’m a memoirist) <—(Thats a joke/L-word reference). But it is true, I did not participate in GD fan fiction. Anyway, the zine grew up, as I did, and being obsessed with Green Day suddenly wasn’t as interesting as flunking math, getting into awkward verbal debates about masturbation, questioning the government, falling in love with people, and other punk bands (It mostly became heavy on the pop-punk bands, the zine became full of interviews and record reviews). As I became aggro, my work did too, and by the 11th issue everything had a political undertone. Partly due to being 18 and having been exposed to perplexing new ways of racism and sexism, and partly due to my urge to disguise my insecurities about my queerness, promiscuity, depression, and my discombobulated relationship to my Cuban heritage. The more I grew up, the less Green Day/Punk content the zine involved; and the more it became filled with punk feminism and queer latina sagas and comics. On the 14th issue I articulated a romanticized abusive relationship (documented in issue 12), and it became a zine about moving away from your home and and rebuilding your trust in activism and communities that facilitate social change. It felt hopeful and like a nice ending; but I didn’t really document the isolation and confusion that came from losing trust in the communities that saved me; while feeling disconnected from my cultural identity AND my sexuality (I was in the closet to my family, but big on the queer arts). So I moved to New York City and worked on Indestructible, a short book about high school and my first book (with a spine); and after that came Bad Habits — my illustrated culmination of all the zines and all the hate and all the lack of accountability that destroyed my faith in transformative justice (for the time being); but opened my life to a different gay community and opened my heart to love (and vaginal sex).
Wait, but I asked you why you wrote a book about Green Day, not for your life story in publishing.
Oh yeah, I’m a Gemini.
Yeah. Anyway, so my projects have always overlapped, and as I was finishing Bad Habits, I started to feel incredibly settled and aware of how I wanted to exist in the world. I had come out to everyone in my family, the Dominican grocery store, the internet, etc. I was in this new skin of focusing on my tangible life problems as oppose to a vast identity crisis (you know, my saturn return started); so I started working on this science-fiction graphic novel about the future and corruption and aliens, but the story kept focusing on this one character, who was the equivalent to a Latina/descendent thereof, and she was queer, and 14, and obsessed with this band I made up called “Herbivore”—– so I realized I should shut the hell up and just write about Green Day and middle school and being in the closet. I never really had articulated the lonely foundation of this deep love for political punk and its respective communities, which I learned about via Green Day. Its the ultimate foundation to all of my adult lifestyle choices, goals, and values. Weird, but real.
So what was the big fuss about? How did Green Day save you?
Well, I was living in Miami, FL and it was 1994. My family had strong catholic morals involving sex; and aside from that; homophobia and shady homophobic jokes were a really commonplace thing, especially at school. Kids would get punished for using strong offensive language; but not necessarily for being homophobic. The community in Miami (my Cuban community, as well as the city itself) had a big conservative agenda and value system; and it was difficult to exist outside of it on the day to day, unless you had the freedom to seek out safer pastures. When you’re 12 and totally confused about your constant fantasies about gay sex, there isn’t much you can do besides find like minds, hide out, and contemplate. When I first heard Green Day I fell instantly in love with the sound of the music (because I was way into catchy things like musicals and Aerosmith; but in the end, I just needed some bouncy poppy teen angst); but also with their political agenda. They constantly brought up gay rights and their gay scene and their tour for Dookie was with Bay Area gay punk band, Pansy Division. This all thrilled me and boggled my mind. So I took this discovery and became more and more enamored (and humbled) by its components. There was a bizarre sense of community that I suddenly longed for. The catch was that Green Day’s fame ostracized them from parts of the punk community they came from; and that resonated with me. Because now that I had found myself in lieu of my sexual identity, I feared losing my Cuban community that introduced me to other values surrounding being a woman (I was raised by my mom, grandma, and aunt) as well as class conciousness, work ethic, etc. Still, I was 13, so I just lived my life. It took until 2007, when I was writing Bad Habits, to fully distinguish what was cultural isolation, what was queer isolation, and how my identities can co-exist in happiness and freedom. So anyway, Green Day saved me.
And you wrote a book all about it called Spit & Passion! I guess you like these open-ended questions more because you like to ramble so much. Can you share a bit about the creative process?
Well, that was rude.
Anyway, I wrote it all and started working on the art by 2009 (right in time for 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day’s 2009 album) but since I was going through my Saturn Return, I was too invested in the transformation of my feelings to accelerate the project without a concrete printing goal (since my Saturn is in Libra, so my return was all about feelings as oppose to all that stuff that seems more manageable to me like money and security). I eventually hooked up with Feminist Press in 2011 and we all became pretty stoked to work together, and I resumed in finishing the book (along with my Saturn Return) by summer of 2012. I had a vision which was to write a book about surviving the closet and making it work for you, and that vision was emphasized once all the “It gets better” campaigns started. I saw a few that focused on making it better for yourself and designing your own safety, but some of those things were idealistic and difficult for me to understand as a Latina who was doing this additional balancing act with my ethnicity and family. Feminist Press really believed in that vision; where as a lot of publishers out there were freaked out by the depression and the masturbation and the real talk. I’m not really interested in accomodating publishers for money, and I’m really big on creative growth being an organic snowball effect due to doing what you love, as opposed to pushing and shoving a vision for its marketable qualities [i.e. I'm a punk]. So I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out because I have trust issues when it comes to any collaboration. Still, nothing really ever feels final to me, you know? I have a computer post-it on my desktop that keeps growing with changes that I need to implement for the second pressing; such as the shitty graphic design flop on page 19. I daydream about hand writing the second pressing, but I also daydream about my band, The Homewreckers and working on our 12-page insert, or this Apocalypse Queer Tarot Card deck I’m working on with awesome author, Michelle Tea. Its a Gemini thing! Doing whatever I want, not worrying about consequences or means of productions, but more so with the art itself (but thats what communities and bestfriend fire signs are for, god dammit)…….Plus, I’m also a cancer moon so progress and creativity have to be really natural and humbling for me. Lots of close friends have to be in on the process and lots of basement shows and performance brunches.
So do you hate book launch events?
No, there is a fine line between an awesome communal feeling of making art in an art community and a totally isolating moment of being alone with your art. Releasing a book doesn’t have to be this weird flashy Carrie Bradshaw thing, but more so, a feat you’re meant to accomplish if you are meant to accomplish it, because one day you realized your purpose in life is to communicate stuff (especially to queer teens), but working for the public school system didn’t really work out for you.
Well, thanks for sharing a moment with us, Mizz Croad. Do you have any last words?
Remember, you will only find love in hopeless places.
CRISTY C. ROAD is what Billie Joe Armstrong, lead singer of Green Day, calls “a BAD ASS”! Born thirty years ago in Miami, she began illustrating and publishing a punk rock zine, Green ‘zine. She then published her widely acclaimed graphic memoir, Bad Habit(Soft Skull, 2008) and Indestructible (Microcosm, 2006), a graphic novel, and started touring nationally and internationally with Sister Spit, with her band, The Homewreckers, and on her own. Her work has appeared on countless record and book covers, in zines, political posters, and signs, and in anthologies and magazines. Spit and Passion is Road’s pre-teen memoir about coming out, finding religion (not what you think), and her chronic obsession with Green Day. She hibernates in Brooklyn, New York. croadcore.org