Archive for May, 2014

As I’ve mentioned in previous writings, I grew up in California; born in the mid-60s, my cultural awareness started in the early 70s. By the time I reached junior high school in 1978, I was familiar with a wide variety of music. Mom was into the Stones, Janis Joplin and classical, while Dad loved jazz and country – not the bullshit that’s passing for country today – the real stuff, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Don Williams. In the car, most of the non-Spanish language stations were AM pop which, for my money, was the Golden Age of pop music. So, I’m pretty well rounded when it comes to music.

When I was in junior high, I also began attending a Christian church, a precursor to the so-called mega churches of today, and in the special junior high Sunday School group, they counseled us endlessly on the evils of secular music, how KISS was an acronym for Knights In Satan’s Service, how Santana was just another way of saying Satan, and that Supertramp was going to Hell for that passage in Goodbye Stranger where the singer says the Devil is his savior, never mind that the lyrics are taken completely out of context and the real meaning of the song is entirely different.

In other words, us impressionable kids were being taught about the evils of the world, via pop music, by a bunch of fucking idiots.

However, no band was held in lower regard for their wholesale embracing of darkness and evil than…The Eagles. Because Hotel California is totally about Hell and what an awesome place it is, and also because of the infamous back cover photo and the ultimate evil it beheld: the shadowy visage of Satan and/or Anton LaVey, the legendary eccentric and founder of the Church of Satan, and with whom I coincidentally share a birthday.

Seriously.

Seriously.

I want to add that many years later, I actually met Anton LaVey at a gun show in San Francisco, and for what it’s worth, he was a cordial, nice, and genuinely funny guy. The thing is, when you forbid a bunch of pre-teen boys something that’s so bloody evil, that’s exactly where they’re going to end up. So we listened to the album, basking in the glow of all that evil, much to the consternation of our Sunday School teachers who were, as I’ve previously mentioned, a bunch of fucking idiots.

This was also a source of serious concern.

The upshot is that the very people who were trying to condemn The Eagles were the ones responsible for my knowing of them. Being the 1970s, in California, The Eagles were exceedingly popular. They were all over the radio, with their kickback songs of about takin’ it to the limit while takin’ it easy, having a Tequila Sunrise with the New Kid in Town, while livin’ in the fast lane with a Desperado who was a Victim of Love and thought it all might be Wasted Time. The Eagles’ Greatest Hits is the third best-selling album in music history, beaten only by Thriller and Dark Side of the Moon.

So…I was an Eagles fan. I owned The Long Run and their live album, and as time went on, their music became a staple of the local rock and classic rock stations, sowing their seeds of cynicism and the deep bummer of being globetrotting, cocaine-fueled rock stars. I never really thought much about it; my buddies liked The Eagles (I bailed on the church thing pretty quickly), and I gave the matter little thought.

Except that years later, I realized that I was switching channels whenever an Eagles song came on the radio. When Hotel California started playing somewhere, I mentally counted back the number of days that had passed since the last time I’d heard Hotel California (a number which rarely went into double digits). Obviously something was amiss, but then something miraculous happened. But first, a digression.

By the late 1990s, the Coen Brothers had solidly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the film industry. Since Blood Simple, their 1984 debut, they had given audiences Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, and Fargo. My love for their work and their highly stylized filmmaking marked them as true originals. In 1998, however, they released The Big Lebowski, a movie which, I admit, I just didn’t get at the time. Truth be told, I don’t understand the enormity of its cult following, except perhaps the stoners out there find a hero of sorts in Jeff Lebowski, a man-child who lives in a dumpy LA apartment, flakes on his rent, and has to bounce a check for a carton of milk. Whatever; I’m not judging. In the years since, I’ve warmed to the film considerably, seeing it as a sort of existentialist mystery, an LA story, and a meditation on weed, bowling, and whatever else; possibly nothing at all. However, what stuck with me from the start was one line in the movie. One line.

With that, my mind was blown. Somehow, I had never realized that, despite all the airplay, despite the record sales, that there might actually be people who didn’t like The Eagles, that it was even possible. Somehow, I just figured it was part of living here; that we were all fans by default. It simply never dawned on me that we had any choice in the matter. I realize this makes me look not terribly bright, but that’s the truth of it. It took The Dude for me to see the light.

I hate The Eagles. I hate their tepid, mediocre, soulless country-rock, I hate their world-weariness, their intellectual posturing, their gutless riding of Gram Parsons’ coattails, the idiot disco of One of These Nights, their cover of Tom Waits’ Ol’ 55 (how dare they!), the pissy infighting of spoiled millionaire rock stars that led to the breakup, Glenn Frey’s entire shitheaded solo career, and their inevitable reunion tours. But mostly, it’s the music: an coworker recently told me that the reason I don’t like The Eagles is because musically, they’re just not challenging. “You hear a song of theirs once, and you’ve heard everything there is to hear,” she told me. “There’s nothing beneath the surface, no subtext, no deeper meaning.”

And thus The Dude showed me the truth. Hell, I don’t even have to have a reason to hate the Eagles; I can hate them like I hate Foreigner and U2 for the simple reason that they just suck.

That’s my story.

 

I’ve spent nearly a year in an effort to get my first novel published; many highs, many lows. Some initial interest, and some mostly positive rejections. In the mix were a couple of total dick rejections, which I really don’t get. If the story wasn’t to your taste, so be it. Move on. You knew it wasn’t Young Adult sparkly vampires going in, so don’t sandbag me for it not turning out that way. Just…be nice. It’s rather easy. FYI, agents in the UK give the best rejection letters: very polite, often in good humor. Polite, in other words. Their stateside counterparts could take a page or two from their playbook. Onward.

The part of this that has been difficult, which really drained me, was submitting my beloved manuscript to strangers, and hoping they’d like it enough to offer me money and then subject me to their editors. My labor of love, that for which I shed blood, sweat and tears (attributed to hangnail, hot summer, and stubbed toe), while sometimes actually listening to Blood, Sweat and Tears, this weird story borne of some rotten personal experiences (current and former staff of that particular church I attended as a youth, be forever thankful I’ve chosen not to name you; drop to your knees and thank the god that protects people like you), and forged during some of the most stressful times of my life.

And the waiting. The interminable waiting, and everyone asking for updates – for which I’m thankful – but jeez, how the hell are we expected to continue our regular lives, knowing that at any moment (but probably not this one) that magical email might arrive, the message that will Change Everything. Day, after week, after month. Patience has never been my strength, and I’d like to believe that I have improved in this area, but knowing that I probably haven’t. I can’t imagine the old way, sending a printed manuscript via the mail then waiting, waiting, for the mailed response. I’m having palpitations just thinking about it.

Oh, and in the midst of this was the comedy over the title. But that’s been resolved, and I’ll announce it soon. But not today.

Through all of this, what I’ve dreaded is placing my future in someone else’s hands. So I’m not going to take that route after all. I’m going to do what I originally planned, and that is to self-publish. It’s become an actual thing, no longer the exclusive domain of the horribly un-publishable. The industry is changing, and an ever-growing number of agents and publishers are taking a closer, more serious look at self-pubbed books that chart well. And speaking of charting well, that’s down to me, and hopefully you as well. Which is to say, if you read my book and you like it, please tell people about it. Write a nice review at Amazon or iTunes or B&N; it would mean a lot to me. If you don’t like it and feel compelled to write a review, that would be awesome, too.

More than anything, I want to just get this story out there, out of my head, so I can start on the next one. So if you’ve come this far, give it a few more weeks. We’ll get there.