Mike Topp, writer and editor, 51, lives with his wife in a one-bedroom apartment in Stuyvesant Town in New York City. The Empire State Building is framed in the center of their 8th floor living room window.
Topp writes the monthly flash fiction newsletter Stuyvesant Bee complete with keystroke sketches and his signature breve wit. Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to meet with Mike in the East Village. We strolled along the East River as I recorded our conversation on a digital dictaphone. I passed along the transcribed and edited version, then Mike reformatted the original Q&A form into something much more original, more representative of the art that I see as Mike Topp – laconic, spacious, wise.
Best household chore: Cooking. I cook Asian food, Italian food and, you know, sort of vegetarian meals.
Fantasy career: I’d like to be able to fly. I’d like to fly helicopters and I fully intend to learn. I read a lot of specialist magazines now.
Favorite place to shop: I like Printed Matter for buying artist’s books and periodicals.
Habits or mannerisms: I can’t see too well in the dark. My mom says it had something to do with my diet when I was kid.
Morning routine: I wake up at seven every morning and drink coffee and read the paper. Then I have breakfast and either email or read. On weekends I swim at noon with some friends.
Evening routine: I swim Monday and Wednesday nights with a team. My wife and I eat dinner around ten every night and sometimes watch a movie. Sometimes we listen to the radio.
Favorite memento: Hotel shampoos and conditioners. I also need to mention that I like the movie Shampoo a lot.
Favorite place in the house: I like to sit on the couch and look at the Empire State Building. I enjoy the different lighting schemes, although I think I prefer white.
Best thing about his work: When I go home and forget my profession and am a regular guy like everybody else.
Worst thing: I resent the fact that I can’t walk down the street without people recognizing me.
True or false: He loves to snack on bologna and mayonnaise sandwiches: False! I hate mayonnaise!
Why he moved to New York City: I was living in Rhode Island and some friends asked if I wanted to drive with them to New York to buy heroin on the Lower East Side. When we got to the city, one friend asked for directions and this guy reached through the car window and punched him in the face. That’s when I decided I wanted to move here.
Favorite movie: David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, because it’s so unsettling and I love detective stories. There are great performances in it.
Writing implements: For a long time I used an Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter. It’s a portable mechanical typewriter designed by Marcello Nizzoli around 1950. Now I’ve switched over to a 21.5-inch iMac.
Book to recommend: My favorite book that I am reading right now is Joe Brainard’s Nothing to Write Home About, which Dennis Cooper’s Little Caesar Press published in 1981. Although Brainard is best known for his memoir I Remember, I prefer some of his other books, especially Selected Writings, New Work, and 29 Mini-Essays. I’m waiting for the day when Ron Padgett puts out Brainard’s collected works.
His hobby: I publish a one-page newsletter every month called The Stuyvesant Bee. It’s about nature and recipes. I email it to about 500 “subscribers.”
Technology item he can’t live without: My iPod shuffle.
What’s playing: Computer Love by Covox.
Idea of the perfect party: I like parties I throw myself because I can invite all my friends and then I know everybody and I like everybody who comes.
Fictional character he most identifies with: The Man Who Fell to Earth.
Favorite decorating technique: I collect vintage prints of plants and animals.
Thing in his house he’s fussiest about: I don’t like dirty dishes.
Procrastination technique: Check email.
Guilty pleasure: I spend too much money on art books.
What’s by his bedside: A rack full of plants and a basket of books and magazines. A glass of water.
Pets: A white rabbit named Otto and a guinea pig named Proton. Also lots of fish.
Recent purchase: I just bought a Motorola Droid. It’s nerdy but does everything. I’ve watched American Psycho and The Fantastic Mr. Fox on it in the last month.
Always in the fridge: Blueberries.
Next book being published: Publishing Genius Press is issuing my book Sasquatch Stories, with a cover by Tao Lin and a drawing by David Berman.
Collections: Art and photography books, and self-published artists’ books from the late seventies and early eighties. I have a bunch of Ed Ruscha’s self-published books, like Twentysix Gasoline Stations and Various Small Fires. I almost have a nearly complete run of the early 80s zine Bikini Girl…if I can only track down Issue #1.
Fitness routine: I swim four times a week. I participate in open-water swims around New York City. I’ve swam across the East River under the Brooklyn Bridge, around Governor’s Island, and did a six-mile swim up the Hudson last summer.
Recurring nightmare: I’m trying to slash my wrists with an electric razor.
Idea of a perfect day: Drink sangria in the park, then when it gets dark, we go home. Feed animals in the zoo. Then later a movie too.