Adventures in Marketing: Week 177

Sent a “Cheesesteak” to a fellow who is writing a book on Overbrook High School et environs in the 1950s and ‘60. When I learned he’d played on the same Hilltoppers’ squad as Walt Hazzard and Wally Jones, I threw in a “Best Ride.” (I always figured my ideal reader for that one was someone from Philly, about my age, who was into basketball. Unfortunately, there weren’t that many of them.)
And sold three copies of “I Will Keep You Alive.” One went to a young woman at the health club about five or six years ago when I’d started on the heavy bag. Her dad, a quintuple by-pass guy, just received a pacemaker. Since I’m the only guy she knows who comes similarly equipped, she sounded me out. One thing led to another and…
The second went to an older woman who’d heard from friends in the locker room what a great book it was. Since she’d already admired the “Love” shorts Adele had made for me and my bracelets, she was already predisposed toward us. (That’s “GREAT BOOK” for those of you still without one.)
The third went to a well-regarded author (and publisher) at the café. He’d read the book in manuscript, liked it, and suggested revisions, some of which we’d made in moderation. (He is also a veteran of multiple cardiac “incidents.”) I offered to give him a copy, but as someone in the business, he insisted on supporting the arts.

In other news…
1.) I sent a series of questions to Z (See previous “Adventure”), of which he answered none. I called Customer Service at the Corporate Behemoth. Its spokeswoman said it would only respond to an e-mail. I sent an e-mail with my questions and copied Z. He immediately replied he would pay me. I told him to relax. I just wanted to understand what was going on and then we could work things out reasonably.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 175

Sold one “Most Outrageous.”
The cute-as-a-button young woman who selected it had asked me to describe each of the five books I was displaying. “True crime,” I said. I added, “You have to be over 18 to read it.” Usually, I am joking. This time, regarding her closely, not so much. But she turned out to be a UC graduate in mathematics. You would be surprised, but my books do well with mathematicians. I am always impressed, though, by someone edgy enough to pick MO, esp someone like her, a “first” actually, who has “barely” heard of “Hustler.”

In other news…
1.) According to the small indie publisher guy, (Let’s call him Z), under whose umbrella my books have been distributed by a corporate behemoth, said behemoth has fudged its records, resulting in his being hit with a a $13,000 overpayment charge he can’t pay. (Hell, he can’t even pay to have his recently rear-ended car fixed or his whip-lash treated.) He has shut his doors, liquidated his stock, all but lit out for the territory. Whatever happened to the the dollars that should have been mine has been lost in this shuffle. The silver lining is my sales have been so meager these dollars are likely not many. But I am trying to straighten it out. Suggestions are welcome.
2.) On a sunnier front, editorial negotiations over my introduction to the forthcoming university press cartoonist-novelist collaboration (See previous “Adventure”) have gone well. My punctuation and grammar have been spruced up – and if anyone can give me the rule for when to use “which” and when “that,” I’d appreciate it – and my “gonzo academic” style praised. I’ve given up my use of “Nip.” (It’s a cusp of WW II book.) “Hebe” is under negotiation. (I’ve proposed substituting “Hebrews,” citing James McMurtry’s usage in “Choctaw Bingo” as authority.) And I’ve replaced “knockers” with phallic-S&M imagistic allusions.
3.) Then I received this even bigger lift. An e-mail from a guy with a Japanese name, a subject line of “Review,” and an incomplete sentence seeking “representative in north america with a stipend commission and salary attached” There was no period and no attachment.
Why, I wondered, would someone in Japan with an incomplete command of English and its punctuation be writing me? Clearly, a manga publisher wanted a well-known “gonzo academic” in the U.S. to “review” – its books or a comix-related magazine wanted the same. (Clearly, too, it was a case of good karma resulting from my eliminating “Nip.”) So I requested further info.
The attachment that arrived was from a steel import/exporter seeking representatives to establish good will with customers and collect overdue invoices.
It’s all coming together, I thought. Maybe the job will help me deal with Z.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 174

No sales. (Again.)
Not even a noteworthy conversation.
But five pre-10am medical-related appointments between me and Adele got us out of the café so early sometimes I didn’t set my display up.

In other news…
1.) A gratifying response to “Who Was That Masked Man?” from an FOM reader: “I’ve read and been reading around (Levin’s piece)… and I’m not up to the job to say anything much about it except I thought it was great…”
2.) Word from the border states (Civil War border, that is) is that the comic book novella-
adaptation to which I provided the introduction has been green-lit by its university-type publisher. I am to hear from the editor who, the cartoonist assures me, thinks “it’s REALLY good, perfect… and they’re all impressed/excited” but that, in “the picking gnat shit out of pepper” mode of editing that weighing of cultural/PC impact has brought about a couple of my word choices (“Nip” and “Hebe,” for instance), and my “over-heated” description capturing the drawing of the female lead may require toning down.
Well, hell, I’m a reasonable guy – not the “eccentric” who drove editors to “tearing at their hair,” as I have been memorialized in the otherwise (mainly) estimable oral history of Fantagraphics Books. So here’s my chance to set the record straight.
3.) Received an e-mail from a cartoonist whose heroine had, mid-story, been confronted by menacing litigation and needed a plausible way out. I woke up at 3:30 am, brainstorming, and sent my ideas. She grabbed one or two and promised me a credit and free comic. (I will be denied a cameo in it however, as my wisdom will be delivered by the She-Hulk’s alter ego, who happens to be an attorney.) “You ought to write comics, Bob,” she added.
Turning to my area of expertise, I pondered. What if a burnt-out Batman brought a workers’ comp claim against Gotham City and was denied for being an independent contractor? I could get into the whole gig-economy thing. (Plus, I had a spiraling-into-further-darkness sub-plot involving Robin I won’t get into here.)
“All I need is an artist willing to work on spec,” I said.
“Ha, ha, ha,” the cartoonist replied

Adventures in Marketing: Weeks 172/173

No sales.
But swapped a copy of “I Will Keep You Alive” to a personal trainer at the health club for her two-DVD “Core Flow Fitness.”

In other news…
1.) Received a copy of a review of IWKYA in the Georgia-based, Mended Hearts-related “Aorta Reporter.” It was extensive, positive (“A must read”), and I particularly enjoyed its emphasizing Adele’s role as primary care-giver, since I sometimes think it is easier being the person going through the health crisis than the person outside observing and responding to it. We hope the review brings the book to the attention of others who will benefit from it.
2.) I had set a goal for “Who Was That Masked Man?” (See earlier blog/post) of one significant response. This has been more than met by a lawyer//friend (“Fantastic,” “Great”), who engaged me about it via e-mail and forwarded it to several friends, and by a cartoonist/pal (“Enjoyed the hidey-heck out of it”) who shared it at FB. However, several of my usually-to-be-counted-upon readers – of whom there are not many – have not even managed to click “Like.” This may be explained by the fellow I ran into outside the art museum who said he had noticed it but felt it appeared “structurally daunting.” Since he has degrees from two Ivy League universities, I guess I can not be accused of writing down to my audience.
Anyway, I gained sufficient confidence to send the link for the piece to “Expecting Rain,” a preferred site for Dylan fanatics, which posted it, subjecting it to hard core scrutiny; and having finished a print-out-able draft of a similarly approached endeavor, I now believe I know what it is that I am doing and no longer fear I have stripped the gears of my mind.

Who was That Masked Man?

My latest piece is on-line at

Here’s a portion:

Martin Scorsese’s “Rolling Thunder Revue” opened with a a silent movie magician vanishing a woman. (The trick should have been a clue.) Then came Rolling Thunder Dylan performing “Mr. Tambourine Man,” intercut with Present Day Dylan explaining why he’d hit the road. He referred to America’s “loss of confidence,” following the fall of Saigon and two attempts on the life of the president, while flotillas, parades, and President Nixon celebrating the Bicentennial screened.
But the Bicentennial had been the summer after Rolling Thunder, and Nixon had resigned two years before it, and Ford had been shot at, not Tricky Dick. Neither Saigon nor the assassinations had figured in any tour account Goshkin had read, and the only mention of the Bicentennial was Shepard telling Scorsese people “didn’t give a shit” about it.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 171

No sales.
The closest was the fellow who showed interest in my books (“You wrote these?”) but seemed challenged to come up with enough for a cup of coffee.
Then there was the 80-something ex-therapist who said he’d buy “I Will Keep You Alive” once he’d read his stack of other books and “New Yorkers” and sections of the “New York Times’ “if I am still around.”
I know the feeling.

In other news…
1.) The painter/teacher (See previous “Adventure”) e-mailed he “LOVED” “Cheesesteak.”
2.) A woman at the health club told Adele her husband enjoyed IWKYA so much he read portions of it to her aloud. (Who he is and how he got it is unknown.)
3.) My piece about Casanova Frankenstein drew limited but high quality – two fine novelists, two edgy cartoonists – praise.

Sometimes, when I ask myself why I continue writing, I recall the Iranian woman who told me that the Koran instructs our full measure is only taken when the Book of Life has closed on the last of us. With the Internet, you can be regularly surprised by whom a ripple you have cast has reached. Some decades ago, I wrote a piece about a B-movie actress of the 1950s, and since then I have regularly heard from others, including her nephew, who Googled her name.
One of these, a woman in Georgia, sent me links to films in which the actress appeared besides the one which had interested me. We remained in correspondence for a year or two until she fell silent, and I learned little about her, except that she wrote e-books for the Christian bondage market.
This week she sent me an e-mail which stated she was unemployed, hoped to begin a state-run job training program but until then was asking all her friends to Pay Pal her $1.
This request stabbed my heart.
“Why,” I asked, “$1?”
“Because,” she replied, “to most people it’s trivial. But to me it seems something.”
I doubt it meant more to her than this exchange meant to me.

The Purpose of Shittiness

Here’s the link to my latest article:

It begins:

I can’t think of another one-page story – and I’m a guy who’s read “The Complete Lydia Davis” – with more concentrated truth or – okay, queasy-making – laughs than “Why Comics Are Better Than Films,” on page 2 of Casanova Frankenstein’s “In the Wilderness” (FU Press. 2019).
Here’s the thesis, delivered by a single character roughly resembling the author, in nine panels straight to the viewer. In a movie, bite off a dog’s penis, or lick the seat of a filthy toilet bowl, or fling a baby against a wall, you catch flak from an animal rights group, or risk fatal disease, or get busted for snuffing an infant. But in comics… ART!

Adventures in Marketing: Week 170

[Author’s Note: Since last week’s “Adventure” was devoted to “Dane,” I have covered two weeks of less momentous – and less entertaining – encounters here.]
Adele sold two “I Will Keep You Alive” at the health club. The first was to a practical stranger who’d heard her discussing it in the locker room. The second was to a couple who had been unable to attend our reading because of preparations for the four-day (Iranian) wedding of their daughter.
I sold a “Cheesesteak” to a painter/teacher/A’s fan at the café – and gave him a “Best Ride” after he’d noted a fondness for Pat’s (“Bat’s”, therein), developed when he and his ex-wife lived in Princeton.
I also gave a “Cheesesteak” to the poet who’d recently revealed himself as coming from near Philly.
Then there was the fellow at the club who told me how much he’d enjoyed our reading. This is a fellow who goes to many readings.
“How many copies did you buy?” I said. I already knew the answer and had been holding it against him.
He explained he has terrible insomnia and can only read light, amusing fiction. Plus, he’d had his own M.I. and pace-maker, and his partner’d had open heart surgery. That was enough. “But you and Adele were truly wonderful.”
I felt such a lout.

In other news…
1.) I sent my article on Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Tour and the resultant books (3) and films (2) to “First of the Month.”
2.) I sent a short story to a literary journal for the first time in 30 years. This journal notes receptivity to “systemically silenced” writers: people of color, immigrants, the queer and trans, the disabled, the fat. I am hoping my heart qualifies as a disability. (I have parking placard documentation from the DMV should anyone ask.) Or maybe the fact that Adele had registered at this journal from our shared email address previously, so that while I registered as “Bob,” it replied to “Adele,” may get me in the trans- door.
3.) I heard from Hollywood – well, the Mission District. A documentary maker is working on a film about a cartoonist, where an article I wrote 15-years ago remains the definitive work. I love meeting with film makers. (This is my eighth.) It is always exciting. Twice, I even saw money. (Not much). Once, cameras rolled. (Not for long.) So I brushed up on options and floors and ceilings and recalled the producer who said, “You know how it works. I tell you how much I love your work. Then you never hear from me again.”
I got lunch – and the buzz – and promised full cooperation.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 169

This guy came into the café looking for Spiro, who had been his best friend for 40 years but was no longer talking to him. He explained this in great detail to the barrista, who said Spiro wouldn’t be in for an hour. The fellow said he’d wait. Then he told his story to a couple other people in about as much detail before he reached me. “D’you know Spiro?” he said,
“Maybe,” I said. Like a lot of people came in named Spiro.
He was about the size of a silo. He’d hired a woodchuck for a beard. He’d rented spades for hands and was missing an eye. He wore a fedora off some scarecrow, an Indian trader’s coat, a vest from a prehistoric pig, an American flag scarf.
“You write all these?” he said to my books.
“Yup,” I said.
“What’s this one about?”
I told him.
He told me about his father’s quadruple by-pass and the 10 years of hell that followed. He told me about being Italian, Irish, Jewish, Cajun… About when his family’d owned half of Contra Costa County. About them killing Indians and buffalo and cows.
“They killed cows?” I said.
He told me about playing harmonica with Elvin Bishop and getting hit in the head by an iron pipe but mot getting hurt because he’d learned how to fall when he’d studied karate with a sumo wrestler at 14. “What’s that one about?” he said.
I told him.
He told me about his years playing center and his deal with the maker of Mick Jagger’s boots and his scourings of flea markets and antiques shows and garage sales with and without Spiro, and how he’d been the biggest estate liquidator in NorCal and wanted to quit but all his friends were of the age where they wanted him to handle theirs. He told me his name was Dane or Great Dane or Real Deal Dane and said he was bi-polar.
We still had four books to go, when he admired my bracelets and asked if I’d trade books for jewelry. My last bi-polar customer had given everyone in the café a Meyer lemon from her tree, bought four of my books, and taken eight from the Free Book shelf. After I’d learned she was bi-polar, I thought of giving back her money. But I never saw her again.
“Which one?” I said.
“All of them,” he said.
Now I was in that café, instead of the other one, because, the day before, another fellow’d wanted two of my books but hadn’t the cash and said, “Will you be here tomorrow?” I was curious about this fellow because, one, he was African-American, and I don’t sell to many African-Americans, and, two, he he’d wanted “The Schiz” and “Most Outrageous,” and it takes a rare sensibility to choose “The Schiz” from my books, and I sell about as many “MO”s as I have African-American buyers because of you know, the subject (“Timely,” this fellow’d said); so I’d said I would.
But he hadn’t shown, and six-in-a-bi-polar’s-hands being worth two in an intriguing bush… “Sure,” I said to Dane.
He said he’d get his stuff from his car.

I waited…
And the other fellow arrived.
He was a CFO from Cleveland, it turned out, settling in his daughter, who had a full-ride PhD fellowship to UC. I gave him my card, so he could tell me what he thought.
By the time we were done, Dane was sitting curbside, two trays of jewelry before him – and Spiro was sitting near me. “Stay away from that guy, Bob,” he said, when he saw where I was headed.
“But we’re doing business,” I said.
Dane seemed undisturbed that my stock had diminished by a third. I picked a flat-linked titanium-and-brass (or copper) bracelet. I have no idea what he would have sold it for or what he paid for it. But he had no idea what I paid for my books and only some idea for what I sold them. We exchanged cards too.
“Lemme see that,” Spiro said, when I got back. He narrow-eyed it, then nodded like I had been treated fair.

Adventures in Marketing: Week 168

Sold an “I Will Keep You Alive” to 80-ish retired architect at the café. He’d had heart problems since childhood, seen another regular reading it, and bought it on his recommendation.
Sold another to a flea market antique dealer whom I’ve known since pick-up basketball days. I guess my presence at the café wore him down. (His problem’s been prostate cancer.)
Sold a Cheesesteak to a retired math professor. (No health problems there that I know of.)
Gave one of those to a journalist-turned-attorney I first met in college. He wants to give it to friends who are moving from Oakland to Philly. (Eight stents for him.)
And a fellow in New Zealand said he would order an IWKYA as soon as he had some money in his Pay Pal account
But in my most interesting interaction, no book – or promise – changed hands. Ida, a tall, white-haired woman, explained she was occupied reading Gail Collins’s latest. When I agree Collins was a fine writer, she sat down. We exchanged where-we-were-from’s and how-we-got-here- when’s. On her side it was Minnesota in ‘65, because she’d “had a brown daughter” with her blues drummer husband, and figured the Bay Area would be a better environment.
She looked longest at my and Adele’s book, but, she said, she’d been a nurse “keeping people alive for 50 years and wasn’t ready for another story about that. She was caring for three people now and “just lost a younger brother to Viet Nam. I hate was but I love veterans. You can’t send people off at 19 to kill and expect them to come back. He never did.”

In other news…
Our Books, Inc. reading was a success. We drew many more people (40) than we’d expected, including one ex-client and several strangers, and sold 10 books. That was less than we hoped but pleased the Events Co-ordinator who said that, no matter how famous (or unknown) the author or large (or small) the crowd, one-person-in-four will buy a book. So we were right on the O/U – and the bookies made out like bandits.

COMING ATTRACTION: Wait’ll you see what I’ve already got in the bag for next week!!!