We’d been driving for seven or eight hours and Winnipeg was still too far away to think about. We’d stopped for a piss - and more bottled water. It was dark and see-your-breath chilly. We stood in the spill of convenience store fluorescent light, and talked quietly on our cell phones to our wives and girlfriends.
The new gold Suburban I was leaning up against was overflowing with luggage, jackets, blankets, a pillow, a ukulele, a violin, two computers, empty Starbucks and Tim Hortons cups and cookies from the Alberta Cookie Lady. There was no room in there for personal calls.
Scott, Gogo and Frankie, in the back half of the Suburban, had just watched “Still Crazy” on the onboard DVD player while I watched “Hostage” on my Powerbook in the passenger seat. Smitty, behind the wheel as usual, watched the long, straight and virtually unchanging highway. I was glad for the rest. Our first tour of the season had started with a bigger bang than usual.
My week of CBC National Playlist sessions was followed by interviews with the two local papers. This would be the first time that I would face questions about the book, and I was disturbingly unsure about how I was going to respond. My concern was compounded by the fact that my friends and family would most likely see the results of my potentially amateur inaugural book-promotion efforts. To my great relief both interviews came off without a hitch.
My friend Myles Goodwyn once wrote that “Rock and Roll is a Vicious Game”, which is arguably true, but one of my five interviews on Tuesday made it clear to me that rock and roll’s got nothing on the publishing world. My first interview of the morning was a spirited radio spot with a funny and bright Saskatoon DJ. I was pumped and ready to go when my next call, from an Alberta newspaper entertainment writer, came in. After minimal preliminaries, the writer began to discuss the phenomenon of “books like this”. He made jokes about rocker Brian Volmer’s new Helix book. He told me he was planning a sidebar for my story that would list titles for imaginary books by other rock stars who, he was convinced, were going to write even more “books like this”. He lamented that he was doomed to host a weekly series called “Book Talk with Rockers”. He was reveling in rudeness.
At the point where I was convinced that input from me wouldn’t be necessary for his story - he clearly had all the material he needed - he finally asked me: “So why do we need another book like this?”
“Well, uh, Dickface,” (Dickface is not his real name - I’ve changed it here to avoid potential legal action) “I, uh … you know Brian’s had a pretty intense journey of his own, but I have to say that it’s entirely different than mine in many ways.” I wondered if he could sense the forced smile and the cold, controlled civility.
I continued to speak, as humbly as possible, about writing the book as I carefully considered the idea of hanging up on the guy before I told him to go fuck himself. My wife and son were listening at the kitchen table only a few feet away. I chose to stay the course.
“And what is it …” he asked, warming to his theme “about blogs, that makes you think that we want to read your innermost thoughts from your personal diary?”
“Well, Asshat,” (not his real name), I responded, “it’s not actually my diary …”
And then, like the boxer in “Against the Ropes” the mediocre Meg Ryan movie that Debbie and I watched the other night, I reached my limit, changed up my stance and bit down hard on whatever it is boxers bite down on, and said something like:
“You know, it’s not a diary and it’s not “another book like this”. It’s MY book, and it took me three years to write - and it means a lot to me.”
He paused for a moment - seemingly shaken out of his righteous groove - and then he told me, authoritatively, that I should not be so sensitive.
“I’m just challenging you.” he said, sounding pleased with himself.
“I’m with you” I grinned, “I’m with you.”
Most of the good stuff that appeared in the finished story followed. I went off, and said what I needed to say, convinced that doing otherwise would be a waste of valuable interview time. My favourite part of the interview came when he tried to re-visit the topic of blogs.
“Do you write on your blog about everything that happens to you?”
“No, just things I think people would find interesting.”
“So are you going to write about this on your blog?”
“Oh fuck, yeah” I said.