The following is a chronicle of the Black Candies tour, which took place from March 15 – March 19, 2018. Please support cool art and literature by purchasing Black Candies: The Eighties. Thank you.
DAY ZERO: SAN DIEGO
Julia Dixon Evans: All you need to know about the San Diego show is that it was in a bar, our home bar, with our hometown crowd, late at night.
Ryan Bradford: It was a great reading. Really varied. Drew Andrews set up a telephone mic and got to yell in it. (Future note: use the telephone mic at every reading.)
JDE: Future note: use the telephone mic just for everyday life.
RB: We showed movie clips. Future note: show movie clips at every reading. Nobody likes readings. Just movie clips.
JDE: I especially loved having Carrie Anne Hudson write a little piece about her artistic process and read it. I think it might have been the first time she’d read anything she’d written, and it was great to hear. She talked about illustrating Tiffany Scandal’s “Black Balloon.” I loved having an artist’s perspective in this show, particularly because the art show was such a cool element of the night.
The Black Candies art show.
RB: Yeah, the art is always a huge part of BC. Nothing secondary about it. And I was stoked that Carrie was willing to go up and talk about it. It’s hard enough for writers to get in front of mic… but a lot of the artists were there nonetheless. Everyone was just so stoked to be part of this project, which is like, oh thank god. As a word guy, I’m always yearning for approval from artists.
JDE: Remember that one guy? The one who made comments.
RB: Oh yeah, some drunk guy who loudly said “WHAT’S THAT ONE?” after the It Follows clip.
JDE: Ooh but then I got to talk about It Follows.
RB: Jim Ruland later said the 45-second clip we showed of It Follows completely sold him on watching that movie. So he did, and then he sent an email that just said “Oh jeez.”
JDE: Future note: get Jim Ruland to email oh jeez about every reading.
RB: The first thing anyone said to me after the show was over was not “good job!” or “great book!” It was my landscaper approaching me on stage and telling me to spray my weeds. “You gotta spray.”
JDE: He’s my landscaper, too. Not even “too.” He was my landscaper first. We can call him “Julia’s landscaper.” You don’t own him.
RB: Oh yeah.
JDE: Anyway, we drank a lot and stayed out late and sold some books. Ryan Hicks, Craig Oliver, Carrie, Drew, and Jim, plus all the artists who came out, we were all buzzing with delight and all sorts of afterglow about such a fun party and reading and YAY MORE TOMORROW. End scene…?
Clockwise from left: Ryan Hicks, Ryan Bradford, Carrie Anne Hudson, Jim Ruland, Craig Oliver, Drew Andrews
DAY 1: LOS ANGELES
JDE: So I have this car, and it’s quite small actually but it has sliding back doors and everyone seems to think it’s a fuckin minivan but it’s actually more of a station wagon? I just call it the Mazda. But Ryan calls it my “minivan.” Anyway, that’s the car we decided to take.
RB: It totally is a minivan.
JDE: It’s not a minivan my friend.
RB: So we left San Diego around noon and drove Julia’s minivan up to LA.
JDE: Oh, Los Angeles in the rain is lovely. We went straight to The Pop-Hop and dropped off the books there. Everyone at The Pop-Hop is exactly how I wanted them to be. I walked in and asked someone working there if he was Robbie, my contact there. He said, “it’s pronounced Roby,” and I said, “Oh, sorry.” Then a full minute later Roby told me that there is in fact another worker there called Robbie, and he is in fact there that day, but is in the bathroom.
We left the books there and asked Roby to let Robbie know, so we could go and get a stiff drink.
RB: Watching you try to get info out of Roby was like watching a Monty Python bit. Really nice fella though.
JDE: Really nice fellas all around. Actually, I think The Real Robbie is probably one of my favorite venue/event persons I’ve worked with at a show. He was game for anything, ran all of our last-minute movie clips, and such a delight. How many times will I say “delight” in this diary?
RB: Not enough “delights” imo. Anyway, we went to The York—
JDE: Wait! The donuts. I think the donut situation begins now. We have to mention Donut Friend right now. It just was so attractive on the outside that I knew in my heart if I googled it I’d find vegan donuts there, and sure enough, all the donuts were vegan! But we didn’t get one right then, figuring we’d save it for later. And this was my grave mistake.
RB: OH MAN, THE DONUT FIASCO. I feel like we could spend 2000 words on talking about Donut Friend, the politics behind Donut Friend, Todd Taylor’s complicated relationship with Donut Friend and—
JDE: You mean how, when pressed, he’ll confess to liking the lavender one.
RB: All this to say we never actually had a donut from there. I ain’t no donut boi.
JDE: Don’t remind me. Okay, but The York was good and nice and cheap and I had an old fashioned. I think for a bar with TVs (this is a genre for me) it ended up being really nice. This, though, was where we learned the incredibly sad news about the death of Zach Doss, a writer friend based in L.A. And I think I will always remember that bar and that drink and this tour when thinking about him.
RB: Oh God, yeah, I was just gonna mention Zach. That was a super gut-punch. Totally unbelievable, and gave the whole night a strange, somber feeling.
JDE: Yeah, I felt that too. The rain, and that sadness, made this LA show feel unreal. Hazy/dream sort of unreal. I think in my head I offered up the reading to him. His work was so beautiful and absurd; it seemed fitting. I read on twitter later that Jan Stinchcomb, a contributor and reader at LA had also dedicated her reading to Zach.
After drinks we met up with Todd from Razorcake and Jim Ruland for soup. Soup made me feel like I was just going through some motions of rain+shock management but it was delicious! I am not a food spiller, like, ever, even though Ryan is a total spiller. I spilled soup on my skirt so I spent a lot of time scrubbing it clean because, being a non-spiller, I didn’t plan for spilling.
Jim Ruland not spilling pho
RB: I had a chicken banh mi (<— good addition to this diary)
JDE: And overall I think I was getting to the event much later than I’d normally want, but Robbie not Roby had everything set up so I was trying to not make a scene of being stressed out or type-A about being prepared, especially hanging out with these three nice punk fellas. Just focus on cleaning up the spilled soup, Jules.
RB: Standing around The Pop-Hop, the rain really started pouring down. I asked Jim if he thought this was going to affect the attendance. “Yep,” he said. No sugarcoating from Jim. Our good friend and talented writer Meredith Alling showed up and God bless her. But like Julia said, the rain, the news of Zach’s passing— it made made it feel um… intimate? Like, we were all writers, just being together, doing what we do in spite of the world. Ugh. Cheesy. I don’t know.
JDE: That’s not cheesy. I felt that too. And then we’re like [HORROR].
RB: Friday’s reading was really rad. Again, the stories were all varied and every reader killed it. I loved everyone for different reasons, and was super stoked that Jan Stinchcomb read something dirty.
Clockwise from left: Jan Stinchcomb, Henry Hoke, Jim Ruland, Sarah LaBrie
JDE: Yeah! It was the first time I’d met Jan, despite us existing in similar writerly circles, like Paper Darts, and you know, like, Twitter. Henry Hoke was up next, and everything Henry writes is devastating. He crushed the reading of his story, like, absolutely flawless. Even if I practice every day for hours I’ll still flub a word or two but Henry never flubbed. And what I loved most about Henry was that we could all laugh with him, even amidst the dark shit in his story.
RB: After Henry, Sarah LaBrie went up, and she knocked it out of the park. Her story is super funny on page, but she really played up the voice and got some serious belly-laughs— both from how dark it is and just genuinely funny. It was also the first time she she saw the butt in her illustration, and I felt real proud when she gave it props. We did a good job with matching her with her illustrator, I thought. A proud moment all around.
JDE: Yes! And unbeknownst to us at the time, Bryan Tipton (the illustrator for “Survivor”) was watching the The Pop-Hop’s live Instagram story feed. He saw her turn to look at the art. It was amazing.
Up next was Jim Ruland, and at this point I think you and I both had settled into this feeling of relief and AHHH THE WARM GLOVE of a successful reading, especially after the unsettled stuff we were faced with earlier in the day: the rain, the bookstore-not-a-bar-crowd, the Zach. Jim’s piece is a crowd pleaser. Robbie, our hero, cued up the Neon Maniacs trailer and we could just sit back and relax. I’ll let you talk about Jim.
RB: Yeah, Jim’s piece is the first non-fiction thing we’ve ever published in Black Candies, and it’s a 6,000-word long stunner, but it’s not like he can really read from it, so for these readings he just ends up talking about the essay. People like hearing Jim get real. Getting a little unscripted. It adds a certain je nes se quois veritas to the evening.
JDE: Did you do a little French hand motion when you said that y/n.
RB: Oui oui.
JDE: And I think one thing I might love more than people reading horror is listening to people talk about what it means to them.
RB: True. That’s my bread and butter, so it’s really cool to hear from Jim. And he’s since told me that he’s really been touched at the immediate response he’s gotten after doing these readings. Also, I hope that it drives people to watch Neon Maniacs, which is a national treasure.
JDE: National treasures are my bread and butter. Also, the person I didn’t quite realize I was most interested in pleasing with this reading was Robbie, and he ended up being SO delighted by it; it was really fulfilling to me. I think it made me realize, hey, we do a good thing, this is an amazing project, and bookstores want it. Robbie was happy to have us leave a bunch of books there, so if you’re in LA, head to The Pop-Hop and ask Robbie, or perhaps Roby, to sell you a copy of Black Candies.
RB: After the reading, we went to… some bar? Meredith, Julia, Henry, Sarah and I talked about literary nemeses, and I admitted that mine was [redacted].
Meredith Alling and Ryan
JDE: Instead of talking about enemies I will change the subject here to remind you that I wanted a donut! But everyone was like, I’m not getting a fuckin $4 donut. So I figured I’d get one later when they weren’t paying attention and soon it became this Thing and I ended up promising Jim I’d buy him one so he wouldn’t have to pay that $4.
But then there was a line—
RB: It was a line of donut bois.
JDE: And after a full afternoon of me stubbornly loving the vegan donut place despite everyone’s shit-talking, I said “I hate this place and their $4 donuts.”
RB: Then we went to Todd’s house (also Razorcake HQ).
JDE: Where he promised us oatmeal for breakfast and arranged a wake-up time for us and I felt like he was our dad. It was a really nice place to come home to.
RB: Jim and I slept downstairs in the Razorcake offices. Slumber party with Jim Ruland = a dream come true. It was super warm down there, and I ended up farting a lot (sorry Todd, sorry Jim, sorry everyone).
JDE: I was just going to talk about the farting but I see you’re on it.
DAY 2: DRIVING/OAKLAND
JDE: The next day (post amazing dad oatmeal) we hit the road in the station wagon for San Francisco.
RB: Driving around LA in a minivan is great. But yeah, we drove a lot that day.
JDE: It’s not a minivan but yes, I think we had this back and forth about who was going to drive, and I kept reminding you that I have a history of falling asleep at the wheel so…
RB: You kept reminding me of your narcolepsy, putting the fear of death into me. So I drove a lot.
JDE: That day was long and lots of hours with weirdly frequent stops for a road trip without children where frequent stops are expected.
RB: Two highlights of the drive through the central valley (which, honestly: leave it for the cows) is 1) Blaze pizza (the Subway of pizza!) and 2) Bravoland, which is this roadside attraction that was advertised as “A cool place!”
JDE: IDK, I liked the bleakness of the central valley. Blaze pizza is also pretty bleak to me. Suburban pizza. Bravoland, though, now that was a bonanza. Cool place!
RB: Never underestimate my power to enjoy bleak pizza.
JDE: Another highlight for me was when I retrieved a copy of Gross and Unlikeable from the back of the car so I could read Madeline Gobbo’s (amazing) story. I really love reading stories out loud on road trips.
RB: You have an amazing ability to read in the car. If it were me, I’d be puking after the first sentence. But that story was great. I hadn’t read it since the editing stages of Gross and Unlikeable, two years ago.
JDE: Also by this point I think we had exhausted our Black Candies: The Eighties playlist but still kept on listening to it.
RB: I’ll never get sick of Hall and Oates. We arrived at Jake Arky’s house in Oakland (co-founder of So Say We All) around dinner time.
Julia Sam DiSalvo and Jake Arky
JDE: Jake is [drumroll] a delight.
RB: Same with his gf Sam.
JDE: Yes! And I loved presenting them with Jake’s contributor copy. He has a story in The Eighties and it was the first time he’d seen the book. Their apartment was very clean and tidy and Oakland and I immediately just wanted to move in with them.
RB: I actually did move in with them. They don’t know it but I’m writing this from underneath their bed.
JDE: I’m happy for you. We went out for Oakland drinks and Oakland food, which is to say, hip and expensive but also cozy and somewhat old-feeling. I think that’s my experience with Oakland now that I’m an expert after 2 days.
RB: I had a burger (<—- another great contribution to this diary)
JDE: Good job. Oooh and then we went to that spooky dive bar. Tell us about the bar Ryan.
RB: Oh yeah. The Avenue. Definitely my style. It was like a year-round haunted house. Skulls and goth shit everywhere. Coffee tables shaped like coffins (coffin tables!). And pretty cheap drinks. Loved it.
JDE: And the ladies room had porn posters plastered all around, so I took a video to show you guys. I think I must have been two drinks into things at this point. I posted the video on Instagram stories and later saw that my mother watched the story. Black Candies forever.
RB: Moms are always into porn.
DAY 3: OAKLAND/SAN FRANCISCO
JDE: I went running.
RB: Can’t believe you did that.
JDE: By that point it was stubbornness of having packed my running stuff and all that wasted space in my suitcase. But I like seeing other cities that way, so I toughed it out and went out for a quickie. It was cloudy and dreary and everywhere was green: lush gardens and moss in the cracks in the sidewalk.
RB: I think I looked at Instagram while you did that.
JDE: Then I think I had these conflicting ideas vs. actual plans. I wanted to see the city, San Francisco, but I also just wanted to go see some of our friends and sit in their houses. I’m glad that won out overall, because those were some of my favorite parts of this trip, seeing people and telling them about this book and the tour. The next event was that evening, in the city, at Green Apple Books on the Park, so we knew we just had to end up there by 7 or so. Again, this sort of set-up time frame stresses me out but I guess bookstore workers have their act together?
RB: Green Apple Books was a… DELIGHT!
JDE: Yes. First we went to visit my friends Katie and Jay in their gorgeous house in Fruitvale where they fed us gorgeous food and you can no longer say that you eat junk on vacations.
RB: Right, yeah, it was green beans, tahini, quinoa, and a poached egg…? [chef kiss]
JDE: Remember watching Katie poach the eggs?
RB: I’ll never forget it as long as I live.
Katie and Julia
JDE: Then we crossed the bridge and dropped off books. It was cool to see you carrying this box of Black Candies on your shoulder, boombox-style, walking through the streets of San Francisco to a bookstore where you were gonna have a reading. I felt very proud of you, and also glad you were the one carrying the big box, thx.
RB: Yeah, it was like five blocks with a heavy box of books. NBD. I do burpees, so whatev.
JDE: Overall, it was a total jock day. Was there literary stuff happening too IDEK.
RB: But yeah, after we dropped the books off, we went to see my good friends Lindsey and Jalal, and chatted with them for an hour or so. They gave us beer and cider and I got to talk about Pearl Izumi sportswear with Jalal (he’s not a fan).
JDE: Also, seeing these people reminded us that the Bay Area is so huge, and us having a reading in one tiny corner of the city doesn’t mean everyone in the Bay Area can come and everyone had legitimate reasons to not make a super-long trek into a hard-to-get-to part of town. I think I learned that maybe Oakland might be a better location to pull off an event, or maybe if you’re going to be doing readings in the Bay Area, do two. And must you always bring up Pearl Azumi!
RB: Well, also their dog Aldente was sick, so they told us they couldn’t come. Poor Aldente. Such a sweet pup.
JDE: Oh that sweet hound <3. Okay, back to eating and drinking. I had been thinking about mezcal ever since Katie recommended a restaurant because of their mezcal cocktails.
RB: Oh yeah, we went back to that area with the bookstore (Sunset?) and had mezcal cocktails before the show. There was also a magic shop in the neighborhood, but it was closed. I was bummed because in the window, there was a fake dirty diaper that was so gross and so funny.
JDE: I was starting to get really excited, not even for the actual act of people reading in this bookstore, but for finally meeting them. Besides Jake, I’d never met any of the other SF contributors, including someone who we had been working with and suuuuuper internet crushing over for years, since Surveillance: mmgutz.
RB: Yes, I’ve “known” Melissa “mmgutz” Hinshaw for years but have never met her in person. And I’m happy to say that she’s exactly how I imagined. Just a joy. I was also excited to see a former co-worker, Dave Maass. Maddie Gobbo, our other reader, was also A+ human being. Lots of good eggs all around.
JDE: Maddie, after the reading, gushed and said it was a longtime dream of hers to read at Green Apple Books and I thought about all the cogs that had clicked into place to make this whole tour happen, and make that moment happen for her, and I just felt really glad to have been part of it. Writing has such a slow-burn pay off, and I think that as editors and publishers the best we can really do is work as hard as humanly possible to take care of the writers.
RB: And another great, varied reading. I feel like this tour has showed me that fiction readings can be way more than just stoic, poet-voice slogs. Everyone brought it at Green Apple Books. And they were kind enough to take books to sell. If you’re in the Bay Area visit Green Apple Books on the Park and get your own copy of Black Candies.
JDE: Oh, remember how it was in the kiddie section?
RB: YES! It was rad to hear Jake read his filthy story there, especially when he used the term “hairy pussy bush.”
JDE: Noah at GAB on the Park (also a delight, also like Robbie) bought us beer too. Thanks Noah. He introduced the reading as something like “probably the weirdest thing we’ve ever done in the children’s section,” so we were all quite proud to deliver on that.
RB: In a nutshell: Melissa was gross and amazing, Jake was gross and perverted, Madeline was gross and haunting, and Dave was pure savage. Everyone killed it.
JDE: When can we skip ahead and talk about karaoke.
RB: Oh god, right now.
JDE: WAIT! The marquee! Remember how when we drove by at first that afternoon, trying to find parking to deliver the box, you noticed “BLACK CANDIES: A night of literary horror” on the shop marquee? That was amazing.
RB: Yeah, I just about married that sign. Okay, karaoke: we went back to Oakland to Starline, a cool, fancyish, but kinda lowbrow place?
JDE: It was like the diviest karaoke room tucked behind some swanky bar. Also, I loved driving at night in the tunnel on the underside of the Oakland Bay Bridge, listening to Chromatics sing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and practicing ‘80s karaoke, let’s not forget that part of the drive.
RB: There seemed to be a lot of regulars there, which kinda sucked because they get priority with their KJ buddy. But I also know how it is being a regular at a karaoke bar and having strangers arrive and being like, [Seinfeld voice] what’s the deal with them?
mmgutz on the mic
JDE: But our karaoke host has integrity and makes us go in order. Anyway this place had amazing drinks and having Jake and Melissa and their friends in one place doing ‘80s karaoke was just like: dream state.
RB: Melissa sang “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” like, right after I signed up for that, but she did a way better job than I could’ve. Jake did a Jay Z song (non ‘80s song, but I forgive him). It was about midnight before they called Julia’s name, and she sang Pat Benatar’s “We Belong.” Oh, and by this point, we had had some of Jake’s gummies and they were kicking in and Julia kept talking about how amazing she sounded (I mean, she did, but c’mon)
JDE: I mean, I think I was just saying “I am sure I didn’t sound as amazing as I thought I sounded but I sure thought I sounded amazing up there.” Also, speak for yourself, drugs are federally illegal.
RB: I finished up with REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You.”
JDE: All-time top karaoke highlight was when you got out your phone during an instrumental break and read the wikipedia entry for REO Speedwagon on stage.
RB: Seemed like a good idea on those gummies.
Ryan, Julia and Melissa Hinshaw
JDE: Okay, Sam had given you her keys earlier in the day. Remember her keys.
RB: Oh we forgot to mention Sam’s Beastie Boys karaoke. It fuckin knocked our socks off.
JDE: We all wanted to have Sam’s babies that night. And/or break into her office with her keys she loaned you and… I don’t know… finish some work for her so she could have a more relaxing monday. She deserved it.
RB: Yes, we were very concerned about Sam’s state of relaxation and restfulness.
JDE: Jake and Sam were excellent hosts. Remember when we looked in his bookshelf and saw all his Black Candies.
DAY 4: HOME
RB: We drove home.
JDE: It took a long time. But remember, I made you take I-5 all the way to North Park instead of the 805 so we could do one of my favorite stretches of highway in the world, that approach to San Diego’s skyline at night. And we were listening to the ‘80s playlist again, and it felt good to be almost done driving, great to have done this project, and a little melancholy about it being over.
RB: Long live Black Candies.