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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/31

The past two days verified how silly it is to move the floating bookshop elsewhere. Yesterday I set up along the Sheepshead Bay promenade, hoping the holiday would bring out hordes. There were plenty of passersby, many on bikes, but few browsers, let alone buyers. I sold only James Patterson's Cradle and All, to a semi-regular I hadn't seen in months. And there was no shelter from the sun. It was brutal. Today I returned to my usual place at the juncture where Avenue Z meets Sheepshead Bay Road. Not only did I have several buyers - I was greeted by folks I know and many who have come to recognize me. Simone, whose name I finally learned today, saw that the shop was fully stocked and bought thrillers by Dean Koontz, Lisa Jackson and Patricia Cornwell. Herbie, who has been frustrated at not finding any books to his liking, was thrilled that I had three by Harold Robbins. And Ira's mom, a retired teacher and voracious reader, bought Adjustments, as well as three children's books. I happily gave her Paula Zahn's Why I Jumped, an Oprah selection, as a token of thanks. Her son, 42, played high school football at Midwood in the '80s under long-time coach Marshall Tames. I stopped coaching in 1980. I can't remember the last time I'd sold a copy of Adjustments. Thanks, ma'am, and everyone else. has hosted my main website for a decade. Recently, I've been unable to log in to update it. A telephone number pops up. I'm reluctant to call, leery of a sales pitch. The site has been free. I figured I had links to more than 50 stories and essays there already, so it was no big deal to leave it the way it is. Now 15 of the links to, which has allowed me to post online for a long time, have gone dead. My suspicion is that buzzle is streamlining. They no longer allow a post of something that appears anywhere else on the web. Trouble is, publishers and editors don't reveal that they've posted a story, and usually don't have a direct connection to it. I know of three of mine wherein that is the case. I'd rather have a piece pop up immediately for anyone interested in it. I'm now working to bring my backup site at Tripod up to speed. It will be no frills, just links to my works. I've been posting the missing stories at, where all will be listed on one page. I hope they don't have a limit on how many may be posted. Be prepared to be frustrated at the Homestead site:

Monday, May 30, 2011

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae, May 1915
Poppies (©
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
   Thanks to our veterans, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the preservation of freedom.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/29

It was a gorgeous day, the temperature ideal thanks to intermittent cloud clover. I was disappointed that I didn't do much business, but at least it wasn't a shutout, and I did gain a lot more books, courtesy of Joanne, who returned from hiatus with two shopping bags full of popular fiction, including one filled entirely with Ed McBains. Uncle Charlie Grizzly Bear has been asking me for weeks if I had any more. Well, I do now, thanks to the benefactor I'd told him had gone missing.
A Chinese man stopped by, curious. He has three books in print too, translations he's done into his native tongue, including one of Hungarian children's stories. He's not selling many, either. Good luck, sir.
About a year and a half ago, a beautiful Asian-American dental assistant, nine months pregnant, bought some books from me. I kidded that she was "Hardcore," working so late into her pregnancy. She laughed, fortunately. I was smitten. She bought books a couple of times more. When I hadn't seen her for months I assumed she and her husband had bought a house and moved. Man, she looks great. No one would ever guess she has two kids. She looks like a 20-year-old college kid. Eat your heart out, Vic. I hope her husband appreciates what he's got. Her son is now on his feet and pulling books from shelves and tossing them about.
I've mentioned my literary angel, Victoria Valentine, several times. She's been on a tear, publishing a book of her own romantic poems, Desert Moon, and expanding her publishing operation at Water Forest Press. She is catching the digital wave and just bought a reader. I will stick with hard copies, although I appreciate that A Hitch in Twilight is available on Kindle. I know it's the future, but I'll leave that up to others. Anyway, in the whirlwind that VV has caught, she has managed to make Adjustments, my second novel, previously available only through me, available at Abe's books. And the price is only ten buck, plus shipping. She rocks. Here's a link to the site: 
Of course, signed copies are still available through me, total cost $15.
Thanks to the kind Russian woman who purchased two romance novels. I should say: Spasiba.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/28

Carmine, a gregarious, proud Italian-American senior citizen, purchased A Hitch in Twilight about two years ago. Today, outside the Dolphin Gym at 24th Avenue and 86th Street, he raved about it, especially stories Nowak's Dreams and The Dead Pool. He eschewed a handshake and went right to the goombah kiss. "I'm proud of you, " he said, and handed me five dollars. I asked that he take a book, but he wouldn't hear of it. I suspected it would be taken as some kind of guinea insult if I handed the money back to him, so I stuffed it into a pocket. He said the stories should be made into movies. Your lips to a producer's ears, sir. Thank you. And thanks to the kind middle aged woman who not only bought a non-fiction book on police corruption but gave me Tina Zahn's Why I Jumped, an Oprah selection, which she'd just finished.
Karen Hall has an impressive resume in prime time television, having written scripts for MASH, Eight Is Enough, Hill Street Blues, Judging Amy, The Good Wife and other shows.  She is credited for the MASH finale, which drew one of the highest, if not the highest, audiences in the history of TV. I just finished her only novel, Dark Debts. It's theme is demonology. While it pales compared to William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist, it does make one ponder the cause of heinous acts. Of course, this leads to the problem of accountability for such acts. I don't know if she was simply trying to create an effective thriller or wrestling with the perplexing issue or both. I wasn't sold. As usual, I thought the novel way too long at 498 pages. Its length diminished the excitement and did not increase illumination on the troubling issue. Of course, it is a difficult one, as are all of the great questions. My first novel, Close to the Edge, tries to get at the reason for a heinous act. I think I succeeded on an individual level but failed completely on the grand. On a scale of five, I rate Dark Debts two-and-a-half.
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Friday, May 27, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/27

The floating bookshop suffered its first theft today - in broad daylight - when a little girl absconded with a children's book, unbeknownst (is there such a word?) to her mom, who was perusing her electronic device. I chuckled and kept my mouth shut. I doubt she knew she was stealing. I'd bet she assumed the books were there for the taking.
For a long while it seemed that would be my only action. I was finally shooed from my usual nook, as someone from the building's management, which is not on the premises, happened to show up. I didn't argue. I'm not out there to make enemies. I've been expecting it. I set up about 75 feet away, just past a bus shelter. I received a two-book donation from an 84-year-old veteran who gets books from the VA, and five more from one of my regulars, Dave, whose wife has been pressing him to get rid of the stacks he's accumulated. It seemed that would be it until Feng Wu, an adorable Asian of about 20, not confident with English, stopped by and asked if I had any short stories. I showed her A Hitch in Twilight, doubting she would be interested. When I said the first story takes place in Brighton Beach and another in Coney Island, she was sold. She asked for my website and email address. I was so grateful I gave her three first rate books as a gift: Nicholas Sparks' The Last Song, Susan Elizabeth Phillips' romance potboiler Ain't She Sweet, and James Patterson's I, Alex Cross, which Dave had given me. He also donated three pristine hardcover Greg Iles thrillers and three valuable paperbacks. Thanks, folks.
This morning I learned I'd won a contest. Monica Brinkman, host of a blogradio broadcast focused on writing, and author of The Turn of the Karmic Wheel, runs one as a means of publicity. I forgot to ask if it was her book I'd won. I hope so. I've been dying to read it.
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Monday, May 23, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/23

The world hasn't ended and neither has the miserable stretch of weather here in New York. We have an allotment of one or two sunny days per week. I suppose we should be happy, given what the poor folks in the south and Joplin, Missouri have suffered. Nothing is as merciless as mother nature.
Since it was another day of the sky seemingly about to give way any minute, I set up shop at the viaduct on Avenue Z & East 15th, and gazed longingly two blocks to my left at the people passing my usual nook. I had no luck today, but I give thanks to lovely young Audrey, who purchased A Hitch in Twilight yesterday outside the Dolphin Gym at 24th Avenue & 86th Street. Why that corner attracts buyers for that book is a mystery. So few people even stop, and it seems 50% of the passersby are Asian and don't speak any English. Maybe there is some psychic Sicilian residue still in the air of that changed neighborhood.
I got a great email from my old buddy Bobby Buls, a former gold trader at the Exchange. It was commentary on Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu's anger at President Obama's suggestion that Israel return to the pre-1967 borders. It suggested the USA move back to its 1776 borders. Perhaps we should all return to the country of our parents' origin and leave America to the indians. Let's see - Hamas, which has vowed to destroy Israel, dominates power amongst Palestinians. Why not allow them to move the missiles they fire into Israel every day even closer? Will Jews ever be allowed to live in a Palestinian state, as Muslims live in Israel and even serve in its government? Don't hold your breath.
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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/21

The older one gets, the tougher it is to celebrate a birthday. I turned 61 today. I celebrate the great cards I got from my niece Tanya, who lives in Denver, and my sister, Carmela, who stuffed some cash into it hers. I celebrate the kind Russian woman who purchased a Nora Roberts thriller this afternoon on Bay Parkway, and the young woman who, minutes later, bought a Dr. Atkins cook book and Destination Mars, a beautiful pictorial work. I celebrate a phone call from my mom's former home attendant, Germania, who has not forgotten me, although it has been eight years since my mom's passing. I will be celebrating at 6PM - if the world doesn't end. I celebrate the publication Desert Moon, the Lost Poetry of Victoria Valentine, who through the years has included twelve of my stories in her fabulous publications and published my second novel, Adjustments. The latest story, The Unknowable, a simple slice of life, is included in the fourth edition of Literary House Review, which will be available shortly. It is the 52nd of my stories to see the light of day. It is available online here: It's about a ten-minute-read. As always, my other stories can be read, free, here:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/20

I'm sitting here at my laptop hoping there will soon be a rainless period so that I can open the floating bookshop. The first thing I noticed when I logged onto my igoogle home page was the sad news of the death of former wrestling superstar Randy Macho Man Savage, who perished when he had a heart attack at the wheel of his car. He was only 58. Fortunately, his wife of one year survived with relatively minor injuries. His first wife, Miss Elizabeth, accompanied his entry into what was then the WWF, now WWE. She was a great beauty and played the role of his manager. They eventually divorced. She died at 42 of a drug overdose in the home of NWA star Lex Luger. Pro Wrestling was a guilty pleasure of mine for about a decade beginning in 1983, chiefly because of the antics of two former wrestlers who had become managers, Classie Freddie Blassie and Captain Lou Albano. They made me laugh. I have three homemade videotapes of wrestling highlights from that era and pop them into the VCR now and then when I need a good laugh. Savage, real name Poffo, is omni-present, as is Hulk Hogan. It was a fun time. Comedy is almost entirely absent from today's pro wrestling. It is more demanding physically than ever. It is not an easy occupation, even though the outcomes are predetermined. I paid homage to the so-called Sport of Kings in a short story, Defining Moment, that appears A Hitch in Twilight. Unfortunately, the demands of the business lead many to the use of steroids, which not only add muscle mass but aid in the healing of injuries. They also weaken the heart. Here is a list of pro wrestlers who have died before the age 65, and too many who left us much earlier than that. Not all were the victim of steroid abuse. It is from
Art Barr - 28
Gino Hernandez - 29
Lance Cade - 29
Jay Youngblood - 30
Rick McGraw - 30
Joey Marella - 30
Ed Gatner - 31
Buzz Sawyer - 32
Crash Holly - 32
Kerry Von Erich - 33
D.J. Peterson - 33
Eddie Gilbert - 33
The Renegade - 33
Chris Candido - 33
Test - 33
Adrian Adonis - 34
Gary Albright - 34
Bobby Duncum Jr. - 34
Owen Hart - 34
Yokozuna - 34
Big Dick Dudley - 34
Brian Pillman - 35
Marianna Komlos - 35
Umaga - 36
Pitbull #2 - 36
The Wall/Malice - 36
Emory Hale - 36
Leroy Brown - 38
Mark Curtis - 38
Eddie Guerrero - 38
John Kronus - 38
Davey Boy Smith - 39
Johnny Grunge - 39
Chris Kanyon - 40
Vivian Vachon - 40
Jeep Swenson - 40
Brady Boone - 40
Terry Gordy - 40
Bertha Faye - 40
Billy Joe Travis - 40
Chris Benoit - 40
Larry Cameron - 41
Rick Rude - 41
Randy Anderson - 41
Bruiser Brody - 42
Miss Elizabeth - 42
Big Boss Man - 42
Earthquake - 42
Mike Awesome - 42
Biff Wellington - 42
Brian Adams (Crush) - 43
Ray Candy - 43
Nancy Benoit (Woman) - 43
Dino Bravo - 44
Curt Hennig - 44
El Gigante/Giant Gonzalez - 44
Bam Bam Bigelow - 45
Jerry Blackwell - 45
Junkyard Dog - 45
Hercules - 45
Toni Adams - 45
Andre the Giant - 46
Big John Studd - 46
Chris Adams - 46
Mike Davis - 46
Hawk - 46
Mitsuharu Misawa - 46
Ludvig Borga - 47
Luna Vachon - 48
Steve Dunn - 48
Cousin Junior - 48
Dick Murdoch - 49
Jumbo Tsuruta - 49
Rocco Rock - 49
Sherri Martel - 49
Steve Williams - 49
Moondog Spot - 51
Bastion Booger/Norman the Lunatic - 53
Ken Timbs - 53
Uncle Elmer - 54
Pez Whatley - 54
The Angel of Death - 54
Eddie Graham - 55
Tarzan Tyler - 55
Haystacks Calhoun- 55
Giant Haystacks - 55
Buddy Rose - 56
Kurt Von Hess - 56
Moondog King - 56
Gene Anderson - 58
Dr. Jerry Graham - 58
Bulldog Brown - 58
Tony Parisi - 58
Rufus R. Jones - 60
Ray Stevens - 60
Stan Stasiak - 60
Terry Garvin - 60
Boris Malenko - 61
Little Beaver - 61
Sapphire - 61
Shohei Baba - 61
Sir Oliver Humperdink - 62
Dick the Bruiser - 62
Wilbur Snyder - 62
George Cannon - 62
Karl Krupp - 62
Dale Lewis - 62
Gorilla Monsoon - 62
Hiro Matsuda - 62
Bad News Brown - 63
Bulldog Brower - 63
SD Jones - 63
Wahoo McDaniel - 63
RIP Macho Man - "Oh yeah!"
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/19

It was a good day. The sun actually came out for a few hours and the rain held off, allowing me to make some sales. A lovely woman of color recognized me from the period I'd set up shop on Kings Highway, before the police cracked down. She purchased seven paperback thrillers. Thank you, madam. A gentleman who barely spoke English purchased the remaining Russian-English dictionary. I tried to explain it was incomplete, going up only to R, but he didn't understand. At the price of a dollar, it was a steal, anyway. He later returned from shopping and purchased an instructional book on photography. Spasiba, my friend. I also had a conversation about music with a guy who goes back as far as me. He looked through the remaining CDs and was surprised to find Robin Trower's awesome Bridge of Sighs (1974), one of my all-time favorites. He knew Trower played in Procol Harem, whose Whiter Shade of Pale (1967) remains popular to this day and pops up on a movie sound track now and then. He was impressed I knew PH's other American Top 40 hit - Conquistador (1967). He wound up taking a chance on Emerson, Lake and Powell (1986). ELP's original drummer, Carl Palmer, is still banging away, touring with his own eponymous band. Cozy Powell did stints with the Jeff Beck Group, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, post Ozzy Osbourne Black Sabbath, and artists like Queen's Brian May and Yngwie Malmstein. He was killed crashing his Saab 9000 at 104mph in 1998. He was 53.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/18

Today my oldest niece, Isabel, returned from her annual visit to Italy to see her three kids and four grandkids. We've hit upon a strategy to avoid the outrageous parking fees at JFK. I wait for her call, reading, in the parking lot of the huge shopping center at the Erskine Street exit of the Belt Parkway. It's ten minutes away from the airport. It worked like a charm. The only problem was the deluge that started shortly after we were on our way home. Miraculously, traffic moved smoothly, unusual on the Belt even in the best of weather. The windshield was getting splashed by cars going in the opposite direction, especially where the lanes narrow for construction that seems endless and no one can explain. Wouldn't it be great if they were adding a lane? Anyway, Isabel was happy to report that everyone is well, even the toddlers, who were all very sick last year. I now have great-great nieces and nephews. It's hard to believe, even though my sister is 20 years older than me. Of course, this being a modern world, there are separations and children from different fathers. All one can do is shake the head and hope everything will be okay.
Recently, sports cartoonist extraordinaire Bill Gallo, of the New York Daily News, passed away at 88. He is legend in the Big Apple. I was unable to find my favorite cartoon of his. Its subject was Yankees Hall of Fame shortstop and broadcaster, Phil Rizzuto, one of the great characters of baseball. One of his many pet phrases, along with Huckleberry and Awright, was Holy Cow. One day Gallo drew a picture of a cud-chewing cow that had Holy Rizzuto inscribed on its hide.
Here's another of his gems. I think you'll know who it is:
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/17

It was another surprising day. The forecast predicted a deluge. The morning was bleak and drizzly. I was resigned to the fact the floating bookshop didn't have a prayer of opening. I figured it was a good day to read and to hit the recycling center, which is usually empty when it rains. I expected to get soaked, but when I went outside the streets and sidewalks were dry. I redeemed the plastic bottles in a few minutes, then had the crazy notion to walk up to Avenue Z and see what the sky looked like. As I approached East 13th I thought: What the hell. The car was 50 feet from my usual nook. I had large plastic bags to cover everything if the clouds opened up. It looked like a mistake when Herb passed on the new batch of thrillers my sister and niece had left me in the basement of our family's house. Sure enough, after a two hour wait, a young woman and her boyfriend stopped and bought Anita Shreve's Light on Snow, former uber-model Paulina Porizkova's surprisingly good A Model Summer, and James Frey's controversial faux non-fiction blockbuster A Million Little Pieces. And a while later one of my regulars, a slender woman who lives up the street, snapped up four thrillers and a beautiful Scientific Frontier book on bodies of water. And I again forgot to ask her name. Duh! Thanks, folks.
Harmon Killebrew lost his battle with cancer today. "The Killer," as he was known, was one of the most feared home run hitters of the '60's, long before the steroid era. He is eleventh on the all-time list with 573. He was built like a fullback. I remember watching a Yankees game vs. the Twins a long time ago. The Old Redhead, Red Barber, was at the mike, Killebrew at the plate. The Killer connected and all Barber said was: "Gone." That's all there was time for, the line drive leaving the field in a flash. Decades later I saw Darryl Strawberry hit a similar homer, the drive so fierce it broke a seat in the mezzanine. Strawberry could have been a Hall of Famer. He coasted on his enormous talent. Killebrew got the most out of his. RIP.
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Monday, May 16, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/16

"Raindrops, so many raindrops..." as Dee Clark sang, only these aren't metaphorical. The gloom began late morning on Saturday, paused for a few hours yesterday, and is forecast to continue all week. Yuck. There was no choice but to go to the viaduct. I lugged an extra bag, filled with romance novels, in case Yelena showed on a coffee run, but she didn't. I did manage to get rid of some of the weight when a man bought the Russian-English dictionary. He talked me down to a dollar and let me keep the quarter that fell out of his wallet. I was glad not to have to carry the huge tome anymore. Too bad I'd left the English-Russian version in the trunk. He might have taken that too. Spasiba, sir.
I assign nicknames to people who have passed the floating bookshop many times, whether they've stopped by or not. There's Slim, who's about six-four and thin as a rail; there's Big Guy, who always says hello; Herb used to be Milquetoast before I got to know him. Today Kaline strolled by. He stopped once to tell me how crazy I was to be selling books on the street - as if I didn't know. He's an avid baseball fan. Detroit Tiger Hall of Famer Al Kaline was his idol. He is stunned that I remember that. I think it's an easy association and, therefore, memorable. I used to remember one of my regulars, Jerry, because he reminded me of the actor William H. Macy. I haven't seen him in a long time. I hope the demon rum hasn't done him in, as I'd feared whenever I saw him inebriated. Anyway, Kaline spends six days a week hunting down baseball books. His collection has reached forty thousand. He always has a Strand Bookstore bag in hand. He says all the walking is taking a toll on his feet. He was wearing brand new sneakers today, or tennis shoes, as my Michigan friends would say. I've had two stat books in the trunk for months, hoping we'd cross paths. Alas, the car was blocks away. Maybe next time. If he buys, I'll ask his real name.
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/15

Thanks to the kind lady who bought children's books for her lovely young daughter, an avid reader. Arlynn's vast donation keeps giving. As we were riding to her treatment Friday, I learned more of her history. She was unable to bear children, so she decided to adopt. This was a decade before the accident that caused the neurological problem with her legs. It was a long, difficult road. She decided to go outside the country, as the red tape involved in the U.S. was ridiculous. At first she wanted a little girl. Several possibilities fell through, despite payoffs and gifts. She was making tons of money in accounting back then, the '70's. She helped do the books on one of Englebert Humperdinck's tours, which garnered six million, huge at the time. When she learned a male child was available, she traveled to Bogota, Colombia - on her own. It was a dangerous place. Foreigners were the targets of kidnappers. On one occasion, her guide had her lay down in the back seat, not only because of the threat but because it was considered indecent for a woman to ride up front with a man who was not her husband or betrothed. She was invited to the house of an American official. There were shotgun toting security guards front and rear. Anyway, as she was waiting in the orphanage to see the child, a little girl approached and asked if Arlynn was going to be her mommy. Arlynn, who speaks Spanish, said no, but that the girl's mother was going to be on the next plane. She didn't know what else to say. She regrets not taking that child with her too. She fell in love with Jaime on the spot. He was two years old and weighed only 16 pounds. As soon as she brought him home, his ear began bleeding. She went into a panic, fearful she was going to lose him. Fortunately, it was only an abscess. Arlynn believes the adoption broke up her marriage. Her husband never took to Jaime, nor did her family. I said said she was better off without them. It is amazing how despicably some people will act. Jaime is now a security officer in the Coast Guard, healthy as a lion, training for a triathlon. Arlynn always tells me I'm due success because of the mitzvahs I've done for her. I think it's hogwash, as she is paying me, but there's no doubt in my mind that she is going to heaven because of the adoption. That was a real mitzvah.
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/14

Today offered more proof that something positive will happen as long as an effort is made. I set up shop outside the Dolfin Gym on 24th Avenue and 86th Street. It soon began sprinkling. Rain is in the forecast for several days. I decided to wait to see if it would pass, covering the books with plastic bags. Sure enough, it didn't last more than a few of minutes. A couple of people teased on the huge Russian-English dictionaries. When they refused the bargain basement price, I was sure the session would be fruitless. Then, just as I was about to begin packing up, a guy with a heavy Italian accent asked if I had any medical books. I was about to say no when I recalled two large textbooks, on Biology and Psychology, that were among Abdul the Friendly Porter's latest donation. I figured a brainy Russian would eventually spot and buy them. Thank heaven for brainy goombahs. He waited while I hustled to the trunk of my car and back. Turns out he's on disability, diabetic and suffering from prostate cancer. He's returning to Italy soon and is worried the payments will be stopped. I didn't know what to say other than: "Grazie asai e buona fortuna."
I love crime films, so I was really looking forward to The Town (2010), starring, directed and co-written by the much maligned Ben Affleck, who has made quite a comeback, starting in 2007 with Gone Baby Gone, which he also directed and co-wrote (based on Dennis Lehane's novel). Both films are set in the Boston area. He was raised in nearby Cambridge. Although I enjoyed The Town, I wasn't as enthusiastic about it as the critics were. I thought it strained credulity. I just didn't buy that the gang would continue high profile heists while the proverbial heat was so intense. And the love affair (Rebecca Hall) didn't work for me. Also, the narrative places the viewer in the main character's corner, similar to the Corleones in The Godfather (1972), when what should be hoped is that he will be blown away. Still, it worked on a visceral level. I did not pause the film once during its two-hour running time. And the performances were first rate, especially Blake Lively, who I'd seen only on Page Six of the New York Post until now. She was great. On a scale of five, three. Affleck, a handsome man, is a good actor and good writer. Given his work on The Town and Gone Baby Gone, he is apparently a good director as well. And he is married to the beautiful and talented Jennifer Garner. Hmmm - maybe we should hate him.
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Friday, May 13, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/13

Lucky 13th. Thanks to the three kind folks who purchased books today: an elderly woman who selected a beautiful children's book, Time for Bed; a young woman of color, who took five paperback romance novels; and a middle aged woman who has passed the floating bookshop by scores of times, who was finally hooked  by The Party Book, which lends advice on hosting. Surprisingly, the Russian-English dictionaries did not sell, although they drew interest. Maybe tomorrow.
I've occasionally spoken of a group that hung out in the P.S. 101 schoolyard in Bensonhurst. Its members were five to ten years younger than me. They jumped headlong into the post '60's counter-culture. Several have spent time in rehab. This past year alone, five of them have passed away, none older than 55. The latest was Lynn, a lovely, sunny-faced blond who succumbed to cancer. I did not know her well. She was the girlfriend, then wife of one of the group, Steve, who played on the Lafayette HS JV football team that I coached and also on a softball team I managed. Subsequently, they divorced, Steve righted himself, moved to Florida and became a marketing director. Lynn remained in the life and now has left us. In a heart-breaking plea on Facebook, Steve asked God to be understanding and to take Lynn into his kingdom, citing a good heart that the devil had seized. Whenever I think of this group and its young deaths, I wonder if it is indicative of others around the country or just an aberration. I suspect the latter. After all, life expectancy increases every year, according to reports. It would not be rising if such deaths were widespread. These unfortunate souls cheated themselves and their families and friends. It's a damn shame.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/11

We have a losing streak going - two days without sales. I did have some company, though. Ted, who purchased Adjustments last Fall, stopped by the floating bookshop. I was sorry to hear he has lost his sales job. He was selling ad space in magazines for News Corp, which owns the New York Post and other media outlets. Hang in there, buddy. Esther, 61, also visited - for the first time. I learned quite a bit about her in 15 minutes. She's about to celebrate her 37th wedding anniversary. She has a 32 year old son who is unmarried and drives a Mercedes which she helped finance. She attended Clara Barton HS with the idea of following in her mom's footsteps as an RN, but changed to a commercial course instead, and worked for a few years at a Wall Street bank. She has a twin - Regina. And she is sure the woman who is about to go on trial in Florida is guilty of killing her toddler. And she doesn't read books.
Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992) is one of my favorite films. Last night I watched the Hong Kong actioner that inspired it, City on Fire (1987), directed by Ringo Lam and starring a very young Chow Yun Fat, who later burst onto the world stage in John Woo's over the top blood fests The Killer (1989) and Hardboiled (1992), and who would later have only modest success in American films. I feared that Lam's film would diminish my respect for Tarantino's, as some have called RD a ripoff. Although the influence is clear, the films are very different from each other. In RD, the heist is never seen, only its aftermath. There is no love angle. And the characters have so much more depth. And the dialogue is rich. The subtitles in COF often lend the banter an unintentional comical air, as is the case in most translations from the action genres of the Chinese and Japanese, although there is a wonderful line by one of thugs about how he does not hate the police, as they are only doing a job. COF is a fun film. RD is a meaningful one, a glimpse into the minds of a diverse group of criminals, and one of the few I've rated five stars.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/10

No luck on the street today.
My friend, Victoria Valentine, publisher of Water Forest Press, which published my novel, Adjustments, asked me to edit and review Eric Tessier's short story collection, The Endless Journey. I wasn't crazy about it, but hope I'm as wrong as I've been about so much popular literature, music and film. I had fun writing a review that is at once true and conceals my opinion. Here it is:
Welcome to the bizarre realm of Eric Tessier. Follow the maze that is his mind. Beware of the mirrors, trap doors, dead ends, and shadows and what lurks in them. This collection will force one into corners, make one want to run  and hide. Attention fans of weird tales. Vampires, ghosts, murderers, beasts - these stories are rife with them. From snowy landscapes to voracious swamps, the reader is led on a journey of terror and suspense. Blood - so much blood, enough to slake the gluttonous thirst of Nosferatu. Deaths - so many deaths, enough to delight the cold, cold hear of the Grim Reaper. Down, down into the dark depths of humanity the author will take you. Fight, claw back up to the light. The devil’s in the details. Tessier - Eric Tessier -  a fresh voice in terror that whispers, calls and screams through alleys and the underground. Brought to you by the twisted sisters of Water Forest Press. Straight jacket required. Caution - curl up with these stories at your own risk. They will keep you wide awake. Nighty night, children.  - Vic Fortezza, author of Close to the Edge, Adjustments & A Hitch in Twilight
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Monday, May 9, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/9

Arlynn predicted the floating bookshop would have a good day, and she was right. My first customer, a middle aged woman, purchased a fantasy novel set thousands of years ago in what is now America. As she paid, she seemed at the point of laughter. I asked what was so funny. "Life," she said, and proceeded to get the giggles. Maybe she was laughing at me. A while later another middle aged woman spotted Jonathan Kellerman's Bad Love, which I was surprised hadn't gone much sooner, given his popularity. Then the last of the Sylvia Browne collection was scooped up by a woman who couldn't pass it up at the price of two dollars. And a young man in his early teens, to whom I'd refused to sell any modern books for fear his parents would disapprove, was drawn to the wonderful drawing of the beast on the cover of a large paperback edition of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle classic Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Hound of the Baskervilles. I saw no problem in letting him buy that. I just hope he is not turned off by denser prose that characterized nineteenth century British works. Thank you, all.
Alex, retired, stops by every time I'm at the corner of East 13th & Avenue Z. He lives in the building on whose grounds I set up. A few weeks ago he asked if I knew anything about getting poetry published. I suggested, which he has been perusing for the right venue to send his work. Today he stopped by with his lovely wife Nadine, and purchased A Hitch in Twilight for her. Arlynn would say I'd been repaid for a mitzvah. Thanks, folks. Later, as soon as I got home, I got a call from actor-singer Johnny Feets, who weeks ago asked if I knew of any apartment openings in the area. As luck would have it, a high school classmate of mine posted a note on her Facebook page on behalf of a friend - and John will be moving in on June 1st, not here but in the old neighborhood, Bensonhurst. I hope this too will also fall into the category of a mitzvah for which I will be rewarded with a book sale.
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/8

Although it was a gorgeous day, I wasn't expecting any business, as I figured people would be spending money on Mother's Day gifts, and that proved to be the case, putting an end to the latest winning streak. One guy teased me, looking through the last of the Sylvia Browne books I have for at least five minutes before passing on it. And the session wasn't a total loss, as I had another visit from Bay 37th alumnus Lorraine, a self-described "secretary/slave" in a hospital. Her new supervisor has written her up five times in the past six months - and docked her a day's pay! She approached addressing me as Frank, and left addressing me as Vinnie.
My mom's been gone eight years. Since my back and hip have been giving me problems, I lay on the floor to watch TV, and frequently wrap myself in an afghan she knitted long ago. I still chuckle when I recall her limited grasp of English. I use some of those phrases around my family: "Gooda luck," "I no likea me (I don't like it)," "Fifateen minoots." I recall proverbs she laid on me: "La saluta se cata, non se vinda (Health is bought, not sold)," and her view on the way a man should conduct himself: "Due pede en la stovalla (Two feet in one boot)." I don't know if the latter makes any sense to others, but it was crystal clear to me. And these are translation from Sicilian and, I expect, pretty far from correct grammatically. I don't want any guff from lovers of classical Italian out there. As I've said before, the Sicilian dialect to me is akin to Brooklynese. Both bring such color to life. While we're at it, I may as well tease my sister. I always get a kick out of how she pronounces some words in English, even after 65 years in this great country. My favorite is fin-ish-id. And I love the way she mixes English words like "okay" into conversations with her friends. She was sad today, as another of her friends, Matilda, has passed on. Their group has lost several in recent years. RIP. 
Happy Mother's Day - you are the foundation of our lives.
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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/7

Thanks to Alex, who purchased A Hitch in Twilight outside the Dolfin Gym today at 24th Avenue and 86th Street, and to the woman who bought Sylvia Browne's The Mystical Life of Jesus. I've now sold five of the six Browne books the friendly porter has donated.
I first viewed the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski (1998) more than a decade ago. It did not leave much of an impression. I remembered Jeff Bridges getting a swirlie in the beginning and the odd counterpoint to modern L.A. cowboy narration of Sam Elliott, but nothing else, not even the bodacious, perfectly-cast Tara Reid, whose wild ways would fill tabloids at the start of the new millennium. I was no more impressed the second time around. I find it amusing, but a far cry from the best work of the Coens. The quirkiness just doesn't work for me like it does in Blood Simple ('84), Miller's Crossing ('90), Barton Fink ('91), Fargo ('96) and A Serious Man ('09). Many would disagree. Since its original release, the film has taken on cult status. Some call it the greatest ever made. Maybe my indifference stems from my aversion to stories about stoners. I was never a big fan of comedy, either, although the Coen's films are so much more than comedy. Very few movies and TV shows make me laugh out loud. Certain episodes of The Honeymooners and All in the Family, and moments in the Farrelly brothers' Kingpin ('96), did the trick. Even Seinfeld raises no more than a chuckle from me. I'm more fascinated by the behavior of the characters, by its accurate portrayal of the modern world than amused by its comedy. I still watch it. It is almost invariably the best option in its time slot even after all these years. I have an equally hard time with comic novels like Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy and John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. I find real life, the antics of friends, neighbors and people on the street, funnier than anything that occurs in fiction. John Goodman's tirades worked for me in Barton Fink, especially in the outrageous finale. The image of him running down the hotel's burning hall, shotgun in tow, is unbelievable. The rants did not work for me in The Big L. I loved John Turturro's weasly turn in Miller's Crossing, but thought his characterization in The Big L was fake. Miller's Crossing remains my favorite CB film. They won Oscars for both Fargo, and No Country For Old Men ('08), a film I respect more than like. I look forward to watching their remake of True Grit ('10). I'm sure it will differ substantially from the John Wayne film. All their films are worthwhile, even a failure like The Hudsucker Proxy ('94).
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Friday, May 6, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/6

Arlynn is on cloud nine right now. Her son, Jaime, a Coast Guard security officer, is home for the weekend, which means I had the day off, as he accompanied her to today's treatment, so I had more time to spend at the floating bookshop. It was so beautiful that I thought about setting up at the foot of Sheepshead Bay, but when I found parking ten yards from my usual nook, which sees more pedestrian traffic at mid day than the promenade, I thought What the heck? It proved to be the right choice. I immediately sold another thriller to the merry mail-woman and a Debbie Macomber novel to an elderly woman just back from Florida. I also got a visit from Bob Rubenstein, author of Ghost Runners, who is disappointed that his recent interview on Monica Brinkman's show on Blog Talk Radio did not generate any sales. Nonetheless, he is hard at work on his second novel. He purchased three children's books for his tutoring gig, as he has several times. Hang in there, buddy. Then the building porter, who has donated so many books to me, showed up and handed me a beautiful cookbook, which a woman bought a half hour later. Thanks, folks. The two slices at Delmar were on you.
But the highlight of the day was the feedback I got from Mark, a special ed teacher at Sheepshead Bay HS. Since he's also working on a Master's in nutrition, he doesn't have much leisure time to read. He has enjoyed the first three stories of A Hitch in Twilight, particularly the opener, The Man in the Box, whose ending he'd been certain would disappoint him. Instead, he was "blown away." I was glad I was wearing sunglasses, because I got misty. A comment like that takes a lot of the sting out of the infrequent sale of my own work. Thank you, sir. And thanks to the woman who bought the two Sylvia Browne books yesterday and left saying: "God bless you." And thanks to Jaime, who gave me an authentic Coast Guard cap, purchased at the PX on his base.
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/4

The floating bookshop was rained out today.
In a country of 300 million that values free speech, as America does, there will be various opinions, and some will be very annoying. For instance:
There are those who believe FDR knew of the impending attack on Pearl Harbor and allowed it to happen so that war would lead the country out of the Great Depression.
There are those who believe the CIA had a hand in the assassination of JFK.
There are those who believe the moon landing was a hoax.
There are those who believe the Twin Towers were brought down by President Bush and Dick Cheney.
Now there are those who believe the killing of Bin Laden was staged.
I don't believe any of those things. I believe in America - even when it is being governed by those whose policies I deplore. I believe in Americans - even when they are making choices or voicing opinions that infuriate me - and that includes dear friends on Facebook. I support the water-boarding of terrorists. How ironic that a President so opposed to it has gained his first shining moment as a result of it, and may be re-elected because of it. As Spock would say: "Fascinating."
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/2

Thanks to the kind folks who have purchased stuff the past two days while the history that was made shunted everything else aside. Yesterday a little guy of Indian origin looked through all my wares as his mom conversed with a friend. He asked how much the children's books were. "Hey, mom, three for a dollar," he said, excited. Pinocchio was one of his choices, another was by Louisa May Alcott, author of the classic Little Women. It looked like that would be it for the session when a young man stopped and looked through the CDs. He chose one by Life of Agony, a band with which I was completely unfamiliar. "Alternative," he called them. Enjoy, sir.
John, a self-published author, came by today and took CDs by Midnight Oil and The Replacements. He is unsure what to do with his latest novel. I'd recommended All Things That Matter Press, publisher of my short story collection, A Hitch in Twilight, but he was unimpressed upon visiting the site. I can't imagine why. If the book were accepted, he wouldn't have to pay for anything but copies, and he would even have the option of forgoing that if he wished to concentrate solely on web sales. This time I suggested Good luck, buddy.
A while later an elderly man in a motorized wheel chair stopped and asked if I had anything by Jackie Collins. I sure did - Hollywood Kids, which he snapped up. As he stood to reach for his wallet, his attendant and I moved in, ready to catch him should he fall. I was reminded of Arlynn and her daily struggles and refusal of help to rise and sit. She is now more than halfway through her radiation treatments. The only negative effect has been a rash that has her doctor puzzled and which he attributes to her pre-existing condition. She questions whether the treatments are doing any good other than adding to the coffers of the medical profession. She is billed for physician visits that last minutes and amount to nothing more than "How are you feeling?" It's not news that costs are out of control. Government has made it that way, and perhaps it is the only solution if we are to insure everyone. I recently saw a guy who lived directly across the street from my sister for about 15 years. Richie was a great neighbor, always willing to help with any problem. He retired from his maintenance job in the library system and moved to Staten Island to be close to his grandchildren. He once told me he'd done a lot of drinking in his youth. He had a liver transplant about six months ago. The cost was $350,000. His medication will cost $100,000 per year for the rest of his life. "Thank God for insurance," he said. The bills, of course, are covered by tax payers. I don't know what the solution is, but it's going to be awfully expensive to save everybody.
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Monday, May 2, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/1

A great day. Kudos to the Navy Seals for the flawless operation. Our military is the only aspect of government that runs efficiently these days, as has been proven so many times since Desert Storm. And kudos to the President for ordering the strike, which must run contrary to everything he believes. I'm sure he would rather have brought Bin Laden to trial, but the demands of the office sometimes outweigh personal beliefs. In terms of the overall war on terror, this is a significant victory. I'd wondered if Bin Laden had any more sway, as it was believed he was living in a cave. Given that he was ensconced in a mansion, he must have had a lot of power. His death will save lives in the long run, but the war on terror will continue for decades, if not centuries. The only mystery is its reach and depth. Has Obama's re-election been guaranteed? Perhaps, but recall how high George Bush Sr.'s approval rating was following the action in Kuwait. The recession, a rather mild one at that, undid him, as well as his glancing at his watch during the debate with Bill Clinton. The economy is infinitely weaker right now, and there are as many negative as positive signs about its future condition. The best thing he has going for him is the lack of a bonafide contender for the Republican nomination. Even if he loses the senate, he may be appointing two Supreme Court justices, which will swing the court left, and he may circumvent congress by having the EPA and other departments initiate mandates, moves that may already be underway. In terms of politics, the election is light years away. One thing that can definitely be said, at least in terms of national defense, Obama is better than Jimmy Carter.
On this date in 1945, with the allies tightening the noose, Adolf Hitler killed himself. Today is also Holocaust Memorial Day. Long live Israel. God bless America.
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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 5/1

Thanks to my friend Bob, who ordered a custom made CD of oldies and picked it up today at Bay Parkway, a day when the public was indifferent to books.
Last night PBS ran Bonnie and Clyde (1967), one of the most controversial films of its time, screenplay by Robert Benton and David Newman, who were influenced by the French New Wave directors. They actually tried to get Francois Truffaut, then Jean Luc Godard to direct. When that failed, the script went into a draw for a year and a half, until someone mentioned it to Warren Beatty, who not only starred but produced as well. He recommended Arthur Penn, who had directed him in the avant garde Mickey One and would go on to do Alice's Restaurant (1969), Little Big Man (1970), Night Moves (1975), The Missouri Breaks (1976), and others. All those cited are unconventional, revisionist in nature, where those on the fringe take center stage as the anti-hero. I enjoyed Bonnie and Clyde. It has a lot to recommend it: beautiful cinematography, a dazzling Faye Dunaway in her breakthrough role, Michael J. Pollard's quirky turn as C.W. Moss, Estelle Parson's Academy Award winning performance (Supporting Actress), veteran character actors Dub Taylor and Denver Pyle, and plenty of shootouts. The violence, and the sympathetic, glamorous depiction of the criminals were the most controversial aspects. Critics disagreed vehemently. Some lost their jobs due to their negative reviews, seen as out of step. Famed critic Pauline Kael wrote a 10,000 word defense of the film, which is credited with turning the tide of opinion on it. Other critics recanted their original thoughts. I don't believe it's a great film. I think it's silly, lively fun. It has almost no basis in fact, starting with the casting of the two incredibly handsome leads. The real life villains were not physically attractive. If you haven't seen it, check out the DVD. Of course, given the passage of time, the violence we've grown so accustomed to in films, you'll wonder what all the controversy was about.
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