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Monday, February 28, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/28

Blew it today. The forecast called for all day rain, heavy at times, lightning and thunder, but a window opened in late morning. At noon I went out for one's of Waj's gyros. The sky was ominous, but there was no precipitation. I debated whether to spend a couple of hours at the viaduct, and talked myself out of it. I was soon kicking myself as I laid down to read. Brief glimpses of sun came through the blinds. It's now close to five, and the rain has still not continued.
I've finished another novel in the mystery/thriller genre, Lee Child's taut, no nonsense Bad Luck and Trouble. I respected it from the beginning. The prose is crisp and the narrative goes about its business with no amount of fat, no phony camaraderie or silly innuendo, which is so refreshing. It is a simple story of revenge, told in straightforward language, with an authentic feel, and in a reasonable amount of pages, approximately 200. He gets it. It was the eleventh of his 15 novels, all of which have the same hero, Reacher, an Army brat who did not see the U.S. until he was nine. He was a special forces leader, now retired and living as a drifter. Bad Luck and Trouble reunites the team, who track the murderers of one of its members. Oddly, the author is not American. Lee Child grew up in England and had a successful career at the BBC, including involvement in Prime Suspect, Helen Mirren's excellent, gritty series. He did not begin writing until his mid 40's, when he was fired. He now has homes in Manhattan and the south of France. On a scale of five: I rate Bad Luck and Trouble three-and-a-half. Tami Hoag's A Thin, Dark Line remains my favorite of the genre. Child's prose, which features many intentional run on sentences, is second to Joy Fielding's.
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/27

It was a gorgeous day in Brooklyn, a preview of the best of spring. A couple of my regulars came through for me. A middle aged Russian couple bought Royal Occasions, a beautiful coffee table book, and a lady selected Iris Johanson's Final Target. Thanks, folks.
Although I love movies, I won't be watching the Oscars. I'm not big on award shows. I don't see the point in sitting through three+ hours of commercials and hideous production numbers when the results will be in tomorrow's paper. I know, it's Americana, although it sometimes feels like anti-Americana, given Hollywood's liberal bias. Besides, the best measure of a work's value is time. Or maybe that's just the rationale of a failed writer. Still, I'd rather watch the second half of the noir double bill I got from Netflix. Night Editor (1946), of which I'd never heard, was very entertaining. I hope One Girl's Confession is too.
Here's a link to the latest of my stories to be published. It is a simple slice of life, ten-minute-read:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/26

No luck on the street for the fourth straight day, but I got a big shot in the arm from a little magazine out of the great white north - Canada. Cue the music from that Second City TV sketch with, I believe, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. My simple slice of life, Meant To Be, appears in the debut issue of Is This Reality? It is an odd fit, as the 'zine caters to speculative (horror, fantasy, suspense, sci-fi) pieces. The editor is Jade Samuels. I wonder what made her include my story. Hopefully, it wasn't because of a dearth of submissions. Although the magazine is not as upscale as those my work has attracted the past 15 years, it is handsomely rendered. The artwork is beautiful. She did an incredible job on what obviously was a tight budget. It was probably printed out on a computer. Kudos, Jade. I will post a link to the story as soon as it becomes available at, presuming, of course, they accept it. I believe I did submit Meant To Be to a contest years ago. Sometimes a story remains online somewhere. If that's the case, buzzle will not take it and I'll have to find another home for it. This is the 51st of my stories to see the light of day. Maybe, in the end, they are second rate (that would explain my paltry book sales), but it is gratifying to know some people see value in my work. That was the case at buzzle, where Tracy Bonlender, aka Tankgyrl, asked me to submit stuff in its early days. She was another of my angels, along with Victoria Valentine of Water Forest Press. I can never thank those ladies enough.
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Friday, February 25, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/25

It was a rainy day in New York. The remaining snow piles are almost completely gone. The streets are a bit cleaner. It's a day closer to spring and daylight savings time, which will allow me to do a second shift and catch the folks coming from the Sheepshead Bay train station after work. I hope they will be as interested as last year. I find it hard to gauge the state of the economy through the floating bookshop, as I go through periods as long as a week without a sale. I'm seeing a lot of people make the trek to the .99 cents store on Coney Island Avenue, and returning laden with shopping bags. And the price of gasoline will soon begin to take its effect on consumer spending. I finally gave in and went to the ATM today. It was 24 days between visits. Last winter I may have gone twice. If the price of gas continues to go up, I will set up shop within walking distance of home, except on weekends. I just hope people don't get sick of seeing me. Even though I needed a day off from the disappointment of three days without sales, I missed being out there. Occasionally, the percentages work in one's favor. Maybe today was supposed to be the day. Bored, I must have read 100 pages of Lee Child's thriller, Bad Luck and Trouble. I'm impressed. I hope I'm not disappointed by the rest. Full report when I'm done.  I even did some tailoring of a nice pair of sweats my niece Isabel gave me for Christmas. They were way too long for a short-legged guy like me.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/23

Beautiful day, but no luck selling books. I did finish Danielle Steel's Secrets (1985). It was exactly what I expected - a fast read without much substance. I wasn't crazy about the prose, either, but don't go by me. She has had 79 best sellers that have been published in 47 countries, been translated into 28 languages, and sold more than 580 million copies (stats from Wow. She and James Patterson are the authors people on the street ask for most. There was one thing I did respect about Secrets - adherence to its theme. I do that in all my novels and my most serious short stories. I first learned about theme while reading Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls way back in '72 or '73. He prefaces the novel with this excerpt from John Donne's Meditation XVII:
No man is an island,  entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were;  any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 
 Throughout the narrative, there are instances that reinforce the theme, particularly the phrase: "...any man's death diminishes me...." All these years later I still remember one in particular, where a Spanish soldier makes the sign of the cross over a wounded rebel before putting a bullet in his head. That, my friends, is art.
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/22

No sales today, but I did meet a young woman I've passed in the hall of our building for ages. Vivian is a beautiful blond that has a leg or foot deformity. She walks with a pronounced limp. I always wondered about her. She once knocked on my door and tried to sell me a stuffed doll at an outrageous price. I assumed she was a slow learner, not quite right in the head. How wrong I was - at least about the former. She is so well-spoken. She asked what I was doing and I gave her the run down, including my past life as a data entry supervisor in the wacky world of commodity futures. I asked if she were 20 yet. She said she was way past it. She could pass for a teenager. She is involved in a nutrition company called Vemma. I just visited her Facebook page. It says she is living in California. I wonder if that's true. It may be, as I don't see her often. Or maybe she's trying to create an online business persona. She listed her sports' interests as horseback riding and volleyball. Here is a quote she lives by: "I am a visionary. I am a spiritual leader who is here to be your guiding light of TRUTH in your life." She cites her devotion to God. She asked if I knew anyone interested in online marketing, which she described as the wave of the future, and handed me her card. I think she hoped to recruit me. I said I'd keep an ear out. And she went off to Manhattan to work out and meet with friends. I haven't seen her mom, a beautiful Russian woman, in a while. I always wondered if she were married, as I never saw her with a husband. Vivian said he passed away years ago and that her mom was now working full time. I still don't know what to make of this young beauty with the face of a madonna, skin woman would kill for. I'm just glad I finally got to know something about her.
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Monday, February 21, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/21

It was snowing at 7AM as I made my way to Stop n Shop. There was less than an inch on the ground, but I assumed the floating bookshop would be closed. When I looked out my window at 11, the snow had stopped. As I lugged the crates to the viaduct at Avenue Z, there were a few flurries in the air. It was overcast and gloomy and the cold was that damp, bone-chilling kind. I didn't think I'd last long. Fortunately, a transit worker spotted a book on the NBA. Although my friend Arynn's son is a big basketball fan, he gladly relinquished the handsome, large hardcover, a preview of the '97-'98 season replete with beautiful color photos of the league's stars, in near mint condition. The guy was thrilled with the steal he scored. And I was thrilled to have a sale on a day I thought would be a complete wash-out. Thank you, sir.
Since I could stand no more than an hour and a half in that dank cold, I decided it would be a good day to do my taxes. To my surprise, I'm getting a small return from both the state and federal. I expected nothing. And you know what - I probably deserved nothing. I guess the return was the result of my share of the property tax levied against our co-op, and the fact that I had received no stimulus check from the government last year. It's just another example of how the clowns in office waste money. How much would be saved if the IRS were abolished and we paid through sales' taxes? Maybe that's too simplistic, but the current system is ridiculous.
How great is it to be able to do taxes online? And I had the service deduct its fee from the return. Since I expected nothing, I still came out way ahead. God bless America.
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/20

I can't remember the last time I sold one of my own books on the street, so it was especially gratifying to sell Adjustments today. The wind had died down considerably. With my back to the wall of the Chase Bank at Bay Parkway and 85th, I barely felt it at all. In fact, I was warm, as there was abundant sunshine. The session started with an immediate bang, as a sharp-eyed Russian woman noticed the Danielle Steel hardcovers and purchased all three. They love value and I love them for loving it. Spasiba, madam.
Elise came along about an hour later. She has purchased all my books, and possibly duplicates as well. I don't know if she is the same Elise who purchased the trifecta several years ago. Anyway, she said she'd lost her copy of Adjustments. I had the feeling she was just being nice. Recently, she had some bad luck. She submitted a book of poetry, written by her late mom, to a company called Vox Pop, which also ran a restaurant that catered to writers. Unfortunately, it went under. Elise received only one copy of the book. She was supposed to have gotten ten, and a listing at amazon. She paid $800, which is considerably less than I originally calculated she'd lost. The book was only 70-75 pages. I guess that kept the cost down. She asked if I knew any publishers. I recommended All Things That Matter Press. Unfortunately, she is not online, and that is a must with ATTMP. I asked if she would again be willing to pay a fee and told her I'd ask my friend Victoria Valentine of Water Forest Press for an estimate. VV has published eleven of my stories through the years, as well as Adjustments. She runs a first class operation. No one would be able to see a difference between her books and those of a major house. I actually felt guilty at not being able to do more for Elise. The three paperbacks I gave her as a gift seemed paltry.
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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/19

Nice day in Springsteen territory, the wilds of Jersey, South of Toms River. The weather was certainly wild, wind gusting to 50 mph. The car actually swayed a few feet a couple of times. It was two hands on the wheel the whole way. The good thing was that the weather seemed to keep people home. It was only 1:15 each way.
We celebrated my great nephew's 15th birthday. We're proud of Ronnie. He had a 97 average at mid term. He will be trying out for the freshman baseball team shortly. And he has landed his first job - at Great Adventure, beginning weekends in April and running through the entire season. His hours will be limited because of his age. He will be slinging hash at one of the food stands. There's a bus that will pick him up and bring him home, so his parents won't have that burden. It sounds like a good thing. Meanwhile, Danielle's junior high basketball team went 10-2 this season. She will now be trying out for soccer. She is so strong I expect her to kick butt. Her success going forward will depend on whether she will remain focused through all the teenage distractions.
Their mom, Sandra, a teacher, is bummed because of the Governor Christie's policies. She will be paying more toward her health care and pension. I said: "Well, they're not free," and left it at that. The selfish clowns protesting in Wisconsin will still be paying less toward their retirements than those in all the states around them - if the legislation ever goes through. The battle there may indicate whether America makes its final tilt toward Socialism or pulls back. 
Ron Sr. cooked up a nice meal, roast beef and all the fixin's. We had ice cream cake after singing Happy Birthday off-key. I also had some cookies and a pastry. All of us older folks lamented the fact that food, especially of the junk variety, is not as tasty as it was when we were young, given the change in ingredients through the years and new paranoia about trans-fats. Ron Sr. was his gregarious self, playing with his new toy, a remote helicopter, the same Simon Baker used in the police station in an episode of The Mentalist, a silly but entertaining show. Ron is an accomplished banjo player. Here is a link to his band getting down in the living room:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/18

It was one of my most frustrating days operating the floating bookshop, despite the gorgeous, spring-like weather. Lots of people stopped by, but no one bought. Even one of my regulars, a lovely middle-aged Russian couple, who buy books for their seven-year-old grandson, disappointed me. "No money," the woman said, and we both laughed. I said I'd be there until three and she said she would return. She did not. And I thought I had a sale at the last minute when an Asian woman on crutches seemed to be salivating over the three Danielle Steel hardcovers I have left. She said she would pick them up on her way back. Although I believed her, I know that 99.9% of those who say they will return do not. I was not going to wait and risk getting really pissed off. To cap off the shift, two women walked by staring, looking back, whispering to each other - and chose to keep walking. I wanted to scream. No one said it was going to be easy. Let's look at the positives: I stopped off for a couple of squares at Spumoni Gardens; Fringe is on tonight; and tomorrow we're off to Jersey to celebrate my great nephew's 14th birthday, albeit three weeks late. And my friend Arlynn's procedure went well. She was in and out of the hospital in less than half a day.
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/17

Thanks to the young lady who purchased Kathy Reichs' Grave Secrets and the young man who selected James Patterson's Lifeguard, co-written by Andrew Gross. And thanks to our Super, Lou, who passed Lifeguard along to me.
I set up today where Avenue Z and Sheepshead Bay Road meet, a place where, although it is in the middle of the block, people cross constantly. As I was standing there, I heard a familiar voice at my back. One of our building's porters, Frankie, is frequently singing in Spanish. It always brings a smile to my face and I call out: "Quien cante?" And he laughs and says: "Yo." He is a gentle soul, frequently smiling. His commute is two hours from his home in Jersey. He walks with a limp. At least one of his children is handicapped. And he remains positive, a lesson to us all. There he was, standing in the middle of the street, crooning, as cars passed in front and behind him. I didn't understand all of the lyrics, but one portion was clear: "...porque amor es importante y yo non quiero perderla." It loses its poetry in translation: "...because love is important and I don't want to lose her." Songs usually do. Volare is an exception. I've been hearing a lot of versions of Besame Mucho lately and the English lyrics, while good, don't measure up. None has managed to capture the beauty of "...Como esta noche se fuera la ultima vez," which, translated, is: "As if this night were the last time." Language and how it evolves is fascinating. Think of all the hip hop and web-related terms that have merged into the lexicon. Whenever I incorporate Italian into my novels and stories, it is the bastardized Sicilian I used and heard growing up. I call it Brooklyn Sicilian. I'm sure it riles or amuses those who speak proper Italian, but proper Italian would not be true in these instances.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/16

I brought out the heavy artillery today - four hardcover Danielle Steel novels. She has always attracted attention for me and did so again, as a nice Russian lady, thrilled at not having to deal with the library, bought one. Spasiba, madam. And thanks to Frank, who grew up around the corner from me on Bay 38th, who sent me a mail order for Adjustments and A Hitch in Twilight, completing the Fortezza trifecta.
I watched the final two episodes of The Pacific last night, courtesy of Netflix. In case you don't know, it is the companion piece to the fabulous Band of Brothers, which dealt with action in the European theater of operation during World War II. It is just as powerful. It follows the experiences of three men chiefly, Leckie, Sledge and Basilone. The series has a great pedigree, as Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks served as executive producers. They, of course, teamed on one of the greatest war films of all time, Saving Private Ryan. The depiction of the dehumanizing brutality of combat in the TV series does not take a back seat to that great film. Viewing it, I wondered how anyone survived the carnage, psychologically as well as mortally. Leckie and Sledge made it home and lived long, productive lives. Basilone, who grew up in Raritan, New Jersey, did not. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism on Guadalcanal, where he and two other Marines held off 3000 Japanese soldiers. He was then taken out of combat to do bond raising tours. He petitioned to return to the field and eventually was granted his wish. He was killed the first day of action on Iwo Jima, but not before earning the service's second highest honor, the Navy Cross. He gets my vote as the greatest Italian-American who ever lived.
At the end of the last episode, the face of each principal is showed individually, the actor followed by the real life counterpart, and a brief history is given. I wanted to stand and salute, a lump in my throat. In the final episode, Sledge's mom criticizes him for not getting on with his life, for sitting around and doing nothing. Her husband pulls her aside and says she has no idea what those men went through. None of us do. No film, no matter how powerful, can convey the actual experience. Americans will be forever indebted to its combat veterans, especially of World War II. They were our greatest generation.
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/15

No luck on the street today. I did witness two incidences of road rage as I stood there trying to ignore the cold wind. In the first I heard a loud rant from behind me. I didn't see the guy until he raised up from the driver's window of a car waiting for the change of light on Avenue Z. He walked back to and entered his own car. About 15 minutes later a woman was making a left from Z onto East 13th. I don't know if the light was yellow or if she merely lost concentration or if she were simply being arrogant, but a car skidded to within inches of her SUV. When she turned onto the street, the guy followed, cut her off, stormed out of his car and pounded on her hood and screamed at her. If it had been me, I'd have muttered under my breath and been grateful no damage had been done. It's scary how vehicles accelerate anger in some people, usually males.
There's an interesting video going around from the demonstrations in Egypt. Some are calling it the appearance of the biblical Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse. My guess is it's some kind of glitch. It's not likely a hoax, as it is from a direct news feed. It is spooky. You can decide for yourself by clicking here:
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/14

My friend Arlynn  had to go back to the hospital today for more pre-surgical testing. The nurse forgot to administer a chest x-ray last Friday. It is required of all ex-smokers, even one who kicked the habit 18 years ago. Needless to say, she was pissed. Fortunately, she was served immediately. There was no two-hour wait this time. She again treated me to lunch, good old American fare - burgers and fries. She said I was due a mitzvah for my kindness. She assured me business would be booming at the floating bookshop. While not exactly brisk, I did manage to sell Karin Slaughter's A Faint Cold Fear to one of my regular's, who I hope I have the sense to ask his name next time. I also sold a large coffee table book on UFO's, despite its damaged spine. One guy asked if I had any uplifting books for a 30-year old woman in prison. Alas, I did not.
It was a beautiful day until the wind got crazy. Melting snow and ice was flowing briskly along the curbs. And the forecast is for moderate temperatures after tomorrow. I hope Cupid's arrow has found you on this Saint Valentine's Day. Speaking of love, I decided to sample a Danielle Steele novel, Secrets. I almost abandoned it while reading the first paragraph, which was really over-written. Fortunately, it improved greatly thereafter, and I found the subject's history and personality intriguing. Full report in a week or so.
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/12

The other day our Super, Lou - he of the strong grip and father of four sons - rang my bell and handed me two books, James Patterson's Lifeguard and a hardcover novel in Russian that has a beautiful girl holding a revolver on its black cover. The shot reminds me of a publicity still of Sean Connery from the '60's, at the height of his James Bond run. No doubt it is some sort of gangster epic. I sold it today to a Russian gentleman who was surprised I asked only two bucks for it. Spasiba, sir.
I also had what will probably be my final meeting with the made man. I returned the treatment and expressed my regrets at not having been of help. He is pissed at the actor in question, who refused a sit down for the signing of a confidentiality agreement, and threatens harm if the idea should be stolen. "These guys have no idea what I'm capable of," he told me. Granted, it is a million dollar story, but so much his own that no one would ever get away with stealing it - at least not without serious financial consequences. It is copy-writed. He claims to have four publishers lined up to bid on the book, which looks like it will be 1500 pages. He is still filling audio tapes with his exploits, which his writer transcribes to paper. He thanked me for my efforts, and we shook hands and parted. I will keep an ear open, but I just don't have the juice to support such a project. Good luck, MM.
It's Lincoln's birthday, and I have this silly refrain in my head that the girls on my block used to chant while skipping rope:
Lincoln, Lincoln, I been thinkin'
What's that stuff you been drinkin'
Looks like water, smells like wine
Oh my gosh it's turpentine!
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Friday, February 11, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/11

The floating bookshop did not open today. I accompanied my friend Arlynn to the doctor for her pre-surgery tests. We waited nearly two hours. Afterward, she treated me to lunch at a Turkish restaurant. I was adventurous, ordering a dish called Manti, best described as small tortellini-like thingees covered in yogurt sauce. Yick. It was sour. Of course, I wiped the plate clean, as I didn't want Arlynn to feel bad. At least the appetizer was delicious - stuffed grape leaves. I wasn't crazy about the bread, although I had three pieces, since I was so hungry by the time we got there. There's nothing better than real Italian bread.
Among the scores of books Arlynn has donated to the cause was Oscar Hijuelos' novel, A Simple Habana Melody, which I really enjoyed. It is the story of a great Cuban composer, pre-Castro, who writes a little ditty for the love (unrequited, at least physically) of his life, a Carmen Miranda-type singer. The names of real music giants are sprinkled throughout the narrative, which follows the protagonist through his entire life, except for the two or so years he spends at Buchenwald. It is a Holocaust novel that does not dwell on that horrific event, although its effects are clear. Hijuelos, the son of Cuban immigrants, was born in NYC in 1951. In 1990 he received a Pulitzer prize for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, which was made into a successful film, its title truncated. He was the first Hispanic to receive that distinction. My only criticism of A Simple Habana Melody is that it is a tad over-written. Otherwise, it rings with life's truths, especially that an artist's real love is his work. On a scale of five - four.
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/10

No luck in the god-awful cold. Did get another large donation from Arlynn via a third party - lots of popular novels, including about ten by Danielle Steele.
I got a call from the made man this morning. He was checking to see if the actor I sent the treatment too had responded to the offer of a sit down between lawyers for the signing of a confidentiality agreement. It seems the MM has drawn interest from Robert DeNiro and Ron Howard, and hopes to have them bid against each other, and he didn't want to act until he'd heard from me. That's the type of juice the project needs and deserves. If the story is true, it has blockbuster potential. The MM vowed to ban the actor in question from the project - if he ever finds out who it is. He wants to meet on Saturday. I'm hoping he doesn't need me any more, although I had dreamed of scoring a finder's fee. I just don't have the juice he needs. I hope he doesn't ask me who the actor in question is. I don't believe the guy would steal the material. After all, the treatment is only about 20 pages, and the guy has no shortage of script offers. He has more than 60 credits, including memorable turns on ER and Law & Order. He has shared screen time with Cage, Kidman, Bulluck and Damon. I tried to make the MM understand that actors make mistakes like this all the time. I wouldn't be surprised if the guy wound up in the thing. He has played gangsters before. The MM's writer is now 400 pages into the book. It looks like it will be more than 1000. I'd doubted that. Maybe it will be the War and Peace of mob stories. It would have to be a mini series.
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/9

No street sales today, but I received a royalty check for one hard copy and one kindle edition of A Hitch in Twilight. Thanks to the buyers -  whoever you are. And thanks to Phil and Deb at All Things That Matter Press.
Here's some good news, culled from an AP story posted at Yahoo News, certain to thrill the right and infuriate the left:

A new drilling technique is opening up vast fields of previously out-of-reach oil in the western United States, helping reverse a two-decade decline in domestic production of crude.
Companies are investing billions of dollars to get at oil deposits scattered across North Dakota, Colorado, Texas and California. By 2015, oil executives and analysts say, the new fields could yield as much as 2 million barrels of oil a day — more than the entire Gulf of Mexico produces now.
This new drilling is expected to raise U.S. production by at least 20 percent over the next five years. And within 10 years, it could help reduce oil imports by more than half, advancing a goal that has long eluded policymakers.
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/8

Tough day on the street. The wind was so strong I had to set up shop with my back to the side of a bus shelter. No one stopped by. I closed up after two hours. We're back in the deep freeze for a few days, but at least there's no snow in the forecast.
Guitarist Gary Moore, a native of Belfast, passed away in a hotel room a few days ago. He was only 58. He first gained notoriety in Thin Lizzy, teaming with Phillip Lynott to create rock n roll mayhem. TL burst onto the scene in the late '70's with The Boys Are Back in Town and its catchy twin lead and lyrics ("...Friday night down at Dino's bar and grill/ Drinks will flow and blood will spill...."). Moore soon went solo and turned to the blues, where he did some fine work. Lynott od'd in 1986. I wonder what life expectancy is for rock musicians. It's sad how so many succumb to the trappings of the trade. I actually wrote a novel, Rising Star, about it, borne of my love of the genre. Music is one of the things that has kept me sane. Although my taste has become much softer now, I still appreciate what rock did for me in my most challenging years.
Moore's soaring work on Still Got the Blues will live long after him. I get misty whenever I hear his lead on that incredible piece. I think: Man, he really loved that girl. That's what makes artists of his caliber so special. They are able to express in their work what all humans experience in life, and make it so beautiful despite the obvious pain. RIP, sir.
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Monday, February 7, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/7

Thanks to the lovely young woman who purchased Sandra Brown's Temptation's Kiss today on Avenue Z.
Kudos to the Green Bay Packers and Coach Mike McCarthy, who overcame the loss of 15 players to injured reserve during the regular season, and the loss of great defensive back Charles Woodson just before the end of the first half - and still managed to win the Super Bowl. It was great to see a young man from my alma mater, Greg Jennings, do so well in the big game. As one would expect, he holds several records at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, his home town. Jennings, the son of ministers, is a graduate of Kalamazoo Central High School, which has a rich athletic tradition. Yankees great Derek Jeter is also an alumnus. In the early 50's Central won three straight state basketball titles. Bill Stuifbergen, with whom I coached football at cross town rival Loy Norrix in the early 70's, was on those teams. I figured no team outside of Detroit or Flint would ever win what used to be called the Class A title again. Wrong! Central did it again this year and, given the scores of its tournament games, appears to have done it easily. My friend Judy, who married my best college buddy Jim, was a cheerleader at Central in the early 70's. She never let me forget Central's superiority to Norrix in football and basketball. Whenever I suggested we'd win, she'd say: "Get real." I centered my second novel, Adjustments, around the Norrix-Central game of of '74. So today I give a shout out to Central High School and all its alumni, although it kills me to do so.
The game was fun. I enjoyed the party at Adam and Sharon's, particularly the stinging barbs of Adam's beautiful sister Renah, who tore into many of the pop culture icons who appeared on screen. I also had a bit of news from my old work place: a broker I disliked lost 30 million hedging silver. I know this must have made many people happy, although one must wonder if it is simply another nail in the coffin of open outcry, which has given way largely to electronic trading. Even options trading is seeing more and more of its volume go via computer. The Exchange's lease is up in November 2012. Will it move to a smaller venue or transfer operations to Chicago? No one knows.
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/6

No luck on the street. It was a gorgeous day except for the mounds of unsightly snow that are everywhere. They look as if they've been used as ashtrays. The scoundrels in office are putting alternate side regulations back into effect tomorrow, which is ludicrous. There is no way the side streets can be cleaned. On Bay 37th there are several mounds at least six feet high. On my block, East 13th, the mounds are smaller but there are layers of black ice everywhere, some of it more than a foot thick. A lot of us park on top of it. I've had good luck finding spots this weekend, although I was worried about damaging the bottom of my car today backing over a thick, unyielding hump. At least we're getting some melt every day. And I won't have to lug the books very far manana.
Anyway, it's Super Bowl Sunday and my friends Adam and Sharon have again invited me to their annual soiree. They live right around the corner. There will be good food and good conversation, mostly centered around films. I'll get the latest update on my old work place, where Adam is one of the few survivors. I'm not a fan of either the Steelers or Packers, although I'd rather see Green Bay win. I've seen each team win enough championships to not be particularly interested in the outcome. I don't know the music of the Fugees, although Fergie's picture is frequently in the New York Post, so maybe there will be a surprise there. I'm not as enthusiastic about the ads as some people are, although some are clever. But it's Americana - and I love America.
Enjoy. Please don't drink and drive.
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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/5

Rain in the Big Apple. Floating bookshop will re-open tomorrow. Meanwhile, payout from pushes paypal account over $200.
Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth. He is a hero to many, including me. Even the left has begun praising him, just as they did Barry Goldwater after his death. In an op-ed piece syndicated in today's NY Post, Jonah Goldberg said this is a new strategy to make today's conservatives look bad. He cited some past, vicious quotes that demonized these stalwarts and said that the left's philosophy is really: "The only good conservative is a dead conservative."
Here are some quotes from Dutch, courtesy of & Enjoy:
Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let's not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources.  
Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
One way to make sure crime doesn't pay would be to let the government run it.
Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the democrats believe every day is April 15.
Some people wonder all their lives if they've made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem.  
The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.
The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.
Today, if you invent a better mousetrap, the government comes along with a better mouse.
I've noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.
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Friday, February 4, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/4

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Finally, some street sales. A nice Russian lady stopped by the floating bookshop, despite the cold, and purchased seven best sellers, including four Sandra Brown mysteries and Robert James Waller's follow up to his blockbuster The Bridges of Madison County, Slow Waltz in Cedar Grove. Spasiba, madam. If this keeps up I'll be able to retire - but not to the Africa country of Malawi, where farting in public has been banned. I'd be arrested as soon as I stepped off the plane.
A few days ago composer John Barry died. He scored over 100 films and won four Oscars: Born Free, The Lion in Winter, Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves. I remember the melody of Born Free and the opening lyric ( free as the wind blows), but don't remember a note of the others. That is not to say they aren't good, but I will carry the music Barry did for the early James Bond flicks in my head until the day I die. I was an impressionable pre-teen when the first was released. My friends and I always eagerly awaited the next in the series. My sister gave me the Goldfinger soundtrack one Christmas. I played it to death, visualizing the hero, the villains (Oddjob - wow!) and the Bond girls. I was thrilled one day many years later when I figured out the 007 riff on my guitar. I still get a warm feeling whenever I hear Shirley Bassey belt out the title tune, whose marvelous lyrics were written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. John Barry, and Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein, who did West Side Story, showed me there was a lot of great music outside rock n roll radio. Listening to those albums is one of the few fond memories of my youth. I quietly took everything to heart back then. Thank you, Sir John. RIP.
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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/3

Froze my buns off to no avail today. There was a cold wind a-blowin', negating the effects of the brilliant sunshine. The highlight of the session was a visit from Steve, a poet who lives in the building that was at my back. He's been a little down in the dumps recently, as he's being harassed by gangsters - the IRS. That results in sleepless nights for anybody. He's retired on a disability pension, which was supposed to have been tax free. He found out recently that it's not. He's now in arrears a couple of years, and he's on an austerity budget until he knows what's what. He did have something good happen: articles on presidents Arthur and Nixon were published in a magazine that has featured several of his poems. Way to go, Steve.
I've had a bit of relief in my own dealings with gangsters. The actor who read the made man's treatment had not shredded it, as I was sure he had. I received it yesterday. What does that mean, really? If he wanted to steal it, all he had to do was make a copy. It's just another case of an actor passing on something that in the end may prove a bonanza for someone else. That has happened thousands of times to even those at the top of the profession. If only the MM could get the treatment to the handlers of Jennifer Aniston, who find her starring roles despite disastrous results at the box office. Maybe she is handled by gangsters. That would explain a lot. She is a good actress and beautiful woman but, given the results of her films, the most overpaid star of all time.
Thanks to the folks at Synovate surveys for the five dollar check. Every little bit helps.
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/2

The last thing I expected today was to be able to set up shop. It seems we got off a lot easier than everyone around us. The only real problem in NYC was driving in the early AM. When I left the house at noon it was foggy and warmer than it's been for a while. I didn't even have to scrape any ice from my car. I headed to the viaduct. Water was flowing briskly into sewers. I didn't have any luck selling, but there was a highlight. A dude waiting for the bus asked why I didn't hang out near the train station. I told him it was off-limits and I wasn't about to test the cops out in this ticket-happy era. He nodded forlornly. He'd recently spent a night in jail for littering, leaving a coffee cup on a train. He's on parole and the officer had no choice but to arrest him once he ran the guy's I.D.. The officer apologized and said the charge would quickly be dismissed. "I just did ten years, I told him, beggin'," the guy said. Talk about bad luck.
I'd like to thank my old buddy Dom, who ordered all three of my books - my first sales through paypal. Dom's family moved to L.A. in July of '67. I went to college in Kalamazoo, Michigan in September. I hitchhiked to California in 1971 and was treated like a king by his family. Don't ask me how I did it. I was in a sort of auto-pilot fog back then, completely baffled by life. I remember one phase of that trek as if it were yesterday. On the way back I figured I might as well check out the Grand Canyon. Two sisters, looking for security, I guess, picked me up. We set up camp at the bottom of the majestic site. There was a girl nearby, sitting up in a sleeping bag, a dreamy look in her eyes. Soon after we had all bedded down for the night, moans erupted from the direction of the girl, whose man had returned. The older sister sprang awake, tense. I'll never forget the way the moonlight struck her face.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 2/1

The first part of the storm has been a dud. With only mist in the air, I set up shop at the viaduct on Avenue Z, and met the same results as the past few days - bupkis. But there were a few positives today. Frank M, who grew up around the corner from me on Bay 38th and was the starting center on the 1973 Lafayette team, liked Close to the Edge enough to order Adjustments and A Hitch in Twilight. Thank you, sir. I got payment from Zoom surveys in the form of the wide screen DVD of Batman Begins, which I will attempt to sell for seven bucks on the street. It lists for $8 + tax and shipping at amazon. I also had another windfall from the survey sites that pay in gift certificates. I buzz my hair the first of each month. Don't laugh - it has saved me $20 every six weeks for the past four years. I finally ran out of the clipper's lubricant, which I bought today with my GC balance at amazon. Pretty good day overall. If only the storm is not too severe. The Midwest is battening down the hatches. I just saw a Facebook post from my friend Judy, who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She's ready. Unfortunately, I saw another post on the sudden passing of an 18-year-old, the son of a broker at NYMEX. It puts everything in perspective, doesn't it? The unfairness of such an event makes one want to scream and tear hair out. Any joy is tainted by the thought of this outrage. Sympathy for Bill and family. RIP, BJ.