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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/31

The floating bookshop was closed today due to inclement weather. I'm still stuffed from lunch. After her visit to the doctor, Arlynn treated me to lasagna at V&S, right across the street and facing Sheepshead Bay. To my surprise, the shop is run by Italians, rare these days. I hadn't had lasagna in a long time. It is one dish my brother in law does not cook. I wiped the plate clean with garlic bread. I can still smell it on me.
I had plenty of time to attend to chores and to finish Paulina Porizkova's first novel, A Model Summer (2007). Porizkova, born in 1965, was one of the top supermodels of the '80's, twice on the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition. She has also acted in films and videos. A Model Summer is the story of a 15 year old Swedish girl of Czechoslovakian descent who receives an invitation to work in Paris for three months. On her own, sweet, virginal, naive, she experiences a complete change of life, a loss of innocence. She navigates the dog-eat-dog of the real world and falls prey to its vices. The strength of the novel is the portrait of the inner Jirina, her competitiveness, vulnerability, insecurity, jealousy and egomania, the classic teenager struggling to find a place in the world. The narrative brought out the conservative in me, worried she was growing up too fast. I frequently have to remind myself that life, values have changed dramatically since the late '60's, and I do so by telling myself: "It's a modern world." It's not going to adapt to me. I have to adapt to it, no matter how appalling I find some of it. There isn't anything that isn't plausible in the book. How closely it mirrors Porizkova's real life is anyone's guess. I was unable to find anything relevant about it on the web. On the one hand, she did go to Paris on her own as a teenager; on the other, her younger sibling is male, not female. Given this change, the work must be taken as fiction. Nevertheless, it rings true. I don't know how many copies it has sold, but I enjoyed it more than I did the million seller mystery/thrillers I've sampled, with the exception of Tami Hoag's A Thin Dark Line.  On a scale of five: three-and-a-half. How unfair that someone so beautiful is also intelligent enough to write a good novel. Porizkova is married to rock star/ producer Ric Ocasek of the Cars, who had a great run in '80's. They have two sons.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/30

March came in like a lion and it looks like it will go out the same way. Five to ten inches of snow is expected in some areas around the city. It was decent this afternoon, the calm before the storm. The wind had died. By evening it was back and even the partial sunshine was gone. The weather has to get better sometime, doesn't it?
I'd had Stephanie Meyer's wildly popular Twilight and Eclipse for three sessions of the floating bookshop. Today a Russian woman purchased them. She tried to turn a steal into highway robbery. She got both, a soft cover in good condition and a hardcover in excellent condition, for five bucks. I had to fight the temptation to cave. I was ready to leave and I knew it would be my only sale. Fortunately, she was reasonable. Spasiba, madam.
I've been proofing a short story collection for the publisher of my second novel, Adjustments. I'm also going to write a blurb, which will be very difficult because I don't like the writing. And the stories all seem unfinished and unpolished, although some are interesting. They are about vampires and murderers, of which I'm tired, although the general public is not, obviously, given the success of the Twilight series.. The writer's first language is French, and it shows. There is a real lack of command. I'm hoping Victoria doesn't ask my opinion. I believe she and the author are friends. One of the stories is dedicated to her. I was supposed to correct only errors, but I did a little more. There were a few sentences I did not understand at all. I pasted them into an email and Victoria is sending them to the author for clarification. It makes me question my own work, which Victoria loves. If she is wrong about the other guy's, is she wrong about mine? Is my work third rate as well? I've had a lot of positive feedback, but I'd bet the author in question has too. It's not his first book. Are we so wrapped up in ourselves as not to see the inadequacy?
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/29

Maybe there really is something to this mitzvah stuff. Arlynn was hurting today, despite good news. Her cancer is "only" stage one. She begins six and a half weeks of radiation treatment Monday, and the sessions will be only five minutes. She is so relieved and can't wait to tell her son, Jaime, who was probably out in the field performing his Coast Guard security duties when she tried to call him. Her legs must have been bothering her a lot more than usual. Each step seemed a struggle. She walked at one-third her usual pace and had to pause to rest a few times.
By the time we returned and I set up shop, it was past two. I planned to keep it short and forgo the evening session, as the cold north wind persists. It wasn't long before a gentleman in the construction trade spotted the CD's. He bought one by Rush, the Nelsons, Leann Womack and the Black Crowes, and a large pictorial book on ET's. Thanks, sir. May you be rewarded for your mitzvah.
Last week I watched Dark City (1950), which featured the odd aspect of Jack Webb being mean to Harry Morgan, who would be, 15 years or so later, his police partner on Dragnet. Appointment with Danger one-upped that oddity: Webb bashed Morgan's head in with the bronzed baby shoe of Morgan's own child. The film was also distinguished by its choice of hero - a postal inspector, played by Alan Ladd, who will always be remembered for his work as Shane, one of the great Hollywood westerns. Unfortunately, the disc jammed about a half hour before its finish. There was a thumb print-sized defect at its outer edge. It is amazing how few of the Netflix DVDs are damaged, given the thinness of the envelopes in which they arrive. It's a great service.
I had a bit of a chuckle reading a recent George Will op-ed piece on what a joke college standards have become. One school asked its applicants what they would choose as a title for an autobiography. One joker said Mulligan. For those who don't play golf, that's a "do over." I suppose that kid will be a writer.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/28

It was quite a day despite the persistent cold. I again accompanied my friend Arlynn to the doctor, and she again treated me to lunch, brick oven pizza, which we both agreed was bland. I've never had a specialized slice that I thought was as good as what I can get at Delmar here in Sheepshead Bay or Spumoni Gardens in the old neighborhood. Anyway, while we were eating, Arlynn said that the woman she had hired to accompany her to radiation treatments backed out of the deal. Since she hasn't been able to find anyone else, she asked if I would do it. Although I didn't want to do it, as I would have to take payment from a friend, I agreed. How could I refuse? She burst into tears of gratitude. She has her first appointment tomorrow and will begin a five-day-a-week schedule in the near future.
It's not a mitzvah if one accepts payment, although Arlynn disagrees. Nevertheless, I had luck on the street. My buddy Bob Rubenstein, author of Ghost Runners, bought two children's books for his tutoring gig. And a gentleman purchased CD's by master guitarist Joe Satriani and bluesman Johnny Lang. Thanks, guys.
Then the coup de gras - Marvin, perhaps 30, stopped and appeared to be blown away by the floating bookshop. Once homeless, he sells T-shirts on the street. He wants to write a book about his experiences and asked for advice. I told him to trust his instincts and to believe in himself. He bought A Hitch in Twilight. We did the soul handshake and a fist bump before he left. Best of luck, sir.
Maria showed just as I was about to close up. She purchased Hitch last summer. Unfortunately, her house is in foreclosure. She is a victim of the adjustable mortgage and a couple of refinancings. Her husband kept hoping for a miracle and missed his opportunity to sell. She seems to be handling it well. She claims to be tired of fighting it and is not scared to take a step backward and return to living in an apartment. After all, she grew up in the worst neighborhood in the Bronx. Her daughter, who is about to complete her sophomore year at the University of Hartford, will have to transfer to a city college, not the worst thing in the world, as the system has improved since standards were raised five or ten years ago. I was impressed with all Maria was saying. So many Americans expect to be bailed out these days. She is not one of them.
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/27

It's still ten degrees colder than normal for this time of year, despite brilliant sunshine. I'm still using six layers to ward off the wind.
I'd like to thank the kind lover of non-fiction who purchased a large pictorial book on the American indian yesterday. It prompted me to put out a book on ET's and another on the secrets of pyramids and such. No one showed any interest in them today. A wheel-chair bound woman and her male companion did scoop up all the remaining Patricia Cornwell novels, part of Joanne's donation, which is almost all gone. I felt a little guilty charging her. She did not look well. It's just another reminder of how lucky most of us are. Thanks, folks.
I was just about to close shop when a guy rolled up in his car, double-parked, and approached with two plastic bags filled with books. I was so surprised I don't recall if I thanked him. There are a lot of children's books among the donation, and also two of James Patterson's novels, and two in the Twilight series, a hard and soft cover of each. He also left a child's arts and crafts piece and one of those things hung on a wall, a quotation inscribed upon it: Keep a Dream in Your Heart. My dream, of course, is to sell copies of my own books.
So how did your NCAA tournament bracketology work out this year? Better than mine, I hope. Fortunately, I no longer pay to play, as I did while working at the Exchange. Heck, I ran my own pool for several years to earn some extra money. These days I enter a free one online at Survey Spot. I had Butler losing their first game, certain last year's amazing run was a fluke. And would even VCU alumni have had them winning more than once let alone reaching the Final Four? I guess the fact that so many players leave school after one or two years evens the overall competition out. It is truly March Madness and more fun than ever.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/25

It was a gorgeous afternoon and dreary evening, just the opposite of yesterday. Fortunately, the wind was calm. Thanks to the kind lady who purchased the Danielle Steel novels.
I've been asked to do a review for a forthcoming short story collection by Eric Tessier. Victoria Valentine, the publisher of Water Forest Press, which issued my second novel, Adjustments, asked and I couldn't refuse. She has published eleven of my stories through the years and a twelfth is scheduled for the next edition of Skyline Review. I might have given up the literary quest long ago if not for her. Only one thing worries me about the task - suppose I don't like the stories? I've already read the first and didn't get it. It was about a dead couple that liked being dead and did not want to be brought back to life. At least I think that's what it was about. I don't want to fake a rave. I don't know if there really is such a thing as karma, but I like to think there is. When positive deeds are not rewarded with good karma, it's okay because good deeds are a reward in themselves. But the prospect of foul deeds resulting in bad karma is daunting. I hope I have the resolve to say I can't give the book a glowing review, if that proves to be the case. And I hope it wouldn't cost a friendship I value so highly.
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/23

Winter refuses to let go. When I went for my morning walk at 7AM there was a one inch coating on cars, vegetation and awnings. It looked nice. The best thing about it was I knew it would be gone by noon. Areas outside the city got whacked with six to ten inches. Fortunately that, too, will not be around long enough to blacken.
It was cold and lonely during the afternoon shift. No one was crazy enough to stop in the biting wind. Fortunately, it warmed considerably by late afternoon, the breeze dying down. My old Exchange buddy, Adam, was kind enough to buy Jane Smiley's comic novel, Moo. Steve, the poet laureate of Sheepshead Bay, fresh from a ten-day working vacation in Mexico, also stopped by. He had a great time, the temperature in the 80's. He covered a jazz festival for his own web magazine. Needless to say, he is bummed by the weather here.
Last night I enjoyed Dark City (1950), courtesy of Netflix. It introduced Charlton Heston, although it was his second film, his first being a Shakespearean production. The rest of the cast was first rate, familiar to movie buffs: Lizabeth Scott, as a good girl for a change; Viveca Lindfors, Don Defore, Ed Begley, Harry Morgan, Dean Jagger, Mike Mazurky, as a silent psychopath; and Jack Webb, as effective as I've ever seen him, playing a heel. It was interesting to see Webb be mean to Morgan. Of course, the two would eventually team as cops in Dragnet. The film was directed by William Dieterle, most famous for The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), which contains one of my all-time favorite scenes, when Charles Laughton as Quasimodo swings on a rope from the church to the gallows to the rescue the beautiful gypsy, Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara), falsely accused of murder.. He swings back to the church, holds the fainted Esmeralda above his head and cries: "Sanctuary!" as the crowd cheers. Awesome.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/23

There was about a quarter inch of wet snow on my car this morning. Fortunately, none stuck to the streets. With the forecast for all-day precipitation, I figured it was a good time to have my tires changed and wheels realigned. I'd waited long enough, getting 19,000 miles out of the originals. The writing was on the wall yesterday when my front passenger tire was almost entirely deflated. Hopefully, there will be no unexpected car maintenance hits in the near future. I dread seeing the Check Engine light pop on.
To fill the hours, I did my Thursday morning chores this afternoon. As I was walking to the recycling center at Stop n Shop, there were a host of Asians waiting at the corner of East 15th, bags full of plastic, metal and glass bottles, some taller than the women themselves, placed at the curb before a large truck. I recognized most. It seems they have found a better method to get their due. The recycling room is small, noisy and the machines, battered from constant use, are frequently either down, unreliable or full. I was thrilled to find it vacant, but I had to empty the bin of the only working plastics machine. We're supposed to leave that up to Eddie, but he's usually tied up with other duties, so I thought I'd risk the wrath of management. I finished quickly, to the delight of the Russian woman swearing at one of the other machines, which often spits out perfectly legit goods. I immediately went into the store and used the voucher on stuff I would have purchased tomorrow.
RIP Elizabeth Taylor, whose ups and downs fascinated us all for so long. Those incredible eyes melted most male hearts. She won an Oscar for her portrayal of a high-priced hooker in Butterfield 8, which was not her best role. I will always remember her as Maggie the Cat in the film version of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and, of course, as the acerbic Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Her good work will be remembered, her poor work, even in the infamous Cleopatra debacle, will be forgotten. Of course, her private life was equally memorable: the death of her husband Mike Todd in a plane crash; her "stealing" of Debbie Reynolds', America's Sweetheart, husband Eddie Fisher; and her tumultuous marriages to Richard Burton. She was Hollywood through and through.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/22

I put a big dent in Joanne's donation today, as both shifts bore fruit. The afternoon was chilly, as the sun stayed behind clouds and the wind was stiff. Thanks to the lady who purchased the Nora Roberts thriller, and to Herbert, a regular customer whose name I finally learned, who selected, in the words of Squeeze's Pulling Muscles from a Shell, a Harold Robbins paperback.
I knew the evening shift would be good as soon as my man Johnny Feets showed. He recently taped a 25 minute teleplay that is running on a public access channel. I'm dying to see it. He kept me company for a while and marveled at the characters that visited the floating bookshop, especially the big bearded guy I think of as Teddy Bear, who bought four Ed McBain novels. McBain is the pseudonym of Evan Hunter, whose Blackboard Jungle was a best seller in the early 50's and was made into a fine film by director Richard Brooks. It worked even though Sidney Poitier and Vic Morrow were obviously way too old to be high-schoolers. Future director Paul Mazursky and Jaime Farr (Klinger in MASH) also were students. Glenn Ford was the first-year teacher, the beautiful Anne Francis his wife. The film made great use of Bill Haley and the Comets' Rock Around the Clock.
I also had some business from a black woman who had passed me several times. She took two Patricia Cornwell novels. And Feets himself bought an end of the world sci-fi story. Even Morty stopped by to regale us with the story of his lunch with the Iron Sheik of the WWF, now the WWE. "Helluva nice guy," he said, wincing at the pain in his shoulder, which will be evaluated tomorrow. "My lawyer says 'Send me the bill,'" he told us. He fell on the bus a month ago, and the bonehead driver left him at the curb and took off.
Believe it or not, snow is in the forecast for tomorrow.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/21

It was a gloomy, rainy day in Brooklyn. I skipped the afternoon session and curtailed the evening session at the viaduct. Thanks to the lady who purchased a Nora Roberts novel. She opened it as she was waiting and kept reading as she found a seat and the bus pulled away.
I mentioned Lorraine yesterday. For a brief period her family were my friend Chucky's tenants, four houses down from my own. It was the early '60's. She was thought uncool, called "skeeve" by my friends. It wasn't because she was ugly. She was average-looking, sometimes cute. I think that bit of cruelty may have stemmed from a rumor about her mother. It was said she'd "killed her baby." No one in my circle knew anything about abortion then, which was illegal. I couldn't understand why the woman hadn't been arrested. Anyway, for some reason, Lorraine was sweet on me. She bought me a gift for my birthday, perhaps my 13th. And I wouldn't accept it. I succumbed to peer pressure and put on a show, running away from her, raising the hackles of observers and the ire of the other girls of our circle. The one I loved, Elvira, said: "I'll never speak to you again." The opinions of my friends were of greater importance to me than her love. My mom and sister weren't too thrilled, either. Lorraine was so hurt, and I didn't care. That was then. Through the years I would flush with shame whenever I thought of the incident, one of the most despicable of my life. It was to my great surprise when she approached the floating bookshop one day and purchased Close to the Edge. As soon as she told me her name I looked past the large sunglasses she was wearing and recognized her. She was shocked that I remembered her - and she seemed to have forgotten me, forgotten the incident, though I didn't mention it, of course. Why open an old wound? I was astounded and thought she was perhaps pretending not to recall it. I was amazed at how unfair life could be, how one sometimes received something that was undeserved. If she'd spit at me, I wouldn't have complained. And yet she'd bought my book.
During subsequent encounters she would ask my name, as if she'd forgotten it. I couldn't believe it. Something that had made such an indelible impression on me did not even register on her radar. Although I was glad, I found that my reaction to the thought of the incident did not change. I was still ashamed of how cruel I'd been, and I suppose that is a good thing. I began to see why Lorraine had forgotten it. It may have been only the first of the psychological blows she'd been dealt. She once let drop: "Men are dogs." Yesterday it was: "Life is hard, but you learn how to take the shots." I felt so sorry for her. When she offered a handshake, I impulsively kissed the back of her hand. We fell into an embrace and I gave her a peck on the cheek. "They say everybody needs 25 hugs a day," she remarked as she was leaving. It seemed an awful lot. She must have read it in a book.
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/20

It was a great day on Bay Parkway and 85th. Brilliant sunshine negated the cool breeze. Orthodox children passed continually, dressed as if for Halloween, excited. And repeat customers treated me very well.
Billy is walking with a cane these days, as he recently underwent bypass surgery, although you'd never know it by his strong grip. As soon as he stepped out of the Chase bank, he headed right for the DVDs. I'd had Batman Begins for at least two months, courtesy of Zoom surveys. Some sites pay in merchandise. I wouldn't let Billy take it until I'd opened it and checked that it was okay. He's been a good customer and I wouldn't want to lose him. He also took a bull riders documentary, which Luis, our Super, had given me. I've now sold all six of the items he donated to the cause. As Billy was about to leave, he noticed When John and Caroline Lived in the White House, a lovely pictorial book. He couldn't resist it. He then commented on my varsity jacket and revealed he was on the St Francis Prep team, graduating in 1968. SFP was coached for decades by the legendary Vinnie O'Connor. They rarely lost more than two games per season and frequently won the Catholic league championship. I asked Billy what position he played and, in a refreshing bit of candor, he said: "Third string bench-warmer." It must have been really hard to crack that starting lineup. As he was leaving, he asked facetiously if the jacket were for sale. I quipped that I'd probably be buried in it. Thanks, my friend.
Soon Bob came limping along. He'd asked me to burn a CD for him, leaving the selections up to me. He graduated in 1979. I hoped the oldies I'd chosen would do the trick. He recognized most of the titles and I'm sure he'll recognize each track once he hears them. If he likes it, he will order another. Thanks, buddy. I introduced him to Lorraine, who soon appeared and who once lived on Bay 37th for a brief period. I was only vaguely familiar to her the first time we became reacquainted, which astounded me. I'll get to that story tomorrow, when all-day rain is predicted. She was kind enough to buy a Stephen White thriller.
Last but not least, Joanne approached with a bag full of books, which she'd been promising to donate. And she wouldn't take any in return. Thanks, ma'am.
Given the forecast, I thought it a good time to undergo the annual government-mandated shakedown of car inspection, figuring I'd leave it overnight and pick it up tomorrow. The lot was practically empty as I pulled into it. The manager, Ralph, a hulking teddy bear, said I was just in time, the last customer of the day. Ten minutes later I was on my way home. I couldn't believe my luck. And to think how I'd dreaded the visit, certain something wrong would be found, leading to a huge bill. Mark Twain's quote about worry once again proved true: "I knew a great many troubles in my life, but most of them never happened."
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/19

I took my brother in law shopping today, which left me little time for the floating bookshop. It was beautiful except for the stiff wind, which played havoc with my wares. Thanks to the young man who purchased the Talking Heads Favorites CD.
As I was driving to the dentist this morning, I was listening to disc ten of my car CD's, amassed through downloads from the net and uploads from either my collection or that of friends'. I hadn't listened to it in a long time. It sounded so fresh and wondrous, with tracks by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Darin, Brian Setzer and John Hiatt. One in particular moved me: Phoebe Snow's Just to Get You Close, which was part of a live tribute to Muddy Waters, aired on PBS several years ago. The song reveals the lengths the singer would go to win a lover: "I'd fight a shark with a toothpick...." The lyrics are solid and don't contain the line repetitions of so many blues standards, and Snow's soaring vocal elevate them, sending chills up the spine. It is among many tunes that make me misty, which can be hazardous while driving. Here are five more off the top of my head:
I'll Be Seeing You by Linda Eder, one of the world's most under-rated vocalists, who graces the Broadway stage.
Black by Pearl Jam. Eddie Veder grabs one by the throat from the opening through the beautiful three-part harmony of voice-piano-guitar that closes the powerful piece.
Fever by Eva Cassidy. It gives me the shakes. How tragic that this enormous talent died so young.
Love and Affection by Joan Armatrading. "If I can feel the wind in my eyes and the rain on my face - why can't I feel love?" Absolutely beautiful.
Down in the Depths by Lisa Stansfield. It is part of a tribute to the world's greatest writer, Cole Porter. It features stunning imagery: "While the crowds in the clubs punish the parquet," poignancy: "I'm defeated and depressed in my regal evening dress," and humor: "Even the janitor's wife has a perfectly good love life" - hallmarks of the man's genius.
Today is the 111th anniversary of my father's birth. The poor soul was 50 when I was born. He came to America with nothing and left me a very good life. Thanks, Papa. Rest in peace.
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/18

I did another mitzvah today, accompanying Arlynn to the doctor. She had a little scare when her surgical wound turned into a lump. It's just a natural build up of fluid. She was in and out in minutes, and I got a free lunch of shrimp, fries and Snapple out of it. As we were driving, she related how tight her ex-husband was with money, although he had plenty of it. He wouldn't contribute to their son's Bar Mitzvah party. He didn't even attend. He simply gave Arlynn a check for $500, $344 of which he owed her and that she was supposed to deduct from it. She never told Jaime. The guy didn't show any love to the kid, who was adopted. Jaime's heritage is Colombian, which surprises me, as he doesn't look it. He's a good kid, no thanks to his father, serving his country as a security officer in the Coast Guard. Arlynn doesn't know what happened to Irwin's money when he died, and she doesn't care. She assumes his girlfriend got it. Some people....
Well, Arlynn was right about the luck I was due. I was beginning to think I'd never sell another of my own books, and suddenly along came James, an English teacher at Kingsborough Community College, who purchased Close to the Edge and A Hitch in Twilight. Thank you, sir. And thanks to the large, silver-bearded man who bought Stuart Woods' Dark Harbor and asked for recommendations on two others. I selected one each by Patricia Cornwell and Robert Tennebaum. "Are you sure?" he said, rather harshly. I couldn't tell if he was joking or serious. I've sampled both authors and found them no different than others. As I've said before, the thriller genre is the most over-worked. The novels have such a sameness to them.
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/17

Erin Go Bragh. How sweet it is not to be riding the subway any more, especially on St. Patrick's Day amidst the drunken parade-goers. How unusual to have such gorgeous weather on March 17th. The Luck of the Irish was not an ironic phrase this year.
I hadn't even set up fully for the afternoon shift when a gentleman pounced on a Keb Mo blues CD. Thanks, sir. I've now sold ten of Marie's donation of 35. And a guy named Howie bought three children's books, including one on the wildly popular Garfield, during the evening shift. I hope he returns, as he said he would. Thanks, my man.
I got around to watching Get Him to the Greek, courtesy of Netflix. Directed by Nick Stoller, it is the story of a corporate flunky who helps a druggie rock star make a comeback at a venue where a live recording was made, which sent the rocker's career skyrocketing the first time around. It had many good moments and even a great one at its climax, distasteful though it was. I'm not a big fan of comedy, although this film tried to be more than that. The raunch-factor of modern work almost always turns me off, the only exception being the Farrelly brothers' Kingpen, which has two scenes that still make me laugh whenever I think of them. Jonah Hill as the flunky and Russell Brand as the star did well in their roles, as did Sean Combs (Puff Daddy? P Diddy?) as the vulgar, cynical boss. I wonder if he patterned the role after anyone in particular. Many real life stars make cameos, including Pink, whose flash was memorable. Stoller directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and there are a couple of references to her in Greek. I did not see it, so the moments were lost on me. On a scale of five: two and a half.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/16

No luck on the street today, but a $20 check from was waiting in my mailbox, mitigating the sting of rejection a bit. I also had some luck in the stock market, selling my shares of Pfizer at a $1000 profit. When I got the boot from the Exchange on Halloween of '07, I wisely moved all my 401k money into cash, since there would be no more money flowing into the account to mitigate any stock losses and since I expected the market to tank. I looked like a genius. Then I made the dumb mistake of getting back in too soon, only halfway through the meltdown. I bought Bank of America, AIG, and Citibank, thinking they'd seen their bottom. I'm way in the hole on all three. Even GE, one of America's all-time stalwarts, sank like a rock. Fortunately, it has fought back, although I'm still down quite a bit on it. Intel and Verizon have broken even for me. Of course, all those stocks pay dividends, which helps allay the losses. My track record is one of mediocrity, a little better than a CD yields. When I got a movie from Netflix today I was reminded of what a jackass I was for not having bought stock in it, especially since I'd been using and loving it well before it went public. It is well over 200 these days, up 15 points yesterday alone. It, Google and Snapple remind me what a coward I am. And every time I see someone listening to an IPOD I'm reminded what a dunce I was for getting out of Apple when it was trading 25. I lost a thousand and would have made perhaps ten thousand had I stuck with it. It's no comfort knowing others have similar tales.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/15

The long sales winning streak was broken today, zilch on both shifts. The afternoon was lovely, the evening was dominated by a cold wind so typical of March. I should have went right back inside as soon as I felt it.
I finished another in the mystery/thriller category, Lorenzo Carcaterra's Apaches. The first 200 pages were absolutely riveting and rang true, the last 150 were standard action fare and frequently rang false. Carcaterra was born in the Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan. His first two books were non-fiction. Sleepers, his second, rose to number one on the New York Times best seller list in both hardcover and paperback. It was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Robert DeNiro, directed by Barry Levinson. I did not read the book or see the movie. It falls into a category I hate - Creative Non-fiction. A work is either true or not. Change the tiniest aspect and it becomes fiction. Carcaterra worked on Law and Order as a writer and producer in '03 and '04. He has written several novels since Apaches, even a sequel to it. It's always satisfying to see a New York goombah make good. On a scale of five, I rate Apaches three.
Don't hate me, I've just begun super-model Paulina Porzikova's first novel, A Model Summer. I found its possibilities more intriguing than another mystery/thriller, which have such a sameness to them.
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Monday, March 14, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/14

Now that Daylight Savings Time has arrived, I will be doing two shifts most days. Today was the first. The afternoon was cold and fruitless. It was much warmer at four, despite the absence of sun. A cute little girl of eastern origin, riding by on a scooter, bought Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azbakan. Try saying that fast three times, as Sonny Fox used to say on Just for Fun Saturday mornings. "Six thick thistle sticks" was the tongue twister with which he most often tormented children. Anyway, thanks young lady. I've got a nice streak going, selling a little something every day for at least a week. Yesterday a guy working on a novel bought a bag of children's books and asked how to get a book in print. He seemed a bit daunted when I told him the costs of self-publishing, and who could blame him, especially since he has a wife and kid to support. I suggested he submit to regular publishers first. Who knows - he may get lucky, like I did with A Hitch in Twilight. I suggested he try, which lists publishers looking for submissions, and is free.
As I was standing out there on Avenue Z this evening, I recognized many of the people returning from work, going through their routine as if only a day and not months had passed. It's the nature of life, and something it is better not to dwell on too closely, as it may drive one bonkers. I was among them for almost 25 years. I still follow a routine. It's just a little more varied. Heck, I'll be out on Avenue Z every evening now, weather permitting. Passersby might think: Sheesh, how 'bout this guy's routine.
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/12

It was a day of variety. It started at the dentist, where he removed one of my caps and replaced it with a temporary while the permanent is cast. They are made of porcelain, which is extremely hard. It was at least 15 minutes before he had the original off, then a few more minutes of shaving away the cavity on what's left of the real tooth. Fortunately, the root was dead, so it was annoying rather than painful.
I'd planned to set up shop just up the street from the house I grew up in, but I couldn't find a parking spot, so I went to Bay Parkway and 85th. A Russian woman picked up The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thompson, billed as an intellectual thriller in the mode of The DaVinci Code. She fanned the pages several times and said: "Bedbugs?" The only response I could think of was: "Geez, I hope not." She is the first to voice such a fear, although I've wondered if that is the reason more people don't stop. Our buildings were fumigated. It has now been suggested that the scare was a ploy of the co-op board members, who received kickbacks from the exterminators. It wouldn't surprise me. Anyway, spasiba, madam.
A Hispanic gentleman purchased the Black X-Mas DVD. I warned him that it was probably very violent and that his children shouldn't watch it. "No," he said, "no good for kids." He also took a CD, the Baha Men's sensation, Who Let the Dogs Out? Remember when that seemed to be playing everywhere? Pop culture is so fascinating. The most unlikely track sometimes becomes a huge hit. In the 60's a guy who went by Napoleon XIV rocketed up the charts with They're Coming To Take Me Away, which was soon banned from the airwaves, deemed offensive to the mentally ill. Ray Stevens had hits with A-hab the A-rab, which could be aired only on internet radio these days, and The Streak, which capitalized on the zany phase of the '70's. My least favorite, outside of those created by DJ's sampling popular songs, is Johnny Cash's A Boy Named Sue. I like a lot of his catalog, but that one annoyed me. Still, I believe it was his biggest hit. As the old professor, Casey Stengel, used to say about his woeful Mets team: "Amazin'."
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/11

It was a good day. The storm blew past, the sun came out, I had some sales, and a mystery was partially solved. Thanks to the Russian gentleman who purchased the Mike Bloomfield CD, which was in mint condition. Bloomfield was one of the first white artists to play guitar blues. He pre-dates Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton, the foremost promoters of the masters that preceded all of them.
I also sold a couple of Danielle Steele novels to a middle aged retiree who hurried back from her shopping trip, fearing they would be gone. Thanks, madam. I will put out two more tomorrow.
And now for the mystery. About ten days ago I lost my entire set of keys, including the one to the lobby door. So far I haven't had to wait too long for other tenants to come along. There I stood this afternoon, pizza box in one hand, shovel in the other, waiting. I finally remembered to take the shovel out of the trunk. It may snow again, but it would be the slushy kind that is driven through easily. Anyway, my neighbor's beautiful daughter, who is married and has two teenagers and lives in an apartment above us, was passing in the lobby, coming from the garage. I felt my face flush with embarrassment. I explained the situation and she said a notice had been posted about found keys. Sure enough, there it was in black and white in the elevator. I doubted they were my keys. After all, I hadn't lost them on the grounds but across the street in front of another large complex. But it was worth a shot. I left the pizza and shovel in my apartment and hustled over to the main office, which is in the middle building of the three that comprise Atlantic Towers. Lo and behold, they were my keys. Whoever found them must have recognized the lobby key, which was now missing. My guess is I left them dangling in the lock of my trunk. I'm grateful the person didn't drive off with my car. I doubt he made a copy. The car would have been stolen by now. The lobby key costs $25. It's no wonder it was taken. I asked one of our porters to keep an eye out in case a former tenant leaves one behind.  The new mystery is whether the person who found the set, or someone in management, stole the key.
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/10

I made the mistake of listening to the forecast today and did not set up shop. It's now 5:43 and we still haven't seen anything but a few sprinkles. Granted, it's gloomy and nasty outside, but I could have set up shop at the viaduct. I just hope the storm doesn't extend into tomorrow afternoon.
Congratulations to the Wisconsin Republicans for showing backbone. If the majority, and not just union people, don't like the results, they can voice their disapproval at the next election. That's what Democracy is all about. It isn't about hiding when the odds are against one.
I received the following in an email. I hope it brings a smile to your face:
The Washington Post runs a weekly contest in its Style section called the "Style Invitational". The requirements this week were to use the two words Lewinsky (The Intern) and Kaczynski (the Unabomber) in the same limerick. The following winning entries, remember, were printed in the newspaper.
Third place:
There once was a gal named Lewinsky
Who played on a flute like Stravinsky
'Twas "Hail to the Chief"
On this flute made of beef
That stole the front page from Kaczynski.
Second place:
Said Clinton to young Ms. Lewinsky,
"We don't want to leave clues like Kaczynski,
Since you made such a mess,
Use the hem of your dress
And please wipe that stuff off of your chinsky."
And the winning entry:
Lewinsky and Clinton have shown
What Kaczynski must surely have known
That an intern is better
Than a bomb in a letter
When deciding how best to be blown.
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/9

It was the toughest type of weather today for the floating bookshop - cloudy and windy. There's another big storm on the way. Fortunately, at least for everyone away from rivers, which have crested, it will be rain. I didn't think I'd have any sales. I set up right against the bus shelter on Avenue Z, which cut off the sight line of anyone walking toward East 13th. To my surprise, a manual laborer looked through the CD's and, although he didn't recognize any of the artists, selected Ted Nugent's Live Double record, a steal at one dollar. A bit later a guy in green medical garb, yarmulke atop his head, stopped and looked through just about everything I had on display, including my own books. He finally settled on Why Didn't I Think of That? by Allyn Freeman and Bob Golden, a fun look at odd million dollar ideas like the pet rock, things that any of us could have conjured to make ourselves rich. The book serves as both encouragement and a poke in the eye. It was part of my friend Arlynn's vast donation. She had her second operation Monday, having a small part of her lymph nodes removed. She was home the same day, certain the staff thought her meshuggah, as she commended herself into God's hands just before she was put under by the anesthesiologist. She is allergic to the dye used to illumine the affected areas, and was really nervous about it. She must now wait for her doctor to return from vacation before going to the next step, which would be weeks of radiation treatment, provided no complications were found. A person in her condition cannot undergo chemo. She has a rare neurological disease that has weakened and collapsed her legs so that her knees press against each other. Radiation treatments are five days a week. It will be tough, but she is in good spirits. She has been a survivor.
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/8

As Marv Alpert would say: "Yes!" I found a bag of goodies hanging on my doorknob: books and DVDs, including a Harry Potter and five straight-to-video horror movies. They came courtesy of our Super. And the movies, none of which I'd ever heard of, helped me sell A Hitch in Twilight. A nice lady named Sandra came by and spotted them, then noticed the story collection. I said she could have the DVDs for free if she purchased the book, and she jumped at it. She even left one, Black X-Mas, which is unrated. I imagine all of them are on the level of Friday the 13th. Thank you, ma'am. And thanks to Lou, the Super.
As I was out there on Avenue U today, I spotted a familiar figure a half block away, walking toward me. John began working at the Exchange about a year before I did. He eventually became Supervisor of one of the smaller energy markets, I forget which. He was in the first wave of cuts. Rumor has it that he has landed on disability. No one would know it looking at him. He looked great, distinguished even with his silver mane. He joined a gym and works out every day. Recently, on a lark, he went into a dance club on 86th Street, the heart of Bensonhurst. He was mesmerized by the tall, lanky Russian women going through their moves. "When do you want to join?" the manager asked. "Yesterday," John quipped. Then he told me: "I wound up bangin' two of 'em and moved on." He has been divorced eight years now and lives with his mom in the house he grew up in. "My wife has the house," he said. "Let her pay the mortgage. Screw 'er. That's my philosophy now - 'Screw everybody.'" To my disappointment, he didn't ask about my books. He bought and read Close to the Edge about ten years ago. C'est la vie.
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Monday, March 7, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/7

What a great day on Bay Parkway and 85th. The weather was nearly perfect, not a cloud in the sky. The forecast called for gusts of 35 mph, but it wasn't half as bad as that. I thought the CD's would be blown away, but I didn't have to chase any down.
Thanks to the young Latina who purchased five mystery/thrillers and the Latina couple who allowed their excited daughter to select two children's books. I had more than enough for one of Waj's combo gyro wraps and a half gallon of Turkey Hill green tea with ginseng and lemon. I doubt the health benefits of the tea are even remotely as good as what is brewed, but I've always loved iced tea and I hadn't had it in a while.
My friend Bob came limping along. He showed me his new Ipod and started rattling off what he has on it. "I even have a song called Werewolves of London," he said. To which I remarked: "'Ah-ooooh! I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's - his hair was perfect.'" I haven't heard that Warren Zevon classic novelty in a long time. I will be adding it to my download list. Whenever I hear it I recall the great use it was put to by Martin Scorsese in The Color of Money, as the flaky hustler played so wonderfully by Tom Cruise commands the attention of an entire pool hall. Of course, that fine film, a sequel, pales in comparison to its predecessor, the great The Hustler, which contains one of my favorite film lines. Paul Newman (Fast Eddie Felson) and Jackie Gleason (Minnesota Fats) have played pool around the clock, longer than 24 hours. The game seems to be over, with Felson the winner. An attendant helps Fats freshen up and pours powder on his bejeweled hands. Fats rubs his hands together, straightens up, looks at Felson, and says: "Fast Eddie, let's play some pool." And it's obvious the brash young man, who has been drinking heavily, is going down to defeat.
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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/6

The floating bookshop was rained-out today.
The past two nights I've had the great fortune to catch phases of a concert given at Royal Albert Hall by guitarist Joe Bonamassa. Look for it on PBS. Tape it to avoid pledge breaks. Bonamassa was born in Utica, New York, where his parents owned a guitar shop. He was playing by the age of four and by seven he knew songs by masters Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix note for note. He is now 33. I'm embarrassed to say this is the first I've ever heard of him - he has ten albums in print. Here is a link to a clip from that show:  Enjoy.
If you're sick of the Charlie Sheen saga, here are two items in the same vein involving people who should have been held to a higher standard than a Hollywood star. In 1961, at the age of 29, Ted Kennedy rented out an entire brothel in Chile. Among his guests were one of his Harvard professors and hardcore communists. Given the Liberal Lion's reputation, this should surprise no one. In fact, it is right in line with the behavior of many politicians from both sides of the aisle.
J. Michael Bailey is a professor of Psychology at Northwestern, one of the finest universities in the Midwest, considered the equal of any Ivy League school. He teaches a course on Human Sexuality. In late February he had an optional, after class session wherein a woman disrobed, laid out on a towel, and was worked over with an electric phallic device by her boyfriend. 100 students attended. I hope the young males present found an outlet for their arousal, preferably back in their dorm rooms. Sometimes I am amazed at how things have changed on the human level.
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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/4

I made my annual visit to the dentist today and the news wasn't good. There is significant erosion beneath two of my many caps, which means they have to be replaced. This wasn't exactly a surprise. Those caps have been in place since 1987. Usual life expectancy is five years. My doctor is first rate. Fortunately, I already endured root canal on both those teeth, so I won't have to be suffering that again. Since I no longer have insurance, the cost will be $1600, and that's with a steep discount. I have plenty of money in my accounts, enough for years, but it is still daunting, given the fact that I'm not earning much. I have 14 months to my 62nd birthday, when I will qualify for reduced Social Security benefits. I figure it is best to take the money early. After all, it is impossible to know how long one will live.
It was in the mid 50's today. Even the stiff breeze had no ill effect. Thanks to the nice Russian lady, who purchased a children's book for her son, who was on a scooter. I also got a visit from an old woman who always spends a lot of time examining books, without buying. Today she debated between my suggestion, Jeffery Archer's The Prodigal Daughter, and John Jake's The Seekers, and couldn't decide.
Thanks to the folks at Synovate surveys for the $10 check, a small dent in the dentist's bill.
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Friday, March 4, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/4

It was a nice day on the street. A Russian gentleman purchased John Lescroart's Guilty, the merry mail-woman selected Karin Slaughter's Fractured, and the security guard at Stop n Shop chose LeeAnn Rimes' Unchained Melody, a collection focused on the early years of her fabulous career. It seems only yesterday she burst onto the scene as a 14-year-old with Blue. She's now in her 30's. Thanks, folks.
I was visited by Robert Rubenstein, author of Ghost Runners. He is a bit frustrated, as the book sold only 22 copies last quarter. He is experiencing the evolution all small press writers do. At first we're thrilled just to get into print, then we think: "If it only sold a hundred," then 200. I'm around 530 for my three books. 600 seems decades away in today's market.
On a positive note, Bob went into the Barnes and Noble at Union Square, perhaps the most important in the country, and asked to see the manager. The guy looked up the novel on a computer and ordered copies. That is a major coup. I tried it when Close to the Edge was published in 2000. Only a tiny bookstore in Bay Ridge, which has since gone out of business, ordered it. The managers in the large bookstores all said a book had to first demonstrate demand. Bob is now waiting for the book to hit the shelves, then he will go to other B & N's and tell the managers it is in the Union Square store. That's a good strategy. And since Ghost Runners is about the 1936 Olympics, he wants to go to the London games this summer and set up shop. That would not be cost effective, of course, but it might create buzz that would spur sales. And with more sales there is the hope that the book will go viral. That is the dream of all small press writers. I've always believed the book would be a worldwide sensation amongst Jews. It just has to fall into enough, and the right, hands.
Bob also said he is dating a rich woman, the owner of a five million dollar Park Avenue duplex. Way to go. Best of luck, buddy.
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/3

I'm so lucky. The lock to my apartment was broken. The Super, Lou, wasn't able to get to it by the time Arlynn was ready to leave for her latest pre-surgical tests at nine AM, so the place remained vulnerable to any potential thief. I took all my money and my cell phone with me, and I hid my laptop in a box containing the remaining 30 or so copies of A Hitch in Twilight, beneath a number of them. Those are the items I consider the most vital. My guitar is dear to me. My mom gave it to me for my 25th birthday in 1975. I would miss it, even though my playing seems more atrocious than ever, but its absence would give me a reason to quit, so I didn't stash it. It would be a burden to replace my 25 inch analog TV, but there was no place I could have hidden it. And I've been expecting my Panasonic DVD player to break down, as it has played nearly 900 movies, so I wasn't too nervous about it. What a product, by the way.
I didn't want Arlynn to know about the situation. She tends to obsess. She keeps her gas tank full perpetually, for instance. And as someone fighting cancer, even though it's at an early stage, she has every right to be a wreck. To my surprise, she was very calm today. She came down to my place earlier than expected. Fortunately, she did not notice the hole in the door, which I pretended to lock. She completed her tests quickly and insisted on again taking me to lunch. She was looking forward to the spinach pie she'd seen through the glass the last time we were at the diner. She'd been thinking about it ever since. Unfortunately, the lone slice left did not look appetizing. She settled for an omelet. I had a burger and fries.
As soon as I'd seen her to her apartment, her birds cawing in the background, I hurried down to my own. Everything was in its place. I was so relieved. A while later, Lou showed up with a lock. Again he refused cash. I asked if he were interested in any of the CD's Marie had given me the other day. I handed him one by John Secada and another by Tevin Campbell, and he thanked me. No, thank you, sir. You saved me a lot of money and agita.
The floating bookshop will re-open tomorrow.
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/2

Well, it looked like it would be a second consecutive good day for the floating bookshop. I laid out four CD's, two AC/DC, a Bon Jovi and a Pearl Jam, and soon a young man stopped and asked about them. When he heard they were a dollar each, he scooped them all up. Thanks, sir. And a while later one of my regulars, whose named I finally learned, showed. I was holding a mint hardcover version of Lee Child's Bad Luck and Trouble. I told David I'd read it and recommended it. He didn't hesitate to fork over the cash. Thanks, buddy.
And I was visited by friends I've made while running the shop. I'd been worried about Morty, 75, who I hadn't seen in a month. He'd taken a flop inside a bus, broken his shoulder. He asked the driver to call an ambulance. The guy left him at the curb and took off. A lawsuit is underway.
A while later Steve got off the B36. He will be going to Mexico City for a jazz concert in ten days. He will be interviewing a saxophonist who speaks no English, through a translator, of course. The dialogue will appear in a magazine. Minutes later Antonin, aka Mr. Su Do Ku, stopped and told me about his latest creation - a book wherein he compares relationships and a Rubik's cube. As I've said before, he is on a higher intellectual plane than most of us.
So I headed to the car in good spirits - then the hour struck. My keys were gone. I looked through all the bags and boxes in the milk crates, to no avail. Fortunately, I always keep a spare car key in my wallet. I opened the trunk, hoping the keys were there. No. I knew they weren't inside the car because I'd gone right to the trunk and walked 50 yards to the corner of East 13th. I retraced my steps. Nothing. I wondered if I'd left them in the trunk's lock and if they'd been retrieved by a good samaritan, but there was no note. I checked the glove compartment and the well where I keep CD's, just in case. No again. I drove to my sister's, certain I had a spare set there. Of course, no one was home. I waited an hour. No keys. I went to the ATM, downcast that it would now be a losing day monetarily. I rang the Super's bell to ask if the building had a contract with a locksmith. Luis volunteered to take a look at it himself. An hour later I was in the apartment. Thank God for guys who know how to do things. Only the top lock needed to be broken. I haven't been locking the dead bolt because the cylinder has been balky. So I lucked out there. I wanted to give Lou a twenty, but he wouldn't take it. My eyes glazed in thanks. I found a spare to the mailbox, but none for the door or lobby. I will ask my friend Arlynn to buzz me into the building. And Lou says he might have an old replacement lock, so the financial damage may be minimal. There is one problem: I'm accompanying Arlynn to the doctor tomorrow morning. I may have to take all my money with me and maybe the laptop too. The TV may be gone when we get back.
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 3/1

What a day! March has come in like a lion for the floating bookshop. It looked bleak for the first hour-and-a-half, then George, a South-American, came along. He asked if I would feed quarters into the parking meter in an hour, once his initial deposit elapsed. He had a doctor's appointment. He offered me two bucks. I would probably have done it for nothing. I hate to see anyone get a ticket. I consider it a nuisance tax. It was a bit disheartening to take the money, but I thought it'd be all I saw today.
Minutes later Marie happened by and asked if I'd be interested in CD's. A friend's bar went out of business and she wound up with everything in the jukebox. I said "sure." She returned with a box filled with 35 of them, mostly rock and blues, and they were in their original cases. I was certain they'd be loose. I immediately put two aside, a Talking Heads compilation from which I will upload several songs, and another of modern country artists, which I will give to my buddy, Bags, who is a big country fan. I'll sell each for a dollar. I don't know if there will be interest in many of them, but I know the AC/DC, Pearl Jam, and Bon Jovi will sell. Thanks, madam.
As I was sorting through them, George returned, well before the first hour had elapsed. I wanted to return the extra quarters in case he needed to feed another meter, but he wouldn't hear of it. He noticed the three CD's I'd laid out and asked what type of music it was, and I said the only thing he would like was the Josh Groban, with whom he was unfamiliar. Still, he took a shot. Then he asked about A Hitch in Twilight, and purchased it! I was shocked. I hadn't done anything for him. As he was about to leave, he snapped to attention and saluted, then explained he'd been a commander of UN forces for 25 years. I bet he's seen a lot. Muchas gracias, Commandante.
As if that wasn't enough, Laura (Lowwww-ra, as Europeans say) appeared. Last summer she purchased a bunch of books, including Hitch and Close to the Edge. I'd wondered if her appearance then had simply been a rare instance of her being in the neighborhood. I asked the question that hadn't occurred to me then - if she was a writer. She said she wrote only as therapy (t'erapy, as she pronounces it in her charming Romanian accent). She then related how she'd been having trouble in a science course and the instructor suggested she enter an essay contest for extra credit - and she came in first! The topic she chose was Nobel science winners. I applauded and said: "Bravissima." She then told me how much she enjoyed Close to the Edge. I was touched. When she was ready to go she held out her arms for a hug, and I jumped in and couldn't resist kissing her cheek. And for a day all the frustrations of the floating bookshop seemed worth it, and not madness.
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