It’s been eventful.
I sold a café journal to my high school yearbook co-editor, now living in Oakland; and I sent five “Goshkin”s on consignment to Lexington for its illustrator, J.T. Dockery, to sell at a memorial-celebration for Ed (“Captain Kentucky”) McClanahan, the novelist and Merry Prankster, whose story “Juanita and the Frog Prince” J.T. developed into a graphic novella to which I penned the introduction; and Schmuel, an 86-year-old retired sound technician, told me he had picked-up a “Lollipop” in a “Free” box but couldn’t remember to whom I had signed it so I couldn’t learn who had placed it for adoption but did try to sell me a how-to-enjoy-life book of his authorship, even though he had never bought a book from me (Already enjoying life, I declined); and I sold an “Outlaws, Rebels…” to a 17-year-old Chinese-American high school student, who came into the café with his mother and father, who seemed primarily Cantonese (or Mandarin) speaking. It seemed an odd choice of book, but he returned a few minutes later and engaged me in a long conversation in which he asked me about the origins and history of the UGs and how they compared to political cartoonists today and then recommended I read “The Good Soldier Schweik,” which I went home and ordered, only to think, “Gee, the last time I read a book recommended by a 17-year-old, I was probably 17 myself.”
Two days later, my display attracted to my table “Serafina” (her pseudonym of choice), a bright, perky UC undergrad, majoring in environmental economics due to the influence of her physicist father, but whose soul was in art and writing. (She found what I was up to “Super-awesome.”) Serafina works with an organization, Left Margin Lit, identified on its web site as “a creative writing center offering classes, camaraderie and mentorship to East Bay writers of all backgrounds and levels.” It is half a block from the café, its staff highly credentialed – and I had never heard of it nor, I daresay, it of me. (Perhaps Serafina will hook us up.)
Not long after she rushed off to class or work, I was joined by “Rex,” a Hawai-born fellow, bearing a copy of Robert Crumb’s collected letters. Rex had logged 20-years as a Disney animator before a regime-change soured him on the place. He was set to buy a “Schiz” but he lacked cash and I couldn’t remember my Square password and when I told him about “The Pirates and the Mouse,” which I didn’t have with me, he decided he wanted that.
While these negotiations were going on, a white-haired, colorfully garbed, eternally smiling woman who had been floating up to and away from my table, smiling even more whenever I inquired “Wanna buy a book?”, settled down with us. Her name was Wong, “Suzie Wong.” (“I’ve seen your movie,” I cleverly said, as she adjusted her smile to that of someone who’d been hearing that for only 60 years.) She turned out to be Alaska-born – and what are the odds, I ask you, of meeting on the same morning people born in our 49th and 50th states? – a friend of Gary Snyder’s, and a resident of Seattle, where she believed – incorrectly – she had met me on a bus. She was in Berkeley for a performance/ritual involving Tibetan sacred dance, which triggered Rex, who, it turned out, lived in the Nyingma Institute, just up the hill. (The next morning, Rex returned and bought the Air Pirates book. After checking bookfinders.com, I see I over-charged him.)
And two days after that, I intervened in a conversation between a mother and a daughter, who were staying at the hotel of which the café is a part. The mother, who was from NYC, was explaining how the cafes there differed from the cafes here, and I offered that the cafes in Berkeley differed from ont another too. This led to me describing the café we were in and the journal written about it, which led to the mother buying a copy and me asking her name, so I could sign it to her, and her telling me “N_____,” a name I had never heard before and me asking its origin and her saying “Lithuania.” By now I had taken in that she was dressed both well and with flair so I inquired if she was an artist, and indeed she was. When I googled her she is the eighth most googled “N_____” in the world and her work (fine art photography) is lovely and mysterious.
Soon after they left, K____ arrived. She had lived in West Berkeley until her divorce, whereupon she had moved to the Central Valley where she had been a school teacher and principal and administrator and was now within one year of retirement and was trying to decide whether to return to Berkeley or to where she was originally from, which was… DRUM ROLL… Philadelpia. So naturally we had a lot to talk about and after she returned from her walk she bought a journal and a “Cheesesteak,” like I was some talismanic figure and my books would show her The Way.
Like I said, eventful.
It’s been eventful.