WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

2018, meet 2019


As 2018 coasts to an end (it ran out of gas months ago, but at least it’s been heading downhill), I thought I’d toss one more post on the pile to bid it farewell.

Regular readers know that I stopped blogging habitually this year, back in April, because I’d been at it for five years and finally came to understand that it wasn’t working as the book-promotion vehicle I thought it could be. Back in ‘013, people said YOU MUST BLOG, so I blogged. And I blogged pretty much every day, garnering a stable of readers I could have over for dinner and fit comfortably in my living room. I’m so grateful to them. To you.

I had about five years’ worth of amusing things to say, then it got repetitive, I think. And I wasn’t moving any books.

Now I blog when I have something fun or interesting to say, and that makes it actually enjoyable.

Back to 2018, which is now the third year in a row that has completely sucked. Not for me personally, but for the country. We’re like the Titanic, but we hit the iceberg in Nov. 2016 and the sinking is in progress. Not enough life vests. Plenty of red hats. I feel like a member of the string quartet that continues to play even as the deck slants steeper and steeper.

I wish I believed in the inevitability of impeachment, like Elizabeth Drew, as much as I believe in the inevitability of political lunacy. We’re goin’ down!

But 2018 ends for me personally with a fun story, and I’ll always remember it this way. A couple of weeks ago I bought Peggy Seeger’s memoir, First Time Ever, and was delighted to receive a signed copy. There in the front matter, in black Sharpie: Peggy (with a little musical note symbol). I was so excited I had to write her an email via her website.

Why? Because back in ’77, when I was going to school in London, I used to go to the Singers’ Club at the Bull and Mouth pub (near the British Museum) every Saturday night to watch Peggy and her husband, Ewan MacColl, play and sing English and American folk songs, which I was heavily into at the time. What a treat, and I’ve written about it here before. I even took advantage of the open mic time to sing in front of the two of them once or twice, a budding young busker. Peggy, you probably know, is Pete Seeger’s half-sister but has built her own stellar reputation by walking the authentic walk for sixty years.

Ewan wrote the song, “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” for her. Roberta Flack made sure they were set for life.

To my surprise, the administrator of Peggy’s website wrote me back to say he was forwarding my email to her. And the next day … she replied herself.

She thanked me and said the stanza I’d sent her from my own folk song, written at the time, was good:

I am a London fireman,
Now hear me speak.
I risk my life for forty pounds a week.
Now I am no complainin’ man,
But you’ve got me in a cage,
Forty quid a week, my friend,
Is not a living wage.

She wished me a good holiday season, and that was that. I was stoked.
I wrote her back and included the ebook of Yesterday Road as a thank you. She wrote back to say she doesn’t have a Kindle because she doesn’t care for Amazon—a common-enough sentiment these days—so I wrote back to offer the brand-new paperback edition, if she’d give me the address of her publicist to send it to.

Now she wrote once again, saying “Delighted to receive your book,” and gave me an address in New Zealand, where she’ll be till the end of February. It’s summer down there.

So, early in 2019 I’ll be sending a signed copy of Yesterday Road to Peggy Seeger in Picton, New Zealand.

How’s that for a great way to start a new year?

I’m also getting the inimitable Skip Simmons—Northern California’s renowned amp-repair guru—to service my newly acquired ’77 Fender Champ.

See how 1977 keeps recurring in my life? I was twenty. I was born even as Peggy Seeger first played the Gate of Horn in Chicago in the spring of ’57. Now I’m sixty-one and she’s eighty-three.

And the wheel goes round and round.

Happy New Year, friends. If you have some life-affirming year-end tales, please share them in the comments!

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21 comments on “2018, meet 2019

  1. islandeditions
    December 31, 2018

    And I now have print copies of both “Yesterday Road” and “Fascination” to reread in 2019!

  2. Charles Yallowitz
    December 31, 2018

    Great way to end one year and start another.

  3. kingmidget
    December 31, 2018

    Interesting … we have friends who live in Picton, Australia. So, there’s a Picton in New Zealand also?

    Our blogging adventures have been pretty similar. I started in earnest in 2012 and blogged a lot for a couple of years. There was a good community of blogger/writers that developed as well. But it ain’t what it used to be and, you’re right, it didn’t produce much in the way of book sales. I blog now when I feel like it and can count on my fingers and toes the number of people who stop in regularly to say hello. I cherish those people and the “relationships” that have developed through this medium, but it’s not what I had hoped it would be.

    It will be interesting to see how we come out of this mess we’ve got ourselves into. The election of 2020 can’t come soon enough. I only hope that we find some way to return to the norms that existed before the Orange Clown came along. I worry though that the Genie has left the bottle.

    Meanwhile … who knows, I may have something for you to edit in the next couple of months. Just need to get the thing done.

    Happy New Year, Kevin … may 2019 turn out better than expected!

    • Kevin Brennan
      December 31, 2018

      Happy New Year to you too, Mark. Years like these last few make me feel like all the things I’ve taken for granted are actually pretty frickin’ fragile. Maybe we’ll start to see a resurgence of reason in ’19!

      One can dream, can’t one? 😉

  4. pinklightsabre
    December 31, 2018

    Life-affirming tales: actually legitimately excited about a dry January and clearing my head out, reconnecting with loved ones, starting with my family. And getting roughly one hour of daylight back by the end of the month. Happy New Year Kevin to you and Ms. Sue! Bill

    • Kevin Brennan
      December 31, 2018

      Sounds like a plan, Bill, and happy New Year to you and the Ms’s Dawn, Lily, and Charlotte! 🍾

      • pinklightsabre
        December 31, 2018

        Thanks mister!

  5. John W. Howell
    December 31, 2018

    Happy New Year Kevin. Sounds like it may be good for you (Fender and all)

  6. 1WriteWay
    December 31, 2018

    Happy New Year, Kevin! You are ending 2018 and beginning 2019 in an awesome way! Wishing the best for you and Sue. I don’t hope for much but I do hope there will be fewer wildfires in CA in 2019.

    • Kevin Brennan
      December 31, 2018

      Sounds like a good thing to wish for! I’m right there with you.

      HNY to you and Greg too, and may 2019 bring you more literary milestones, you emerging writer, you! 🍾

  7. Phillip McCollum
    December 31, 2018

    Happy New Year, Kevin. This blogging thing has definitely taken unintended turns along the years, but I’m thankful to have made some good friends along the way (I like your dinner reference). So cool about the book exchange. I’ll take it as a good omen for your 2019. 😉

    • Kevin Brennan
      December 31, 2018

      Thanks, Phillip. Happy New Year to you and your family as well. And good luck on those awesome goals of yours! 👍🏻

  8. S.K. Nicholls
    December 31, 2018

    Happy New Year!!!

    • Kevin Brennan
      December 31, 2018

      Same to you, Susan! Hope all is going great for you, and best for 2019.

  9. Audrey Driscoll
    December 31, 2018

    I keep blogging because it’s a way of maintaining connections with all the admirable folks I’ve met that way. And it’s become part of the writing thing, somehow. If I stop blogging, I’ll be ripping up my Official Writer’s Card. I hope you find worthwhile topics in 2019 to keep your blog going; it’s definitely one of the ones I’d miss if it went dark.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 2, 2019

      Strangely enough, I find I’m actually writing more since I slowed down my blogging. Maybe I’ve freed up more brain-time for fiction that way.

      I’ve had my Official Writer’s Card laminated so I can’t rip it up! 😉

      • Audrey Driscoll
        January 2, 2019

        My most productive writing years were before I had access to the internet at home, and didn’t know what blogging was. It’s a different world now. Good for you that you’re writing more!

  10. luannemarten
    January 1, 2019

    congrats, that’s a great story, Kevin!

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 2, 2019

      Thanks, Luanne! I’m sure I dragged you to the Singers’ Club at least once! 😉

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