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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/30

No luck again today. I'm never sure how to interpret the slumps I hit. Thus far, they've seemed simply a matter of percentages, the absence of the right person at the right time. There have been two signs that this is different, that the recession is finally hitting the floating bookshop. Simone, who purchased a handful of books several weeks in a row, which she devoured, has only waved the past three weeks. And the Romance Lady, Yelena, who said she would stop by on her way back from a coffee run, took an alternate route to her building, which I spotted her entering. We'll see.
On the side of the bus shelter ten feet from where I set up, there is a large poster advertising this Saturday's heavyweight fight between Klitschko and Haye. It has attracted more attention than the previous one featuring a model and her jeans. This would be surprising if not for the fact that Sheepshead Bay is predominantly Russian. The pride is obvious. I haven't watched boxing since perhaps as far back as 1970, except for a couple of Mike Tyson's bouts. I just can't justify watching men beat each other to a pulp. Shouldn't we beyond such things in the 21st century? Still, I don't think it should be banned. These are adults who understand the consequences of their actions. And the object is a knockout, not killing, although a handful do die as a result of blows. I admire their skill and courage. I just don't want to watch it. Maybe I've gotten too soft. As for women's boxing, which I consider evidence of the end of civilization, I will never watch it. I wouldn't even watch the Academy Award winning movie Million Dollar Baby. But you watch football, friends might say. Yes, and it is often brutal, but the object is touchdowns and field goals, not a knockout, although some players do attempt to injure talented opponents. I cringe at some of the hits and wonder how I ever played and coached. But you watch wrestling, friends might say. True, but wrestling is a bizarre side show where the outcome is predetermined and injuries are accidental. One of the reasons I no longer watch is that it has lost its madcap humor. No one presently in the business entertains me the way Captain Lou Albano and Classie Freddie Blassie did. When I need a good laugh, I pop in best-of tapes I made in the 80's.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/29

Even though I didn't sell any books today for the first time in a long while, I was reminded how lucky I am. A half block away, at the juncture where Sheepshead Bay Road, Avenue Z and East 14th meet, two men were replacing a window on the third floor of the shiny triangular building that went up on the spot about ten years ago. A scaffold reached the second floor, a step ladder to the third. Atop it stood an intrepid soul - without a harness. His partner was on the scaffold, handing things up to him. I don't know why they couldn't do the job from inside the building. Imagine doing that every day for a living. I was reminded of how much I hated climbing the ladder in the alley at my old house and untangling the clothesline for my mom, which was nothing compared to what that guy did. One gust of wind, a misstep - wow. What big ones. I hope his kids appreciate what he does to bring food to the table. Kudos.
Later, I got another long visit from Esther, who opened up more of her life to me. She has gone through the legal formality of disinheriting her son, who no longer visits her or her husband, who is in a nursing home, a double amputee diabetic who suffers severe arthritis and near blindness. When she was ten, her mom died of cancer at 37. Her father, a baker who worked nights for Fink on Long Island, could not raise six children himself. All were put in foster homes. Esther was separated from her twin, Regina. She lived with her foster parents until she was 24, when she married in a civil ceremony at City Hall. Her two older brothers have succumbed to cancer. It is sad and amazing what some people suffer in this life. It reminds me how easy I've had it.
Rest in Peace, Danny, who used to play his guitar outside the Sheepshead Bay train station. He lost his long battle with drug addiction.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/28

My schedule was thrown off today, as I accompanied Arlynn on a trip to one of her many doctors. What a fiasco. The guy's partners have both retired, so he is there alone. Patients waited four hours to see him. For some reason, he lets Arlynn cut the line. She was there only two hours. By the time we returned, after a couple of more stops, I was not in the right frame of mind to set up shop. I took a nap, ate, then went out. Although I didn't sell many books, I did run into Bob Rubenstein, whose second novel, The White Bridge, I'm editing. 85 pages in, I've found it confusing and unfocused. And we have such different styles of prose. Mine is direct. His is verbose, florid. That makes me wonder if I simply don't get what he is trying to accomplish. I told him to ignore my revisions if he thought they were bunk. I really dreaded telling him what I thought, as he's been very kind, buying my books and recommending them to others. I know how precious a writer's work is to himself. Fortunately, he took it very well. I was so relieved. His first novel, Ghost Runners, on which he worked on and off for 25 years, is so much more focused. I believe The White Bridge is in its first draft. I suggested he slow down. I've made so many grammatical and prosaic changes I'm afraid he'll think I'm co-opting it. I do only five pages at a time. I want to help and hope I'm not hurting. I told him how hard it is for me to sit back and enjoy any book. As I'm reading, the writer in me emerges. I imagine how I would have said certain things, how I would have punctuated them. It can be very annoying. Fortunately, I don't view movies and TV shows the same way. I simply enjoy them.
Thanks to everyone who bought books the past two days, and to the kind Russian gentleman who offered me a peach yesterday. Unfortunately, I've noted that one of my regulars, Simone, has avoided me this week. I hope she isn't haven't financial problems.
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/26

Bad News Billy stopped by the floating bookshop today. The poor soul has been through divorce, bypass, free-loading daughters, fraud and now a car accident. He was kind enough to buy two baseball related items: the VHS version of Eight Men Out, John Sayle's wonderful depiction of the 1919 Black Sox scandal, and slugging Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt's Clearing the Bases. Coincidentally, both were donated by actor-singer Johnny Feets, who visited today, walking to Bay Parkway from his new residence about three-quarters of a mile away. He and a friend, Rachel, participated in one of those events that is unique to the city. For a week or so, 88 pianos have been set up in the five boroughs, for anyone to play. John and Rachel went to 14th Street and 9th Avenue in Manhattan, where they did a standard popularized by Judy Garland - Just in Time, music by Jule Stein, lyrics by Adolph Comden and Betty Green, and got a round of applause from an old-timer. Rachel finds plenty of work playing in bars and on cruises. She once took Feets along as a guest on a two-week cruise. He gained five pounds chowing down on the free Creme Brulee and such. Thanks, Bill and Feets.
Last night I watched The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (2009), the final part of the trilogy based on Stieg Laarsen's wildly popular novels. While not as riveting as the first two installments, it was still good. The entire plot of the arc was detailed, and not in a heavy handed way. I am just totally fascinated with Lisbeth Salander, the heroine, so expertly played by Noomi Rapace. The film also offered an interesting glimpse into a trial in Sweden, which I don't believe I'd ever seen before. And the country looks so clean, despite the ugly aspects of the story, as if it is scrubbed regularly, so unlike the dreary landscapes of the great Ingmar Bergman's work. Although Lisbeth, in full punk regalia, triumphs in the end, it is a Pyrrhic victory, a tragedy. This beautiful, highly intelligent young woman is so damaged it is doubtful she will ever be able to maintain a relationship or find more than fleeting happiness.
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/25

There was a bit of excitement in the old neighborhood today. As I approached the block I grew up on, Bay 37th, in Bensonhurst, I saw smoke against the blue sky and heard sirens. What was formerly known as the Ultissima Beauty School - affectionately known as Ul-tits-ima to ruffians, yours truly excepted, of course - was burning. It is around the corner and up one street from my old house, and directly across the way from where I set up the floating bookshop most Saturdays, 24th Avenue. Scores of spectators lined the opposite side of 86th Street and gawked past the elevated tracks. The storefronts had been evacuated. Windows had been shattered by the firemen, many of whom had had to travel only 200 yards to fight the blaze. There were trucks from others companies as well. Apparently, authorities decided to err on the side of caution. The damage seemed minimal, although my oldest niece, Isabel, who had been there from the start, said flames had been rising from the roof. Perhaps someone had left a curling iron unattended. It is just as possible the fire had started in the little Mexican restaurant a few doors down. No one knew. I spotted Vinny, whose family for decades has owned the huge property on the next block that houses the Dolphin Gym, a dollar store and an Albanian restaurant. "Lookin' to expand?" I said quietly. He laughed. 
The area was still blocked off by the time I was ready to go to work, so I had to set up elsewhere. I headed to Bay Parkway, six blocks further, my Sunday spot. It proved to be lucky. I immediately sold a spelling book to a mom looking to help her son's reading. And then a tall young man approached, a box cradled to his chest. He said he was the son of a frequent donor, Joanne. He looked just like her. As soon as I'd set out the hard covers she'd surrendered, Jack, an employee of the Chase Bank directly in front of me, stepped out the main door. I thought he was going to say his boss had told him to tell me to take a hike. Not! He has an hour-and-a-half subway commute and goes through three books a week. He took eight. Thanks, folks.
On a sad note, Peter Falk, 83, has died. In the 70's, he created the wildly popular role of Columbo, a detective whose quirkiness and drab attire bamboozled murderers. He won four Emmys. He also did outstanding work in films, twice nominated for an Academy Award, as the deadly Abe Reles in Murder, Inc. (1960) and as a comic thug in A Pocketful of Miracles (1961). I wonder if he'll wear the raincoat in heaven. RIP.
And to cap off a fine day, I found Monica Brinkman's The Turn of the Karmic Wheel in my mailbox. I'd won a copy by answering a question correctly. Monica does yeoman work promoting the work of writers published by All Things That Matter Press, including web radio at I look forward to reading her book.
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/4

It was another gloomy day in Brooklyn, although again there has not been more than a mist that doesn't even wet the sidewalks and streets. Several people stopped by at the viaduct, but no one bought. Perhaps the selection was too limited. I'm able to carry only two-thirds of my wares to that location. The highlight of the session was seeing lovely young Mariana in her junior high cap and gown. Congratulations, young lady, and good luck in high school.
I was just listening to the Steve Malzberg Show while chowing down on a couple of slices from Delmar. He interviewed a woman who is the spokesperson for the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at Ground Zero, which was destroyed when Tower Two collapsed. Fortunately, no one was in it at the time. All that was left were a few artifacts. The church was established in 1916 by shipping magnates. Although I never visited, I remember it well, as I frequently passed it during lunch from 1983-1997 when the Exchange was located at Four World Trade Center. There has been no effort on the part of politicians to have it rebuilt, which is an outrage, especially in light of how many are bending over backward to accommodate Muslims who wish to build a mosque one block from Ground Zero. There will be a rally tomorrow in downtown Manhattan to bring the issue to light.
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/23

I feel like a bum. I didn't set up shop today, as the forecast was grim. While a lot of the tri-state area has been pummeled, Brooklyn hasn't seen more than sprinkles. I could very easily have set up shop under the shelter of the viaduct, but I chose to attend to chores instead. Of course, I'm wondering if the percentages would have come due and I would have sold one of my own books today. Maybe I missed that one in a thousand chance and the wheel has now moved back to zero. While I'm way behind last year's pace in terms of my own books, I'm way ahead on used books and miscellaneous income, thanks to Arlynn. I've also built my paypal account to over $300, courtesy of various survey sites. I have a nice sum to buy copies of my own books, when - if - I'll ever need them.
I made a trip to Target, forgetting about the traffic slowdown on the ever-crowded, ever-repair-mode Belt Parkway. It took a half hour instead of the ten minutes it should have required. And I forgot my cell phone. I had that annoying "This is the day I'll have an accident" feeling, which nags me occasionally even when I have the device. I've never had an accident - the percentages are due. We all have our neuroses, I guess.
I take my cell phone outside only when I intend to drive, otherwise treating it like a landline. It is amazing how vulnerable I feel not having it in the car. We did without them for decades. Fortunately, I didn't have an accident. I replaced my electric razor, which is so old Norelco doesn't make replacement blades for that model any more. I also bought a pair of sneakers. And I spent a lot of the day reading. And my hip got some rest. It's fallen back to 75%. I hope it comes back to the 90's. I dread the thought that it will get a lot worse before it gets better.
Now I will work on my friend Bob Rubenstein's second novel, The White Bridge. Maybe I won't feel like such a bum.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/22

I took a chance today, forgoing the viaduct despite the threat of rain, and it paid off. I sold all the children's books I had on display, including a large one on Bible stories. Thanks, folks.
Last night I caught up to Red (2010), courtesy of Netflix. It is a fairly standard thriller, despite a star-studded cast: Willis, Malkovich, Freeman, Mirren, Dreyfus, Borgnine, and Rebecca Pidgeon and Karl Urban. Ernest Borgnine is in his 90's and still sharp as a tack. The film was too droll to be exciting and not witty enough to be satirical. It never rose above amusing. It was directed by Robert Schwentke, who did episodes of Fox's Lie To Me. On a scale of five: two-and-a-half.
After the movie I channel-surfed and came upon the premiere of Combat Hospital on ABC. Although it is far more serious, the show will arouse inevitable comparisons to MASH. In fact, there was a real familiarity to the stress and marathon work sessions the unit faced, which was captured excellently in its beloved predecessor. Even though humor is minimal, I don't know if the program will offer any new insight into the situation. Of course, all these years later the depiction of sex and violence is more graphic, and the language more liberal in prime time. I will watch more episodes. The cast is appealing. I believe the audience's connection to the characters rather than the sensational aspects will determine the future of the series. I loved MASH when it first aired, but now find it lacking whenever I run across a rerun.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/21

"Summer's here and the time is right for dancin' in the streets." So sang Martha and the Vandellas way back when, before I was born - not! The lyrics were written by William Stevenson and Marvin Gaye.
It was a quiet day at the floating bookshop. My man, Bob Rubenstein, author of Ghost Runners, stopped by, and I later found an email from him containing a file of most of his second novel, a work in progress, The White Bridge. I will toil at weeding out any errors. I appreciate his confidence in me.
I finally sold Jimmy Carter's Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, to a nice young man. I'd had it for so long I figured the ex-peanut farmer had fallen too low in the eyes of Americans to generate interest, even in ultra-liberal New York. The former president puts the onus for the conflict on Israel. As I see it, the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world will not be satisfied with anything less than the destruction of Israel. That is not a plan for peace. Meanwhile, Muslims live and work in the Jewish state and even serve in its parliament. Mossad agents assassinate terrorists and Israeli leadership apologizes if the innocent are caught in the crossfire. Muslims exult at the killing of women and children by homicide bombers. It's old news.
Esther kept me company the last hour. Her son, 32, is not living right, asking her for money while driving around in a Mercedes. Sounds like some tough love is in order. Easy for me to say, I guess, as I don't have any children.
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/20

It was perfect weather-wise today in Brooklyn. I sold the last of Marie's CD donation, The Best of the Hollies and Stormy Weather, a standards compilation featuring modern artists such as Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks. The biggest surprise on that disc was comedienne Sandra Bernhard's solid take on a song made famous by Peggy Lee, Is That All There Is? It doesn't seem like a hard song to pull off, but she isn't a real singer, as far as I know, and she did it live. It must have been a charitable event. It's a good introduction to standards. My only quibble is that the tempo hardly varied from start to finish. Thanks to the security guard, who had purchased several CDs in the past. He was disappointed that the two were all there was/is. Thanks also to Susan, who bought a couple of books, and a woman who took three.
I got my daily visit from Lawrence, who is mildly autistic. He calls me Mr. Books. He is frequently involved in mischief. This morning he closed the security door leading to the courtyard of our complex, drawing the wrath of housewives who don't have keys, which are $25 each, and who travel in and out throughout the day. His aim was to keep cats and bugs out of the building, or so he says. Later, he said a friend has challenged him to follow his lead and take off his clothes on the train the next time they are on it, and asked what I thought. I said he would probably be arrested and get a beat down from his dad, who would have to bail him out.
When I was in my last years at the commodity exchange, there was a young data entry reporter in the Gold Options market who spooked everyone. I'm pretty sure Van was harmless, but he was odd, keeping chicken bones in the pockets of his yellow work jacket. He was eventually let go, well before the purges that began in 2007. He lives in Sheepshead Bay and has passed the floating bookshop many times. I didn't think he remembered me. The other day he suddenly called out my name. He seemed surprised I knew his. He passed again today, without recognition, although I greeted him. I wondered if it was a matter of his having forgone his meds. He did say hi on the way back, though. Life is unfair for some.
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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/19

Just two months after his meltdown at the Masters, Rory McIlroy blew away the field at the U.S. Open at the Congressional Country Club in Maryland. He became the youngest player ever to win the tournament, and he set the record for the lowest score at -16, winning by eight shots. Normally, I would not watch such a rout, as it lacks the drama that makes professional golf so great. Given what happened to the young man at Augusta National, it was must see TV for fans. I had a lump in my throat as he hugged his dad at the finish. Incredibly, men from tiny Northern Ireland have captured the last two U.S. Opens, Graeme McDowell having won last year. And it was interesting to hear the NBC announcers go on and on about McIlroy's potential, obviously praying he will do for the game what Tiger Woods did before his troubles. Well done, Rory.
On a sad note, saxophonist Clarence Clemons has passed away at 69. The Big Man, as he was affectionately known, added so much color to Bruce Springsteen's songs. The E Street Band will never be the same without him. RIP, sir. I will always love your joyous work on Rosalita.
I knew it would be a good day on the street when the affable Carmine showed up as I was setting up shop on Bay Parkway. He threw a scare into me when he mentioned what he thought was an error in logic in my story Threes, which is part of the A Hitch in Twilight collection. The story has to do with the myth of famous people dying in threes. He thought there were only two at one point. I checked. There were three - whew! Not only was Carmine nice enough to purchase How To Be Your Own Best Friend (1986), he returned a while later with a donation of six books, including two non-fictions that were snapped up by Miguel, who has become a regular, a while later. He even overpaid. And I could barely contain my amusement when I spotted Bob in the distance. Several times he has asked if I had Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London. Zevon's Best of Collection was part of Marie's latest donation. Bob was thrilled.
Thanks, guys - it was big of you.
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/18

Thanks to the young lady who purchased a thriller today outside the Dolphin Gym.
Greg Iles has written 13 best sellers in the thriller genre. I just finished 24 Hours (2000). It traveled familiar territory for the most part until a spectacular, unusual chase sequence at the end. I chose it over the other two Iles books David had donated, as it is less than 340 pages. That, I contend, is the proper length for a thriller. The writing is rock solid. One line, reminiscent of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett, had me laughing out loud: "The smile on her face was as forced as an Avon lady's on a poor street..." The novel was transformed to the screen as Trapped (2002), starring Charlize Theron, Kevin Bacon, Stuart Townsend, Courtney Love and Dakota Fanning. I'm tempted to rent it, despite knowing the story line. I'm curious as to how closely the novel was followed. The screenplay was written by Iles as well. Iles grew up in Mississippi, where the novel is set. He founded the rock band Frankly Scarlet but was forced to quit when touring made family life impossible. He turned to writing and almost immediately found success. He also plays in that band comprised of Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, etc. On a scale of five, I rate 24 Hours three-and-a-half. Of the 15 or so thrillers I've sampled, I still find Tami Hoag's A Thin, Dark Line far superior to the others.
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Friday, June 17, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/17

What luck. I didn't expect to set up shop today, as the forecast called for a lot of rain. But when I went outside at eleven AM, I saw a substantial swath of blue sky. I thought I'd give it a shot, hoping to get in an hour or so. A Latino laborer who has purchased several CDs noticed the new batch and took ten, including two holdovers from Marie's previous donation, obscure works I figured would never sell. Gracias, amigo. I have three left: Best of Warren Zevon (ah oooh!), the Best of the Hollies and a standard compilation featuring modern artists, which I will test out on my car's CD player tomorrow.
A while later an 84-year-old veteran, who has donated a couple of bags of romance novels he picked up at the VA, brought me a beautiful coffee table book, A Celebration of the Friars Club, which he asked that I not sell but keep. Needless to say, I was touched, as it features famous caricatures of Al Hirschfeld, including Jack Benny, Groucho and Jimmy Durante. And it's in mint condition. I will treasure it, even though I don't have a coffee table. Selling it would be, as my mother used to say, an infamia.  The gentleman also gave me a large, unusual tome, Tatiana's Magical Compendium, which contains spells and rituals to help the lovelorn. Thank you, sir.
And the day was made complete when lovely young Alisa came strolling along, headset in place. She noticed a small hardcover copy of A Farewell to Arms, which actor-singer Johnny Feets donated when he moved. It is a 1932 Modern Library edition. I had Arlynn, who sells books through Amazon, look up its value, just in case. She almost had a heart attack when she saw $17,000, but that was for the 1929 edition. The 1932 is worth two to seven dollars. I let Alisa have it for one. She walked away sniffing it, as she loves the smell of old books. Thanks, miss. She has such a positive demeanor. 
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/16

Congratulations to the Boston Bruins, Stanley Cup Champions. While I always root for the team that has never won a championship, in this case Vancouver, it was clear the Bruins were the better team, routing the Canucks at home, narrowly losing on the road until the game seven shutout. The Bruins' defense and goal-tending were phenomenal. It seemed Vancouver rarely had a rebound to swat at. And it sure seemed like they fanned on a lot of shots in good scoring position. All of Bean Town's sports teams, Bruins, Sox, Celtics, Pats, are solid. I wonder if someone has compiled a statistic on the best winning percentage in a single season among the cities that have franchises in the four major sports.
Between periods I did some channel surfing. PBS was running NOVA, exploring the gift of musical ability. As someone who has been struggling with guitar since 1975 - and knows he doesn't have such a gift - the program caught my attention immediately. We've all been astounded by child prodigies. How does it happen? How can they be more proficient than those who work decades on their craft? It is a mystery that may never be answered. The film-makers first focused on a young autistic man, blind since birth, who is able to play pieces by classical geniuses. In all other phases of his life he has the mind of a four-year-old. The PHD doing the investigating played a recording of a complicated jazz piece - and the guy was able to play it note for note on one listen, and throw in improvisational notes! Later, a teenager who suffers Tourette's Syndrome was  featured. His tics cease entirely whenever he is drumming, and what a drummer he is. The mysteries of life never cease to astonish.
Thanks to the kind folks who purchased books today, especially to the woman who is eight months pregnant, her third child.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/15

Here are some quotes, some silly, some profound, that have struck a chord in me:
Michael Ray Richardson, NY Knicks point guard, on the team's troubles: "The ship be sinkin'." My all-time favorite. I chuckle whenever I recall it.
Master thief Willie Sutton when asked why he robbed banks: "That's where the money is." Crystalline logic and a slap in the face to all psychologists.
An angel to Mary Magdalen on her way to Jesus' tomb: "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" Absolutely touching.
Teri Hatcher to Jerry Seinfeld on whether she's had a boob job: "They're real and they're spectacular." I bet they are.
A boy to Shoeless Joe Jackson on the accusation the White Sox threw the 1919 World Series: "Say it so, Joe." Out of the mouths of babes.... Wonderful even if it's mythology, the creation of a sportswriter.
Pope John Paul: "Be not afraid." Great advice. We would accomplish so much more if not for our fears.
Oscar Wilde: "I can resist everything but temptation." This resonates because I've so frequently fought off temptation - to my own frustration.
Tom Clancy: "The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." One of my goals as a writer is to try to make sense of the bittersweet mystery of life. It's a losing battle.
Marie's CD donation has already begun to pay dividends, as Vinnie bought Pink Floyd and Pearl Jam today. Thanks, goombah.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/14

Fall returned to the area today. A stiff wind played havoc with the floating bookshop, but my luck continued, although it didn't seem it would for the first two-and-a-half hours of operation. 30 minutes into the session, it began to rain. It lasted about five minutes and, given the forecast, had me scurrying to the viaduct. Sure enough, the sun came out and I stood there kicking myself for moving, hoping the romance lady, Yelena, would make a coffee run so that I'd have something to show for the shift. After an hour-and-a-half of being ignored, I packed up. Along the way, I passed Yelena, outside her work place sneaking a smoke with a co-worker. She turned her back as I approached. I think she saw me. Maybe she has maxed out on potboilers. I am grateful to her nonetheless.
It looked like it would be more of the same at my usual post. I'd probably missed any of my regulars who'd happened by. And the temperature was so un-June-like I couldn't blame people for not stopping. Then everything turned around, as a woman purchased three children's books for her birthday girl. An Asian man picked up a beautiful pictorial on deer and looked through the whole thing. When someone does that, it usually means no sale. When I went down to one dollar, he took it. I'm such a soft touch. A few minutes later Marie brought me another CD donation, at least ten, including Led Zeppelin II, the Police Singles and the Best of the Hollies, which I'm listening to right now (Long Cool Woman). And then lovely young Alisa approached, addressing me in Italian, dressed as if she were coming from work. Sure enough, she has landed a gig as a Russian translator. I asked her the phonetic spelling of certain terms, i.e., Dosvedanya (Goodbye til next time). Finally, Bob Rubenstein, author of Ghost Runners, came by and bought a CD of  legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker.
Thanks to all for brightening my day.
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Monday, June 13, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/13

Kudos to the Dallas Mavericks, champions of the NBA. I didn't think they had it in them. I'm glad I was wrong. Dirk Nowitzki has been vindicated. Several years ago, facing the same Miami Heat, pre-Labron, in the finals, he missed free throws that would have given the Mavs a 3-0 series lead. The series turned around, Miami winning the next four games and the title. I didn't think he'd get another chance. I thought Jason Kidd, a rare player who makes everyone around him better, was too old when the Mavs acquired him. I remember the uproar when he was accused of beating his wife during his stint with the New Jersey Nets. He was excoriated in the press and by most people at work, although details of the event were never disclosed. Was it a pattern of abuse or a single argument that got out of control? It was never made clear. I withheld judgment. Things happen between a man and wife. I witnessed it in my own family. It's something that is never forgotten and leaves emotional scars, especially on children. These instances can eclipse the thousands of days when there were no altercations. "Never hit a woman," several of my co-workers said. That is the correct standard, of course, but life is what it is, not how we want it to be. No one outside Kidd's family knows what actually occurred.
As for the Miami Heat and its three-headed Lebron-Wade-Bosh monster, I hope they've been humbled, but I doubt it. The modern athlete lacks humility and class with few exceptions. If they remain healthy, they will get their rings, perhaps next year. A little fine tuning and they'll remain the team to beat. The Celtics and Spurs have gotten old, and it's doubtful the Mavs will repeat, given the age of their squad. It appears the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder stand in the Heat's way. And perhaps the Lakers. I don't understand what happened to them this season, but it was refreshing not having them in the finals.
I don't know if it was the cool weather, but I sold a lot of books the past two days, none of mine, of course. Oh, well, maybe tomorrow.
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/11

The floating bookshop was closed today due to inclement weather.
Here's the latest review I've posted at amazon. It's for the kindle edition:

Skyline Review 2011 Literary Anthology

Skyline Review 2011 Literary Anthology
Price: $0.99
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5.0 out of 5 stars Something for everybody, June 9, 2011
Water Forest Press has issued the third edition of Skyline Review, chock full of poetry, stories and book reviews. In My Most Days..., Jaimie Eubanks illuminates the sense of futility of a writer just starting out on her dream. In Nick of Time, Russell H. Krauss brings readers to a bar, where two males set their sights on twins. Mike Clough's Berkeley and the Half Man is a portrait of a self-taught, intellectual, bitter combat veteran. Gerald Farrell explores the psychology of a rape victim in Ice-cream Thunderbolt. In The Disappearance of PFC Ned Lansing, Sue Ellis focuses on the tragedy of alcoholism. George G. Wilson returns with another amusing tale, The Scarlet Storm. In Sleeping Beauty, Trodayne Northern offers a look at cancer and sibling rivalry. In The Interview, Bill Gibson writes of a nasty competition for a job. Leland Thoburn reveals the secrets of sinners in The Confession. In The Consummation, Laura Drysdale takes readers on a trip down a Portuguese river, circa 1861. Andrew Broxton delves into the mindset of a woman coping with the death of her husband in After the Reading. Geoffrey Smagacz paints a picture of a crotchety old woman in Agnes. Harris Tobias predicts the future in The Last Robin. In Into Metamorphosis, Susan Dale writes of the transformation of a Cherokee. And Sue Sabia tells the story of an odd couple in Ray and the Angel. What diversity!
Full disclosure: My story, The Unknowable, appears in the anthology. 
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Friday, June 10, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/10

It was a great day at the floating bookshop. Most of my regulars showed. Alisa is in her first year at the New School, a liberal college in Manhattan. She took a class on piano. Playing less than one year, she passed her test, learning a piece by Chopin. At a party the other night, she sat at a Steinway and improvised some blues. Obviously, she has an affinity for music. She spotted a book on Ethics and was disappointed I had set it aside for mailman extraordinaire, Mr. Chou. That's the kind of stuff she reads. Clearly, she is on a higher intellectual plain than most of us. Of course, Mr. Chou didn't want it.
Alexander the Poet followed up on my recommendation of and is awaiting a phone call from them, which he is more comfortable with than web exchanges. And my man Bob Rubenstein, author of Ghost Runners, is 37,000 words into his second novel. He has asked me to edit, and I look forward to it.
The following was in the Weird But True section of today’s New York Post. I hope you find it as amusing as I did: A computer tech pulled a scam straight out of "Revenge of the Nerds." When the Fullerton, Calif., geek fixed laptops for female customers, he secretly installed a Webcam program, authorities said. He then told the women to take the computers into their steamy bathrooms while they showered in order to keep the machines clean. Several women fell for the line, leading to the arrest of the nasty geek.
People are endlessly fascinating.
Thanks to Susan, Giggles Pulaski, Uncle Charlie Grizzly Bear, and a first-time young customer for buying books to day.
All the links at my alternate website are now live:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/9

Since the temperature was forecast to be near 100, I wasn't unhappy about accompanying Arlynn to the doctor at mid afternoon and losing a day at the floating bookshop. I'm sure sales would have been paltry, perhaps even zilch, and she paid me, although I did not ask for it. Her bills have been arriving and have passed $200,000. She believes they will reach $300,000. She says: "Is it any wonder Medicare is going broke?"
Last night I watched an outstanding independent film, Buried (2010), courtesy of Netflix. The entire 90 minutes takes place in a coffin. It is part mystery, thriller and political commentary, and it worked on all levels except for one brief aspect that seemed outlandish overkill but fell in line with most artists' view of the business world. It is an allegory on the U.S. involvement in Iraq. Those who opposed the war or believe its price was too high will likely think it is spot on. Those of us who supported the war will have to wait years, if not decades, to see if the film-makers were wrong. Given what some pundits call "the Arabs genius for failure," which has been going on for 2000 years or so, no one would be surprised if the entire Middle East fell under the thumb of Islamofascists. The so-called Arab Spring, the current uprisings, may be a direct result of what is taking place in Iraq. Still, it won't be known for a long time if the results are positive. Are the odds even 50-50? Will the Arab Street reject Jihad and embrace Democracy? We should all live so long. Stayed tuned.
Kudos to director Ricardo Cortes, who made a riveting film in a single, cramped setting, and to actor Ryan Reynolds, both of whose previous work I had not known. Reynolds has more than 50 credits, including a guest spot on one of my favorite shows, The X-Files. I do not remember it.
All but one of the links at my alternate website is live:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

  • Brooklyn Day will be celebrated tomorrow. Yes, there is such a thing. I so looked forward to it when I was a kid. The schools closed. I don't know if they still do. Here is a list of famous people born in the borough of  kings. I took out the names of politicians. I did not add my own name. For a more complete list, go here:
Thanks to the Merry Mailwoman, who purchased thrillers by Jonathan Kellerman and Iris Johannson today on Avenue Z - despite the heat.
My alternate website is almost completely operational. There are just a few more links to correct and add.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/7

Tough day at the floating bookshop. None of my regulars showed and just about everyone else was indifferent except for a Latina who purchased four children's books for her daughter, who thanked me. No, senorita - gracias a usted. It doesn't figure to get any easier tomorrow, as the temperature is expected to be in the 90's.
In case you haven't heard, New York City congressman Anthony Weiner, whose district is in Queens, is in the throes of a sordid scandal. He twittered a crotch shot of himself in his underwear to a young woman and exchanged questionable dialogue with others. Weiner has been married for one year to a woman on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's staff. It had always been rumored that he is a ladies man. Many on both sides of the aisle are calling for his resignation. He is trying to hold on, still dreaming of becoming mayor. If his opposition was only Republicans, he would be a lock, but he would have to win his own party's nomination, and that is all but impossible now. It is futile to appeal to his sense of honor. If he'd had any, he wouldn't have done such a thing. He has never backed down, however, having learned the ropes from his mentor, the senior Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer. The sight of either makes me feel as if I need a bath, although Schumer has yet to be implicated in any scandal. In fact, if Schumer were ever found in a compromising sexual situation, I would be shocked. I think he lusts only for power. Then again, I believed the same of Eliot Spitzer. The three are quintessential politicians, ardent know-it-all leftists. Whether Weiner resigns is superfluous politically. New York City will remain a liberal bastion whether he stays or goes. Conservatives should stay out of the controversy. The press has done its work. There's no sense belaboring the issue. They should focus on the economy and find someone who can convince the electorate of their argument of the dangers of big government, of the entitlement mentality that so many embrace. I don't know how even die hard leftists can defend Weiner. His judgment is suspect. Conservative talk show host Steve Malzberg has pointed out that having such photos available leaves a politician vulnerable to blackmail. Weiner is now no doubt in line for his own talk show. Perhaps he can co-host with Spitzer as Slime and Slime. Both have merged the schlemiel (the person who spills the soup) and schlamazel (the person who has the soup spilled on him). I've always loved the explanation of those Hebrew terms. Language is a beautiful thing.
Here's the url to my alternate website: The links that show in both columns when the page opens are all live. It's pot luck once you scroll to the others. Sorry.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/6

On this day in 1944 the allies launched an invasion along a 50-mile stretch of beaches in Normandy, France. It began shortly after midnight when 24,000 paratroopers landed behind enemy lines to try to secure bridges for the ground troops. At 6:30 AM a flotilla of 5000 ships, handled by 195,000 personnel, launched landing crafts filled with 160,000 men. Nearly 3000 of them gave their lives that day in defense of the freedom the western world holds so dear. Their courage was astounding. Those who landed early, especially at the area designated as Omaha, were cannon fodder. There is a snippet of archival footage of the event seared into my memory: a young man, thousand of miles from home, falling, wounded or killed. Darryl F. Zanuck's The Longest Day was the definitive Hollywood take on the invasion until Steven Spielberg's harrowing Saving Private Ryan was released. No film will ever capture the carnage better than that. I felt almost like a voyeur watching it. Curiously, Titanic had the same effect on me. I thought: here I am getting off on what were real events, real deaths, not fictional mayhem. Ken Burns' PBS series The War does a great job on that massive undertaking as well. Those men were truly our Greatest Generation. We contemporary folk whine that their our fabulous privileges aren't enough.
There were some awkward moments today at the floating bookshop. Frankie the Drunk stumbled by on his it-must-be-pay-day Monday jag. Fortunately, he bumped into me only twice and immediately staggered away without pausing for conversation. Later, Lawrence, who is by my guess mildly autistic and in his mid 30's, asked for advice on speaking to women. I told him to just say hi and be nice and, if they seem receptive, to talk about the weather or something non-threatening. I suspect most women will be afraid of him. I have no idea where he could go to meet females like himself. He is far from hopeless. He has a part-time job at a supermarket, although I wonder if he'd be able to handle more than that. He lives with his father, who must be a patient man. Lawrence asks a lot of questions. Whenever I see young men like Frankie and Lawrence, I always hear my mother's voice saying: "Povere mama," her stock comment on the troubled. Unfortunately, life will not let every parent escape the worst nightmares.
Thanks to the kind folks who purchased enough books today to enable me to order the full monty at Waz's gyro truck.
I'm getting closer to opening my alternate website. Until then many links will lead nowhere. Sorry.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/5

A young woman bought a children's book out of nostalgia today at the floating bookshop on Bay Parkway, which is again showing signs of becoming a dead zone. She had it when she was a little girl.
If you haven't heard, there has been a deadly outbreak of e coli bacteria in Europe, traced to vegetable sprouts grown on an organic farm in German. The death toll has climbed to at least 22 dead and more than 2,200 sickened. I've always wondered about the safety of foods grown organically and have stayed away from them, not only because of such concerns but as a protest against the green mafia. I know they mean well and that we should be looking for alternative means that are cost effective, but the movement often seems characterized by paranoia. Life expectancy is approaching 80. The air is infinitely cleaner in Brooklyn than it was in the '70's, as are the waters. I'm sure it is almost everywhere in America. The environmentalists are to be commended for that. Unfortunately, too many have become tyrannical, insisting on measures that would damage the economy even more than compliance does presently. In the hands of leftist politicians, the movement is a only ploy for the redistribution of wealth.
By the way, it is recommended that the cloth "green" bags, used by so many at grocery stores, be washed after each use, as they may may harvest e coli.
Read Vic's stories, free: Note: many of the links will lead nowhere. The problem is being addressed. Sorry.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The floating bookshop was derailed by chores today.
We've all marveled at pre-adolescent singers and musical prodigies. Check out this kid, featured in today's New York Post. Unbelievable!

While most kids her age are busy playing with Elmo and Dora, Aelita Andre is spending her time giving Andy Warhol a run for his money.
The 4-year-old Australian girl has become an international art-world sensation, producing a formidable collection of abstract paintings that have sold at shows from Italy to Hong Kong for tens of thousands of dollars and earned her comparisons to the greats, like Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso.
Aelita has now come to New York with a show starting today that is expected to set the city's art world on fire.
COLORFUL DEBUT: Aelita Andre, of Australia, is exhibiting her paintings at a gallery in Chelsea.
Nikka Kalashnikova
COLORFUL DEBUT: Aelita Andre, of Australia, is exhibiting her paintings at a gallery in Chelsea.
"She's an amazingly talented painter," said Angela Di Bello, owner of the Agora Gallery in Chelsea, where Aelita's show will run until June 25. "Her mind works in the way an established artist or an art critic's would. She is highly intellectual. She just feels everything."
Some of her works for the show have already sold. An Italian collector bought three paintings -- including one called "Asteroid" -- for a total of $27,000. Her most expensive work was one sold in Hong Kong for $24,000.
"She's very excited for her opening . . . She will probably be running around making friends with everyone and singing," said her mom, Nikka Kalashnikova.
Kalashnikova and daddy Michael Andre admit their daughter's visit to New York may be turning her into a bit of an art diva.
"We took her to MoMA yesterday, and she was so upset that we were taking her to see other artists' work instead of going to her own exhibition," Kalashnikova said.
Aelita's inspiration ranges from dinosaurs to the solar system.
"I just do this and this and this but with many colors," she said, waving her hands in circles. "My favorite color is yellow."
Read Vic's stories, free: Half the links will lead nowhere. The problem is being addressed. Sorry.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/3

This beautiful day was made even more glorious when I returned home to find the third edition of the Skyline Review anthology in my mailbox. My story, The Unknowable is included. I'm privileged to share space with another author who has had a book, The Greer Agency, published by All Things That Matter Press - Harris Tobias, who contributed The Last Robin. The cover art by Pamela DelliColli is stunning. Also included in the parcel was Desert Moon, the Lost Poetry of Victoria Valentine, our beloved publisher at Water Forest Press. Check it out here:
On a sad note, I just read of the passing of actor James Arness, 88. He is a television legend, creating the character of Marshall Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke, in a record 20 year run on CBS ('55-'75), a feat recently tied by Kelsey Grammer, who needed two shows, Cheers and Fraser, to do it. Arness was a hero in real life as well, wounded in the invasion at Anzio, Italy in 1944. He spent a year in the hospital and walked with a limp for some time. On Gunsmoke, it was Dillon's frequent deputy, Chester, played by Dennis Weaver, who limped. Weaver also had at least two other notable roles: his bizarro turn as the Motel Night Manager in Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (1958) and as the beleaguered driver in Steven Spielberg's breakthrough, which was actually a TV movie of the week, Duel (1971). Arness also starred in the sci-fi classic The Thing (1951) - as the thing! Rest in Peace, Mister Dillon. My dad loved your show. Thanks.
And thanks to the nice lady who purchased the Ed McBain 87th Precinct short story collection, and the gentleman who purchased two CDs today at the floating bookshop.
Read Vic's stories, free: Note: several of the links will lead nowhere. The problem is being addressed.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/2

It was a glorious day, temperature in the 70's, a stiff breeze taking any heat out of the air. The only drawback was the pollen flying around. Everyone, including me, was sneezing or trying to hack the nasty bits out of the windpipe. I got a donation of four pristine hardcover thrillers and at least ten paperbacks from a kind Russian woman. She wanted to bring more, but it was already too much to carry back to the car. Spasiba, madam. Simone stopped and told me how much she enjoyed the Lisa Jackson and Patricia Cornwell mysteries. She bought them Monday. She plans to read Dean Koontz's Icebound over the weekend. Other than that, it was a demoralizing opening two and a half hours at the floating bookshop. Since I'm overstocked, I'm selling all books for a dollar apiece (except mine, of course) - and no one so much as paused, despite the best sellers on display. Herb finally broke the drought, as he has so many times, purchasing Julie Garwood's Sizzle. I learned he had a heart attack several years ago. Fortunately, his Blue Cross insurance picked up the entire tab, $40,000.
Minutes later a young man bought Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic, Dune, and a book in the Dean Koontz Frankenstein series, which has nothing to do with the monster of the same name. Soon lovely 13-year-old Mariana was approaching on her way home from school. She often seems sad. I gathered Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Maugham's Of Human Bondage, and Dumas' The Man in the Iron Mask and asked her to choose one. As I anticipated, she chose the latter and smiled and thanked me. I love that such a young girl is interested in serious books and wonder if she will one day take a shot at writing.
I spotted mailman extraordinaire, Mr. Chou, and waved. I knew he would take Suze Orman's Nine Steps to Financial Freedom. He has agreed to give me a commission if he ever gets rich as a result of all the books he has purchased from me. He said his mom used to make him stay home and read to keep him out of trouble. He is a martial arts master, and gun owner.
As I was packing up, an energetic, elderly semi-regular appeared and chose a Jonathan Kellerman thriller. My mood had lightened considerably. I found a parking spot for tomorrow's alternate side at the far corner of East 13th. I walked up to Avenue Y and gazed along it. Sure enough, as I'd hoped, Uncle Charlie Grizzly Bear was making his way toward me. For some reason, he uses that route at times. I've been holding a bag of Ed McBain 87th Precinct novels for him, which Joanne donated last Sunday. He took ten, which I let him have for half price. I'll hold the rest for whenever he's ready.
Thanks, everyone.
Please remember that for the time being many of the links at my website will come a cropper (crapper?):

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Selling My Books on the Streets of Brooklyn 6/1

My friend, actor-singer extraordinaire Johnny Feets, is in the process of moving, that high anxiety process everyone goes through at some point. Friends have described me as a minimalist, but it didn't feel that way those times I moved. It's amazing how much is accumulated along the way. John is giving things away right now. He approached the floating bookshop with two bags of books, including novels by Stephen King, Dan Brown and Ann Rice, and a huge coffee table book (at least twice the size of the usual) designed by Calvin Klein that features beautiful pictures of pop stars. It was bought immediately by Steve, a goombah and employee of Coney Island Hospital, who has treated me well in the past. He also took a Gin Blossoms CD. Thanks, guys.
Feets is relocating to Bath Beach, about a mile from where I grew up, so I probably won't see him any more, unless he gets the silly notion to visit me at my Sunday spot on Bay Parkway. We had our usual long conversation on the arts. I'll miss him. He is a nice, old-fashion kid.
It was a rather dull day. Fortunately, Esther stopped by to alleviate the boredom. She also lives in the Atlantic Towers complex. She is suffering anxiety because of the bed bug problem. She received letters from management threatening her with eviction if she doesn't allow the fumigators into her apartment. I assured her the process is no big whup. She has no health issues that might be compromised by the toxins.
Another woman, energetic despite her age, told me how successful she was selling books on the street in Manhattan. She gave me several of tips, none of which I can use unless I want to argue with police officers. Even though she helped kill time, I wish she hadn't stopped. I got to feeling glum about the whole book-selling process, despite yesterday's success. What have you done for me lately.
The move of my stories to has generated early returns. Numb and Number drew two positive responses. Thanks, Tim and Maryanne. If you visit my website, many of the links will lead to nowhere. It will be a few more days before I begin posting the url to my alternate site. I want to get most of the links up to snuff. For now: