A Cerebral Offer
Ken Janjigian
Coming November 2020!

Harry Gnostopolos is frantically trying to keep his beloved indie theater afloat while his frustrated girlfriend implores him to let it go along with his other neuroses. Harry’s fate suddenly changes with the arrival of an old bohemian friend and an exotic woman who tempt him with a chance to save the theater and his life. All he has to do is join a subversive cabal of thieves, who have planned a heist that will rewrite history.


ISBN 978-1-60489-258-1 $19.95;  Sale $10.50

ISBN 978-1-60489-259-8, 27.95     Sale $15.50

About the Author:

Ken Janjigian is also the author of Gone West, a collection of novellas also set in San Francisco, and the novel, Defending Infinity. He is an assistant dean at American University focusing on international education and teaches the course, American Film and Culture Studies. Originally from Boston, Ken taught English in Italy before eventually settling in the D.C. area. He also spent several impactful years in San Francisco in the 1990s. To this day, it feels like he never really left the city.

Excerpt from Book:

Chapter 1

Mutiny at the Cabrillo

Dana and I co-owned the Cabrillo, a small independent theatre on the outskirts of San Francisco in the Richmond District, an area few tourists ever visited, save for some intrepid surfers and swimmers who braved the frigid and sometimes shark inhabited waters of nearby Ocean Beach. Richmond’s most frequent visitor was actually the fog. It rolled in early and daily all white and pristine over the Marin County hills from the north, majestically crossing the bay as if it were on a mission before it grayed and slowed to a shrouded pause right above the Cabrillo. Richmondites would often get fog fever and flee across the Golden Gate just to get a desperate dose of sunshine. I, too, would occasionally join the solar seekers, but after a few sunny hours in Marin, I was more than ready to return to my foggy home.

Forgive my romanticism but let me confess this right up front: I had a profound, almost ethereal love of San Francisco. It was my adopted home during those liberating escape years of the early twenties, and I had no desire to ever live anywhere else. In fact, I had no intention of ever leaving our little Richmond enclave. Dana diagnosed the love as obsessive, perhaps even pathological. She had some new evidence too that reasonably supported her hypothesis.   

I had recently developed gephyrophobia, a fear of bridges. I’d had a panic attack crossing the long and mighty Bay Bridge last year and ever since I refused to cross any bridge. I had to admit it was an odd and sudden psychic eruption at my age and made leaving peninsular San Francisco more complicated. Dana thought this was a cupcake of an analysis. My fear was simply a neurosis manifested from the confrontation of her desire to leave the city and my need to stay.

Maybe she had a point. But maybe something else was brewing…     

Contrarily, Dana was very ready to leave San Francisco and move on from our movie theatre life. We lived above the Cabrillo in a small two-bedroom apartment. We could often hear sounds from late movies sneaking through the crevices in our floor or the white noise of crowd chatter as moviegoers lined up at the old-fashioned ticket kiosk on the street just below our bedroom. I loved those sounds, but Dana’s initial intrigue with it all was fading fast into fatigue.

“It’s like we have 500 roommates every night,” she’d say.  

We discussed compromises like moving to Marin, but the commute would be torture for a gephyrophobe. The same was true with going the other way to East Bay, its villainous and endless bridge mocking my commute. I agreed to go to therapy to address my new enemy but stopped after a few sessions that I deemed useless. We considered moving to another part of the city, but it was so expensive, and money was getting tight. The theatre was not doing well lately.

“Harry, the Cabrillo is going under. It’s unsustainable. I spoke to Mariana and she gave me all the gory fiscal details. We are basically surviving on my job now.” Dana worked as a graphic designer downtown and she was right. Her salary was carrying us.

“It’ll turn around,” I promised many times. “The new changes need some time to take root. I’m optimistic.”

“New changes? A bookstore and gallery for local writers and artists? Readings? Doubling down on bohemia is not exactly entrepreneurial ingenuity. It’s delusional.”

“The bar is doing very well,” I countered. “That’s factual, not delusional.” 

“It’s only eight seats. Even if every seat is filled all day with big spender drunks, it’s not enough.”

“Give it a little time,” I said, not really believing it myself. “I could always expand the bar.”

Dana was shaking her head slowly in frustration. “Harry, it’s a movie theatre, not a pub.”

“It’s more than a movie theatre.”

“Look, Harry, I know you don’t want to do this, but we need to sell the theatre before it cripples us, financially and otherwise.”

That last word resonated, but I chose to ignore it. One battle at a time. “I’m not ready to give up.”

“I get it and I admire the determination, but we won’t have a choice soon. You lived your dream for a while. Who gets to do that for even a day?”

“What the hell would I do with myself without the Cabrillo?”

“Use your real talent like you were doing when we met. That’s how you made it before.”

And to the past we went. I was once a filmmaker. The key word being once because I only made one movie. My MFA thesis at San Francisco State was a biopic short on Jack Kerouac. One of the side projects with the thesis was to develop marketing materials to promote the film that all of us would soon be shopping to producers after graduation. The graphic design and film departments at State collaborated for this and that’s how Dana and I met. She was also a second-year MA student and was assigned to create the poster for Kerouac. She dove into the project by carefully reading my screenplay, and even some of the Kerouac and Beat oeuvre for research. She came up with a great abstract collage that captured the heart and soul of the movie. The heart and soul of Jack.

We started dating soon after.

Not long after graduation a small indie production company bought the rights to the film, paying me to expand the short into a full-length version. I negotiated to direct as well, and Dana used her design talents on the set and in promotion. It was a memorable time for us that got even better when the film became a small hit, even garnering an Oscar nomination. I used the money from the film to buy the Cabrillo. To the surprise of many, especially Dana, I also had no interest in ever making another film. I was a contented one-hit wonder.

“Dana, we’ve been through this a million times. The muse is gone. I like what I do now much more than filmmaking.”

“Harry, it’s not working.”

“It will. Ok, it might. Besides, this neighborhood and the regulars, the staff, they are like family. For both of us. The Cabrillo is my Cinema Paradiso. It’s my life.”

“Yes, your life, not mine.”

“It used to be yours.”

“Not really.”

That was more or less the flow of all our conversations lately. We had mastered the art of patterns, irresolution, and dead ends. I knew I was on borrowed time financially with the Cabrillo and emotionally with Dana.

But I also had my own psychological analysis as well. I thought Dana was using the theatre and her desire to leave the city as a mask for what she really wanted to leave.


And perhaps I was wearing a similar mask.

We kept soldiering along our plateau for a while as couples do until it all changed one cataclysmic night when the plateau suddenly turned Himalayan upon the arrival of Jackson Halifax.