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Monday, January 31, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/31

Couldn't please the public today. Got a lot of looks but no takers even from a couple of my regulars.
We are on the brink of another storm: snow, then sleet, then rain over the next few days. Three to six inches is predicted. Why do I get the feeling it will be all snow? It is said the brunt will miss us. Why do I feel it will change course and hit us square in the kisser? Why do I feel that if it does turn to rain it will be worse than snow because of potential flooding? Why - because it's one of those winters, that's why. Good riddance January 2011. According to the forecast, temperatures will remain below 40 for the first week of February. That, I believe. We're not getting even a brief thaw this season. The ground hog will not see his shadow. I haven't moved the car since last Tuesday. I see what people go through to park as I'm standing at the floating bookshop. One guy said he waited three hours for a spot to become available. It's not worth it. At least I'm saving on gas money. I expect it to be four bucks a gallon soon. And nobody should be surprised if it goes to five if things deteriorate further in Egypt. Who will fill the vacuum once the dictator is out? Pray it is a democracy or something that will lead to it. Given that it is the middle east, I'm not optimistic. One pundit describe it as the Arabs' genius for failure, going on at least a thousand years. I'm sure the left is thrilled that gas prices are rising. This may panic many into supporting alternative sources. Only problem with that is that they are not cost effective. Maybe one day they will be, but we could really lessen our dependence on foreign oil by drilling for our own in The Alaskan Preserve, off-shore and in North Dakota, where some believe we have Saudi Arabia underground.
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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/29

No luck today. As the orphan sang in Annie: "Tomorrow, tomorrow...."
I came across a terrific obscure film, courtesy of Netflix: The Square (2008, Australian). I hadn't seen anything more than run of the mill in a while. This was my favorite type - a crime story about a man stuck in a downward spiral certain to end badly. David Roberts was brilliant in the lead. I had no recollection of him, although he appeared in the first two Matrix films. His career goes back as far 1967. He did guest spots, probably as a teenager, on Ironside, Sanford and Son and The Waltons. Newcomer Claire Van Der Boom did well as the femme fatale. There was one wrinkle that stood out particularly, involving the dogs of the adulterers. Kudos to screenwriter Matthew Dabner and director Nash Edgerton in only his second time at the helm. His brother Billy had a key role as a thug. On a scale of five: four. I regard very few films as a five. Off the top of my head, they are the first two Godfathers, West Side Story (despite its obvious flaws), Reservoir Dogs and Hero (Jet Li). I am in awe of the work of Zhang Zimou, who directed Hero. His action films are incredible in both depiction and story-telling, and his dramas, such as Raise the Red Lantern, are phenomenal. I don't understand a word of Chinese, but Gong Li's performance in Lantern had my gut in knots. She frequently graces Zimou's work. There is a scene in The Curse of the Golden Flower where the royal family, each member involved in devious plots, is seated at a dinner. The look on Chow Yun Fat's face as he noshes amidst a thick silence had me laughing out loud. Chow gained fame in the over the top action flicks of Hong Kong's John Woo (The Killer and Hard-boiled). The last 20 minutes of the latter takes place in a hospital and includes a shootout in the maternity ward! None of the infants was harmed, of course, and one even saves the day. Both Chow and Woo came west, but with only modest success. Woo's Face-off is a fun action flick that pits Travolta vs. Cage. Chow's American movies have good moments, but none rises above average.
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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/29

The floating bookshop was open today, just up the street from my front door, at the corner bus stop. I had a wide berth, which allowed me to stay out of people's path. I was across the way from my usual winter spot. There wasn't enough room there until I returned with a shovel after closing up shop. There is a little nook at the corner of the apartment building there, a break in the narrow garden that surrounds the perimeter. I will go there tomorrow. It gets the sun from about noon to two. A lot of tricks are necessary in winter, especially a brutal one such as this. There are many long faces right now. It seems people don't want to be bothered and are anxious to get home, and who could blame them? Fortunately, I sold the Lil Reminder to an old Russian gentleman out for a stroll with his walker. The LR is a recording device designed to create a verbal shopping list. My friend Arlynn says it sells for eight or nine bucks in TV ads. I sold two for a dollar. It just seemed too flimsy to risk charging more and having a dissatisfied customer return and vent for all other potential customers to see. I under-sell everything, even my own books, although most people think ten bucks is a lot, and I suppose it is these days. 99% of those who stop want a bargain and, since all my other goods have been donated to me, I'm happy to oblige. I'm way behind last year's pace. At least my retirement accounts did well in 2010.
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/28

Not much to do to while away the hours except shovel and read. My hip is a little sore, but nowhere near as much as two weeks ago. I think I will skip my weekend visits to my sister's, although I'm running low on clean underwear.
I just finished David Tillman's comic novel, Finding Woodstock, which was among the 100+ books my friend Arlynn has donated to the cause. I'm not a big fan of comedy, so I picked it up hesitantly. Seinfeld was in reruns years before I appreciated its genius. In my early viewings, George Costanza's behavior often had me reaching for the remote and mumbling to myself. Eventually, I saw that the show, ironically referred to as about nothing when George and Jerry come up with an idea for a sitcom, is a deft look at the neuroses of moderns spoiled by the myriad choices that freedom and longevity provide. 
Anyway, I have no nostalgia for the values of the 60's. David Tillman does. Set in 1997, the novel pokes gentle fun at corporations, the suburbs and rural life. It is a brisk, light read. His prose is stellar, graceful, far better than that of all the million-seller mystery writers, save Joy Fielding, I've sampled recently. His observations are amusing. The narrative falters under an outrageous climax, but it's meant to be fun, not heavy. His choice at the end does not surprise, but I would have liked to have known his wife's reaction. On a scale of five: three.
Guess what - more snow is on the way.
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/27

We got twice the snow than what was predicted, yet there are climatologists who insist they know what the weather will be like years from now. This time my car was only 80% buried. I removed the 16 inch pile from the hood, roof and trunk, and dug out a lane in front, which is directly before a driveway. I'm on the left hand side of the street, which means I should be safe from the plow, but who knows what home owners and other drivers will do with the snow. Right now the streets have a two-inch layer of ice. I guess the plows couldn't get beneath it. We had some sun today but not nearly enough to turn that slick carpet into mush. In the old snowball fight days in Brooklyn, we'd have called it good-packing snow, certain to hold together and inflict pain. This winter has reminded me of my freshman year at Western Michigan University, January 1970, when it seemed there were at least flurries every day. Of course, there's a lot more open space in Kalamazoo to put the stuff. Connecticut is having a real problem with this. Here in New York we have environmental restrictions that prevent the best solution - dumping it in the seas that surround us. I can't wait to see what Bay 37th looks like. There were still lots of snow mounds on the block even as of last Sunday, three weeks after the first big storm. Dare I use my car Saturday? Driving shouldn't be bad, but where will I park? In the past I'd park by the junior high on the next block, but three weeks ago that was impossible. I might have to shovel when I get there and return. I was very careful of my hip today. It's only a little sorer than it's been recently. This has been a tough winter - and we're only halfway through it! Help!
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/26

It snowed all morning, turned to rain, and will continue to snow all night - total accumulation four to eight inches. And the wind is supposed to gust to 30 mph tomorrow.
How's your retirement plan doing? Mine is mediocre, a little better than the interest on a bank account. I've always been a good saver but so-so investor. I began buying stocks outside my 401k circa 1990. One of my early purchases was Apple, 25 shares at $66. Soon, Steve Jobs left the company and the price kept falling - all the way to $10, where it languished for at least a year. Eventually it rebounded to $30 and Jobs returned. When it fell back to $25, I got out, thinking technology had hit a wall in how far it could go. About a year later the IPOD was introduced. The stock began an astronomical climb. Selling has cost me about $10,000 to date. And I was so spooked I could not pull the trigger on a buy of IBM when it was below $50. It has since split at least twice. We have such opportunity to gain wealth in this country. The politicians haven't ruined it entirely yet. All one needs is savvy, nerve and luck. I kick myself whenever I see an IPHONE. It was nobody's fault but mine. I was drinking Snapple and using Google long before they went public. I loved them - and yet I didn't take a shot. Even a small investment in each would have paid handsomely. I write this because the acquisition of wealth, to those not born into it, requires risk, unless of course you're a politician or government worker who can steal from the public with impunity or redistribute cash to cronies. If the chance presents itself, especially if you are young, take it.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/25

Flurries sent me to the shelter of the viaduct on Avenue Z. I wasn't happy about it until my buddy, actor-singer Johnny Feets, showed. He gave me a lift I so needed in this long winter. He and two of his buddies recently filmed a half-hour play for a cable access channel. It will air in March. He spotted the DVD of what may be the worst movie ever made: Charley Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen, starring Peter Ustinov as the famous detective, and an all-star cast, including Michelle Pfeiffer in one of her earliest roles. Anyone associated with this turkey was lucky to ever again find work. Feets scooped it up and hustled off to his modeling gig at Kingsborough Community College. Thanks, my friend. And thanks to the nice lady who purchased Anne Tyler's Ladder of Years and Joy Fielding's Grand Avenue. I also got a mail order for Adjustments from my buddy Howie, who was a year behind me at Lafayette High School. He went to college in Kansas and has remained out there as a businessman. He graduated in 1968. In those days half the team was Jewish. By the time I was assisting the program as a coach in the mid 70's, there were very few Jews in the school, let alone on the team. When John Dewey and its progressive program opened just down the road in 1970, we suffered a terrible brain drain. Lafayette was never the same. It was in the top five academically in NYC at least one of the years during my stay, no thanks to me, of course. Soon it was plagued by racial violence and indifference to education. One year it ranked first in violent incidents. It was threatened with closure but has rebounded somewhat. Of course, the makeup of the school is entirely different than what we knew. Things change.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/24

It was 10 degrees at 11:30 AM. I decided not to open the floating bookshop, although the sun was strong. I doubted anyone would stop today.
I read the op-ed page in the New York Post every day. It has a conservative bias I enjoy. At times I wonder if my anti-government sentiments are off base, then the pundits return me to my senses. George Will has always been a tough read for me. His arguments are dense. His vocabulary is vast. He forces one to work. In today's piece he was citing the work of the late Samuel Huntington in "American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony." He culled several gems. One in particular made such clear sense of the belief of limited government favored by the right: "If men are bad, government should be weak lest men put it to bad uses. If men are well-intentioned and reasonable, strong government is not necessary to control them, so 'government should be weak because men are good.'" I love the logic.
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/23

It was 20 degrees when I left the house. I decided to play it by ear - if I found a favorable parking spot and if the wind wasn't too severe, I'd set up shop. Everything worked out except the sales. I put in three hours and even my toes weren't that cold. I thank the old-timer who bought the coffee table book commemorating the 37th anniversary of Parade magazine.
About ten days ago I ran across an article in the New York Post concerning the benefits of vinegar, which included the easing of arthritis. Certain I was falling for an old wives table, I purchased a store brand bottle for $1.25. Of course, I can't be certain that it has done the trick, but the pain in my hip has diminished by at least 50%. Walking still feels funky, but I haven't taken any ibuprofen in that entire period. The week before I had to take it on consecutive nights, the pain so severe I couldn't sleep. I suppose it's just as likely the turnaround has come from rest. I've curtailed my morning stroll considerably, and the weather has either prevented me from setting up the floating bookshop or kept me within 100 yards of home. I haven't had to lug the books very far. Whatever it is, I will keep using the vinegar until it has been proven ineffective. I don't overdo it, using no more than an ounce. I know - it sounds insane.
Check this out - I found an error in my checking account - $900 in my favor! How I was off by that much is a complete mystery. Chalk it up to a senior moment.
Good luck Jets fans.
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/22

Brrrr! I hope to open the floating bookshop tomorrow - if the sun is out and the wind isn't too severe. Meanwhile, here's my latest review, posted at amazon:

5.0 out of 5 stars Another Gem from the Valentines, January 22, 2011
I just finished the 2010 edition of Literary House Review. Victoria and Phaedra Valentine have put together another wonderful collection of poetry, short stories and art, featuring the work of Pushcart Prize nominees Russell H. Krauss, Brian Landis, Hope Houghton, Stephanie Pope, T.K. Lee and Nibedita Sen, as well as others aspiring to accolades. In the riveting "Losing Her Fear of Humans," Rachel Luria has somehow found fresh spin for the book-world's most overworked genre. "The Shaman and the Nutcase" is an amusing trip to a shrink's office, wonderfully written by George Wilson. I loved the twist in Stephen Frentzos "The Hunting Trip." There are 20 short stories and 27 poems in all, presented in a reader-friendly format well worth an investment.

Full disclosure: My story, "Oblivious," appears in the issue.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/21

Only three or so inches of snow this time. Unfortunately, an arctic blast is following. Temperatures are not expected to rise above 25 for the next few days, and the wind is supposed to be stiff, so I don't know when the floating bookshop will reopen. The good news - another day closer to spring. I must say that the leafless trees looked pretty this morning. The snow gave them a cheery look. The sun was out by 9AM too, but there was too much moisture being blown about to risk putting out books.
I got a call from the made man today. He has caved a little. I hope it isn't too late. He wants to set up a meeting between his lawyer and the actor's in order to sign a confidentiality agreement. The actor can remain anonymous. My instinct tells me the offer will be declined. If no meeting occurs, the MM will want his treatment returned. I hope it hasn't been shredded. And I hope the MM realizes it can be copied before it is returned. Given Hollywood's reputation, I don't blame him for being wary, but risks have to be taken to succeed. I remember how afraid I was of theft when I first began writing 36 years ago. Looking back, I realize how silly I was. Then again, none of my work will ever have the commercial potential of the MM's. Of course, the actor and I fear the situation will turn ugly. All I wanted to do was help the MM out. His story deserves to reach agents and producers. Whether it merits ever going into production is an entirely different matter. Of course, I was hoping to score some kind of finder's fee, but I would not be so foolish as to insist on one. My life is probably too sedate, anyway. I may have some drama coming.
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/20

It looked gloomy for the first two hours. A few people stopped by the floating bookshop, but none bought. Then a gentleman took Elizabeth George's thriller, In the Presence of the Enemy. My feet were numb by then but, given the snow due tomorrow, I decided to extend the stay. Fortunately, the thin cloud cover let some sunshine filter through to provide some warmth. I could see my shadow. As I was starting to get a chill, a woman spotted a book on teaching children prayer, part of my friend Arlynn's donation. Then my buddy Bob Rubenstein, author of Ghost Runners, showed and took the rest of the bag of children's books to bring to his tutoring gig. He was a bit glum, as his book, which has received glowing reviews, has hit a sales wall. He is stunned that a page long article in a literary magazine with a circulation of 35,000 has not sent his novel through the roof. Hang in there, Bob, and thanks to you and the other two kind souls.
I heard on the radio the other day that 60% of the abortions in New York City involve black women. And, of course, we have not  heard a peep from Sharpton or Jackson or the local creep Barron. The issue must create quite a paradox for them. Lamenting or condemning the statistic would violate their liberal orthodoxy; remaining silent makes it appear they approve. The radio host said that Klansmen and bigots must have been giving each other high fives upon hearing the news.
In a distantly-related issue, Jets' coach Rex Ryan has refrained from his usual trash talk this week, and the dark side of me wonders if it is because the Steelers head man is black and Ryan does not want to appear politically incorrect. There is a wonderful moment in Seinfeld when Jerry, Elaine and even George the cheapskate over-tip a waitress because she is black. Many bend over backwards not to offend or appear bigoted. This is manifested most in the under-reporting of the alarming rate at which black males kill each other.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/18

The floating bookshop was rained out today.
How 'bout those Jets? I know this is a couple of days late, but sometimes more important matters take precedence. Are they on their way to doing what the Giants did three years ago? They've already knocked off mighty New England, the prohibitive favorite. It was the third biggest win in franchise history after the AFL championship game against the Raiders and Super Bowl III. Adding the thugs and blowhards has worked. Unfortunately, every team has them. Their next opponent, the Steelers, have Ben Rothelisberger, who is lucky not to be in jail, at quarterback. Good luck, Jets.
I've recently been going over a manuscript file I hadn't looked at since transferring it to disc at least ten years ago. It's about the supervisor of the Silver futures market and is based on my experiences at the madcap world of the exchange. It takes place in 1988, probably written about '89 or '90. I wonder who would believe the things that went on down there. It was as unique as a work place gets, perhaps the last bastion of freedom in a society that has cowed to political correctness. The futures markets are now a shell of their former selves, as electronic trading has diminished open outcry to approximately 20% of the total volume. There may be 80% less people on the floor compared to its heyday. I'm glad I wrote about it. I've forgotten who many of the fictional characters represent, but the experience remains unforgettable.
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/17

Today I celebrate the life of someone who had great influence on my own - Nicky Fasano, who passed away a few days ago. He would have been 93 tomorrow. Nicky was a WWII vet, seeing action as a teenager. He was career US Army, retiring as a Master Sergeant stationed at Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge, a short drive to our beloved Bay 37th Street. He was as passionate about football as could be. When deemed to small to play in high school, he excelled at soccer instead. His brother Bobby was one of the greatest halfbacks in the history of Lafayette High School. For years and years Nicky proudly wore the jacket that celebrated the undefeated 1951 season. His sons, John, a defensive tackle, and Richie, a halfback, played with distinction during the darkest period of Lafayette's football history. One day Nicky dragged me out to a JV practice. I'm so glad he did. I would have missed so much without him. I was privileged to be part of the return of the program's winning tradition under coach  Murray "Ace" Adler. He is a significant part of my second novel, Adjustments. I used his real name in tribute. He would invite us to his house the night before a game and play college fight songs on his Victrola. He would drive us to games and get so intense discussing football he would blow through red lights without realizing it. His brother, nicknamed Blackie because of his dark complexion, became a state trooper in, of all places, Mississippi, where he continues to live, a stone's throw from the great river. Blackie's son, John Dan, an Iraq veteran, has completely changed his life, moving to Fasano, Sicily, which is near Palermo, where he operates an olive vineyard, just as his great-great grandfather had. As we say in Brooklyn: "What goes around comes around." I remember Nick's father, whom we called Mr. Fasano, as a kind old soul. "Jimmy Hoffa wasa de besta," he would tell us in accented English. For years we would laugh about that. Whenever I entered the Williamsburg Bank, now HSBC, I'd look up to the second floor and see Nick's wife, Eileen, through a glass partition at the switchboard, headset in place. Wow, that was a long time ago. Our Bay 37th Street old timers have been leaving us steadily. Some have left too soon. My condolences to Eileen, John, Richie, Bobby and Irma, Nicky's sister, and all the grand kids. He was a prince.
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/16

I've developed an instinct about what books draw the most interest from passersby. I was spot on yesterday with the Jazz/Pop songbook and again today with Words of Wisdom, a collection of the thoughts of the famous and the anonymous. Neither lasted more than an hour. I thank Carmine, an ebullient elderly gentleman, who purchased A Hitch in Twilight a while ago and today pounced on "Words.... He apologized for not having gotten to Hitch yet. I said the great thing about a book is that it's always there, waiting to be read.
I also thank the nice woman who caught me just as I was about to leave, and purchased a bag of children's books.
J-E-T-S - Jets! Jets! Jets! Jets!
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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/15

Funny how things work out. Last week Bob, who fiddles with piano and drums, asked if I had any music books. I said I had one left at home - a beautiful one on jazz and pop standards from which I'd torn several pages in order to make it easier to learn how to play specific songs. He asked me to bring it next time. I found the missing pages and others I'd downloaded from the web and stuffed them into the book. As Bob looked at the chords today, his eyes spread. He wasn't prepared for such sophistication. I wasn't surprised. It took me a month to learn songs such as "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "The Girl From Ipanema." He passed. Minutes later a young Russian, wheeling his toddler, spotted and pounced on it. He barely spoke English but he understood the universal language of music. Spasiba, sir.
Earlier, as I was leaving Bay 37th Street, my old buddy Bill was doing the final clean up of the house his family had owned for 50 years. His brother Paul, nine years his junior, passed away a year ago tomorrow and left a lot of debt, as he'd refinanced several times. Fortunately, the sale covered expenses and left Bill and his family a tiny profit. As I gave him a hug goodbye, I wondered if it would be the last time we saw each other in the flesh. Like so many of the guys I grew up with, he has moved away from Brooklyn, to New Jersey. How lucky we are to have the internet. I've reconnected with so many old friends who I would probably have never heard from again without the miracle of the world wide web.
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/14

Although it wasn't even 30 degrees, I set up the floating bookshop today, as the wind was negligible. Unfortunately, only my buddy, retired salesman Morty, stopped by to chat. He turned 75 a few days ago. He'd taken a header earlier while running to catch the bus. He dislocated his thumb. Hardcore old-timer that he is, he popped it back into place himself. He was lucky. He had only a cut at the bridge of his nose and some bruises on his forehead. At that age a fall can result in far worse.
Well, neither the made man or the actor would give in, so what was probably my final playing card in trying to get the MM's story into influential hands has reached a dead end. I think both lose. Mike, the actor, is swamped with scripts, most of them dubious. I guess he suspects this is probably another and does not want to risk being hounded by someone who might be dangerous. The MM has a great story, but he must take risks to have it heard. After all, if it is truly his, no one can steal it.
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/13

After the last storm it took me three days to dig my car out. Today it took me five minutes. Although it's been really cold and windy, we've had brilliant sunshine, so we're getting some melt. People shovel the snow into the middle of the street, where it is crushed into mush by passing vehicles and evaporated by the sun. I might reopen the floating bookshop tomorrow, depending on the wind.
Here's the latest on the Made Man's magnum opus. My friend John sent the treatment to his friend Mike, whose career as a supporting player in films and guest star on TV is rock solid. Mike, who wishes to remain anonymous to the MM, asked to see more. The MM will not comply unless he knows who the actor in question is. I can understand the hesitancy of each. Mike wants to make sure the MM is legit and not a wannabe/fraud who will cause grief. The MM is wary of theft. He rejected the drug-addled co-star of  a long-running classic sitcom. And another actor, with whom I was unfamiliar, was stupid enough to try to steal the project. My feeling is that Mike should tell me to instruct the MM to contact his agent, which would allow him to continue to remain anonymous. The MM's writer, who is also his physician, has nearly 200 pages done. They expect two volumes. Stay tuned.
I went upstairs to see my friend Arlynn, who is housebound because of the snow. As I opened the door leading to the fourth floor, I listened for her birds. They were silent, as I was approaching solo, not in her company - until I rang the bell. The volume of their cackles increased with each passing moment. Apparently, they were upset with the intruder. Arlynn is in a tailspin because her biopsy revealed a malignancy the size of a lentil. She is a strong soul who refuses to give in to her afflictions. Her legs are in bad shape. Her knees press against one another when she walks. It seems amazing she is able to remain upright at all. She used to get about with a cane, but has used a walker since her fall more than a year ago. She sells items online. She once sold a rare book, which cost her two bucks at a yard sale, at amazon for $700+ - shades of The Antiques Roadshow! She has been selling the feathers her birds shed to fishing enthusiasts, who use them in the making of lures. The pain she suffers is obvious, but she doesn't surrender. She is an example to all of us.
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/12

We got lucky in Brooklyn. There's only eight or so inches of snow on the ground, maybe even less. The streets are all plowed already. I guess the union boys were shamed into doing their job. I'm hoping to re-open the floating book shop very soon.
A Facebook friend recommended I set up a fan page. It never occurred to me before. I'm a little uncomfortable with it. Although I believe my work is worthy of a reader's investment, I wonder if I've earned the right to have such a listing. I've sold about 530 of my own books. Almost all the feedback has been positive. Still, I hesitate. Would 1000 make me worthy? 5000? I'm sure many friends and acquaintances who haven't read any of my work would "like" it because they like me personally. Wouldn't that give it an air of something forced, insincere? I don't want to be a phony. Am I making too much of it? After all, as is often said: One can't have too much publicity.
Here's some words of wisdom from, of all people, Dolly Parton, culled from a book compiled and edited by William Safire and Leonard Safir: "The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain." Or snow, which has been the case lately.
Thanks to the folks at Toluna surveys for the $20 check, and at Quick Rewards for adding to my paypal coffers.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/11

Thanks to Steve, employee of Coney Island Hospital, who returned as promised and purchased Success on EBAY, a Beatles collectibles book, and Mario Macaluso's heartfelt tribute to his mother: Memoir of a Sicilian Woman. There was a People Are Funny aspect to the transaction - he included four dollars in change.
Neighbors passed continually, laden with groceries, stocking up for the big storm, which will begin presently. Of course, there is no use hoping the snow will be closer to six than twelve inches. Memo to global warming enthusiasts - Bite Me!
I'm done sampling another of the mystery/thriller genre: Kathy Reichs' Grave Secrets. It got off to a strong start. An early scene had the main character, a forensic anthropologist like Reichs herself, rooting around in a drained septic system. Unfortunately, it was fairly routine after that. She is fond of run on sentences, which in these types of books is actually preferred, as it accelerates the action and shortens the narrative. I did not enjoy the banter between the main character and her romantic interests/detectives. It was annoying rather than cute. Fortunately, there were things to learn about mass murder in Guatemala, life in Montreal, DNA and cell therapy. The latter two were explored a little too extensively. On a scale of five: two and a half, which puts her right in the middle of the pack of those I've sampled. Tami Hoag's A Thin Dark Line remains far superior to the others. Joy Fielding's The Deep End is the most polished in literary style. I find episodes of Castle and The Mentalist, as laden as they are with commercials, infinitely more entertaining than these type of novels. Reichs' books have sold millions and appear on the New York Times best sellers list.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/10

Baby, it was cold outside today. Somehow I put in two hours. Several people stopped by the floating book shop, but no one bought, although an employee of Coney Island Hospital asked me to put three books aside until tomorrow. Had he gone to the bank for cash, he would have been late from lunch. We'll see if he shows up. I'm not optimistic. According to the forecast, the snow storm won't begin until the evening. Six to twelve inches is expected. Ugh!
So what are we to make of the massacre in Arizona? Of course, the media is in overkill. The psychobabble is ridiculous. The most reprehensible on the right and left are trying to score political points. Opinions are being offered before all the facts are available. How ironic that Republican-turned-Democrat Senator Giffords has been pro-gun. No one would blame her, once she has recovered - at least at first - if her position changed. I just listened to a heart-breaking statement by Mr. Green, whose beautiful nine-year-old daughter, born on 9/11, was murdered by the whack job. He said his little girl wouldn't want to see freedoms curtailed because of this incident. At the moment he is clinging to his beliefs, but who would blame him were they to change? This is one of our free society's great debates - whether to ban handguns for everyone but law enforcement. There are thousands of gun laws on the books. Studies show that areas that have conceal and carry rights have the lowest crime rates. I do not own a gun. I wouldn't be comfortable having one, but I respect those who are. If guns were banned, I suspect homicides would increase, not fall. The postponement of the health care debate, another of our burning issues, is ridiculous, a bowing to terrorism. In a free society there will always be those who pervert freedom. After all, many see something as obvious as pornography as a form of free speech. I don't think it should be banned, but I doubt any of the participants care about anything more than getting off and getting rich. Gun control is a great debate, and we must bring facts, not speculation, to it.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/9

I set up shop with my back to the Chase bank at Bay Parkway and 85th Street. It negated the strong wind, and the brilliant sunshine negated the sub-freezing temperature - but the public didn't cooperate, so it was all for naught.
Browsing through my Facebook page yesterday, I found word that Joe D,  first-baseman on a softball team for which I was a player/manager, had passed away. He must have been in his early fifties. I'd seen him last March at a reunion of those who had hung out at the P.S. 101 schoolyard, minus those who hadn't been taken by drugs. He looked fine. That group, guys ten or so years younger than me, was wild. They jumped into the free-wheeling post 60's culture with both feet. Appropriately, our team was named the Rebels.  Joe's lumbering gait earned him the moniker of "Turtle." I don't know if he'd suffered an accident in his youth, but his legs just could not generate any speed. He was the slowest runner I ever knew, but he was a good hitter - not as good as he'd been a decade earlier, however. He'd lost a lot of weight. I was shocked to hear he was a cocaine dealer. Even more dispiriting was the fact that his mother was his partner. After all, she wasn't a jobless ghetto mom with few choices. She was solidly middle class. Of course, I knew there were mothers who did such things, but I'd never known one personally. It was very hard for me to accept, but I said nothing. I looked the other way, which made me feel like a hypocrite and a coward. I did not respect or like Joe, which seemed odd, as I liked everyone else on the team, and almost all of them were doing drugs. Several would eventually go into rehab. And now I wonder if cocaine use had weakened Joe's heart or caused some other type of affliction. And I try not to think of it as poetic justice. I'm still looking the other way. Now God, if He exists, will be Joe's judge. And if there is no God, Joe will have gotten away with his behavior - other than in having a life cut woefully short. RIP
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/8

Snow flurries again shuttered the floating bookshop. Tomorrow's forecast is: Fair & blustery.
Meanwhile, here is Arlynn's Amazon review of my first novel.
5.0 out of 5 stars A quick read about life, acceptance and what we all look for love!, January 5, 2011
This review is from: Close to the Edge (Paperback)
I received this book as a holiday gift and although I had never heard of the author, I set about to read the book. Well, I read it in under three days, as this is a book that is hard to put down, once started! Like the author, I too, grew up in Brooklyn, New York. It was easy for me to see and realize that I have or had known someone like the author's characters. People who were on a quest, a search for both acceptance and love. Like the author's characters, we all have hopes and fears, yet Fortezza does a masterful job in bringing the emotions of his characters to the fore. I feel that this is a wonderful, quick read and look forward to reading the author's book of short stories. This author can write very gut-wrenching and emotion filling words. Applause, applause, applause!
Thank you, ma'am.
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Friday, January 7, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/7

Flurries shelved the floating bookshop today. At least we didn't get the predicted storm.
There is an outrage being perpetrated by NewSouth Books. In its new edition of Mark Twain's immortal Huckleberry Finn, the 219 instances of the N-word will be replaced by "slave." All references to "injuns" will also be removed. This will rob the novel of much of its meaning and distort its context, all in the name of political correctness. Jim is one of the most decent humans in the book, far more decent than many of the whites. There is nothing racist about this masterwork. It merely captures its times. I hope the edition is a collosal failure. What would happen if they tried to take the N-word out of hip hop, where it is used to demean?
In a related issue, the department that issues passports will no longer refer to mother and father, but to "parent one" and "parent two," in deference to the two percent of families of unique composition, who might feel slighted by traditional terms.
The inmates are running the asylum.
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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/6

My mom, may she rest in peace, would not take down Christmas decorations until the feast of the Epiphany, January 6th. I had an epiphany of sorts today on Avenue Z, just 100 yards from the entrance to our building. A young woman purchased Madeline Goes to London, part of Arlynn's donation, for her six-year-old, and Sheila bought Close to the Edge, refusing the three-paperback gift to which she was entitled. Thanks, ladies.
A camera crew soon appeared, setting up shop near a stack of recyclables that has been waiting for pickup for days. They interviewed passersby, then slid over to Waj's gyro stand to quiz him. The young female journalist noticed me, approached, and asked if I'd give my views on how the snowstorm affected me personally. I was more than happy to do it, thinking, of course, that it might provide free publicity. It got comic for a moment, as several vehicles roared by, forcing a stop my comments. If I make the cut, it will be part of the Brooklyn Review program on Cablevision's Channel 69. I wasn't nervous, as I've already done two other TV spots. I held the books up to the camera, explaining the main purpose of the floating bookshop. I finished by saying I hoped the removal crews would do a better job with tomorrow's projected storm.
Later, as I was accompanying Arlynn on a walk, she related how her birds act up when there is a change in the barometric pressure and a storm is on the way. Even though the birds were raised on a farm, not a jungle, she believes the warning system is built into the DNA of the creatures. The cackling got to her today.
"Shut up," she told her fine feathered friends.
"You shut up," the smartest of the bunch shot back.
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/5

No street sales today, although several passersby wished me Happy New Year.
There are scores of birds falling from the sky and dead fish washing to shore. This is fascinating to most of us, particularly conspiracy theorists and end of days believers. Some have speculated that the government is testing new weapons. This seems illogical. Wouldn't they test on a remote island somewhere? Others suggest a virus. This doesn't seem right, either, as the birds wouldn't all die at once, as if on cue. We all know what global warming enthusiasts think. I hope it's not terrorists testing new weaponry. Autopsies are being performed. Stay tuned.
For those who can't wait for 2012, biblical scholar Howard Camping, 88, has great news. He scoffs at those following the Mayan's prediction. He has studied the good book forever and has broken it down to a mathematical science. His date for the end of the world - May 21st 2001 - my 61st birthday. His last projection was a bit off - 1994. He went back to the drawing board and recalculated. Hopefully, he will be off again, as wrong as the Jehovah Witnesses on the second coming, which was already to have occurred.
Although I'm not religious, I don't look down on true believers. I wish I did believe - but not in things like an apocalypse. No one knows when the end will come, but Augustine said it best: "Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever; and take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow."
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 1/4

Finally sold a couple of my own books. It'd been about three weeks since my last sale of one of the "big" three. My friend Arlynn, who lives two floors above me, purchased Adjustments and A Hitch in Twilight to complete the trilogy. She's had Close to the Edge for years. It's her way of paying me back for helping her while she recovers from a fall she suffered more than a year ago. I accompany her on a walk Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, her attendants' days off. Her son is an officer in the Coast Guard, stationed in Virginia. He had the misfortune of traveling north during the snow storm and was stranded for two days in a motel in Sunset Park, as transit service to Sheepshead Bay was suspended. He returned to base yesterday.
Today I accompanied Arlynn to Methodist Hospital, where she underwent  a biopsy. She later treated me to lunch at a diner nearby. With trepidation, I ordered a Turkey Burger. The last I'd had, at a restaurant in Manhattan, was terrible. To my relief, this one was delicious. She had an omelet. As we were eating, it occurred to me to ask her about a young man in our building I referred to in my own mind as Skinhead, for obvious reasons, who I hadn't seen in a while. Arlynn, who has lived in the complex since it opened in 1960, is privy to all the gossip. As I'd assumed,  the young man is in prison - for the third time. When I'd first moved in he would stare me down in the hall and make snide remarks, trying to provoke me. I never said a word to him. I'm sure he was the one who broke the windows in my cars. He cost me several hundred dollars through the years. When it snowed, I would find slurs written on the roof, trunk and hood. He was heavily tattooed and seemed to yearn for the hip hop lifestyle. Arlynn said he was adopted at nine. His mother eventually ran out on the family. Obviously, he is a troubled soul. I shudder to think what he will be capable of when he is released.
Thanks to the folks at Lightspeed, Pinecone and Quick Rewards Surveys for the deposits into my paypal coffers.
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