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The Fight, part 1

(Attention: This story contains profanity, violence, and graphic drug use, and is intended for mature readers only.)

Friday, June 25, 1999 – 7:35 pm

After the fight with Lily, Cody stormed off to NorCal’s Pub. On the way, he called Huey and Jamil to meet him there.

“I’m calling an emergency meeting. Get down there now!”

Neither Huey nor Jam questioned or protested the sudden call to arms; they knew that Cody was on the edge, and that he needed them.

Cody, strung-out and spun-out on a three day binge of heroin and cocaine—the same binge that sent Lily away and started the fight—drove recklessly down the narrow streets of Midtown Sacramento before pulling to the curb just outside the pub. He stormed in, put two twenty dollar bills on the bar, demanded a full bottle of Cuervo 1800 and three Heinekens, and found his usual booth in the darkest corner of the bar.

I can’t believe that bitch! How dare she? After all that I have given her! How dare she judge me? I should have thrown her out the upstairs window. Two stories up, and a long way down!

Cody could no more lay a hand on Lily than he could ever throw her out of his house, or his life. They were bonded beyond space and time, and no temporal crises could ever destroy that. He knew they would have to work it out.

But not tonight!

Tonight was a night for nurturing anger, spite, contempt, hostility, insecurities, and, most importantly, self-pity. Tonight, he would continue the binge, and add some much needed alcohol to the mix.

Huey and Jamil walked into the bar, found Cody in their usual spot, and asked the bartender for three glasses. Cody was already drinking the tequila straight from the bottle.

“Alright, Code”, started Huey, “what’s on the agenda for this evening?”

“Fucking bitch!” Cody could barely get the words out. He hated to admit any weakness, and admitting a fault in his perfect marriage to Lily was the toughest thing to speak aloud. “Fucking bitch cheated on me.”

“What?” Jam was incredulous. “No way.”

“Yeah, “ continued Cody. “Ran off with Kung Fu Charlie, and then came home and blamed me for making her do it.”

Cody retold the story of how Lily had found Cody in the basement, half passed-out with his freebasing rig still in his hand, a fog of smoke and the smell of sulfur and ozone hanging in the air. She had screamed at him, punched him a few times, and when she was sure that he was not overdosing, she ran off, slamming every door on her way to the car. Cody barely remembered, being in an opiate haze, just as he barely felt her blows. It was as if the entire incident was a dream. But he was very lucid twelve hours later when Lily returned home. He knew where she had gone, and a battle royale ensued the second she walked into the house.

They sparred verbally against each other while Lily delivered several swift kicks and punches to the head. Cody could never bring himself to hit her, even though they had practiced Kung Fu together for years. No, he could never hit her, but he did catch a few of her punches and pushed her down to the floor.

All the violence in their fight brought out five years of unspoken angst. Suddenly, Cody and Lily faced the reality that their perfect love story was not so perfect after all. Cody was a drug-addled workaholic trying to prove his worth to everyone, and Lily was a philanderer; possibly a habitual one at that.

Cody needed the comfort and solace of his best friends.

“Well, I’d kill her, if I were you”, scoffed Huey. “Fuck her! If you aren’t good enough for her, then let her go.” Jamil snickered. “You guys have a famously perfect love affair, Huey continued, “no one would suspect a thing. How good is your acting?” Jamil practically snorted his tequila out his nose from laughing. Huey was being flippant because he knew that Cody would rather have them all laughing than stewing in his anger.

“Not exactly what I wanted to hear, Hue.” Cody cracked a wan smile.

“She broke the ultimate sin—betrayal—and that is not okay, Code”, Jam chimed in with all seriousness. “I can see in your eyes that you desperately want to forget that the whole thing happened, but you know you can’t. Even if you find it in your heart to forgive her, you know that you never really can, right?”

Jam’s got a point, Cody thought to himself while pouring and cutting an ample amount of cocaine onto their table. The three of them all dipped their heads to the tabletop and took a hit off the Peruvian Gold.

With only a few months of fame to their credit, the members of Dutch Oven had carte blanche in NorCal’s, and the bartenders and owners turned a blind eye to their illegal habits. And why not? Cody, Huey, and Jamil were regulars whenever they were in town, and they brought a lot of business to the establishment even when they were out on tour. Besides, their booth was dimly lit and in a discreet corner where prying eyes would not make out the actions of its denizens.

Yeah, Jam’s got a point, but then, he’s never had anyone like Lily. He has yet to meet his soulmate.

“I’m not here to solve the problem tonight, you guys”, Cody declared. “I’m here to blow off some steam. Whaddaya say we just get shitty drunk and curse the world for all of it’s shitty problems?”

They drank their tequila and beers, and stared off at the television. The baseball game was on, and the three of them were content with watching in silence.

Cody’s cell phone rang. He knew it was Lily, but there was no way he would talk to her anymore tonight. He didn’t even care if she ran off to her Kung Fu hero’s fuck palace again, he was done with the issue for now.

Cody was exhausted from the drug-fueled binge that landed him to this place, but the drug-fueled binge was a product of having just come off a five-month tour around the world. The heroin was meant to calm his nerves and bring him back to a place of normality. He usually only imbibed on the road between gigs. He needed the cocaine to keep going, and the heroin helped him to sleep. This habit started two years ago when his first side band, MGHB, started touring, and he never brought the drugs home with him before.

At least until this year, with the explosion of Dutch Ove,n and their first album, “Me & Whoever.”   The demands piled higher, and the road extended further than he had ever anticipated.  At first, Dutch Oven played shorter sets as opening acts for larger bands, but they soon graduated to headlining tours and two-and-a-half hour shows. Then, there were interviews, and autograph sessions, and radio promotions, and record store appearances, and more dates added to their already full schedule. The drugs became necessary.

Cody did not really notice the increased drug use. He, Huey, Jamil, Randy, and Butch all participated heavily and openly. It was as regular as making music–a sort of sacred ritual. It was a Sacramento thing, for Cody, and one that would never occur in New Britain with the Manatee and their strict “no hard drugs” policy, at least, until about a year ago when Cody actually started to use the drugs regularly in both bands. He hid it from the Manatee, and felt ashamed for bringing the forbidden substances into that inner circle.

For the first time ever, Cody realized that he might have a problem. Sitting with Huey and Jamil, openly snorting cocaine off a table in a public bar, and recently having been caught red-handed freebasing heroin by his wife, Cody realized that the drugs were no longer just for medicinal purposes.

“In a way”, Cody started, “I sort of feel like I betrayed her first.”

Huey almost wanted to slap him. “What?”

“Well, I’ve been hiding this shit from her,” he pointed at the cocaine, “and getting more and more into the work. Think about it: what do we do besides play music? What are we doing right now? What the fuck, guys? All we do is get high and play music, and I think that the music is playing second chair to the getting high.”

Jam nodded. Huey looked nonplussed.

“I mean”, Cody continued, “why are we working so hard right now? We just released an album, did a huge tour, and now we are rehearsing new material for another album. Why? Why so soon? So we can get together and party, that’s why. And I have to go back to New Britain next week for the Manatee’s summer tour. It never ends.”

“Dude”, Huey looked confused, but knew that Cody had a point. “Do we really get high that much?”

“When was the last time we weren’t high?”

Jamil chimed in. “I don’t know about you two, but I am not always high.”

“But you are every time we get together and play. On tour, you do the same thing as the rest of us; get up for the show, and go down for sleep and travel. And…AND…”, Cody emphasized, “what were you doing the past few days at practice? The same as the rest of us.” Cody took another shot of tequila, and fought the urge to sneak off to the bathroom to freebase some smack. He felt cornered and vulnerable, and it was all his own doing.

Have the drugs really come between Lily and me? Is the music driving a wedge between us? Or, was there always a problem between us that we only now see?

Now that he has laid all of his faults on the table, he thought hard about Lily’s? What else has she been hiding from him? And did he drive her away, or did she drive him to this haze of drugs and constant work?

continued tomorrow

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Filed under Blue Moon Baby - The Novel

Mousehunter

Inspired by a song I wrote in 1997, which was inspired by a series of poetry written by my friend, Kevin Goodman.

I am Mousehunter. I am Lord of these woods. I track the perimeter of this isolated cabin in search of my prey; the creators of tiny noises in the silent night; the destroyers of my prized peace.

I left the land of high-rises and din for twenty acres and an old log cabin. Rain seeps through the roof and soaks the floors and furniture, but it reminds me that there is still a world outside. The world that I left behind.

Somehow, it lurks in the shadows of my new home; stalking me and attempting to lure me back. Somehow they know where to find me, and how to break my spirit.

But, I am Mousehunter. I am Lord of this cabin. Lord of these woods.

At night, the mice scurry throughout my realm, searching for food, and feasting on my dreams. They tear at my strength and weaken my will. At the edge of darkness, they feel safe. I am at my own edge.

I am Mousehunter.

I traded my mansion for a shack on the hill. A good place to rest my feet, with time to kill. I traded in the Rat Race for a mouse hunt. All the old ghosts know the best places to haunt. Loose thoughts wander around late at night. But I know how to set them right.

I am Mousehunter.

Naked and mad, firing into the walls and the furniture. The mice will soon know their place, just as I know mine.

I am Mousehunter, at the edge of madness, waiting for sunlight to bring me dreams.

I only wish to get my hands on something that will stay still for a little while. I tried to grab hold of something real, but everything I touched killed my sense of feel.

I am Mousehunter. I am Lord of these woods and everything within these walls.

What time is it anyway? So long been chasing shadows. Poised to strike at anything that I can shoot tonight. I still hear them in the silence of shooting stars and falling rains.

The page was blank, and without color.

I am Mousehunter.

Indescribable

Written by: Joel C. Marckx and Kevin Goodman

September 16, 1997

A cabin driven slowly to madness

Sounds flicker from tree to tree

The hunter stands at the edge of darkness

Waiting for sunlight to bring him dreams

Eyes piercing, and feet planted

Gut rot, and heart decay

All the same, it’s still the end of

The way I thought about things today

I can’t explain, it must be this time of year

So, where you been? I’m feeling the same old fear again and again

Big Bear, ‘97

A Slice of Heaven in my private Hell

Hang tight to a rope that’s weathered

A special feeling I know all too well

Cool breeze in blistering sunlight

Punctured eyes see that nothing fits

Bound by the Morton’s chain-gang

And the Rio City roach pit

Thoughts and dots, connect, shut up, don’t ask

So where you been? Shooters following tracks in my dreams

Dangling from strings in the hands of puppets

Sitting still, smiling every now and then

Another day, so far, so weird

Making sure the disease still spreads

(This is actually song #1 of a series of 10 songs created from those old poems. I originally intended to make a concept album.)

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Lyrics

An Interview With Justin Cody – A character development exercise

From a May, 1999 interview in Music Science Magazine:

Coming into the NorCal’s Pub in East Sacramento, Justin Cody looks almost unrecognizable in cargo shorts, a seersucker button-up shirt, and flip-flops; a far cry from his usual stage uniform of khaki-colored Dickie’s pants, a plain-colored pocketed T-shirt, and Converse high-tops. “I’m feeling Spring in Sacramento,” he tells me, and why not?  It is a gorgeous day in his original hometown, and even though the temperatures promise to climb beyond 90 degrees, it is a comfortable 80 degrees at lunchtime.

Justin Cody Maelgwyn, unofficially dropped his family’s surname in 1986, after leaving Sacramento and finding a new home in New Britain, Connecticut, and prefers that everyone simply call him Cody.  Only his wife, Lily, and the birth family he has all but disowned, ever calls him Justin anymore.  His birth family is a touchy subject with Cody, and the terms of the interview are that I do not mention them at all.

Standing 6 foot 2 inches tall, and weighing in at a lean 165 pounds, Cody looks skinny, but has the toned and disciplined body of one trained in Martial Arts; Kung Fu, specifically.  Discipline is a recurring theme in Cody’s life, and it is clear that he survives only because of the discipline that he demands of himself.  His trim and athletic body, his musical virtuosity, and his ability to lead others are all a result of his discipline.

However disciplined his work ethic is, this discipline does not carry over to his appearance.  He looks haggard today, due to an overbooked schedule between his two bands; Colonel Manatee, and Dutch Oven.  Dutch Oven is the electric counterpart to the original, and now defunct, acoustic MGHB band (Maelgwyn, Guinness, Hejleh, and Beard), which released two albums under that moniker.  After the highly successful release of Dutch Oven’s first release in January, “Me & Whoever”, Cody’s has been stretched thin.  He has just returned from a four-month tour of the United States, Canada, and Europe, and has only ten days off before he returns to Connecticut for rehearsals for Colonel Manatee’s Summer Tour.

Cody’s normally unkempt straight light-blond hair is unusually long and scraggly, and he is sporting a ragged beard that looks more like a lack of grooming than a fashion statement.  He keeps his black bucket hat and mirrored sunglasses on throughout the interview, even though we are in a dimly lit pub, and he is all smiles and warmth.  If he is tired and overstretched, his attitude does not show it.  He sits down at the booth with me and immediately orders a Heineken, and then one for me; even though I insist that I will not imbibe on the job.  He insists that the beer will be drunken one way or another.

There is a strange anonymity to Cody, even in his original hometown, especially after a hugely successful debut album that has made his band instantly famous worldwide.  People pop into the pub, see Cody, and give him a slight nod or wave to acknowledge him, and then walk away as if he were only a neighbor or coworker.  Cody does not expect adoring fans, and the fans do not expect to lavish him with praise.  It is as if there is an unspoken code that fame is not recognized within the boundaries of Sacramento, and Cody seems content with that.

The sudden fame from Dutch Oven’s album and hit single, “Blue Moon Baby”, does not shake his loyalty to his first band.  He speaks dismissively about Dutch Oven, and speaks more highly of the less popular Colonel Manatee.  His reverence for his mentor, Adrian Valero, is obvious, bordering on unhealthy, and seems to deflect any praise for himself.  His devotion to his wife, Lily, is also deep and passionate, but it is clear that his love for her would easily trump any relationship with either of his bands.

The interview is conducted over bacon-avocado cheeseburgers (“The best in town!” he assures me), pub fries, and several Heinekens.  His schedule allows me 90 minutes for the interview, but he talks as if he were happy to give me all day.

 20 Questions with Justin Cody

1)  If you had a full free day with no responsibilities, what would you do?

            Spend it with Lily.  She gets first dibs on my spare time, which, of late, had been scarce.  She still tours with me, and so on off-nights, we go sight-seeing in whatever city we happen to land.  We are planning a nice two-week vacation after the Manatee Summer tour, but then Dutch Oven has rehearsals for a Fall tour right after that.  It’s funny; she’s with me almost every single day, but we only get to be alone on rare occasions.

Does that put a strain on the relationship?

            Probably <laughs>, but she gets it.  The Manatee was happening before I met her, so she knows that I have a responsibility to the band.  Dutch Oven is just a side-project that got a bit out of hand, but it will quiet down next year.  1999 will go down in history as a crazy fucking year, and then things will go back to normal.

 

2)  What impression do you make on people when they first meet you?

I don’t know.  I guess they like me.  Hard to say.  I was always that weird kid that was either scorned or ignored; and I lived up to that image, but I’ve grown up since then.  Years of hard work and forced socialization has made me more personable, I guess.  Being on a stage in front of 20,000 people on a nightly basis can give a guy loads of confidence.

 

How about after they have known you for a while?

            I always say that it’s easier to take advantage of me once you know me better because I hate to let anyone down.  Lily calls me a doormat, but I say that I am just reliable.  I’m too easy-going to say “no” to people, and so I don’t.  And now I am working every single fucking day of my life <laughs>.

3)  What is you proudest personal achievement?

            Well, I guess being part of something so huge and successful as the Manatee and lasting as long as I have. 

But Dutch Oven has already sold more albums in five months than Colonel Manatee has in its entire career.

            Right, but Dutch Oven is a fluke and will be forgotten by this time next year.  The Manatee has sold-out every single concert since 1994, and each year, the venues get larger and larger.  We may not have sold a lot of records, but we sell concert tickets, and we have been hugely successful for it.

            Tying back to my proudest personal achievement, being a part of the Manatee is it for me.  I had to claw and bite my way into the band.  Ade (Adrian Valero, lead guitarist for Colonel Manatee, ed.) did not want a second guitarist.  But as soon as I heard them play, I heard myself playing a part in it, and I lobbied hard to get a foot in the door.  Before Ade would even agree to let me in the band, I had to take guitar lessons from him first.  He would give me these impossibly scored music sheets that he wrote, and then I had two days to have them mastered.  Once I showed him that I could do that, then he agreed to let me join, but then I had to practice more hours than the rest of the band.  They all were working on their music degrees in college, and I think they saw me as a hack—which I clearly was—but, I was a hack with a vision <laughs>.  There was a lot of hazing going on in the first two years that I was in the band, and then they accepted me as one of their own.

 

4)  What are you most ashamed of in your life?

            There’s a lot of little shit from my youth that I’d like to take back—petty theft, hurting others as a projection of my own hurt, stupid stuff like that.  Nowadays, I don’t really have anything that I am ashamed of.  I live life pretty straight and narrow.  Oh wait, I guess I am ashamed that I hide from Lily how much pot I smoke.  She only thinks it’s a little bit. That’s stupid, I know, but I had to give you something, right?

 

5)  What would you like for your epitaph?

            “So self-sufficient, he dug his own grave.”

 

6)  What is the biggest conflict in your professional life?

            Well, I formed the MGHB as a way to get to play my own songs.  Ade never thought my songs fit the Manatee mold, and so I started these side bands as a way to give my own writing some air time.  The Manatee has my top priority, and the MGHB and Dutch Oven work during the Manatee’s off-season.  So far, there is no conflict.  The record company knows that Dutch Oven works around the Manatee’s schedule; it’s in my contract, so they can’t interfere, and there has yet to be a conflict in my professional life, except that Ade won’t play my songs.

What about in your personal life?

            That’s personal.  No?  Okay.  Lily and I resolve things quite easily and never really fight about anything.  She loves Connecticut, but she missed her friends and family, and so we bought a second home in Fair Oaks back in 1996.  We bounce back and forth as needed, and she tries to get us back to California whenever possible.  I think that living on the road is wearing her down, especially this year with both bands going full bore, and I think she may want to stay home every other tour, or so.  She loves being with me, of course, and she loves the music—especially Dutch Oven, since it is new music and a direct reflection of me, but she is getting tired of the road.  And I get that.

 

7)  What is the worst thing you have ever done to someone?

            Oh, my dad and I had some terrible rows when I was a teenager, and I said some terrible things to him.  But then, he did some pretty horrific things to me, so, fuck him.  I turned out okay, so I guess I could look back with some empathy and see that he was just a struggling man doing his best, but then, there are just some things that a grown man does not do to a child, and mental mind fucks definitely fits that bill.  I have disowned him, in a way, and that may be the worst thing that I have ever done to anyone, but I still do not see any way to go back and forgive him.

 

8)  What is the worst thing a friend could ever do to you?

Betrayal of any kind.  Friends don’t talk shit about you; they don’t steal from you; and they certainly do not try to muck around with your love life!

Are you referring to Allan Beard and Huey Guinness?

            Well, it’s not my place to say anything about that.  I don’t tell tales out of school, but yes, there is a reason that Allan is not in Dutch Oven.  Actually, there are several…aw hell, let’s drop it.

9)  What is the most important thing in your life?

            Lily.  Easy question!

10)  Okay, that segues nicely into my next question: If Lily ever wanted you to quit one or both bands, would you do that for her?

            Well, I don’t think it would ever come to that, but that’s a hard question to answer, really.  In one sense, I owe everything to the Manatee, so I would have to put them first, right?  But, a bond like the one I have with Lily only comes once in a lifetime, so there is no way I could ever give her up.  But then she would have to live with the guilt of making me live an unfulfilled professional life, and so she would never go there.  See?  It’s complicated.  I would drop Dutch Oven in a heartbeat for Lily, but the Manatee is a tougher decision to make.  The thing is that she would never ask me to quit either band.  She’s my other half; what makes me happy makes her happy.  It’s that simple.

 

10) What do you like best about yourself?

            I can make things happen.  I am tenacious, and I will get what I want.  I got into the Manatee even against Ade’s strongest protests, and now he has said that he couldn’t even imagine the band without me.  I wanted to get my own songs out there, and so I formed the MGHB and Dutch Oven.  And now Dutch Oven is hugely popular, for the moment, and some of my songs are gracing radio waves all over the globe.  I made that happen, even if it is all a fluke <laughs>.

 

11)  How important are your friends to you?

            Aside from Lily, there is nothing more important in my life than my friends.  Ade, Seth, Marty, and Nick (from Colonel Manatee, ed.) are like brothers to me.  We used to have to share hotel rooms and tightly-packed touring vans in the old days, and you really develop bonds with people when you live like that.  I would take a bullet for any of them.  A lot of fans think that because we are so successful and have been together for over 15 years that we are just business partners, but we are still close friends.  They all have come out to see me in both MGHB and Dutch Oven, so I know I have their support.

            And then me, Huey, Jam (Jamil Hejleh, ed.), and Randy have been best friends since junior high school and high school.  We cut our musical teeth together, and so when the idea came forth to start a solo project, they were my most obvious choices.  Miggy (Miguel Azevedo, ed.) and Butch started off as just hired help last year as we were putting Dutch Oven together, but they are becoming one of us!

 

12)  How important is each band to you?

            Well, I make no bones about the Manatee being my real band, while Dutch Oven just keeps me busy in the off-season.  I think that those remarks are offending Huey and Jam, but I’m not going to lie about it.  Dutch Oven is my bar band, while the Manatee is my more sophisticated and professional band.  I have tried to instill the same discipline into Huey and everyone else that Ade drilled into me, but they are too stubborn.  Huey is getting better, but he is no professional…not yet, anyway.  Until I can get these guys to take their art a little more seriously, I will treat them like the accident they are.  Randy and Miggy are the most professional of the bunch, since they have worked with several other bands, but I can barely get four hours of practice a few days a week out of this band.

 

13)  Could you stay in the band if you were no longer friends with your bandmates?

            No.  I already have money, so why would I want to hang out with people I don’t like on a regular basis just for more money?  The reason the bands work, for me, anyway, is because we are friends bonded by the music we make.  If we lose that and it becomes solely a business venture, then there is nothing there for me.

 

14)  Could you stay friends with your bandmates if their was no longer a band to hold you together?

            God, I hope so!  If Dutch Oven dissolved tomorrow, we would all still be friends; we have been since childhood, so that’s a no-brainer.  If the Manatee dissolved tomorrow, then I am not so sure.  I’d like to think that we would be friends forever, but we have grown a little distant, what with a shorter touring schedule each year, and not making albums regularly anymore.  I guess I have a small amount of doubt with the Manatee since we weren’t friends before I joined the band.  I have only known them within the context of the band and working our asses off together.  I think we need to have a band conference-slash-vacation in the Bahamas sometime.  Do some team-building exercises or something, and then play some guerrilla-style gigs.  Yeah.  I’m gonna run that by them when I see them next.  Maybe record an album in the Caymans.

 

15)  How do you maintain two lives, with two bands, and two homes in two different states?

            Well, it’s been rough, but making clear schedules that do not allow for any variation helps.  Having an understanding wife who helps me remember where I am supposed to be helps a lot, as well.  It’s tiring, but it works.  Again, I don’t expect it to be this busy forever; just this year.

 

17)  What do you offer each band that no one else in the world could offer?

            Well, in the Manatee, I am the sound-smith, meaning I lay down all sorts of textures that you would not expect from a rhythm guitarist.  My guitar is designed to sound like an acoustic guitar, so it has a different tone than most guitars in conventional rock bands.  Plus, I play with a lot of effect pedals to create otherworldly sounds and tones under the main themes of the music.  And then, I use other unconventional instruments in rather unconventional ways, like using a pedal steel guitar with delay and reverb effects, or a banjo with a tube-screamer and a flanger.  All to give the music a texture that no other band has.

            In Dutch Oven, obviously, I am the lead writer and singer.  Jam has a few of his own songs, and we let Huey sing a couple, but that band is centered on my songs, my voice, and my vision.

 

18)  Are you a better leader or a better follower?

            Depends on my role, I guess.  In the Manatee, I am a better follower, because it’s Ade’s band, and we all sort of follow his vision.  I have my own ideas that usually get accepted, and we are an improv band, so we all just go with the flow during jam time, but we all still follow Ade’s lead.  In Dutch Oven, I have to be the leader, not only because it’s my band, but because I have the most professional experience, and someone has to tell those barely-functioning chimps what to do <laughs>.  I don’t like to tell people what to do; it would be so much better if they instinctively knew what I wanted, and I guess it will get to that point if we stay together long enough.

 

19)  What is your responsibility to the world?

Wow!  I have tried to avoid responsibility to anything more than my wife, my bands, and myself.  I guess I try to live by the old adage, “First, Do no harm.”  That’s good.

Has that changed with your fame, or have you always felt that way?

            No, I have always felt that way.  I guess if anything has changed with fame, it would be that I try to donate more of my earnings to various charities I support.  I don’t need all the money I have, so why not give the excess away?

 

20)  Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

            I don’t know.  I’m only 31 now, so in twenty years, I will be 51, right? I could totally still be rocking-out in my 50s.  I always hoped that the Grateful Dead would have lasted into their 70s, but Jerry Garcia died at 53, which is way too young, and that was that.  The Rolling Stones will probably still tour until one of them dies.  So, I hope that the Manatee will keep touring in some capacity in twenty years.  We burned ourselves out touring so hard up to about 1996, and we have been shortening our touring schedule more and more each year since.  That has opened a lot of time for me to do Dutch Oven, but I do miss playing with the Manatee when we are on break.  I think we have a good schedule of about 60 shows each year.  If we keep it like that, we can last forever.

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My Personal Top-10 Stephen King Books

In earlier posts, I have made a few mentions about my love for reading.  However, I wasn’t always the voracious reader I am today.  When I was a kid I hated reading, mainly because I was a contentious little shit who usually did the opposite of what my parents wanted.  My parents were constant readers, but I always saw reading as a punishment.  I had a wild imagination that I liked to foster on my own, and I did not need the help of someone else’s boring words.

I did read, of course, but I rarely enjoyed anything.  I cannot remember anything that I read in High School except for The Halloween Tree and Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.  I also read The Shining at home around the same time.  I enjoyed those books, but it did not keep me engaged.  Aside from a few other books that my parents coerced me into reading, I really did not read a whole lot then.

Of course, I grew out of that ridiculous phase, and I now love books.  I mean, I really, really love books.  This started sometime at about age 21 or so when I read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, and then One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.  I remembered liking The Shining, and so I re-read that.  Then, a friend recommended the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, and I got hooked on the first three books.  I also remembered attempting to read The Stand by Stephen King in High School, but never got very far.  So, I bought it, and loved it.

I mentioned in another post that I tend to get obsessed with the music that I listen to, and when I want to hear one particular artist I will often listen to only that artist until I am fully sated.  I am the same way with books.  As I was discovering my love for reading, I also discovered that I loved reading Stephen King.  While in my 20s, I read, and then re-read every single Stephen King book at least once (meaning I read them all at least twice—jeez, what a clumsy sentence).

With the exception of a couple collections, I read everything of his up to 2008’s Duma Key.  I stopped reading his books mainly because my interests changed, but also because I decided to read all the old classics that I should have read in High School.  I had a lot of catching up to do.

And so, to sum up those last two awkward paragraphs, up to 2008, I have read everything of King’s at least twice, and I considered myself an aficionado on his works.

I researched a few lists of his works online and tried to compare my own lists with others, and I found that most King fans have wildly varied tastes.  With the exception of a few obvious classics (The Stand, Misery), the lists change with each reader.  One person’s favorite is another’s most hated.  I find that amusing, and typical, I guess.

Anyway, I was thinking recently about my favorite King books.  Depending on how you count them, there are about 50-70 different books from which to choose.  I tried to be as honest as I could, and not go with my obnoxious contrarian nature, and here is the list I came up with.  In order:

10) The Dead Zone

DeadZone

One of the first five King books that I read, I was fascinated by the idea of someone having severe head trauma, and then being able to see people’s futures.  I was also intrigued by the idea of changing the future if you could.  Would you, if you could?

9) The Shining

Shining

This is a pretty obvious choice, and for good reason.  I remember reading this as a young teen after watching the movie on TV with the family.  My mom had the book, and I wanted to read it.  I cannot remember if I was disappointed by the differences between the book and the movie, but I do remember enjoying the book.  I need to re-read this again, since it has been about 20 years since the last time I read it, and I do not remember a lot of the details.  I still watch the original movie with Jack Nicholson every time it is on!

8) Different Seasons

differentseasons

This collection of four novellas is a favorite just because three of the four are pure masterpieces in their own right.  Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil, and The Body are classics in the King canon, and all three made brilliant movies, to boot!  The fourth novella, The Breathing Method, is pretty good as well.

7) The Dark Half

Dark Half

I thought that this was one of the creepiest books I have ever read. I don’t always go for slasher books, and I certainly do not go for slasher films, but this one gripped me.  The original concept fascinated me as well; what if your evil and imaginary twin came to life and wreaked havoc in your name as a sort of revenge?  Creepy!  The movie was good, too!

6) Misery

MIsery_Book_Cover

One of the few movies that worked out for a King novel, Misery was classic King.  I won’t say too much about this book, since the movie was so wildly popular, but I will say that the “hobbling” scene in the book was so much better than what happened in the movie!

5) The Talisman

Talisman

A young boy’s journey across two worlds to save his dying mother, this book is otherworldly and beautiful in a Tolkein-esque way.  It was co-written with Peter Straub, but it is clear whose passages belong to whom.  It is my impression that King wrote the majority of this one.  Am I wrong?

4) Bag of Bones

Bag_of_Bones

It was hard for me to rank this at only four.  I really love this book.  I love a good ghost story to begin with, and the love story that is intertwined with the creepiness of the ghost story just made a lovely story.  I see that this book gets maligned often, and that is because people think that King did not do his best writing.  Keep in mind, the book is told from the perspective of a second-rate author, and I think that is the voice we are meant to read, not King’s.  By-the-way, the movie, starring Pierce Brosnan, was virtually unwatchable!

3) The Green Mile

Greenmilepart1

This book originally came out as a serial novel, meaning that only parts of it were released each month.  The story fascinated me, and I usually read each installment in one day, only to wait more than a month for the next release.  It was a cool gimmick, but I was happy to re-read it later as a complete novel.  Oh, I am sure you have seen the movie; it is one of the most successful King movie adaptations, so I won’t say too much.  But it still ranks as one of my favorites.

2) The Dark Tower Series: Wizard and Glass

Wizard_and_Glass3

The entire series is a masterpiece, and I believe that this particular installment is the best of the lot.  That may be because book 3 ends in a brutal cliffhanger and we had to wait six years until this one came out.  When it did, my wife and I read it together because we would have had to buy two copies otherwise.  Makes for a nice memory attached to this book.  Why it took six years to write this 4th book, I do not know, but it came out perfect! It is exhilarating and heartbreaking all at once, and masterfully crafted.  It could easily have been my favorite of his books if not for…

1) The Stand

The Stand

A post-apocalyptic tale of a super flu that wipes out most of the (U.S.?) population resulting in a battle royal between good versus evil, and I wish I were living in the middle of it all? Yeah!  It’s that good!  He really hit his stride with this monstrous epic.  It was only his fourth full-length novel released, and it remains his greatest work to this day.  I wonder how that makes him feel.  I hope he is proud.  I think he should be.  I think most authors dream of creating such a lasting epic.

Since I could not bear to leave these off the list, here are a couple to grow on…

11) Rose Madder

RoseMadder

This is one of the books that often ends up on King’s Ten Worst books list.  I have always liked it.  It is an otherworldly tale of escape, with an abused woman leaving her husband and literally disappearing into another land.  I think this book gets a bad rap because it was the third book about abuse that he wrote in a short period.  Also, it is terribly graphic, which may be off-putting to some. Still, I remember devouring this book.  I did not want to put it down.

12) Lisey’s Story

Lisey's Story

One of the last King books that I have read, to date, Lisey’s Story is another that is often maligned (unfairly, in my opinion) as one of his worst.  However, I have also seen it on other’s top-20 lists, so, whatever.  The widow of a famous author must unravel clues and visit strange worlds to resolve some issue.  Again, I love the crossing other worlds gambit in King’s writing—not exactly an overused theme, but a familiar theme nonetheless.  I do not think this will go down in history as one of his best-loved, and that is too bad.  It is a really good book!

So, that’s my list.  There are a few other classics that I left off for various reasons.  It was a brilliant book for the most part, but it had a few moments that failed me.  Same with The Tommyknockers and Salem’s Lot.  I can only think of three King books that I immediately felt were clunkers: Gerald’s Game, Dolores Claiborne, and The Regulators.  Oh, I’ll add Dreamcatcher to that list.  Otherwise, he is still one of my favorite authors, and I will read and re-read his stuff again.

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Character Development Exercise – An Interview with Matthew “Huey” Guinness

From an October 1999 interview with Music Science magazine:

Matthew Neal Guinness, better known as Huey, was born on February 8, 1968 in the Arden-Arcade neighborhood of Sacramento, CA.  Huey was the sole product of a one-night stand between his mother, Lucinda Guinness, and an unknown member of the popular rock band, The Turtles.  Even Lucinda could not remember whom it was that she slept with, and her younger brother suggested that it might have been a roadie.  She managed to get backstage after the concert, and got so excited that she had sex with someone from the touring party.  Nine months later, Huey was born.

Lucinda lived with her parents in Sacramento for the first six months of Huey’s life, before marrying an old high school friend who was a recent draftee of the Vietnam War. He shipped out shortly after the wedding.  Nine months after that, Huey’s only brother, Terrance, was born.  Terrance’s father was killed in the war, leaving Lucinda alone to raise her two boys.  She received a decent pension, but lived with her parents for another seven years before marrying again and moving to the Sacramento suburban neighborhood of Orangevale.

Huey got along well enough with his stepfather, Grant, but was rebellious in nature.  Huey would fight with Lucinda and Grant about doing chores around the house, and then go to neighbor’s homes to work odd jobs to earn money for himself.  Later, in his adult life, he was a natural hard worker, and Huey rarely spent any of his time idle.  After a full day at a landscaping or roofing job, he would come home and renovate cabinets at home, or paint the walls.  He felt best when his hands were busy building or repairing.

Huey got his name from his best friend, Cody.  In middle school, most kids called him Matt, but Cody decided that there were too many Matt’s in the world, and if he was only going to use half of his name, then he should use the last half instead.  So, Matt became Hew, and eventually, Huey.  Only his mother still called him Matthew.

At 5’11, and roughly 185 lbs, Huey’s body is lean and muscular, and his hands betray the brutal calluses of a man who has worked manual labor for most of his life.  He is handsome, but his exterior toughness hides it from the world, as if beauty were a sign of weakness that he would like to snuff out.  He leers and snarls a lot, and covers his face with an old trucker’s cap that looks older than him.  His wild, brown curly hair is barely contained under the cap, and he prefers to keep it short, but months on the road has kept him too busy for grooming.

He still wears the old jeans that he used to wear hanging sheetrock just two years ago.  They are torn and worn in the front, like a $100 pair of designer jeans, except that Huey’s pants came to this state naturally.  Like Cody, Huey prefers a plain, solid colored, pocketed T-shirts to anything fashionable or designed. And there is always a pack of Marlboros in the shirt pocket.

There is nothing contrived about Huey.  He may be busy with the success of Dutch Oven’s platinum album, Me & Whoever, but he acts as though he is just as content to go back to work building a house.  One gets the idea that success has not changed Huey at all.

We meet at his favorite deli in Old Orangevale, and he gives a curt wave to acknowledge me before going straight to the counter to grab a couple of Heinekens–both for him.  As we start the interview, it is clear that he is uncomfortable talking about himself, and would prefer to have Cody with him.  But he honors my request for a private interview, and after a couple of beers, his answers come easier with each question.  However, by about the twelfth question, Huey is onto his fifth beer, and it is clear that other substances may be affecting the interview.  He gets more contentious and defensive with each question.  By the end of the interview, he is almost completely incoherent.

20 Questions with Huey Guinness:

1)  If you had a full free day with no responsibilities, what would you do?

            Um, besides this interview?  I don’t know.  I guess I’d see what kind of work needs to get done at the house…

Sorry, that sounds like a responsibility.  What do you do for fun?

That is fun, for me anyway.  I don’t like to hit the bars, or anything; not a club rat, or anything like that.  Usually, I work, and then I drink some beers and watch a game, or something.  The guys like to hang out here, which is fine, ‘coz I don’t like driving around too much.  Since I’ve been in this band, there has not been a whole lot of time for fun.  When Cody’s off with his other band, I still work with my brother doing custom home remodels.  But when Cody is home in Fair Oaks, we play all the time.  We are rehearsing, or recording, or playing gigs.  There is no free time when Cody’s home <laughs>.

2)  What impression do you make on people when they first meet you?

You tell me.  No?  Okay, I guess I am pretty quiet and shy.  I really don’t think too much about what kind of impression I make on people.  I prefer to think about what I gotta do each day.  If I’m building, then I am too wrapped up in that.  If it’s music, then I am too wrapped up in that.  It’s not as if I ask people to fill out a questionnaire.

How about after they have known you for a while?

            Well, I guess I scare people a bit.  I like to drink, and then I get honest, and when I get honest, people don’t like me much after that.

What do you mean?

Well, I guess you could say that all my inhibitions slip away.  Everything that I am not saying when I’m too busy to think about saying them comes out of me.  I guess I can get a bit nasty.  Cody and Jamil call me “Crazy Huey”, like it’s a different person, but it’s still me, just talking.

3)  What is you proudest personal achievement?

That I am still here, I guess.  Nobody has ever handed me anything.  I earned my right to be here today.  I earned my right to say whatever I want.

You mean this interview…

            No, everything.  I worked my fucking ass off my whole life, and nobody has ever given me a single fucking thing.  I have been supporting myself since before I left my mom’s house because I knew that it was only a matter of time before she kicked me out.  I prepared myself.  I have worked every single crap job you can imagine to keep me on my feet.  Even this Dutch Oven bullshit; it won’t last, and that’s why I still work construction during the off-season.

Even though you have sold over 1 million records in eight months.

            Especially since we have already sold a million records.  We don’t know if we are a flash in the pan or the real deal.  I’m not going to wait around for the bottom to fall out.

4)  What are you most ashamed of in your life?

            When I was a kid, I used to steal stuff.  This was before I started working, but I would steal stuff.  I would shoplift from stores, steal from my Grandma’s purse, steal from my step-dad’s wallet, from friend’s dad’s wallets.  You name it.  Someday, I’m gonna find a way to give it all back.  It won’t be enough to make up for the deeds, but at least I can give it back.

5)  Do you believe in God?

Not in anything that you would recognize as a god.

Could you elaborate?

            Well, I was raised Catholic; I was an altar boy and everything, but something never really clicked with me about it.  Me and Code would have long, deep conversations about it when we were kids, and I’ll bet he’d give you the same answer.  It don’t make any sense.  I’m sure there is something more powerful than me in this universe, but here on Earth…I don’t see it.

6)  What would you like for your epitaph?

“Don’t fucking call me Matt!” <laughs>

7)  What is the worst thing you have ever done to someone?

            Well, I used to steal, we covered that.  I burned a dope dealer once or twice, but who cares about them?  I used to give my mom all kinds of undeserved hell.  Aside from all that, I can’t think of anything too terrible.

8)  What are you most afraid of?

Having nothing, and no way to earn my way in life.

9)  What is the most important thing in your life?

My little girl, Sunshine, of course.

What about her mother, where …

We don’t talk about her.

10) What do you like best about yourself?

Oh Jesus! Are you kidding me?  Well, let’s see…hang on…

            <goes to get another couple of beers>

What was the question?

What do you like best about yourself?

            Shit.  Umm, well, I guess I like that I am a hard worker.  I would do anything for my daughter.  I’m a pretty good guitarist. I’m gorgeous! <laughs> Fuck it!  Next question.

11) What do you want right now?

For you to erase over that last question.

No, seriously…

            No, seriously.  Right, let’s get serious.  I want more beer and a blowjob.  That’s it, now let’s wrap this up.

12)  How important are your friends to you?

            Awww, I love my friends.  They are really important.  I mean, I’m a pretty independent guy, but I love my boys.

Didn’t you and Allan Beard have a falling out?

            Say that name again, and I’ll knock your teeth through the back of your fucking head!

All right…take it easy.  Nobody told me that was a forbidden topic.

            I just did.  Next question.  <gets up to get more beer>

13)  How important is your band to you?

            Well, it’s a chance to be with Cody.  Who knows if he’d even come hang out if not for the band.

So that’s it, just to hang out with Cody?

            I’d be just as happy pouring concrete or hanging drywall.  The music is great, and I am getting more used to being on stage in front of people, but I don’t know if I would do it if it weren’t for Cody.

14)  Could you stay in the band if you were no longer friends with your bandmates?

            I think I just answered that.

Right, but some bands don’t even speak to each other.  They are just a corporation forced to work together…

            Naw, it would never come to that.  I’d quit if it ever looked like that was happening.

15)  Could you stay friends with your bandmates if there was no longer a band to hold you together?

            Oh yeah, easily.  Remember, Cody was gone for 10 years before he came back and started the band.  We did fine without him, and we would see him whenever the Manatee was in town, and hang out and shit, so you know, we’ll always be friends.  The band’s just a thing.  We don’t need it.  It’s just a thing that’s goin’ on right now.

16)  What would you do if Cody walked out of your life right now?

            What the fuck are you talking about?  You know something I don’t? 

No.  It’s just a question.

            Well, didn’t I already say that he was gone for 10 years and when he came back it was just like he never left.  We got a pretty tight bond so even if he did bail we’d just reconnect later in life.  You put too much emphasis on these material ties, man.  He would never just walk out anyway, more like he’d be on some other trip, and I’d be on some other trip and we’d just move on.  But then we’d get back together and have a few beers or whatever.

17)  What is the worst thing a friend could ever do to you?

           Fucking betrayal, man.  Friends are supposed to have your back and always be there and never fuck you over.  They don’t steal your shit, and they don’t fuck your woman, and they don’t send people over to take your shit.  Man, next question.

18)  Say you met the love of your life; your perfect soulmate.  Now say she wanted you to quit the band.  Would you do it for her?

            I dunno, I’ll let you know if I ever meet her.

Well, think about it.  Is the perfect lover enough for you to leave the band.

            What the fuck is with you and all these questions about me quitting the band?  What’s goin’ on here, man?  I ain’t quittin’ and Cody doesn’t want me to quit and so fucking what if he did?  I got other irons in the fire, man, and this band thing is just a thing, and if some chick wants to break up the band, I’d tell her to fuck off ‘coz she ain’t worth it.  The band’s the thing…<the tape gets unintelligible at this point>

19)  What do you offer the band that no one else in the world could offer?

           I’m Cody’s man, man.  We’ve been best friends since 7th-grade, and even 10 years in Connecticut couldn’t break up this friendship.  He would leave the Manatee so he could be in California full-time if I asked him to.  We learned how to play guitar together.  He gave me my name, Huey.  I’m like his other half, but not in a gay way, right?  We ain’t like that, but we might as well be.  We’re like twins.  He needs me, the fucker!

20)  How honest have you been throughout this interview?

            I don’t even remember most of it, so I’m guessing I been real honest.  Wasn’t really payin’ attention.  Gotta work hard to lie, right?

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Over 100 Followers? Thanks, Guys!

Well, I reached a milestone today.  In just seven short weeks, I now have over 100 followers on my little blog.  And of those 101 people, some of you actually read what I post.  As the youngsters would say, that is totes cray cray.  The youngsters do say that, right?  I am so relevant.

Anyway, I started this blog as a way to get trained in the habit of writing with the purpose of chunking out a best-selling novel sometime this year (hah!), and I found that I actually have a lot to say.  I still have no real focus to this blog, but that is my anxiety-riddled brain in action.  Lately, I have been into music reviews and book reviews.  I still have lots of flash fiction stirring about, which is what I feel I ought to be focusing on more.

Mostly, though, I am having fun.  Thank you all for following and reading and commenting.  I appreciate all the good vibes.

I welcome all comments, ideas, suggestions, and criticisms, so please feel free to lay them on me anytime you like.

And above all, please know that I truly appreciate your visits, even if I sound snarky at times.

joel

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Well, when you put it like that, then yeah, I can totally do this! (Reblogged).

Out Where the Buses Don't Run

As if Chuck Wending hasn’t already proven himself as the Internet’s Sherpa of Wordsmithery and Resident Cheerleader By Way of Clever Usage of Unbelievably Foul Language and Biting Sarcasm, now Chuck dishes out what may be his best piece of advice ever:

How to Push Past The Bullshit and Write That Goddamn Novel: A Very Simple No-Fuckery Writing Plan to Get Shit Done

Essentially, you’re going to give yourself one year’s time to write your novel. You will write five days a week, giving yourself the weekends off. That gives you 260 days to write. On those 260 days, you will write 350 words. That is all.

350 words x 260 days = 91,000 words, or nearly 400 pages.

Of course, you’ll need to edit this once you’re done. But it’s totally doable. Who’s with me?

Look, Chuck’s even created a pretty chart!

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