Adventures in Marketing — Week 419

Gave away a “Cheesesteak” and a café journal to the daughter of a college friend and her transgender son who were in town from Seattle checking out UCB as a potential college. (He has also been accepted at USF, UC San Diego, Occidental, and a couple schools in DC.) I related how I ended up in Berkeley and recounted a drunken, rowdy night 60-plus years ago, when the father/grandfather and I bonded, and I heard of the son’s political and artistic interests. It was a rich morning.

In other news…
1.) This same friend and I have been exchanging noteworthy birthday presents for years. Most recently, I gave him a coyote skull and he gave me a custom made bowling league t-shirt. The front showed a large, lavishly and gruesomely depicted skull in handsome black-and-white. On the back, above a ball scattering pins are the words “AUTHORS STRIKE.” One sleeve bears an American flag (perhaps more provocative in Berkeley than the skull). Where the breast pocket would be is a smaller skull and cross bones (or, rather, cross pins) and, above them, my name. Now some back story.
One of the café regulars is a 94-year-old, old lefty originally from NYC, a former fitness instructor and dancer, who was left a widow a year or two ago. She is very sweet and very chatty but hard of hearing and slipping a little. Recently, whenever Bob Dylan comes up in conversation (or when she notices my book), she will say, “I knew his first girlfriend,” which really means she was friendly with the parents of Suze Rotolo, the girl on the cover of “Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,” and she will add, “Her mother told her he wouldn’t amount to anything.” I will then reply, “You knew his second girl friend. His first girl friend was Echo Holmstrom from Hibbing, Minnesota.” She will not hear me or she will hear me but not absorb what I have said, and we will have this same exchange again and again and again.
The other day, I wore my new shirt to the café. When she saw my name, she said, “I knew him. Bob Lev-en,” giving it the New York pronunciation.
“Li-vin,” I said, making it, like me, from Philadelphia.
“I knew his first girl friend,” she said.
Sweet – but sad.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 418

Sold one “Bob on Bob.”
The buyer was my former secretary. She was passing the café and saw me and stopped by. Commerce resulted.

In other news…
1.) Things have been moving along in a variety on non-writing-but-writing-related fronts.
(A) The option agreement for “The Pirates and the Mouse” is supposedly en route. What, if anything, is on the table me remains undiscussed. I wonder how I will respond: money grubber or fool? (B) Have prepped for my upcoming symposium talk. Wrote it out (12 pp.); condensed it onto 3X5 cards (12) as I learned in 9th grade public speaking; tightened the contents of the cards, then considered tightening all 12 onto one but recalled the joke of the fellow who condensed his speech to a key word – and forgot the word. (C) Have been invited to discuss the Air Pirates on the podcast of a young fellow who, from the looks of his prior broadcasts, is interested in (i) the counter-culture and (ii) a multitude of conspiracy theories. I disclosed I thought Lee Harvey Oswald did it, and he agreed to keep away from that subject. (D) A woman compiling an anthology in tribute to Trina Robbins for UMiss Press has asked permission to reprint my CJ interview. That interview is slated for inclusion in my new collection from FU Press, and the editor/publisher says granting her request may reduce sales of my book by diminishing its exclusivity or increase sales by broadening my name recognition. Since I figure we are talking low single digits either way, I said she should go ahead.
2.) This isn’t writing-related at all, but since readers like hearing about my café encounters… On recent Sundays, my favored table has been occupied upon my arrival by a fellow who used to sit against the back wall near the rest room. He is in his 70s, with close-cropped hair and bad teeth. He is usually on his iPad and keeps his belongings in a small cardboard Domno’s Pizza box. He usually leaves by the time I have finished the Chronicle (5-10 minutes), and once I see him packing, I prepare to shift.
We had begun exchanging a few words and last week he asked if I was a registered Berkeley voter. I said I was, and he asked if I would sign some petitions for which, I assume, he collected compensation for each signature he snagged. So this week I asked if he had any new petitions. He did, so I signed them. “What’s new?” he said.
“You don’t know anything about me,” I said, “but since you ask, I’ve got a new defibrilator.”
Then we discussed it and my heart history, and when we were through, he asked if could add me to his prayer list. Adele and I are already on the prayer list of a woman in NYC I went to high school with, so I said “Sure.”
Can’t hurt, right?

Adventures in Marketing — Week 417

Sold one book.
The buyer was Steven, the lawyer-turned-glass-artist who had bought a “Cheesesteak” some weeks ago. This time he wanted an “Outlaws, Rebels…” for his son, a film maker turned psychologist.
This alone would not have been enough for an “Adventure.” But then came Duffy.

He was sitting alone, dressed in shabby clothes, a stocking cap, sneakers but no socks. He had grey stubble and lacked a few teeth. He had a duffle bag, bed roll and blanket. A variety of belongings spread across his table, including William Barclay’s “The Letter to the Romans,” with which he seemed to be conversing in raspy tones about scripture. Normally I would have steered clear, but when I passed by for a glass of water, he greeted me cheerfully.
I had settled into my normal routine when Ken arrived. We’d met in the ‘70s, and he lived nearby in Section 8 housing, but I had not seen him in years. Ken has given tennis lessons and done telephone sales – and has never bought one of my books. (Sorry, but I think like that. It’s a mental tic.) He was at the café to brain storm with a city council candidate, an earnest, curly haired, pro tenants’ rights, pro-open spaces young woman, who occupies a table once-a-week to court constituents. (She has not bought any of my books either, but then I do not live in her district.) Ken said he’d join me until she arrived.
Before he could, Duffy was beside me. “I’ll pay you $5 to send an e-mail.”
“You don’t have to pay me,” I said.
The transmittal proved complicated. He had to send a photo of both sides of his drivers license to a bank to verify his identity. There was other information to provide and detailed instructions to follow. The only way I knew to do this was to take two separate photos (front and back) and send two separate e-mails, so I had to provide the information and follow the instructions twice. It seemed to have worked, but Duffy said I’d receive confirmation, and I didn’t.
“It’s Sunday. Maybe they’re closed.”
“They’re open 24, 7,” he said. But he seemed satisfied.
“If you’ve got $5 to throw away,” I said, thinking I had an “Adventure” here, “why don’t you buy a book?”
“You write these?” he said.
I described them.
“I’ll buy you a couple beers.”
“It’s 10:00 in the morning.”
“A bottle of wine then. The Apostle Paul wrote Peter wine is good for the stomach.”
We agreed to meet in a week. If his transaction had worked out, he would buy a “Bob on Bob.” Which led to a story about him wandering around Buffalo wearing a robe in 1987 and being invited into a convent and fed by nuns who had apparently taken him for a wandering priest. The convent adjoined a field and when he left, he heard music from it that led him to a concert of Dylan and the Dead.
The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Adventures in Marketing — Weeks 415-6

Sold two books – and bartered two more.
Both sales were to a young SoCal cartoonist/editor/publisher, who had sent me an unsolicited copy of his book. He had enjoyed my interview of S. Clay Wilson, so I’d suggested he might also enjoy my earlier profile of Wilson. I told him it was in “Outlaws, Rebels…” without even saying it was available from me. But he found my web site and ordered both it and “The Pirates and the Mouse.” I was sufficiently touched to say I would meet the price (including postage) he could have picked them up for on-line, which is where I go to replenish my supply when I dip below the number I like to keep on hand.
The swaps were as follows. (1) When the above mentioned SoCal fellow had sent me his book, I had asked my café pal Fran, who makes individually designed post card objects d’art, for one by which I might say thank you. In return I dealt him a copy of J.T. Dockery’s graphic adaptation of Ed Mcclanahan’s “Juanita and the Frog Prince” for which I had written the introduction. (2) I made the acquaintance of a pony-tailed nomadic sort in town briefly while he picked up a van. He identified himself as a poet (with the last name “Doubleyou”). After we had discussed our crafts and business models, he gifted me with two of his books and I gave him a “Cheesesteak.” His are slight (10 pp. and 20 pp.) and made by folding sheets of paper (8 ½” by 11″) sheets, in half and binding them by hand-stitched threads. The poems are direct, real and cosmic, and I liked them.

In other news…
1.) The Korean psych research assistant I let have an IWKYA on credit has not returned to make payments. And the film maker who asked for a copy of my Air Pirates book for his grant writer overlooked paying for it upon delivery, and when I handed over my archival material, while he repeated his offer of an “option,” he also let drop his being short of funding at the moment. No contract has, as yet, been forthcoming and no option nailed down. (Meanwhile, on a more positive note, Fantagraphics says it will do a reprint.)
2.) Notables who have dropped by my table include (a) a 40-ish guy in an olive zipper jacket, and olive pants, who is, according to his company’s web site, the publisher of “best-selling Indian and Pakistani crime novels, Nigerian soyaga fiction… and picture books about young women in love with monsters.” A fan of “Yummy Fur,” he looked over “Outlaws, Rebels…,” which includes my piece on Chester Brown but did not buy); and (b) a charmingly British accented young woman who works as a recruiter for a video game company. She had yellow hair and the brightest red fingernails to have ever gripped one of my book covers. Pretty as a Daisy, which happened to be her name.

Last 10 Books Read (xxiv)

In Order of Completion

Introductory Note: This list has been influenced by my café pal Fran, who tries to push tomes of experimental fiction on me. I read some. I start and put others down. I push others back across the table, unopened. All the while, I am learning what I like in books and what I don’t. I see that at my age I have limited room and time for expansion. Anyway…

1. Ivana Armanini, ed. “Komikaze 2023.” An anthology of European comix in which the visual excellence and excitements outshines the verbal. A mind-expander as to the possibilities of the form – and a contradiction of my statement above that I can’t broaden my tastes.

2. “The Letters of William Gaddis.” Recommended by a clerk at Moe’s who saw me approaching with “JR (See below). I’ve been enthralled by Gaddis for months. The earlier letters, being primarily to his mother during years in which a young man is not likely to share certain experiences with his mother, are of limited interest, but the later ones make me feel I don’t need to read his biography. Gaddis, great as he was, reassuringly maintained gripes and grievances that were familiar and amusing.

3. “Jack Green” (Not his real name). “Fire the Bastards.” Green, an eccentric Greenwich Village resident, published his own newspaper in which he championed Gaddis’s “The Recognitions.” This book collects pieces in which Green calls out Gaddis’s critics by name, excoriating those whose familiarity with the book came entirely from its jacket flaps, who misunderstood what they did read, who were blinded by atupidity and prejudice. Great fun.

4. Cormac McCarthy. “The Passenger.” McCarthy is among my favorite contemporary authors. I’ve read all his novels and this and the simultaneously published “Stella Maris” (See below) are his last. It begins like a conventional enough thriller but soon turns into a series of existential conversations between the protagonist, Western, an unlikely ex-physicist, former Grand Prix driver, and salvage diver, and equally colorful characters of his acquaintance, criminal and legitimate. Some of these are deep and thought provoking, but the only one I know something about, the JFK assassination, is nonsense. I regret the book didn’t continue as it began, but that mayn be my limitations speaking. McCarthy, at the end of his life, seemingly had more important thoughts he felt the need to set down.

5. John DiSanto. “The Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame.” A collection of a photo of and a paragraph of prose about a sampling of members. There are a lot. One needn’t possess a winning record, let alone a championship belt, to merit inclusion, it seems, and the presence of Blinky Palermo means there is no “good character” requirement for eligibility.

6. Carter Scholz. “Magic.” A Fran recommendation. It is a collection of “hard” science fiction and a couple op-edish entries, which I skipped. I liked the premise of the title story and an epistalatory one that followed, but I am not a sci-fi fan and this did not entrance me.

7. William Gaddis. “JR.” Perhaps Gaddis’s finest novel. After finishing I almost began it again. (But it’s 750-pages, and other matters called.) I often lost track of who was who, what exactly was going on, and how things were working out for whom, but it was magnificent. I am sure I will return to it.

8. Carter Scholz and Jonathem Lethem. “Kafka Americana.” Passages were engaging. Encountering Kafka, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, Walter Keane, “The Trial,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” was entertaining, but like Gully Jimson said to Lady Beeder in “The Horse’s Mouth” about the “clever,” it’s like “farting Annie Laurie through a keyhole…. (I)s it worth the trouble?” Where’s the consequence? I grant you this may be my arterio-scleroticized brain speaking.

9. Thich Nhat Hanh. “Only Connect.” (Second time.) Everybody ought to keep a little Buddhism bedside. A read a snatch most mornings to prime my day.

10. Cormac McCarthy. “Stella Maris.” (See Number 4, above.) Now the conversations are between a patient in a mental hospital, a mathematician (and sister of the salvage diver) and her psychiatrist, with the former getting the best of the exchanges. (It isn’t close.) These exchanges are about math, physics, psychiatry, the nature of reality (and hallucinations) and life. It is under 200 pages and I will go through again, taking notes so I can discuss it with Fran.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 414

Sold a “Cheesesteak” to a pleasant, back pack toting young fellow in yellow rain slicker. He is of Syrian ancestry and has a PhD in agricultural economics.
And I “sold” an IWKYA to a young woman from Korea (white sweater, black slacks), who is a research assistant in psychiatry. This transaction is in quotes since she didn’t have cash but I gave her the book in exchange for her promise to leave money with the barista. So far he received any, and though there are two Asian young women in the café this morning, neither has shown any sign of recognizing me, and I realize I am not certain I could pick my customer out of a line-up anyway.
But I maintain faith my trust will be rewarded.

In other news…
1.) An elderly semi-regular woman, who had never previously spoken with me, looked over my books and said she had a photograph I must see. What she produced – after going home for it – was not a photograph but a photocopy of what looked like a Daumier drawing of a perhaps alcoholic gentleman with a cup in one hand. The caption, in both French and German, seemed to entitle it “The Coffee Drinker” and depict a member of the lower depths who needed its daily dose for his digestion and would have it even if he could not afford to eat. (What then, I wondered, would he have to digest?)
I didn’t see that this drawing had anything to do with me, but it did remind me of a story which, since I am short of content, I will repeat here, even though I didn’t bother telling it to the elderly, semi-regular woman. When Adele worked for Mr.Peet in his first store– yes, that Mr. Peet – he confided that the reason he had opened his business was that in hard economic times, whether depression or recession, the last luxury people would give up would be coffee.
From that acorn…

Adventures in Marketing — Week 413

Sold a “Bob on Bob.”
The buyer is a café semi-regular (and repeat customer). An artist/teacher in a school for the developmentally handicapped, he is a man of strongly held beliefs on some of which, such as that Muhammed Ali really knocked out Sonny Liston, he may be on firmer ground than I. (He still sends me You Tube videos to prove his point.) On others, like who-killed-Kennedy, his footing would be steadier if his shoes were spiked with marshmallows.

In other news…
1.) Had I mentioned that “Stan” has a jazz musician friend who asked, when told I wrote for a comics journal, “What comics journal?” and it turned out so had he. The three of us met for coffee, and while each was was familiar with the other’s name, he was stopping about when I was starting, and neither of us mentioned reading anything by the other. But our conversation went well, dipping into “hard” sci-fi, a genre he now writes in, and AI, both topics about which I was the least informed, and the works of William Gaddis, by which we are equally enthralled.
2.) Met with the fellow who hopes to make a documentary about the Air Pirates and came away with visions of a low-to-mid three-figure advance dancing in my head. (An “Executive Producer” credit seems out of the question.) I have promised complete cooperation and have scoured my archives for anything that may warrant a frame or two of film. He has a lot of experience (and credits) and plans to make a brief pitch video to show potential investors in order to speed up the usual funding process, for if left to run at its usual pace and actuarial tables are to be believed, neither Dan nor I may be around for when shooting would start.
3.) Received an unsolicited comix anthology with no note of explanation. It is a classy publication: B&W, 8 ½ X 11, 156 pp., 19 contributors, all previously unknown to me. The title, “ClusterfuxComix,” conveys a good sense of the work and sensibilities on display. I have yet to delve into it but am gratified (and amused) by the vicissitudes of life that have resulted in my becoming someone selected to receive such a volume and not a person chosen to receive, say, a graphic adaptation of “The Recognitions” or “JR.”

Adventures in Marketing — Week 412

Sold an IWKYA and – sort-of – a Best Ride” and an “Outlaws, Rebels…”
The first, discounted, when to my café pal “Stan.” He believed he had previously bought a copy but has been unable to locate it and, having recently met Adele, wanted to hear more of her voice.
The other two were a Pay Pal order from someone I do not know. Since Pay Pal seems to no longer tell Sellers the addresses of Buyers, I had to email him to request it. He has not yet replied, and Pay Pal’s Customer Service operation has me stymied, so the books are sitting there, unaddressed an unsigned. (The two books selected struck me as representing an odd combination of interests, and I was curious what explained the purchase.) I found four people at FB with the name of the buyer, but none seemed an obvious match for him.

In other news…
1.) The article I am hoping to write is still spinning its wheels. One lengthy phone interview conducted (and a couple more background articles read) and I have still not gained traction. When I click the meditation marker on my Apple watch and am instructed to focus on my thoughts, the assignment remains front and center though.
2.) I had given a gift “Bob on Bob” to the cafe’s resident roots music guru, who had known Bob when. He is a nice fellow, eminently knowledgeable about that scene, and had given me a CD of himself, playing and singing. Recently, he has taken to selling from his table a how-to book he has self-published, along with th4 café journal in which he has a couple songs. The other day, I learned he had added to his offerings the “Bob” I’d given him. (He is asking the cover price, and it comes signed.)
I didn’t know whether to be insulted or flattered he hadn’t simply dumped it in a Free Little Library box like I have been known to do with books unloaded on me.
“Tactless,” a well-bred Manhattanite of my acquaintance offers.
3.) Meanwhile, the Air Pirates movie phantasmagoria gains flesh. I am scheduled to meet with one of the principals this week. He is well-credentialed and, on the phone, sounds like a solid dude.
Excitement builds.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 411

Sold a “Fully Armed” and a “Schiz” to a librarian/aspiring cartoonist with whom I originally connected through “The Comics Journal.” His reading of me has expanded into other areas, which is a rewarding experience. But not the week’s best story.
It begins…

She was an Iranian-born software engineer from Toronto. She wore a purple sweater, purple slacks, and a purple patterned scarf. She was in her 40s, with blonde highlights in her black hair and fingernails polished in different colors. She had woken at 4:00, she told me, meditated, and walked on Grizzly Peak. Because she planned to write her memoirs, she asked the universe to connect her with a writer. Then she had headed down toward campus and, without even noticing my books, had recognized me as one.
“I must compliment my stylist,” I said.
She asked if she might join me, so I cleared space at my table.
She had to call her daughter in an hour, but our conversation blew way past that. It actually was not that much of a conversation. She barely asked me a question and I did not have to ask her to learn her father had been in the Shah’s air force and, while in the United States as a governemental representative, had a secret marriage and child. She had been married at 19, arranged, unbeknownst to her, to reconcile her family with one with which it had been feuding. She has another “marriage” now, entered into to appease her husband’s father, but she and he do not live as husband and wife. (“Partners in crime,” she calls her husband and herself.). There is a man in the UK whom she has turned down four times already but who is now ill and whom she may visit tomorrow. She comes from a family of “nomads, but “Not like gypsies. We travel from palace to palace.” She had been sexually molested by a seven-year-old cousin when she was five. She would have been a model, but in her family you did not become a model. You became a lawyer or doctor or engineer. Her spiritual guides include Wayne Dyer, an Iranian physician/ nutritionist, whose name escaped me, and Louise Hay, who counsels loving one’s self in order to heal.
Of course, she would buy a book of mine. What would I recommend?
And she wanted one for the man in the UK.
And one for her partner.
And one for each of two cousins.
Bob on Bob and Bob on Bob.
In the end she had bought all ten books I had with me.
But she did not have cash. I could not get my Square to work and I did not trust my bank (or me) to be able to handle the electronic transfer of funds she proposed, so she offered to go to an ATM.
W., who had arrived an hour into our interaction, waited with me.
And waited.
And waited.
She had left behind her glasses (of no use), her iPad (a cheap one, W. said), and all ten books, which I could easily re-sell if I ran across other Iranians with the same names as her, her friends and relatives.
I called Adele and said I would be late – but would have a good story.
W. had to get to work.
I waited some more.
She arrived with cash. She wanted to pay me extra for making me wait. (I settled for an orange juice.) She asked what I would charge to edit her memoir. I said to send me a few pages to look at. She said she would bring them with her the next day. What time would I be heré?
I have not seen or heard from her since.
Did she go to the UK?
Did she wake up and wonder what she was doing with these books?

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 409 – 410

Sold three books.
The first was a copy of the café journal which was purchased by R__, an ex-social worker and a regular, who wanted it as a gift for S__, a retired domestic relations attorney turned cast glass artist, garbed in a red, bulky cardigan, so bright hook-and-ladders would brake for him. S__ was visiting from NYC but had had lived in Berkeley for 50 years and been gone for ten.
Hearing R__’s request, F, my tablemate and unofficial under-assistant West Coast promo man, asked if R had read any of my books. He said, “The one about the homeless guy,” which surprised me since I had been chilly toward him for months, believing he hadn’t read any.
“Where’d you get it?” I said.
“From you.” Which immediately elevated him in my eyes while lowering me in the same.
F__, upping the ante, said he had read all of my books, and all were terrific, implying to cultivated person could do less. This sparked S__ to announce he had a shelf for books by authors he had met and picked up a “Lollipop” and an “Outlaws, Rebels…” for it.
“How’d you know to come to Berkeley in 1962?” I asked.
“I had bad grades,” he said, “but California was required to admit anyone who had high test scores, no matter from what state they were from and Berkeley was the best school I could get into.”
Of such are futures made.

In other news…
1.) A discussion between myself and five friends/correspondents led me to refer those interested in my books to my web site. Nary an order resulted and the only sign of anyone going there was a comments from one fellow pointing out that I had blogged two “Adventures” numbered “406″ but not even hinting that he had read any of them. [I did not thank him.]
2.) This was followed a few days later by the only comment to a FB post, which referred readers to a book review I had written, coming from a woman I had quoted as saying, “We were doing these dangerous things…” when, she wanted it known she had said, in fact, said “We ALL were doing…” She did not hint she had other thoughts about the review. [I pointed out that “We” implied “all.” Otherwise, she could have said, “SOME…”]

3.) Then there was the conversation between the mother (very sweet) who is foisting a “Bob on Bob” on her adult son (insufferable fellow with whom I have exchanged unpleasantries). “You’ve given that to me before,” I hear him say, not looking up from my laptop. “But have you read it?” she says. “Yes,” he says. “Did you a like it?” “Up to a point.”
So not a great week for words-of-mouth.

ALL OF BOB’S BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE FROM (Just don’t tell me I’ve numbered anything incorrectly.)
Teaser: And wait till you see what’ I’ve got for you next week.