THIS INTERVIEW was conducted by the late Jim Nawrocki and is the last of his many contributions to this magazine. I didn’t realize how sick Jim was when he came to me with a proposal to interview his neighbor in San Francisco, Isak Lindenauer, an antique dealer whose shop, Arts & Crafts Antiques, is a Castro institution.
For the last forty years, Lindenauer’s shop has been devoted to showing fine art objects from the American Arts and Crafts movement. He has provided valuable scholarship on the metal artists of the Bay Area. He’s also a writer and a poet who has collected his work in a memoir titled Outpost, published by Norfolk Press, which contains poems, reflections, prose poems, and illustrations.
For the interview, the questions were submitted in advance by Nawrocki and answered in writing by Lindenauer.
— The Editor
Jim Nawrocki: You’ve been writing poems for most of your life and have had your work included in an anthology. Now you’ve collected your work into a memoir. Is this the first time you’ve collected any of your work into a book?
Isak Lindenauer: Yes, this is the first time I have set aside enough time to gather my thoughts and organize them into a book. The main reason is one I’m sure will be familiar to most people who write poetry: I was too busy working to pay the rent.
I was always very opinionated. My mouth always seemed to get me into trouble. Among other places, I did not seem to fit easily into the workplace. There was always some boss hitting on the women or asking me to do something that made little sense. Having grown up as a young man questioning his sexuality in a household that was more than moderately tyrannical, I didn’t take orders easily, especially if I disagreed with what they were directing me to do. So I had to leave corporate America.
That led me to opening a shop of my own selling American Craftsman-era antiques. From that point on, I devoted myself to building an inventory in order to keep the form alive, which gave me my basic freedom. I wish I had had the social skills to have fit in more with the rest of the planet, so that I could have been able to write and perhaps teach, which had been my original intent. But I have always been a misfit, an outsider, an outlaw, queer in a number of ways. So this was the way the universe led me to maintain an independent life as a gay man. I’m grateful to have found my way to it and have loved what I have done all these years. But as a consequence writing became a luxury that I rarely afforded myself.