Bald, slightly stooped by the time our paths crossed in the mid-90s (he’d seen some action, as I’d later learn), huskily barrel-shaped in these, his autumn years, he was not a singular figure.

His flyaway gray fringe always appeared to have been mussed in a sloppy fistfight, the kind that obliges the pugilists to frequently lean against each other in a cooperative grapple while catching precious breath.

By the early 70s, though, the unmediated energy of the City by the Bay began to wear him down. Having very publicly achieved both apogee and a measure of perigee, Conrad would settle into a period of what looked to this writer like a long-sought contentment, a twilight whose elegiac roseate glow yet suggested something of the fires and neon that had so characterized his peripatetic journey to that point. in the mid-90s to visit my brother and his family, I visited a nearby community center where the residents had been asked to empty their garages for charity.

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His demeanor helped me realize in a flash then that the whole transaction put him in an indefinably odd position.

I produced the magazine without further ceremony, and his face – I remember this very clearly – his face became minutely animated, threw off some sudden light. I thank you.” He was looking down, but I saw that he was not looking down at the magazine but at his own fumbling hands, it seemed.

I was one of three managers of the Earthling Bookshop at the time and knew Barnaby first as this somewhat weathered-looking, older gentleman-friend of the bookstore owners, Penny and Terry Davies (unofficial gatekeepers of the town’s shambling literary scene), and knew him next as a member of the mischievous, smart-ass writer’s salon that frequented the place and could often be found hanging about the store like loitering teenagers, cracking wise around the stone fireplace in the bookshop’s center, occasionally doing readings.

Shelley Lowenkopf, Paul Lazarus, Fran Halpern, Walt Hopmans, and the others, they comprised a sort of loose-knit family in the Earthling during that glowing epoch when a bookshop was a building which writers and readers would inhabit like the chummy congregants of a speakeasy.

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On Father’s Day in 1996, my new son Sammy was a 9-month-old blob with a bright orange tuft of hair atop his perpetually smiling, fat-swaddled little head.

My wife and I were over the moon and laughing like fools at our good fortune.

The impetuous kid from California thus began an unlikely career as an American bullfighter, billing himself, of course, as (wait for it…) “El Nino de California”. Barnaby Conrad’s ridiculously cinematic Life on Earth proceeded apace. When he wasn’t doing the Tango with a charging, maddened animal the size of a boxcar, Conrad was typing.

He’d begun a writing habit (after the fashion of his own idol, testosterone experiment Ernest Hemingway) that soon enough bore fruit in the form of a little-noticed first novel.

The magazine, or some such (I’m sorry to say the name escapes me), had articles by both Barnaby Conrad (on bullfighting) and screen actor-seafarer-adventurer Sterling Hayden, and both guys’ faces were on the cover, small, above brief story slugs, Barnaby looking baby-faced and hawk-eyed, his skin cleaving to his neck and jawline as neatly as the velour on a newly upholstered love seat. On returning home, I immediately got Conrad’s contact info from Penny Davies and let him know by e-mail that I had, by some truly odd miracle that at this writing still wows me, stumbled upon this totem from his past, and several thousand miles away. He arranged to come into the store some days hence, and when he did come in he seemed to be affecting an almost endearingly inept show of nonchalance.