“It’s All Yours, Lestrade”

My latest piece has gone up at FIRST OF THE MONTH. The link is here:

http://www.firstofthemonth.org/its-all-yours-lestrade/

And a sample here:

Reading a book about the Kennedy assassination in a café was like wearing a Grateful Dead hat on Telegraph Avenue, except you were less likely to hit you up for a joint or hear how bummed someone’d been since Jerry passed. Sam, a house boat-residing pedal steel player, advised not overlooking “amazing mind control concerning the Oswald doubles.” James, a bus driver, on whose mustache you could hang an “Out to Lunch” sign, shared his belief in CIA involvement, then followed Goshkin out the door with tales of how it had also facilitated the rise of the Beatles. Lars, a real estate agent, asked if he’d read Fetzer.
“I have only this narrow interest in the assassination,” Goshkin said.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 278

Sold two books.

A fellow from “First of the Month” world bought a “Cheesesteak” and a “Schiz.”

In other news…

1.) “IWKYA” received a heavy recommendation at the on-line Mended Hearts Forum. (MH, for those who don’t recall, is an organization for people — or family of people — who’ve had heart surgery.) The thread in which the recommendation appeared was about the importance of care-givers, in which IWKYA does not stint.

2.) Two previous customers stopped by my cafe table to chat.

a.) J, an engineer, (See Adv. 275. “Cheesesteak”) told me he was enjoying it, said he was thinking about a career change, and asked about being a lawyer.

b.) L., unemployed, (See Adv. 277. “Schiz”) told me was enjoying it. “You’ve got some good ideas,” he said, leaving them undisclosed. “Did youy know Carol Doda?”

I’d forgotten I’d mentioned her.

3.) “Lollipop” remains in limbo. Artistic differences with cover-designer seemingly resolved, but editor seems to be prioritizing elsewhere.

ALL BOB’S BOOKS remain available at www.theboblevin.com. An SASE ($2.89, domestic) to POB 9492, will bring you a “Lollipop,” if and when.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 277

Sold one SCHIZ.
The buyer was L, one of the café’s semi-regulars, previously characterized here by denture gaps and chin foliage density. We’d had a couple of non-tease generating conversations in the past, but since I had been between creative projects for over 16-hours, I was open to the diversion. Taking note of the cover, he asked if I had been in San Francisco in the ‘80s. I said, “The ‘70s,” and we settled into a discussion of Melvin Belli, and I gave him a break on the price.

In other news…
1.) Received two SASEs at my POB for copies of the forthcoming LOLLIPOP. One was from a college friend (I think the first from that stage of my life) and one from a lawyer-pal (Ditto.) The latter came with a nice check. “In support of the arts,” he said.
Another friend says he “can’t handle” the SASE business and wants his copy when we see each other next and a former client/friend asked (again) for the price and my address.
2.) For purposes of these “Adventures,” I write as if I sell my books at only one café, but, in truth, there are two. When the first changed hands a few years ago, the new owner, a Francophile from Indonesia, decided to re-do it – to the displeasure of the regular customers – in his idea of a Parisian Belle Epoque boite. One idea was to foster its artistic image by devoting two shelves to books by patrons. Two fellows I know put up two; one fellow I know by sight put up three; so did a fellow I had never heard of. I contributed BEST RIDE. The other morning, I happened to glance at the shelves, and it was GONE. Had one of my fellow scribblers bumped me for shelf space? Had I alone had a secret (cheapskate) reader?
The other café has a Free Bookcase. (Take one; leave one.) During Covid selections have grown scanty. Two Pritikin cookbooks. A 1994 Writers Market. A 20-year=old Best Inns of Northern California. Some crime novels. I donated a coffee-stained copy of EEG and a work by one of my professors at SF State that were there for months and months, despite the paucity of competition.) Tuesday, having learned it had audience appeal, I deposited a BEST RIDE with my web-site identifying card, hoping it would be a loss-leader. It remained Wednesday but by Saturday – my next business day there – it was gone.
I think I will replace it. I am undecided about the filched first one.

BOB’s BOOKS are available at www,theboblevin.com. A copy of LOLLIPOP: a VISTA lawyer in Chicago: Sept. 1967 – Sept, 1968, can be ordered by sending an SASE ($2.89) to POB 9492 Berkeley 94709.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 276

No sales.
No notable conversations.

Gave away two IWKYAs.
One was to the coordinator of the hospital volunteer program, where I Mended Hearts at, because she was so helpful in helping me re-register when I was inept at doing it electronically.
The other went to my new internist, who turned out to be a fan of “Dr. Fleur” too. “You love her?” he said. “I love her too.”
“I’ve learned there are people who don’t like her,” I said.
“There are people who hate her,” he said. “She’s a pistol.”

As for LOLLIPOP…
One envelope has arrived from a basketball buddy, unstamped, but with a check that includes pure profit for the author. One writer pal has offered to buy lunch in exchange for a copy. (A coffee will more than cover it.) One college friend sent an SASE to my POB over a week ago. (I will take his word for it.) A cartoonist says he wants one but somehow he got the idea it is connected to THE PIRATES AND THE MOUSE, so I don’t know.
As for progress, my editor/formatter has shifted his verb from “rolling” to “chugging along,” which sounds like a slowing of speed, but since he’s working primarily for love, I dare not call for peddle-to-metal.

ALL BOB’S BOOKS available from www.theboblevin.com. Forthcoming LOLLIPOPs still available for an SASE ($2.89) to POB 9492, Berkeley 94709.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 275


Sold a Cheesesteak and a Schiz – and a check for Lollipop arrived. (Postage, plus something extra.)
The first sale went to a 30-ish fellow in a “BRASIL” soccer jersey. He was from Eritria, perhaps my opening to that entire continent’s market.
The second went to one of the café’s two surviving (out of four) Greek fisherman-cap- wearing, octogenarian “Irving”s. An MFCC and former jazz trombonist, his standard greeting to me for years has been “Bob! I read your book about Philadelphia,” and my standard reply (depending on the year) has been “Irv! There’s been one (or “two”) (or “three”) since.”
This time he bought. I think Shary Flenniken’s illo sold him.
“Ah! Tension reduction,” he said.

Then there was the conversation with the fellow wearing a bright red sweatshirt with a Christmas tree on it, Nehemia.
“The Shizz,” he said.
“Skizz,” I said. “Hard ‘C.’ Like ‘schizophrenic.’”
“But like a double-entendre,” he said. “Like the kids say. ‘The Shits.’”
“Okay,” I said.
Then he said, “You must know Malcolm Margolis.”
I said I didn’t. But I knew who he was.
Nehemia said he had read The Ohlone Way when he was at Berkeley High and it had changed his life. From there the conversation progressed to living in harmony with nature and a field trip to a fish emulsion factory – No, wait, that was another guy. Nehemia was the one with who the first true native Americans were, red, black, yellow, Viking. “They discovered, buried in the sand, that the ancient Egyptians had ocean-crossing vessels,” he said. “What did they have them for, if they weren’t going to cross oceans?”
I couldn’t answer.

REMEMBER: all books available from www.theboblevin.com and copies of LOLLIPOP still available if you send an SASE ($2.89) to POB 9492 Berkeley 94709. (My cover designer is having pen trouble, but my editor/formatter says — non-specifically but reassuringly — things are “rolling along.”

Adventures in Marketing: Week 274

Sold one Goshkin.
The buyer, a repeat customer for my works, is a mathematician who works most mornings at the café. He congratulated me for having used my pandemic down-time productively, then put things in perspective by pointing out that, during an imposed closure of universities in the 17th century, Newton used his free time to invent calculus. (Fans of Liebnitz may disagree.)

Also received three SASEs for my forthcoming Lollipop – one from a Mended Hearts colleague, one from a regular attendee at the Vanne Bistro readings I host, one from a basketball-centric writer-pal in SF. And a cousin in Arkansas sent me a check for postage, leaving it to me to pony up the envelope.
Additionally, missing the part about it not yet existing, another friend asked me to bring a copy with me to lunch, and the woman who’d asked me – See last “Adventure” – to weigh the book and envelopes, now asked if I had it in a pdf. I did – which raised the question for me, if I was giving the thing away, why I didn’t I just send people that instead of asking for the SASE. What I told myself was (1) I guess I want to honor my “book” by making it a tangible object (or a non-non fungible token to speak in language of the moment) and (2) I wanted the commitment to it from readers of at least two envelopes and postage.

For your personal copy of Lollipop send and SASE ($2.89, domestic) to POB 9492, Berkeley 94709. My other books are available at www.theboblevin.com.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 273

Sold a Goshkin and a Cheesesteak and gave away a Cheesesteak.
The first sale was to an attorney from Sacramento who specializes in police brutality cases. (I wouldn’t’ve thought there was enough police brutality in Sacramento to keep an attorney busy and there I go underestimating America’s capacity for injustice again.) He has bought books from me before, and since he is in Berkeley for the summer, looking after his grandchildren who attend day camp here, I look forward to discussing this one with him. Like others, he is interested in my choice of subjects he has barely – sometimes never – heard of. Why, for instance, he asked, did you write about Andy Kaufman? I couldn’t remember.
The second sale was to a thirtyish woman I didn’t get to learn much about because she was in a rush. She and her husband will be house-sitting at 49th & Cedar, six-blocks from where I grew up, and she welcomed the chance to aquire grounding in West Philadelphia culture and history. She was in such a rush she couldn’t pay me because she had no cash and I couldn’t get Square to work, so I gave her a copy. The next morning, the barrista handed me two $5 bills, with a note of a napkin from her. (Honesty from both of them.)
The gift went to a woman who was a few years behind me at Brandx. I didn’t know her but she is a friend of a friend. He thought she was from Philadelphia too but, no, New Yawk.

In other news…
1.) The biggie has to be the debutof my name in the NYRB. Not as I might have preferred – but a thrill nonetheless: a portion of my review quoted in an ad for Trots and Bonnie. (See a previous blog.) For that matter, to my thinking, not the juiciest example of my prose but my taste and the market’s do not always track.
2.) Sent 120, 130 e-mail/USPO notices of my forthcoming Lollipop giveaway – in addition to my previous blog/FB announcements. About 15% of the notified responded – and only two people (and if your initials are not PR or WM, you are not one) have sent me the requested SASE. (I’ve learned I’ve asked for 2-cents too much, so maybe that’s the reason.)
Seven people have said they would be sending checks or otherwise getting on it. (One said she’d send a check for more than I asked to cover the cost of the mailer and allow me some profit.) Two said they’d pick it up at the café, One asked for my address. (I had left that out of one of my first batch of e-mails.) One asked if I could send it to Philadelphia, rather than Jamaica, where she lives, since it would take six months to get there. (Or was it six weeks?) One person said “Thanks” and two “Congratulations” and one that he was “looking forward to it.” One said he was “overwhelmed” with reading at the moment – but forwarded my email to a friend so she might ask for a free copy in his stead. And one said she “could perhaps consider” my offer but asked if I could weigh the book and the envelopes so, I guess, she could make sure she wasn’t being over-charged.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 272

Sold two Goshkins.
The first went to “Rikki” (not her real name), a six-foot-tall, dish-water blonde with her hair wrapped in a red bandana. She wore black slacks and black top, with her midriff showing. “A musician,” she said.
Also my first transsexual customer.

The second went to “Anastasia” (ditto), a casually dressed, sixtyish woman with German accent. “Artist/philosopher.”
“What kind of philosophy?” I said.
“Still learning,” she said.
“Nazis,” she elaborated. Teaches in southern California.
My first philosopher too.

Feeling good about my increased business (not-to-mention my tapping new markets), I instituted a new policy. Ten percent of my gross into the baristas tip jar.
“You don’t have to that, Bob,” Jose said.
“I want to,” I said. Tapping my heart. “Nahis.”

In other news…
1.) Faithful readers will recall my sending an IWKYA to an artist, with whom I had connected via FOM, in thanks for his expert advice on the conditioning of cowboy boots. He has (more than) reciprocated with the gift of one of his works, a small (3″X5″), collapsible book, which folds out into 22 pages, with poems on 17. Dome Poems is the title. (Ours is “#208 of 200.”) The words are arranged with one (or two) on top, the rest descending down both sides, widening as they go. Sometimes it seems you must mix and match the words to have them make sense. Your own sense, that is. (“Trippy,” I would say, if I still said “Trippy.”)
2.) Faithful readers will also recall I recently completed the editing of a memoir by the Philadelphia-based boxing promoter, J. Russell Peltz. Beside being educational and great fun, I was paid both in dollars (American) and goods. The latter just arrived: a vintage poster advertising the May 1958 fight at the Arena between Lenny Mathews and Pappy Gault. (Seats $2, $3, $5.) A month later Mathews would K.O. Henry “Toothpick” Brown, at Connie Mack Stadium, on the undercard of Gil Turner vs. Sugar Hart, the first live fights witnessed, becoming my local favorite. (Charley Scott, who figured prominently in Cheesesteak, fought in one of the Mathews-Gault prelims.)
It’s at the framers now. Wall placement is being negotiated with Adele.
3.) Now a reward for those of you who have read this far. As previously mentioned, I will give a copy of my new book (expected release this summer) to anyone who sends me a self-addressed stamped ($2.91, domestic) envelope, at POB 9492, Berkeley 94709. A correspondent has suggested that the reason I got such a limited response (one), aside from having initially given out the incorrect Zip Code, was that people were unlikely to purchase something they didn’t know anything about.
It is true that I may have over-estimated the allure of my brand name – though I didn’t consider requesting postage much of a “purchase – so I have taken her lesson to heart. The book, entitled “Lollipop,” is an account of the year I spent in VISTA (Sept. 1967 – Sept. 1068), on the South Side of Chicago. During that year Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were killed, the Democratic Convention (police) riots happened, and I lawyered for a multi-thousand-member street gang. So the material is of interest, I would think.
The m.s. is with my editor/formatter now. I expect to print 250 copies. First come, first served – and I may limit the freebies to 100 or so. That’s up in the air

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 270-271

No sales.
But sent a gift “Cheesesteak” to a woman in Oregon. She had been part of my primary social circle in high school, but we had had virtually no contact in 60 years until her recent re=surfacing in an e-mail chat chain.
And swapped a “Goshkin” (and IOU for my next book) to my café pal Gene, Berkeley’s Boccaccio of contemporary seniors erotica. He’d put his COVID-imposed downtime to good use assembling a new collection of Tillie-and-Elmer stories, while penning and illustrating a Tillie-and-Elmer novel of positively gargantuan dimension.

Not that inquiring travelers didn’t drop by my table.
One was an amply bearded – but only partially toothed – fellow, with whom I bantered about ethnic make-ups of our childhood environs (San Leandro his; West Philly mine) and, surprisingly, our shared background in workers’ comp (attorney me; claims adjuster him). It was only after I excused myself to return to my laptop that I realized we’d had a similar lengthy – and unprofitable – parlez maybe two years ago. I should have recognized the gums.
There were also one or two musicians. I’m unsure because the first had said he’d be back and, while people who say that rarely do, they were about the same age and size and both played piano. Let’s go with “two,” which makes sense since the first said he was also an illustrator, which the second didn’t, and the second said he “covered” James Taylor and Stevie Nicks, which the first hadn’t. But their non-holding, non-spending habit was sure, bottom-line, similar.

In other news…
My most recent published piece, the result of impressive (to me) effort, received a discouraging zero reaction where it originally appeared and only four (comment-less) “Like”s when linked to at FB. But my blog, where this link also appeared netted a couple engaging e-mails, one from a friend and one, surprisingly complimentary, from a correspondent who generally prefers to push my socio-political buttons. “The Writings of a Master,” he said. I won’t argue.
Even better were the responses of the publisher’s representative who had sent me the book in question and that of its creator. They offered a level of connection and communication I don’t often experience from people I don’t personally know, but which warmed the heart. I often – bemusedly – wonder why I keep doing this, and happenings like these are reason enough to continue.

Bob’s books are available from www.theboblevin.com

JOKE BOOK

My most recent article is up at http://www.tcj.com/joke-book/

It begins:

How did this get here?
If I had been looking for someone to review Infinitum: An Afrofuturist Tale (HarperCollins. 2021), it would not be a 79-year-old white guy, who had not read science fiction, except for Phillip K. Dick, in, what, 50 years. Who had never read or watched or heard an Afrofuturist, except for Sun Ra, and, at the time, the ‘80s was it, all he knew from Sun Ra was he was a Black guy (then, a black guy), who played free jazz and dressed funny, though no funnier than the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and may have been off his rocker – no harm, there.