The Tattoo Removal Machine

CNF_53_Cover_8_20-1As soon as somebody invents one, buy stock in it. In the meantime, treat yourself to a copy of the latest issue of Creative Nonfiction Magazine. In it you’ll find a new essay of mine, “The Botch Job,” wherein I debate whether or not to fix a bad tattoo I once got in a basement on Eight Mile Rd. in Detroit. Should I cover it up? If so, with what? But wouldn’t that be chasing good money after bad?

Here’s a teaser from the piece:

I’ve got a bad tattoo, bad because it represents the flawed execution of an ill-conceived idea. The idea was bad for the usual reasons: I was young, rash, insecure; my aesthetic sense was half-formed at best. How bad is the execution? On a scale of one to ten, with one being “Stabbed in the Chest with a Bic” and ten “The Tattoo Equivalent of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam,” I’d say mine clocks in at about a four (“Drunken Hackery”)—obviously better than two (“Rusty Sewing Needle in Juvi”) and three (“Right Handed Artist Experiments with Left Hand”) but still, it’s not a body feature I’m proud to show off.

To buy a copy of the issue (or better yet, subscribe to the magazine) click HERE.


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Cheap Trick? That’s Kids’ Stuff.

facebook_image_1200x1200Back in 1982, when my buddy Colin and I were in 8th Grade, we took the bus to the Ohio Center in downtown Columbus to see Cheap Trick. We sat in the 7th row. We bought bootleg concert shirts (pictured at left). Then we decided to start a band. For some musicians, the spark was ignited when they saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. For Colin and me, it was Cheap Trick at the Ohio Center.

On Friday, October 3, at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, Watershed—the band we hatched on the bus ride CheapTrickWatershedhome—will be opening for Cheap Trick. The last time this happened was in 1994 (see marquee). The next time will be. . . who knows? 2034?

For tickets to the House of Blues show, click HERE.

To read Colin’s treatise on why Cheap Trick is America’s Greatest Band, click HERE.

For the definitive Cheap Trick sales pitch, from Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s Mike Damone, click HERE.


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The Arc of the Writer’s Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Happiness*

BendingGenreBending Genre — the ever-stellar blog about creative nonfiction writing, launched as a companion to Margot Singer and Nicole Walker’s excellent book by that same name — has posted a new essay of mine, “Writing in the Major Key.” In this piece I tackle the question of why writers (and songwriters) take ourselves so freaking seriously. Why do we focus on the sad and somber? Why does it seem to be easier to write about the negative? It’s not like we all need to be Jean “A Christmas Story” Shepherd or Randy “Short People” Newman, but there must be room for a little more sweetness and light. In my work, I know there is.

*With apologies to the great Dr. King

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All Work and No Play Makes Joe a Dull Boy

PawleysIslandI’ve spent the last few months handcuffed to the ol’ computer, hammering out the manuscript for Lines of Scrimmage, exchanging draft after draft with my writing buddy, Scott Pleasant. The book is going well, but my typing fingers (all four of ‘em) need a break. Time to venture outside and play a rock show, or as close to a rock show as one dude with an acoustic guitar can get.

So here’s the skinny. On Tuesday, April 15, I’ll be playing two solo-acoustic sets in beautiful Pawleys Island, SC, at the Pawleys Island Tavern. The show starts at 8 pm, and I’ll be happy to fake my way though any requests you’ve got, as long as you’re requesting Watershed songs. Please come. When the crowd figures out that I don’t know any Jimmy Buffett or Bob Marley, I’m gonna need all the backup I can get.

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Good News from the Magnolia State

MS Logo 300I’m thrilled to report that my current book project, Lines of Scrimmage: A Story of Football, Race, and Redemption (co-written with Scott Pleasant), is now under contract with the University Press of Mississippi. The publication date is set for the fall of 2015. This fall marks the 25th anniversary of the event the book chronicles (see post below).

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For My Next Trick…

ConwayI’m currently working on a book about an episode that happened here in South Carolina, in 1989, when 31 of the 37 black players on the Conway High School football team walked away from the squad for the whole season in protest of the (white) coach’s decision to bench the starting (black) quarterback in favor of a less experienced white kid. The boycott divided the town largely along racial lines, and it soon became clear that the incident was about much more than football. It was about the legacy of slavery and segregation and Jim Crow and all the other points of tension and oppression that many people in Conway had wrongly assumed were settled.

I’ll have more news about the book soon, but in the meantime, you can get caught up to speed on the 1989 Conway Football Boycott by reading the excellent article that Sports Illustrated ran about it back then. To read the SI story, click HERE.

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The Watershed Rock Junket

jetsetThe First Annual

Watershed Rock Junket.

Raleigh, North Carolina.

July 19-21.

In addition to dates in Columbus and Toledo, you are invited to join Watershed, those mighty Hitless Wonders, as they put up stakes for a long summer weekend in Raleigh, the rock and roll capital of the New South. Over three days—from Friday, July 19 to Sunday, July 21—the band will play three shows in three different venues, with all set-lists made up especially for Superfans. We’re talking deep tracks, rarities, B-sides—stuff Colin, Joe, and Dave have long forgotten how to play. Think of this as a Rock Cruise, but without the boat (and without that bothersome norovirus that can run through a cruise ship like, well, shit through a tourist). No seasickness, either. And no over-priced drinks or food buffet cattle calls. Instead you get a reasonably legitimate excuse to come to a kickass city and a chance to bend elbows at the bar next to Biggie and Ricki C. If that weren’t enough, you also get more live Watershed than you can probably stomach.

Here’s the agenda:

Friday, July 19- Colin plays a solo set at Sadlack’s Heroes. 7:00 to 9:00. Across Hillsborough St. from NC State University, Sadlack’s has by far the most rocking patio in the Southeast. Joe will probably read a few pages from Hitless Wonder while Colin takes his beer breaks.

Saturday, July 20 – Watershed headlines the Brewery Reunion show at the Poor House Music Hall Back in the early nineties, whenever Watershed played Raleigh, it was at The Brewery, with legendary mix-man Jac Cain behind the board. Sadly, The Brewery is long gone, but Jac Cain is still up and rocking and running sound at The Pour House. Jac put together this Brewery Reunion, which will undoubtedly be a blow-out bash. Watershed plays at midnight.

Sunday, July 21 – Watershed fights through their hangovers to play two massive matinee sets at one of their favorite bars in the world, Slim’s Downtown. The show will run roughly from 4:00 to 8:00, and the band will attempt to play any Watershed song you request (no guarantees on the quantity of lyrics remembered or the accuracy of chord progressions executed).

All three venues are close to downtown and easy to get to from a central location. Hotwire is currently showing 4 star hotels available that weekend for as little as $75/night. The entire Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area has great restaurants, museums, and plenty to do during the day. If you’ve been there before, you already know this. If you haven’t, now’s your chance. And look, Watershed will do this Rock Junket thing next year in some other city. And that city will surely be cool, too (we hear Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is lovely in July). But honestly, Raleigh’s tough to beat. This is the year. Make it happen.

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