Banned from the Bookstore

I’ve been going to the store since it opened in Chicago in the early 90s. I’ve been consigning books and zines there for well over a decade. As of last week I’m no longer allowed through the doors.

I rub lots of people the wrong way. I say what I think at the wrong times, when it’s not what’s being asked. I’m persistent in an annoying way. I have tunnel vision about my work and sometimes don’t take into account others’ delicate sensibilities.

Dealing with bookstores as an independent writer/publisher has been an uphill battle for all the years I’ve done it. Most so-called independent shops don’t want to deal with books that aren’t stocked at an Ingram warehouse. I’ve had fights with owners who champion this or that cause in public but won’t do the extra work needed to support people working outside established channels. It’s frustrating but part of the price of the freedom I enjoy by doing things my own way.

Then there are the shops that survive via the consignment model. This is an archaic way of doing business that only works when all parties trust one another. Unfortunately the vast majority who try it fall behind on payouts or are just a disorganized mess. If you’re a one-person operation, chasing after these characters for nickels and dimes stops being worth the trouble.

The store that banned me last week has functioned via consignment for over thirty years. Up until last year I trusted them and they seemed okay with me. Sometimes I’d lose track and come check on stock too often, but for the most part, it was every three-four months. Some time last year they decided to switch to an email queue in order, they said, to streamline the process. A consignor puts their name in the queue and waits. And waits. And waits. They’ve changed how often one can line up as they’ve gone. First it was three months, then, four, now, who knows? I’ll never find out.

What got me tossed is checking back a month after the four month period. At seven months without payment, I stopped into the store and was met with outright hate. A couple days later an email arrived detailing my death sentence. I had no intention of ever going there again. Finally, we were on the same page.

It feels lousy to be treated this way. Maybe I deserve it, maybe not. There are bars, restaurants, and a couple other bookstores I don’t go into and haven’t in years, for various reasons. Now I have another to add to the list.

I don’t go places I’m not welcome. This is another door shut in my face.

Here’s a recording of my book-release at Tangible Books, with Annie Howard and Mallory Smart. Also, Mallory and I talked Zombi Child.

I’m doing Saturday and Sunday gallery hours at Buena Vista Projects, 1-5pm. October 1st at 5pm, Mute Duo will play an improvised set surrounded by the work I made. I’m looking forward to it. You should be there.

Flat Earth

She tells me she’s been coming to this bar since 1996, when she was fourteen. She stows an unwieldy cloth bag with what looks like most of her worldly belongings on the seat of a booth already occupied by someone else. She laps the bar in exaggerated dance-like steps. All this within a minute of arrival.

How long have you worked here? she asks, instantly disappointed by my answer. Okay, I’m going to give you a choice: Mojito or Paloma. No mint, right, so Paloma.

I bring her drink and say Four dollars. She gives me a twenty and insists with a dramatic flourish of her hands that I keep the change. Then her male counterpart walks in. His skin is pulled almost as tight about his bones as hers but he has a mustache and is a lot less fidgety. He orders PBR.

A young couple sits down to the right of them and Ms. Paloma immediately engages the guy in what looks from a distance from body language like an inappropriate exchange. A second later, she’s removed the floppy hat off his head, draped it over one of the lamps that light the artwork on the wall and furiously snaps photos from various angles with her phone.

To their left are three women and a man. I know one of them a little. She used to live across the street from me in a chaotic building populated by men who drank all day while tinkering over broken down vehicles in the alley. They had frequent middle-of-the-night screaming matches. Apropos of nothing, the mustachioed man tells this woman that viruses don’t exist.

Instead of ignoring him, the woman—my former neighbor—engages him in debate. It escalates into shouting. Meanwhile Ms. Paloma is attempting to baby-feed some sort of leftovers into the mouths of various bar patrons. This pisses off her man at least as much as people doubting his scientific acumen. He doesn’t want her giving away his food. I ask him to lower the volume. He says it’s because I’m angry about his beliefs. I tell him I don’t care what he says, just so it’s said quieter.

The debate continues to include doubts about gravity. That’s when Preston has had enough and tells the man to get out. Mustachio reiterates that we’re discriminating against him for his beliefs. Eventually, he follows my former neighbor outside so they can continue their discussion. His woman pretends like she’s not involved and orders another Paloma. She tells me he drinks beer all day, smacks her around, and won’t fuck her. Then she asks for my number.

I say no but suggest she needs better friends. She doesn’t disagree. Tells me her man is a flat-earther and owns an arsenal of guns. Then tries to press a crystal into my palm.

After disappearing into the bathroom for about half an hour she leaves to join her man, who’s been loitering just outside the door the whole time. My old neighbor, who’d joined the woman in the bathroom for a long while, sighs and tells me how sad these two made her. Turns out she’s some kind of therapist who doesn’t know how to clock out.

She wants to save everybody. I just want them to drink their drinks quietly and leave.

I returned to the Salt Lake Dirt show to talk about the new book and read a couple pages from DeLillo’s Mao II into a microphone in honor of my book-release.

I reviewed a theatrical adaptation of Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle.

This Saturday, my show opens at Buena Vista Projects. The reception is 5-8pm. Then, Sunday, my show at Firecat Projects will close. I’ll be there 1-5pm. Show up and you can take the piece you want right off the wall and take it home!

Blank Slate

Monday I get a late start. I bartended the night before so I try to sleep in. The forecast promises high 80s so I’m dreading the 13 mile bike ride. I get to Buena Vista around 2pm, pouring sweat, and sit and stare at the blank wall about half an hour.

The idea to fill a gallery with art made on the premises in three weeks was mine. John only asked for the show to be something I hadn’t done before; a challenge or left turn. I’d brought a pile of ephemera, two French easels, paint, markers, charcoal, multi-colored tape, and reams of paper in a Zipcar a couple days before. I didn’t really know what I was going to make and I don’t now, staring at the wall, the sweat slowly ebbing.

I tape an old portrait near the window, then something next to it, then another thing. It’s all intuitive, no precise method or logic. The elements I work with already have a relationship either through biography or aesthetic association so it’s not random. I’m trying bash things into one another to create a spark.

Within a couple hours of fumbling about a third of the wall has something on it. Then I sit back looking. Try to assess what I’m doing.

The counterpoint to the collage wall will be a series of quick paintings and drawings of the neighborhood and the interior of the art space.

I make the first—a charcoal—looking north from the doorway. A neighbor comes up and watches me draw a few minutes, then tells me the elderly woman who’s spent the past several hours sitting in her walker under the shade of a tree down the block wants me to draw her now.

The challenge of this thing is how little time I’ve spent in this neighborhood. Most of my work comes after months and years of soaking in place. This is a kind of Cliff’s Notes/crash course thing but who doesn’t like a challenge?

After four days of roundtrip rides and steady accumulation of work, I’m ready for a breather. I take Friday off. But that’s mostly because the first batch of books is ready at the printer and I have to see how they turned out.

I’ll resume the routine again Monday. Maybe by the end of the three weeks I’ll begin to know a little about the place and what I’m doing there.

Got signed-and-numbered copies of the new book on hand.

Had a cold a couple weeks ago and inexplicably joined Instagram. Then invited Scout back on the horror show to defend a movie Mallory and I hated.

Made an annotated playlist inspired by the new book for Largehearted Boy.