Rockin' Down the Highway

Okay, okay, okay ... I've always known that Everything2 could be a gateway to good things, but, OMG! WTF?! And other on-line slang as well.

Alright ... slow down ... breathe.

I got a book in the mail Friday.

Step back a moment with me, please.

The time was November of 2004, I had been writing on E2 for less than a month. My work was improving quickly with some very expert guidance from JohnnyGoodyear, as well as a lot of help from people like rootbeer277, gorgonzola, and wertperch (to name only three). JG told me to write what I like, what I know about. My first writeups were about a favourite animal and a campy album from the 80s. But I had been reading E2 for years, and I'd always admired the essay work. I really wanted to write one.

Saturday afternoon; I came home after a full day at the salon My house mate is not home so I flop down for a nap. Funny, my elderly aunts always extolled the virtues of naps when I was a lad. Never knew what they meant, but as time has moved on, I've been learning just how good a little shuteye in the afternoon can be.

I awoke around an hour and a half later—a vivid memory in my head, bringing a smile to my face: driving out to my sister's home in Carrollton, Texas as a young man. Roaring down the straight-edge highways in mother's big luxury car, with Freddie Mercury blasting "Mama Mia! Mama Mia! Mama Mia—Figaro!" from the speakers. I thought about those old 8-track tapes and how they would change in mid-song.

I started to write, feverishly. 'Make every word count' my mentor had said—both the easiest and hardest advice I'd ever gotten. I polished it, I crafted it—lovingly, painstakingly. I thoroughly expected to have it nuked. The next day, after re-reading and re-editing it, I posted the essay.

allseeingeye wrote to me. wordnerd wrote to me. I was really touched—this was the first time strangers had ever commented on my work, it felt really great. Johnny chinged it, so did wordnerd. I was proud—really proud. I felt like a real writer.

Like that big car blasting though the Texas summers so long ago, the months roared past and I kept right on writing. I never forgot my little essay. It inspired me to fill a nodeshell or two. It wound up with a rep in the high teens.

Then, a couple of months ago, I was snoozing away comfortably on a Saturday morning when my cel phone rang. The voice on the other end was an enthusiastic baritone, with excellent diction. If this is a telemarketer, he's a dead man, I thought

"My name is Paul Grushkin, and I'm just finishing a book on rock n roll and the automobile..." the man said.

I was wide awake. Don't say anything stupid ... don't say anything stupid ... I told myself.

Paul wanted to use my little essay in his new book. What could I say? I said yes. Emphatically. Excitedly. And I did not say anything stupid.

I did the math. It was 5am where he was. I'll bet he had been up all night. No wonder he sounded wired!

I watched on-line for the next few months. I found the book on, available for pre-order. I read about Paul's other work; he's done quite a beautiful list of rock art books with titles like Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion, Treasures of the Hard Rock Cafe, and The Art of Rock Posters from Presley to Punk. I knew my work would be going into a nice book—a well-designed and interesting book. But I wasn't prepared for just how good it would be.

You see, Paul called me again this week, this time he sounded much more calm (and called in the afternoon!). He needed mailing info.

It is magnificent ... a real piece of art. It boasts brilliant rock photography of stars like Dylan, Snoop Dogg, the Boss, Joni Mitchell and way too many more to name...running the gamut of cool music from the 1950s on. These pictures blend with album covers, cartoons, photos, notes, quotations, ticket stubs, 45s ... all sorts of wonderful images, laid out beautifully. And of course, there are cars—lots of beautiful hot rods of every generation. And the prose. The writing is snappy, mostly by Paul, but featuring some car-loving rock n rollers, some famous, some not so famous.

The book is cool. Cool in the way rock music is cool. Cool in the way cars are cool. Cool in the way only a book about something as cool as rock music and cars can be cool.

And there, on page 105, is an essay entitled KER...CH-U-U-U-KKK. A little fine-tuned for his audience, but there are my words, right in print in a real book by a real author. Alongside my prose are photos of 8-Track tapes in front of a day-glo dashboard. Golden Earring's Radar Love nestles up to my work in a sidebar. At the bottom of my essay, —Kellum Johnson. My name. In a real book. How cool is that?