So I guess it’s now official: the book I’ve been working on for more years than I care to remember will finally be coming out this June on Don Giovanni, and if you thought Don Giovanni was a record label, well, yeah, they are, and a very good one, but they’re now branching out into publishing. So hopefully you’ll buy my book, or else they might start thinking that publishing books wasn’t such a good idea after all, and in these days, we don’t need people thinking things like that.
Some of you have been reading a preliminary version of Spy Rock Memories here on the website as it was being written. Out of consideration for my publishers, I’ve now taken all but the first chapter down, since I want to give them at least a fighting chance of being able to sell copies of the book. Also, although the basic format and story line remains the same, every chapter has been substantially, and in some cases completely rewritten since it first appeared here. Chapter 1, which you can still read here on the website, is the original, not the rewritten version.
I’m especially excited about the cover art, which was done by my niece, the wonderful, amazing, luminously talented Gabrielle Bell, who, though she was born in London, grew up on Spy Rock. The house portrayed on the cover is where I lived, and where Gabrielle often visited as a child. As crazy, maddening and bizarre as Spy Rock life could be, there must have been something in that mountain air or water (or maybe it was just the vibes, man), because out of that remote canyon, home to only an intrepid handful of back-to-the-landers, ranchers, outcasts and misfits, came at least two certified geniuses, Gabrielle being one and Grammy-winning drummer Tre Cool being another.
There were others, too, certifiable if not certified, and as those of you who’ve read some of the previews or have had the privilege to spend time on Spy Rock yourself will know, it’s an amazing and unique place, in some of the best and worst possible ways. Living there was easily the most formative experience of my life, and I can say without hesitation that everything I’ve done since my arrival on Spy Rock at the beginning of the 1980s has been colored, shaped, and, really, made possible by what went on in those mountains up on the back of beyond.
As I’ve heard many writers say, there comes a point with any piece of work where you just want it to be done and out before the public so you can move on to the next project, but at the same time, there’s a tendency to cling to it, to rewrite and re-think every aspect of it. And even once it is done and on its way to the printer, it’s possible – even probable – that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “Oh no, I totally forgot to write about ____” Believe me, I’ve had more than a few of those moments.
I also had to give careful consideration to how much or how little information to reveal about people who were part of my story, whether as friends, neighbors, or family members, and who may not be as thrilled to be in a book as I was to write about them. In the end, if I erred, it was on the side of caution. So I did have to leave out some stories that would have certainly helped sell books and entertain the masses, but maybe don’t need to be in print for anyone and everyone to see. In many cases, I don’t even give people’s names at all, which, if you’re familiar with Spy Rock culture (or the tale of the posse of pot growers who showed up on my driveway threatening to burn down my house if I kept writing about the area in my magazine), you’ll know is probably exactly how they’d like it.
Taking all that into account, though, I still think it’s a pretty good read. Rolling Stone and other music-oriented media are naturally focusing on the Lookout Records and Green Day connection (it was, contrary to the Rolling Stone story, in the remote mountains of Mendocino County, not at Gilman Street, where I first met and saw Green Day), but although both those things play a significant part in the story, it’s not a music book per se. In fact, the bulk of it focuses more on a hapless city slicker (that would be me) who bumbles his way into the wilderness without the faintest clue of how to survive there, and has to learn for the first time in his life to take care of and be responsible for himself.
I went to the mountains, as I note in the book, in search of something “real.” There was plenty of that, to be sure, but I found a hefty dose of wildly improbable unreality as well, some of which I’m still trying to digest all these years and miles down the road. It’s a sunny late-winter morning here in Brooklyn, somebody outside is pointlessly revving up his engine and the overly loud hum of the refrigerator and the various clicks and beeps and flashing lights of 21st century technology remind me just how far I’ve wandered from those solar-powered days where the loudest sounds on most mornings came from buzzing insects and the occasional pine cone dropping onto the roof.
Being wrapped up in writing about Spy Rock these past couple years has been like a form of time travel, enabling me to experience that life again, minus the life or sanity-threatening consequences that sometimes came with it. It’s come in a way to haunt me, to make me desperately nostalgic for a time and a place that I can’t and probably wouldn’t want to go back to. It’s been quite a journey, but I’m glad the time has come to move on. I do hope you’ll read my book, because I’ve already started writing another one, and you wouldn’t want my publishers to be disappointed in me, would you?