Tag Archives: Chicago

Stefon From SNL Was a No-Show for My Book Talk

Home » Chicago » Page 2

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Circling twice around McQuixote Books & Coffee before spotting it, I was convinced,  Stefon from Saturday Night Live would show up to review my book talk and signing. I did not expect Stefon to be a no-show.

The Portland Arts District of Louisville, Kentucky is precisely the kind of environment to turn Stefon giddy – an old manufacturing and warehouse district; surrounded by decrepit homes in need of preservation, reconstruction, or demolition; surprises around every corner; and not a sign in sight to tell you where to go or what to do.

Here’s where “it” happens. Bring imagination. Something will come of it.

I thrived in this kind of place when I was a boy. A district just like this lay between my home in the projects and the stench of the Chicago Stockyards. Among derelict castles of industrial commerce long gone, Kenny Grail and I imagined ourselves as medieval warriors, battling demons of destruction. Our creative innocence slayed dragons that darkened every corner. We became heroes of our imagination. Today, Chicago is revitalizing our abandoned playground with art galleries, trendy coffee houses, and performance spaces, as is Portland’s district.

My host at McQuixote was Trevor DeCuir, one of its three owners. In no time at all, we were talking Ecuadorian coffee beans, business, books, and art. Mmmmm. Was it the coffee that was making me feel rather youthful?

Once around age 11 or 12, I left Chicago with the only possession I thought worth taking – my typewriter. I was headed for Greenwich Village in New York to become a Beat writer like Jack Kerouac. I was going to read my poems in basement coffee houses and live off the brew. I never got the chance, though. A young kid from Minnesota kept showing up with his guitar. He sang his poems. They never let Bobby Zimmerman off the stage. I never got on.

Finally now, at McQuixote Books & Coffee, my time was here and now. Like back then, my set up was simple. I was ready to talk about my writing and listen to the finger snaps of appreciation. And where are you now, Bobby? You’re secluded in your house in Malibu, releasing old tapes from your basement. I’m here in Portland, sipping coffee, waiting for Stefon, about to talk about my book in front of a live audience. Take that, Bob Dylan!

Having arrived an hour early, Trevor invited me to have a look around. Beyond the book & coffee shop, I discovered a warren of artist studios. I peaked in some windows. A lot going on.

A child whizzed past me on a scooter. I followed the child and heard the voice of an artist, at work, talking to their creation.

The child whizzed past me again, leading me down a small gallery into a large gallery space. Art was hanging everywhere. I stopped at each one, taking it all in. The quality of the art was good, if not exceptional. Everything was affordable.

A wall mural caught my eye, reminding me of my acting days, when a photographer posed me beside a wall mural in California at Venice Beach. Graffiti art has come a long way since. The murals here, you can step inside of them, it seemed.

In the theater space, I met Tim Faulkner. I told him his place reminded me of when I used to work at Andy Warhol’s weekend nightclub, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Tim’s space is a catch-all for all types of events, too, from performances to weddings. A film crew was outside, working on a documentary, like Andy used to do with his camera while Lou Reed, Nico, and Velvet Underground droned under my strobe light. The adorable child on the scooter whizzed by again.

Back in the coffee shop, my audience assembled. We didn’t wait for Stefon to arrive. This was not going to be a sterile book lecture. Like a couple of book talks I’ve had in private homes, we all sat around casually. I began talking, but soon all of us dissolved into conversation, following the flow of everyone’s interest with my material.

Author Eric F. James with Jack Francis

At times, I found myself more interested in the theatrical work Jack Francis from my audience was doing with the young people of Louisville. He was taken enough by the show business types from the Jesse James family, enough to take home a book.

Stefon was a no-show, but I was thrilled when Trevor posted on McQuixote’s Facebook page, “Eric F. James was a treat to have at the shop and we’ll be hosting him again soon, to be sure!” I can’t wait to return. I left some authorgraphed books behind for anyone who missed our event.

I may be as old as Don Quixote, but I found no one at Portland’s McQuixote Books & Coffee tilting at windmills. For anyone with a future in their eyes, this is a place to do and be.

Do you read me, Stefon?

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Tuesday October 19th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

See MoreSee Less

Tuesday October 19th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

☞Today in Old-West History — On today’s date 119 years ago, Sunday, October 19, 1902, notorious Old-West outlaw & fiddle player James Hardin “Uncle Jim” Younger (1848-1902) met his earthly demise at the age of 54 when he committed suicide by gunshot whilst on parole at Saint Paul, Minnesota.

☞Requiéscant In Pace, Jim Younger.

☞Jim Younger was one of the central figures of a band of the most desperate outlaws the Old West ever knew — the infamous James-Younger Gang, which was formed by Jim’s brother Cole Younger along with Frank & Jesse James.

☞Jim Younger joined the Confederate Army during the War Between the States (1861-1865) & served with Quantrill’s Raiders. In 1864, he was captured by Union troops & was imprisoned until the end of the War.

☞After the War, Younger worked on various ranches until he joined the James-Younger Gang in 1873. When his brother John was killed at Roscoe, Missouri in 1874, Jim left the gang & went out west where he worked on a ranch in San Luis Obispo, California.

☞In 1876, Jim returned to the gang, & on September 7 he participated in a bank robbery that became known as the Great Northfield Minnesota Raid. During that robbery he was shot & captured. The James brothers escaped, but Cole, Jim, & Bob Younger were shot up by a posse, arrested, & sentenced to long terms in the state penitentiary at Stillwater, Minnesota, where they were afforded celebrity status.

☞Jim Younger’s fiddle was one of the few possessions that he was allowed to have with him in prison, & he played it often. As time passed, Jim noticed that a little bird would appear most every day in the window of his jail cell. It seemed as though the bird came to listen whenever Jim played his fiddle. Jim was lonely & he befriended the bird which he named “Swipsy.” The bird would fly into the prison cell & Jim would always try to have crumbs to feed Swipsy. One day, a fellow prisoner killed the little bird just for spite. Jim then painted a picture of Swipsy on the back of his violin to remember his little feathered friend.

☞In 1898, the prison warden allowed the prisoners to throw a Christmas party at his own home, with Cole Younger portraying Santa Claus & Jim Younger playing his fiddle.

☞Paroled in 1901, Jim became engaged to his long-time lover Alix Mueller; however, because of the terms of his parole he couldn’t marry her.

☞On October 19, 1902, after a failed attempt to sell tombstones & then insurance, Jim Younger locked himself in his room, wrote a suicide note to Alix, picked up his revolver, & blew his brains out.

☞In 2013, Jim Younger’s fiddle, which was played by him at the famous 1898 Christmas party at Stillwater Prison, was sold at a Dallas, Texas auction for over $11,000.

☞The left-hand photograph depicts the image of Swipsy the Bird that Jim Younger painted on the back of his fiddle. The right-hand photograph depicts an undated studio portrait of Jim Younger.
See MoreSee Less

Comment on Facebook

Thank you for sharing this story.

Tuesday October 5th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

For Drury Woodson James, founder of Paso Robles, CA., and all his descendants, PASO ROBLES FOUNDERS’ DAY 2021. See MoreSee Less

Load MORE