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.

“and Cleveland’s Cold”

My latest piece is up at First of the Month. It begins:

I became aware of Cleveland when Lou Boudreau played shortstop and my Aunt Sylvia, who, to my six-year-old eyes, was really neat, perversely rooted for the Indians against her hometown Braves. I liked Marion Motley and Mac Speedie (good names!), when they came along a couple years later too, but I hadn’t thought much about Cleveland since. I certainly hadn’t registered it as a petri dish for disintegration and despair, capable of occasioning both vicious protest and futile resignation, from which would arise a musician capable of pinning lunch meat to his chest, blowing his nose in a slice, and eating it.
Then Aaron Lange’s “Ain’t It Fun: Peter Laughner & Proto-Punk in the Secret City” landed.

A Walker By Any Other Name

The link to my piece on the cartoonist Jessie Renklaw is below.

It begins:

“They think if something happened to them it is interesting because it happened to them…”
McCandless, on some writers, in William Gaddis’s Carpenter’s Gothic.

That is the challenge for memoirists. Make events from their lives meaningful to others. Wikipedia says about the cartoonist Jesse Reklaw little more than that he was born in Berkeley in 1971, grew up in Sacramento, studied at UC Santa Cruz, received an MA in computer science from Yale, dropped out of a PhD program in AI to draw comics, and lives in Portland with his cat. That would seem to leave Reklaw little with which to satisfy McCandless, especially if it was true, which it isn’t. The cat died six years ago, and Reklaw wasn’t born in 1971, Jesse Walker was but reversed the spelling of his last name when he turned 20.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 408

Sold one “Bob.”
The buyer was a fellow I have known since the Creative Writing program at SF State. (An author of novels and non-fiction books, he is the one person I know to have made a living as a writer, with the side gigs that often entails.) The buy was to occur in person, but he has been lain up with pneumonia.

In other news…
My only conversation of note was with “Arnold,” who is of indeterminate middle-age and a sometime substitute school teacher. He has been coming to the café longer than I but somehow had arrived at the conclusion that I wrote poetry. Though I disabused him of that notion, it did not result in the ring of cash register bells. All he wanted to know was if “Best Ride” was autobiographical. When I told him it was not, he told me how much he had enjoyed Philadelphia – at least Manayunk – when he was there ten years ago. He knew the art museum and the Rodin but not the Barnes, so I filled him in on that.

Last Ten Books Read — xxiii

[Preliminary Note: A couple months ago, I met Fran at my café of choice. An electrician by trade, Fran is a man of many parts, one of which is reading everything he can find by any writer whose work intrigues him, which now includes me. Fran has read more offbeat than anyone I know, and his recommendations, as you will see, have influenced what follows.
So now in order of completion…]

1.Nadenzhda Mandelstam. “Hope Against Hope.” Osip Mandelstam’s widow’s account of life under Stalin’s Terror. (Recommended by another friend, Michael G.) Makes Putin’s Russia look like Candyland.
2. William Gaddis. “A Frolic of His Own.” When I had told Fran, I was reading “Carpenter’s Gothic” (See: List xxii), he said that, as I lawyer, I should read this. Once I began it, Gaddis had thoroughly hooked me. (See: 8 below – and List xxiv, forthcoming).
3. Aaron Lange. “Ain’t It Fun.” A mammoth, black-and-white social and cultural history of Cleveland, centered on the proto-punk musician Peter Laughner. I didn’t know Peter Laughner from Peter Bzystplx, but I knew Lange and his work, and after I had read it, I was asked to review it for FOM, so I am reading it again. I hope to make the Feb. 1 issue. You can read what I think then.
4. Michael De Forge. “Big Kids.” Loaned me by Fran. A charming, if puzzling, graphic mini-“novel and refreshing twist on the now standard troubled-adolescent-who-becomes-a-cartoonist yarn.
5. Marcel Benabou. “Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books.” Another Fran. Benabou, a member of Oulipou, with which I was less familiar than Peter Laughner, is a gang of French post-modern satirist artist/thinkers. While occasionally amusing, the book is not something you curl up with and sink into in front of a warm fire. But if you want to exercise your mind…
6. Britta Lee Shain. “Seeing the Real You At Last.” A friend of a former client, Shain had written a book about her travels – and fling – with Bob Dylan in the ‘80s. When “Bob on Bob” came out, we swapped copies. A fascinating, if unflattering (but understandable) look at him and that world.
7. David Lodge. “A Man of Parts.” A novel about the life of H.G. Wells. I’d expected more laughs, based on “Changing Places,” the only thing I’d written of his previously, and, given what else I’d been reading, it ordinariness (as a book, not as a life, which was certainly unusual) left me flat.
8. William Gaddis. “The Recognitions.” Third time – in 1970s, 1980s, and now. My history with G’s 950-page first novel actually goes back 60-years. I won’t get into that history now but once I saw how funny CG and FOHO were, I wondered if I’d missed something – well, I had no doubt I’d missed things – but funny? So I read it again. Now, I think, when I’ve finished the rest of Gaddis, I’ll start it over. In fact, I may read nothing but it forever.
9. Eliot Weinberger. “19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei.” Loaned me by Fran. EW, a poet/translator, has taken a brief poem by an 8th century Chinese poet, looked at different translations of it, and commented upon each. Fascinating. When I looked at his other books, I saw he had co-authored one with the fiction writer/translator Lydia Davis, whose work I also like, so I bought…
10. Lydia Davis and Eliot Weinberger. “Two American Scenes.” These seem to be two “found” poems, one a manuscript by Davis’s great-great-great-grand uncle about the New England town in which he grew up, and the other a journal kept by a member of the first (non-Native American) traversers of the Colorado River. Davis offers a brief afterword on her contribution but Weinberger offers none, and I found virtually nothing informative about the book on-line. The writing is straightforward, direct, clean, impactful, frill-free. The “poetry” manifests through the breaking up of the lines on the page. Again, fascinating.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 406

Sold three “Bob on Bob”s. (Only a dozen left.) Also, I forgot to mention last week a sale to a friend from Brandx now living in Berkeley.
This week’s initial purchaser was an electrician named, fortuitously another electrician buddy pointed out, “Buzz.” He was from Austin but is now working on a building under construction near the café. He had a grey goatee and earrings and wanted to “support the arts,” being a drummer himself. “All types of music,” he said. “Most recently, Christian rock.” He didn’t have cash, so I said he could take the book and leave the money with the barista the next day, but his buddy, Lyle, pointed out they couldn’t be sure where they’d be working and leant him $10.,
My next two sales were even more outside the demographics of my usual market. Stephanie was a six-foot-two, blonde trans woman, who had worked for decades in bio-tech, “trying to change the world.” Her shorter and older manfriend, Ted, was a cowboy-hatted, third-generation stone mason from Colorado, who is also an ardent drag racing fan. (Frequent readers may remember a previous palaver he and I’d had.) We had a good conversation about Berkeley, the ‘60s, “Dobie Gillis,” and open heart surgeries (Ted’s and mine). I bet they’ll be back.

In other news…
1.) Well, nothing about the Air Pirates movie, of course.
2.) But some interesting reader – and one non-reader – responses.
Let’s begin with the non-reader, a woman veteran of the music business. My standard line, when someone eyes my display, is to charmingly, winningly say, “Wanna buy a book?” This woman was neither charmed nor won. My blatant worship of Mammon appalled her. “How can you talk to Bob?” she asked a mutual friend. “Only money interests him.”
Then “ Bob on Bob” turned out to disappoint a fellow who’d known Dylan in the Village in the early ‘60s. He’d hoped to learn something he didn’t know about Dylan but, disappointingly, found himself learning primarily about me. Now this is a nice fellow, eminently knowledgeable about American roots music; but he also believes Dylan’s song writing peaked with “Only a Hobo,” so I can’t be too distressed by his dismissal.
Third, was the gay landscape designer who had bought “Cheesesteak” six “Adventures” ago. Having avoided eye contact with me since, she confronted me to say that, while she had liked the early portions, the book had lost her when it became “too much guy stuff.” That was a reaction I could engage with, and we had a good discussion about why that was and what women might have related to instead. (I suggested she skip ahead until I hit college, so we’ll see where that goes.)
Finally, “Bob” drew praise from a fellow from my basketball game. A few years younger than me, he was from a Catholic family in Chicago and had served in Viet Nam because that’s what people from his family did. Now a therapist, north of here, he emailed how important Dylan had been to him. “He told me I wasn’t just a nut case in relation to our culture. He put words on things I hadn’t figured out. He understood something not yet formed in me.”
A gratifying reaction.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 406

Sold two “Bob”s and one “IWKYA.”
One “Bob” went to a high school classmate, who worked in the public health field in D.C. The other went to a retired physician, whom I met several weeks ago at the café. He is from Chicago and bought a “Lollipop.” Between then and now, someone had told him about “IWYA,” and he bought that too.

The week’s featured “No Sale” story involves a woman who comes to the café most days. She is in her 70s, tall and stately, with (assisted) red hair. She dresses elegantly, this day with matching purple shawl and scarf. I believe she is retired from UC, in one of the sciences. Her speech is impaired, perhaps from a stroke, which means she must write down a word or question or show it to me on her iPhone. I have seen her reading Clausewitz “On War” and the poetry of Osip Mandlestam but our conversation is usually confined to admiring each others boots. Then she asked to see some of my books and returned to her table with six of them.
Well, no one had ever compared me to Clausewitz. Or Mandelstam.

In other news…
The entry of “Steamboat Willie” into the public domain has renewed interest in the Air Pirates and, not incidently, my book, including the possibility of a film.
I have been down this road before. Occasionally punji pits had to be avoided. Commonly they petered out nowhere. Once in a while bread (or cake) crumbs were picked up before the trail abruptly ended. The starting point is always exciting, the journey usually entertaining; but as I age, the excitement is less. As one Hollywood macher said to me, “You know how it is, Bob. I tell you how much I love your work. And then you never hear from me again.”
On this occasion – and it is not entirely clear – one (or two) film makers of actual (but modest) credentials have associated in a “producer,” with greater (though not terribly current) experience in the sphere of socially conscious documentaries. Because he has the most familiarity with matters like options, he is to contact me. Whether there is funding or, if not, where it is to come from has not been disclosed.
No matter. I would like to see the project proceed. I will not stand in anybody’s way.