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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 18, 2012

Crunch Time

THE ROAD, April 18 – I’m nearing the halfway point in my book tour, and although the middle week is technically part of the tour – I have a few shows around LA – I’m worried about losing momentum. Here are a few things you can do to help out:

- If you’ve read the book, give me a review on Amazon. I’m not saying use words like “profound”, “life changing”, or “Sam is the next Walt Whitman”. But I’m not not saying it either.

- Please: tell people about my shows. Post event things on Facebook. I’ve done 23 readings thus far, and each has been a hell of a lot of fun. But I can always use more people. People are the coal for the furnace that is this book tour. Help me to shovel more and more and more of them into that metaphorical furnace.

- Buy some art prints. I know I said that these were only for sale at live shows, but that is no longer the case. I’m selling them through Paypal. $25 postpaid. My Paypal ID is vmfm@sammcpheeters.com. Just specify which print you want. I’ll be shipping from the road, USPS 2-day. If you have questions about your order, you can write me at 2012tour@unleashthewalrus.com.

- If you live anywhere on the southern eastern seaboard, come see me in SC, NC, VA, MD, or DC in the next few days. Don’t not go. Do go.

John & I stepped out to get some salads at the nearby Whole Foods last night, but the rental car wouldn’t start. I called Dollar, who said they’d gladly swap cars in the morning. So we walked to a nearby Subway. We’re both still haunted by memories of being stranded in Ohio 12 years ago, so it was sort of a somber, quiet walk.

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 15, 2012

Saddle Hunt

PETERSBURG, KY, April 14 – John Michaels and I took a detour to the Creation Museum. I’d read about this place, over the last five years, and was intrigued by their hyper-literalist take on the Book of Genesis. Now that I’m an adult and no longer pretend I’m smarter than anyone else, it’s nice being able to go to places like this with an open mind. Who am I to say the Creation museum is wrong? I’m no geologist. Maybe the world was made 6,000 years ago. Perhaps we’re all wispy Thetans trapped in meat bodies. Maybe the Moonies got it right. That’s the beauty of agnosticism. We parked among SUVs and monster pickups and set out for the infamous T-Rex wearing a rodeo saddle.

Despite the prominently armed security guards, the exhibitions seemed fairly benign. A few videos showed teens struggling with pot and on-demand abortion, but there was no blatant, Jack-Chick level venom or darkly coded anti-Semitism. Instead, the museum presented itself as a haven for the besieged faithful. Other videos present creationism as a reasonable alternative to evolution, outlining the fundamentals for both sides. One display prominently featured the doubts of lapsed evangelical Charles Templeton. I’ll probably check out his writings based on their inadvertent recommendation.

My strong hunch is that most Kentuckians are bummed about the museum. Go to any roadside stop in the state, and you’ll find a wide selection of hillbilly magnets and collectable mini-moonshine jugs. A museum showing velociraptors in Eden probably doesn’t help Kentucky’s already battered self-image.

On the subject of dinosaurs, the museum showed a strange timidity. Huge lizard beasts, both inanimate and animatronic, lurked everywhere. Several dioramas showed docile dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark. Apparently, a “behemoth” in the Book of Job “could have been a sauropod.” Signs pointed to dragon sightings in the Middle Ages as evidence of dinosaurs’ coexistence with humanity until “relatively recently”. Of their sudden disappearance, the museum cited predators, climate change, and human hunters—all the (non-asteroid) reasons any species has ever gone extinct.

And yet the museum lacked the balls to show dinos side by side with any Biblical figures besides Adam and Eve. If behemoths made it well into New Testament days, why not show them in the New Testament? Where was the friendly brontosaurus peeking his lumpy head into the Nativity scene? Where was the pterodactyl swooping over Paul on the road to Damascus? Where was the Jurassic Park mayhem at Golgotha?

At a certain point, we reached saturation. Passing group after group of murmuring evangelicals, sated on Chili Cheese Creation Burgers and happy in their safe space, I felt that sort of overload one gets from doing too much Christmas shopping. On our way to the exit, I passed a tiny triceratops and finally saw the saddle. It was a prop on which one could photograph their child. As with everything else in the place, it was hard to see what all the fuss had been about.

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.