Adventures in Marketing — Week 369

Preliminary Note: After prefacing my last “Adventure” with the complaint that they were netting me only two-to-four “Like”s apiece, I received about a dozen for my last one. To all, my thanks. But then, a couple days later, I linked to my “poem” at FOM and got one “Like” and one e-mail. Everyone’s a critic.
Anyway, Adele liked it.

Sold a “Lollipop” to the retired radiologist from Chicago who had settled for a “Goshkin” last week when I hadn’t had one with me.
And I sent a “Cheesesteak” to the fellow who’s writing the “introduction” I mentioned. He had asked me several interesting questions to answer as background, and, since the book went into some of them more deeply, I thought he would get a kick out of it – and might even find it useful.
One thing I couldn’t get a handle on was that while, like any kid, I wanted to fit in, as early as elementary school I was attracted to the deviant – EC Comics, Bob and Ray, Ernie Kovacs – and, certainly, by adolescence, when I became aware of the dangers of “conformity,” I knew I didn’t want to be easily pigeon-holed. But where this came from, I couldn’t say.
Adele said, “Parents are the usual suspects”; but we didn’t get much beyond that.

In other news…
The week brought several conversations, one of which with an elderly woman who shied away from books as soon as she heard the words “Half a dozen murders” (“The Schiz”) and “True crime” (“Most Outrageous”) but offered to retrieve from her car one I could add to my wares. I had to explain I was not only the seller but the author of those I displayed.
Then, in a single morning, I spoke with (1) a comics world pal, who was reading – and recommended – a work of 18th century science-fiction of which I had never heard (and in which I had no interest); (2) a used book dealer of middle-eastern heritage, who had no interest in mine, but was reading – and recommended – the works of a Russian Orthodox priest, a “spiritual father,” who had spent most of his life imprisoned in the Gulag – and, subsequent research revealed, may or may not have actually existed; and (3) a 60-year-old woman in a Phillies sweatshirt. Oh good, I thought. I can sell her a “Cheesesteak.”
She turned out to be a journalist, in town for a conference. She had recently, to her delight, moved back to Philly and the Inquirer from Miami, where she had worked for the Herald. She told me her name and said she too had written a book and I could Google her.
Which I did.
Julie K. Brown.

Far Gone

In the 1970s I wrote a — for me — non-traditional short story, which I called “The 1000 pp. Novel: 1960 – 70.” After about a dozen rejections, I put it away. (Maybe I published the first part of it as a short-short somewhere.) Recently, I started thinking of the whole thing as a poem, so I broke up the lines, removed the punctuation and… Bob’s your mother. I sent the entire work to FOM and it excised a portion for public consumption. It begins:

It was a far out bar, Max’s Drop Dead Inn
You know who drank there?

Curious readers can find out at

Adventures in Marketing: Week 368

I. Sales
Sold a Goshkin to John, a recently retired radiologist. (A San Franciscan, he is from Chicago and would have preferred a Lollipop, but I had none with me.) John writes short-short stories, three of which he gave me. My favorite was about encounters his first-person narrator, a fellow not unlike himself, has with people in a café.
He may, at this very moment, be writing about me writing about him.
II. Barter
Swapped a café journal to Ed, a retired tech writer, for his most recent self-published novel, which I will read as soon as I am done with Kenzaburo Oe’s A Personal Matter. Ed was in town for an overnight from Antioch with his wife, a poet who had read at the series I ran at the café, pre-Covid. I invited them to join me for a writer-to-writer-to-writer chat.

The next day I swapped another journal to Berne in exchange for an artistically enhanced, postcard-sized reproduction of a photograph he had taken of the inside of an acoustic guitar. Berne has been in the area as long as I have been coming to the café and used to be a regular; but, in recent years, he has been spending more time sitting on he steps of a nearby Quaker meeting house. This was the first time we had talked.
He is in his 60s, my height or taller and 20 or 30 pounds heavier. He wore a motorcycle jacket and was without his upper, left-side molars. I learned he had been a professional photographer and, when he couldn’t make a living at that, had started a tree-trimming company, which, any workers’ compensation attorney can tell you, is as dangerous a profession as you can choose. I heard about the time a worker had pulled a knife on him and, just last week, when, having been jumped in North Oakland and on the ground, was about to stab his assailant in the neck, a 300-pound Black woman stepped on his wrist and said, “Fight’s over.”
It had been a while since I’d run into two knife fights in the same conversation.
III. Balance Sheet
The Ethiopian engineer paid for the journal I’d given him a few weeks ago. (His favorite story was David’s “A Place of Refuge,” because the experience of the immigrants to this country paralleled his own.) And my friend Budd – not to be confused with my friend Bud – gave me cash for the gift IWKYAs I’d sent at his request.
The only deadbeat remains my niece. Boy, is her place in my will skating on thin ice.

In other news…
Had a nice conversation with the fellow who’s writing the Intro to my new book. He wanted background on me, and, as I told him, “I’ve been sitting around for 30 years, thinking somebody ought to want to write about this workers’ comp lawyer who writes about these weird cartoonists.” So I had my stories ready.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 366-367

Sold a Lollipop to “Lyle,” a fireman/EMT, around 40, in a Conquering Lion Tribe of Judea t-shirt. Originally from Chicago, he lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, making him, as far as I know, my first reader in that entire state.
Lyle was in town for three nights of sold-out concerts by the “jam band” (a term I just learned) Phish at the Greek Theater. The cafes were packed with Phish-heads, and I met two more, Michael, the son of a Holocaust survivor, and his pal, whose name I did not catch. Both were from Toronto. Michael is a college drop-out-become-tech-entrepreneur in “automation systems,” with which I am completely unfamiliar, and his traveling partner a genius programmer, which I know about from watching three seasons of Silicon Valley.
We connected when I let out that I was writing about the first computer-generated graphic novel. They assured me that AI would not replace everyone, only the mediocre and below. The elite would always have a place. Then the conversation devolved into the bad old days when you were limited to only several hundred thousand megabytes of badoodle-doodle, which, while whizzing by me, did lead me to recall a recent conversation with my friend Budd about the earlier Dark Age when we had only three TV channels in Philadelphia.
Neither of them bought a book, but the pal recommended I read Walter Russell’s The Universal One (1926), a treatise on “the mind-centered electromagnetic universe.”

In (semi-) other news:
I gave a café journal to a woman who had written most of her recently published memoir in its back room. When we were soliciting contributions, she had nothing for us; but she is a good soul who seemed interested in the contents, so, when she did not offer to buy one… When I mentioned this to a friend of limited means in NYC with whom I am in daily correspondence, she asked if I might “donate” an IWKYA to her, which she promised to recommend to her friends if she liked it. So, despite the condition attached… Then, on a roll, I gave “James” (See “Adventures” 365-366), who has now identified himself to me as a “psyche-medicinal distributor,” his route currently circumscribed by a dead battery in and lack of gas for his truck, a Best Ride. He liked it so much he twice returned to my table to read portions of it aloud.

Three Comix and Reflexions Thereon

My latest piece is up on-line. The first of these my editor wanted me to take a look at. The second one of the contributors did. The third, edited by someone I’d written about before, was my own idea. In fact, without it, I probably would have passed on the other two.

Here’s the first paragraph I wrote about the first one:

If your interests are satisfied by mostly one-page, black-and-white stories featuring vomit, breasts, drunkenness, vaginas, drugs, homicide, penises, oral sex, genital mutilation, oblivion, intercourse, and a single nicely drawn tongue, Essential Spread Love may suit your Christmas stocking.

Last Ten Books Read xviii

Last Ten Books Read XVIII
(Listed in order of completion)

1. Miranda July. The First Bad Man. Several years ago, an aspiring novelist friend adapted a new name, took on a new e-mail address, and became his own literary agent. After selling two of his novels in this fashion, he took on a second client – me. The closest we came to a sale was a publisher which liked my book (The Schiz), but it was too similar to one it was already publishing by Miranda July. Time passed; I got over my jealousy and resentment; I saw this novel sitting in a Little Free Library box. It was terrific. I would have published it instead of The Schiz too.

2. Per Petterson. Out Stealing Horses. A novel highly regarded by a highly regarded friend. (She is reading it for the fourth time.) I found it extremely well-written in a sort-of ultra-Hemingway-esq, precise-description-of nature-light-and-man-alone stuff way, but I had a problem with the narrator withholding a great deal of information he has become in possession of since the events he is describing, and I wondered about the “morality” of an author withholding this simply to torment the reader.

3. David Foster Wallace. This is Water. A mini-book reproducing, with edits, Wallace’s commencement address at Oberlin College in 2005. Nearly every sentence is allotted its own page. The thoughts expressed will be familiar to anyone with even as shallow a familiarity with Buddhism as mine, but it is always nice to have them recirculating in one’s brain.

4. Janet Malcolm. Still Pictures. As faithful readers know, Malcolm (and Joan Didion) were my two favorite writers. Now both are gone and unless managers of their estates cobble something together, this will be the last book from either. It’s a collection of autobiographical short pieces organized around family snap shots in lieu of an autobiography or memoir. It’s wonderful.

5. Norman Pearlstine. Off the Record. Norman, a law school classmate, has had an impressive career at the highest levels of American journalism. He headed Time, Inc. at the time of the outing of Valerie Plane, and the buck stopped with him when it came to whether or not to reveal its source for the story. He took a public blistering at the time for his decision, but he has presented an impressively-balanced-and-thorough-in -light-of-this-blistering, and hard-to-disagree with account of what led to his decision.

6. Janet Malcolm. Diana and Nikon. Second reading. (See #5, above.) It got me thinking about photography and since I was expecting to have a Zoom conversation with a woman I’d known from high school who’d become a photographer, I decided to bone up on the subject. The Zoom never occurred but I had interesting thoughts about what makes photography art, if indeed it is.

7. Lawrence Wright. The Plague Year. A fine journalistic history of Covid in the United States and the politics thereof. My bet is it’s too close in time to the events described to explain in depth and with the accuracy later accounts will develop, but Wright is good at what he does and this was a solid piece of work.

8. Richard Sala. The Chuckling Whatsit. I was once asked to write about Sala and I would have, except he refused to be interviewed. I think he was somewhat reclusive at this point and his books alone weren’t enough to make me want to take on the project. Now I feel bad about that. I think this book was in progress as a comic at the time and now it’s a graphic novel. It feels more substantial in one volume than it did when I was reading it issue-by-issue. The book has it all together and is whacky, macabre fun, from character names, to renderings, to plot. It’s grisly fun.

9. Jane Boot. Edge Play. A gift from Norman’s (See #5, above) wife. (It came bound with a shockingly pink chord.) It’s a novel about a woman who, after being let go by the hedge fund that employed her, takes a job as a dominatrix. Neither hedge funds nor S&M are my thing, but if either (or both) are yours… I learned a bit about both areas of my non-expertise, and there was also the most significant character named “Levin” I have run into since War and Peace.

10.. Susan Orlean. The Orchid Thief. Like with her book on the LA library fire, Orlean latches onto an oddball character and a “crime,” and goes wherever it takes her. Here, it’s a chunk of pre-DeSantis Florida, and the result is wondrously enjoyable – and made me really curious what they did with this for the movie based on it (Adaptation), which I recall liking too.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 365 – 366

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, 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.

On Hearing Dexter Gordon and Sam Rivers at Zellerbach

“Do you have any poems about jazz?” second-cousin Ruth e-mailed from Arkansas. She knew of an in-line magazine that had announced a “Special Music Issue.”

It so happens I had written a poem on jazz, over 40 years ago based on internal evidence. But by the time I found it, the deadline for submissions had passed.

“Is anyone dancing?” Ruth asked. “Dance” was the next special issue.

“Everyone stays seated,” I said.

But good old First of the Month didn’t mind. The editor did feel I was being unfair to Dexter Gordon, but I explained it was an off-the-moment impulse.

The link is below.

Adventures in Marketing — Weeks 363 – 364

Did I forget to mention that a law school classmate bought six copies of the café journal?
And the physician friend, who had bought an IWKYA for the Harvard med student, bought another as a gift for a physician friend in Oakland. And I gave a journal to my philosopher neighbor after he had complimented me as “the most versatile author I have ever encountered,” due to my work in comix history, autobio, law, and fiction – and I didn’t want my epic poetry slighted.
There have also been a couple notable near misses. The first was “James,” a (50-ish?) fellow with hair out of Woodstock, short one tooth and both knees on his jeans. He has had over 50 jobs, including school teacher, tree trimmer, and stand-up comedian. Now he lives in his truck and spends half the year traveling between transformational festivals. He has been to Burning Man 20 times and taken god-knows how many psychedelics but is lucid and fun. He promised to buy a “Schiz” and an “Outlaws, Rebels…” after the first, when his check came and then went off for a free breakfast.
The second was “Frannie,” a strikingly attractive (30-ish?), racially mixed (Asian-Caucasian) woman with long black hair and shockingly pink pants (both knees intact). She had lived just-outside Philadelphia for nine years, and I was sure she would buy a “Cheesesteak,” but all I got was a “Maybe-next-time.” Alas… Such encounters remind me of being at a record hop in the basement of a synagogue in junior high school and meeting a cute girl and returning the next week eager to pursue the relationship – and not having her keep her end of the fantasy bargain.
It builds character – like losing ball games.

In other news…
1.) I seem to have three completed articles (and unearthed-from-my-archives a poem), which are at this very moment jammed on conveyor belts at two on-line magazines. And two book projects are moving – one journey nearly complete, one barely begun. The second, a new collection of comix-related pieces, is the most significant. It is slated to issue from the Fantagraphics Underground (FU) imprint for “books that are innovative, quirky, idiosyncratic, oddball, experimental, or outright crazy.” It is a slotting I heartily embrace. I hadn’t foreseen it. I hadn’t planned it. But in retrospect it seems pre-destined. I could not have done any better.
2.) The fellow who, last “Adventure,” was calling me “Old Codger” (not affectionately) and I are now on a first name basis. (His is “Mac.”) The turning point was when I couldn’t access the café’s Wi-Fi and he couldn’t resist the challenge of hooking me up. Mac is all in on computers and gaming and 3-D printing and any manner of things which are beyond me but which I am now gaining earfuls about most mornings before he sinks back into his machine or excuses himself for a marijuana break.

Adventures in Marketing — Weeks 361 – 362

Business has been slow.
The only product I have moved has been two copies of the café journal. One went by mail order to a previous customer, the fellow who keeps our computers running, but since he didn’t add anything for postage, I lost a few pennies on that one. The other went to a fellow in the café from the Horn of Africa, another repeat buyer. He didn’t have cash with him and since I was leaving and didn’t want to see if I could manage to get my Square to work, I left it with him on credit.
Which reminds me, my niece hasn’t paid me yet.

In other news…
1.) J. Russell Peltz’s Thirty Dollars and a Cut Eye, which I line-edited, has been honored as boxing-book-of-the-year by the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame. I kvell with pride.
2.) I suppose the major development is my business’s forced relocation – not that customers won’t be able to find me. On most mornings I find my favorite table at the café occupied by a fellow who sleeps in a doorway up the street and his half-dozen duffel bags and bed roll. He likes the table because of its proximity to an outlet where he can recharge his various pieces of electronic equipment. This has forced me to a table to its east and leaves me facing east at the counter and him staring south at my profile.
One morning, out of nowhere, he accused me of staring at him – and called me an “old geezer.” I told him I was not starting at him and if he wanted to talk to me again, he should be polite. When I left later that morning, he was standing outside. I walked to my car and stood for a moment gazing down Shattuck Ave. at the blue sky, the street, and feeling how wonderful it was to be in Berkeley. Only then I realized he was in my line of vision, though 50-feet away. By the time I was inside, he was at my passenger side window shouting indecipherably at me.
I mulled this over for 24-hours. I decided I would say, “We seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot yesterday. If I do anything that disturbs you, tell me and I will stop.” Then I will offer a fist bump.
So the next morning, I began, “We seem…” At which point he put a hand over each ear and said, “I can’t hear you!” I continued gamely on. He said, “If you don’t leave me alone, I will call the cops.” Well, I thought, if he is going to call the cops, it must mean he is more afraid of me than I am of him. That seemed a good sign. I decided to skip the fist bump.
At which point, this intrusive – and paranoid – Russian woman regular said, “What is going on?”
“Mind your own business!” I said.

The rest of the morning was non-eventful. But the next day, when I pulled into my parking space, he came running out of his sleeping space to call me an old geezer. Then he ran back. Before I had walked around to the trunk and retrieved my shoulder bag, he had run out twice more, called me an old geezer, and run back.
I walked to the café wondering if (a) he had already been there and was out on a smoking break or (b) had been evicted – and blamed me. When I arrived, the table was free, and I took it. About 15 minutes later, he arrived and took the table to my left.
Neither he, nor I – nor the Russian woman – have spoken to each other since.
Stay tuned.