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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/30

Had a couple of hearty laughs on the street. I couldn't find a parking spot anywhere near 24th Avenue and 86th, my usual Saturday spot, so I decided to go to Avenue U between West 7th & 8th, where I haven't set up shop in a while. It looked like a poor choice until this middle aged dude, who smelled as if he'd had a cocktail or two, stopped and ask if I had any "doctor stuff." The closest I had was Sylvia Browne's Past Lives, Future Healing. He turned it over and read the back blurb. He noted the five other books by Browne I had. "Who's she - God?" he said. He picked up her Book of Dreams. "Dreams are bull...," he said. "I always have this one where I'm with this pretty girl who's about to kiss me - then somebody cuts the cord - every time." I knew the feeling. I remember having such a dream interrupted by a dorm fire drill. The dude (he must have reminded me of the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski) then noticed my books. He was skeptical that I'd written them. I turned one over and showed him my photograph, which my buddy Enrique took on the trading floor about five years ago. "The picture's uglier," he said. I threw my head back and laughed, thinking: "In vino veritas." Years ago a comment like that would have hurt me. I would have taken it to heart. Hopefully, this means I've grown a little as a human being. Anyway, the dude bought those two books, so the session wasn't a total loss, especially when minutes later another guy paused to see what was what. I pointed out the mysteries I had. "I have a girlfriend - that's all the mystery I need," he said, and went on his way. I again threw my head back and laughed. Just this morning I'd heard the opposite perspective while at the register at Stop n Shop. Adrian, the cashier, 65ish, and a middle aged customer were ridiculing the royal wedding, recalling their own nuptials. "If I'd've known then what I know now, I'd've killed him right there and been done with it," said Adrian of her husband, a sentiment with which the other woman agreed. I laughed at that too. The human comedy is endlessly entertaining.
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Friday, April 29, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/29

It was repeat customer day at the floating bookshop. A lovely young woman of eastern descent liked my past recommendations so much she snapped up thrillers by Daniel Silva and Karin Slaughter. A middle-aged woman who had promised to return for a pristine hardcover copy of Sandra Brown's Tough Customer a week ago, finally showed and was lucky enough to find the book waiting for her. And finally, Sheila, who purchased Close to the Edge a while ago, bought a bag o' romance novels, plus James Patterson's Lake House. Thanks, folks.
Congratulations to Will and Kate. What a handsome couple they are. I do not share the enthusiasm for the pomp of the proceedings that the general public does, but I wish them well. They seem like nice kids. Of course, the time of the rule of kings and queens has long passed, but their governance in England advanced western civilization. They were not without sin, but their pluses far outweighed their minuses. And the history of the royal family has inspired so many great films and TV shows: The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970), Becket (1964), A Man for All Season (1966), The Lion in Winter (1968), to name a few. Is there a better cinematic argument between husband and wife than that between Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, so expertly played by Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn, in The Lion in Winter (Screenplay by James Goldman, based on his play)? Four years earlier O'Toole played a younger Henry II in Becket (Screenplay by Edward Anhalt), arguing not only with his wife, but with the Archbishop of Canterbury, whom he had appointed and who was so ably portrayed by Richard Burton. Great stuff.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/28

Got lucky today. No, not that way - wash your mind out with soap. Arlynn's treatment went flawlessly, so I was home well ahead of the start of the latest storm and able to set up shop briefly at the viaduct, which led to the sale of a bag o' children's books to Kofi, who purchased Close to the Edge about a year ago. He was surprised I remembered him. He has a name easily associated with someone and therefore fileable in the memory - Kofi Annan, the former U.N. official. Thanks, sir.
Last Saturday I forgot to use a couple of coupons, two dollars worth. The Sicilian in me would not let it go. I had the paperwork in my wallet and, as soon as I'd put the crates in the trunk, I headed to customer service at Stop n Shop. To my surprise, they made up for my oversight with their cash. What a country! I would have said: "Tough noogies. It was your own fault." And later I found a parking spot good not only for Alternate Side tomorrow but close enough to my usual corner so that I won't have to lug the crates very far. Amazing how things work out some times.
I enjoyed Inception, although I was puzzled by most of it, as I was by Christopher Nolan's breakthrough film, Memento (2000), which I also really liked. Maybe he's just a lot smarter than the rest of us. His films certainly reflect keen intelligence. Insomnia, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are some of his others. How is it a British director understands the Batman myth better than the Americans who have tackled it? Tim Burton's Batman was good, but Batman Returns was forgettable except for Michelle Pfeiffer's great turn as Cat Woman. Joel Schumacher's attempts were less than mediocre, although several made a lot of money. Anyway, Inception is science fiction at its best. The story involves entering a person's dreams and the theft of ideas. Leonardo DiCaprio has added another fine performance to his long resume. The sets and action are first rate. Pay strict attention. There will be a quiz later. On a scale of five: four.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/27

Thanks to the lovely young woman who pulled up to the bus stop, exited her car, which she left running, flicked away a cigarette, and said: "I need something to read." She chose hardcovers by Nora Roberts, Nelson DeMille and Daniel Silva. Speaking of Silva, I just finished The Messenger (2006), a thriller about an Israeli agent on the trail of terrorists. It moves into second place on the list of those I've sampled, behind Tami Hoag's A Thin Dark Line. What I liked most about it is that it makes no bones about the war on terror - it's real, deadly and must be won. And the writing, to borrow a phrase from Linda Richman, the Coffee Talk character on Saturday Night Live: "It's like butter," more polished than anyone else in the genre except Joy Fielding. It takes the hero around the world and moves swiftly in short sections, as do so many novels of this type. Silva's background is in journalism. He abandoned it when he found immediate success in the literary field. All his novels have been New York Times best sellers. Ten of them focus on the same protagonist. This does not sit well with a lively little old lady, who has the energy of a teenager and who frequently stops by the floating bookshop on her daily trek to the library. "You've read one, you've read them all," she says. Still, fans continue to snap them up. Silva's work has been translated into 30 languages. I can attest only to the quality of the book in question: on a scale of five, I rate The Messenger three-and-a-half. My only quibbles are its length (480 pages) and a few instances where the dialogue does not ring true, but those are brief and hardly detract from the overall quality.
Inception just arrived, courtesy of Netflix. I haven't been this eager to see a film in a long time. I hope I haven't set myself up for a let down. 
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/26

Thanks to the kind folks who have purchased from the floating bookshop the past few days during limited hours of operation. I should be back in the full swing of things tomorrow. Meanwhile, here's what my friend Arlynn had to say about A Hitch in Twilight in a review at amazon, where she has scores of books, mostly children's, listed for sale:

5.0 out of 5 stars A Hitch in Twilight by Vic Fortezza, April 26, 2011
  This review is from: A Hitch In Twilight: 20 Tales of Warped Imagination (Paperback)
Want a book that will keep you at the very edge of your seat? Also, it will not take days to complete because it is a group of short stories by Vic, a prolific writer that can write suspense in the fashion of some of very best! In each story is the touch of real life that Vic incorporates in his writings. I could not name one story that I liked better than another...all gripping and with that special edge of real life.

Vic, a young writer has a great future and all his fans want more. So, when may we look for the next novel, Vic? Applause to the writer and applause to the publisher who was intuitive enough to publish this exciting collection.
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/25

Another Easter has come and gone. My niece Sandra and her family made the trip to Brooklyn from south Jersey. She is in her tenth year as a special ed teacher and doesn't think she'll last much longer. It is grueling work and she does not get much support in the disciplinary aspects. Her son Ronnie made the freshman baseball team. He's the third-baseman and closer, batting over .400 and giving up only one run so far. His sister Danielle is on her junior high track team, running the 100 yard dash and a leg on the 4x100. Both continue to do really well academically. Ronnie already has a college curriculum in mind - Pharmacology, although that is a long way off and no one would be surprised if he changed his mind. We all had a good time stuffing our faces. Pasta, bracciole and sausage was the first course, leg of lamb the main. There were several side dishes, of which the asparagus with tomato and feta cheese stood out. Kudos to my brother in law Al for his usual great feast. Of course, we had dessert: cannolis and other pastries, and cookies. We retired to couch, bloated, but not so much as to prevent a pillow fight where Ronnie and I ganged up on Danielle. We also watched What Happens in Vegas (2008), starring Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, which takes place in part on the NYMEX trading floor. I was still working there when it was filmed. I declined participation, recalling the long hours I put in on Trading Places (1984), which starred Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy - and Jaime Lee Curtis, who unfortunately, did not have any scenes at the Exchange. I did not recognize any of the extras surrounding Diaz in her job scenes. Most must have been traders in the energy markets. I worked strictly in metals. I caught a glimpse of a phone clerk who might have been Rui T, who lost his place with us when he refused to cut his long hair (and lost a law suit), and who eventually landed at the Cotton Exchange and back in our building after the old trading floor at 4 World Trade was destroyed on 9/11. He rose to supervisor, eventually shaved his head bald, and eschewed headbanger garb for the GQ look!
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/24

It was a sad Easter Sunday. Another of  our Bay 37th Street's longtime stalwarts, Jimmy Baglivi, has passed away at 93. Jimmy was as nice a guy as anyone would ever want to meet. For years he took us to Mets' games, using his company's box seats, which were $3.50 for a decade at least. To us, that was a fortune back then, something none of us would have splurged on. He loved baseball and watched every Mets and Yankees game. He knew the strategy inside out. I remember we once convinced him to take a swing during a stickball game. He did so, despite a bad back, and smoked the ball a long way, causing our collective jaws to drop. Of course, he was a big fan of Sinatra and all the Italian-American singers. He was an Army veteran and worked as a salesman. His lovely wife, Jill, passed away long ago, but he found companionship at the senior center in Bay Ridge. He was not one to complain, despite his back, then his neck, then gout. "We all have our cross to bear," he once told me. His faculties remained sharp until the end. His body simply gave out. Those of us privileged to have known him will always remember him. He was a prince. As the old saying goes: "They broke the mold when they made him." Condolences to his son Anthony, my life long friend. Rest in peace, Jimmy. We know you're in heaven.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/23

Luke 24:5-6 (New International Version, ©2011)

5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:
  Happy Easter

Friday, April 22, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/22

A dreary day was made glorious by the generosity of the public. I wasn't even two-thirds set up when a young man started pulling books from the first crate, addressing me in Russian, not an unreasonable assumption in the neighborhood. He bought Stieg Laarsen's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, and a Patricia Cornwell thriller. A while later a Russian woman bought a Sandra Brown and accepted my recommendation of Sue Grafton and Robin Cook. Spasiba, folks.
I quickly had more than enough dough for a couple of slices at Delmar. Then the fun really started. A young man wearing an Israeli Army hat stopped, drawn by three hard cover books I had on display about that country. He scoffed at the one by Jimmy Carter. I laughed. He introduced himself as Mark, a Special Ed. teacher at Sheepshead Bay H.S., which has gone steadily downhill for years. He said 75% of his students are there to disrupt the 25% who want to learn, and he gets no support from his superiors in terms of disciplining the malefactors, which is no surprise in this age of coddling. He's working on a Master's in nutrition, hoping to stay in the system because of its great salary and benefits, but in another capacity. He asked my position on Israel. "I am a staunch supporter," I said, the truth. There's no doubt in my mind who the villains are, and it's not the little hole in the wall democracy surrounded by despotic states eager for its destruction. Anyway, Mark was kind enough to purchase A Hitch in Twilight and chose the other two books on Israel as his gift. Hang in there, sir, and thanks.
Soon my friend, actor-singer Johnny Feets, appeared, as promised. Last time I saw him he asked if I'd ever written a play. I had - for an old friend, John, and his acting company, The Willow Cabin Theatre, which had modest success in '80's, doing plays in the tiny theaters on 42nd Street below 8th Avenue. The work, originally titled Glimpses of Two Families, changed to The Pace of Time, was never produced. It stretches out over decades and doesn't have the tight focus of successful plays. While rummaging I also found a TV script I'd completely forgotten, done for a Fox anthology that involved Martin Scorsese. The show, surprisingly, was terrible and was canceled quickly. The teleplay, Not So Black and White, deals with race relations. It was returned to me unopened. If I recall correctly, it was because work was accepted only through agents. I suggested to Feets that he look at a story of mine available online, One Billionth of a Lifetime. I've always believed it could easily be transformed into a 20-25 minute teleplay. I also think it may be the best thing I've ever written. I gave Feets copies of the works and a link to the story. Good luck, buddy.
And my own luck was not done. Marin, a middle-aged Romanian gentleman, purchased Close to the Edge and asked if I'd be interested in reading something he wrote. I was hesitant and hoped he wasn't insulted. My immediate thought was: Suppose I don't like it? I encouraged him to take a shot, said he had nothing to lose and everything to gain, my usual spiel to writers just starting out. I told him not to be discouraged by criticism, as some of the most successful writers in the world are scoffed at by reviewers. He asked if I'd look at a couple of chapters. I agreed, but I hope he gets cold feet. Good luck, sir, and thanks.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/21

It would have been a beautiful day if not for the annoying wind. The temperature remains on the cool side, but at least the trees and plants are blooming.
I finally caught up with Mel Gibson's controversial The Passion of the Christ (2004), which has been running on a religious channel (134 Cablevision). Like the dynamic Apocalypto (2006), the players in The Passion speak in foreign languages, in this case Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin. It did not add to or detract from the film history of the subject. As someone who grew up Catholic, I'm confident that I could have done without the subtitles, although I was looking for the phrases familiar to all ("before the cock crows...") who have been fascinated by what has been called The Greatest Story Ever Told. There were a few new wrinkles. The one I liked most was how Satan dogged Jesus, tempting him to break from his burden, most beautifully rendered as the savior was carrying the cross and the face was seen following through the crowd. Satan was portrayed by a woman, Rosalinda Celentano, who seemed androgynous, which makes sense, as sin and evil are genderless. Gibson also had demons tormenting Judas, most notably children, to chilling effect.
Another fresh aspect was the despair of Pilate's wife. In fact, Pilate was the most sympathetic of those who sent Jesus to his fate. He did his best to prevent the execution, but was forced into it out of the fear of causing an uprising against the Empire by the Jews. Of course, given Gibson's infamous tirades, I found myself looking for antisemitism. Most of the Jews were rabid, as were the Roman guards, who carried out the chastisement and the crucifixion gleefully. These two aspects seemed over the top, too broad to be fully believable. The violence, which outraged so many, was brutal. It went on too long, but it was not as extreme as I'd expected, perhaps because I'd prepared myself for it. I think I know its purpose: Gibson wanted to show the lengths, hence The Passion, to which Christ went to save man. Was it any more convincing in that respect than other films? I think not. My eyes did glaze, but not like they do during Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth (1977), which I find gut-wrenching. The beautiful Monica Bellucci played Magdalen. Jim Caviezel did well as Christ, but the definitive portrayal remains that of Robert Powell in Jesus of Nazareth. Gibson deserves praise for fearlessness, risking box office disaster on doing foreign language films and succeeding both artistically and financially despite the odds. On a scale of five, I rate The Passion three-and-a-half.
Thanks to Herb and a kind Russian woman who bought books today, and special thanks to our stellar porter, Frankie, just back from a five week vacation, who finagled his way into a key to the lobby door for me, and who refused a tip. Gracias, amigo.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/20

The forecast was wrong. We had no rain, and the sun broke through. I risked not going to the shelter of the viaduct, and it paid off immediately, as a gentleman purchased two DVDs, W and War, Inc., films that delighted leftists and the rest of the public ignored. They were amongst the CDs Marie donated. I suppose some conservatives would label me a traitor for disseminating such fare, but free speech shouldn't be quashed, especially if there's a profit to be made on it. A while later a young woman was disappointed that she didn't have ten bucks for A Hitch in Twilight, but she bought in bulk any way - five thrillers at my recommendation, two by Sandra Brown, a Lisa Scottoline, Daniel Silva and Nora Roberts. Readers love those authors. That's where the recommendation came from, not me. And to top it off, an elderly woman, wearing those thick sunglasses seniors sport, purchased another Sandra Brown thriller. "Enjoy," I said. "Oh, I will, I will," she returned. "She's so good." Thanks, folks.
I occasionally wonder if I should go down in price for one of my books. The Sicilian in me just won't let me do it. The other day a woman offered me six dollars for Close to the Edge. I wouldn't do it. I offer gift copies of other books to those who take the chance on one of mine at ten bucks. Buyers often refuse the gifts or limit themselves to one. Many authors give copies away as promotion, which falls in line with the theory that one must spend money in order to make money. It is my belief that that would work only with hundreds of copies. I'm in no position to do that. I also like the challenge of trying to turn a profit on the copies I buy. I turned positive on Close to the Edge long ago, and I'm more than halfway there on Adjustments, and just about there on A Hitch in Twilight. And if I factor in all the other books, CDs and DVDs I sell, which are donated to me, I'm way ahead.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/19

East 13th, where I live, suffered a bit of notoriety this past weekend. Two blocks down, near Gravesend Neck Road, appropriately, a double homicide occurred. A middle aged Russian immigrant and her daughter, both nurses, were stabbed to death in the former's apartment. The woman's boyfriend is a "person of interest." He is believed to have fled to Russian. As so often is the case, neighbors said he's a nice guy. Was it a crime of passion or a simple robbery the daughter, who lived in another apartment in the building, happened to walk in on? Hopefully, the Kremlin won't pull any shenanigans and allow the guy to be extradited. I'd never seen the young woman while operating the floating bookshop. I would have remembered. Even a newspaper photograph could not diminish her beauty. She leaves behind a toddler, who was staying with her father at the time of the attack. Authorities became suspicious when neither woman showed for work. Just two months ago a young man of Soviet descent went on a similar killing and robbery spree nearby. Thankfully, he was caught. He has since boasted he will be released from a  mental institution in three years. I doubt it. Maybe authorities could arrange for the two slimes to be cellmates.
I didn't have any sales today, as expected. For the first time, it was slow going at the hospital for Arlynn's treatment, more like one would expect at such visits. By the time I set up shop it was already two. And it was drizzling, so I had to go to the viaduct. Global Cooling really sucks. I prefer warming. The streets, even Coney Island Avenue, were clear today. Many Jewish owned businesses are closed for the holiday. Happy Passover. Zagga zin.
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/18

It was warm when we returned from Arlynn's eighth of 35 radiation treatments. I peeled off one layer as I was eating lunch in my apartment. Dumb mistake this time of year. About an hour later the sun was gone and the temperature started to drop. Then Frankie the Drunk, on his regular Monday jag, stumbled along and lingered, moving back and forth, threatening to topple all my wares. It's his day off. And then strike three - it started to sprinkle, so I packed up without any sales. I just wasn't in the right frame of mind, a general funkiness due to allergens and neck pain. There was a positive aspect to the shift, however. Alex, who lives in the building on whose grounds I so often set up shop, stopped to chat. He revealed that he is a poet and asked how he might get his work into print. I told him about, and he reacted the same way Bob Rubenstein, author of Ghost Runners, did when I gave him advice: "It goes to show - you're meant to meet some people." I wish I believed that as fervently as they do. I'm not even sure I believe that about the three women I've loved in my life, although something clicked immediately the first time I saw each. It was as if they were supposed to be there. Anyway, good luck Alex.
I had good luck at Bay Parkway yesterday, selling all the Russian children's books I'd found. Spasiba, ladies. I also sold a bag of Arlynn's children's books and a deck of cards inscribed with spiritual messages by Sylvia Browne. I asked the customer if she knew who Browne was and she said: "Yes, she's on Montel a lot." That was good to hear, as I'd come into possession of several of her books, some in hardcover, courtesy of one of the local buildings' porters..
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/16

"A winter's day in a deep and dark..." - no, not December, as Simon and Garfunkel sang in I Am a Rock, but mid April. Yuck! Another deluge is on the way, two inches of rain expected. The high winds have been here since morning.
Yesterday, young Marvin came gliding up to the floating bookshop on his skateboard and cried: "The Man in the Box, that was the ...." He described it in a glowing hip hop phrase I don't recall. He'd purchased A Hitch in Twilight a couple of weeks ago. Box is its lead story, inspired by Alice in Chains' awesome Man in the Box, featuring one of the all-time great rock vocals by the late Layne Staley. As so often occurs, as I was hanging out with my buddy Bags, as I usually do for an hour or so every Saturday, the song came up in his i-tunes rotation. It is an absolutely riveting track, not for the faint-hearted. As for Marvin, he has said he has lived a wayward life, despite his youth. I may have seen evidence of that. Someone dropped off a whole slew of electronica, among it two video games. I offered one to Marvin, which he accepted for his little brother and, when he thought I wasn't looking, he swiped the Tiger Woods game. I didn't say anything. After all, he bought one of my books. I just hope it wasn't a demonstration of a complete lack of self control that will keep him on a dark path. Good luck, son.
And, in keeping with the music theme, today was the last of my annual torture sessions with the dentist. As we were waiting for the new cap to set, he gave me a bit of background I hadn't already heard from him. In the '50's he was in a rock n roll band. Every Saturday night he used to go to the home of one of the DJs of the long defunct WWRL, where a host of them would gather to receive payments from managers seeking to have their group's records aired. This later became a scandal under the tag payola.  I'm kicking myself because I neglected to ask if any of the records had charted or if any are available to download. Dr. K's first wife was a tap dancer, whom he used to book into night clubs. In those days, dentistry was his side job. To show how far back he goes, office visits were a dollar when he first started as an Army dentist. The price of gold, of which most crowns were made then, was $35 an ounce. It is now in the neighborhood of $1500. His assistant, Anne, is his third, and will be, I believe, his last wife. I hope I remember to ask him about this next year - the music, that is.
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/15

The public continues to be kind to me, if the weather is not. The meteorologist on WOR said sunny with a high of 60. Obviously, he wasn't looking out the window. Anyway, Marie stopped at the floating bookshop, and I told her I'd sold all but three of the 35 CDs she'd donated. She was so surprised. A half hour later she returned with at least 20 more, eight of which a local security guard purchased, while a mailman bought one by Joan Osbourne. And one of my regular customers, Dave, gave me a bag full of the thrillers he loves, both paperback and hardcover, of which Grizzly Bear purchased eight. Thanks, folks. But the most surprising aspect of the session was my failure to sell any of the Russian children's books I'd found in the compacter room on the fourth floor. Arlynn had spotted them and given me a call. I'm sure they will sell quickly. They are in excellent condition.
I took a chance on a new stock today, Zipcar. In case you haven't heard or you've seen one of their cars and wondered what they are about, it is a service that allows the customer to rent a car for just hours or as long as is necessary. They are parked in certain areas of the city, and when one is done the car is to be returned to the same reserved spot. I like the idea and I decided that I wasn't going to let it pass as I'd done with Google, Snapple and other services I'd used and loved long before they went public, and which I'd been too cowardly to invest in. Of course, I overpaid. It opened at $18 and I put in a limit order for 100 at $30. It's not like I had to dig into my own pocket. I used funds floating in one of my IRAs. It's not the go-go '90's, so there isn't much chance it will take off to absurd heights, but I think urbanites who do not want the hassle of car ownership will use this service regularly. We'll see.
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/14

Thanks to the people who made a gorgeous day even more so. I sold a Little Feat CD to a repeat customer, a couple of children's books issued by Scholastic to a woman in charge of handicapped kids, and eight more mystery/thrillers to Grizzly Bear. And the same porter donated an entire bag of books on the paranormal by a woman named Sylvie. And Arlynn treated me to a couple of slices at Delmar while she chowed down on an eggplant parmigiana sandwich.
Among the porter's previous, huge donation was The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camelleri (male, like Bocelli). I wasn't interested in reading another mystery. I looked at the back to see what it was about, in case someone asked. When I read that it took place in Sicily, I was hooked. It is the eleventh of 16 novels about a detective, Salvo Montalbano, in the fictional town of Vigata. It is standard fare distinguished by its humor, delivered chiefly by the incompetent desk officer, who the translator decided to give a sort of Brooklyn accent ("poissonally in poisson"). At first I thought it was totally bogus, despite the reputation of the government sector in Italy. It grew on me. Curiously, I've often described the Sicilian language to non-Italians as a sort of Brooklynese. I was also amused that the officers had to pay for gasoline once the monthly allotment was used up. I will pass the book on to my sister and oldest niece, who both lived in Sicily for many years.
Camilleri was born in 1925. He worked in Italian TV for many years. His first novel was published in 1978, and flopped commercially. His second did not come out until 14 years later, 1992. The Montalbano series began in 1994 and immediately caught on and has been adapted for RAI TV. The hero is typically European, fond of fine food and smoking. Ten million copies have sold. Mamma mia! Hai fatto bene, Signore Camilleri.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/13

It was another gloomy day in Brooklyn, but only half as much as yesterday. Since the forecast called for more rain, the only option was the viaduct, my least favorite place to set up shop. Guilt would not let me stay home. I feel compelled to work at the literary aspect of my life every day in some way. Although I didn't sell any books for the second straight session, it wasn't a total loss. A woman to whom I'd sold A Hitch in Twilight to a couple of years ago said she thought the stories were great. I thanked her, although the skeptic in me wondered: If that's the case, why is she hurrying away and not asking if I've written anything else? And a while later I met one of those oddballs that make life so colorful. He looked at the books I had on display and lamented, as so many do, that he could never remember the ones he's read. Some popular authors seem to churn out several novels a year, many featuring the same hero. He said he was a little different than most readers, and pulled a book from his back pocket to illustrate the point. He tears the pages out and discards them as he goes along. He is up to Chapter Ten in his current read. I laughed and shook my head. What a character - just like a former gold trader I recently made a comment about on Facebook. A mutual friend, Joey Fork-Tongue, was asking NY Rangers fans to unite in prayer to insure their team's inclusion in the playoffs. I remarked that he should do what the guy in question, MC, did during the third period of Game Seven of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals at Madison Square Garden - stay in the bathroom until the game was finished. He was so petrified his team would blow what fans had awaited for more than 50 years that he would not sit in the seat for which he paid top dollar. He also once taped himself watching a Giants football game just to see the lengths he went in support of his team. Of course, he often went to bizarre lengths while trading, which is capable of bringing out the ridiculous in even gentle souls. By the way, I call him Joey Fork-Tongue, the indians' term for the lies of white men, because he delighted in deceiving me while I was at the podium trying to supervise the three-ring circus action in the pit often was. These are characters that make life worth talking and writing about.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/12

It was raining lightly as I headed for the shelter of the viaduct at Avenue Z. It soon ceased, but the wind picked up and the temperature dropped, and for the first time in two weeks the floating bookshop ended up with bupkis.
A few nights ago I revisited True Romance (1993), courtesy of Netflix. Tony Scott directed Quentin Tarantino's screenplay. Although it is not on the level of Reservoir Dogs or Jackie Brown, it has the over-the-top brio of Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and Inglorious Basterds, and the in-your-face dialogue that is a Tarantino hallmark. Two scenes stand out: Gary Oldman's bizarro turn as a dread-locked wannabe black drug dealer, and a verbal exchange about Sicilians between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper. Christian Slater and the irresistible Patricia Arquette are the leads out to prove love conquers all. James Gandolfini has a memorable smackdown with Arquette, and Samuel L. Jackson has a brief scene early in the film. Val Kilmer, whose face is never scene, plays Slater's alter ego, the ghost of Elvis - as I said: Over The Top. The film is particularly notable for those of us who grew up in the Bensonhurst-Bath Beach sections of Brooklyn, as Frank Adonis, who lived above a store on Bath Avenue, has a supporting role as one of the mafia henchmen, as he did in Goodfellas, Casino, Raging Bull etc., etc.. Adonis actually was the lead player once, in One Deadly Road (1998), as a boss with a hyena-like laugh. I'm not sure if it was one of those straight to video films. If it had a theatrical run, it certainly wasn't long. I would have never have heard of it had I not run into a young man I once coached at Lafayette High School, Charlie Addessi, who has been on the fringes of the movie business for a long time, as I am on the fringes of the book world. He was involved somehow, although I did not find his name among the production credits at I don't know if Adonis still lives in that apartment, but his presence there proves that even those who have appeared in first rate films have not necessarily achieved a significant degree of success. According to IMDB, he has 32 credits. Who knows, perhaps the fact that he has not been spotted in the neighborhood for a while means he has gone Hollywood.
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Monday, April 11, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/11

Finally - a summer-like day. It was gorgeous out there. I was hoping the public would be in a buying mood. That wasn't the case, but I did make a couple of sales. Muchisimas gracias to the lovely Latina with the beautiful smile and positive disposition, who purchased Peter Straub's Ghost Story for her 23-year-old son, who has been in Coney Island Hospital the past five days, undergoing evaluation for bi-polar disorder. That wake up call should have put everything into perspective, but it wasn't long before I was inwardly pissing and moaning about the lack of buyers. I guess I didn't deserve it when Grizzly Bear saved the day by buying six thrillers. His opinion of Patricia Cornwell has changed. He is now a fan. Thanks, buddy.
A few days ago New York native Sidney Lumet, a great film-maker, passed away. His work was known for its seriousness and gritty realism. Here are my six favorites:
12 Angry Men (1957) - Reginald Rose's script may be contrived, but the dialogue is riveting and expertly rendered by a great cast led by Henry Fonda.
The Pawnbroker (1964) - Rod Steiger is magnificent as a Holocaust survivor doing business in a tough neighborhood. Screenplay by Morton S. Fine & David Friedkin from the novel by Edward Lewis Wallant.
Serpico - Al Pacino as the cop who exposed the vast corruption in the NYC police department.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975) - Pacino and John Cazale as bank robbers. "Attica! Attica!" Screenplay by Frank Pierson from the novel by Thomas Moore.
Network (1976) - Paddy Chayefsky's scathing satire of television, with William Holden and Faye Dunaway as producers and Peter Finch as the anchorman. "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it any more."
The Verdict (1982) - Paul Newman at his best as a down and out lawyer seeking redemption, screenplay by David Mamet from a novel by Barry Reed.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007) - Riveting despite the reprehensible people, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and Ethan Hawke, at the heart of Kelly Masterson's story.
There are many other good ones. Check out Lumet's pages at IMDB or
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/10

Spasiba to the Russian gentleman who purchased John Grisham's short story collection, Ford County, and a Joy Fielding mystery/thriller today at Bay Parkway and 85th.
The world's best golfers put on an incredible show at the Masters, making the game look easy. Trust me, non-golfers, it's not. As usual the drama of Sunday's back nine was tense, exciting and inspiring. Tiger Woods was in the mix for a while, but he does not have the magic he had before his troubles. He is now just one of the field on the world stage. He'll win again, but not with the regularity with which we'd all become accustomed. The planet's number one player, Martin Kaymer of Germany, my pick to win the coveted green jacket, did not even make the cut. Last year's champion, Phil Mickelson, finished way back, just one week after blowing away the field at the Houston Open. As even hackers know, success comes and goes, sometimes from shot to shot.
Australia has never had a Masters champion. My all-time favorite player, Greg Norman, finished second three times, breaking the hearts of his legions of fans. Today three Aussies put up spectacular numbers: Geoff Ogilvy, who has won a U.S. Open, Adam Scott and 23-year-old Jason Day, the latter two finishing one stroke short. Third round leader, 21-year-old Rory McIlroy of Ireland, suffered an incredible collapse that was painful to watch, missing putts anyone could make. I was begging CBS to stop showing his struggles. I imagine he will have to fight hard to hold back tears in the interview room. Bad rounds have given me the blues, and mine meant nothing. He suffered embarrassment on golf's biggest stage in sight of billions around the globe. I feel for him, but he has to keep it in perspective. He is making tons of money and he will have many more opportunities to win a major.
And the winner was - 26-year-old Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, displaying astonishing poise that led to thrilling shots and precision putting. Well done, young man.
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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/9

Now I know what a fish at the end of a hook experiences. I was back at the dentist this morning after a two-week layoff while he attended to personal matters. The tooth in question is in the lower right corner, tough to reach. The length of drill bit needed would send a chill down even a masochist's spine. He had to remove the cap and repair the decay beneath it. As he did this, he pulled my lip away from the gum with his thumb and fore finger. What fun! The three shots of some kind of 'caine (not nova) he gave me to numb the area in question did nothing to alleviate the discomfort of the yanking. I thought it would leave stretch marks or alter the shape of my mouth the way a stroke might. And the temporary cap is already loose. I'm sure it won't last the week, as usual. The previous one was the exception. I hope I don't swallow it. The biggest fear is that it might lodge in a lung. That kind of worry keeps my dentist from a sound sleep. Fortunately, I have only one more visit.
I set up shop outside the Dolfin Gym on 24th Avenue this afternoon, anticipating a lot of interest in the pristine hardcovers I fell into yesterday. That didn't happen, but my sister brought me luck. As soon as she parked her shopping cart beside me, two women approached. I did business with a Hawkeye, Haleena, who grew up in Iowa. She purchased A Hitch in Twilight and selected books by Daniel Silva and David Baldacci as gifts. I also sold another book on 35mm photography, as I did last week at the same spot, this time to a young woman who lives just up the street. Thanks, ladies.
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Friday, April 8, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/7

Since I'd lost that  batch of books last week, I'd run low on the mystery/thrillers people love so much. I planned to pick up one of the two bags remaining in the basement of my old house, left there by my sister and niece. Well, I don't have to. One of the porters of the huge apartment building that stands between East 13th and Homecrest Avenue, left off sweeping the sidewalk and approached me. I thought he was going to say that management had told him to tell me to get lost. Instead, he offered me books, and minutes later returned with two clear, large plastic bags filled with the work of the most popular authors. The hardcovers were in pristine condition. I immediately began laying them out along the ledge of the garden that guards the building between 13th and Sheepshead Bay Road. I spotted Herb, one of my regulars, across the street. He'd stopped by about an hour ago and found nothing to his liking. His eyes spread when he saw the new batch. Among them was David Baldacci's Deliver us from Evil, which he'd been seeking for a long time. Thank you, sir.
Soon it started to sprinkle. Now the problem was - and a good one to have - how to carry all the stuff? I was reluctant to leave anything behind even for a few minutes, seeing what had happened to the books I'd inadvertently left behind last week. Suddenly the solution dawned on me. I've seen many Asians tie heavy grocery bags together and sling them across the shoulder. It worked like a charm. My only worry was what the weight would do to my hip, which seems to be getting better bit by tiny bit. I'm happy to say that it did not sustain any new damage. I must have been a silly sight to those in the area. Well, we all need comic relief. My trunk is now crammed with books.
Thanks to the other kind folks who bought books and CDs today, which also marked my first payment from my friend Arlynn. How refreshing it will be not to have to worry about every dollar for the next five weeks.
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/7

It was raw out there today. I was back to six layers. Thanks to the young latino construction worker who purchased CDs by Lee Michaels and Triumph.
I saw a great bumper sticker during my morning constitutional, which attributed the quote to Mark Twain. Although it sounds like something that great wit would have said, an internet source listed it as anonymous. Whatever: "Politicians are like diapers.  They both need changing regularly and for the same reason."
I watched the follow up to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire. They are the first two parts of the Millennium series, based on Stieg Laarsen's wildly popular novels, set in Sweden. I liked it just as much as the first, disagreeing with critics. The central character, an abused child turned punked-out techie genius, who cannot avoid trouble, is riveting and played wonderfully by Noomi Rapace. I had the choice of viewing in the original language or the dubbed version, and chose the latter. I frequently argue about this with other movie lovers. My thinking is that, since film is a visual medium, there is much to be missed while reading subtitles. Of course, some of the dialogue will not or is not translated well. I've seen that so often in Italian cinema and, to a lesser extent, in Spanish, of which my grasp is weak, and that was the case with this film. Since I was free to listen and watch, I did not find the plot confusing, which was a complaint of the reviewer at He should try reading Dashiell Hammett's The Dain Curse or Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, which Hollywood simplified to great effect. Those authors must have had staggering IQ's. On a scale of five, I rate the second part of the series the same as the first: four. I look forward to the finale.
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/6B

Arlynn had her first radiation treatment today. She spent all night coming up with 50 reasons to back out of undergoing it. The chief was her fear of pain, which proved unfounded. She felt nothing, no more than taking an x-ray at the dentist. She was so relieved. Now we'll see if any burning of the skin occurs. One down, 32 sessions to go.
It was a great day on the street. I immediately sold A Hitch in Twilight to Galina, a lovely young Russian. Although she didn't looked familiar, I asked if she'd bought from me previously, as I remembered the name, which in Italian means chicken. She laughed and said she knew that, but it hadn't been her. Regardless - spasiba, madam.
A while later a woman was drawn to the CDs, which I had displayed on the ledge that guards the narrow garden that runs along the building. I said they were a dollar each. She remained silent. I sensed she didn't speak much English. She chose one by Blue Murder and another by Brother. I only hope she isn't appalled by hard rock. Thank you, ma'am.
As I was packing up, I noted Charlie, aka Teddy Bear, approaching. I slowed down, hoping he would make a purchase, even though he'd made one recently. Sure enough, he did, selecting six mysteries. Arlynn, who seems to know everyone in the neighborhood, said he's a retired teacher. I bet he got a lot of guff from students, despite his size. I really should refer to him as Grizzly Bear. His appearance screams ECCENTRIC. He certainly isn't spending any retirement money on clothes. I'm glad he's spending it on books. Thank you, sir.
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/5

No luck on the Street after the latest storm. The wind has returned.
So a nut in Florida burns one copy of the Koran and troglodytes thousands of miles away in Afghanistan go on a killing spree in protest, and politicians here lament that free speech is at times a problem. Why must we cower in fear of the wrath of extremists with a seventh century mentality? As if these monsters won't dream up their own grievances to rationalize the killing of innocents. They slaughter those among themselves who interpret Islam a little differently.
When the publicity starved pseudo-artist came up with the Piss Christ, Christians protested but no one was killed - ditto for when the clown sprayed his portrait of the Virgin with feces. When Kevin Smith made the blasphemous satire, Dogma, no one was killed. And now that the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, have written the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon, lampooning the sect, Americans will shrug and move on. There won't be a fatwa issued calling for the death of those men, as there was when Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses was published or when the Danish cartoons were printed. Christianity and Judaism are belittled every day by artists. Islam should not be exempt. Its most fanatical adherents lend themselves to ridicule. Don't the actions of those who have gone on the killing spree in Afghanistan prove the point of the pseudo-pastor in Florida? Of course, the biggest problem with that is that it may expose our troops to even more harm. Yes, free speech inflames some. It is part of the price we pay for the privilege of living in a free society, but it is far less than that paid by those in oppressed nations.
And on a lesser but still annoying note - will the press please come to an agreement on the spelling of the name of the slimeball leader of Libya. How about Gadafi? It's short and to the point.
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Monday, April 4, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/4

Nice comeback from yesterday's fiasco. Sold a Melissa Etheridge CD to a mailman and a bunch of soft and hard cover books, including a large one on the history of the CIA, part of Arlynn's vast donation, which included three children's books I sold to a nice Russian lady, among them the wildly popular Sponge Bob. One of my regulars, a woman with a beautiful islands accent, emerged from hibernation to buy, in mint condition, James Patterson's I, Alex Cross. "I didn't want to go out of the house," she said with a shudder, lamenting the long winter.
The highlight of the session was the appearance of my buddy Bob Rubenstein, author of Ghost Runners. He is hard at work on his follow up and is becoming weary of Nazis. I quipped that he should do what Quentin Tarantino did at the end of Inglorious Basterds - a cathartic killing of them all that flies in the face of actual history. He looked at me and said: "You just gave me the ending to the book." He will kill off the Nazis and the corporate people, like Henry Ford, who did business with them. That would be fun. I can see it, something like a mock trial and a death sentence. Bob will have plenty of time to work it out. He is leaving on a three week trip to New Mexico on Friday, by train, a conveyance he finds conducive to writing. I'd go nuts. I did a 30 or so hour trip to Kalamazoo my first semester at Western Michigan University. Hated every minute of it. From then on it was airlines.
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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/3

The password for today is misadventure. It was gorgeous, the temperature near 60. As soon as I turned onto Bay Parkway, a parking spot opened up right in front of the Chase bank. I thought it was going to be a banner day - until I opened the trunk, where a large vacancy was staring at me. The milk crates were gone. Only my reserve box remained. I immediately assumed someone had broken into the car overnight, which didn't make sense, as several good hardcover books remained. It soon occurred to me that I must have left the crates at the curb on 24th Avenue yesterday. I didn't have much room behind me, so, rather than risk scratching the SUV on my tail, I decided to move up a little and proceeded to make a u turn and go on my way. What an idiot! This was my second episode of brain lock in the past month, the other being when I left the keys dangling in the lock. Short term memory loss occurs with age, and every significant episode is scary because of the fear that it will soon become total memory loss. I don't mind losing all those good books and CDs people have donated to me, but I hate losing my own. I pulled the reserves I keep in the glove compartment and set up shop with what I had left. Lorraine noticed and asked what was what. She made a coffee run and returned with two milk crates. I hoped she hadn't risked trouble. Later, Joanne was surprised to learn that I'd sold almost the entire donation she'd given me last week. I didn't mention what happened to the last five. She did some shopping, went home and returned with a bag full of hard and soft cover books. Billy, who has purchased books, CD's and DVDs from me, showed. He seemed a little down and out. He'd recently fallen victim to a scam. It seems his heart medication affects his thinking. He got a call from some creep who said there was five grand to be won. All Billy had to do was wire $500 via Western Union. He has such a kind nature. Maybe he was thinking his luck had finally turned, his prayers had been answered. Despite that, he purchased a beautiful Shel Silverstein hardcover book of poetry and illustrations for his grand-daughter. I felt guilty taking his two dollars. Thank you Lorraine, Joanne and Billy.
I'd called my sister and told her to pass along 24th Avenue on her way to church. The crates were there, but only three paperbacks were left. I picked them up on the way home. During long stretches with no sales, I often wondered if I would be able to give away the books. Now I know. And so the winning streak has come to an end in a big way. I'll reload tomorrow.
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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/2

Time was limited today, as I took my brother in law shopping, but I kept the momentum going by selling Shoot!, a large instructional book on the 35mm camera. Thanks, sir. The wind is still stiff, but it's no longer out of the North, so it was only annoying and not cold out there. It's been a while since I've had a day with nothing to show for my efforts. It takes the sting out of not selling any of my own books.
I enjoyed Iron Man 2 but doubt I'll remember much of it down the road. I don't remember anything about the first. The action sequences in the sequel are first rate, as is expected in the era of CGI. What distinguishes it are the hero's revelation during the opening scene of his being Iron Man, which was very refreshing; his egomania, played to perfection by Robert Downy Jr.; and the fact that the private sector is seen as vastly superior to government, which I believe is true and is surprising to see in a Hollywood movie. The best scene has the hero taking on a congressional hearing, of which Garry Shandling is the head. He is so unctuous - just like real life politicians - one feel the need to bath after being in his presence. I'd call it perfect casting.
The oddest thing about the film is the enormously talented Scarlett Johannsen. She plays the typical Hollywood uber-woman, capable not only of great work but of waylaying a group of men with ease and without the armor the hero needs, in short, a cliche. I hope she returns to serious work. Gwynth Paltrow, the most unjustly criticized American actress, is fine as Downey's newly-appointed, stressed-out CEO. And Mickey Rourke is fun as the villain. His Russian accent sounded genuine, at least to my ear. My neighbors might not agree. Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson bring their usual polish to the proceedings. The film was directed by John Favreau, who also plays Downey's assistant. He first gained prominence as co-star and co-screen writer of the critically acclaimed Swingers. He also guested on a number of episodes of Friends. On a scale of five: three.
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Friday, April 1, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 4/1

Wow! I just signed a million dollar publishing deal - not! April Fool. Too bad mother nature is playing her own trick - it still feels like February. Fortunately, it looks like no one in the area got the snow the news people delight in predicting. Don't those smiling faces just love doom and gloom? Unfortunately, the world gives them plenty to report. And they will milk it for all it's worth, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, pounding it home long after we've gotten the point.
It was raining when I left the building. I had no choice but to go to the viaduct to set up shop. I was not optimistic. My only hope was that Yelena, who I'd dubbed the "Romance Lady" before learning her name, would show. Sure enough she did, on her way to a coffee run at the bagel shop on East 16th. "Hollywood Husbands!" she said, excited, seeing it displayed. "I'll see you on my way back." She also purchased two by Fern Michaels, and one each by Debbie Macomber and Maeve Binchy. And of course she overpaid, whereupon I offered her Hollywood Moms, a beautiful pictorial book of actresses and their children, photographed in lush black and white. She was thrilled and again dubbed me: "Awesome!" It is how I describe her. Thanks, my dear.
Fringe is a repeat tonight, so it looks like I will be watching Iron Man 2, courtesy of Netflix. I was not as enthusiastic about the first as were reviewers. Maybe going in with lower expectations this time will lead to a pleasant surprise. Lately, actions films have a similar sameness as the mystery/thriller novels I've been sampling.
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