Adventures in Marketing — Week 405

Sold a “Cheesesteak” and three “Bob”s.
The former went to a “business system analyst,” which means he helps people do their jobs better. (NOT an efficiency expert. He insisted I get that straight.) He familiarizes his clients with their software “In preparation for the new world.”
“Richard,” who was in town from Dallas, was of average height, about 40, wore plastic-rimmed glasses, and dressed in unobtrusive blues and greys. He was fascinated by the different types of people who congregated in Berkeley’s cafes – and me, selling my books. (He took my picture. Then had a barrista take a picture of the two of us together to prove he had met me.) He was a tad unfamiliar with local history, not knowing people had been shot on Telegraph Ave. in the ‘60s, or that troop-bearing military vehicles had rolled down the very street we were on, or that tear gas had spiced our air.
He had wanted a book to read on his flight home, hence my recommendation – but I also gave him a copy of the café journal for his cultural enrichment.

The “Bob”s went to (a) a high school classmate; (b) a friend/semi-cousin of Adele’s, who’d lived here but, for decades, has been a psychiatric-social worker outside Philadelphia; and © a retired-from-Kaiser anaesthesiologist back from a Doctors-Without-Borders stint in India.

In other news…
1.) My top no-book-sold encounter was with Iris, a fifth-grader in a “Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal” sweatshirt. (From “Home Alone,” it was explained to me, the culturally unenlightened.) She lives in Virginia City with her mother, Jess, who joined us – and said I could use their real names. Jess, a digital designer/librarian, knew of Bob Crabbe but not Dan O’Neill, my primary Nevada-City-connected-names-to-be-dropped. The most significant thing about Iris is that, in a city with much home schooling, she insists on attending public school. She does not want to miss the experience of being around other children. Good for her.
2.) A Mystery Solved: My pal Fran picked up two copies of “Outlaws, Rebels…” from Moe’s for me, which I can mark-up and peddle. One is immaculate, but one is signed “Bob, Thanks” by one of the cartoonists profiled in it. “Why would he be signing a book by me to me?” I wondered. The answer came from another pal, Wes. “He was giving the book to another ‘Bob.’” That made perfect sense because the cartoonist was a magalomaniac and probably felt that since he was in the book, it was about him. Not only that, I thought I knew the “Bob” to whom he had signed it.
When I mentioned the name, Fran thought he knew him too.
3.) Finished the article I’d been working on for “Comic Book Creator” about the life and tragic end of the Chief Writer and Editor in Chief of “Penthouse Comix.” “Great piece,” the editor said, which was satisfying and exciting since I had never heard of him or it before the assignment before it was offered. I’d literally begun with nothing and ended up with 6000 words.
Now the editor has a bigger story for me.
Cool.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 404

Sold 14 “Bob”s and one “Lollipop.” Gave away another “Lollipop” and swapped another “Bob” to a vintage vinyl and clothing store in Lexington, KY for a t-shirt designed by my the cartoonist and – I am proud to say – my illustrator/colleague J.T. Dockery.
The Bob” buyers were four people from the café, one former client, a nephew, who also bought a copy for his daughter, a Swiftie employed in high tech, four high school classmates (two girls, two boys), a VISTA colleague, a fellow who knows me through my writing on comix, and one who connected through my writing at FOM. One of the café purchasers had never bought a book from me (and received the gift “Lollipop” because he was from Chicago and had lived there during the year in question) and another café purchaser had made “Bob” her first purchase a week earlier and now wanted one for the girl friend with whom she had seen Dylan in 1964 when they were 13 and he he played the Berkeley Community Theater and half the audience walked out when he came out with a band for the second set. (I said Dylan didn’t go electric until 1965. She said she would check her diary and get back to me.)
The most notable comment the book received was from a fellow at the café who called “The Man, the Moment…” “a worthwhile piece,” which didn’t quite match my personal evaluation of it as “The best thing about Bob Dylan ever written,” though I realize experts may differ. I also overheard two of the more strongly opinionated regulars share the surprising recognition that I was quite a good writer.
Surprising to them anyway. I haven’t doubted that for a half-a-century.

In other news…
1. I previously called attention at FB to my making the pages of “Variety” with my Air Pirates book. While taking satisfaction from being quoted in the company of IP experts whose law school class rank, I am sure, far outdid mine, I was a trifle irked to see my 20-minutes of bon mots reduced to one sentence at the article’s tail end. But as my pal Benj noted, this meant the author had allowed me to dramatically ring down the curtain.
2. Two others have now followed me into selling their books in the café. Both are elder statesmen whose tenure on the scene dwarfs mine. One, an honored member of the local folk music community, ran a landmark guitar store in the Village in the early ‘60s, and the other studied mime in Paris and mask making dance in Bali and has been active in the Bay Area alternative performing arts scene since the 1970. We may turn the place into the Bouquenistes of Berkeley. Look for us in the Tourist Guiides.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 403

A big week for “Bob”s. Sold a second copy (and a “Lollipop”) as Hanukah presents to a basketball pal. Sold copies to a café pal and to a long time non-café pal. Received checks from a former client and the friend of a friend of a friend for their copies. Sold one (and a “Lollipop”) to a woman who comes to the café nearly every day and had never stopped at my table to inspect my wares before. (She is originally from Germany, has an unused PhD in philosophy, was a stay-at-home mom, now edits, translates, and plays her guitar. (She’s currently working on mastering “Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.”) Very pleasant person. May have a new friend.
Also sold one non-“Bob,” a “Cheesesteak.” The buyer looked just this side of a street person: black zipper jacket; skull t-shirt; steel chain on belt. But he turned out to be a metal designer/sculptor of national repute. He’s from New Hope but has lived in Philly, near the Italian Market, for 19 years. “I love, love, love Philadelphia,” he said.
“I left in 1967,” I said.
“How come?”
“Well, it was 1967.”
He told me how much the South Street of now is like Haight Street of now. Same head shops, same motorcycles, same bars where you go to pick people up.

In other news – well, not other news entirely:
1.) Another basketball pal – and member of the local Grateful Dead community – posted a recommendation of “Bob on Bob” on Facebook to his friends. Let’s see what that brings in.
2.) And a high school classmate has announced a challenge grant. There are 30 or so of us on an e-mail chain, and she has announced if ten will but a copy of “Bob,” she will make a $150 donation to the school Annual Giving fund. So far one purchased before the announcement; four have promised – and no checks have arrived. I can not be sure if this I a reflection of my classmates feelings about me or Bob Dylan.
3.) First reader responses include “fabulous” and “incredible.”

ALL BOB’S BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE AT www.theboblevin.com.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 402

Sold a “Lollipop.”
The buyer, a 30-something fellow wore a Tigers baseball cap but was not from Detroit. He just liked that shade of blue. An “events producer,” he worked the A/V side of things. He had come to the café with his wife and two small children, the oldest of which, a boy of eight, he described as an avid reader of graphic novels. I thought and thought but could not come up with any of my works that might suit his preferences.
Also had an engaging conversation with a retired elementary school teacher who looked over my books but bought none. She had come down from Lake County, four hours away, to (a) see her physical therapist and (b) pick up a pair of shoes she had left for repair. She had wisps of white hair peeking out from under a knit cap, rimless glasses, and an eye that was half-closed at all times. She relied on an empty shopping cart to keep her balance.
“I usually use a cane,” she said, “but it’s in my trunk under 50 bricks.”
“Why are you riding around with 50 bricks in your trunk?” I quite reasonably asked.
“To keep the gophers from popping out of their tunnels in my garden.”
When she turned out to be three-years younger than me, I was shocked.

But the big news has been the arrival of “Bob on Bob.” I sold six copies at the café the first day, eight the second, and one the third, with the assistance of a new sign (“NEW” written across a lightbulb) in full color, drawn by Fran. The buyers were a classical musician (two copies), a 94-year-old grandmother, (“I knew Susie Rotolo’s parents in the Village. Her mother used to tell Susie Bob would never amount to anything”), an abstract expressionist painter, recently burnt out of his studio, who knew Franz Kline at the Cedar Tavern, another writer (two copies), my high school yearbook co-editor (two copies), a therapist, another therapist, a retired nurse, a retired UC administrator, a retired UC electrician, and a basketball pal.
Very exciting.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 401

Sold a “Most Outrageous” and received an advance payment on a “Bob on Bob.”
The book buyer was “Rick the Roofer” (not his real name or occupation or, for that matter, the identifying facts that follow). Rick has lived an exotic life, one with back-to-nature hippie/musicians in Mendocino County, a Peace Corps stint in Tanzania, and a graduate degree in Elizabethan poetry. There has also never been a conversation in the café within his hearing that he has not felt would benefit from his participation. (Often he is correct.)
This particular morning it had been Fran (See recent previous “Adventures”) telling me about Gertrude Stein. Fran has read her complete works and I only “Alice B. Toklas” and Rick’s contributions made Fran ask if he had read her at all, but we came out of it on good enough terms that Rick decided he should buy another of my books. He had already read “Cheesesteak” and “Lollipop,” one of which he had sent to a friend (a professor? a writer? I forget) in Massachusetts whose opinions Rick greatly respects and his friend had praised the book sufficiently to legitimate me in Rick’s eyes to risk his wife’s displeasure at his bringing this one home.

The pre-order was from a doctor-friend of a doctor-friend whom I know – the friend of my friend that is – primarily through a basketball/politics e-mail discussion group involving a loosely affiliated, half-dozen amateur experts. (I also heard from a neighbor of his with whom I have had no contact whatsoever that he wants a copy too. Word-of-mouth is working.)
In other news:

1.) The printer advises “Bob on Bob” has shipped ahead of schedule and will be here Thursday. If everyone is as good as their word, only 30 copies remain available, so secure yours now. Lay ten bucks on me in person or send $15 to Spruce Hill Press, POB 9492, Berkeley, CA 94709.
2.) Faithful readers may recall my being asked to write a feature article about a controversial figure I had never heard of, who had edited a controversial magazine I had never read, and who had taken his own life before he was thirty in a spectacular fashion which was also news to me. Moreover I could find no one in his family who would talk to me and prominent figures in his professional past also ignored my requests.
But things are looking up. I found all the comics he’d edited available on line, free. (WOW!) And with the input of the editor who gave me the assignment, I’ve had lengthy conversations with several men who worked with him, all of whom have been generous with their time and sharing of stories. Since I’d literally begun with nothing, it’s been thrilling to see the pages fill. My editor wanted five-to-ten thousand words, and though I think three-to-five are more likely, they will be good words, and it should be fine.

The Most Interesting

My latest piece is up at:

https://www.firstofthemonth.org/the-most-interesting/

It begins like this:

After Marilyn told Adele that she and Grif were packing winter clothes for the Buddhist retreat in New Mexico, Adele asked me if New Mexico wasn’t hot.
“They have mountains,” I said, “and mountains have snow.”
“Do all mountains have snow?”
“Come to think of it, why should any mountains have snow? Aren’t they closer to the sun? Shouldn’t deserts have the snow?”
“When you’re at the café, ask Fran.”


Adventures in Marketing — Week 400

No café sales – but four checks arrived for “Bob on Bob.”
One was from a pal from my old pick-up basketball game. One was from a college friend. One was from a former secretary/poet and one was from a FB “friend” I don’t know personally but seems to have connected to me through the comix world. So various aspects of my life were represented, which feels nice.

In other news…
1.) Regular readers may recall my observation that visitors my table to whom I give my card, no matter how pleasant or interested they appear, never contact me again. They may also recall the young woman from China studying at Cal who came to the café one Sunday because the library was closed but never came again, so far as I know. We’d had a memorable chat, in which I’d mentioned “beatniks” and “hippies” and she had written both words down for further study because she had never heard of either. Anyway, out of the blue – and from China – arrived an email, saying how much she had enjoyed Berkeley and meeting me and that she hoped to return to UCB, her “dream school, for graduate work. (She also thanked me for telling her “story” in my blog, so I have a reader in China! A previously untapped market for my work.)
2.) My table had other visitors of interest. First was a Canadian woman of Iraqui-Jewish heritage (on her mother’s side), with floppy black hair, who arrivedevery morning in the same full-length, black, shiny, plastic raincoat, looking like she had stepped in off Carnaby Street in 1965. She is in town while working on AI, via “diagramatology,” which is Greek to me but mother’s milk to “Stan” (see previous “Adventures”), who leant her books on the subject. He mentioned my article about an AI-created book and she requested the link. I sent it, and that has been the end of that.
Then there was a couple from Utah. (He had been born here, but while they love Berkeley, have decided Utah needs their politics more.) He had shoulder length curly and wore an SF Giants cap, red zipper jacket and grey slacks. His seemingly much younger fiancee wore a knit hat, rust-colored sweater, and polka dotted pants. He edit/publishes a cycling magazine and she is a chemist. We discussed the challenges of publishing, and they fingered my books but bought none. (They were in a hurry to search out his mother’s favorite stuffing for Thanksgiving.) She took my card and asked if my books were available at my website. Hopeful, I allowed myself to imagine.

ALL BOB’S BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE AT www.theboblevin.com.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 399

Sold a “Fully Armed’ and a café journal.
The latter went to my former client (See: “Adventures” 398), who paid me a visit while in the East Bay taking his dog to the vet. We had not seen each other in, oh, 45 years, and he now works as a film/video editor and plays Appalachian-style folk guitar on the side. While we were catching up, he recognized two of the cafes pre-eminent personages, one whom he knew from the music scene back in Detroit and one who had worked closely in avant-garde theater in SF with another friend of his. Both had contributed to the journal, so I didn’t hesitate pushing one on him. With all three of us signing, who knows what it might fetch on eBay.
The FA went to “Stan.” (See multiple recent “Adventures.”) I had thought I only had three copies left, but then I noticed a carton-full in the basement, along with three boxes of “Best Ride,” holding my heavy bag in place. So Stan bought a book, meaning he lacks only a “Pirates and the Mouse” for a complete set of Levins. He’s already read most of FA, engaging me in a discussion of narrative voices (Jimmy’s and mine) and their effect on readers (him), which is a good discussion to have about this book in particular.

In other news…
1.) Had a pleasant meeting with “Vlad Z,” a Serbian engineering student, and “Lizzie,” his Japanese-American girlfriend, a Russian history and lit major, whom I impressed by name-dropping “Oblomov.” They didn’t buy, but now we smile and nod across the café.
2.) Two more requests for “Bob on Bob” have arrived, one from an old basketball buddy and one from a woman at the café. And the first two checks have arrived, one from a college friend and one from a lawyer/Dylanphile, whom I was planning on gifting but insisted on supporting my “art.”
3.) The proof-read “Messiahs, Meshuganahs…” has reached the publisher. I have secured two “name” comix artist/writers, one from my generation, one from the subsequent, to provide cover blurbs and a not-just-comix critic to consider reviewing it. (“I’m always interested in what you write, Bob.”) So that is rolling along.
4.) May not have previously mentioned my newest project, but I have been asked to write a feature article about the controversial editor of a controversial comics magazine of the 1990s. All issues of the magazine are available on-line, which is fortunate, but the controversy is such that so far no member of the fellow’s family and only one of his co-workers and/or friends has agreed to speak to me. But I carry on.
5.) There is one more even better story, but I have spun it off into a separate piece for FOM. Follow this space for future details.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 398

Sold a “Cheesesteak.”
The buyer was a short woman with short grey hair. She was from Wilmington but had gone to Tyler School of Art in 1969 and had fond feelings for Philly. She had studied fabric design but, arriving out here, had found she couldn’t make a living from it, so she had enrolled in a horticulture program at Merritt College and has worked in gardening since. I’d been seeing her at the café for years, but this was the first time my books had caught her eye. Now I have a new friend.
Incidental conversations with – but no sales to – (a) a recent emigre from Algeria (close cropped hair and beard), who has a PhD in economics but no job and (b) a free-lance programmer (tall, thin, bald, big beard), last name was Little (“As in ‘small’”). He works in conjunction with AI programs – and is looking forward to being replaced by them.
The programmer was interested in “Most Outrageous” since his mother had split the family apart with charges she had been sexually abused by her father. He joined “Rex” (See last few “Adventures”) and I for a lengthy conversation. Both Rex and he were gamers, and when he learned Rex had been an animator on “The Little Mermaid” (1989 version) engaged him on actual scenes on which Rex had worked.
“When’s the last time that happened to you?” I asked Rex the next day.

In other news…
1.) The big story is the announcement, via group email (60-75 recipients) and FB post (3-400 “friends,” with some duplicates), of the availability date of “Bob on Bob.” The emails produced 16 orders, (with three requests for two copies), and FB brought three more (one for two copies). [Added to previous orders and “freebies” set aside, only 43 copies remain uncommitted.) For the statistic-obsessed, like myself, of the 29 people I had projected as “most likely” to order, 12 did; of the 15 considered “possible,” two did; of the six friends with whom I regularly lunch, one did (but I’m still counting on the others). Two people I hadn’t expected to order did; so did one person previously unknown to me. She was a friend of a client from 45-years-ago who had recently re-established contact with me. He had received my email, which he had forwarded to her in the desert near Mexico.
She turned out to be a singer/songwriter who toured – and had a romance – with Bob (the other one) in the 1980s, about which she has written her own book. She planned to buy mine, but I proposed we swap.

Adventures in Marketing — Week 397

Sold a “Lollipop” and swapped a “Best Ride” for services rendered.
The sale was to one of the first friends I’d made in Berkeley, who dropped by the café and said, “I don’t have that one.” The swap was to Stan (See Adventure 396), who observed that the stand which props up my “Buy Bob’s Books” sign was held together by Scotch tape and took it home and fixed its hinges.
The only other interest in my wares came from a black-haired, swarthy complected, baby toting, British-accented young man on leave from a job researching international charitable organizations. He turned out to be descended from Marrano Jews. That, I correctly noted, gave him a Right of Return, which, he qualified, would do him no good since it did not apply to his wife, who, while Jewish, was not of Spanish origin.

In other news…
1.) The young woman who did not call me last week scheduled a second phone call – and did not call me then. She did call the next day and we had a nice chat. She said she wanted to interview me for a book she is contemplating about older writers she admires. I said I would be delighted, though this “admiration” seems based entirely upon an article I wrote about her father and stems from my revealing things about him she had never known. (I also suspect that, unless she admires writer with a larger profile, this book will not get far.)
2.) A greater honor to come my way is an invitation to appear at a NY Comics & Picture Story Symposium next year: https://www.youtube.com/@nycomicssymposium/videos.
I’d be able to talk about whatever I want, and if it corresponds with FU’s production schedule, would seem like a good time to focus on “Messiahs, Meshuganahs…”
3.) Which is progressing nicely, thank you. The proofreaders have cleared another 150 pages, leaving about 50 to go. (“Bob on Bob” has made it too the printer’s, so copies of that may be arriving shortly. One more has been spoken for, by a high school classmate. So reserve yours before all are gone.)
4.) Finally, my review of “Oblivion” (https://www.tcj.com/adult-comics/) drew responses that termed my prose “ confused,” “meandering and largely unreadable,” and “weirdo libertarian garbage” and took the opportunity to blast the book’s publisher for supporting authors who are misogynist, sexually predatory toward trans people, and facistic, racially-tinged paranoids.
So far my invitation to the NYCPSS has not been withdrawn.