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.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 360

My friend Budd, a retired doctor, has ordered an IWKYA for a Harvard Medical School student of his acquaintance. Budd feels the physician-patient relationship is so important it should be taught in medical school, and because Adele’s and my relationship with my cardiologist was so crucial to my recovery, our book should be compulsory reading for medical students. I can’t wait for the deluge of orders that results.
Speaking of IWKYA, Adele’s experience as my primary care giver was written up and presented at a meeting of the Mended Hearts chapter to which I belong. Our book was highly touted by the program director, and I received an email from a chapter member asking for a copy. I said, “Sure. Send $15 – $10 if you want to pick it up at my café and chat” – and did not hear from him again.
So that deluge may prove difficult to effectuate.

I did sell a couple copies of our café journal, one to another Mended Hearts member, who came by the cafe, and one to a fellow who works in heating/refrigeration and checked me out after buying his latte.
I find myself with an excess of copies due to some mis-communication over who-wanted-how-many from our second printing. So if you’re looking to buy, it is not too late.

In other news…
Yesterday, my sign and the graphic novel spread before me drew the interest of a young Chinese woman sitting at the table to my right, resulting in a delightful conversation.
She has been here a month and is in her junior year, studying “bio-information” at UC. (She was at the café because the library is closed on Sunday.) She is from Shen Zhen, which the Chinese government established as a “special economic zone” near Hong Kong to draw people from all across China into its orbit, so her friends, all second generation in that city, come from a diversity of backgrounds – though nothing like the diversity of Berkeley. (She has been especially taken with meeting Chinese-Americans, Chinese-French, and others of Chinese ancestery.)
Telling her about the books I had on the table led to many questions about my background and how I came to California. These are among my favorite stories, which I have told and re-told and re-re-told, but it was a kick telling them to someone who had no knowledge of “the draft” and had never heard of Beatniks or Hippies. (She wrote them down so she could look them up.) It was also disconcerting to hear, once she had worked out my age, that I was as old as her grandmothers.
The experience left me feeling pretty good. But when I got home, the featured story on MSNBC’s 11:00 news was “China sending lethal weapons to Russia” and, on CNN, “Covid virus may have leaked from a Chinese lab.” (The same stories led the news when I woke at 5:00 this morning.)
It’s not really a surprise, people getting along better than governments, or I may be drawing conclusions from too small a sample pool.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 357 – 359

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 357 – 359
Sold one book – gave three away.
The buyer was a young woman from Brazil with a nose ring who worked at Lawrence Berkeley Labs as a researcher in photosynthesis. She picked up IWKYA, and I told her what it was about, but that didn’t seem to register until she read the back cover. “This is you?” “Yup,” I said. “Want to see my scar?”
The purchase became a problem. She had no cash and could only pay through her phone which was beyond me technically and intellectually. I offered Square as an option but she seemed unfamiliar with that. I had already signed the book to her – her name being the same as my cardiologist’s, except with a “Z” – so I let her take it and said she should leave money with the barista next time she was in. Which she did.
(Which reminds me, my niece still hasn’t sent the $10 she owes. I know from the movies not to leave money walking around on the street. I may have to call Guido on her.)

The gifts were, in order of occurrence, (1) “Cheesesteak” to a girl I dated the summer after high school, with whom I re-connected via FB; (2) “Best Ride” to a basketball-savvy folkie at the café in appreciation for the CDs and songs he has given me; (3) “Outlaws, Rebels…” to a cartoonist in Vancouver whom I interviewed in connection with an article I am writing about her.

In other news…
This article comes amidst a stream of comics-related work I have been asked to do. One is waiting to go up at tcj.com and two more are promised for the next couple months. (Additionally, “Outlaws” publisher says he is game for a collection of my subsequent work – and is reviewing my m.s. as we speak.) It seems that, at nearly 81, I have reached the point, at least within this field, where I am hot. A grand old man of the genre, so to speak.
I am pleased – and amused. This was not on the program when I sat down in Creative Writing 101a. Yet, looking back, I can see how I got here. I took this step, which led to that step, which led to… With friends dropping off the planet, right and left – two from my freshman dorm within 30 days – this appears to be the mark I will leave in the sand.
“The creator has a master plan.” Pharoah Sanders said that.

Last Ten Books Read. xvii

Last Ten Books Read xvii
(in order of completion)

1. “Deported Colonel” by Jeanette Gau Stone. Jennie, contributed a portion of her book about her experiences under the Pananmanian dictatorship to our café journal. I was so struck by it I wanted to read the whole thing. So we struck a deal.

2. “On Animals” by Susan Orlean. I had enjoyed Orlean’s book on Rin Tin a lot. This is a collection of pieces, amusing, engaging – but lightweight.

3. “A House of Sand and Fog” by Andre Dubus, III. I had liked his father’s writing a lot and this was sitting in the Free Box at the café, so… It’s an old fashioned, plot-and-character gripping novel. Interestingly the two principal characters are a white working class woman and an ex-Iranian Army officer. I wonder if there would be a squawk if it came out today.

4. “The Last Interview,” a collection of them by various people of Janet Malcolm. Boy, was she a touch interview and, boy, were people intimidated by her. She gave nothing away and no one pushed her to. Eventually, she insisted questions be e-mailed and she e-mailed her answers.

5. “The Years” by Annie Ernaux. Highly recommended by my (very smart) friend Budd. It took me a while to get into it – and I would have done better if I knew more about France – but it was good.

6. “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean. When I bought “Animals,” the clerk asked if I had read this, so I ordered it. Its ostensible focus in the fire which destroyed the main one in L.A. but it rambles around, here and there, over centuries and is studded with memorable characters – but I liked “Rin Tim Tin” better.

7. “My Little Plague Journal” by L. John Harris. I know John slightly. A self-described “flaneur,” he’s been part of the North Berkeley foodie scene since its inception. A man of many talents and interests, he had bought a copy of our journal from me (His friend Lennie was already sold out) so I decided fair-was-fair. Our experiences of Covid didn’t coincide much but his illustrations were wonderful and he had a strong chapter on Trump.

8. “Good Behavior” by Molly Keane. Don’t know where I heard about this but it was on my list and Moe’s had it. A savage, bitter takedown of the Irish-British horse-and-hound set of the early 20th century.

9. “Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing” by Denise Noe. Read at the request of the author, an email-espondent about whom I wrote recently at FOM. A good book if you are interested in its subject, Marie (“Queen of the B’s” Windsor.

10. “The January 6 Report.” (NYT edition.) Indict, try and jail the sonofabitch.



My latest article is up at the above link. It begins:

In 1977, Art Spieglman was a 29-year-old cartoonist whose work over the previous decade had appeared in a dozen underground comix, a few alternative newspapers, some second-tier skin magazines, and Arcade, a monthly he and fellow UG cartoonist Bill Griffith had launched in 1975 – and folded seven issues later. This work had brought Spiegelman little notice or acclaim. Les Daniels Comix (1970) ignored him. Patrick Rosenkranz’s Artsy Fartsy Funnies (1974) credited his primary contribution to the culture to be the serial masturbator Jolly Jack Jackoff. Clay Geerdes’ The Underground Comix Family Album, photographs taken between 1972 and 1982, excluded him. In A History of Underground Comics (1974, rev. ed. 1987), Mark James Estrin displayed the title panel from a three-page story by Spiegelman in Funny Animals (1972) about a mouse whose father – like Spiegelman’s – was a concentration camp survivor; but if Estrin saw anything special in “Maus,” which was the name of that story, I missed it. The bulk of Spiegelman’s income came from work for Topps Chewing Gum, Inc.

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 351 – 356

Well, I’m back in the café. I’d like to say lines of people had formed waiting to buy my books but… Alas, no cries of “Where’s that guy who sells books?” No “When will Bob be back?”
So, no sales – but one swap.
I re-connected, after a decade or so, when recognized by a fellow who knew me from the writing-about-comix world. He is still revising and trying to sell the same novel as when we last spoke. Meanwhile, he busies himself with video, dance, and writing POD books on gaming. He gave me one, an instructional manual about “Captaincy,” “a miniature game of ship-to-ship combat,” and I gave him a “Schiz.” (When I told him about this exchange guaranteeing I’d post an “Adventure,” he asked I use his real name. John Carnehan.)

In other news…
1.) I registered two mail-order sales of our café journal. (See “Adventure 350 and 350A.) One went to friend from college and one to a niece, from whom I’m still awaiting payment, but I trust her, and if she doesn’t come through, her father reads these and will probably apply pressure. [The journal, by the way, has sold out, but another printing has been ordered.]
2.)Had a “peak” writer’s-life-type experience (or my variety of one) when FB offered me a “You may also know…” of a man who’d played for the ‘57-58 Temple basketball team. When he accepted my “Friend” request, I messaged him the link to the article I’d written for an on-line mag about that team (Also available in “Cheesesteak”) and he loved it. Brought back many happy memories, he said – and one sad one. (That article had previously brought me e-mails from relatives of two other members of that team, but this was the first living player I know of to have read it.)

Adventures in Marketing — Week 350A

Adventures in Marketing – Week 350A
Felt my reading went so well at the launch party for “The French Hotel” I expected a standing ovation when I walked the next morning. But all I heard was a deaf-in-one-ear musician complaining that our amateur microphone skills kept him from understanding anything. Then I asked this 90-year-old how he enjoyed the event.
“Honestly?” he said.
“Honestly,” I said.
“Honestly, I was underwhelmed.”
Still, we Board of Directors Five thought it a grand event. The café had never been so crowded. (I think we out-drew Trump’s inauguration.) It was SRO, with people out-the-door, of whom I was one. (Covid may have had something to do with this.) The spirit was good.
All the books we brought with us sold. (Some sold out before me, so I sold a couple to their overflow. Over-all, I sold four to friends I’d invited; three to acquaintances who were there for other reasons; one to a stranger.) Six people I invited came, including one from San Francisco. At least six who live in Berkeley didn’t – or acknowledge being invited. (I know this reflects poorly on me, but I keep lists-in-my-head.)
The questions now are (1) do we do a second printing; (2) what about Issue #2?

Adventures in Marketing — Week 350

The launch party for “The French Hotel” journal, which will probably merit a special report, is this afternoon, so this will be a quicky.
Sold two journals, one at cost, and swapped two, one for goods and one for labor.

The launch party for “The French Hotel” journal, which will probably require a special report, is this afternoon, so this will be sketchy.

Two sales of the journal, one at cost. Two swapped, one for goods and one for services.

One sale was to a UC mathematician who has bought other of my books. The discounted sale was to Monroe, another previous buyer. I saw he felt pinched by the full price, so I offered it as a gift, but he insisted on paying something. Years of settlement negotiations had taught me, “Okay, we’ll split the difference.”
Then I gave one to the fellow who nicely agree to design a poster for the party. (He had previously done the posters for our old reading series at the café.) He made clear he intended to give it to someone else. “Fine,” I said, “It’s yours.” The other one is going to an artist/cartoonist in Slovenia who sent me a copy of the latest issue of a journal she edits. (Boy, is she getting the short end of the stick. Her mag – “KOMIKAZE” – is a wonder.)

As for the party…
We have decided NO NAME TAGS. They had been proposed for those of us on the Board so people would know who to buy copies from, but that was voted down. (Too tacky, thought I.) We have, however, to require masks and will have them available at the door.
We thought half-an-hour to mingle; an hour to read; half-an-hour for post-reading mingling (and sales). But we realized if each of us read for 10 minutes, that would leave 20 minutes for everyone else. So we are limiting readings to 5 minutes. (Good luck enforcing that.)
As for attendance, one friend who had previously committed is now wavering back and forth. One friend who had been unexpected says he will be coming over from SF. And Adele is not coming. She has upcoming appointments she doesn’t want to miss and is fearful of catching something from the crowd.
I am looking forward to who comes and hearing what they say about what. (And I have got my reading down to 4:30, if I rush, which I will.)