Evolution

By Joe Daly

Memoir

The Happy Time Page was a kick in the balls for a kid like me.

On any given Sunday afternoon, 10 year old Joe Daly would have enjoyed building a Lego fortress and defending it against Cold War adversaries, watching the Boston Red Sox find a new and eye-watering way to lose, or listening to KISS albums on the little turntable in his bedroom.

Tragically, that was not how 10 year old Joe Daly spent his Sundays.

No, in those formative years, Sunday afternoons were reserved for the soul-whipping agony of writing for The Happy Time Page.

It was my mother’s idea.

The Happy Time Page was a feature in our local Sunday paper, wherein kids were encouraged to submit essays or poems on a generic subject that changed each week.  The front page featured winning essays and poems, as well as the results of the weekly drawing competition that would make a guy like Ted McCagg head straight for the bourbon. Think of it as a print-version of The Nervous Breakdown, but without all the drugs, sex, travel, and introspection.

The best works were displayed on the front page of the section, with the author’s name prominently displayed beneath each piece.  This is what everyone was shooting for- publication.

The only requirements for the essays were that they be on topic and at least fifty words.  Fifty words.  That’s where I hit the wall.

With a gun to my head (or the threat of television privileges being revoked), I could probably come up with twenty five words about baseball, spring, or some other subject like that.  But fifty words?  That was a whole afternoon, shot all to hell.

See, I had zero ambition to write.  I was as motivated to write fifty words as a heroin addict would be to take a spinning class.  I could speak relatively well for my age, but transcribing my thoughts with pencil and paper (I made too many mistakes for a pen) was a Herculean challenge for both my young mind and my tired hands.

Nonetheless, at my mother’s insistence, I would spend Sunday afternoons slogging through fifty word essays with the speed of climate change.  It would take me upwards of two to three hours to churn out one of those pieces, with my mother requiring me to sit at the dining room table and write until I had a finished product.

During those two hours, after finishing each sentence, I would count the words on the entire page, praying that I had just completed the sentence that brought me past fifty words.  On the odd occasion when I would allow myself to finish a thought even after reaching the fifty word minimum, I would expect the type of recognition generally reserved for Nobel Prize recipients, and would be baffled and resentful when such accolades were not received.

My mother would proofread each essay and returning each to me with several suggestions, all of which I would adopt without debate, simply to see the exercise come to a close.  Although my mother’s own schooling ended at the age of sixteen, she had a great sense of the written word and she would coach me on finding concise and at times, even elegant ways of re-stating my thoughts.

Most of the time she would just ask me what I meant when I wrote a particular sentence.  I didn’t realize it then, but the way we would discuss each sentence and the different ways of expressing a single idea gave me a new approach to writing.  I’m not saying that I enjoyed it, but as the process evolved, churning out fifty words became a less odious task.

When the essay was finished, she would proofread it a final time and direct me to write out a new copy in pen, which she would then drop in the mail the following morning.

I stopped submitting pieces for The Happy Time Page as soon as I reached the maximum age requirement.  I think my mother was bummed.

***

I ignored writing as a form of anything other than homework for the next twenty years.  My first real publication came in law school, when I wrote an article for my law school’s IT Journal.  If my article was approved by the editorial board, I would not only receive academic credit, but more importantly I could add the distinction of “Law Review” to my transcript and resume.

Articles were either accepted or rejected, with a select two or three being published in the school’s law journal, alongside the works of prominent judges, scholars, and attorneys.

To my surprise, I enjoyed the hell out of the process of writing my paper.  Weighing in at a couple hundred pages, the format required that I submit two pages of footnotes for every single page of original thought.  I had an editor who, unlike my mother, received quite a bit of resistance in matters of style and tone.  It was exhilarating to feel passionate about something I wrote.

My friend Michelle also wrote for the Law Review and we agreed that if one of us were published, the other would have to buy a pair of cowboy boots for the lucky writer.  More than anything, we both just wanted our papers to be accepted so we could collect the credit and graduate on time.

When the articles were reviewed by the editorial staff, we were stunned to discover that we were both nominated for publication.   A week later, on a sunny Saturday afternoon on Chicago’s west side, we went boot shopping together.

Here’s how I earned those cowboy boots.

***

The first true labor of love that I published was an article about a band from San Diego called The Rugburns.

I spent colossal chunks of free time on AOL’s music message boards in the mid-nineties, becoming a regular on the boards for The Rugburns after hearing their anthem, “Me and Eddie Vedder.”  Ironically, one of the people whom I met on those discussion boards would, years later, draw my attention to Brad Listi’s blog, and eventually to The Nervous Breakdown.

I found immense pleasure in writing about music on those discussion boards- especially where I would write a lengthy essay on an interpretation of a song or how certain music made me feel.  My posts were pompous and at times self-important, but gradually I learned to discuss music in a way that allowed me to express my point of view without insisting that others agree.  Writing about songs and artists flowed very easily for me, and the writing skills that I acquired in law school helped me present those ideas with clarity and in some cases, persuasion.  I loved the challenge of finding creative ways to express my feelings about music.  Talking about music was a passion, but writing about it was a rush.

One day a girl contacted me about The Rugburns.  She had read some of my posts about the band and wondered if I would be interested in submitting an article for a zine she had just launched called “Lunatic Fringe.”

I agreed and a couple months later, I published my first piece about music.



***

Even after I began practicing law in 1994, music was always my number one passion.  I would much rather be listening to Soundgarden bootlegs than working weekends to impress my bosses.  In 1996, I spent a week touring around the midwest with The Rurburns.  It was one of the most significant experiences of my life.  So much so that when I returned to Chicago, I quit my job as a lawyer and began immersing myself in all aspects of music.  I took up guitar, I expanded my musical tastes into new genres, and at the suggestion of an entertainment attorney, I began studying how the music industry worked.  I had amassed a number of contacts in the music business- artists, managers, and quite a few contacts at some pretty big record labels, and I soon found myself writing promotional biographies for bands.  When a band was in the final stages of preparing to release a new album, their label or management would pay me to write a short biography of the band that would be included with the CD and press kit that was sent out to radio stations all over the country.

The pay was lousy, but money mattered little to me in that regard.  I did it for the sheer enjoyment, although at times it was a character-building experience.  I received a request to do a bio for a solo artist, and without much guidance, submitted a first draft to the artist and label.   The artist’s PR agent ripped the draft apart so ferociously and so personally, that I took almost a year off from writing any other music bios.

Another time a label hired me to do a biography on a band whose music I could not relate to at all.  It was a hard rock band and I’m a hard rock guy, but I just could not get there from here.  Still, I had to sit down with the band and find out what made them tick.  The following exchange actually happened:

I asked, “So what are you guys trying to convey when you play live?”

“Dewd, we just like, want to like, try to you know, like, get people with jobs and shit to like totally forget their day, you know?  It’s like, some guy works like forty hours, you know, and we just want him to come to our show and like, forget about his week.  If we can make just one person forget about their week, then it’s all worth it, dewd, you know?”

“But they could just stay at home and get drunk to forget about their week.  We need to highlight what makes you guys different.  They should forget their week not because they’re drunk, but because your music is memorable.  Does that make sense?”

“Exactly, dude!  See, you get it.  Alcohol only makes our music sound better!”

On the other hand, I had the privilege of writing biographies for some fascinating artists who were releasing jaw-droppingly good music.

To this day, I still take on the odd band bio, although an inflexible requirement is that I actually like the music.

***

SPIN Magazine is, depending on the reader, either a pretentious conclave of indier-than-thou hipsters, or a vital alternative to the commercially-savvy and creatively bankrupt Rolling Stone.  While SPIN can sometimes trip over its own emo-ness, overall it gives exposure to bands and music that other mainstream publications might ignore.

Other than reading the magazine occasionally, my first real connection to SPIN was sleeping on the floor of their suite at the Driskill Hotel during the South By Southwest music festival in 1997.  My college roommate Dan was interning for SPIN, doing a lot of hustling for the magazine for little or no pay.  In return, we received a place to crash, a great view of the main stage, and we got to smoke pot in the suite with The Supersuckers.

Dan went on to secure the best job in the world- making mix tapes to send to college radio stations for the magazine.  He spent his days listening to new (and free) CDs and making mix tapes of his favorite songs. Thirteen years later, I have yet to hear anyone describe a better job.

As Dan became more plugged in at SPIN, he made many connections, one of whom oversaw the magazine’s online column, “It Happened Last Night.”  IHLN featured reviews of notable concerts and events across the country.  They kept a list of writers and photographers in major cities across the country so that when a cool show was happening that they wanted to feature, they would reach out to the local writer and get him or her to the gig.

One day, while literally stepping onto a plane in Cabo San Lucas after an entirely undeserved vacation, I received a text from Dan.  SPIN needed a San Diego writer.  Black Francis (The Pixies, Frank Black) was playing a solo show there that they wanted to review.  They had seen one of my artist bios and wondered if I might cover the event for the magazine.

A couple weeks later, I published my first music article for a major publication.  I remember sitting backstage with Black Francis and Warren Zanes (The Del Fuegos), talking about our favorite pizza joints in Cambridge, MA (where I used to live), and thinking how awesome it would be if this were my actual job.

***

My friend Dana had been a Brad Listi junkie for quite some time.  After hearing her incessantly raving about his writing, I began following his blog, and eventually The Nervous Breakdown.  I instantly fell in love with TNB.  The authors were talented, down-to-earth, and they wrote about subjects to which I could easily relate.  Also, the comment culture was fun and people seemed to actually support each other, with fascinating conversations occurring along with the featured articles.  I chose to lurk rather than participate in any of the conversations.

Dana would pepper me with entreaties to apply to write for TNB, which I resisted for a number of reasons.  Mainly, as someone who had neither published a book, nor had any sort of platform, I was worried that I would have nothing to offer the site.  I am grateful that she persisted because sometime at the end of 2009, I submitted an application.  A month later I received a welcome letter from TNB with instructions on how to get started.  The only thing left to do was write.

I agonized over my first article for two weeks, starting and scrapping ideas for three or four different columns.  Finally I chose to write about my first band back in Chicago, and on a Saturday morning in February, 2009, I began writing.  I finished that evening and spent the next 48 hours proofreading the piece ad nauseam.  Each time I started to publish it, I chickened out and proofread it again.

Finally I threw caution to the wind and hit the “Publish button.”  J.M. Blaine left me my first comment.  As the day wore on,  I began receiving and replying to comments from the very people I had always read and admired.  Nine months later, I have met many of these authors in person and I am in contact with several on a regular basis.  TNB is my online home.

***

As I published articles on TNB, I would post links to each piece on Facebook, asking my friends to take a look if they were interested.  One day after posting a link, I received a note from a college friend whom I had not seen or heard from in close to twenty years.  He had read some of my work on TNB and said he enjoyed them- especially the pieces about music.  He wondered if I might be interested in talking about book ideas.  As fate would have it, he was a literary agent.

***

In July, 2010, I was laid off from my job.  Instead of jumping right into a job search, I decided to see what it would feel like to write for awhile.

I am now in the process of completing a proposal for my first book.  It might never see the light of day, but in the course of the past month, it has been the most fulfilling work I have ever done.  I sit at my laptop in my kitchen or at a local coffee shop, and with the sounds of Sigur Ros, Dead Confederate, or The Stone Roses wafting from my headphones, I write about things that matter to me.  I laugh out loud, I research obscure details about bands and music, and I occasionally run upstairs to sift through papers and photographs to jog my memory as I write.

When people now ask what I do, I really have no answer.  I clumsily say something like, “Well, I’m out of work now, and just writing to make use of the time…”

But once in awhile I boldly answer, “I’m a writer.”

It feels fucking awesome.

***

My mother would have been 77 years old next week had she not succumbed to cancer in 1989.  The older I get, the greater the clarity I have with my past, and especially my time with my mother.  As I look back on those Sunday afternoons in the dining room, wishing I were doing anything but writing for The Happy Time Page, I now see the gift that she has left me.

I am both humbled and grateful.

Thanks, Mom.



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JOE DALY writes for a number of publications, including the UK's Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazines, Outburn, Bass Guitar Magazine and several other print and online outlets. He is the music and cultural observer for Chuck Palahniuk's LitReactor site and his works have been published in several languages. When he is not drafting wild-eyed manifestos, Joe enjoys life in San Diego's groovy North County, teaching music journalism, doing yoga, running, playing guitar and spending tireless hours in deep and meaningful conversations with his beloved dogs, Cabo and Lola. You can check out his rants at http://joedaly.net and follow him on Twitter: @JoeD_SanDiego

83 responses to “Evolution”

  1. Lorna says:

    I love how this twists and turns, links and connects events to bring you to where you are today. The one thing I have learned about life is even when it doesn’t make sense, it makes sense. We simply need to be patient and wait for the results to reveal themselves.

    This was a beautiful tribute to your mother. Rock on, Joe Daly.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Lorna! So true- you never know where you’re going until you get there.

      Thanks for the re-read on my inaugural piece as well. Next time give me a heads up before you do that and I’ll change the ending, just to keep it fresh for you!

  2. Man, this is a fascinating story of how the writer emerges, because it’s almost always a meandering path and, in your case, a nicely completed circle. Not that the story is over, but it feels like a triumph already.

    Very glad that Joseph P. Daly decided to make a home here.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Nat. It certainly feels a lot comfier now than it did even a few years ago.

      A total privilege to now share my home with you and such a classy and sassy group.

      Hope you had a good Turkey Day abroad!

  3. Beautiful tribute, Joe. And so great to have you as a contributor to TNB. Onward and upward, my friend.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks a bunch, Rich. It’s been an amazing ride so far, not the least of which has been getting my mind blown on a regular basis by the creative shocks and impulses of you and our venerable colleagues. Excelsior!

  4. Gloria says:

    Ah, Joe Daly – your final line made me cry! (I’ve been doing that a lot lately.)

    What a fascinating journey. What a great piece. (By the way, I happened upon the comment from the long-lost friend the other day and thought it was wicked cool.)

    I will read the lawyer piece in a bit -but my trixie hobbitses just got home and my need to be around them eclipses every other urge on the planet. 😀

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thx, Gloria! Sounds like your weekend’s been plenty full as is- sorry for the cry at the end. I promise to end my next piece on a high note. 🙂

      Thanks for the read and the comments. ANd good luck with the Hobbitses!

  5. Zara Potts says:

    You’re my Happy Time Page, Cupcake.

    This is wonderful. As everyone else has said – a wonderful journey from ten year old Cupcake Daly to the lovely writer you are today.

    Your mum would be very proud. I’m sorry you lost her so early.

    By the way, the ten-year-old Joe Daly and the ten-year-old Zara Potts would have got on famously. I had vast quantities of Lego sets and the entire KISS collection on vinyl. We could have built forts and castles and painted each others faces. I wanted so much to be Ace Frehley. Or Paul Stanley’s girlfriend.

    Lovely piece. You rock.

  6. Joe Daly says:

    Thanks, Pookie! I would love to see our ten year old selves rocking and rolling with KISS and Legos. I have a picture of me dressed as Paul Stanley for Halloween one year. I’m pretty sure I was around ten. When I’m home for Christmas, I will make it my mission to find it!

    As always, your comments are thoughtful and much appreciated. It’s nice to know that wherever I go, I’ll always have my own Happy Time Page. 🙂

    Rock on, Pookie!

  7. Very cool, very interesting story, Joe. It’s so great that your mother pushed you along in those early days. You may have taken a few years away from writing, but those lessons stick with you for life.

    Word counts are a bitch… I remember as a kid I would always try to write novels, and get stuck at about a thousand words. That would be it. The whole story. Same in university: essays due, eyes on the word count.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thank goodness I’m not the only enemy of the word count. I’m blown away that even as a kid, you were driven to write novels. That, my friend, sounds like the soul of a writer. A thousand words is still a thousand words!

      They should come up with an app that counts words.

      • The soul of a doomed fool, perhaps. I still suffer the same problem: I get an idea, sit down and write, then have another idea, tire of the old one, start, stop, start, stop… and nothing gets done.

        I can remember as a child always trying to write novels. My parents say that even when I was really young I would do it.

  8. Simon Smithson says:

    Ma Daly would be proud, JD. Of your writing chops and your status as Grand High Pimp of San Diego.

    But I have to ask: did you receive the plaudits you deserved with publication in the Happy Times Page? Or were the editors justifiably terrified of what that might unleash in the hearts of teen girls across the nation?

    • Joe Daly says:

      Big South Equatorian Pimp-

      Indeed I think that Ma D would have been relatively stoked about the writing, save for the whole, going-on-the-road-with-a-band-and-quitting-being-a-lawyer-thing… But yes, pimping knows no boundaries, even at age ten. That would be like trying to tell you to walk down the street today and not be awesome.

  9. James D. Irwin says:

    more and more people are posting about getting into writing and ending up here at TNB and pretty much all of them make me feel bad about how easy I had it getting here…

    also it makes me bitterly jealous that I can’t post cool, twisting stories like this one.

    the last lines were beautiful too.

    • Joe Daly says:

      JDI-

      Your comments are much appreciated, but I think we both know that you’re the one posting about bad ass Bruce Willis movies and I’m the one posting about the Happy Time page. If you were stuck down a well and someone offered you your choice of reading material while you waited for the people to rescue you, 9.9 out of ten people would go with “Die Hard…”

      Thanks for the read and the comments, man. Good to see you back on here.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        Well my post is longer, so offers more in terms of time killing, and all the talk of a man crawling through narrow spaces and tight spots may prove inspirational in terms of breaking out…

        It’s good to be back man. It’s been weird being away but tough with a lack of internet and a newly busy life in the ‘entertainment industry’…

  10. What sparks the writer to write is always captivating to read. May “The Happy Time” page and your mother by your side be a happy time for you upon your book’s completion.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Jeffrey-

      Thanks a bunch, man. I’ll take all the luck and inspiration I can get these days!

      I always appreciate your time and comments. Thanks. Looking forward to more updates on the newest Pillow in town!

  11. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Man, “The Happy Time” sounds like those old school competitions I used to love “write in 100 words why you like Mac Daddy blaster bits to win a free trip to P World!” And they would always judge the winner on the personality and individuality of the writing (and of course the degree of fervor) rather than some stupid homogenized standard.

    Best of luck with the novel, and nice bit of reminiscence you’ve provided here for the holiday.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Uche-

      Thanks a bunch, man. P World?? Do tell!

      I don’t really know how they judged the Happy Time stuff. I suspect the judges were reporters who had been demoted from beat or opinion columns due to drinking or spousal abuse allegations. I always pictured them up late at night at the office with only a desk lamp on, pulling on the bottle of cheap whiskey will writing “15” or “25” on each essay, depending on their levels of intoxication, and perhaps local sports scores.

      Come to think of it- not a bad way to regroup!

      Thanks again, man. Hope all’s well.

      • dwoz says:

        Even if the judging were based solely on how many column inches were open that week, it’s ink on paper, and that’s a good thing.

        • Joe Daly says:

          So true, DW. At ten years old (make that 42), I didn’t really have the option of being picky where and when I was published…

          Now that I think of it, maybe I’ll see if I can start submitting to the Happy Time Page again under a nom and age de plume!

  12. dwoz says:

    Funny how wide of the target we think we’re shooting at that we end up, isn’t it?

  13. Quenby Moone says:

    I love your description of the Happy Time Page! It holds special meaning for me as I’m forced to force my own child to write papers he has no compulsion whatsoever to write. Seriously, it isn’t “homework” as much as “torture.”

    And our kid, like you, is articulate, funny, sharp as a tack–just doesn’t want to write about the theme of the week. Last week was ” Looking Out My Window.” It might have been “Looking at the Existential Void” so reluctant was he to put pencil to paper. It’s like there’s a magnetic repulsion between his brain and the subject, and it doesn’t matter what the subject is.

    Anyway.

    Your evolution from Happy Time Page avoider to “writer” couldn’t be more apt for me. I never thought of myself as a writer until the last couple of years or so, and it still doesn’t roll off the tongue easily. It feels pretentious or presumptuous. But sometimes, once in a while, I really feel like one. And then of course, my father and I shared all my writing about him as he was succumbing to cancer, so like you it brings me closer to him now that he’s gone.

    Sometimes writing is a mirror and you are its reflection today. Lovely.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Quenby-

      Thanks for the comments. Here’s hoping your son eventually finds his way to the joys of writing. Maybe it’s simply an age thing? I totally relate to his discomfort with forced themes. I still cringe when I think of “Springtime.” I do.

      Glad you were able to relate and I’m particularly glad it’s not just me who sometimes struggles with identifying myself with what I enjoy. More people should try. 🙂

  14. Irene Zion says:

    Joe,

    First, I have to say that this line really cracked me up:
    “I was as motivated to write fifty words as a heroin addict would be to take a spinning class.”

    Next, I want to say that the fact that jmb was your first comment in TNB was an incredibly good omen.

    Finally, I am personally thankful to your mother for beating you into submission because she knew you could write, and, in fact, you do a damn good job.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Irene! JMB was definitely a great first commenter. Talk about a rock and roll welcome!

      It’s nice to be able to look back on the early days and see them with a new pair of glasses.

      As always, thanks for the read and your comments!

  15. Irene Zion says:

    Wait.

    I meant to write Joe, Esquire.

  16. Hey man, can we get about 9k more of that “computer fraud and abuse act” material?

    I really love stories about getting to the point where you can say “I am a writer” out loud and mean it. Almost everyone’s is interesting, but not that many people have the Happy Time angle to really sink in the hook. Good stuff here.

    So, really though. This is the Joe Daly origin story? Where’s the horned masks and Cerebus and the other trappings of Black Metal? Your mom helped you write a column? Couldn’t you at least have emerged from a cauldron or something?

    • Joe Daly says:

      >>Hey man, can we get about 9k more of that “computer fraud and abuse act” material?<<

      Oh, I’m re-releasing it for Christmas, complete with updated footnotes, a vinyl collector’s sleeve, and a Justice Thurgood Marshall bobblehead doll. It shall be EPIC.

      Yeah, funny how my path began with fifty word essays about family vacations and household pets. When I do a professional bio, I’ll be sure to downplay the Happy Time angle and focus more on the Norwegian Death Metal crimes (once I get into some Norwegian Death Metal crimes).

      Thanks for the comments, man. I too am interested in the origin stories of my colleagues. Hopefully we’ll get to read a few in the coming year.

  17. jmblaine says:

    Imagine if you had to do fifty words
    on the gatefold photo
    from Alive II?

    Or the way that Dynasty
    sounded more like spare parts
    from the four solo albums
    than anything as cohesive (read: kick-ass)
    as ANY cut from Rock and Roll Over or Love Gun?

    Or how surprisingly awesome side IV
    of Alive II was?

    Or the gatefold from Shout at the Devil?

    We met too.
    I was that dude carrying
    in the amps at
    the Foghat show.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Man, I would have been in heaven (or Hell) if I could have written about those album covers.

      “Killers” always struck me as particularly bad-ass with the organized crime-meets-
      rockers theme.

      I could have easily done a hundred words on
      pretty much anything about KISS.

      I knew that was you at Foghat. The Marshall Tucker t-shirt gave you away.

      • jmblaine says:

        Why not do it now?

        In third grade Brett Mayeaux pulled
        Alive II out from the back seat of his Monte Carlo
        & told us we could sit in the grass & look at it
        but if we smudged it or bent it
        he’d kick our asses.
        We spent the whole recess
        staring at that stage.
        After about twenty minutes
        him and Troy Dupree walked over
        and said “Pretty bad-ass huh?”
        So we’d say
        “Shock Me, how does that one go?”
        And they’d sing a little bit of it.
        We went through the whole double LP that way.
        (Except for Anyway You Want It which they said was
        “kinda faggy”)

        My first exposure to Kiss.

        • Joe Daly says:

          Brett Mayeaux sounds like my kind of cat.

          That’s a fitting and exalted indoctrination to KISS. There is no better way to enter that band’s discography than with an edgy trusted friend leading the way.

          To this day, I have never been more excited about a Christmas present than I was to receive KISS’ “Double Platinum” in 1978. Conversely, I have never been more depressed on Christmas day than I was when my parents made me turn off the stereo on Christmas morning to go to church. I spent the entire hour trying to settle on which song I would put on first when I returned home.

  18. Dana says:

    1.) I would kill for a copy (or at least the text) of that zine article.
    2.) Thank you Mrs. Daly and The Happy Times!
    3.) Did you just refer to me as a junkie? :fume:
    4.) Which hard rock band?
    5.) I loved this.
    6.) You know.*

    * I love you.

    • Joe Daly says:

      6.) Quit it. Yer making me blush.*
      5.) Thanks!
      4.) Can’t tell due to contract I had to sign.
      3.) No!
      2.) They would probably say “you’re welcome,” and “I told you so.”
      1.) Consider it done

      *I know/me too/thank you for everything.

  19. pixy says:

    joe daly:

    like i don’t tell you this enough but, you’re totally my heropotamus.
    you know, i’m having a much smoother time in my writing class than i ever expected. maybe i’ll be writing one of these retrospectives… then again, maybe not.

    here’s one for the homies and ma daly.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Pixy! Here’s hoping/expecting that the smoothness you’re experiencing in writing class eventually morphs into pleasure, and then a best selling novel about a girl who humps graveyard icons.

      You rawk.

      • Shannon says:

        the novel will be written from the perspective of the graveyard icons. it will be such a monstrously touching blockbuster that they’ll make a broadway play out of it, ala “Avenue Q”, and all the gravestones will be foamy, singing puppets.
        megz will write the play adaptation. it will have a moon in it and ian moore will be the voice.

        we’ll come back to this comment in 5 years and it will be funny because it’s true. i’m not sayin’, i’m just sayin’.

        • Joe Daly says:

          >>all the gravestones will be foamy, singing puppets.<<

          Don’t forget the success of American Idiot! You could be looking at a foamy little cash cow there…

        • pixy says:

          all proceeds will go to my non-profit. my non-profit promises to be foamy, but more goat-y than bovine.

          the non-profit angle will make even MORE people come to see it. i could have special musical guests. polio could be the third marker from the left one night whilst a decapitated jewel mewls from below decks, the scratching of her nails to wriggle to the spotlight all in time with the upbeat zazz that is “the cemetery yello’s”.

  20. Judy Prince says:

    A wonderful love story, Joe.

    My son Christopher’s father used to point out to him the steady work that an artist would commit to in order to produce excellent, unique, notable creations. Years later, Christopher would say to me that we tend to think artists and leaders had always known they’d be successful, but that that was most assuredly not the case; they stumbled along through dark periods and with profound self-doubts.

    You’ve shown here just how thoroughly one commits one’s life to The Work in order to succeed. You’ve further shown that it often takes an enduring love, a continuously hope-filled loved one working on one’s side.

    As a mom and a grandmom, I appreciate your taking the time and patience to let me and other TNBers follow you along your career road and help you celebrate your successes and your mom’s successes, as well.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Judywed! (Judy + Newlywed)-

      You’re so right about the need for support to keep the party going. I’m sure it applies to most/all creative disciplines. If you create the subjective, it’s only through feedback (good and bad) and support that you can hone your skills. I am a wee lucky man indeed!

      Thank YOU for being so supportive of this community, through your own prose and your feedback. Here’s hoping you’re enjoying a fantastic end to 2010!

      • Gloria Harrison says:

        Judywed = awesome.

        This is for you, sir.

        • Joe Daly says:

          I will never, ever get tired of that.

          Thank you and Bravo!

        • Gloria Harrison says:

          Have I pulled that out before? It’s my new favorite thing. I tend to obsess about and over use things I love – especially when they’re funny.

        • Joe Daly says:

          I’m not sure if I’ve seen you post it on here before, but I’ve certainly dusted it off a time or two on FB. I’ve probably watched that movie fifty times. Dare I say, it’s underrated??

        • Gloria Harrison says:

          It’s totally underrated. Much like So I Married An Ax Murderer. It’s a shame when really good (usually funny) movies are panned by critics and then people don’t see them despite the fact that they’re hilarious. You notice that they don’t have a comedy award at the Oscars? It’s because nobody can admit to taking comedy seriously. Comedy is the only genre where I don’t look at the Tamatometer ranking or read reviews. I ask my friends with similar senses of humor what they thought and then I decide from there.

        • Gloria Harrison says:

          Tomato-meter – not Tamatometer (whatever the hell that is…)

  21. Simone says:

    Ok, wait… Your first name is actually Joseph?

    Cool!

    Back to finish reading…

  22. D.R. Haney says:

    There was a version of the Happy Time Page in my hometown paper; I forget what it was called. I never contributed, however. If I were to trace the origins of my own writing, it might begin with my report about Japanese Spider Crabs, which I wrote when I was nine or so. I saw a picture of a Japanese Spider Crab (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_spider_crab) and decided it looked really cool and fabricated a number of lies for my report, stating, for instance, that alarms were set up on the Japanese coast to warn people when the crabs were coming ashore. That’s how dangerous I wanted to believe they were. Incredibly, my teacher accepted my lies, or possibly she found them so charming that she decided to overlook them. In any case, she read my report aloud, and I was so excited that, afterward, I went to the coat room (in the rear of the class) and ran back and forth a few times to calm myself.

    No wonder I never opted for a career as a journalist.

    Best of luck with your book proposal.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Duke-

      The fact that you created an entire legend around Japanese Spider Crabs strikes me as entirely appropriate. Go big, even when you’re nine. Maybe you’re teacher recognized what was going on, and rightfully just let the Duke Tsunami pick up steam and roll on its way.

      Funny but I too have never been moved to be a journalist. Maybe it’s laziness on my part, but I’d rather just go with what I know or what I like, rather than have to do all those pesky things like research, interview, fact check, etc. Must be the rebel in us.

      Thanks for the comments and support, Duke.

  23. Simone says:

    I’m back.

    Seriously, Joe you should put a note on the top of the page warning us that there maybe tear-jerking words lingering about. Those last few lines spilled the waterworks. (But I forgive you.)

    Beautiful piece, Joe!

    A) Big Ups to ”It was my mother’s idea.”

    B) You’ve come a long way from 50 words! And I like it!

    C) Cowboy boots just fucking rock, man!

    D) That Dewd from the hard rock band sounds like a total dumbass, no wonder you couldn’t relate to their music. You’re an intelligent writer after all.

    E) But once in awhile I boldly answer, “I’m a writer.”
    Joe there’s nothing quite like the feeling of affirmation.

    ***

    ”A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.” ~Charles Peguy

    • Joe Daly says:

      STG-

      Thanks a million! Yeah, the rock Dewd was unintentionally funny. I almost feel bad for him, because he was really excited to tell me that they just wanted to make people forget about work.

      And yeah, there’s nothing like a pair of cowboy boots to adjust an attitude!

      That’s a great quote- thanks for sharing and as always, thanks for the read and the comments!

  24. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    What a writer’s journey you’ve had!

    My third grade teacher set my feet on the path. It wasn’t until I published my novel (five years ago)–and acknowledged her–that she knew how much she’d touched my life. A few weeks after my book was out, she sent me a handwritten note to say that after she retired, she often wondered if teaching had been worth it, if she’d made a difference. What I accomplished was her proof.

    Props to your mom. No doubt she’d be proud of you now.

    Very best of luck with your book proposal! Keep the faith–persistence wins out.

  25. Matt says:

    You know, I was just the other day thinking about how it might be interesting if each of us where to write a story about their development as a writer & how they got to TNB, and here you’ve gone ahead and done it. And done it so well!

    I had to put my copy of Morning Wood on for a spin while reading this. I’m curious: does Poltz know how big a role he played in your development as a writer?

    • Joe Daly says:

      >>I was just the other day thinking about how it might be interesting if each of us where to write a story about their development as a writer & how they got to TNB<<

      Get thee writing, Matt! Would be cool to see an “Evolution” series here on TNB. Sort of like the self-interview, it could be a free form piece about how each author’s experience with writing. Then we could get some rockin’ podcast material for “Metal” Megan Dilullo!

      I love that you rocked out to Morning Wood while reading. I did while writing last week!

      Poltz is aware of the role he’s played in my development as a writer, but might not know the full extent of the inspiration. I’ve definitely been the fortunate recipient of lots of guidance and encouragement from him.

      • Matt says:

        That WOULD be cool!

        Which piggybacks on another idea I’ve had: when the “best of” lists were going up on the front page over the last couple of weeks, I thought it would be cool to get an audio recording of each author reading that respective piece, so we could compile actual audiobook “Best of” albums. Perfect stocking stuffer for the holidays, don’t you think?

        “Poltz is aware of the role he’s played in my development as a writer, but might not know the full extent of the inspiration. I’ve definitely been the fortunate recipient of lots of guidance and encouragement from him.” For the record, this does now make me wonder if you might be the eponymous “Hitchhiker Joe” of which he sings….

        • Joe Daly says:

          The “Best of” audio album is a great idea- maybe even include some bonus “Making Of” tracks where the authors shed some additional light on the original story- maybe include some additional facts or observations not included in the original piece? Or perhaps a discussion of how the article was received. Excellent idea!

          Thankfully, I’m not the eponymous “Hitchhiker Joe.” You’ll recall the line “Hitchhiker Joe ain’t no vegetarian…” That pretty much eliminates me from the list of suspects. 🙂

  26. This is great, Joe! We should have traded places for just a little while as children because I was desperate to get a story in the newspapers. My mom has a stack of letters I’d written the newspaper editor imploring them to hire me for my “kid’s point of view.” I guess this means she never mailed them like she’d said she was going to. Hmm …. BUT I would have sawed off a limb and all of my sister’s limbs to have had a Happy Time Page. Love the sentiment re. your mom in the end. Very touching!

    • Joe Daly says:

      CH-

      Your mom never mailed the letters?! Did she also return to you any letters you wrote to God and/or Santa? Well, as they say, it’s the process and not the results that matter, so as long as you got some experience down, it was a good thing for you, I’m sure.

      Also love that you would volunteer dismembering your sisters for a crack at the Happy Time Page. When time travel becomes commercially available, I will take you there. Promise!

  27. Erika Rae says:

    Joseph (hee), this is so awesome I want to hug you. I love learning the chain of events that put someone where they are now. Plus, you’re such an amazing and talented writer – look how far you’ve come from 50 words!

    Now where is a pic of those cowboy boots?

    • Joe Daly says:

      Erika!

      Thanks a bunch for the comments. You were one of those TNB peeps who intimidated the snot out of me! You’re a TNB triple threat- you write prose, you record podcasts, and you make TNB’s best donuts (by all accounts).

      I think I still have those cowboy boots! They’d be packed up somewhere, but they were certainly pretty cool. At least at the time. At least I thought so… 🙂

      Thanks again!!

  28. Slade Ham says:

    Well, for starters, I’m glad you finally pulled the trigger on that TNB app. It’s reeeally good to have you on board. And second, I’m glad you’re concentrating on hammering out a book. That’s gotta feel good.

    I remember The Rugburns from years ago, particularly N”ow’s Not The Right Time For Love”… for some reason that album, I forget the name, has stuck in my head. I’m off to go repurchase it now, as there’s a Christmas song on there that I really liked. “I Hate Fucking Christmas” maybe? I remember a line about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Anyway…

    And I love Dead Confederate, but I think you and I have covered that already…

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks a bunch, man. It does feel good to be working on the book- scary at times, but good.

      I’m not at all surprised to hear that you’re hip to The Rugburns. You’re dead on about the title of that song, although I think it appears on the album as a hidden track. I played that for my girlfriend the other day and after laughing her ass off, she advised that she looked forward to the day when her son would be old enough for her to share it with him. Too funny.

      Thanks for the comments and all the continued help and encouragement. Not to mention my first light saber!

  29. Art Edwards says:

    Lovely piece, Joe. I relate very much to the place writing occupied for you as a child. “Fifty words? Can I just shove an ice pick in my ear instead?” And how cool to have a literary agent suggest you write a book.

    The writer tag is a tricky one. At what point have we earned it? I’d say you have.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks a bunch, Art. Yeah, the ice pick thing would definitely have presented a viable option back in the day…

      Glad to hear from another published author that the arc of a writing career can most certainly begin with some difficulties. Many thanks for the comments.

  30. Richard Cox says:

    This is a fantastic piece of writing, Joseph P. Daly. I’m with Sean in that you’ve left me starving for more content about computer fraud punishment. Why on earth would you ever want to write about rock music??

    What a journey! And I’m glad Dana goading you into writing for TNB. Especially because otherwise I wouldn’t know who Dead Confederate is.

    My first published work was in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, in a letter to Santa Claus where I begged without shame for a remote control car for Christmas. I didn’t get it.

    Love the shout out to your mom. She’d be proud to know the courageous path you’ve taken.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks a bunch, Rich- I’m particularly encouraged by the groundswell of support for updated meditations on the august 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. I’ve always been shy, if not downright embarrassed, to showcase my enthusiasm for that particular piece of legislation. For example, there were times, even a few years ago, when I wouldn’t even mention something like that until a second or even third date. Oh, and as you can well imagine, I am only invited to parties and social functions under the unwavering requirement that I restrain any commentary on that Act. You and Sean have unleashed my unicorn-like passion (what?), and know that this very weekend, I will set about revisiting that pop culture hot button that is The 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

      Your comments are much appreciated and I’m stoked to hear that I was not the only tot writing for his local paper. Wait- how old were you when you wrote that letter to Santa?

      Many thanks for your comments, support, and inspiration.

  31. Tom Hansen says:

    “I was as motivated to write fifty words as a heroin addict would be to take a spinning class.”

    That is not a lot of motivation. I can attest to that. 🙂 Even if it’s physically possible..

    Beautiful piece Joe. Really. I love these stories about how people come to be writers, and this one is excellent and touching. I remember when I first got out of the hospital, I was like WTF? And I ended up in community college, because I didn’t know what else to do, and then I discovered Void of Course by Jim Carroll, and I thought, “I can do this, it’s one page.” And then I went thru the obligatory ‘bad poetry’ phase, and at some point decided to write a book. And about seven years later I had one. And now I have another (not published yet, but it’s being looked at) and have started a third.

    Go man go. You Rock

    • Joe Daly says:

      That is not a lot of motivation. I can attest to that. 🙂 Even if it’s physically possible..

      Phew! I’m glad I wasn’t spreading any false rumors!

      I’m particularly stoked to read your comment because the style of your book is relaxed, conversational, and sincere, which is what I’m hoping to accomplish with mine. Reading how you’ve not just published the first book (which as you know, I really enjoyed), but that you’ve continued on to write more, is exactly what I needed to hear.

      Thanks again, man. Looking forward to updates on your works in progress.

  32. Tawni says:

    Wow. Your mom was awesome. What a great way to encourage critical thinking, the ability to form and defend opinions, and good communication skills in a child. Brilliant.

    I love SXSW! I only got to play it once, but I went many other years as well. Too much fun. Austin is a great city.

    Someone needs to write a book called “Brad Listi’s Dead MySpace Blog” about all of the connections and relationships it rendered possible. Seriously. I’ve met and remained friends with so many people because of that blog.

    I really enjoyed reading about your journey from childhood writing, into law, into the world of music, and eventually back into writing. I can’t wait to read your book, Joe.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Tawni!

      Thanks a million. I’m super jel that you got to play SXSW. What venue? What year? Would love to hear more about that.

      Thanks for the comments as well. It’s been a fun ride. I’ve made some lucky choices, but more than anything, it’s the people around me who have brought me to this opportunity. 🙂

      • Tawni says:

        My all-girl rock band Frogpond (R.I.P.) played the Electric Lounge (R.I.P.) in 1995 (R.I.P.). We were being courted by a few labels, so there were A&R reps aplenty in the audience. It was a pretty exciting and intense experience for four young Midwestern girls who’d been playing together for maybe a year or so. We got a lot of free drinks, meals, and eventually a record deal out of it. Thank you, SXSW. (:

  33. Greg Olear says:

    This is great, Joe — a lovely homage to your mom. You were better off without the KISS records, anyway.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Greg! Yeah, I’d have to agree with you about the KISS records. I suppose it was an appropriate jumping off point for a ten year old. Thankfully, The Wall came out a year after Double Platinum, so I was not mired there for too long. Phew…

  34. Marni Grossman says:

    You’ve lived like, six lives already Joe. You’re fearless.

  35. […] once was a time when he couldn’t string fifty words together, but we’re pleased to report that this is no longer the […]

  36. […] — Joe Daly […]

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