An excerpt from my long out-of-print book, Gods New and Used. Specifically, this is from "Slings & Arrows," a Sam Bowen story.
Cupid drove the Loop 255, looking for the exit that would take him downtown. The stereo was loud enough to make the chassis of the other cars on the loop vibrate and hum. Driving in the car was a conceit, not because he was three feet tall, but because he didn’t need it. He was Cupid, he didn’t have to drive a car. The little wings on his back were deceptively powerful and would carry him over great distances in a heartbeat. Problem was, every time he used his wings, it reminded him that he was Cupid. Specifically, it reminded him that he was a three-foot tall baby with a little cloth diaper on. He missed being tall and beautiful. He missed the adoration, the attention.
The car, in this instance, a 1979 convertible Corvette Stingray, was a way of making him feel like a complete god again. He was too short to reach the pedals, but every time he moved his right foot, the car sped up or slowed down. He could work the steering wheel; that was still doable. Unfortunately, the car was red. Cupid had no choice in the matter. Well, that’s not entirely true, he could have chosen white or pink, but to Cupid that was totally unacceptable for a Stingray. It was bad enough that his dick was little more than a corn nut without people thinking he was a girl altogether. So he drove fast, swore often, and tried not to think about the color of the car.
The downtown exits were zooming by so fast Cupid barely had time to take the last one. He cut through three lanes of occupied traffic and made the off-ramp with a fourteen-car brake light salute in his wake. He flipped them all off and cut the volume on the stereo so he could concentrate. Robert Plant’s banshee wail became a tiny moan. Cupid sang “Whole Lotta Love” under his breath as he looked at the street signs. Several pedestrians stopped to stare at the car and were rewarded with a one-fingered salute from the diminutive driver. He finally found Merced, and, in keeping with the spirit of his day, it was one-way in the wrong direction. Swearing, he drove to the next street, Carpenter, and took a right.
It was Groundhog Day at Doyle’s, and the bar was in the midst of a wake. Everyone was wearing black armbands for Phil Connors, a local weatherman who mysteriously vanished seven years ago. Ever since then, the only real Groundhog Day party to attend was at Doyle’s.
This was the lunch crowd, and although the place was packed, it was subdued. Security was at a minimum, since most of the trouble happened at night. The patrons, professionals, mostly, were smiling at their armbands and taking advantage of the lunch specials and getting soused on Punxsutawney Punch, one of Silas’s more lethal concoctions.
And being that Doyle’s was the kind of place that it is, and that reputation is, if anything, understated, it should come as no surprise that no one even blinked when Cupid walked into the room.
“Fucking finally,” he growled, walking straight to the bar, shooting looks this way and that. “Go on, say something, I dare you,” he muttered.
“Can I help you?” The bartender looked him straight in the eyes, an even gaze.
“Yeah, you got food?” Cupid’s expression didn’t change.
“Sure, you want to see a menu?”
“No, just bring me the biggest sandwich you got and the biggest, darkest beer on tap.” Cupid finished, still expecting a crack.
“You want your beer now or with the sandwich?” asked the bartender.
“Now,” said Cupid. His defenses were still up.
“No prob.” The bartender turned the order in at the kitchen window, and then drew Cupid a half-yard of something that looked like motor oil. “Here you go,” he said and hung around to get Cupid’s reaction.
Cupid took a long drink, smacked his lips, and screwed up his face. “What the hell is this?”
“It’s one of our house brews. It’s called ‘Velvet Jones’.”
“I don’t get it,” said Cupid.
The bartender shrugged. “Our brewmeister has a weird sense of humor.”
“What’s in it?” said Cupid, drinking deeply.
“It’s a chocolate stout.”
Cupid narrowed his eyes. “That wasn’t a wisecrack, was it?”
Silas shrugged again. “Hey, you asked.” He drifted off to tend to other customers.
Cupid turned to his beer. It was good, in spite of the fact that the beer was made with chocolate. He looked around. The place hadn’t changed much since his last visit, and that was fifteen years ago. Cupid surveyed the crowd, looking for familiar faces, but it was a lost cause. He didn’t really expect to see anyone, but he was bored and hungry.
The bartender sat a huge plastic tray down in front of him, and Cupid spun around to face it. He was staring at an 18” long submarine sandwich, sitting on a bed of fries, with four small buckets, containing ketchup, beef broth, mustard, and mayo. Cupid whistled. “Now, that’s a sandwich!”
The bartender grinned. “Here,” he said, sliding another stout over. “This one’s on me.”
“Why?” said Cupid, picking up a section of the sandwich.
The bartender leaned on the bar with his elbow and took a swipe at the bar with a white rag. “Because if it wasn’t for you, I’d be out of a job.”
“How’s that, exactly?” asked Cupid as he shoveled one end of the sandwich into his mouth.
Silas leaned on the bar. “Hey, if I had a dime for every dumb shit who sat across the bar from me and drank like a fish all night because he was pining for some girl, I’d be a rich man. Of course, every time I listened to them spill their guts about Jennifer, or Natalie, or whoever, I got handsomely tipped. So, the least I can do is buy you a beer.”
Cupid laughed, an explosion of breadcrumbs and pieces of meat. “That’s great! What’s your name, kid?”
“Silas. What do you want me to call you?”
“For you, Cupid. Only people I like can call me Cupid. Everyone else, I make ‘em call me Eros. Well, Silas, I tell you, you’re a lot smarter than your predecessor.”
“Who, Al?” asked Silas.
“Don’t remember his name. But the last time I was here, he started in on me with the wisecracks when all I wanted was a beer and a sandwich. Like, why in Hades would you want to piss off a god?”
Silas shrugged. “Dunno. Me, I never wanted to. So, what did you do?”
Cupid pulled out an arrow from the quiver on his chest. “Special shaft, just like this one. Delayed reaction. You start to feel like something is missing from your life, like you’re not complete. Gradually, it takes up more and more of your thoughts, until you come to realize, you need to find someone to settle down with. You need to be in love.” He started to snicker. “But, because of the tip, here, you can’t! You’re doomed to failure!” He slapped the bar and howled. “Oh, I got a million of them.”
Silas exhaled and rubbed his chin. “That’s a little more complicated than the standard crush-type thing I read about, huh?”
“Hey, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands.”
“Sure,” said Silas. “Well, that clears up one mystery. I always wondered what happened to old Al. How’d you shoot him, by the way?” asked Silas.
“With my bow.”
“No,” said Silas, flipping his rag. “I mean, where. I’m surprised no one tried to stop you.”
“Oh, you mean here in the bar! No, man, I shot him in the parking garage when he was leaving.”
“Ah. Well, there you go, then.” Silas nodded.
“Say,” said Cupid, “you’re pretty knowledgeable about the, what do you call it? The Neighborhood?”
Silas nodded and said, “Yeah, I guess.”
“I’m looking for some people. Maybe you can help me.”
Silas wiped another section of the bar. “I’ll do what I can.”
Renee asked me, "What happened to the cat?"
Well, it's like this, see...
WE, for the last time, are NOT cat-people. We aren't. Never have been, never will be. That doesn't mean that I don't like YOUR cat. Yes, (s)he's the smartest, most intuitive, brilliantly-funny, "not at ALL like other cats" cat in the world, and I recognize that fully. That's why when we come over your cat makes a bee-line for me, and I am appropriately reverential and sweet to your pet. But I don't WANT a cat, and neither does my wife, who is pretty damn allergic.
Now, this condition exists completely independent of Cathy's need to parent something. She can't help it. And so, strays will eventually get fed, and any animal up to and including a syphillitic porcupine that can look moderately cute and cuddly will get a barrage of baby talk from my wife.
That said, we started noticing some patterns for Sir Robin's behavior: occasionally, he'd hang out inside the cottage, but about 80% of the time, he'd eat his food and then dash right back outside. We have concluded that he is therefore a "yard cat." The outside kind. Perfect on a farm (where he, more or less, is right now). Not so good in a loft that opens up onto downtown Vernon.
Option #1: take out the balls and claws and bring his suffering ass to the Vernon Loft, where he'll resent us more openly than before and bolt for the door every single chance he gets (he's already not that affectionate, except to Cathy, whom he considers his "woman").
Option #2: leave him out in the country where he is right now and have Cathy go feed him every couple of days until her little brother moves back to town and can take up the care and feeding of the beast.
Yeah, we went with door number two. And before you ask, NO, I don't miss him. It's just one less piece of furniture I have to move. As soon as we can swing it, we're going to get a dog. A dog. A Loft-Dog. A way-cool, super-duper, Loft-Dog.
Well, maybe not that big, but it’s still pretty important to Herr Finn: my wife and I have finally, at long last, moved into the loft above the theater and are deep in unpacking mode.
I’m just going to let that sentence sit there for a second, because it looks so damn nice all by itself. It’s been a very trying six months, to say the least. We moved to this small town of Vernon, fully one-tenth the size of Austin, about six months ago. We did so with the full confidence that we would be able to get financing for the business venture and take possession of same in four to six weeks’ time.
In the interim, we were to stay at the guest cottage (really, a one-bedroom house that was originally built for the servants) of my in-law’s property. It was small, had very few amenities, but we could get the internet, via dial-up, and the window-mounted air conditioners DID work. Besides, it wouldn’t be for very long, now, would it?
Our belongings (literally ALL of them) were stored in the actual movie theater, in anticipation of us getting financing, and besides, the owner said, I’ve still got some minor repairs and some brick work to do in the loft. Plenty of time to get it all done before you move in...
That was six months ago.
It’s only slightly dramatic to say that we were homeless during this time. True, we didn’t lack for food, clothing, or shelter, but a lot of it was charitably given. Certainly, having family here in Vernon was a huge help to us, but that’s really not the point. See, I found out something about myself: I do NOT do well if I don’t have a job of some kind. Cathy, either. We’ve had jobs, the both of us, since we were teenagers. It’s been extremely difficult to make my own schedule, particularly when we both knew that it was arbitrary and temporary.
Well, we thought our problems were over when we signed the papers at the end of November. However, the old owner was still not finished with those few stray repairs and brickwork. That took a month. Then we cleaned and stained the concrete floor, a job I would not wish on Nazi Dentists, and finally, this past week, got all of our long dormant stuff upstairs.
Now the work can really begin.
In particular, we will be dealing with the movie theater at the same time that we’re making a home for ourselves, and the theater gets top priority. Now that our accumulated belongings are upstairs and not in the lobby of the Plaza, the cleaning and prepping can commence!
To all of you who wrote notes in the last six months, wishing us well and praying for our good fortune, it has finally come to pass. We are not ready to receive visitors yet (that’ll take a few months, to say the least), but we’ll let everyone know that has vowed a road trip to see the theater just as soon as it’s all ready.
Not surprisingly, this past year was one of strange upheavals and monumental triumphs. Cathy and I quit our jobs, threw caution to the wind, and moved so far into North Texas that we can almost see Oklahoma to completely re-invent our lives. At the same time, Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard came out, to enthusiastic reviews and accolades.
I’ve gotten a lot of PMs, IMs, emails, and even a hand-written letter (!) from fans who read the book and thanked me profusely for writing the book and giving them a different picture of Robert E. Howard. That has been a little humbling. I mean, when I wrote the book, I specifically wrote the book that I wanted to read. It has been very cool to see that other folks have enjoyed that take on REH’s life, and moreover, got something out of it. I’m going to try and line up some signings in this area prior to this year’s REH gathering in Cross Plains, in June. My first signing of the year will actually be in the town of Cross Plains. I’m talking to (a) the Friends of the Library, (b) the Cross Plains Kiwinis Club, and (c) the Cross Plains High School English classes. Not necessarily in that order.
What do I do for 2007? Well, that’s a promise between me and Elvis. I do have some non-fiction work in progress (halted by the move and the chaos), and I’ve got a proposal for a book that I’m working on for a major publisher. But my focus, so far as it goes, is to finally finish Replacement Gorilla and find a home for it. All of this will revolve around the theater schedule, of course, since we’ve really got to massage the business for the first two years, but I think it can be done very handily.
I’m really excited that I’ve turned the corner and started this new phase of my life. So, in order to keep up with all of the changes, and stay plugged in to my fascinating anecdotes and screeds, I’m going to redo some of how I talk to everyone.
The Yahoo Group list, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/finnswake will henceforth be for big, broad overview stuff, recaps, and similar life-altering hoo-ha. If you’re not on that list and want on it, you can click through the above and sign up. It’s free, and isn’t spammed, unless you count what I send out, and it’s also not a discussion group, so you won’t see any replies to me by other people.
The LiveJournal blog, http://www.livejournal.com/users/finnswake/ will be for smaller anecdotes, musings on life in a small town, running a theater, and other day-to-day short posts. If you haven’t checked out my LiveJournal blog before, well, it’s a mishmash of stuff. But it’s pretty interesting, and there are folks who read it that aren’t on the Finn’s Wake list. It’s also free to read. I am contemplating moving to eBlogger, but haven’t really looked into how that will work, if at all.
As for the MySpace page, http://www.myspace.com/finnswake/ well, it’s kinda become a catch-all for everyone who has written a book and published it on lulu.com. No offense to those of you using Lulu.com, but do we really *need* another erotic vampire thriller? Since my myspace friends list has become a strange and exotic thing, I’m just going to send out occasional nonsense and wonky bits via the bulletin feature. If you want to see those, you know what to do.
I think that’s it, for now. Later this year, I’ll have a website up (finally!) and most likely with embedded blogging tools, so there will be that, as well. You can’t say that you don’t know where to find me. I’ll also take a number of pics and post them (likely in LJ, since it links directly to my Flikr account) for those of you who can’t wait to see the theater, the loft, and etc.
After a week of killing ourselves, throwing all of our time, effort, and physical labor at a concrete slab some 1,500 square feet in total that refuses to come clean, we have given up and called in the professionals. They are cleaning the floor so that we can stain it. Once stained, we'll seal it. Once sealed, it will cure for a couple of days, and then BAM! All of our worldly belongings will get magically moved upstairs by other people, and we'll have a weekend to get into the boxes and start sorting our stuff out before we're full on in the movie-business grind mode.
In the meantime, I'm using my day to finish up some extant writing obligations, and oh yeah, celebrating the birth of our Elvis. I think a viewing of Viva Las Vegas is in order, and then I'll make my Promises to the King. There is a very slim chance that I will post them here, since none of you are Elvis, and these are private promises. But I am making some life-changers this year, so the more astute of you will probably figure out what that means.
Soon, very soon, we'll have a multitude of pictures to throw up and I will cheerfully do so. Before and after pics of the loft, and some things like that.
And off to the side, thank you, all of you, who bought, recommended, or otherwise pimped Blood & Thunder to folks. I continue to get fan mail from people I have never heard of before in my life, thanking me in gushing terms for writing the thing. I'm really pleased and humbled by that. But I know that a lot of you have beat the drum for me, so, really, I appreciate it.
I don't celebrate New Year's Eve, but Cathy does. My official End of the Year celebration is Elvis' Birthday for reasons which should be blatantly obvious to all of my friends and family by now.
Nevertheless, Cathy won't pass up an opportunity to drink Champagne, so we found ourselves at my in-laws house at 11:00 PM last night, watching, inexplicably, the New Year's Eve countdown on ABC. I say inexplicably not because we were watching it, but because I have no idea who else was watching it. All of these hot, young acts, singing songs and rapping and I couldn't understand any of it, and all of these beautiful people dancing and singing along like they really did care about every single flash-in-the-pan onstage. Cathy said it best when she remarked, "the target audience for this show isn't at home, watching it on tv. They're out getting hammered in clubs." Too right. But that wasn't what was so disconcerting.
See, apparantly, ABC (and presumably the other networks) have to run a certain number of Public Service Announcements in order to keep on the air. Well, if they are lax in doing that (gotta sell the soap flakes!), then those PSA's get pushed until the very last day of the year.
In other words, The Dick Clark-less New Year's Eve Flash in the Pan Bash was proudly brought to you by "Get Your Home Tested for Radon," "Teach Children to Read and Become a Hero," "Don't Smoke, you Imbecile," and "It's perfectly all right (and really preferred) to adopt children of color if you are white."
It's like the perfect marriage of art and commerce, isn't it?
Cathy also couldn't stop laughing at Ryan Seacrest. "Who IS that guy?" she howled. "Is he TRYING to be that uninteresting?" No Honey, I gently replied, he's doing his best to engage you. "Well, it's NOT working," she whooped.
The ball dropped, we smooched, and that was pretty much it.
The next day, I got up, feeling slightly ill (Cathy has given me her cold), and made my world famous black eyed peas, Hopping John style, and a great Indian cabbage stir-fry recipe that is sweet and spicy and about ten thousand times better than just boiling it. I had a conversation with the world's foremost Jack Teagarden expert, ate lunch, and then passed out.
I don't do Resolutions. I make Promises to The King.
Earlier today, I spammed a select group of friends and colleagues (not even professional contacts) with the news that I had been name dropped in the Wall Street Journal today. This was sent out with the header, "Normally I'm much more demure about these things..." And it's true. While I have what can only be described as a huge personality in person, when it comes to my writing, I am earnestly serious and mildly fragile. As such, when people pay me compliments, I immediately drop out of my big personality and say, very quietly, "Thank you." Later, when no one but my wife is around, I might do a cartwheel, but I tend to not do as much self-promotion as I probably need to in my burgeoning writing career.
Anyway, within minutes, the replies were flying back to me. Mixed in among the short and sweet Congratses and Way-to-goes were a number of digs, jibes, and pokes, such as:
"Yes, you're a shy and delicate flower."
"That certainly trumps 'The Daily Texan.' I am more proud than ever to wave your book around at people and say, 'This chucklehead author is my friend!'"
"Demure is just not a word that I have ever associated with you."
And my personal favorite:
It's nice to know that I've surrounded myself with people who are good enough friends that they will never feel like they have to kiss my ass. It's very grounding. As long as there are folks out there who can tell stories of the time I monkey-walked, drunker than hell, up to X person and made a jackass of myself, I think I'm going to be all right.
|Subject:||A Blah Weekend|
Earlier this week, Cathy caught a virus that had her throwing up and flu-ed out. Then she gave it to me on Friday. So, my weekend was a mish-mash of 7-up, vomiting, sleep, fever dreams, addled bits of writing, and a small movie marathon.
I ended up watching all four Harry Potter films, in order (I'm pretty amped about Movie 5 and Book 7). I have to say, my favorite of the lot is still number 3 (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). It was the best balance of Book Stuff and Movie Stuff. Don't know what they are going to do with the next two movies. It'll be interesting. Ultimately, I still like the books, and think the movies serve as a visual shorthand for the books. The Goblet of Fire movie broke that covenent when it tried to "make better" the Harry and the Dragon scene. Paradoxically, I really liked all of the little fiddly-bits in the Prisoner of Azkaban movie, as it (a) didn't alter the given story, and (b) gave a lot more detail as to the magical-ness of the HP world.
Cathy recovered and rented An Inconvenient Truth. Everyone should watch it. It's that good.
In other news, I continue to get positive feedback for Blood & Thunder. Folks I don't know are writing me from all over to tell me how much they liked the book, to tell me thanks, and to tell me that they learned a lot about this writer that they have long admired. That praise is keeping me going as Cathy and I struggle our way into the theater business.
So, these two people walk into a movie theater...
Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen. The deal is finally done. Well, mostly. But today, Cathy and I (on behalf of our partners) bought the Vernon Plaza movie theater. It’s official. We’re entrepreneurs, now, in addition to being all of those other things, too.
I’ve got a lot of stuff to do in the next two months, including setting up the website, which will be located at www.vernonplaza.com and will be fully tricked out. Movie times, schedules, upcoming events, the works. In the meantime, you can stop by and look at the few pics online so you can see what Cathy and I got so excited about, lo, these many months ago.
The current plan is to open up in January 2007, with a grand opening sometime in February, 2007. Obviously, it’s a big deal, and so I fully expect every single one of you to roadtrip to Vernon, Texas, at some point in the next three-to-five years. Hell, y’all pool your funds and get a bus together!
Blood & Thunder
The other big news is, of course, the release of Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. I’ve been interviewed several times so far, and a couple of fine folks have already seen fit to do reviews. The first came from Rick Kleffel’s Agony Column:
Shortly thereafter, I got a nice write up from fellow Texas author and all around fine fellow Bill Crider. His Blog of Pop Culture is worth checking out:
There’s rumors of a Publisher’s Weekly review, as well as some newspaper coverage down the pike. I’ve been contacted privately by a number of people who congratulated me or thanked me for writing the book. I’m really happy with the response it’s received so far. My buddy Jess Nevins, himself an amazing popular culture scholar, even tipped in the first customer review on Amazon.com.
The next few months will be a huge challenge as I balance the writing side of things with the entrepreneurial side of things. Thankfully, Cathy will be onhand to keep me in clean socks. She’s a saint, I tell you. And of course, we’re STILL not moved into the loft yet, but we now have a semi-firm date on when we can get there—ten days away and counting. Stuff to do, stuff to do.
On the Personal Side
Living in the country brings critters of all shapes and sizes. I shooed a wolf spider out of the house that was the size of a regulation poker chip not three days ago. Skunks, possum, raccoons, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, scorpions, bull snakes, vultures...Vernon is a critter lover’s paradise. I guess it’s just dumb luck that we have been adopted by a feral cat.
This is not our pet. It’s the cat that we feed. There’s a big difference. Chief among them is our inability to actually pet said cat. That alone disqualifies it for ‘pet’ status, as the name well implies. In fact, the cat is such a chicken, that Cathy has named our gray tabby Sir Robin. Insert Monty Python music here.
I didn’t want a cat. I don’t want this cat. I want a dog. Preferably one that will keep all cats away. But now that we’ve got this...animal lounging on our cottage porch and mewling piteously until he is fed, we’re responsible for him. Provided that we can actually get him into a box, we will take him to the vet and explore our options—namely, snip the balls and the claws and take him to the loft, or drop him off so he can wait for some neurotically unbalanced cat-person to take him in. Whether he stays in the loft or not depends entirely on how much we can domesticate him. I will not be the owner of an animal that doesn’t consider me some sort of food-bringing god. I’ve got thumbs for a reason. And I have no allusions about cats, how smart they are, or any of that nonsense. It really all boils down to one thing: Let’s say, god forbid, that the building catches on fire. Do I want a pet that will (a) bark until I wake up, and allow us to get out of the house with my Robert E. Howard books intact, or (b) go hide under the sink in a blind panic? See if you can guess which one I will pick...
This year is the first year in perhaps, well, ever, that I am completely unplugged from the retail end of things. As such, and because i know how stressful it can all get, you owe it to yourselves to check out the latest offering from the Violet Crown Radio Players: Moneygo on 34th Street! Visit http://www.violetcrownradio.com/ for information and showtimes. Trust me on this. The show is going to become our Christmas staple. You can see it on the ground floor, now. If you're coming to Austin, it's playing all December. Hope to see you there!
More on our “cat,” our loft, and our new status as Vernon-ites, as we get the time to update you. Thanks for reading!
There's an inch of SNOW on the ground. It's falling SIDEWAYS out of the sky.
And the people in Vernon sent their kids to school today. Unbelievable.
They are made of Pioneer stock up here in North Texas.
This is for the BookPeeps out there, as well as my various UU friends who think that the 80's were some sort of cultural apex for pop music. I'm modifying the meme's requirements, however: for these top 75 songs of 1988 (the year I graduated high school), I'm bolding the songs I can still listen to without freaking out. I'm striking through the songs that, even then, sucked canal water. And I'm leaving alone those songs that came and went like the bland things that they were. It should be noted that, for those of you who wish to mount some sort of defense for my rankings below, that THIS was the year that Bill Hicks was talking about when he made fun of George Michaels and Rick Astley, whom he correctly labeled a "demented little incubus."
1. What A Wonderful World* - Louis Armstrong
*didn't even make it in the top 100 when released in 1967!
2. It Takes Two - Rob Base & E-Z Rock
3. Da Butt - EU
4. Hot Hot Hot - Buster Poindexter
5. I'll Always Love You - Taylor Dayne
6. Man In The Mirror - Michael Jackson
7. Sweet Child Of Mine - Guns N Roses
8. Red Red Wine - UB40
9. Just Got Paid - Johnny Kemp
10. Don't Worry, Be Happy - Bobby McFerrin
11. Pour Some Sugar On Me - Def Leppard
12. Every Rose Has Its Thorn - Poison
13. Welcome To The Jungle - Guns N Roses
14. Paradise - Sade
15. The Flame - Cheap Trick 16. 1 2 3 - Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine
17. Kokomo - Beach Boys
18. Need You Tonight - INXS
19. Pump Up The Volume - M/A/R/R/S
20. Roll With It - Steve Winwood
21. Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird (Medley) - Will To Power
22. Power Of Love - Laura Branigan
23. Push It - Salt N Pepa
24. One More Try - George Michael
25. Can't Stay Away From You - Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine
26. Wild, Wild West - Kool Moe Dee
27. One Moment In Time - Whitney Houston
28. Hot Hot Hot!!! - The Cure
29. The Promise - When In Rome
30. The Way You Make Me Feel - Micheal Jackson
31. Chains Of Love - ErasureThis was our Senior Prom theme, and while it was terrible, it was the only good prom experience of my entire high school career; I went to five proms, and the first four all sucked.
32. What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy) - Information Society
33. Honestly - Stryper
34. Don't Be Cruel - Bobby Brown
35. Bad Medicine - Bon Jovi
36. Strangelove - Depeche Mode
37. Nothin' But A Good Time - Poison
38. Angel - Aerosmith
39. Candle In The Wind - Elton John
40. Forever Young - Alphaville
41. Pink Cadillac - Natalie Cole
42. Always On My Mind - Pet Shop Boys
43. Tall Cool One - Robert Plant
44. Forever Young - Rod Stewart
45. Beds Are Burning - Midnight Oil
46. Tomorrow People - Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers
47. I Know You're Out There Somewhere - Moody Blues
48. Just Like Heaven - The Cure
49. Wild Wild West - The Escape Club
50. In God's Country - U2
51. So Emotional - Whitney Houston
52. Girls Ain't Nothin' But Trouble - DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
53. Wishing Well - Terence Trent D"Arby
54. It's Money That Matters - Randy Newman
55. Under The Milky Way - The Church
56. Like The Weather - 10,000 Maniacs
57. Tell It To My Heart - Taylor Dayne
58. Kiss Me Deadly - Lita Ford
59. Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Astley
60. It's The End Of The World As We Know It - R.E.M.
61. Parents Just Don't Understand - DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince 62. Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark - Robert Cray Band
63. Never Can Say Goodbye - Communards
64. What's The Matter Here? - 10,000 Maniacs
65. Groovy Kind Of Love - Phil Collins
66. Fat - Weird Al Yankovic
67. Piano In The Dark - Brenda Russell
68. Monkey - George Michael
69. Rocket 2 U - Jets
70. Tell That Girl To Shut Up - Transvision Vamp
71. I Found Someone - Cher
72. Spotlight - Madonna
73. Englishman In New York - Sting
74. When Will I Be Famous? - Bros
75. Hazy Shade of Winter - the Bangles
1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert*
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson*
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick*
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury*
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison*
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison*
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester*
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman*
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl*
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling*
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams*
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson*
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick*
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock*
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer.
The show is over. What an exhausting, exhilarating time I had. Truly wonderful. Mostly because I spent the majority of this show signing books: either Cross Plains Universe, the anthology done in conjunction with the theme of the World Fantasy Convention, or Blood & Thunder: the Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. In both cases, I was pleased and flattered to do it. But it put me in the dealer’s room for several hours, hawking books, talking to earnest and grateful fans, and hobnobbing with the likes of Jess Nevins, Chris Roberson (and his lovely wife), Joe Lansdale, Jayme Blaschke, Brad Denton, Bill Crider, Scott Cupp, Gary Gianni, Peter S. Beagle, Jeff Mariotte, Gavin Grant, Kelly Link, Howard Jones, and many other REH-fans and interested parties.
I like the World Fantasy Convention because it’s so easy to hobnob. Really. It’s a bar-con, and there’s just nothing better for getting ten minutes of face-time with just about anyone you want. As it was, I may have some cool stuff lined up in the near-future. Between the release party for my book on Friday and the post-travesty bar-crawl on Saturday, I got a lot of networking in.
It has come to my attention that some folks may have heard about my bloody rampage after the World Fantasy Awards were announced. This is regrettable, since anger unshaped is anger wasted. As it turned out, my raw, unfocused anger at the entire awards situation has now become a refined, laser-like indignation for the administrators of the award. I don’t blame the judges, per se. Especially not when they are given a bag of lemons to start with. What I stridently object to (and I’m not alone in this; hence, my abated anger) is the Special Award: Pro and Special Award: Non-Pro categories—the catch-all awards where a person who is nominated for a scholarly work (for example) might find himself, say, competing with a website, a semi-pro scholarly journal, a fanzine, and a small press publisher of Dr. Who knock-offs. How do you judge that as a category? It’s patently ridiculous. And it could be fixed by adding two categories and defining them, and redefining the special awards. A lot less bruised egos, headaches, and bald guys with plastic swords screaming at the top of their lungs, in any case.
Also, I’d prefer it if the Admins of the award either left the category wide open for the judges, or took it off the table entirely and decided on it themselves. One or the other; it makes me no never-mind. But it just might fix things like John Crowley winning a Lifetime Achievement award, and one that he himself professed confusion in winning (since he had just published a book not two years ago) since he morphed into a member of the literati and left the SF Ghetto. Not even a reprint of Little Big, the one book he is best known for (and likely the most readable, as his other works are real garbage) could get him to re-publish in our field. Is it any wonder I freaked out about his getting the award? Especially since I was sitting next to Glenn Lord at the time? What a travesty.
Despite those negatives, Brad Denton delivered what has to be the finest Toastmaster speech of all time. Truly a top-notch effort; he had the audience rolling in the aisles, cheering, and hanging on to his every word.
Of course, I was pretty excited (and understandably nervous) about the debut of Blood & Thunder, but it went very well. The party was a stone-cold groove (or, at least, not the dorkiest thing that happened over the weekend). I sold a lot of copies, too. Everyone was very excited and promised to tell me exactly what they thought of it in no uncertain terms. Greeeeeeeeeaaaaat.
But the big winner was Cross Plains Universe, a monster tome put together by Scott Cupp and Joe Lansdale: an all-Texas celebration of Robert E. Howard. I’m in some very distinguished company, friends and fellow writers, and people I genuinely look up to. And we all were busy signing the bejeezus out of that book all weekend.
I’ve got a few pics that I may post later.
|Subject:||A Prime Number|
So, I turned thirty-seven today. That’s weird.
I mean, it’s weird in that it’s a prime number. It’s also officially on the downhill slope to forty. When you’re thirty-five, you’re solidly in the middle of your thirties. It’s a good, solid number, thirty-five. Divisible by seven, if you like lucky numbers. Thirty-six, well, that’s closer to thirty-five than forty, and shoot, it really doesn’t count. Besides, it’s divisible by six. Maybe not as good as seven. Maybe more good. I don’t really keep up with numerology.
But thirty-seven. That’s the age equivalent of walking a pirate’s plank. It’s out there, all by itself, in the deep end of the thirties. And it’s a prime number. I don’t quite know why I keep obsessing about that, other than I think it’s the first real time I’ve taken stock in the fact that I am dealing with prime numbers. Mathematicians like them. I think they are, well, interesting, but nothing else. Prior to this, my only other frame of reference for this number was the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail involving Dennis, the rabble-rousing peasant that Arthur meets in the road to Camelot. You know the scene:
Arthur: Old Woman!
Dennis: I’m not a woman, I’m a man.
Arthur: Oh. Sorry.
Dennis: And I’m thirty-seven. I’m not OLD.
I keep playing that sound byte in my head, over and over, like a mantra. “I’m thirty-seven. I’m not OLD.” Sure, Mark. Whatever. They say now that forty is the new thirty. I can dig that. I think that’s partially because my generation (we used to be called “latch key kids” in the seventies, and doesn’t that sound like a good-for-you PBS kids show?) didn’t have the pressures put upon us by parents who grew up in the sixties, and so we took our own sweet time getting married, having children, starting careers, etc. Maybe that’s just a rationalization, but most of my friends are just now getting their shit together.
I haven’t been much of a grown-up for most of my thirties. In fact, I’d say I haven’t been a grown-up at all until I got married three years ago. Having a wife tends to change things like that. But, at heart, I’m still roughly fourteen years old. I still watch monster movies for Halloween. My birthday cake today had a toy of Spider-Man fighting Doc Ock. That was from my mother-in-law. I read comics today, and got a pedicure. It was a lazy, easy day, and I’m glad I took it. Despite my best efforts, I only managed to speak to one banker today, and it was brief. Everyone needs a break.
Life in Vernon has picked up. I’m getting involved with the Chamber of Commerce, and last week, I spoke to the Rotary Club. I’m almost a respected member of this community. That was quick, I tell you. We continue to meet nice people who are genuinely excited about what we are doing in town. All we need is a loan...
My email has bristled today with well-wishes from folks across the country (thank you, every one, for the birthday thoughts, by the way). Many of you Austinites told me how much you missed me and Cathy. Well, we miss you, too. We’re doing okay, and we hope to have a big announcement about the Vernon Plaza after we get back from World Fantasy in Austin. And speaking of which...
In addition to my appearance at the World Fantasy Convention, in Austin, here’s another gentle reminder that I’ll be signing at BookPeople on Monday, November 6th, at 7 PM. If you want to see me, hear a little about the book, and get some face-time, this is your chance, buddy. After that, Cathy and I will be literally buried in work on the theater and we won’t come up for air until the end of the year.
Older, and probably wiser,
Greetings from Vernon, Texas, Ladies and Gentlemen, the birthplace of Jack Teagarden, The Waggoner Ranch, and the new home of Mark Finn and his lovely wife Cathy Day. They’ve just bought the refurbished Vernon Plaza theater and they...what? They haven’t bought it yet? Well, I’m sure they are in escrow right now...they aren’t? Well, what have they done? Talked to a lot of banks? Well, poop, that’s no good.
Yes, folks, it’s true; Cathy and I are marooned in Vernon. Our original bank fell through, and our back-up bank fell through...and so we’re shopping our loan to several banks now, and hoping that someone will scoop it up. It’s been daunting, but we haven’t given up. I promise you, the second we get our loan, I’ll scream like Robert Plant and then I’ll throw out a dozen emails, including a big honking Finn’s Wake update, to let you know what’s what.
In the meantime, we’re getting the lay of the land and meeting folks in the community. It’s one of “those” places, you know, where everyone is friendly, says howdy, and wants to know what you’ve been up to? Yeah, a small town. Actually, I’m adjusting very well. I like the feel of this place. Lots of potential here. It’s like being at BookPeople, if BookPeople had 11,000 employees.
Cathy is gardening. That’s all. Just...she’s gardening. She keeping wanting me to garden, and so far, I’ve found several excuses to not join her. Does she not remember what happened the last time I tried to help her garden? That’s right, dislocated tendon, surgery, etc. No one needs that again. That story is only funny the first time you hear it.
I’ve actually been pretty busy, myself. At long last, the book I started on in late 2004, Blood & Thunder: the Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, is mere weeks from hitting the bookshelves. Many of you who know me personally know how close to my heart this project is. Those of you who only know me professionally...well, this project is very close to my heart.
You will be able to purchase Blood & Thunder at finer bookstores everywhere, including your favorite indy bookstore of choice. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t do well with other people, feel free to use your online bookstore of choice. Either way, it will be in stores this November, and it makes a great Christmas gift for the Robert E. Howard fan in your life. Not me, of course, the other one.
Or, if you are feeling particularly saucy, you can catch me live and in person at BookPeople on November 6th at 7:00 PM, where I will do my song and dance routine for a bunch of folks and then sign copies for them. This will be hot on the heels of the World Fantasy Convention, so if I seem hung-over and listless, it’s because I will be. Nevertheless, a Finn Reading is a required thing, and I encourage you to come out and stare at me goggle-eyed. There may even be beer. Seriously. There may be beer.
Other dates are being established even as we speak, including an engagement in Cross Plains, Texas (where else?) on February 13th, 2007. If you want me to come to your city or town in Texas, shoot me an email. Right now, I’ve got time on my hands.
See you soon!
Blood & Thunder is at the printers. It'll be here the week before WFC.
Is it sick that I'm watching my Amazon numbers already?
I've been composing, in vain now. a long, terrible account of our ordeal--the most grueling move I've ever undertaken. Every time I write a little of it, I just get depressed and angry all over again. It was a nightmare, folks.
So, rather than subject you to those indignities, I'll just start from scratch.
Hi, everyone. We're in Vernon, Texas, now. And boy, are we having fun.
The loan is going accordingly; just not fast enough for us to get stuff done. We're setting up the business structure, which is keeping us busy, and we're hoping to actually get the money in the next couple of weeks. When I know something, you'll know something.
Oh, and Blood & Thunder goes to press this week. This is all good news.
More on small towns, local politics, and adjusting to this new lifestyle soon. For now, we're healthy, happy, and trying to keep up the good thoughts. I'm even taking Yoga. Expect a full entry on this soon.
As I break my life down into cardboard boxes, all neatly labeled at my wife’s insistence, a familiar depression washes over me: is this all I am? A box of magic tricks? Stacks of old horror comics? An Elvis shrine? God, I hope not. We’re sleeping on futons because the Salvation Army has taken our bed away (willingly, mind you. It wanted to co-operate fully.) Cathy’s sisters have been helping us pack and clean. The garage sale moved piles of unwanted stuff out of our vicinity. And I’m just stuffing handfuls of books into boxes like there’s no tomorrow. How skewed.
It’s been an emotional month as we slowly disengage from Austin, Texas, where I’ve become, in my own geeky way, part of a scene. What scene, I’m not sure; the theater scene, the geek scene, the “Keep Austin Weird” scene. It’s not as easy as it looks, leaving literally hundreds of friends, acquaintances, and ex-customers, to move to a small town.
It’s not all gloom and doom, however. We got our fifth rubber chicken in the mail today. About once every six months, we get an anonymous rubber chicken, no two alike, in the mail. We suspect that it’s our old neighbors, Craig and Eve, who were fairly fascinated with my beer can chicken cooking efforts. It was just the thing we needed to bring us out of our funk—and trust me, until you’ve gotten an anonymous rubber chicken in the mail, you have not lived a full and complete life.
Speaking of mail, here’s my new mailing address:
Mark Finn (and Cathy Day)
PO Box 1584
Vernon, Texas 76385
Please update your records. Email will stay the same. Phone numbers? It’s up in the air. We’ll probably just get cell phones...and we won’t be happy about it.
I’m also not happy about the shocking early demise of David Gemmell, a British author of heroic fantasy and one of the few literary heirs to Robert E. Howard’s work. Here’s his obituary: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/5224868.stm Someone from one of the many message boards I frequent posted this excerpt, Gemmell himself talking about his own work:
'There was this boy. He lived in fear. Not the tiny fears of manhood, but the awesomely powerful, living, breathing fear that only children can experience. He was different, this boy, from the other boys who lived in this bomb damaged London Street some few years after World War Two. He had no father.
Some of the other children had no father, but their lack was honorable. Dad died in the war, you know. He was a hero. This boy's lack was the subject of sly whispers from the adults, and open jeering from his peers. This boy's mother was - the boy heard so many times - a whore.
Happily the boy was only six, and had no real understanding of what the word meant. Anyway the word was less hurtful than the blows that would follow it. Most of the blows came from other children, but sometimes adults too would weigh in.
It was all baffling to the child. What he knew was that, before venturing out into the narrow streets and alleys, he had to peer from the windows of the small apartment to see if there were other children about. Only he didn't think of them as children. They were enemies, and he was frightened. Fear was the ever present companion. Fear was grafted to him. The journey to school was fraught with peril. The dark of the night brought fearful dreams.
His mother read him stories about heroes, and tried to encourage him to stand up for himself. But stories were just words, and words could not stop the punches, the pinches and the slaps.
The boy never dreamed of heroes. Not until he met one.
It was a bright, cold morning and he was sitting on a wall. One of the boys who made his life miserable ran up, shouting and gesticulating. The boy - more in panic than courage - finally struck out, punching his enemy in the face. The other child ran off screaming. His father came running from the house. 'You little bastard!' he shouted.
The boy took off as fast as he could, but no six year old can outrun a grown man. Within moments he grabbed the boy by the collar, swinging him from his feet.
Just then a huge shadow fell over the pair. The man - who had looked so threatening moments before - now looked small and insignificant against the looming newcomer. This colossus reached out and took hold of the man by the shirt, pushing him up against a wall.
In a low voice, chilling for its lack of passion, he asked. 'Do you know who I am?'
The man was trembling. Even the boy could feel the dreadful fear emanating from him.
'C-c-course I know who you are, Bill. Course I do.'
'Did you know I was walking out with this boy's mother?'
'Jesus Christ... I swear I didn't, Bill. On my mother's life.'
'Now you do.'
The big man let the little man go. He slid part way down the wall, recovered and stumbled away. Then the giant leaned over the boy and held out a hand that seemed larger than a bunch of bananas. 'Better be getting home, son,' he said.
The world changed that day. Men like Bill do change the world. They are the havens, the safe harbours of childhood. They are the watch hounds who keep the wolves at bay. They have an instinctive understanding of the child that is denied to the wise.
Two years later, as my stepfather, he cured me of dreams of vampires coming to drink my blood. My mother had tried explaining to me they were just dreams. They weren't real. It didn't work. She took me to a child psychologist, who showed me pictures, told me stories, explained about the birth of myth and the way that fear created pictures in our night time thoughts. It was very interesting, but it did nothing for my nightmares.
One night I woke up screaming - to find Bill sitting by my bedside.
'There's a vampire, dad. Its trying to get me.'
'I know, son,' he said, softly. 'I saw it.'
'You saw it?'
'Yeah. I broke its bloody neck. I won't have no vampires in my house'
I never dreamt of vampires again.
Years later, when I wrote my first novel, I used Bill as the model for a character. His name was Druss the Legend. Bill re-appeared in many novels thereafter, in many guises.
Always flawed, but always heroic.
Three years ago, at the age of 82, Bill was mugged on the streets of London. Three muggers broke his jaw, his nose and two of his ribs. He still managed to 'chin' one of them and knock him to the ground. That was Bill.
Last April he died.
And I wrote Ravenheart, and gave Bill centre stage.
Jaim Grymauch, who strides the highlands like a giant, is my homage to Bill, and to all those world changing fathers who pass away without fanfare; who leave the world just a little brighter than it was.
Men who know how to deal with vampires.
Reading this, I found tears in my eyes, thinking of my own father. No, he wasn’t huge and heroic. But he did know how to deal with vampires. I recommend David Gemmell’s work highly, particularly if you like your heroic fantasy muscular and vivid.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Of course, I’ve been working on the sides of the Blood & Thunder project. When you turn a book in, you’re not done. I don’t think you’re ever done. I’m already writing down articles to work on things that I couldn’t put in the book.
In the good news department, I placed a story in the upcoming World Fantasy Convention commemorative book, Cross Plains Universe. My short story features Clay Stark, the King of the Gorilla Men, on the set of the Conan the Conqueror movie, circa 1971. Trust me, it’ll make sense when you read it.
Also, Gardner Dozois gave my story, “The Bridge of Teeth,” in last year’s anthology Adventure, Vol.1, an honorable mention in his annual collection of the year’s best Science Fiction. In fact, Adventure, Vol. 1 was the most talked about book in the collection. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it to you—my story notwithstanding.
After we get settled in Vernon, I’m going to change some stuff up. I’m going to start blogging pretty intensely on my livejournal page (the link is below) about small towns, the movie theater business, and so forth. It’ll be bloggy, although I’m sure an essay or rant will creep in there from time to time.
The Finnswake Yahoo Group list, and the myspace bulletins, will be for larger publishing concerns, announcements, and the Blood & Thunder Book Tour. Oh, yes, there will be a tour. Or, at least, some signings and stuff. I’m going to try and keep everyone in the loop. Please do the same for us. Send me your news.
It’s been a blast. We’re going to miss you, Austin.
Garage Sale at the Bungalow of Love
Okay, let’s see who bites...if you’re in the Austin area and you’d like to come paw through our stuff in anticipation of our impending Vernon move, now’s your chance!
Saturday, July 22nd, from 9 AM to 5 PM.
614 Cliff Drive
Austin, Texas 78704
Bed, bookcases, brickabrac, and lots of other stuff not starting with the letter “B.” Even cold drinks!
Come see us before we go.
Coming soon to this space:
New Blogging About Same
If you want our particulars, such as phone numbers and addresses, please send me an email and I’ll fill you in.
It is with mixed feelings that I have worked my last day today at BookPeople. After fifteen years, I'm hanging up my lanyard in search of celluloid pastures. I'm going to miss that big, weird, dysfunctional place, of course, but this is a much bigger step for me. I'm saying goodbye to fifteen years of retail work and over twenty years of working for other people.
This movie theater business proceedeth accordingly, and Cathy and I take turns about fretting over our decision. When we do fret, the other one reminds the fretter that we'll have our own business; that we are the envy of everyone we know; that we'll get more flex-time to do pretty much whatever we want.
Those of you who are regulars to this thing called LJ, I'll be updating a lot more regularly as I chronicle the Vernon experience. Cathy may journal, as well. She hasn't quite decided yet. But if she does, I'll park her over here and you can all go read her stuff.
So, goodbye retail. You've been very kind to me. But I think I'm ready to do something else now.
Clifford Antone passed away yesterday, and Austin lost another piece of its already-fragmented soul.
The cause is undetermined. It'll probably be attributed in the end to a heart attack. Whatever. It doesn't really matter. The whole town is in mourning. This is as big as when Stevie Ray Vaughn died.
I remember my first visit to Antones, back in 1989. We drove up from Waco to see John Lee Hooker. An amazing show, except for the opening band, the Solid Senders (we dubbed them The Flaccid Senders and made fun of them). But The Hook more than made up for it. That trip was what convinced me that I wanted to live in Austin.
I bought music from Antones, put out on his own label, and met Clifford several times. We used to hang out in Antones in the mid-nineties, before it moved to La Vaca. I first drank Turbo Dog at Antones, learned to East Coast swing at Antones, saw Guy Forsythe, Marcia Ball, Ruthie Foster, Gatemouth Brown, and tons of other amazing artists at that club. And it was all because of Clifford Antone and his vision.
So put on your favorite blues album today and turn it up. Drink a toast to Clifford and his legacy, a legacy that is in jeopardy now that he is not around. But don't be sad for Clifford. He's among friends now. And they are jamming, man, and it sounds so sweet...