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Archive for April 2012

April 27, 2012

Priceless Opportunities

THE GOLDEN STATE, April 27 – I’ve got 2 local shows coming up. Today I’ll be reading in Claremont at 6 PM, at the Claremont Forum. Tomorrow, I’ll be in LA, reading at Permanent Records at 6 PM. Check my LIVE page for details.

These are priceless opportunities to meet me in person and get a book signed. If you are reading this post a decade from now, you blew it. I’ll be surrounded by like 20 layers of bodyguards and lawyers by that point.

Also, Monday’s show at the Smell has been postponed. I think until June. OK.

April 22, 2012

Cities

TOUR, April 22 – On Friday, I returned to Richmond, VA. I had some bad times when I lived there 15 years ago. If you were to make a PowerPoint presentation of my bad times, you’d have to devote a good part of that presentation to my own, private mental bad times. Some of the blame, however, was Richmond’s. It was a scary town in the 1990’s. I heard a lot of shootings and dealt with a lot of crazies in the half decade I lived there. One friend died, and several other friends had some nasty things happen to them.

Panic attacks were a regular thing for me in Richmond. For years, I was scared I’d have a grand mal panic attack meltdown if I ever returned. Only after a regimen of hypnotherapy cured me of acute arachnophobia, last year, was I able to reassess all the other limitations I’d accrued over the decades. Many of these self-restraints, including Richmond, suddenly seemed trivial, and no longer worth maintaining.

The city looks great now. I saw lots of old friends, and they seemed healthy and happy. Many of them have refused to age. I did a reading at Chop Suey books, and a comedy set at Marty Key’s record store, Steady Sounds. One old friend arrived very pregnant. It was her due date, but instead of giving birth to a human being, she chose to see me tell jokes and read from my new novel. It was a nice night. Later, John Michaels drove us through brightly lit streets and I caught just a few, fleeting glimpses of the alleys and buildings that bordered my old life.

In the last three weeks, I’ve been through five cities I once lived in. I’ve inhabited California far longer than any of those cities—longer than anywhere I’ve ever lived—and yet I don’t think of myself as a Californian. I definitely didn’t expect to be so homesick for a state I still view as a novelty. Last week, in Kentucky, I grew glum at the sight of two decorative, waist-high, plastic palm trees. In Richmond, the indifferent store cat at Chop Suey books made me acutely aware of my own animals, far away. I’m looking forward to being home tomorrow night.

April 21, 2012

DC Tomorrow

I have 2 things in DC tomorrow. This is the 2nd. Info on my LIVE page.

April 20, 2012

Tools

APRIL 20, THE ROAD – I’ve noticed that a lot of you have a strong aversion to buying my book on Amazon.com. This isn’t a problem; you can also purchase the book from Buy Olympia. But for the record, I have no problem with Amazon. Meaning, I view Amazon as one of many tools at my disposal in the selling of books, similar to pens, coffee, hotels, interviews, paper money, Square.com, and the interstate highway system. So that we’re clear – I don’t lose any sales or feel any physical pain when you buy my novel from Amazon.

I am, however, fascinated by the evolving perception of Amazon’s villainy. With last year’s Borders bankruptcy, Barnes & Noble has emerged as the bricks & mortar underdog against the encroaching world of online book sales. Amazon has twenty times as much cash as B&N. But that still leaves Barnes and Noble with $820 million. I increasingly get the impression that they are viewed as the struggling mom & pop book chain to Amazon’s looming corporate behemoth. It’s a comic dynamic, and an unsustainable one.

Is this a bad time to publish? I don’t think so – it’s just a period of rapid flux, full of new risks and unforeseen rewards. I’ve treated this trip as an opportunity to do covert market research whenever possible. On the flight out, I & (Mugger publisher) Anthony sat next to a very nice Ohio lady who’d brought a kindle and an iPad with her. We grilled her about her digital reading preferences, both of us grateful for the peek into the reading habits of a bona fide heartlander (later the conversation shifted to her support of Rick Santorum, and I put on my headphones and let Anthony continue the chat solo).

The Washington Post just ran a profile of me. It’s in Sunday’s Lifestyle section. I’m not sure which lifestyle this book supports, but I feel strongly that it must be one of the good ones.

April 19, 2012

Music

THE CAROLINAS, April 19 – One thing that happens when you’ve been in a band and then you write a novel, is that people will still want to talk with you about your old bands and not so much the novel. That’s fine, partially because this type of conversation is still a lubricant that sells books. But inevitably there are questions about my own future in bands, which are inevitably followed by my assurances that no, I have no plans to play any more music. I try to phrase this answer so that it doesn’t sound snooty. I wish I still enjoyed music. I’m hoping I enjoy music again in the future.

I get hints of this happening. I’ve been listening critically to music again, on this trip, for the first time in years. For most of my time in bands, I had a very limited range of songs and albums I liked. This gives me a huge advantage over most of my friends. There is an ocean of music out there I get to experience for the first time. Just on this trip, I’ve already been (re)introduced to a half dozen artists I never paid any attention to the first time around: King Crimson, Nas, early Roxy Music, Dio-era Sabbath, The Wipers, Wu-Tang Clan. Maybe someday I’ll be moved to buy one of their records.

We stopped at a Flying J in Latta, SC, and I was startled to see Tim Barry pull into the spot next to us. I knew Tim when I lived in Richmond in the mid-90’s. He was, and remains, a hell of a guy. I, on the other hand, was an unpleasant wreck when I knew him. My hope is that I didn’t make too bad an impression on him when I left his town. He’s the kind of person who would be too courteous to receive me with anything other than a bear hug in the candy aisle of a nasty truck stop, despite how much of a dong I may or may not have been 15 years ago.

We’re both on tour. Tim was heading south, I was heading north. Although he seemed happy and grateful to be able to do what he’s doing, I felt a twinge of relief that I wasn’t the one on a music tour. Then he asked how long I was touring, and I said “seven weeks”, and we both laughed in that way people do when they’re happy they’re not on an endless book tour and then one of them realizes that he very much is.

April 17, 2012

Tuesday

ATLANTA, April 17 – In the cramped world of the rental Chevy Aveo, “Tuesday” has long since turned into code for A Break From The Low Impact Yet Strangely Grinding Rigors Of Life On The Road. We’re going to go do something fun today. Tour resumes tomorrow.

April 16, 2012

The Goatee Leg

GEORGIA, April 16 – Creative Loafing, the Atlanta weekly paper, just ran an interview with me. I’ve been trying hard to control my use of the phrases “you know” and “I mean”, and I scored decently in both categories here. If you live in Atlanta, I’ll be reading at Criminal Records at 6, and then doing a spoken set & reading at Gato Bizco at 8. Directions are on my LIVE page.

It’s weird being in the south again. In Chattanooga last night, walking back to the rental car and peering into the dark vegetation by the side of the road, I got that spooky southern feeling. I lived in Virginia during five rough years, so I have some bad associations with what is actually a very nice part of America.

When I woke this morning, I had a lush, full goatee. This is also something that happens when I’m in the south. The weather was nice, so we stepped outside our motel and did a quick photo session to document this leg of the trip:

(Photos by John Michaels)

April 14, 2012

Stacks Chat

KENTUCKY, April 14 – This is today:

Also, The Fader just ran a video interview with me, shot in the stacks at St. Marks Books two weeks ago. It’s a good interview, but let’s be clear: I look much, much better than this in person.

April 13, 2012

Danger Zone

OHIO, April 13 – If you live near Cincinnati, you will need to come to my show at Static Age tonight at 7PM. I’m doing 2 sets of reading and spoken material. It’s also an art opening for me and Neil Burke’s new art show. And you can get screened copies of that beautiful poster I made. Check it out in yesterday’s blog post. Also THERE IS GOING TO BE A FUCKING MAGICIAN AT THIS THING. Don’t not go.

I’m starting to feel dangerously burned out. All the diversions I’d scheduled into my itinerary have had to be jettisoned. We were supposed to visit the Gerald Ford Museum yesterday in Grand Rapids: sleep won that battle. I keep promising John Michaels that we are going to stop at a casino and have fun like two happy men on the road, and then it never happens, and after a while I start to feel like I am being a crummy father to him.

April 12, 2012

Leg Strength

AMERICA’S HEARTLAND, April 12 – I’ll be in Chicago today, at Columbia College Chicago (2:30 PM) and then Permanent Records (6 PM). Check out my LIVE page for maps. Also, the Chicago Reader gave me a very nice review and a very nice interview. If you’ve ever doubted my leg strength, just check out John Michael’s photo in the review. That is a standing jump.

This is tomorrow: