Saturday, December 24, 2011


A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament.

            While researching my story on STEAM: The Hunt  earlier this year, I had the opportunity to meet Phideaux Mayo , the owner, editor-in-chief, and publisher of Retropolitan which is a magazine dedicated to all things retro in the world of Second Life (SL). 

            Naturally, being the curious writer that I am, I arrange to meet with Phideaux (“Phi”) at a later date to talk about her magazine. 

            When I do meet Phi, I rezz to her beach front house in Insulae Esoterica, the residential sim.    True to her retro roots, she has a home in a classic shore cottage style reminiscent of Key West in Real Life (RL) when Hemingway was there.  (No, I wasn’t there but it sure seems that way despite all the snow on the ground outside.  This is one of the nice features of SL, weather and geography can be matched to one’s preferences.)  The sound of waves washing upon the shore adds to the feel of the place.  Islands are visible on the horizon when one looks out to sea from the front porch. 

            I quickly learn something of Phi’s practical joker side when I pet a bird on the railing at her suggestion and the bird blows up and leaves blood AND flying feathers.  I can still hear her laughing. 

            We go inside to Phi’s drawing room and sit down on a sofa and chairs of a certain style that I typically don’t see as I wander about inworld.  The remainder of the house, from where I am sitting is in a classic décor which is not overdone.  The Christmas tree is one of the loveliest ones that I’ve seen in SL.

            I start our interview by asking Phi about Retropolitan and how she got started.  She says the idea came to her back in 2008 shortly after she arrived in SL to develop a clearing house for all things retro in SL.  Phi explains that residents were running around asking one another where a certain hairstyle, shoes, or cottage came from and no one seemed to really have all the answers.  There was no place for them to go and Phi saw an opportunity for a niche. 

            From this, with the help of friends, came the idea for Retropolitan.  Phi explains that Retropolitan is a concept.  It’s way for people to live in SL.  The readers are called “Retropolitans”.

            I ask if Retropolitan is a brand or a lifestyle like steampunk.   Phi replies that it’s more of a clearing house for all sorts of retro and vintage styles and lifestyles including steampunk. 

            Phi does not have exact numbers for Retropolitan’s readership.  But, she does estimate that 8 – 10,000 people may be exposed to each issue.  Each issue contains advertising and since many of them are recurring, I suspect that they are satisfied with the results. 

            Retropolitan is a monthly magazine.  Phi works with Retropolitan co-owner, Echo Underwood, who is responsible for art direction and layout, and Nivelm Bing  who is responsible for technical issues including the website.  In addition, there are writers who prepare the stories.

            Putting out a monthly magazine, even an electronic one, is a challenging business.  Phi describes how she has to have the dresses from the designers lined up, choosing subjects for stories and assigning writers, and keeping all the advertisers accommodated and happy.  She talks about the constant process of production, how no sooner than one issue put to bed then the next is looming. 

            Besides Retropolitan, Phi and Echo also own and manage the Esoterica sims which are dedicated to the retro lifestyle.  They had started it up (after Echo had built a beautiful home in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright), as Phi puts it, on a wing and a prayer and a 4096 sim.  The rest is history. 

            Today, Esoterica contains many thriving businesses dedicated to the retro lifestyle.  Within Esoterica proper, there are Flashmans, a long time popular pub; shops; the Esotericum; the Galleries along with The Follow's Music Hub and DMA.  Additional businesses include Old Time Prims, a four story store filled with retro clothes and furniture, Timeless Hats, and 1-800-Bettie’s.

            Flashmans sits on a slight rise and looks out over Escoterica proper where the other businesses are located.  Phi is especially proud of Flashmans which she and Echo took over from its fabulous creator, Martin Ren, when he decided to retire from running the establishment.  Flashmans will have been open for five years in 2012.  She says it is still a great place to drop in, dance, and bring friends.  Phi claims the music is famously offbeat as are the clientele.  (Sounds like my kind of place.) 

            Phi came to SL four years ago on the tail of her brother. He is a Furry, and while he lives in Insulae Esoterica, he is a private person and isn’t involved in his sister’s business activities.  Although, they do manage to get together on occasion and have some fun times. 

            Linden Lab (LL) policies about pricing and service are a concern for Phi because, for her, maintaining two sims is a challenge.  She proudly tells me that they are one of the few successful such operations inworld despite being in the middle of nowhere.  Revenues come from advertisers, tips, and donations.

            As for the future?  Phi looks forward to a very successful 2012.  The recent Vintage Fair brought an influx of new contacts so she expects to have a lot of new talent to feature next year.  Specials are planned from Retropolitan and its advertisers.  Phi expects more residents subscribing from her inworld kiosk and joining her group to obtain these. 

            I take my leave of Phi and return home inworld.  I’m impressed by yet another community that has formed in SL and is thriving.  The tools and opportunity of SL have permitted another group of strangers to come together and do something that would either be very difficult or impossible to do in RL. 

            I recommend reading Retropolitan (or, “Ret” as Phi puts it) and visiting Esoterica to see what’s in the shops and participate in the social life.  I promise that you won’t be disappointed. 

I would like to thank Phideaux Mayo for taking the time to meet with me and talk about Retropolitan.  As always, I’m grateful to all for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

     If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
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Photo No. 1: Phideaux Mayo

Photo No. 2: Retropolitan’s Offices, Esoterica

Photo No. 3: Phideaux’s Exploding Bird – Don’t Touch!

Photo No. 7: Downtown Esoterica

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