Lonely ’round the john

Short Bus Mega-zine has left the building. After four years, the Sacramento-based humor zine that brought us articles like “How to Buy Pot at Work” and “Why I Want to Beat Up Michael Landon” is no more. Since the demise of the self-proclaimed source for bathroom reading material, Sacramentans are at a loss as to how to entertain themselves on the john, and founding editor Chris Acosta is deep into the five stages of grief.

“I was at the Capitol Garage a few weeks ago to watch Supermodel Suicide, and someone was like, ‘When’s the new Short Bus coming out?’ I just didn’t say anything,” Acosta admitted in a recent phone interview. “I figure the people that read it will eventually figure it out.”

That’s evidence of the denial stage—as is the fact that Acosta’s answering machine still identifies him as the magazine’s contact. “I told [staffer] Amber Kloss to take Short Bus off her voice-mail message,” he said, “and then I realized it’s still on my message.”

Then there’s the grief stage: “To be honest,” Acosta said, “I can’t even open one. It’s just too hard.”

What killed the lighthearted little zine? According to Acosta, “Sacramento is growing at such a rate that a lot of our biggest support—the mom ’n’ pop shops—are really starting to die out. That hit our advertising budget really hard.” New development downtown has resulted in increased competition from chain stores, forcing the sort of tiny businesses that took a chance on Short Bus to reconsider their advertising budgets. “We were putting out 15,000 mags,” Acosta explained, “but someone else would be putting out 50,000 in full color. I’d go with that, too.”

Financial worries sucked the joy out of producing the zine. “The last year of Short Bus really wasn’t that fun,” Acosta continued, speaking from the anger stage. “There was all this pressure to keep getting bigger and better, and we were barely making our print costs.”

During the bargaining stage, Acosta dismissed suggestions from readers to return Short Bus to the cheap days of Xeroxed pages or maintain it as a Web zine. “I don’t want it to go online because print has that unique quality. You can’t take your computer to the bathroom,” he said. “Well, I guess you could if you had a laptop, but I don’t want to take that step backward. Short Bus made a good run, and to be honest, I’m glad. It’s like a weight off my shoulders.”

Acosta now has time to work on long-postponed projects—like a touring band’s guide to Sacramento and a humorous coffee-table book. Co-founder Chris Durant is now writing screenplays, and staff photographer Dan Atterberry recently completed a photo shoot with Cake. “Short Bus gave everyone a good springboard,” he said. Wait; is that a glimmer of the acceptance stage? “After I talk to you, I might change my phone message,” he concluded.

For a limited time, the Short Bus Mega-zine archives can be viewed at www.shortbusmag.com.