Adventures in Marketing: Week 289

A nicely dressed, young Chinese woman stopped at my table. She read the back cover of IWKYA and said, “Your wife is a gem.”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m very lucky.”
She didn’t buy.

But within an hour a PhD student (Educational Psychology) stopped. “Where you from?” I asked.
“Canada,” she said, nicely. “But my ethnicity is Indian.” That’s the second time you’ve made that mistake, I thought. Ethnicity, not “Whereyizfrom?” That’s West Philly speaking.
“You must be Bob,” she went on.
“Yup,” I said.
“You wrote these?”
“Wrote and published.”
She wanted a SCHIZ and an IWKYA. She didn’t have cash and I couldn’t get Square to work, so I offered to let her take them and drop the money off with the barrista. She said she’d meet me the next time I was at the café and buy the books then – and she did.
She was about the most excited customer I have run into since I started this business.

China, India…
Growing up, two Puerto Rican-born brothers came into my elementary school. In junior high, the nephew of a Central American dictator showed up for a year. (He and I had a fist fight. Not on political grounds.) In high school, we had exchange students from Germany.
I like the world better now.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 287-288

Sold a “Cheesesteak” to another of the café’s literatti. (She had bought an IWKYA previously and I had bought two of her books.) She had been eying my display, and, after I came back from taking a phone call (or peeing), she said, “I’ll take this.” She had asked one of her tablemates, a well-regarded folk musician, and he’d touted it because he’d found my youth in Philly had paralleled his, a few years earlier, in Detroit. (I was flattered by the comparison but I should say our tracks diverged our senior years of college. He had spent his in the Bay Area, returning to Ann Arbor only for exams. I didn’t go to class either, but I never made it out of Waltham.) “See what it takes,” she said. “Word of mouth from someone you respect” – and snapped here fingers.
Sold an IWKYA to Irving (See “Adventure” 275). Before he’d even finished it, he invited me and Adele to dinner. I thanked him but said, truthfully, we didn’t go out much. Like one dinner out with a friend in, I don’t know, the last decade, minimum.

In other news…
1.) A writer pal picked up the lunch check and said, “That’s for your VISTA book when it comes out.”
2.) Speaking of which, M sent the edited/formatted m.s., which I’ve reviewed/revised and returned to him for finalization. So it should be at the printer’s soon. If you want a copy in return for a SASE (or a lunch), get it (or the invitation) to POB postmarked by the end of this week. Otherwise, it’s cash only.

Last 10 Books Read (x)

In reverse order…
1. Anne Seirstad. One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway. I had forgotten I wanted to read this until I saw it on the desk of a policeman in a Scande-noir TV series and recognized that as a sign. An immaculately precise recounting – though few people might want to put themselves through it.
2. Lord Kilbracken. Van Meergren: Master Forger. Spotted it in a Free Box on the sidewalk and thought, Why not?
3. Neil Bascomb. Winter Fortress. Had seen a BBC series on this and wondered how much was true. As I suspected, there was no beautiful woman as second-in-command at the British commandos’ training sight. And I was left wondering what role they found for Kirk Douglas in the movie.
4. Tove Ditlevsen. Depending. Last volume in The Copenhagen Trilogy. (See prior Last Ten.) Thoroughly good.
5. Thom Jones. Night Train. Collects the best of his stories. He’d been recommended to me multiple times over the years, and some of these were excellent. Plus, his life was several stories in itself. Should make quite a bio.
6. T. Ditlevsen. The Faces. Adele wanted to read one of her actual novels and chose this one, about a young woman in a mental hospital, one of her favorite genres. Harrowing.
7. Harriet Doerr, Stones for Ibarra. Adele had re-read this and prevailed upon me to try it. I wanted something straightforward, uncomplicated and good. This fit the bill.
8. Howard Dolnick. The Forger’s Spell. I’d wanted more on Van Meergren. This didn’t satisfy me. But I’m done with him for now.
9. Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet. Reviews of his newly released 1000-pp. bio drew me. It begins with “nothing,” “depression,” “absurdity,” and questions of “identity.” No plot, no characters.. “The Father of Portugese Modernism” he may be, but, at my age, if I haven’t got a handle on this stuff… After a while I stopped even writing “???” in the margin.
10. Perchuk & Singh, eds. Harry Smith: The Avant-Garde in the American Vernacular. A fellow at the café who’d known Smith tipped me off to this. The stuff on his films was beyond me, but I liked the pieces about the “Anthology” – and Smith’s own writings were a hoot.

Meetings With Remarkable Men

A new mini- by me is up at:

It begins:

“1. He was at least two parties in Powelton Village (1964-67) with future Hippie Guru/Trunk Murderer Ira Einhorn.”

I am sure you will agree that is a good lead.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 285-286

No sales.
But I had this encounter. And I don’t mean the one where the street musician – a two-chord banjo player – with the burn-disfigured face asked if the Checkered Demon on my “Buy Bob’s Books!” sign was “The Devil.”
A grey-haired woman in white face mask and designer sweats asked if the Times beside me was anyone’s. I said she could read it, but I wanted it back. “That’s nice of you,” she said. “Are these your books?”
We recognized each other from the health club. I knew she was a painter. She knew about my heart. She picked up each book and looked at the covers, front and back. I didn’t pull the trigger of telling her the prices.
She admired Wilson’s line. She had studied with Crumb. She knew Spain from art projects in the Mission. She and Jay DeFeo had been neighbors. She had worked in Nicaragua with Sandanistas who had known Diego and Frida.
She kept looking at my books. The conversation kept going. She had been one of five members to return to the club the day it re-opened. (Adele and I have not returned yet.) She told me about the wonderful new manager. “He is one of us.” She said I should give a reading there. She photographed me, my books and sign. She said it was “a gift” to meet me. She wanted to hug but we elbow-bumped instead.
And I kept wondering, like any shop-keeper, if she would buy a book. For one thing, I wanted an “Adventure” to write.

In other news…
1.) The Warhol Foundation rejected my application for an Arts Writers Grant. (I didn’t even make it past the first cut.) This is too bad because I would have liked the recognition. But now I won’t be expected to write 10 pieces (1500 words or less) on “art” in the next 12 months. So that’s good.
2.) Two days later, an aspiring film maker asked if I would write a recommendation for a grant for which he is applying to fund a documentary on a cartoonist about whom my magazine article has been the “definitive” study to date. I said I would be happy too – but he might want to tie up the rights to my article first. So we are feeling out negotiating positions.

3.) A writer about/publisher of the comic-related, who has only recently discovered ECs, has learned I was a fan when they first stalked the land. He has asked to interview me about what it was like, I guess, to experience their character-destroying mind-rot as a kid. That should be great fun, though it makes me feel a bit like one of those last surviving witnesses to a global outrage.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 283-284

He was waiting for a bagel and café au lait and eying my books and smiling – and eying and smiling. Asian-American. Maybe 40. Pony-tail. North Face puffer vest, black.
He picked each book up, one-by-one, took in each front cover, turned each over, took in the back. He smiled and nodded and nodded and smiled.
I smiled, nodded, and gestured, like, you know, “Help yourself.”
He smiled and nodded.
Maybe he is mute, I thought. I handed him my card.
“Oh. You wrote these.”
Like I might be sitting here selling old books I had scooped up from my basement.
“It’s a treat to meet you,” he said.
He added, as if that was not enough, “It’s so nice to meet you. Really nice.”
Then he left.
A minute later, he was back. “I’ll take this one.” I Will Keep You Alive. “I feel lucky to have met you.”
I asked his name. “And what do you do?”
“I build things.”
“Commercial or artistic?”
He left again.
And then he returned and sat against the back wall.

I couldn’t leave it there. I wanted more of his story. Which he was happy to share.
He had been an English major who had gone into investment banking. He made a lot of money – but he hated the people he worked with. So he became a contractor. He built multi-unit apartment buildings and was about to build his first high-rise when the sub-prime crisis wiped out his financing. About that time, a close friend, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer, was told by her neuro-surgeon her best hope was to “smoke a lot of weed.” Then he had his own catastrophic injury, the recovery from which, its own “miracle,” had drawn him to IWKYA – and mine. It also accounted for his present career: constructing grow houses for medical marijuana.
“I feel blessed to have met you,” he said.
We agreed we looked forward to speaking more.
It wasn’t till a couple hours later I wondered how stoned he had been.

In other news…
Two previous customers stopped by my table.
The first (“Cheesesteak.” “Adventure 275″), was excited to learn my new book was coming out soon. He asked for my card so he could order it. When I said an SASE could bring him a free one, he waved his hand and said “No, no, no. I will buy it.
The second (“The Schiz” “Adventure 280″) wanted me to know she hadn’t read it. This time I was excited because I had thought she had – and was avoiding me. It has that effect on some people.

ALL BOB’S BOOKS are available from


One of the two mini- pieces, I mentioned in yesterday’s “Adventure” has gone up as part of a three-some at FOM. I hope you can get there from this link.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 283

Three sales in three separate transactions to people who were neither (a) friends nor (b) previous customers. Remarkable!
First came “Chuck,” a youthful 68-year-old guest of the hotel to which the café is appended. He struck up a conversation because I looked “interesting.” (I was braceleted, in red beret and Andy Warhol soup can half-boots, so… Yeah!) He manages apartment buildings for a SoCal billionaire. His favorite part of the job, he told me, was hearing tenants’ stories, “…like how they kicked meth. ‘That’s a great story,’ I tell them, ‘but never tell it to a real estate agent again.’”
Chuck had a never-used law degree, so we talked that. We talked Covid, hippie days, how the Chinese had bought up Pasedena in order to get money out of their country before their government could steal it, how I became a writer, how his brother had been beaten to death in jail by Orange County police in 1969.
He bought a “Cheesesteak,” and, since he didn’t want change, I threw in a “Schiz.”

Next up was “Aurora,” a pleasant, grey-haired water colorist. She went for “Goshkin” because of the illustrations. While signing it, I learned her husband wrote “gritty crime fiction” set in the San Francisco Tenderloin. Ooops, I thought, I should have pushed a “Schiz” on her. Well, if I run into her again.

Finally, “Uri.” He’s been at the café a couple months and his favorite table is about five-feet from mine. When he is on his lap top, which is all the time he is seated, he never pulls up his mask. I am tempted to say something, except half the time I am my table, I don’t pull up my mask either. Live and let live, I guess.
We had never spoken until the other day, when he asked me to watch his lap top while he went to the rest room. (Usually, like me, he takes it along.) The day after that, the ice broken, he asked which of my books was best for a long plane ride. Turns out he’s an Israeli mathematician, one of many who spends much time in Berkeley, I learned and he’s heading back to Jerusalem. (Weirdly, that makes at least four mathematicians I have met at the café – as opposed to the zero mathematicians I have met everywhere else in my life.

I told Uri of the Israeli TV shows I’ve seen, and he didn’t know any of them – except “Prisoners of War.” He only watches, he said, what hid kids do – and they prefer American TV, like “Friends.”
He bought a “Schiz” too.

In other news…
1.) One more SASE received for a “Lollipop.” This from a comics world pal. [If you want one, send the envelope and sufficient postage – $2.89 domestic – to POB 9492, Berkeley 94709.
2.) A friend forwarded me an email to him from the son of a deceased friend of his. My friend thought it might merit noting in an “Adventure” since the son mentioned “Best Ride,” having found it among a caron of books belonging to his father. The totality of this mention was that the son had “enjoyed ‘Last Ride’… (sic)”; but since this came amidst 16 lines of praise of and comments upon my friend’s writing, I could not resist – perhaps ungenerously – wondering what he really wanted me to note.
3. Have two mini-pieces (one “political,” one “cultural”) waiting at “First of the Month.” I am also to review a collection of letters from S. Clay Wilson to Charles Plymell for “The Comics Journal.” Wilson was, of course, the great UG cartoonist – and a great letter-writer, usually adorning them with his drawings, and Plymell was a semi-great, semi-Beat poet; and this is the first collection of Wilson’s letters to see print.
But it was in a 100 copy edition and was priced at $99. WHOA (expletives deleted !!! I thought, But then I thought, Hey, the Journal will pay me that. So I am feeling very shrewd and very professional and very looking forward to it.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 281 – 282

Sold one “Goshkin.”

The buyer was an 85-year-old, retired ER physician, whom we knew from the health club, and who had bought other of my books. She’d recently sold her house and moved into an apartment a block from the café, so I should see more of her. (Turns out she grew up in Chicago, so she should be a “Lollipop” reader too.) She recommended “The First Man,” and I ordered it

Have been sitting outside the café in the nice weather, but business has been slow. The only interest was shown by a fellow who recognized The Checkered Demon. “Is that an original?” he said. “The original’s on a wall at home,” I said. He turned out to be an illustrator/poster designer, who said he’d partied with Wilson in Crockett or Hercules, though I have trouble seeing Wilson in either of those places.

And I heard from Irv. (See “Adventure 275.) “I read your book, Bob,” he said. “And?” I said “It made me smile,” he said, “but it’s not Doestoyevsky.” “Making people smile in these troubled times,” I said, “is a good thing. And I agree with you, it’s not Dostoyevsky.”

In other news…

“Lollipop” took a leap forward toward realization, when my editor completed his read, catching typos and calling into question a number of my word choices. He also had me, with little objection, cutting four entire paragraphs, two here, two there. Some “big picture” questions remain, but, all in all, things are good.

A copy can still be yours for an SASE ($2.89) to POB 9492, Berkeley 94709.

All my other books (some pre-owned) are available thru this very web site.

State of the Union — or, for that matter, the world

My latest piece is up at First of the Month. It’s a mini-mini-story, so mini- that I will forego my usual tease of quoting how it begins. You will have to go directly to it. (Looks like you have have to copy/paste it into your browser. Good luck.)