The hits just keep on coming. One week after getting my truck out of the shop, the rain Gods reappeared with a vengeance and put a good hunk of my town of San Marcos under water. I wish I could say I was joking. I was at a wedding in Austin on Saturday (congratulations to Daniel and Meredith!) and it started coming down. I decided to hit the road a little early, and I’m glad I did because that night the rivers overflowed and made many roads un-drivable. We were without internet for days and I didn’t really see how bad things were until Monday. Without the internet I was pretty cut off.
Some serious damage has occurred in San Marcos, Martindale, and Wimberley. Some people have died. Others are missing. Many homes have been destroyed by water damage leaving a lot of San Martians with no place to go. I know the HEB is giving out hot meals and there are lots of volunteers, but this is the worst destruction to occur in Central Texas in years, possibly ever. Some areas look like war zones with people hauling out destroyed couches, tables, and beds; their porches have been ripped apart; lawn furniture is strewn across roads and fields. Mobile homes and trailers lay upturned in mud. My little apartment is okay, but I’m afraid almost everything I kept in storage was destroyed by the flood. I lost a lot of books and some furniture, but this is nothing compared to losing an entire home or a loved one. I wish I could say something inspiring or macho, something like “Texas can take it!” or “Hays County is going to bounce back!” but this is really bad and it is going to take a long time for the Hill Country to get back to the way it was. I consider myself lucky. But many are having an even worse time and if you want to help then please go to:
Good and Bad News
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven… After years of hard work, including writing, rewriting, and querying, I am proud to say that I now have literary representation. Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group in New York will be my agent. This is a type of dream come true. Needless to say, I’m very excited. Trident Media Group is one of the biggest agencies in the country. Their clients include Marilynne Robinson, Daniel Woodrell, Russell Banks, Larry Heinemann, and celebrities such as Ann-Margaret, Buzz Aldrin, and Stephen Colbert. And now William Jensen. Mark is a young guy like me so I look forward to years and years of working together.
Here is a link to his profile at Trident:
Sadly, I also have some bad news. Over the weekend someone crashed into my pick-up truck and messed her up something awful. My truck was parked. I was inside my apartment. This is the third time someone has rammed into my truck while parked. I guess it has a bull’s-eye on it. Right now the truck—or Rocinante as I call her—is in the shop and I’m driving a rental. My truck is a 2005 Ford F-150 and I’ve driven her to just about every place in the country. Rocinante and I have seen all of South Texas to all of South Dakota. She’s helped me move several times, and she’s helped me move a lot of other people, too. She’s been a good truck and it pains me to see her busted up like this. Luckily, the guys at Service King are working on her and I’ve got insurance to cover my ass.
Rocinante isn’t my first truck. That would be a 1985 Ford F-150 with dual fuel tanks. I liked that truck a lot. She had one of those old school bench seats you just don’t see anymore, and she had a shell over the bed so I never had to worry about hauling stuff in the rain.
I like pick-ups because I get a simple joy from hauling stuff and helping people move. I know. It’s weird. But there is a type of freedom knowing I can load up all of my belongings and hit the road if I need to. I also like knowing I can help people move mulch, sod, or couches if they need a friend. I like sitting high up and cruising with my windows down while the radio plays some classic rock or maybe some Johnny Cash. There’s a certain victory in knowing what you enjoy. And after all these years I still enjoy trucks, dogs, weather, horses, and the ache in your back when you bring in a big fish.
Old Rocinante, I’ll see you soon.
A few weeks ago I wrote about playing electric guitar. For the past two weeks I’ve been on an acoustic and trying to learn gypsy jazz—the style of Django Reinhardt. It is incredibly difficult. At least for me. But I’m determined and progressing slowly, carefully. I’ve always wanted to play like Django. There’s some type of magic in his playing. It is so fast yet melodic and lyrical. A lot of guitar players talk about finding a voice, making their Les Paul or Stratocaster talk. I think Django’s axe has its own language.
Jazz has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I grew up listening to Miles Davis but when I try to get away from those blues based pentatonic scales my mind shuts down. Django uses a lot more arpeggios and triads in his solos. This is taking some time to get used to. I feel as if I have to unlearn a lot and rebuild the muscle memory in my fingers. The thing that throws me off is the use of chromatic scales. In my head these notes shouldn’t sound good. They should sound awkward and noisy like broken glass being tossed onto a tin roof. But somehow they work and sound amazing. The theory is new to me, so I hope once I get my brain wrapped around them I can really get going.
If you know your history you’ll know that Django’s playing is all the more impressive considering he only had two good fingers on his left hand. A fire made his ring and pinkie unusable. I have no idea how he was able to play the way he did with just two fingers. Two fingers! How could he form some of those octopus chords? I can hardly play at half his speed with all my fingers.
It is obvious on a first listen that Django could solo lightening fast. But I truly think he was a musical genius. My favorite Django recordings are actually his improvisations—the pieces that are just him and his guitar. Some of these recordings are just him warming up but they’re still jaw dropingly amazing. Violinist Stéphane Grappelli (who soloed over Django’s guitar) was also a type of genius, but Django by himself could construct wonderfully beautiful pieces that defy what a single guitar should be capable of. The chords are luscious, the melody is clear, and he never lets the bottom fall out.
Django died when he was forty-three. I try to imagine what he would have done had he lived longer. I wonder what he would have thought of Rock and Roll, of Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix. Toward the end Django played quit a bit on an electric guitar, and for me (though his playing is still sharp) it doesn’t have quite the same sound. The electric guitar makes his solos sound too shiny for my taste. Some things should remain classic. Django, old buddy, you’ll never go out of style. Django is still the king!
Writer living in Central Texas.