After a stint in the Iraq War, during which he was awarded a Purple Heart, Sean Davis, a writer, came to Portland and joined forces with visual artist Joe Baca. Together they formed P-Town Independent Press, an arts group committed to getting out artwork and writings by locals who might not otherwise be noticed because they don't have a fancy degree or other useless credential that looks good on paper. And with the recent publication of Ian Avi's darkly comic novel Motivation and Toleration and an upcoming group art show at Roots Pub (1527 SE Hawthorne, opens Sept. 5), Davis and Co. are doing exactly what they set out to do.
How did your time in the military affect the development of P-Town?
I had always wanted to do something like this, but after I was blown up in the war, a lot of things became trivial and the things I actually wanted to do became more important. I came back and we decided to do whatever it takes to make [P-Town] happen. And then we actually did it. And now we had a book signing at Powell's last week (Ian Avi read on Aug. 17), and we actually had people there. It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. We believe that Portland could be the Haight-Ashbury of 2005 and we want to get that going.
What compelled you to join the armed forces in the first place?
I was working at a Safeway in a small town and I needed to get out and see the world. I joined the military and got out in 1999. Then 9/11 happened and I joined back up and all of a sudden I'm in Iraq. Sometimes I listen to [KBOO's war commentary] and think, "Man, I should call them up and confirm their worst fears."
What's an example of things you saw that would confirm their worst fears?
Once we went through a terrorists' safe house and found machine guns and sniper rifles that were used the week before to kill American soldiers, along with food that [the U.S. had] dropped to feed Iraqi citizens. We were feeding our enemy.
Did you write about those experiences?
Yeah, I have these war journals and they're kind of Hunter Thompson-esque—that Gonzo style of journalism. I have all my own pictures, too, of stuff that's completely not supposed to happen.
What happens at P-Town's weekly gatherings at Squeez?
We drink beer and play some pool and talk about art and literature. People show up and show us their work, or we tell them about ourselves and most of the time they get behind us. They read the stories we're printing and see the art and just want to help out any way they can.