brain stew/jaded

I have a shelf of glory and a shelf of shame with regard to my books.   sometimes i rotate them.   a book i’m proud of can become a book i’m ashamed of.   all the magazine and newspaper articles go in the drawer under the bed and i never think of them again really but the books are like ex-ex.   for a long time i had shame about my green day book.  it was my first big paycheck.  i mean big.  i mean i’m still paying taxes on the advances big and yes, advances as in foreign sales.  i don’t know where the money went but then neither do most bands when they sign big record deals like scott stapp (it’s not even noon and i am comparing myself to scott stapp).   sometimes i walk past the bar, the barrow street dive on hudson, and say, ‘there, that’s where it all ended for me,” since that was where my then agent and i conceived of a book on green day.  we wrote the proposal over cold pizza in one day and he sold it for over six figures to a woman i met exactly twice and have never talked to again.  i won’t say her name but she is no longer with the publisher.  every so often i get a royalty statement reminding me how much of the six figures i still owe, but that’s not what ruined the experience for me.  i would say that green day themselves did.  but it’s not their fault.  billie joe was a big fan of the book i wrote, we got the neutron bomb, with brendan mullen.  i sat with green day backstage at irving plaza during the pre-release or release day show for american idiot and the four of us chatted casually like friends.  i was very hungover.  maybe they were too.   most people in my field had written them off, but that night they put on one of the best shows i’d ever seen.  they exploded and every song off the album was better than the next.  i told my agent about it and one thing lead to another and that other thing lead to some kind of semi-verbal agreement that i would write an authorized bio of green day.  i would tour with them.  it would be like… ratso’s book on dylan’s rolling thunder tour.   like almost famous too.    me and green day.  green day and i through America in an election year as they mocked Bush and sang about his redneck agenda to people who were probably going to vote Bush/Cheney.  couldn’t you just see it?  i could.  my publisher could.  but the album kept getting bigger and bigger and then i did something stupid.   i still consider it one of the more stupid things i ever did.   i was on the phone with Billie for a spin magazine bit… a dips hit little thing for my column or the front of the book and Billie said, “so do you want to talk about the book?” and I said, “well, I’m doing Spin work now.  i feel weird mixing the two.”  and i did.  i felt like Spin was my job and books were extracurricular and if people found out about me using “spin time” to plan a big book worth more money than many of my co-workers salaries i’m sure, maybe even my editor’s salaries, it would somehow be gauche, and well, i turned him off and he never really turned back on.  i could have just said “sure, man… i’m psyched.  let’s talk…”  i remember it was the day they bombed the london subway.   i remember it a lot.   the next time i saw green day was in a hotel room in new orleans.  they were headlining voodoo fest and it was another dinky spin interview (i was also interviewing juliette lewis there, during her wearing native american head dresses and fronting a band who played sub Squeezebox glitter rock phase, which i think she is finally over?)  their imperious manager pat magnarella had come in to let them know they’d just sold out the Milton Keynes Bowl in London and as happy as i was for them, my heart sank because i knew the album was getting too big and i would not be there in London.  i’d lost favor and not only that, but chaos was building.   they were in Beatles and Stones territory now.  They didn’t even look the same.  They were thinner, wore eyeliner, expensive leather jackets, John Varvatos probably.   and i was fading.    i ended up finishing the book.  there was no not finishing the book.   and with the help of my excellent research partner carrie borzillo, I did my diligence.  i went to rodeo, ca, where he grew up, and to gilman st. and stayed at the phoenix and i interviewed everyone, i mean everyone in their circle, billy’s sister, the dude who designed the dookie and american idiot covers, the guy who founded lookout, tim armstrong (who originally said no then would not stop calling me), respectively, everyone, and i used old quotes from a revered rock writer pal to putty in the cracks because my access, despite a close friendship with their pr person Brian Bumbery was over.    I’d cocked it up, or it was cocked up by fate.   i blew it.  it was blown.   but the book was there.  it was on the calendar.  it had a title and an isbn number and a release date.   Brian got me and carrie into any show we wanted but he could not deliver the band and neither could Pat, whose office I called daily.   Pat Magnarella.  Who knows if he’s a good guy or a bad guy, all I know is he became, for a time, the only guy I ever thought about… the key to doing a great book or just an okay book.   He was my executioner and the governor all in one.    The other thing that ruined it were the Germans.  The fucking Germans (apologies to Germans) but fuck the Germans (sorry, Germans, I am only really referring to like three Germans… I love the Germans… I love Trio).   My agent at the time sold the book all over the world but neglected to tell  the German publisher that it was no longer an authorized book and never really was (the proposal never said so but the language barrier is what it is), so I’d be waiting on line to get my egg sandwich in the a.m. and i’d get a call from berlin asking if i could get green day to come out and play the book release there.   it was both embarrassing and infuriating and why didn’t those calls go to my agent anyway?   The Germans were the guilt trip, the reminder that I was not doing my job. I had enough in the mix to intrigue fans and Green Days fan base was vast, teens, tweens, Gen X’ers even some Boomers who remembered punk fondly.   None of them bought the book.  Well, some of them did.   But the thing is, this morning I listened to Dookie while resting in the park with my dogs after a walk and I felt a sense of pride that I even tried to do it.   “Welcome to Paradise,” “Chump” “Longview” of course, “She,” “Sassafras Roots,”  then I listened to American Idiot and “East Jesus Nowhere,” my favorite post American Idiot song and I was like, “maybe i should move Green Day to the shelf of glory.’  I mean it’s been ten years and despite the deficit nobody else has written anything on the band that comes close to feeling as definitive, have they?  No, they have not.   I saw the 21st Century Breakdown tour at, i believe Webster Hall and felt the healing begin.  I was proud of them for writing another great record.   I have not listened to the trilogy they released but I have seen Billie in my local cafe, alone and deep in thought, so much so that i have not had the guts to go up and say hello, which i could i think.    The band helped vet the book.   They didn’t seem to have an issue with it.   It has a cool title, taken from “Homecoming,” and a great, great cover.   They look like Avedon subjects.   It just didn’t sell.   And when a book doesn’t sell the writer needs to put that in context and sometimes that takes years.  Maybe it was only this morning that it happened.   Seriously.    Some years ago Spin asked me to moderate a convo between Billie and Paul Westerberg, a dream gig, no?  All I had to do was be the third voice on a conference call, but I turned it down.   Dumb.   I have to be smarter, i guess is the point, with my approach to books.  They are imperfect.   They are crazy-making.   They never match the ideal.   They are in many ways film flam (the proposal is not a book, the publisher buys the proposal… etc. etc.).   They are also amazing challenges and often glorious pieces of art.   My Green Day book might not be art but I’m not sure it belongs on the bottom of the small bookshelf behind my large, puce colored leather chair gathering dust either.    Today is the day I might transfer it.   And listen to Insomniac.

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