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Volume 4, Issue 67: Joe McEwing
"He'll have a place in the hearts and minds of these fans forever."
For Christmas, I (sorry, Santa) bought my son Wynn a Loog Guitar. Have you heard of Loog Guitars?
The Loog Guitar, according to its creators, was invented as an NYU thesis project in 2010 and had a simple mission: To not only teach kids how to play guitar in a simple, straightforward way, but also to inspire them, to introduce them to great music, show them how they could make that music themselves … and then launch them on their own creative jersey. That is all very lofty, and in many ways true, but my (sorry, Santa’s) project for my son Wynn is more straightforward: I desperately want him to be a rock star.
My older son William is a sports kid, outgoing, already figuring out how to voyage the world, the kid who, when this week he took a tour of the middle school he’ll be going to next year, already knew half the kids he ran into in the hallways, a little social butterfly already. I worry about him the way everybody worries about their kids, but you can already see him figuring it all out: He’s going to be fine. Wynn is more idiosyncratic, stubbornly, resolutely himself in a way that I deeply admire but also clearly marks him as unconventional in a way that is awesome but also is going to require him to develop skills to navigate around meatheads and shithearts. He is a kid who started wearing his shirts backward in kindergarten and, now in the third grade, still hasn’t stopped. All the kids who know him love it about him, and even sometimes wear their shirts backwards themselves. But there are going to be a lot of kids he’s going to run into who don’t know him. He’s going to have to figure out how to deal with them.
(Side note: You learn a lot about people when you have a kid who wears his shirt backwards every day. Most adults chuckle and think it’s funny, cheering on a kid just doing his thing, but there’s also a smattering of people who are oddly unmoored by it, like his parents are allowing him to walk around the world without pants. These people inevitably have to point it out to me or my wife, with a clucking, tsk-tsk tone, “you know your son’s shirt is on backwards, right?” like we hadn’t noticed, like we are so scattered (unlike them) that we can’t possibly get our shit together enough to put our kid’s shirt on the right way. Actually, the tsk-tsk tone is reserved for my wife. I get a forgiving, oh-dads-are-so-silly-guess-Mom-must-be-away-this-week bemused smirk; my wife gets a disapproving, what-kind-of-mother-are-you scowl. It’s all cool, very cool.)
Wynn is creative and artistic, always drawing and writing and making something. Last week, I set my to-do list down on the kitchen table for, like, five minutes, and he had done this when I came back to it:
That’s a sort of creativity that needs channeling. So I have decided that Wynn should be a rock star. Thus: The Loog Guitar.
Because I am a terrible parent, we didn’t actually get the Loog Guitar out and set it up until last week. But I am delighted to say that Wynn has taken to it instantly. In many ways, I have turned him into a middle-aged man: All he wants to do is play his guitar, talk about playing his guitar, and show his friends how he plays guitar now. The beginner’s Loog Guitar has only three strings and focuses on strumming, hand placement and the understanding of basic chord structure: The idea is to spark the child’s imagination and curiosity, to introduce them to this world of music and let them roam free, to travel down whatever path the music takes them. Then they can graduate to a six-string version of the Loog Guitar, and then a grown-up guitar, and then rock stardom.
I do not know what path Wynn is going down just yet. I do know the two most important things:
a: He loves it.
b: His father is in absolute awe of him and has decided he is now the father to David Bowie.
This is a very dad thing: This is at the heart of every baseball dad, really. There is a little part of myself that believes, if I just had time, I could learn how to play guitar and, once I had it down, I’d start penning songs and, before you knew it, I’d be an up-and-comer on the indie rock circuit, with my music speaking to a whole new generation of rock fans. (And by “a whole new generation of rock fans,” I of course mean middle-aged people like me, the only people it seems who listen to rock music anymore.) The only reason I’m not a rock star already is that I was too busy writing all the time and making sure these children don’t set themselves on fire to sit down and really learn how to play the guitar: Once I do it, though, I’m gonna Grandma Moses that shit.
But of course I’m never going to do it. I’m 47 years old. It’s too late. It is too late for so much—sometimes I wonder if it’s too late for everything. In my dreams, still, at 47, I spend my life on the road, playing music for the masses, constantly creating, a rock god. But there is no Grandma Moses of rock. There probably shouldn’t be.
Wynn, though? There’s hope for Wynn yet. Which means of course there is hope for me.
I walked into Wynn’s room yesterday, as he was strumming along trying to play the three chords of Nirvana’s "About a Boy,” and I took him aside to show him this video:
“Wynn,” I told him, “if you learn how to play this by the time you are 16, I will buy you a car.”
His eyes widened. “Really?”
“Really,” I said. Then I showed him this one.
And this one:
And also this one:
And then I put Spotify on, and hey Wynn, listen to this Sleater-Kinney song, and oh, man, we have to watch this classic TV on the Radio performance on Letterman, whoa, look how excited Dave is at the end of that song, that’s the good stuff right there, also this new Big Thief song, we’ll have to work on your voice and your stage presence for that one, but you can do it, Wynn, and soon you’ll be able to write your own songs, and then you’ll have a band, and you’ll make a record, and then you’ll go on tour, and wow, Wynn, you’ll get to see the whole world and meet so many fascinating people, and you will play for prime ministers and kings and then and then and then …
“Dad?” Wynn said, holding his guitar impatiently. “Can I go back to playing now?”
“Oh,” I said. “Yeah. Yeah, totally.”
He looked at me and blinked.
“Ah,” I said, clearing my throat. “You want me to leave.”
“Yes, please,” he said. I left the room, closed the door behind me and listened to him riffing—riffing in a way I cannot and never will—as I walked back upstairs to my office.
I do not know if Wynn is going to become a rock star: He may get bored with the Loog Guitar in a week. But he should know this: If he ever does start a band, his father will go to every single one of his shows. I will become a Wynn Band Deadhead. You’ll be able to recognize me at every concert: I’ll be the guy with his shirt backwards.
ONE WEEK UNTIL BOOK RELEASE
Every week here at The Will Leitch Newsletter, we countdown the weeks until the release of The Time Has Come, my novel that comes out May 16. This is the spot for weekly news, updates and pre-order reminders.
All righty: We’re one week away (and three days) from the release of The Time Has Come. Longtime and loyal newsletter readers are probably getting a little sick of the book by now, so, rest assured, your irritation is about to come to an end: The damn thing is almost out.
But I do think—or at least hope—that the years of writing this thing has engendered some sense of community around here, so, as we reach, the final stage here, I thought I might answer a fundamental question I get a lot: What’s the best way for me to help the book, and you?
Now that I’ve written a couple of these, I’ve discovered that I love it, that I might want this to be something I do the rest of my life—just write one of these every two years until I die. (I’m better at this, it turns out, than I thought I was going to be.) But I don’t just get to decide that: I need people to buy the darned things.
So, if you like this newsletter, and/or you generally have followed my work for a while, allow me to give you this last-minute guide on how to help in this final days.
What can you do? Here’s what you can do.
Buy the book. Hopefully you have done this already, but there is still plenty of time. The book will be able for purchase in one way or another the rest of my life, but the earlier you buy it, the better it is for the book. I always encourage everyone to buy books from their local bookstore, but life’s complicated and busy and chaotic, you do whatever is easiest and most convenient for you.
Tell your friends. Give it as a present! There are all sorts of holidays coming up that are hard to shop for! Buy the book! The person you are buying it for will like it! Your mom will totally like this book, I promise!
Review it. There are multiple places to do this. The best place to do it is Goodreads. Frankly, even if you haven’t read the book yet but just want to support the cause, you could go to Goodreads right now and give the book five stars, and then come back and write your review once you have finished the book. If you bought the book from Amazon and thus have a Verified Purchase, you should absolutely give it a nice review as well. I wish people didn’t look at public numbers, but they do, they definitely do.
Post about it. I might be bad at social media, but most of you probably aren’t. Tell the world! Go influence!
If you are a media person, write about it. Or find the person at your publication who does, give it to them and have them write about it.
Tell your local bookstore to stock it and/or have me come in for an event. Also, if you took a copy off the shelf and put it on the front display area, I would not report you to the bookstore cops.
Come to any event near you. There are a lot of them coming up, and we’ll be adding more. Even better: My “conversation partner” at the New York City event on May 19 will be none other than longtime New York magazine editor-in-chief Adam Moss. Holy crap! Adam Moss! Anyway, here’s the schedule of events, come to one (and try to set up another one at your bookstore):
Put it on reserve at the library. There are no better word-of-mouth book people than librarians. It also helps that all of them—seriously, all of them—are so nice!
Start a book club and have me Zoom in to talk to it. I do this all the time! It’s really fun.
Email the author after you’ve read it and tell them what you thought of it. You should do this with all authors whose books you read. It’s nice to hear from actual human readers!
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality.
The Age of Managerial Ejections Is Coming to an End, MLB.com. Bobby Cox’s record is unbreakable.
Everything’s Coming Up Knicks, New York. Come on, you can’t lose to the freaking Heat.
LeBron Vs. Steph. But Then Who? New York. Your grandmother does not know who Jayson Tatum is.
Each Division’s Great Rivalry, MLB.com. I remember when the Cardinals were relevant enough to have rivalries.
Your April All-Stars, MLB.com. The monthly feature returns.
The Thirty: How Every Team’s Top Offseason Acquisition Is Doing, MLB.com. Is Trea Turner OK?
Your Weekly Power Rankings, MLB.com. My week to write came up.
Grierson & Leitch, we discussed “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret?” “Peter Pan & Wendy” and “Showing Up.” Also, we did a People Still Read Books podcast with my friend Kevin Wilson, author of Now Is Not the Time to Panic and Nothing to See Here. He is as good a human as he is a writer.
Seeing Red, yeah, this team stinks.
Waitin' Since Last Saturday, no show this week.
LONG STORY YOU SHOULD READ THIS MORNING … OF THE WEEK
“Where Is the Republican Soul-Searching for Getting Covid Wrong?” Jonathan Chait, New York. Feels like maybe we should remember this part.
ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!
This is your reminder that if you write me a letter and put it in the mail, I will respond to it with a letter of my own, and send that letter right to you! It really happens! Hundreds of satisfied customers!
Write me at:
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603
CURRENTLY LISTENING TO
“Gotta Get Away From Tommy,” The New York Dolls. Martin Scorsese has a new documentary coming out about David Johansen, and it got me listening to some New York Dolls. Before my time, but well worth some fun listening. This is from their “comeback” album, but I like it just as much as the old stuff.
Remember to listen to The Official Will Leitch Newsletter Spotify Playlist, featuring every song ever mentioned in this section.
Book launch so soon now. Whatever distracts me from the Cardinals.
And RIP Mike Shannon. I have never given off this sort of energy, not once, in my entire life:
Have a great weekend, all. Be safe out there. Go Knicks.