Willy Porter, Twice

What? You haven’t seen Willy Porter yet? You don’t know who he is? You’re missing out, pal. I got to see him for the second (and third, actually) time today. First, he gave an in-store appearance at Twist and Shout Underground in the afternoon and played several songs, among them a trademark improvised song about the store itself. He ended the set with a solo acoustic version of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” (Yes, the whole song, complete with key and rhythm changes.) Afterward, my wife and I got to meet him as he was signing a CD for us. Great guy. Really great guy.

This evening, we watched him perform at the Soiled Dove to a standing room only crowd. We were the first people at the venue, so we got seats exactly where we wanted: right at the edge of the stage. Willy was amazing, working the cheesehead-friendly crowd in between songs while he coaxed his guitar into alternate tunings. He played two guitars on stage, an old Bischoff with cracks in the finish and a very warm, aged sound. The other was a seemingly new Guild cutaway model, with gold tuning machines and a gorgeous quilt pattern on the sides and back. (It’s the guitar he’s playing on the cover of his latest eponymous album.)

Willy couldn’t play as long as we wanted him to, because Opie Gone Bad was scheduled to play the same night. (We didn’t stay for the Opie show, so I can’t report on it.) However, he played many of the songs that he hasn’t always performed live in recent years, like “Watercolor,” “Jesus on the Grille,” and my personal favorite, “Angry Words.” To me, the high point of the night was when he was tuning up for “Angry Words,” with two capos on the fretboard at the second and fourth frets (one was a half capo.) Someone in the crowd yelled “Freebird” and Willy just grinned, then stepped up to the mike and proceeded to sing an operatic version of “Freebird,” accompanying himself on guitar in the strange capo configuration. The man obviously knows his fretboard. I hope to learn to play some of his music, and I hope to see him perform many more times.

No Writing, Just Rooting

The family went to the Rockies-Diamondbacks game tonight, then watched fireworks after the show. I always enjoy watching my two favorite baseball teams duke it out at Coors Field, and this is the last chance we had to do so this season. The stadium staff passed out funky polarized prism glasses to use during the fireworks show, and they were fun for a while, but I eventually took them off to enjoy the pyrotechnic beauty of the show. We’ve had enough rain recently that I didn’t feel guilty about participating in a fireworks show; besides, there isn’t much in the way of grass or other flammable natural materials in the parking lot behind Coors Field, so I probably shouldn’t worry about it anyway.

Oh, yeah. The Rockies won. Again.

The “Garden Variety” Writer Exposed

Okay, the cat’s out of the bag. I can finally say that I knew Brian Plante’s Chronicles of the Garden Variety Writers was fiction for most of its run. I began e-mailing Brian shortly after the series started, taking issue with the way he was playing unfairly with the writers in his group. He responded, in a rather civil and friendly way, but said that he planned on continuing the blog despite my objections and those of the other people who had e-mailed him to complain.

Encouraged that there might be a person with a real soul behind the e-mail, I continued the thread, and discovered that Brian really did care very much about how he was coming across, and he assured me that he had gone to “much greater lengths” than I could imagine to protect the people in his blog. I even did a little investigative web browsing, trying to point out to him how poorly the people were protected. I pinpointed the library where the group was meeting, the city they were in, and even attempted to check through back issues of the magazine in which he claimed to have found the ad for the group. I wasn’t able to find an exact ad, but I was convinced that an enterprising photographer (read out-of-work paparazzi) could hide out at the Hemby Bridge Library and snap blackmail photos of the group entering and exiting.

There was only one problem. I found reference to the county’s library system, and that it serviced the Hemby Bridge area. I could not find references to the shopping mall that Plante described. Enough of the details fit, however, that I was convinced Brian was endangering the trust of the people he was writing about. I could only think of one alternative, and that was that it was all fictional. At the end of one of our e-mails, I said to Brian that I hoped this was all made up so that he wasn’t playing with the lives of real people. He wrote back to confirm my guess the next day.

Brian asked me to keep quiet about it so the experiment could run its course, so I made mention of it in this journal a few times to see if I could assist in the experiment without directly exposing it. I did tell a few of my friends in Colorado about the blog’s fictional nature, because it hard sparked quite a controversy among us.

How do I feel about it now? I think it was a good experiment, and now that Brian has come clean about the nature of the blog, I think it succeeded. It’s a good way to illustrate some of the positive and negative workings of a writer’s group without betraying the trust of any real people. However, I also think it was a very risky thing for Brian to do to his career, and I know of a couple of people who lost respect for him because of the way he presented the fiction. Hopefully most editors and readers will look upon him with favor for daring to take the risk, rather than being upset with him for duping them.

Speaking of writer’s groups, the Melanie Tem group met tonight. I read what I had of “Chesterfield Gray” and got good feedback from the group as to where they thought the story should go. At the end of the meeting, I played “Ode to Billy Joe” on the guitar while Melanie sang the lyrics, aided by a few of the class participants. The assignment is to write something about what we think the narrator and Billy Joe threw off the Tallahatchee Bridge. I hope to come up with something completely off the radar and wedge it into a vignette before the next meeting.

Dolphins for All Seasons

As promised, I did get some writing done at lunch. It wasn’t a lot, but I did get a few paragraphs of “Chesterfield Gray” down.

On the way to Stories for All Seasons, I noticed a wispy cloud being pushed over the jagged edge of a Flatirons peak by the wind. The cloud curled over the edge and followed the face of the rock a short way down before dissipating. I could see the wind swirl in the arch of the cloud, and I imagined the cloud was a dolphin jumping over the waves of rock. God, I love Colorado.

When I got close to the West Side Books Annex, where Stories for All Seasons is held, I had some extra time. I decided to stop off at Guitar Center and browse for a while, which is always a dangerous thing to do. This time was no different. Fortunately, I only left with one item, a book about guitar soloing in different modes and patterns. After hearing my clunky minor key solos against Dante Spumante’s major key music, I decided it was time to arm myself with some tools and do a little studying. I hope to find some time to go over the exercises in the next few days.

Lucy Taylor was the guest at Stories for All Seasons this month. Lucy writes horror and detective fiction, often with an erotic flavor. Lucy also happens to be a very pretty redhead. Both of the pieces she read were a bit erotic, one more so than the other, and I will admit that I felt a little uncomfortable watching and listening to this siren of a woman reading erotic fiction. I wasn’t uncomfortable in a bad way; it was just a turning of the tables that I wasn’t expecting. (I guess that means the erotica in the stories worked!)

Tired & WotC

I am beat tonight. I will definitely be going to bed early. I won’t get any writing done tonight, but I will get some done tomorrow at lunch an also after Stories for All Seasons tomorrow night.

I did a little creative work tonight, though it was primarily tedious. If you look to your right, you should see that the scroll bar for this (and every page of this site) has turned an interesting shade of bluish-gray. I just figured the site could use a balancing effect for the spiral down the left side of the page. Whatever.

There is one more thing I want to cover before turning in. Today, my son got a letter from Wizards of the Coast, with his Magic: The Gathering DCI tournament card in it. He also claimed that a hand-written letter accompanied it. In this day of custom-printed mail merges, I figured he had just gotten a well done form letter written in some kind of cursive font. I asked to see the letter.

To my surprise, he actually got a hand written letter from someone named Dee Bleifield (sorry if I’m mutilating your name, Dee), a DCI tournament director that he had met while visiting his Mom in Texas. Dee took the time to hand write his letter, complete with her direct phone number and an offer to call her if he needed help finding local tournaments.

That’s pretty damn cool. Evidently WotC hasn’t lost all the small company feel that TSR used to have in its early days. I remember sending a query letter to Kim Mohan, who was then editing Dragon magazine, asking if he would be interested in an article submission about D & D druids and listing different specs for some possible animal forms that high-level druids could assume. I was only a couple of years older than my son is now. Kim responded to me with a personal letter, saying that he would be interested in seeing the article, though I’m sure he knew that the person behind the query letter was still very wet behind the ears. I’ve always remembered that, though I never got up the guts to send in the article.

It seems that Dee has tapped into that same importance in the youth market. Keith, my son, will always remember getting a personal letter from a Wizards of the Coast staff member, just as I remember getting the letter from Kim Mohan. If WotC ever revives Amazing Stories (please please please) I will definitely submit something to him this time.

(Update, 12/9/2014: Amazing Stories has indeed been revived, but not by WotC. It’s now being run by Steve Davidson.)