Discover more from The Writing Shed with Tommy Tomlinson
An assignment for Shedheads, plus my weekly shareables: how to make a setlist, different worlds in Georgia, and so many beagles
I had a strange little moment in an elevator yesterday afternoon.
I got on and the only other passenger was a man in his late 60s or early 70s, dressed casually but expensively. I pegged him as a banker type. We nodded at each other and I pushed the button for the ground floor. He was getting off one floor above me.
A few seconds later his phone rang. Loudly. I recognized his ringtone right away. It was Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
If you had given me 10,000 guesses, I would not have guessed that this particular guy would have that particular ringtone.
But that wasn’t all.
He took the phone out of his pocket, but didn’t answer it, just as we got to his floor. As the doors opened, he looked at me and did one of those big Groucho Marx eyebrow twitches. Then he strolled away.
Ever since then I’ve been thinking about what it all meant—the ringtone, the eyebrows, what that call meant and where he was going.
I tweeted about this and my friend Kim Cross (buy her book!) said I should write a short story about it. But, as I might have mentioned once or twice in this newsletter, I too have a book coming out and I’m a little busy right now.
So here’s my idea: Y’ALL can take a crack at it.
Here’s your assignment: Take that little scene and finish it off. If you’re game, share your story in the comments. This is a criticism-free zone; my only judgment is that sharing is awesome.
I have imagined several scenarios from that little moment. Can’t wait to read yours!
Reminder: My upcoming book, DOGLAND, is now available for preorder! You can get to many of the major bookseller sites through the Simon & Schuster page. I also have a deal through my favorite bookstore, Park Road Books in Charlotte—if you preorder DOGLAND through them, I’ll sign and inscribe your copy (or copies!) however you like. Jump on that deal here:
10 things I wanted to share this week:
This week on SOUTHBOUND, we replayed my 2020 conversation with the brilliant comedian Roy Wood Jr. Stick around to the end to hear us argue about pimento cheese.
RIP Bob Giles, someone I could never thank enough. He ran the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard when I was chosen to be a fellow in 2008. That year changed my life (and Alix’s) in a dozen different ways. Bob and his wife, Nancy, were warm and gracious hosts. And as you’ll see from the obit, he had a hell of a career. (Detroit News)
I’ve always been fascinated with how bands come up with their setlists, especially when they’re on the road year after year. So I loved this story on how Metallica changes their set every night to keep things fresh. (NYT)
Rolfe Neill, the beloved former publisher of the Charlotte Observer, died a few weeks ago. Among the retrospectives, this one by John Drescher—about how Rolfe was slow to understand the transition to digital publishing—has a lot of lessons for the media today. FYI, John and I worked together at the Observer—he was my first editor when I started writing my local column. (The Assembly)
DOG NEWS: From now until DOGLAND comes out (April 2024!), I’m devoting this slot to dog stories. This week: How 4,000 beagles bred for research labs found loving homes instead. Key quote: “I give him all kinds of kisses on his nose and tell him I’m playing the beagle bugle.” (NYT)
We don’t need a new Twitter. Hard agree. (New Yorker)
Same planet, different worlds: Two views of the latest Trump indictment in Cobb County, Georgia. (Washington Post)
Steve Albini recorded and engineered some of the greatest albums of the last 30 years. He also said terrible things and wrote offensive songs. Now he’s trying to make amends. (The Guardian)
RIP Robbie Robertson, who wrote and played on so many classics with The Band—I think of them as the first Americana band, even though they were mostly Canadian. (North Americana?) When it comes to pure song genius, you can’t do much better than “The Weight.” That part at the end of the chorus where they each take a piece of the harmony is one of my favorite things in any song ever made.
Robertson also recorded several solo albums … the first one (just called “Robbie Robertson”) featured “Somewhere Down the Crazy River,” which walks the line between brilliance and hokum like Karl Wallenda. I keep wanting to hate it but I will always love it, at least partly because of the video, which features Maria McKee of the great ‘80s band Lone Justice. (If you’ve never heard of them, start with “Ways To Be Wicked,” which was written by Tom Petty and should have sold a billion copies.) I had a deep crush on Maria McKee at the time and, well, this video did nothing to diminish that.
See y’all next week, everybody.