Things began slowly. The poster from Fantagraphics, Guy Colwell’s publisher, said he and I would be “in conversation” about his new book, “Inner City Romance,” at Pegasus, a downtown Berkeley bookstore, at 7:00, and at 7:00 our audience was 31 empty chairs and my wife Adele. Then I noticed the poster from Pegasus said we would be conversing at 7:30 and relaxed.
A photographer from a Berkeley paper arrived, took our photograph — and left. By 7:20 our crowd had not grown. “Maybe if it was warmer,” Guy said. “Parking is a problem,” I noted. Guy gestured to two rows, a dozen seats he hoped to fill. “My expectations are low,” he said.
I had personally hung five posters. (One had been torn down and one taped over. I had never seen anyone so much as glance at the other three.) A friend had said she would come, but Adele had given her the wrong date, and by the Time Adele corrected it, the friend had other plans. Fantagraphics had said it would include copies of my books in its shipment, so I could sign too, but none were in evidence. So this is not my problem, I thought.
Eventually — and miraculously — we scored about 16 listeners. Impressively, except for a couple who were friends of Guy’s and a fellow I knew from the Wrench Café, none had a personal connection to either of us. (The listener who interested me the most was a rabbinacally-bearded-and-then-some gent I had seen around town for years. He would open the door of a café where I would be seated, look around, and continue on his way without entering. Now, not only had he entered, he had stayed and sat. I would like to think this was due to the nature of our discourse, but it ay have been the wine and cookies Pegasus was offering.)
Guy and I filled our aimed-for half-hour comfortably. The Q&A went on about as long. People asked about Guy’s other books and how the current art scene regarded his figurative social surrealistic work, and a tattooed young man, who’d served two years in the military, asked about Guy’s time in prison as a draft resister. “I respect your right to do that, sir, but…”
Guy sold several books, and one of the buyers told me how much he’d enjoyed “The Pirates and the Mouse” and “Most Outrageous.” The man in line behind him said he’d read neither but had heard they were good.