In July 1995, George Caragonne, the 29-year-old, 450-pound editor and principal writer for “Penthouse Comix,” went to an atrium the top floor of the tallest hotel in Times Square and jumped into the food court 500-feet below. Jon B. Cooke, editor of “Comic Book Creator,” thought that I would be just the guy to tell this story, which I have in the just released Summer 2024 issue (No. 35).

Pick it up and see what the fuss was about.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 430 – 433

Adventures in Marketing – Weeks 430 – 433
My café pal F__ views me as a presence to be visited and taken in as others would a (fully dressed) holy man on a mountain top or a (non-ranting) lunatic in Sproul Plaza. So when his younger brother J__ and his wife E__ were visiting from the east, he brought them by. They were delightful people, artists of multiple modes and media. (In one performance, visible on You Tube, J__ plays a wind instrument of his own design, while suspended upside down with his head in a fish bowl he shares with a Siamese fighting fish, as E__ pedals a stationary bike from which cables extend to the platform on which the bowl sits, enabling her to revolve it and him.) We had such a good time I gave them a “Best Ride.”
A couple days later, my doctor friend B__, who, as faithful readers know, has been a great champion of IWKYA, wanted to buy a copy to give to a former associate who teaches first year med students. (B__ champions humanistic medical practice and believes the book a wonderful example of it at work.) Still feeling generous, and grateful for his past support, I sent it as a gift.
Things picked up balance-sheet-wise when M__, the activist attorney from Sacramento, and his wife arrived for their annual grandkid-sitting while the parents vacation. M__ has been a regular customer, and he picked up a “Bob.” (He also told me that his friend William T. Vollman has finally placed his mammoth novel, which spans from the 1960s to the present. His past publisher had shied away, but Vollman is a great novelist, and I can’t wait to read it.) Then K__, the science PhD with aphasia, bought (at 20% discount) a “Bob” and a “Lollipop,” both of which she’d scouted but passed on before. Finally, a psychotherapist/poet I’d met when she complimented my style (brown beret, black leather jacket, Bennie Briscoe t-shirt, snakeskin boots) purchased a café journal.
Not one of these people have commented as yet.

In other news…
Perhaps dwarfing all of the above in significance, I am pleased to announce “Messiahs, Meshuganahs…” progresses. The precipitating event may have been my submitting a proposed “author’s photo” snapped by H__, another café pal, which, while it will undoubtedly draw attention to the book, may also throttle sales in certain markets. (Maybe we can include strips of black tape to be liberally applied.)
Anyway, my publisher – courageous fellow – loved it and soon thereafter sent me a pdf to proofread to demonstrate the book my been forgotten. I scanned it and didn’t catch much to correct, though some of what I did made me wonder if anyone had looked at it before me. The big plus were photos, one of which opened each chapter. I had been indifferent to whether samples of the work of the creators I wrote about were included, but these were thrilling. Unfortunately, I must temper my excitement because they are simply “place-holders.” It is unknown if the rights-owners can be identified and, if they are, if the rights can be obtained.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 429

Sold one “Best Ride” and four “Bob on Bob”s.
Frequent readers may recall the physics professor who bought a “Best Ride” from me a few weeks ago. Well, she bought another. These readers may also recall the difficulty she has communicating, either in speech or writing. So they may understand why I did not inquire further. I would have sat there smiling while she repeated, “Exactly. Exactly.”
Frequent readers – the three anyway who acknowledged reading my “Adventure” of a few days ago – may recall the Dylan fan to whom I sent a copy of my book. He loved it and ordered four to give to friends who are Dylan fans. These friends, I quickly saw, may have their own friends who are Dylan fans. So since my stock was now depleted, I had better replenish in order to satisfy the demand.
This has led to much brainstorming.

Originally I’d had 100 copies printed. I gave away half and sold the others. Half these sales were to friends and half to strangers. It took about a year and a half to sell that 50, and none of these folk can be expected to buy another copy.
Based on the new price quotes from my printer, if I order 25 copies and sell them all, I will lose $140. If I order 50 copies and sell them all, I will make a $100 profit. (If I sell 40 copies, I break even.) If I order 100 copies, and sell all, I will make $500+. (If I sell 48 copies, I break even.) As my Outside Business Consultant Fran points out, since 100 copies only costs 20% more than the 50 copies, I should go big, because the upside is much larger. On the other hand, I will have a lot more copies sitting on my floor while I wait for the demand to build.
Also, with my friends exhausted as customers, if I sell the strangers at the same rate as in the past, it will take me three years to get into the black with either quantity of stock on hand. At this point in life, I have actuarial tables to consider.
Milo, the IT brains behind my operation, offers one solution. “It will only take a quick black marker sweep, “he says to change the cover price from $10 to $20. I blanch at this suggestion. “Bob” seems a slim (64 pp.) volume to command this price. On the other hand, anyone walking around with cash, which, these days, fewer and fewer people are, is likely to be packing a $20 since that is what the ATMs tend to spit out, and handing over one of those is as easy as handing a $10.
Or maybe I should take a page out of the old comic “collectibles” game and stick each “Bob” in a plastic bag – free from the supermarket – to keep them “pristine mint” as an investment. Meaning the customer would need to buy a second copy if he wants to read it.
On the other hand, my Buddhist lesson of the morning said “No striving.”
And isn’t that what my business model has been?
Sit in the café and let it happen.

Adventures in Marketing — Weeks 424 – 428

Gave away a “Bob.” Sold an “Outlaws, Rebels…”
Just when I thought the economy was going to need Trump in order to recover.
The sale was to a thirtyish film maker from LA. He had glasses and a ponytail and was wearing a torn camo t-shirt and shorts. He was originally from Toronto and had come up with a hometown buddy for an A’s – Blue Jays game.
“Bet you didn’t have trouble getting seats,” I said.
“And so cheap we stayed an extra night to see another game.”
I charged him $20, but when I opened it to sign it, I saw the price “$10.95″ penciled in, so I gave him $5 back. Then I figured I had to pay postage, so I explained that and took the $5 back, only to then figure I had probably got this copy from Moe’s with no postage involved.
Still, we parted on good terms.
And the Jays won both.

The gift was to the director of the Alliance Heritage Center, which may require some back story for those of you who aren’t my cousins.
If I have the story right, in the late 19th century, a wealthy German Jew, Baron Hirsch acquired land in America for Jews residing in the Pale of Settlement to emigrate to. My great-
grandparents were among those who took the opportunity. Two choices were offered: Wyoming (or was it Montana? Or Idaho?) and South Jersey. All the Jews knew about the first option was that Indians lived there and eagles swooped down and bore off your children, so they selected New Jersey.
Hirsch’s plan called for the settlers to form farming communities ordered along socialist principles. This was a little difficult to implement since the tsar hadn’t permitted Jews to own land, let alone farm. But they settled in and struggled and thrived. My father’s father ran away while still a teenager and eventually became a doctor in South Philly, but his two brothers remained and owned farms we would visit while I was growing up. In the last half-century, the community has become of interest to historians, and now there is this virtual museum centered at Stockton University.
My oldest first cousin, who was visiting the cemetery where our parents are interred, also visited Stockton and met the director, who turned out to have been to 10 times as many Dylan concerts me. She wanted to buy him my book, but not being as venal as the first half of this “Adventure” makes me seem, I sent him one.

Every Picture Tells a Story

That’s the link to my latest piece in FOM. (I also have a mini-poem previously posted at FB.) If the link doesn’t work, which it probably won’t, you can paste it in your browser or Google my name and that title.

It’s opening (non-prefatory) sentence is “There was a time when pornography pushed as many buttons as uni-sex bathrooms do today.”


Last Ten Books Read (XXV)

(In order of Completion)

1. Gaddis. “Agape, Agape.” That finishes my Gaddis readings, at least temporarily. His last book and an unsatisfying one to go out on. If I re-read him, it’ll be “J.R.” first.

2. Labatut. “Maniac.” Another disappointment. Liked his prior book much better. The opening of this one was in line with it in style and substance and fine. The rest was a departure and not.

3. Greenberg. “Comics, Creativity & the Law.” A waste of time and money. I thought I might learn something useful – but didn’t. Someone might. Want a copy?

4. Miller. “Cashing in on Culture.” Ditto. Since it was about Brandx’s efforts to de-acquisition its art museum, someone thought I would like it. But it was poor journalism and barren of interesting ideas. Destined for a Free Little Library box.

5. Gray. “1982. Claudine.” The morning S. Clay Wilson left me behind in that bar (See: Levin. “Sicken ‘em or Enlighten ‘em”), the bar tender recommended I read Grey’s “Lanark.” I had forgotten what “Lanark” was like, but I liked it enough that when I read “Janine” was Gray’s favorite of his novels, I picked it up. An engaging blend of not-quite porn, political rant, and familiar novelistic stuff.

6. Chast. “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant.” This drew raves when published, so when the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund offered it as a premium for contributees, I selected it. Harrowing and (painfully) funny. I suppose it was Chast’s only way of dealing with her parents, their decline and their passing.

7. Kaplan. “3 Shades of Blue.” An account of the coming together of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans, their recording of “Kind of Blue,” and lives thereafter. The first portion was familiar to me but the latter new and informative. I would have liked it even better if I understood music

8. Charyn. “Jerzy.” Nah! A novel based on the life of Jerzy Kosinski but neither biographical, gossipy or creative enough to satisfy.

9. Elsa Morante. “Lies & Sorcery.” Morante’s first novel (and the second I’ve read). It’s 750 pages of feverish emotions and unfathomable behavior captured in compelling prose. “Operatic,” I summed up to myself. Takes a commitment but worth it.

10. Chast. “Going Into Town.” Came with #6 above. Compared to it a trifle. Depending on one’s attachment to NYC (Mine is minimal), it could mean more.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 423

Sold a café journal to a Swedenborgian minister in town for an event on Holy Hill. He’d had a long conversation at the next table with F___ in which the Gospels and Diogenes were discussed, topics on which I did not feel up to sufficient speed to discuss. My books caught his eye on the way out, but I did not get to drop into the conversation that the last Swedenborgians I had run into – literally – were at Bryn Athyn when we played them in football.
And – snapping the streak of people who took my card and from whom I never heard again – the ArtCar owner (see Adventure 422) returned and we completed our swap. I received an abstract of hers and she an “I Will Keep You Alive” and a “Schiz” from me. I told her, based on what she said the price her works commanded, she could visit my web site and, if she wanted more, let me know and I would bring them.
Also had a series of conversations with a family here for a graduation at UC. The grandmother, Marina (“Mary”), with whom I spoke the most, is Chinese. Her father had been in Chiang Kai Shek’s army, fled to Hong Kong when the Communists took control, and then to Seattle. The daughter-in-law and mother of the graduate, is from Tokyo and lives in Santa Ana. Her name is Ai. “A-I?” I said. “Like Artificial Intelligence,” she said. “Fooled me,” I said. “I could have sworn you were real”; and everyone laughed. They admired the “comradeship” on display at the café – but no one bought a book to commemorate their visit.

In other news…
Well, this isn’t true “Adventure in Marketing” material, except people like to read about those I meet so…
Some of you may know that for several years I have participated in a program where people who’ve had heart surgery visit hospital patients who’ve just had one to discuss concerns and anxieties they may have as someone who’s been through it. (“Walking role models,” we call ourselves.) This week I met a jolly, 300-pound, 59-year-old African-American fellow whose first name was “JFK,” but that’s not the story I wanted to tell. It’s about another patient.
Often, someone invites me to sit down, but I rarely do. I was only a few exchanged sentences into my spiel when, this time, I did. The patient with whom I engaged was a 75-year-old retired minister and widower of 14 years. He had been told that, after multiple procedures, nothing more could be done and he would die. He was, he said, unafraid, totally at peace, having lived a fine life, and looking forward to its next stage and seeing his wife again. We talked a long time. As I prepared to leave, I said that if he was still here at my next visit, I hoped to see him again. “I’m sure we’ll see each other, Bob,” he said, “if not here…”

Adventures in Marketing — Week 422

Sold a café journal and an “Outlaws, Rebels…” and discussed the swap of a “Bob on Bob” and did swap another and… Let’s take these seriatim.
1.) The journal sale, the least noteworthy – no offense, R_ – of the above was to a café regular (and repeat customer). He wanted a copy to replace one he had given to a friend.
2.) Two days later, a man in his early 70s, who had been sitting across the room, walked up, smiled, and asked, “May I take your picture with the Checkered Demon?” I go months without anyone recognizing my sign. W_ turned out to be a fan of Wilson’s, so I touted my article.
W_ and his wife were in town from Hudson, NY, for a wedding. He is an architect – an award-winning one, subsequent research revealed, and important figure in the New Urbanism movement. (Their son, a RISD graduate now in industrial design, had submitted a comic of his creation in his portfolio to gain admission.) We had a pleasant chat, which concluded when they asked for Berkeley’s best bookstore and I said Moe’s. They took my card and said they would read my book, visit my web site, and get back to me.
But so far nothing.
3.) The very next day, when I arrived, an ArtCar, festooned with sea shells and ceramic animals and plants, was parked in the space ahead of mine. M_, a retired book store manager, who was seated outside, opened a discussion of it, but before we got far, S_____, a young woman seated to his right, asked if we liked it. She, it turned out, was the owner/creator. I mentioned H_ B_, a major figure in the ArtCar movement, who used to come frequently (now occasionally) to the café, but she had not heard of him. M_ mentioned the annual San Francisco ArtCar parade, but she did not know that either. (She was new to Berkeley and hoping to find a place to live.)
S_ is primarily a painter of abstracts, which she showed us on her phone. I proposed a swap of one (or more) of my books for a print. When I pulled “Bob” from my bag, she said he has fathered two children of a friend of hers. I hoped to learn more, and she took my card and said she would get back to me.
But so far nothing.
4.) That same morning, as I was about to leave, in came R_, an 81-year-old fellow in a Joshua Tree baseball cap. He had come to the Bay Area in 1966 from Pomona, where he had studied poetry and philosophy. He lives in Oakland and had often heard about the café but never been before. For over 30 years, he has publishing a professional-looking magazine (32 issues so far) of photographs, interviews and essays, modeled on “The Sun.” It dips into art, the eternal, life’s meaning, and defining moments. Gertrude Stein, Heidegger and Wittgenstein are mentioned on p. 1 and Gurdjieff and Needleman later.
R_ asked about my writing and daily presence in the café and, after we’d swapped my book for his magazine, said he might like to interview me. I gave him my card.
But so far…

Adventures in Marketing — Week 421

Sold a café journal. The buyer was a hotel guest, a white-bearded gent with horn-rimmed glasses. He picked up “Outlaws, Rebels…” but when I asked if he was interested in comics, he only smiled. I described the journal as containing poetry, and he went for that. He said he was a poet, and Googled revealed a poet with his name, the author of an E-book in 2012, with work “written from (the)… heart” but said nothing else allowing for confirmation.
Then I sold a “Best Ride” to a septuagenarian PhD candidate in nuclear physicist. A café semi-regular, she comes dressed in scarves and shawls and earrings the size and shape of dreidels. She has looked over my books in the past, sometimes taking one or more to her table for perusal without every effecting a purchase, tempting to channel the inner drug store owner of my comic book reading youth and exclaim, “I am not a fucking library.” She has also developed a progressively deteriorating condition impairing her brain’s ability to express her thoughts. Even when she writes down what she is trying to say, coherence can elude her. Words repeat; pronouns do not suit; sentences do not appear. But the next morning, she looked up from my book to compliment the clarity of my style, and I gave her a “Cheesesteak” so she might see from where and how it derived.

In other news…
The big event was my Zoom at the NY Comics and Picture Story Symposium.
I had hoped to outdraw “Hollywood Squares” and succeeded. About a dozen people tuned in, and while a majority may have been there at my invitation, the rest were not. It lasted over an hour and, even though I forgot some good lines I had planned to deliver and failed to answer some questions as well as I would have liked, I had a wonderful time. (The You Tube link – “Adults Only” – available upon request – has had 62 views, with 7 “Thumbs-up.”)
My two favorite post-event exchanges have been with friends. One asked if it was true I had been a C+/B- student in college, as if I had falsely claimed that to give me some non-egghead cred. The other e-mailed “After all these years it helped me understand you better.” When I asked what veils had been lifted, he said from my “fascination with the obscene, perverse and tasteless.”
Which is not how I would have put it.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 420

Gave away a “Pirates and the Mouse.” A bit of cosmic coincidence was involved.

It was a slow week. I drew a couple potential customers’ interest. A young woman from Germany who works for the university in tech sales (or something equally foreign to me) and a middle-aged man who seemed skeptical of me at best. They both asked when I would be at the café again. They both took my card. I have neither seen or heard from either.
Things picked up when the contract for the film option on my Air Pirates book arrived. It was entirely pleasing until I reached the Warranty and Hold Harmless/Indemnification clauses. I have seen such clauses in contracts before, though not in all contracts. But then I have been talking solely about material I have authored. Here I would to have no say in or control of the contents of the film but was still being asked to take financial liability for it. Since I was only receiving a small amount of money, I was being asked to gamble that limited sum against an open-ended damages claim.
I put the question “Sign or Not” to the Authors Guild Members Forum. A half-dozen authors posted fervent “No”s. The only dissent came from an IP attorney. He said these clauses were standard; authors always squawked about them; but they were rarely of consequence and could, in fact, prove helpful to authors. He made several suggestions, all of which I passed along to the producer, and all of which he accepted, so I signed. (He also gave me three “points” in the net. I have been around long enough to know that, when we are talking films, you can be pretty damn sure there is no net; but I appreciated the gesture.)
Now, here’s the cosmic part. The IP lawyer had an unusual name, which I recalled of being that of the fellow who had married the younger sister of Adele’s college roommate with whom, I believe, Adele has had no in contact for more tha half a century. I put this connection to the lawyer and he confirmed it with his sister-in-law and passed along to Adele her best refards.
And I sent the book.