My old friend Gibbons sent me a copy to review for – what else? – the AVA. Jim and I are AVA old-timers, and my first exposure to the paper was in 1988 at his house in Willits. My first letter-to-the-editor was written there, on another new discovery, the Mac Plus, a primitive early computer one now sees in museums or 80's flashbacks in movies.
I first met Gibbons (he's one of those people normally known by their last name, hardly anyone called him Jim) in 1971 at Gate 6, Waldo Point, Sausalito. He had a couple of books of poetry put out by a small press in Milwaukee. I liked his stuff because it was unpretentious, unlike so much self-conscious poetry that one sees.
The book is a compilation of material written between that time, and relatively recent, let's say post-grandchildren. I'd seen a lot of it before, and was relieved to see he didn't include much from his period of writing for sports magazines. Competition running is something we didn't have in common. But Gibbons has lived many different lives, and writes with humor and insight about many of them. The stories are mostly short vignettes from various time periods. It's illustrated, and although the photo quality is disappointing, the black and white drawings are very good. I might call it "bathroom reading," and coming from me that's a compliment. You can open any page and find something good to read. I just opened it at random and read "I'd Rather Have a Bottle In Front of Me," and learned about alcohol, drugs and teen sex in 60's Milwaukee.
Those kids in the flyover zone were having a lot more fun than I was in puritanical New England.
Flashbacks: A Memoir by Jim Gibbons is available on Amazon. Type in his name to bypass a similar title. Mendocino County people will see many familiar names and places, from Gibbons' unique, largely tongue-in-cheek perspective.