Adventures in Marketing — Weeks 380 -381

Gave a café journal to a retired pediatrician in Carmel, who regularly reads my blog and is intrigued by the characters my “Adventures” bring to my table. And I sold two books.
An “Outlaws, Rebels…” went to a young, pony-tailed, Hispanic physics professor, who knew nothing about underground/alternative cartoonists and wanted to learn. And a “Cheesesteak,” was purchased by a middle-aged, grey-bearded physicist, who had lived in Philadelphia for nine years, some of them near Clark Park, which exists in my memory because (a) the steepness of its hill loomed like Annapurna to seven-year-old boys with sleds and (b) its playing fields were the neutral site for the titanic struggle between my mid-elementary school, post-dinner softball gang, the Osage Indians (I guess we would be the Osage Guardians now) and our arch-rivals from one block west. (We won. I had a lead-off walk, advanced to third on two ground-outs, and was stranded.)

In other news…
Two notable encounters occurred.
One was with a man of about 60, who was on his way to Bandimere Speedway in Colorado for the Mile High Nationals, the largest drag-racing event west of the Mississippi. I was digesting the improbabilty of a life-long drag racing fan following a physicist and molecular (or cellular) biologist to within three-feet of my double espresso, when the fellow to his left shanghaied the conversation through references to fuel mixes, cam shafts, and carburators, and I retreated into memories of James Dean hurtling toward the cliff’s edge in “Rebel Without a Cause.”
The other involved Berne, the photographer-turned-tree-trimmer (See “Adventure 368″), who, in the intervening weeks, had seemed in the process of de-acquisitioning some holdings. He had asked me if I knew any yachtsman who might wish to purchase a pair of waterproof binoculars. I, in fact, knew a sailor on the Bay, and, though no sale resulted, Berne gave me a horseshoe for my trouble. (It now hangs on my study wall next to my Bill Sienkiewicz pen-and-ink.)
This time he wondered if I knew any knife collectors. When I said I might, he laid four on my table and had me take a photo and email them. My friend replied he liked the looks of one, “If it’s not a knock off.” Berne took offense at the suggestion. He wanted $25, and when my friend declined, I bought it. What the hell, I figured. I’d’ve loaned Berne $25 if he’d asked. This way I had a five-ounce steel Kershaw, with four-inch blade.
I could have used an instruction booklet. It took two days and three more conversations to clue me that if I pushed this button… WOW! And then to show me how to close the sucker without jeopardizing my thumb.
Let brigands beware. I am walking with new swagger in my pocket. Of course, my opening inquiry will be, “Do you have a gun?”

All of Bob’s books are available at

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 376 – 379

Sold no books, extending my record-breaking streak of goose egg-innings. The old business model may need tuning. In this regard, I note that my own FB link to a piece I wrote recently about a Serbian cartoonist drew one-third the “Like”s as her “sharing” of it, causing me to reflect that I may have more readers in parts of the former Yugoslavia than in 45 of the 50 states and maybe ought to open franchises in cafes in Zagreb or Sarajevo.

On a more positive note, the last café journal contributor to order copies (2) has paid for them. His check had first been promised six months ago; then a more reliable neighbor would post it; then his former martial arts trainer would deliver it. None of this was surprising, given the contributor in question; nor was the trainer’s neither delivering the check during the week or at the place promised. That it arrived was good enough.
And I gave three books away: a “Cheesecake” to Rex, with whom I have had fun comparing growing-up, him in Honolulu, me in Philly. (In Hawaii, I learned, there are no Jews, Irish, Italians. We are all “haoles”); another “Cheesesteak” to James, because the first one I’d given him had been lost when his truck, with all his belongings inside, had been stolen. (The truck and everything but his iPhone and debit card were recovered. He promised to return one “Cheesesteak,” so if any reader wishes to acquire a “pre-owned” copy…); and a “Lollipop” to the author of an on-line article about Chicago basketball sent me by her uncle. She lives across 47th Street from my old turf and I thought she (a) might like it and (b) throw some sales my way.

In other news…
1.) Had a long IWKYA-centered chat with a fellow from Cornell, in town for a “hack-a-thon.” He’s into computers and health care, and is concerned about cardio risk factors. (He might have earned more space, but he didn’t buy and was blown away by later encounters.)
2.) The first was with a young woman whose name’s uniqueness – Ginzy Gore – must have launched a thousand opening lines and whose bright orange hair would have made fire engines pull aside. She had been told to look me up by a fellow I hear from a couple times a year. He asks if I can put him in touch with an old girl friend, and when I say I don’t see her but Adele does, he says “I don’t think Adele is talking to me,” and I say I will ask her about the ex-, and Adele says “Enough’s enough. He can find Rhonda at Facebook.” Anyway, I was expecting, like, a waifish, ethereal aspiring poet or novelist, but instead in walked a woman who writes for scholarly journals about national security and the intelligence community – and with a self-possession that should have her showing up on CNN tomorrow. When I sheepishly revised my misjudgment and confessed my own area of expertise to be underground cartoonists, she revealed her work for a non-profit devoted to early recorded American music and her frequent communications with Robert Crumb.
3.) The next day, Elizabeth, a sweet-tempered octogenarian church harpist, who is receiving chemo for terminal cancer, got into an adversarial exchange with Emilio, a sometimes testy barista when she asked for a mask to replace her broken one. Behind her in line was Leon, a documentary film maker, who usually spends his café time dominating a table of admirers with loud-mouthed opinions sprinkled with celebrities’ names like flies on a shit sandwich.
“I’m sick of people playing the sympathy card!” he screamed. “We’re all dying! You’re just dying sooner than most.”
I recognized this as a philosophical position previously trotted out by Stoics, Buddhists, and Montesquieu, though generally more subtly moderated, and in a more empathetic manner. Besides, I’d never liked the guy. So I walked over to offer my opinion: “Mind your own fucking business!” I don’t have the fine points of the ensuing argument down, but, essentially, he asserted he can not stand by when workers are being abused, a sentiment not totally on point since the barista in question is management, and to which my rebuttal – formulated while reminding myself that, if it came to a right cross, to elevate my rear heel – distilled to “Asshole!”

Since Elizabeth didn’t have her hearing aids in and missed most of the debate, I got to repeat my version to a circle of her friends and was rewarded with two fist-bumps and a Namaste bow. She went to the corner flower cart and brought back a white rose for Emilio, who hugged her. They both cried.
When I told Adele, she reminded me Leon had recently lost his partner. “He’s grieving.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t’ve called him an ‘asshole,’” I said. “But he’s not getting a hug.”

All of Bob’s books are available from

Brief Encounter

First of the Month is running a mini-story of mine.

It begins:

Twenty, twenty-five-years ago, a Berkeley City College student started coming to the café where I took morning breaks. She was Mexican-American, with pouty lips, a low-back tattoo, and a glorious torrent of black hair falling across and below her shoulders.

Chekhov in the Funny Papers

My latest piece is up on line:

It begins:

The finest combination of words and pictures I have seen in some time is Ivana Filipovich’s Where have you been? (sic) (Toxic Ink. 2022). Filipovich is both a skilled artist and a talented writer. Her work rewards the eye and enriches the mind. You will not be sorry.
Her comics career comes, intriguingly, in two parts, nearly 20 years and 5000 miles apart.

Last Ten Books Read — xx

Author’s Note: This list is a bit bastardized since two of the books on it are minis – each well under 100 pages – and one, while absolutely a book, has no words. (On the other hand, I’ve omitted volumes one-through-four of “The Arab of the Future,” a graphic autobio by Riad Sattouf, because my intent was/is to write about it.]
Except for the Keegans, which are lumped together for my convenience, the books here appear in the reverse order of completion.
Okay, here we go.

1 – 3. Let’s start with Claire Keegan, whose “Foster” was recommended by my friend Bud (not to be confused with my friend Budd). I liked it; Adele liked it; her sister liked it; our friend Marilyn liked it. So I ordered more Keegan. First was “Antarctica,” which turned out to be a short story collection, and I don’t read short stories; but the title story was so terrific I thought I would re-evaluate my position, only beginning a short story collection with your best makes the others pale in comparison, so I didn’t. Next came “The Forester’s Daughter,” which has been printed as a stand alone book, rather than as the short story it truly is; but it is excellent too.

4. Kate Atkinson’s “Shrines of Gaiety.” A lightweight mediocrity. That’s it. I’m done with Atkinson until she brings Jackson Brodie back.

5. Warren Hinckle’s “Saving Pagan Babies.” A woman in the café gave me this as a birthday present – and because I think she had it lying around the house. The piece about Selma was good. So was the one on Hunter Thompson. The rest seemed shallow, over-romanticized, and/or re-cycled Jimmy Breslin. Hinckle may have been a good editor and brilliant publicist but as a prose writer I can take or leave him.

6. James A. White. “Ransoms Are for Amateurs.” A crime novel swapped me by a fellow at the café whose wife had read her poetry at one of the “salons” I’d hosted. It had a fine beginning and a pretty good ending and is worth a look.

7. Kenzaburo Oe. “A Personal Matter.” Found on the cafe’s “Free” shelf. Emotionally powerful. Surprisingly (to me) different than the last Japanese novelist (Kawabata) I came across on that shelf. I may read more by him.

8. Jim Blanchard. “Brothers and Mothers,” a collection of portraits of (primarily) celebrities rendered in life-like similitude, often based on photographs by eminent photographers, leading me to wonder what impact the Supreme Court’s recent decision on Andy Warhol’s appropriations will have on Blanchard.

9. Sarah Bakewell. “At the Existentialist Café.” Some of it was too difficult. More of if was great fun. The history of post-WW II philosophy with focus on the personalities involved. But if you can understand Heidegger, let me know.

10. Louis Menand. “The Free World.” (Recommended by my friend Budd, not to be confused with my friend Bud.) Terrific cultural history of America, from “containment” to Vietnam., esp. if you grew up through these years. Not only has Menand read and understood people I’ve barely heard of, he’s read and understood commentators on them, and can point out who is wrong why. Everyone from Levi-Strauss to Elvis is here.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 375

No sales.
Not even a nibble.
A fellow offered to swap the recitation of a poem of his authorship. I passed.
However, a few conversations to record before I fall too far behind.

1.) Young woman with light brown hair in neat bun sees my display and “Meet the Author” sign. “You must be the author.”
“Want to meet me?” I say. “Want to buy a book?”
“Oh, I don’t read. I mean, I read, but…”
“You must be one of those STEM students I’ve heard about.”
“That’s me.”
Her coffee is to-go, but she turns and comes back.
She has not changed her mind.

2.) Young man with matted, shoulder length dark hair, baggy white t-shirt, baggy purple shorts, belly like a slow-pitch softball slugger eyes my price stickers and says, “Too rich for my blood, man.”
On his way out, he recommends Alex Graham’s comic, “The Devil’s Gun.”

3.) James II asks about self-publishing for a book he is writing in which, if I have this right, Marx, Freud and Buddha meet, and the “soul” is discussed. It does not go well.
James II has close-cropped grey hair, a “Revolution” tattoo on his left forearm, and the skin of someone who has been spending time outdoors. He is up from San Diego for a spell before heading to Mexico. His t-shirt says “ Van’s Off-the-Wall,” which has outlets in L.A., S.F., and N.Y.C.
Present day Berkeley displeases him. The counter-culture has disappeared. Peet’s and Starbuck’s have blocked their electrical outlets so he can not plug in his iPad. The public library will not provided advice to aspiring writers. “The times aren’t right for what I bring to the table,” he says. “I have no idea any more where the table even is.”

The Return of “Shock SuspenS”

My latest piece is up at “First of the Month.”

Here’s a portion:

Goshkin mentioned that the horrors catalogued in Eric Foner’s review of Margaret Burnham’s By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners, (W.W. Norton. 2022) had traveled down his arm, his spoon and re-chilled his breakfast yogurt, the editor asked if he wanted to review it himself. Goshkin doubted he could add to the discussion. He feared his fall back attitude – “Cheeky,” a fan in Edinburgh once called it – would ill suit the conversation. “Sure,” he said.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 371

Sold one book – but it wasn’t mine.
The café has a shelf, situated above the table at which I usually sit, on which authors can display their works. (The owner thinks it provides the place a classy, literary swagger.) Only half-a-dozen take advantage of this. I have “Best Ride” up there. Some people have three or four. At least three languages are represented. No one seems to look at any of them.
The other day, a woman with a Hispanic accent, asked if I was a writer. I said I was and asked the same of hers. She said she had owned a nearby hair salon for 18 years and that her daughter was urging her to write a memoir. I told her of Left Margin Lit, across the street, and its classes. Then I pointed out a book on the shelf in Spanish: “Gringo Cabron.” She loved the title and since the author had authorized me to act on her behalf I sold it.

I also engaged in a bit of barter.
Faithful readers will recall “James,” the distributor of psychedelic medicines I met a few weeks ago. He had taken out a series of loans to be repaid on the first when his check came, but the first had come and gone with no repayments occurring. (Truck problems, he excplained.) So James gifted me with a small, glasseine envelope containing a white powdery substance which he described as “an analgesic psychedelic. Keep in a cool, dry, dark, place.”
“My sock drawer,” I said, “with the Ecstasy I was given last century.”
“I’ve learned the hard way Ex breaks down quickly, regardless of where you put it,” he said.
Touched by his spontaneous generosity, and since James had recently said he wanted to hear my “stories,” and with the best of them from my first 25 years in “Cheesesteak,” I gave him a copy.
But he is off on the “Transformational Festival” circuit, so I don’t know how much time he will have for reading. This weekend its Joshua Tree.

In other news…
I have signed a contract with F.U. (Fantagraphics Underground) Press for the publication of my new collection “True Tales of Comics, Conflict and Creativity: Messiahs, Meshgganahs, Misanthropes and Mysteries.”
Since my last contract, royalties and free copies have decreased which was explained to me by the publisher as the only way they could publish idiosyncratic books (like mine) in small runs (no problem) “and not lose our shirts.”
It does great stuff I am proud to stand among.

The Big (Blighted) Orange

“Everybody likes a seedy Hollywood story. Gritty sex. Tarnished glamour. Strangled dreams. But walking a graphic novel down mean streets already occupied by Miss Lonleyhearts, The Little Sister, Play it as it Lays, and Ed Wood is like the new kid calling “Winners” on a playground’s courts. Sammy Harkham struts Blood of the Virgin out with swagger, style, and a chip on his shoulder.”

So begins my take on Sammy Harkham’s graphic novel “Blood of the Vampire,” now available on-line at:

Adventures in Marketing — Week 370

Sold a café journal to a woman with short grey hair and tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses, who is a professor of anthropology emeritus at Cal. (She is the second emeritus professor of anthropology to frequent the café, the other being from B.U. I had lived 70-years without meeting an emeritus professor of anthropology, and now I’ve met two. What’re the odds?)
“You’re losing your library,” I said, having read the article in the “Times.”
“A tragedy!” she said – and filled me in on the sit-in, the depth of the depravity, and the chances for a reversal of fortune.
“Why is the university doing this?” said a woman to whom I had said, “Mind her own business” the last time she had butted into a conversation of mine. (See earlier “Adventure” where I am called “Old Geezer.”)
“Because they need to pay the football coach more money,” I said.
“Exactly,” the professor said.
She didn’t have enough cash but I let her take it anyway. She promised to bring me the rest before she and her husband left the country, but she didn’t.

In other news…
1.) My display drew the attention of a very thin sixty-something fellow, dressed in – from top to bottom – baseball cap, unbuttoned camo-shirt over Mount Tam Bikes t-shirt, cut-off jeans above leggings, multi-colored wool socks within paratrooper-length canvas lace-up boots and accessorized with multiple rings and bracelets. He had been born in Marin but not, he made clear, to affluence and, four years ago, had decamped for Mexico because the US had become unbearable. He is a journalist, specializing in politics and the environment, with 30-years of credits with “The Progressive” and was in town for Wavy Gravy’s 87th birthday celebration. In the course of a lengthy rap, which included no questions of me, he dropped the names of, among others, Joan Baez, Peter Coyote, Barbara Dane, Daniel Ellsberg (“Very ill”), Allen Ginsberg, Mountain Girl, Ken Kesey, Pete Seeger, Gary Snyder, (“Not seeing anyone”), and Ron Turner (“Recently lost his wife.”). I can’t say to whom else he would have gotten if he had not been joined by a well-known local political and environmental activist with whom he moved outside to continue conversing for another half-hour.
2.) The Introduction to – but not the contract for – my new collection arrived. It is about 1500-words of nice things said about my work from the perspective of someone looking down on one solid block assembled over 20-years, rather than as separate fragments laid one-at-a-time upon the table. It was also cool to have an outsider evaluate who this was and where it came from and how it fit into what I may not have known was there.