H.B. Koplowitz’s infamous account of the (literally) riotous history of the Carbondale, Ill., Strip during the 1960s has been out of print for many years.
My friend Jeffrey and I — who have been thick as thieves since the evening we shared a valiant but largely unsuccessful effort to keep straight faces while watching Lancelot spray saliva all over the stage every time he spoke during a performance of Camelot from the front row at Shryock Auditorium our sophomore year — spent the better end of four years searching for copies of the book. Each of us had vowed to make sure that the other one received a copy, in one form or another, as a gift if we ever found it.
In late 2000, Ron tracked down a copy for $60 on Powells.com and bought it for me, just because I wanted it.
I promptly began the painstaking process of typing a few pages at a time and e-mailing them to Jeffrey as a sort of serialized Christmas gift.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey, unbeknownst to me, had tracked down a copy of the book at the Carbondale City Library, Xeroxed the entire thing, and tucked it into plastic sheet protectors for me.
We had a wonderfully O. Henryfied moment that December, when he presented me with his gift during his annual Christmas party. Ron and Jeffrey were the only ones in the room who fully understood why I began laughing hysterically as soon as I tore off the paper and saw the cover (which Jeffrey had also Xeroxed and tucked into the clearview pockets on the front of the binder).
It was a priceless moment — utterly typical of us, and somehow a perfect explanation of what our long and hilarious friendship is all about.
Carbondale After Dark is a fun account of a fun university where I made a lot of friends and a lot of great memories. I don’t know if it was worth the lengths Jeffrey and I went to in our quest to find it after it went out of print, but it’s definitely worth the $19.95 cover price for a reprint. You can preorder a copy online (and get a 20 percent discount and a free poster of the cover) here.
P.S.: The garlic is coming up in our back yard, the ice-cream truck came by on Saturday, I saw a mockingbird in the front yard yesterday, and it’s 37 days to P&C camp. Spring is on the way! Can’t wait until the chorus frogs come back to Makanda. I’ll have to head home for a visit when they do….