The Man Cave

The Man Cave
Jack's Man Cave (Click on the photo to enter the Cave)
Showing posts with label Memoir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Memoir. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Life Was Better Before the Internet

Life Was Better Before the Internet

Nobody knew where you were. Or what you were doing


The only technology I had as a kid was a watch with a calculator on it. And they wouldn't even let you wear it at school.

Nobody knew where you were . . .

Nobody expected to see you until dinner time. No matter how old you were.

Or what you were doing

Nobody saw you playing on the heavy equipment in the abandoned, half-built housing development.

Or getting hit by a car, and shaking it off.


Nobody filmed the dumb stuff you did . . .

Nobody recorded you trying to imitate that kid who could stand on his bike with no hands. (Don’t believe me, please click on the underlined words). You just fell hard, severely sprained your wrist, crawled away, and cried alone in peace.

Or the cool stuff either

Nobody recorded the Little League game when you hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, home run). So you could lie and say you hit the home run over the fence when it was really an inside-the-park home run.

And everyone forgot that the pitcher was that one girl who played Little League instead of softball (not that it mattered or anything).


You had to actually talk to your friends

You had to call them on the telephone, and your whole family listened to your conversation and made comments. And even though there was dead air that lasted for two minutes sometimes, it was better than texting.

You could listen to your friend’s parents arguing in the background, so it wasn’t like the fake happy photos everyone posts on Facebook now.


Or go visit them

And if it was a really good argument, you could get on your bike and get over there to watch through the window.


© Copyright 2020 Jack Clune

Saturday, July 18, 2020

How to Shred on Guitar at Killer Parties

 How to Shred on Guitar at Killer Parties

15 things playing (mostly bad) guitar for 23 years taught me


1. Years of air (tennis racket) guitar does not give you a “leg up”

I always wanted to play guitar, even as a kid. I played air guitar with a tennis racket in front of my bedroom mirror up until I had to move out of my parents’ house for Law School.

It was disappointing that all the things I learned playing air guitar all those years did not really transfer when it came to playing “real” guitar.

2. You should take guitar lessons, even though lessons did not work for me

My parents got me a “real” guitar when I was in Third or Fourth Grade. My mom took me to one guitar lesson at the Lemon Grove mall. It was such a traumatic experience, that I don’t want to discuss it here. I’m saving it for a whole chapter of my novel loosely based on biographical material.

3. Guitar envy is probably a terrible reason to start playing

One of my best friends decided to learn guitar in the late ’90s, and it was annoying watching him get pretty good.

Then one of my favorite all-time albums came out in 1997, The Verve’s “Urban Hymns,” and my friend was able to play four of the songs right away. They were simple four-chord songs.

I was so jealous, I had to break down and buy a guitar and try to learn how to play the damn thing.

4. Malcolm Gladwell is wrong (in my case)

Twenty-three years later, I can still just barely play the four songs off that Urban Hymns album. I have definitely disproved Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour theory.

Malcolm G. says if you do anything for 10,000 hours, you’ll become a master at it. Wrong.

23 years is 201,480 hours. I definitely spent more than 10,000 of that time playing the guitar. It’s probably too much information to tell you where I sat for those 10,000 hours while I practiced most of the time.

5. Playing the guitar is really hard if you suck at it

I was terrible at math as a student.

I’ve learned that playing guitar and music are a lot like math.

6. Playing the guitar is really easy if you’re great at it

Sometimes when I’m watching T.V. with my family, we’ll see something that I know I could do with complete ease. My lovely wife or one of my kids will say something like:

“Isn’t that amazing?! Can you imagine being able to do that?”

It’s not amazing to me at all, because I know I could do it with complete ease (i.e. hot dog eating contests, “Jeopardy” questions about 80’s sitcoms, etc.).

That’s what guitar playing must be like to a great guitarist. If you’re a great guitar player, it’s easy, it’s not hard.

7. Just because you practice for years doesn’t mean you will get any better

When I’m learning something new I like it to be like this:

a) I’m a natural at whatever it is, and I’m great without trying (i.e. like switching from lite beer over to IPA’s);
b) I can just memorize something without having to think hard, and fool people I’m good (i.e. reciting the complete lyrics to the “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot).

The guitar is neither of these things.

8. You either got it, or you don’t

I have some Cuban friends, who I never knew to sing or play guitar.

Then one day, they heard me practicing “Hotel California.

“Can we try?” one of them said, smiling like Sammy Sosa.

He grabbed my left-handed guitar, turned it upside down, and started strumming it in perfect 4/4 rhythm. The other one started doing that impossible syncopated hand-clap thing like the Gypsy Kings (1:20).

My natural rhythm and strumming are like Elaine’s dancing in “Seinfeld.”

9. People will not like the songs you chose to master

Here’s what happens at parties.

“Do you know ‘Satisfaction’ by The Rolling Stones?” asks the party guest.

“No, but I know ‘All Down the Line’ from side four of Exile on Main Street,” I say, “I’m sure you’d like it if you just let me play it for you.”

The party guest walks away angry and whispers in the host’s ear. Suddenly, “Satisfaction” starts blasting from the Sonos speakers.

10. It’s better to learn when you’re young

At Guitar Center.

A little kid asks her mom to pull a Gibson SG model off the wall. The kid plugs it into an amp, and she starts playing the intro to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

I catch myself whispering “Thunder . . . thunder . . . thunder.”

11. Being left-handed sucks

Guitar Center again.

Every beautiful make and model of guitar manufactured hang from the walls.

Senior citizens, guys with tribal tattoos, and boys and girls are all taking the guitars off the wall, strumming a few bars and high-fiving each other. They play acoustic guitars decorated with inlaid gold hummingbirds on the body, and flowers running up the neck. It’s beautiful, and I want to participate.

“Hi, do you have any left-handers I can try out?” I ask the guy at the counter.

“Ha, ha, good one,” he says sarcastically, going back to drinking his Red Bull and reading Kerrang! Magazine.

“No, I’m serious. I’d like to try out a left-handed guitar.”

“Oh . . . okay, um, hold on,” he says looking deep and confused into my eyes. Then he rummages under the desk. “Here try this one.”

“This is a right-handed guitar,” I show him.

“Yeah, but the strings are on it upside down,” he says. “We keep it here, for people like you.”

“This guitar’s a piece of crap!” I say.

“You’re not from Undercover Boss or anything are you?”

12. Being left-handed rules!

Back at the house party.

I finish playing the “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” I’m sweating and a little light-headed, because that one’s a doozy. I need a break, so I put my guitar down on its stand.

A party guest accosts me.

“Hi, yeah that was really good. I haven’t heard a Gordon Lightfoot tune in a long time. A very, very long time actually,” says the party guest, standing there with his twelve-year-old son. The boy is wearing a tank top, and arm bandannas.

“Hey, I see you’re taking a break, do you mind if my son “Yngwie” plays a few tunes? “Yngwie’s been accepted to the U.S.C School of Music, early admission,” says the party guest.

“Um, I don’t usually let people touch my guitar. It was a gift from my Grandaddy.”

The kid picks up my guitar off the stand.

“Dad, it’s a left-handed guitar! I can’t play this piece of crap anyway!”

13. Your family will always say that the guitarist on the street, on the boardwalk, in the subway, or in the restaurant is “way better” than you

The waiter shows you to your table, near where the tortured singer-songwriter-guitarist is setting up his gear.

“Ooh, good, I love live music,” says your wife.

After the shock of that statement wears off, you close your slack jaw back up and say:

“You’re always asking me if I could please move the guitar into the other room when we’re at home.”

“Well, that’s because I don’t want to hear the same Molly Hatchet song 5,000 times,” your wife says.

The guitarist starts playing the flattest version of “Blackbird” you’ve ever heard in your life.

“Ooh, he’s really good!” your wife says.

14. Everyone will be mad at you for not “writing a song about me”

You’re lying in bed watching “The Bachelorette” with your wife. The male contestant trying to win the woman whips out his guitar and says:

“Here’s the song I just wrote for you,” and he begins playing the most ridiculous song you’ve ever heard.

You feel the hot glare of your wife’s stare. You try to ignore it, and make the mistake of saying:

“God, this is really embarrassing, isn’t it?”

“How come you’ve never written a song for me?” asks your wife.

The next day when you’re practicing “Lick It Up” by KISS, you look up and catch your wife shaking her head disgusted.

15. Learn to play the piano instead

Well, my “call to action” at the end of this article is to encourage you to learn to play the piano. Unless you are a great guitar player, just learn to play the piano and start young.

Every hotel and restaurant lobby has a community piano for you to play. And just look at what happens if you sit down and belt out a tune on a piano. The world is your oyster!

© Copyright 2020 Jack Clune

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Please Don't Call Me "Junior"

Please Don't Call Me "Junior"

I have another idea though


The phone rang. It was the bank. I'd just spent two hours there opening my new corporate account.

"We can't open your corporate bank account," the lady said.

"Why not?" I asked.

Because it doesn't say "Jr." on it.

"So what? I don't really walk around having people call me 'Junior.'

"Yes, but that's your legal name."

"But I don't want to be called 'Junior.'"

"Well. I'm sorry Sir. For the purposes of this account, you have to go by 'Jr.'"

"Can you call me 'J.R.' instead?"

"Would you like us to call you 'J.R.'?"

"Yes, I'd like that better. Can you call me 'J.R. Ewing'?"

"Everybody, when Mr. Clune comes into the branch, call him 'J.R. Ewing' please!"

Copyright © 2020 Jack Clune

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

If I Can Help Just One Person with My Novel, I Will Have Succeeded

If I Can Help Just One Person with My Novel, I Will Have Succeeded

Deep thoughts on a beach

The Author

Most of the "Writing Tips" articles I read on Medium, end with the advice that my writing should offer something to the reader that will help them in their life.

This idea caused me to hit the "pause button" big time yesterday. I decided, before I go any further, I need to assess just where my novel based on biographical information is going.

Am I Just Navel Gazing?

Yesterday I found myself writing a long paragraph about a very important moment in my life, and it occurred to me that what seemed so important to me, might not be as important to anybody else.

I caught myself, and I grabbed myself by the scruff the neck and I said (to myself):

"Listen Self! Is this really important to anybody else (besides myself)?"

My Eureka Moment!

I took a long walk (by myself) on the beach today, while my son was at soccer practice. It was somewhat distracting that my sunglasses kept fogging up because of my mask. But as I walked through the thousands of college kids, pressed close together, high-fiving each other, and singing loud and drinking out of each other's cups, I heard a voice in my head:

"If my book can help just one person out there, I will have succeeded!"

This is My Truth

The moment that I was writing about yesterday, was the time that my father forced us to change lanes while we were stuck in a long line of cars trying to cross the U.S. Border from Mexico. After we changed lanes, the old lane we were in started moving fast, and the car that was behind us got across the border almost a half-hour faster than us. I'll never forget that.

Feel My Pain

If there is one other person out there like me, who ever experienced things like these- I want to let them know, they are not alone:

If your "best friend" told you the road was clear for you to ride your bike out of a blind driveway, and then you got hit by a car;

And if it was the first day of summer, and you had to wear a leg cast for like 11 weeks, and the car was a Lincoln Continental (the biggest car ever produced); and

If you were the only boy in your whole elementary school who dressed up for Bicentennial Day in 1976, in a full Minuteman outfit made by your Grandma, complete with neck and wrist kerchiefs;

And they made you stand on a chair at a school assembly, so that everyone could get a really good look at you;

Or if you still walk around angry that the San Diego Clippers basketball team moved to Los Angeles;

If any of these things happened to you, I think my book will help you.

Smooth Sailing From Now On

When I got back to my desk tonight it was with a new sense of passion and purpose. I opened the laptop and hit the "This is Chuck Mangione" playlist on my Spotify heavy rotation list. I told my wife Tracy:

"I'll be up late tonight Tracy. I've got a lot of unpacking to do. And a lot of people to help."

© Copyright 2020 Jack Clune

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Writing Your Memoir?

Writing Your Memoir?

Here are the four questions from family and friends that will make you change it to a novel

iStock by Getty

[At the outset, I want to apologize. This is my first article on Medium and I am having technical problems. When I cut and pasted my article, many of my edits slipped through. Please ignore the bracketed material. I appreciate your patience].

. . .

When the pandemic hit, I ran out of excuses not to write the memoir I've been [threatening] planning to write for years. Holed up in the house with a laptop, there seemed no better [way to avoid doing planks, sit-ups, and squats, than to tell my family it was] time to start work on the Great American Novel.

In the past, friends told me "Oh, that's such a [embarrassing] funny story, you should write a book." So over the last three months, I did write the first draft of a memoir. [Let's see how funny they think it is now!]

But as a result of some [harassment] pointed questions over the last few weeks from friends and family, I am [disappointed] very proud to report that my book will now be a novel, "loosely based on some biographical information."

When I tell people that I wrote 2,000 words a day for the last three months, amounting to over 114,000 words, and 438 pages in 20 point font, here are the questions they ask me, usually in this order:

1. "What's the title?"

This question seems to be a subtext for the following questions they really want to ask:

a) Are you bitter?

b) Can I tell by the title if I'm in it?

c) Is it self-serving, boring self-improvement stuff that I won't read?


d) Does it have a lot of sex and shameful secrets in it that I can't wait to read?

2. "How far along are you?"

What really seems to interest the questioner is:

a) Can I stop this if I need to?

b) Can I add stuff to it if I want to?

c) When will [you/I] know you are done with it?

d) How hard is what you are doing?

e) Could [I/have someone else] write my [memoir] "loosely biographical novel"?

3. "Have you written anything about me?"

After a short time, they just come out and blurt this one. I can tell by looking in the person's eyes that this is what they are really asking:

a) Do I need to get a lawyer to sue you?

b) Is it bad?

c) Is it good?

d) How can I make sure I [read/edit it] before you [publish it/show it] to anyone else?

4. "What is your goal?"

This is what they really mean:

a) Are you trying to get revenge (on me)?

b) Is there a chance you might get rich and famous from this?

c) Do I need to [distance myself/or suck] up to you?

. . . 

The Answers to All the Questions

The truth is, when I began writing, I did not know [any] many of the answers to these questions. It was only during the vigorous process of writing every day that I learned some of the answers.

1. No Title Yet

I thought of a few prospective titles to my [memoir] novel based loosely on biographical facts, but I am still [not telling anyone] keeping an open mind about it. I [could not think of a cool enough title yet] certainly did not want a title to guide 114,000 words, rather I want the words to suggest the title to me more towards the end. So many book titles seem pretentious and overblown to me. [Mine will be too.]

2. Just A "First Draft"

My [memoir] novel based on loosely biographical information covers my childhood to the point right before I enter high school. I knew I was done with the "First Draft" when I felt [exhausted.] like I had written about most of the [traumas] "teachable moments" I could remember. There were other [terrible decisions] events I could have written about, but I was pleased I touched on as many [regrets] poignant memories as I did.

3. Yes You're In the Book, But No You're Not.

If you were one of the very rare persons who were kind to me, you have nothing to worry about. [Just kidding.]

My book is about [me] my main character, and [his, now] her reactions to events that occurred. It's [me] her, not you. [I don't want to hurt people unnecessarily.]

I just saw a great documentary on Philip Roth where he said "Life is not good enough," meaning that a writer has to [exaggerate] amplify what happened for the reader to be interested. Roth also said "A writer has to be shameless," meaning that [hopefully my family understands] there can be no self-censorship.

Only when you write the [most dirty] deepest thoughts and emotions is anyone going to [buy] care - no matter how [twisted] vulnerable. You can [and heaven knows I should] have shame in your personal life, says Roth. But shame and caution [will not get you a publishing deal] have no place in your writing.

4. My Goal- To Exorcise the Demons

"Writers are the exorcists of their own demons" -Mario Vargas Llosa

It does not matter why I started writing now. I uncorked the bottle, I have to write, otherwise [I have to go back to real work] I don't feel good. That is the only justification I need for writing.

I tried to write in the past, but [I was always afraid to say what I really thought] what came out sounded fake. Now I am mostly just trying to tell the story. When I read my writing now, I do not cringe as I did before, when I was younger trying to write "literature."

. . . 

There were some days [when I was a little hung over] that were a slog, and I was not pleased with the writing. On those days, I mostly felt that I was "telling" not "showing" the reader what happened. I will [never revisit] work hard to fix those passages during the edits. It was far more fun to read the passages where I put the reader right there into the movie themselves, rather than in the back row eating popcorn.

There were other days, however, when I felt the dialogue was cracking, or a poignant truth popped out as if by magic during a scene. On those days, I was, as Bukowski says, "with the gods." I can't wait to go there again.

© Copyright 2020 Jack Clune

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