Wow — almost a month, huh? Sorry about that. As I told the Spawn the other night, I’m writing thousands of words a week, but unfortunately they’re all for the online classes I’m teaching this term. But I haven’t forgotten about the blog, or about those of you who seem to enjoy it for whatever reason. So here we go…
I made a trip to the city of my birth a couple of weekends ago; the occasion wasn’t happy (the funeral of my uncle, which leaves my mom’s sister as the last survivor of that generation of my family), but it was valuable for me to see my aunt, my cousin and his family, and other friends and family. Among other things, the weekend provided an opportunity for some open discussion and at least a partial reconciliation with a family member from whom I’ve been somewhat estranged for a few years. As Martha Stewart says, that’s a good thing, and I hope it develops.
I also got to have a quick lunch with the Mad Dog in the parking lot of a Knoxville location of a favorite fast-food chain. The dining room was closed, so we sat in MD’s land yacht. While not a perfect example of social distancing, it really is a large vehicle, and it’s always good to see him. A couple of days later, I had lunch with my friend Carl — we’ve been friends now for nearly half a century. In both cases, it’s remarkable to me how easily we pick things up when we meet. Social media doesn’t hurt that, but I’m not talking about the goings-on as much as I am the rhythms and roles of our friendships and lives. Discontinuities vanish.
I stayed in Nashville a day longer than was absolutely necessary, which allowed me to return to the cemetery and the family plot, where my uncle is now placed as well. Under ordinary circumstances I try to get there a couple of times a year, but of course, the past year or so has been other-than-ordinary, so it had been a while since my last visit. I looked at the markers on the graves of my parents, grandparents, and my childhood best friend. My parents’ has yet to acquire the patinas that the others have, being 25 to 30 more years more recent than the others, but the years have darkened it at least a little.
I was a little tense as I drove back to Mondoville that Sunday; a winter storm was expected across Tennessee’s Highland Rim, its Cumberland Plateau and in the Smokies on Saturday night, and I had to drive through all three. But credit to the Tennessee and North Carolina Departments of Transportation — even when I saw 3-5 inches of snow along Interstate 40, the roads were clear, and only occasionally wet. Nice work, and a good conclusion to a trip I hadn’t wanted to make, necessary though I knew it would be.
In other news, it appears that the bill for the braces my parents couldn’t afford when I was a kid is coming due in its own way. Because my bite is (as the dental professionals say) jacked up, I have several broken lower teeth, which have yielded me several root canals in recent years. Upon my return from Nashville, I began to feel the familiar signs of another damned abscess, and consultations with my dentist and an endodontist indicate that it’s probably time to extract the two worst offenders. It’s not something I await eagerly, but I’ll be satisfied if we can put the fires out once and for all without my ending up looking like Walter Huston.
But the big news around here, and in the realm of Mondolit in particular, is the Spawn’s first professional fiction sale. Her story “Any Deadly Thing” appeared earlier this month at All Due Respect‘s online venue, and will appear on dead tree at the year’s end. Even if I weren’t brimming with paternal pride, I’d recommend the story — it’s damned good. Check it out.
Because I’m spending so much time writing “lectures” for my classes, I’m not reading as much as I’d like of late, but I’m currently enjoying Boswell’s Presumptuous Task, by Adam Sisman. My colleague and friend Tracy Power recommended it to me, and I think it’s going to be a nice addition to my ever-expanding library of Johnsoniana.
Speaking of writing, I’ve previously mentioned the historical and poetic works of Jeff Sypeck. He’s a super sharp guy, and as nice as he is talented. In any case, he has a new book out and I’d like to call it to your attention. I Have Started for Canaan is the history of the African-American town of Sugarland, MD, which was founded by emancipated slaves in Montgomery County, 20 miles from DC. Proceeds from the book will go toward the preservation of Sugarland’s church and the town’s historical material. If you want to know more about the book, check out what Jeff has to say here. (And Jeff? I’ll try to give you a holler next time I’m in Terpville.)
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t alert you to the latest offering in El Bee’s line of anthologies. Collectibles is a new, well, collection of stories on the titular topic, and it includes work from friends of mine including Thomas Pluck, S.A. Cosby, David Rachels, and the Man Hisself. If you want to check out some excerpts, go here. And God and the Pfizer Corporation willing, I’ll have some writerly info of my own to share before long — I’ve got to keep up with the Spawn, after all.
I hope that’s enough to bring you at least somewhat up to date, and I’ll do my best to up the frequency around here. In the meantime, have some music. I’ve been a fan of Alice Cooper since the mid-70s, in keeping with The First Law of Marketing: Eleven-year-old boys will buy anything with a monster on the package. While my teens overlapped with the Coop’s multi-year Lost Weekend, I really discovered the early work when I was an undergrad, and had a poster of Alice from Creem magazine in my office during my grad school days in Lexington. A few years ago, I took the Spawn to see Alice in Real City, making sure her first rock concert was going to be a show. (She still wears the concert T-shirt on occasion.)
As it happens, A.C. remains active, with a new album, Detroit Stories, coming out on Friday, 26 Feb. The album features the surviving original members of the Alice Cooper group, and includes guest appearances from a number of other area hard rockers, from groups like Grand Funk and the MC5. Alice also acknowledges other Detroit musos on the album, including the Motor City’s neo-psych purveyors, Outrageous Cherry. I was delighted to learn that Alice covers an Outrageous Cherry tune, and was even more thrilled when I saw this video. It’s a wonderful example of upbeat rock and disturbing lyrics, which puts it right in Cooper’s wheelhouse. Without further ado (because I’ve adone plenty), here’s “Our Love Will Change the World.”
See you soon(er)!