An interview with my proofreader
April 1, 2015 by Thomas Wictor
The proofreader of Ghosts and Ballyhoo: Memoirs of a Failed LA Music Journalist is named Tom Pickel. He generously did the job for free. A professional would’ve charged me $2000 at least. Tom is a great proofreader; today he informed me that he’s also a very odd fellow, which is truly excellent. I’m a huge fan of eccentricity.
I failed as a music journalist, but then I was convinced by readers of a bass forum to write an account of my failure. The memoir itself failed because the publisher had no marketing plan, my parents took ill and died, and I hooked up with con artists posing as book publicists. The year 2013 seems like decades ago. I was such a different person back then that I barely recognize myself.
When my career as a music journalist failed, it made me almost psychotic with rage. In contrast, the failure of my attempted career as an author made me nauseated for about three minutes, and then I let it go. Here’s the message that informed me that I was a failure as an author.
Scott Thunes is prominently featured in three of my books. He’s one of the finest bass guitarists in the world. That’s him on the left.
Scott is one of the greats because of his skill in improvising. He never plays the same song the same way twice.
We had a very long, very rocky friendship. The reason Scott sent me that e-mail was because we were going to collaborate on his memoirs, and I told him to contact Mike Albee, my publicist. Though I was sure that I’d researched Albee before hiring him in July of 2013, I obviously hadn’t. My father had died horribly on February 23, my mother was starving herself to death, I’d been ripped off by three Web designers in a row, I’d just fired another fake publicist, and I was still in shock that my publisher wouldn’t help me market the book. The dissociation of PTSD and brain fog of Meniere’s disease were already at work, but I didn’t know it.
As an aside, the fatally flawed movie No Country for Old Men has a great line in it. Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is questioning the wife of a man he’s pursuing; Bell describes how cows are slaughtered with a pneumatic piston that slams into the skull and punctures the brain.
“Why are you telling me that, Sheriff?” the woman asks in disgust.
“I don’t know,” he answers. “My mind wanders.”
I used to try and fight the wandering of my mind. It’s a huge relief to no longer worry about it.
By July of 2013, I already knew that this labor of intense love would fail, just like everything else I’d tried to do in my life. But I plowed ahead anyway, resulting in the worst screwing of my existence. When Scott Thunes sent me that e-mail, I followed the links and discovered that my publicist was a notorious con artist. The three minutes of nausea and self-loathing followed, and then I was fine. It was over. At that moment I gave up trying to be an author.
I felt bad for my brother Tim, who had designed all three covers of my books.
Under different circumstances, Tim’s artistry would’ve been recognized. But he’s at peace with how things turned out. You can’t really make plans. I mean, you can make plans, but you have to be prepared for everything to blow up in your face. The military says that no plan survives contact with the enemy. In retrieving the Scott Thunes e-mail for this post, I reread all the messages I saved from this period, and it sure seems like I was dealing with nothing but enemies.
It’s not true, of course. There was nothing personal in any of it.
I’m going away now! I’m going away, everybody! This is what happens if you’re not economically viable! Don’t let this happen to you! ‘Bye, everybody! Don’t forget me.
That’s dialog from a scene in a flawless movie: Falling Down.
My mind wanders.
So Tom Pickel—the man who proofread the manuscript of Ghosts and Ballyhoo—sent me a message today. Tom was interviewed on the radio because he’s the curator of Dave Madden’s Bowling Shoes.
I’ve never actually seen an episode of The Partridge Family. The theme song bothered me. I have a couple of tenuous connections to the show, however. Danny Bonaduce was the family-band’s bassist.
When I was represented by the con artist Mike Albee, his apprentice grifter Becca Pilkington made a promise that she had no intention of keeping.
I totally believed her.
Another connection is that as a music journalist I interviewed one of the bassists who played the music that the Partridge Family band supposedly performed. Her name is Carol Kaye, the most prolific and widely recorded electric bassist in history.
Since she’s a legend, that was a real coup for me. Then the editor of the magazine was fired, and the new editor killed my interview before it was published. He told me that my writing style didn’t fit in with his “vision.” This was his vision for the magazine.
It took him less than three years to achieve it.
The funny thing is, I now realize that for all practical purposes, he and I went to the sea floor together. The difference between us is that I don’t mind being at the bottom of the ocean; little birdies tell me that my former editor is quite unhappy at his fate. Well, he should take it up with the man who engineered it. In my case I have nothing to complain about. Except the fact that my cat Brother is so big that he keeps accidentally hanging his rear end over the edge of his litter box before emptying his bowels. Yesterday I bought a plastic cement-mixing tub.
That’s his new litter box. Brother Cat is only nine months old. He’s still growing.
My proofreader Tom Pickel did a great job with Ghosts and Ballyhoo, and he’s an entertaining interview subject.
Thanks for the update, Tom. I may have some proofreading work for you in the future. My retirement could be just a phase. Right now a guy named Phil corrects my blog-post typos, but if I ever return to long-form writing, I’ll know who to call.
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