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.

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.